Encouraging Engagement with your Student Group and Activities

Ideas for Planning Meetings and Activities During COVID-19

During COVID-19, we have unique challenges and opportunities when planning to engage students in any activity.  The following is meant to be a helpful guide to preparing meaningful engagement with both in-person and virtual options.

Why should we plan a virtual option if we can meet in person?

1.    Gives your members/participants options, allows them to do what is most comfortable for them, and makes the event more accessible for everyone.

2.    It’s an opportunity to expand your group or audience because you can reach distance learners and those with travel/transit restrictions. It’s also easier for participants to recruit friends as they can ease into things by starting virtually first.

3.    This allows for budget savings if you previously had to budget for food/snacks during a meeting and money can be allocated toward association fees, event registrations, or other funding that will be useful to your group.

4.    There is more flexibility for guests or presenters at your meetings or events as virtual offerings allow them to commit while avoiding travel or restrictions of tighter schedules.

How to adjust to encourage engagement and attendance:

1.    Utilize and encourage breakout groups and discussions to ensure members feel utilized and engaged during meetings.

2.    Recording a meeting or session is a great way to get someone up to speed if the missed the event. Just be sure everyone involved is comfortable with the recording.  If they aren’t likely to have open, candid discussion during a recording, try to opt for another way to get those that weren’t able to attend caught up on what was missed.

Other considerations:

1.    Some virtual platforms allow for breakout rooms, polling features, and other tools that might help keep people engaged.  Consider using a combination of systems to best suit the needs of your group.  IT has a helpful chart to compare NDSU-supported videoconferencing platforms: https://kb.ndsu.edu/page.php?id=104067

2.    Keep all group members invested and a part of the decision making when possible.  Ask for their input on how best to engage virtually, discussion topics for next meetings, ice breakers, and so on. 

3.    Keep a list of possible discussion topics or activities prepared ahead of time to help avoid the awkward silences.

4.    Consider larger venues when holding in-person events/gatherings. This will allow for appropriate social distancing for your entire group, or at least for the portion that feels comfortable with in-person interactions.

5.    Is your event observational (performance of some kind) or participatory (attendees meant to be actively involved)?  The technology and venues you choose may be different depending on your purpose and desired outcomes.

Plan for the technicalities:

1.    Consider who in the group will be managing the software or systems you will be using for your engagement.  Make sure they are familiar with the systems head of time and aware of how to operate the features that will be used.

2.    Spread the responsibilities as much as possible to avoid burn out of one or two members and to be sure that those that are managing the virtual systems are still learning and engaging in the meeting or session content.

3.    Minimize the risk of technical difficulties by testing out platforms, features, internet connections, and devices used ahead of time.  Try to have a back-up person or plans for what to do should the entire group or certain members be disconnected at any point.

4.    Consider the safety and security features of the system you will be using and which are backed up by NDSU IT Support.

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