“Simple Tech Solutions for Creating Community on Campus” by Courtney Buell first appeared on Edcetera.
When students are involved in on-campus activities, they are more engaged in their lessons, they develop friendships that bolster them through their challenging courses, and they feel a sense of ownership over their school and the experiences they have there. Community colleges in particular struggle to help students feel included and involved in the campus community beyond attending classes. Without on-campus housing and big sports teams to bring students together, it’s not uncommon for them to feel isolated.
Chances are, your school is already creating clubs and hosting events on campus regularly, but getting the word out to the students that need to hear it might be a problem. This is where a few simple tech tools can really make a difference.
If it hasn’t already, your school should establish a presence on Facebook and Twitter. Both are free, and students are already using them all the time. Have your department of student life manage the accounts, and encourage students to follow the pages when they enroll, then they can get their school news in the same place as their social news. Avoid over-posting though, or you run the risk seeming spammy and making students want to hit “unfollow.”
Foursquare and Mozilla both use badges for various education-related online and real-life accomplishments. Your school can use ready-made badges online, or create their own like Seton Hall University and award them for anything: visiting the library, attending an event, completing campus orientation, or even joining a club. Take it a step further by incentivizing your badge system with special invites to cookouts or movie screenings on campus.
Online forums are a fantastic place for like-minded people to ask questions and find new information about common interests. Many larger universities, like University of Iowa, have forums that are dedicated to discussions about their sports teams, but if your school doesn’t have a big team that doesn’t preclude it from creating a thriving forum for another topic. In fact, many of the sports forums end up hosting discussions about anything from books to video games – it all depends on what the participants decide to talk about and what strikes a chord. The result is an active online community, full of fun and interesting conversation that bleeds over into campus life.
If your school isn’t big enough to fill a forum with constantly fresh content, consider creating a blog or Q&A website that takes on just a few questions at a time. For example, at Brigham Young University, the “100 Hour Board” functions as a place where students can ask questions about anything under the sun. Created as a community-building gimmick, the 100 Hour Board is a website where a small group of writers endeavor to answer every question that is submitted by any student within 100 hours of the question’s submission. Questions range from “how many stairs are there on campus?” to “how do I ask out my best friend?” to “what’s the actual best movie of all time?” Today the board receives dozens of questions a day and is considered a must-read among students in the know.
Students want to feel like part of the community when they are attending school, but a lot of them have a hard time knowing where to look to find the clubs that will pique their interest, and the study buddies that will see them through. Building easily accessible resources for students to find information and participate in discussions with fellow students (academic or otherwise) will boost involvement and ultimately academic success at your school, on campus and beyond.