Intel From the Intern: Throwing Better EDU Events

Charlotte Ketterson

Hey! I’m Charlotte the Intern. I’m actually thinking of trademarking that title (ha.)

I’m here for a few months doing what I can to help, at a company that offers a kind of software I didn’t know existed two months ago. (If you stumbled onto this blog and have no idea what Swoogo does, here’s a crash course.) I happened to come in right when the marketing team was working on a bunch of EDU events material. So what do events have to do with college? 

A lot, it turns out, especially in the last two years.

As a student during Covid—both college and the end of high school—I’ve definitely felt the impacts of digital learning. The effects of Covid crept their way into every aspect of student life, from clubs to classes to meetings. Things like Zoom classrooms, and online reading instead of lectures, have started to feel normal. But that doesn’t mean they’re ideal, and it certainly doesn’t mean they can’t be done better.

The not so welcoming, welcome wagon

For example, when it came to student orientation, I remember the whole experience just feeling a little bit … messy. I knew that orientation EDU events were happening, but I didn’t know where or when, or how to sign up for them.

A big part of the problem was that my university used three different websites for signing up for events. As a freshman it was especially difficult to know which website I should go to for what. One site focused on community service clubs and events, a second was for all the other clubs, and a third was just for orientation-specific EDU events. While each website worked well enough for its purpose, I remember feeling like I must be missing out, because there were so many places to look for events. 

And then there were the clubs *yikes*

I was always told that clubs were the best way to get to know people in your first year of college and I was really looking forward to finding my people, so to speak. Nothing went as I had hoped. Club fairs—an especially important early-college event—were moved online. Instead of being able to walk around our university yard and explore the different clubs, there were three, one-hour zoom sessions over the course of three days.

Each club gave a quick five-ish minute presentation about what they do, but there was no time afterward for questions. There was also no pre-announced schedule, so everyone had to sit through fifty-five minutes of information about clubs they didn’t want to join, in hopes that they might get five minutes of one that they did. On top of that, there was almost no interaction with members of the clubs, as there’s little space (or order) for chit-chat on a Zoom hosting more than five-hundred people. It didn’t feel like a quality EDU event; it didn’t feel like an event at all.

Distance teaching, not-so-much learning 

When it came to classes, our professors were required to provide a virtual option every period, which was great. Whether you were feeling sick, were away from campus, or—let’s be real—just didn’t feel like hiking across campus to an eight AM class, this was a super-helpful option. While some professors and students struggled, it was definitely worth it to know that a week isolating with Covid wasn’t going to leave a student permanently behind in their classwork. But while this was certainly better than nothing, professors aren’t always the most tech savvy people. 

In my marketing class, for example, the Zoom camera faced only the podium, while the professor spent 90% of class time standing at the whiteboard. Which I also couldn’t see. There were other drawbacks, of course; many not unique to students. Zoom recordings got lost, professors’ internet disconnected, people sat in waiting rooms for exorbitant amounts of time before someone remembered to let them in, and above all, everyone forgot to press unmute.

You might not think of distance learning classrooms as EDU events … but actually, that’s exactly what they can be. If you let them.

Digital EDU events are sticking around 

While colleges have been successfully utilizing distance learning for more than ten years, it didn’t become the norm until 2020. Before then, many college students had never taken an online class. When the pandemic brought on the sudden switch, most schools—out of necessity—simply swapped in-person for a webcam, but made few other changes. 

The last two years have shown us that just isn’t good enough. Not for anything more than a temporary emergency. That being said, there are some unique benefits to distance learning, and everyone agrees remote learning is here to stay, at all levels of education, to some degree or other. 

I knew my virtual freshman year—while crucial for sick and at-risk students—was lacking, but I didn’t know much about distance learning or the ways it could have been improved. Ways distance learning could be transformed into daily EDY events.

Then I came to Swoogo. I admit, I didn’t know what event management software even was two months ago, and even if I had, I wouldn’t have thought it was for schools. Conferences, conventions, webinars? Sure. But college?

Yes. 138% yes. 

Enter—Swoogo’s secrets to EDU event success

Here are the two keys to any digital experience—school, conferences, webinars, roundtables, or literally anything.

  1. Engagement
  2. Experience

A robust digital learning environment, especially one with a great event hub, takes the chaos out of organizing an event. It helps both presenters and attendees know where to go, and when to be there. 

One of the biggest advantages of an event hub at your EDU events is that instead of having 500 students attending one huge event, to listen to ten different clubs talk about themselves for a few minutes each, you can have ten events, with only the people who really want to be there in attendance. Maybe the meeting is scheduled, and is short and snappy. Or maybe it’s an open forum, and students can pop in and out to ask the questions they really need answered. Now, instead of being bored and checking out, you’re having an experience. Every meeting is tailored to each individual club, and they can turn it into whatever kind of atmosphere they want.

These sorts of breakaway sessions also allow for way more engagement with chat functionality, or dedicated Q&A integrations. Now, instead of just watching a presentation, students are participating and engaged.

Now apply all of that to classrooms. A lot of the lectures I “attended” may as well have been recorded YouTube videos. (And hey! If you can’t make it at the scheduled time, there’s that capability too.) With functionality like split screen and screen sharing, you can watch both the professor and the class (if there are any attending in-person.) Or you can see the professor writing notes or solving problems on a smartboard or their tablet. You can ask questions in real time, and get immediate answers. Instead of watching a lecture, you’re suddenly participating in a classroom discussion. And that’s the most effective kind of learning.

All of that is without even getting into the benefits for admin, like class registration management, graduation streamlining, and 1:1 advisor meetings. Before I started interning with Swoogo, I barely understood EDU events, and I didn’t even know what an event management platform was. Now, I can confidently say, I wish my school had had one. 

But hey, don’t get me wrong

Overall, I would say that my first year at college was fantastic. However, it was definitely harder to meet people, and mentally tough to have to deal with distance learning. I’m hopeful that this year will be more “normal,” but the truth is that no one actually knows how long Covid (and its many variants) is going to crash on our community’s couch, or what new nasty sickness might some day pop up to replace it. So while universities get full credit for working hard to make the best of a rough situation, two years in, it’s time to invest in some tools.

Might I suggest throwing some fab EDU events with an event management platform?