In only a few months, the coronavirus pandemic has completely changed the way universities operate. With communication and teaching now predominantly online and physical campuses closed across the world, university life is completely different.
Keeping students engaged and active in campus life while they study from afar can present a certain set of challenges. However, many universities are adapting to these changes by finding unique and engaging ways to create community among students and the community at large during the pandemic.
Transform student life
At the University of Southern California, nearly all student life activities have been taken online. The “Staying Engaged from Home” page on the USC website is packed with events to bring students together. The big secret for USC is maintaining a sense of normalcy. From virtual lounges to digital career fairs, nearly every in-person event has been transitioned online so students don’t have to miss a thing.
Virginia Tech has taken a similar approach with their events. Activities that were reoccurring—whether weekly or monthly—have continued with the transition to online.
Access your students directly on social media
It’s no secret that without places to go, more time is being spent scrolling on social media. For Universities looking to engage students and create positive community, Facebook and Instagram are key tools. From custom bingo boards to live events, Universities like the University of North Carolina are utilizing social media platforms to engage and interact with students—graduating and incoming—while keeping social distance.
These simple tools are an excellent way to bolster school spirit and remind students of the great reasons they attend in-person classes when that becomes an option again.
Use students to engage students
While students aren’t spending time together on campus, they are spending time virtually and they can still use this time to build relationships. The University of Michigan has this down with student takeovers on their campus activities Facebook. These daily journals of students from different subsets of campus offer students an opportunity to build community and create a sense that they are not facing this pandemic alone.
Virtual fitness classes
Recreation centers are popular place for students to spend time when they are on campus. Now that they are at-home some Universities are leading the pack with virtual fitness classes. These programs offer the same great fitness instructors’ students are used to seeing, but guide them through workouts that can be done at home.
Share openly & widen your network
In previous months and years, students were limited to their campus and local area when taking part in activities and service. The University of Maine is taking this opportunity to take their annual Maine Day of Service from local to global. This is a unique opportunity for universities to expand their reach beyond campus and begin getting students to embrace a global service mindset.
Promote and provide useful resources
Often times Universities have a wide array of area experts that can provide useful information during these uncertain times. The University of Texas at Austin is equipping students, parents, faculty, etc. with resources and news articles strategically catered to what their community members are facing.
As we all practise social distancing and look for ways to connect during such a challenging period, taking steps to build an active community within your network can provide positive benefits right now, and well into the future for your school.