It would be an understatement to not acknowledge the impact that the pandemic has had on students and their higher education journeys. But students, educators and educational institutions are evolving and acclimating. To accommodate these changes programs need to evolve as well.As part of the community programming at Course Hero, we hire paid, part-time campus representatives at universities across the US and Canada. These students act as community advocates for us, and promote Course Hero on their campuses through events, partnerships, and networking. This is our Campus Representative Program.In March 2020, with campuses shutting down and going virtual, we had to quickly shift to move everything virtual for our Campus Representative program, and much to our pleasant surprise, we found a lot of success, including making it easier to hire Campus Reps, with Reps now citing “working remotely” as one of the top reasons they enjoy this job.Here are a few key learnings and takeaways we’ve learned here at Course Hero. We continue to evolve our Campus Rep Program to fit the needs of students across the country by moving to a completely virtual/remote environment.
We used to use a mix of channels such as Facebook Groups, GroupMe, text messages and emails, but found it a challenge to keep up with so many different communication channels. We decided to consolidate all of our community conversations into a single place by moving to Slack. We chose Slack because we could engage our Campus Rep community on multiple levels (1:1 conversations, team channels, rep-wide channels, etc.). Slack also has a free version, which makes it easy to try out and get your feet wet!
Whenever we have virtual meetings that bring all of our Campus Reps together, we like to break the larger group out into small groups, of 3-5 people. This gives the Reps a chance to meet and engage with their peers at other schools. One of my favorite ice breaker questions we use in our breakout rooms is: “If you could be on any reality or game show, what would it be?” This question always gets some laughs. If you’re looking for awesome icebreaker questions, there is no shortage on the internet.
The downside of being strictly virtual is that many people have “Zoom fatigue”, and they don’t want to join yet another virtual call. Rather than only connecting for “business” reasons, connect on more personal levels. Play games such as Skribbl.io, Codenames, Scattergories, or Jackbox Games. Watch a movie together. Play Kahoot trivia and give prizes to the game winners.
Gen Z is very motivated to make a social impact, so if your community has a lot of members who fall into the Gen Z generation, think about how to incorporate causes that they care about. Our reps can partner with student orgs on campus and make a donation to that group’s chosen philanthropy. Through our program, we have donated ~$40,000 to over 40 nonprofits. We also partner with Books for Africa and have donated over a quarter million books to students in Gambia through our program.
Our Campus Reps have found that general social media posts don’t typically lead to meaningful action. One-on-one outreach works better than general social posts. Reps reach out to their network over text, Instagram DM, Discord, Snapchat, Facebook Messenger, and other channels and it is more meaningful. We also set the expectation at the beginning of our relationship with our Campus Reps that they keep in contact with us consistently, so we don’t have any ghosts.
Use something like Coda, Notion, or Google Sites to host an internal Wiki that has all of the resources that Campus Reps need. Make sure to include information about the program (expectations, responsibilities, benefits, etc.), tips and advice for succeeding in the program, any tech support info they might need for platforms they are required to use, and of course, contact information for the HQ team. This way, Reps have all of the resources they need at their fingertips, and in one, easy to access place.
It is important to build and maintain strong relationships, even if virtual. We have set up virtual 1:1s with each of our Campus Reps every other week to keep that connection. And before diving into business, we always make time for some small talk. If you manage a large community, making time for 1:1 chats might not be an option. You can set up virtual office hours so that your community can still have a chance to get to know you, in a much more scalable way.
Great people know great people, and referrals can serve as a big source of growth for programs like these. We offer a $100 referral bonus for Reps that refer their friends, and we host semester long Referral Competitions with a big cash prize for the person with the most referrals. We manually track referrals in our program, but know that others have found success in automated referral tracking platforms. We have found this strategy to be successful not only in growing the number of reps in the program, but also the quality of representatives. You never know, you might end up hiring some of these reps as full-time employees, like we have!
For many Campus Reps, this is the first job they’ve ever had. We provide professional development through our onboarding process, plus events and workshops throughout the semester including a Perfect Your Pitch workshop, Event Workshop, and fireside career chats.
At the end of each semester, we send out a survey to all of the Campus Reps to learn where we can make improvements to the program. We pay them for the time they take to fill it out in order to incentivize participation. We use Google Forms, because it’s helpful to view all of the responses in a Google Sheet, but Typeform is also a good survey tool. If you don’t want to send out a full survey, you can also post polls in Slack using the Polly or Simple Poll integrations.What has worked for you and your community during this crazy virtual time? Are you building a remote community advocate program? I love connecting with and learning from other community builders! Let's connect on LinkedIn and talk about all things remote community advocates!Looking to learn more about distributed advocate programs? Check out How Elementor’s meetup program changed for the better