We are pleased to add our newest voice to the Kalix blog: Channing Capacchione, the Kalix Marketing Intern. In addition to marketing and communications experience, she is a seasoned admissions student tour guide for both her independent school and, now, at Boston University. Channing’s front-lines perspective on what students want during the admissions and enrollment process is information every school can use.

The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the way we picture the classroom setting. The sudden, and oftentimes, not well-thought-out plan to reimagine the school year into a purely virtual setup has not been easy. 

As a student, it’s easy to get caught up in my own perspective of what has been done well and what has not, but ultimately we were all in the same boat: trying to replicate a physical in-person dynamic through online platforms. 

Admissions offices are finding themselves in the same situation as students and teachers: working towards understanding the best communication methods to reach their audience. From the lessons I learned over the past few months, I want to share my knowledge on methods and approaches to relying solely on virtual admissions recruiting. Understanding the student experience, will provide alternatives and best practices for initiating your own digital tools.

The problem with Zoom-centric communication.

Through virtual classes, and now being a virtual intern, the past few months have been leading up to the inevitable: Zoom fatigue. Students attending schools on the West coast have found themselves waking up at 5 am for their Northeastern college time-zoned Zoom call. I’ve found myself rescheduling Zoom calls because of conflicts with other Zoom calls. Certainly not how most students had planned to spend the majority of the 2020 spring semester.

Imagine attending classes for seven hours a day on Zoom, “hanging out” with your friends on Zoom and seeing your family over Zoom… for months. It may seem like minimal effort — after all, during most Zoom calls you can find me in pajamas waist down — but it can still be exhausting. This is due to the self-complexity theory

Achieving a balance with Zoom is not easy. Suddenly our social lives, school and work have all been combined on a platform that, let’s face it, experiences too many technical difficulties to make the Zoom experience mirror in-person interactions. At this time it seems impossible to disconnect from technology, while at the same time we feel completely disconnected from reality.

When will the Zoom days end for good? Is there an alternative moving forward?

The Zoom platform, Google Hangouts, Skype calls — they’re all useful, but there has to be other ways to stay informed and connected. No platform will ever properly produce a valued in-person setting, but there are ways to avoid losing engagement and keep student’s attention.

Some schools were more prepared for online learning than others.

Many schools in the country were not strangers to online learning. Take the Midwest for instance, a region that is commonly hit with severe winter weather, where institutions have already put into place virtual-learning programs for winter storm days. Rather than taxing students with additional days of school at the end of the year, in today’s digital world, students are able to complete the academic year online.

DeLaSalle High School, a Catholic College Preparatory High School in Minneapolis, was able to shift to virtual learning easily because of their previous experience with online learning.

“School was very long. Coming from a school that often switches to online, going to school online during the pandemic was easier than most students are used to,” says Caroline C., a rising junior at the high school. “However, usually during abnormal snow or frigged cold weather, our school held online learning days where we were given assignments without face-to-face contact like Zoom or Google Chat. During this virus, we were forced to interact and video call with our teachers and peers every day for almost six hours.”  

Five Zoom alternatives to engage students.

To engage students and keep them interested in attending events over the summer and expose them to new material, there are alternatives. And it goes without saying, that prospective students or incoming students likely feel the same burnout as current students. 

Here are some tips to host events for engaging prospective, incoming and current students throughout the summer months:

  • Use video content: Video content doesn’t have to be brand new or professionally produced. We’ve seen a shift in the type of content we’re streaming during and post- quarantine. By recycling and refurbishing old video content of campuses or events with voice overs or text blurbs, prospective families will be able to gain insight on campus life from the comfort of their homes. Don’t be afraid to reach out to current students for videos they may be able to provide for marketing material. Think spirit events, pep-rallies, sports games, school plays. Use your resources to the fullest extent when it comes to sharing media with your audience. 
  • Utilize other online learning tools: Sure, Zoom break-out rooms can help mimic in-classroom group work settings, but there are other ways to encourage students through self-directed learning and online interactive modules or videos. Giving students the discipline and guidance they need can help them be advocates of their own education. Using other online platforms, such as Slack and Trello, offer students an accessible way to communicate with teachers and students, work in groups, and meet deadlines. It’s less formal than email but more formal than text messaging, and could allow admissions administrators to communicate directly with student prospects and volunteers – an audience that may not be checking email frequently. 
  • Make necessary Zoom calls more strategic: Hosting Zoom calls is not entirely avoidable, so aim to make them shorter (30 mins maximum). If your online meetings must extend several hours or more, be sure to allow for an eight to 10 minute break prior to the end of each hour and encourage viewers to step away from their computers during those times. Create an organized plan ahead of time and have the host record each call so they can be accessed later by students or families. The show must go on, so we’ve prepared these tips for making virtual admissions events more effective
  • Engage students through social media: On average, Generation Z spends up to nine hours a day on social media. And this statistic hasn’t even factored in time spent consuming social media during stay-at-home orders. With channels like Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat and YouTube having large Gen Z audiences, there is endless content that school’s can share to reach their target audience. Ideas include encouraging the captain of the soccer team to create short pre-season workout videos on TikTok, or having the student body president do an Instagram takeover to answer incoming students’ questions. Showing authenticity and consistent content on social media will only boost student’s interest in joining a larger community at your school. 
  • Know what your audience wants and where they are at: Don’t waste time hosting events or creating content for platforms that don’t attract or interest your audience. Use different platforms to target different audiences. While hosting a Facebook Live event or LinkedIn event will not engage incoming students, it might be the right platform to engage your past alumni or prospective parents. Publishing irrelevant or too much content on certain social sites can potentially drive away prospective students and do more harm than good. For instance, posting on Instagram everyday may cause students to unfollow your account if they feel you are cluttering their timeline with messages that don’t interest them. Instead, create a strategic content calendar that earmarks what and when specific content should be posted – be it on the Instagram feed vs.Instagram Stories. As emails can easily get lost in the inbox, social media algorithms can cause posts to flop if you don’t know where your audience is and what they want to talk about. Finding the best way and best channels to reach and engage your audience will ultimately be key to effective communication. 

How can Kalix help you increase virtual engagement? Contact us for more details. 

About Channing Capacchione

Assisting Kalix as a Marketing Intern, Channing Capacchione is a senior studying Advertising and Sociology at Boston University where she works as a Student Admissions Representative at Boston University Admissions Center. In addition to giving tours and presentations to prospective families, Channing has interned with the Boston University Marketing department designing flyers and handouts, writing copy and aiding with website development. Prior to Boston University, Channing attended Garrison Forest School, an all-girls private school located in Owings Mills, Maryland. Her 14 years at Garrison provided her with the opportunity during high school to gain knowledge and experience working with the admissions and the communications department.