Why College Students Are Avoiding In-Person Learning and What To Do About It
Designing Live Events for a Post-Pandemic Campus
The following are select quotes pulled from the original piece.
To learn how we could help [students] build these skills and create highly engaging in-person events at the Center, we turned to event experts. Interviewing professional event planners gave us insight into ways we could create experiences for students that made the value of being in-person evident and easier for them to jump in.
One of our professionals, Brent Turner, an EVP at Opus Agency, a world-class event planning agency, designing events for the likes of Google, Microsoft, and Salesforce, talked about the rise of the “Stakeholder Economy”. People taking part in events want to be treated as stakeholders, not simply participants or audiences.
According to Brent, “In their lives today, people are used to having more ‘ownership’ of their experiences. Give them a voice, a job, a role to play at every event.” We discovered that Centers that empowered students to design experiences themselves and play leadership roles in their production were seeing higher levels of engagement. Students would evangelize what happens at the Centers and provide a friendly face for someone new to the space to meet. They were the proverbial “front door” that was needed.
We also learned about “Transitions and Traditions” from the Power of Moments book by Chip and Dan Heath. These are intentional ways of creating in-person experiences that were welcoming, fun, and valuable. They require faculty and staff to be thoughtful about the physical space students are in and their mindset and motivations coming to an event.
Examples of this include:
- Creating moments entering and exiting the space that are memorable.
- Developing traditions that celebrate milestones, community, or wins.
- Bestowing “badges of honor” such as cord or medallion at graduation, special swag, VIP access, advancement ceremony certificates when they’ve reached a new “level” or mastered a skill.
We took a lesson in creating engagement from the social psychology of developing “movements”. When designing live events, consider how to evoke emotions, engage multiple senses, create relationships, and reinforce memories. Then, evaluate ideas for these experiences across a spectrum of movement-making characteristics, asking if it is:
- Magnetic: Will it naturally pull even the most introverted of people into the experience?
- Imprintable: How will the attendees’ participation transform the experience?
- Badgeable: What symbol of participation will attendees carry forward with them?
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