How COVID Reshaped College Pt. 3 – Community

How COVID Reshaped College Pt. 3 – Community

Colleges have faced unique challenges in 2020. Many campuses are the physical space in which their students study, work, live, and play.

When COVID-19 emerged, the shutdowns forced higher education institutions to find a path forward. That path included all of the obstacles that workplaces, housing complexes, and schools were subjected to. So what did that path look like, and what changes may become permanent in post-secondary settings?

In this limited blog series, we will take a look at how COVID-19 changed higher education in three areas: classes, physical spaces, and community.

The Chronicle of Higher Education released their latest issue, “Rethinking Campus Spaces: How to Prepare for the Future of Learning and Work” (available for purchase here). In this issue, they spoke with leaders of colleges that had decided to bring people back to campus after the shutdowns in the spring of 2020. This study will provide the framework for this limited blog series.

In part 3, we’ll discuss the changes surrounding the campus community that took place in 2020, and what that will look like post-COVID.

Community and COVID-19

One of the ultimate goals of a college or campus experience is for students to discover and foster the communities they want to be a part of in the future. While the impact of COVID-19 on the community aspect of college campuses is not as easily discernable as the changes in classes or physical space, it is still very present.

One of the best community-building aspects of on-campus interaction is the loss of “productive collisions,” according to Greg Havens, planner and architect for Sasaki Associates.

Productive collisions are the moments that happen in the cafeteria, or the few minutes before or after a class, where students and faculty share more casual discussions of class material that result in new projects or insights being discovered, or new relationships being formed. And these moments are very difficult to replicate using any form of collaboration technology.

So many spaces, like dorm lounge areas, libraries, tech or computer labs, and more are built around the idea that proximity can foster collaboration and also create a sense of community. During the pandemic, colleges had to actively create environments that eliminate these casual interactions in order to maintain safe and socially distant standards.

Student housing is one of the biggest sources of community in college, and that has been heavily impacted by the transitions of most or all classes to online forums. Officials at California State University have found “better retention rates among students who live on campus, with roommates, in their first years.”

2020 has been a tough year for everyone, and college students were just as affected as any other peer group. The desire to go to college is one that can be influenced by many things, but one of the driving forces behind that transition to post-secondary education is the relationships and communities you get to be part of.

When surveyed, “college students ranked community as the second-most important priority for their college experience, after academic matters.” And when asked what the most difficult part of COVID-19 life was, the most popular answer was “separation from friends.”

This is not to detract from the immense effort that administrators and educators have put in to try and mitigate some of these difficulties. Many community-based events have been replicated online, and schools continue to look for unique ways to engage campus crowds safely, with drive-in events and outdoor performances.

Academic advising, mental health appointments, and financial aid services are all being offered online as well since access to campus offices has been throttled down to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

So what does the future of the campus community look like?

Building Community after COVID

Many of the solutions that have been implemented throughout the last year will continue to be used long after the COVID-19 pandemic recedes. The offering of online administrative and academic advisor services will still be available because having more access to campus-based services is always beneficial.  

But community is something we all crave, so the physical and in-person interactions between students, faculty, and staff will come back right alongside all of the online options as well.

It’s very likely that offices and classrooms will continue being restructured to accommodate academic teams, department crossover, and other educational socialization.

As for housing, many colleges are creating or restructuring dorm spaces to accommodate more apartment-style housing and nano suites, but this also means that more emphasis will need to be put on creating new, meaningful areas for students to gather.

Some colleges are even taking steps to lessen the crossover between college students and the college town, to prevent the spread of COVID-19, by adding more restaurant and even grocery store options to campus life. There will likely be a heavy focus on creating more spaces and reasons for students to stay on campus, in the future.

Build the Community You Want, with Collaboration Tools That Support You

Tomorrow’s classroom experience will still need a few things – technology, collaboration, and people. But people and technology aren’t always perfectly matched. So what can you do to build a great community online? Explore Meet Me In The Cloud’s managed services and collaboration services.

Whether you need training and education, event assistance, or other collaboration-based support and services, contact us today.

Upgrading to Adoption: Why Utilization Isn’t Enough

Upgrading to Adoption: Why Utilization Isn’t Enough

Collaboration tools are evolving quickly and continuously, so the need for your workforce to move through the utilization phase and onto full collaboration tool adoption is vital for your business.

But why is adoption so important? And what are the factors limiting the progress from utilization to adoption?

What is the Difference between Utilization and Collaboration Tool Adoption?

Every day, we use our smartphones for hundreds of things – grocery lists, social media, taking notes, setting alarms or timers, calling and texting (of course), Zoom meetings, answering work and personal emails, listening to audiobooks or music – the list is never-ending.

What if you chose to only use your phone for calls and texts? Technically speaking, it’s what the main purpose of a cellphone has been since they were invented, right?

This is the difference between adoption and utilization, respectively.

Utilization is a fancy synonym for the word “use” – which means employees in this phase may be doing certain work in your collaboration platform, but they’re not using it to its fullest capabilities. For example, Microsoft Teams is much more than a chat platform – you can integrate hundreds of programs and apps, share text and multimedia files, and more.

As an adopter, I am constantly thinking of ways to make my smartphone do more for me, or do the same things faster or in a more convenient way. That’s the true value of adoption. And that’s also why adoption is often hard to achieve. If you or your staff are familiar with only the chat function of Microsoft Teams, you are missing out on the value and breadth this collaboration tool possesses.

It seems trivial when you think about it at first – if your staff can reach the utilization phase, odds are they are more productive, right? But reaching full adoption, like with the smartphone example, can open up other avenues of efficiency and reduce workplace anxiety.

Five Factors Affecting Collaboration Tool Adoption

Successful adoption is determined and undermined by a host of varying factors. Everett M. Rogers posited that there are five factors that influence the adoption of any innovative system or technology.

Relative Advantage

Relative advantage is the idea that the technology or tool you are implementing will be better or more helpful than the tool it is replacing. This is where many laggards will be born – if an employee perceives that the new collaboration tool is less helpful than the current tool, they will be slow to learn and implement the new tool into their workflow.

Compatibility

Compatibility is the measure of whether the new tool is consistent with the mission, vision, and values of your business and the culture therein. Essentially, does the tool “fit” into the office or company?

Complexity

Complexity is the perceived difficulty level of the new tool – does it seem like learning the new functions will be user-friendly? If so, the road to adoption is much smoother.

Trialability

Trialability is simply the ability to try (or have a trial period with) the functionality of the collaboration tool before it is implemented.

Giving employees and end-users the opportunity to explore the tool before it replaces the old system can often bolster confidence and willingness to adopt new technology.

Observability

Observability includes the ways in which the results of a new innovation or collaboration tool are able to be seen, or observed, and communicated to others. This is also a factor that can determine the rate of adoption. If the observability is high, if your employees are able to see the benefits and advantages of the tool in a measurable way, adoption will also be high.

Collaboration Tool Adoption Acceleration Services

We approach every customer engagement with the customer’s desired business outcomes in mind to help you achieve your adoption goals.

Meet Me In The Cloud is a global leader in collaboration adoption services. Contact us today.

Take Advantage of Event Assist Services

Take Advantage of Event Assist Services

Whether you are hosting a quarterly meeting, a presentation from a local historian, parent-teacher conferences, or a professional conference with 5,000 attendees – it’s been a year of big changes and pivots to online solutions. Event assist services could help take the stress out of your next online event.

If you are struggling to plan your online event, or would just like some help on the day of – Meet Me In The Cloud is at your service.

Why Hire Event Assist Services

Odds are, you’ve been a part of some kind of event whether it was for work, school, or leisure. And sometimes, those events go off without a hitch. But the reality is: no matter how much planning and double-checking you do, unexpected things still happen. Issues have a way of cropping up at the worst possible moment, and you need only spend a few minutes on YouTube searching “virtual meeting fails” or “online class gone wrong” to see hundreds of less-than-ideal moments unfolding for all to see during these online events.  

Whether it’s a company meeting, quarterly wrap-up, online seminar, or town hall meeting, your event is important and highly visible. And with the dozens of hosting platforms and new technologies out there, it’s impossible to know what’s best.

Having an event assist service available to troubleshoot technical difficulties, facilitate planning, or edit your final presentation for archiving means your events are always polished and professional. Meet Me In the Cloud offers Pre-Session Planning, In-Session Support, and Post-Session Wrap-Up and Support.

Pre-Session Planning

Every event is built around a desired business outcome. What’s yours? We can help you plan and build your event to meet your goals and even review event content to make sure your materials are in line with those goals.

Most importantly, MMITC offers a Tech Check – we check all connections and technology to ensure no “technical difficulties” arise.

In-Session Support

For in-session support, we assign you a Producer who works with you through all steps of the planning process. Then, on the day of your event, the Producer will join the event 30 minutes prior to your desired start time and stay online and engaged for the duration of your event. If needed, the Producer can and will provide in-session support to attendees and presenters.

Producers can also act as emcee for your session; introducing presenters, moderating chat and Q&A sessions, and even wrapping up the event with a few final comments or a call to action.

Post-Session Wrap-Up & Support

Producers also stay online for 30 minutes after your event has ended to ensure everything is in order for you.

After your event is finished, MMITC can create and edit a video of the event that is then uploaded and available on-demand.

We will also pull reports on attendance and distribute follow-up emails to attendees to gather feedback on your event, so you can look back on these valuable insights and plan an even better event in the future.

Meet Me In The Cloud’s Event Assist Services

For help with any or all of these online event tasks, check out MMITC’s event assist services. Questions? Contact us today.

Move Your In-Person Large Event Online

Move Your In-Person Large Event Online

Is your annual event in danger of being canceled due to COVID-19 precautions? Let Meet Me In The Cloud Help you move your large event online.

Why Move Your Large Event Online?

Virtual events, webinars, online classes, or presentations – they have been around for years. But the emergence of the COVID-19 virus has created a tidal wave of movement toward digital and socially distant solutions.

But why should you move your large event online? 

You could try and wait it out by postponing or canceling this year’s conference or gathering. That may feel like the safest option, but it does nothing for your event, your brand, or your bottom line this year. 

There are dozens of online hosting platforms and other tools that could give life to your conference in new ways. Many people look forward to attending your event, and you don’t want to disappoint them. Let’s walk through some things to keep in mind as you move your large event online.

Choose and Set Up Virtual Hosting Platform

Virtual Hosting Platforms are online tools that carry your event load – think of it as your venue, agenda, lobby, and trade show all wrapped into one.

But how do you choose the right platform for your event? Do you just choose a platform at random from the first Top 7 Virtual Conference Platforms list you can find?

You should start by making a list of the top features you will need for your event. According to the article we mentioned above, there are more than 20 important features you may need, including but not limited to file-sharing capabilities, breakout rooms, in-app registration, and active speaker view. 

Figure out what your must-haves are, and then start looking for platforms that can accommodate.

Rework Your Sessions

Your session topics and speakers may not have changed much in the move to virtual event hosting, but the way they’re presented has.

In-class handouts and other materials will have to be recreated and stored in your virtual platform or sent out ahead of time in an email or app file.

When reworking your sessions, think about the type of sessions and what the best way to present them would be as well. You can live stream, pre-record, or do both. 

For example, a keynote address can very easily be pre-recorded, with the speaker available at the end of the video to answer questions. But a panel discussion, with audience participation or Q&A opportunities throughout, may do better as a live stream session, to foster participation from your attendees.

Take a long look at your agenda and work through each session individually, so you can provide the best content and opportunities for engagement among your attendees and expert speakers and presenters.

Think Through Vendor Logistics

If your large event has a trade show or vendor area, don’t worry! Much of this experience can be replicated in an online event hosting platform.

Each vendor can still have their own “space” on a virtual trade show floor. As the event organizer, it’s your job to talk to your vendors and see what options they may prefer, but it is ultimately your decision.

Vendors can decorate their virtual space with logos and brand messages, or even create welcome videos or chat messages to entice attendees to stay and talk.

The vendor area experience can be modified to be more interactive in some aspects, or it can be straightforward so those who wish to collaborate or interact on a later date can just exchange contact information. If the vendor area is more about networking and touching base with other industry pros, then text and video chat options are a must. But if you are hosting a virtual dance event, you may need to add more visual and demonstration components to your vendor areas.

Think Through Attendee Logistics

Attendee experience should be your top priority as you move your large event online. The energy and excitement created in a physical gathering is difficult to recreate in an online setting.

The nice thing about hosting a virtual event is that each attendee will have all session materials and information right at their fingertips. There’s no need for a site map and no chance that an instructor or speaker will run out of class materials if the turnout for a session is higher than expected. But your online event can be so much more than a string of insightful webinars.

Don’t forget about building those networking events into your virtual setting. If a speaker has an active group on Facebook, be sure to add that as an option in the class materials. You can host virtual meet and greets, breaking down your large event into smaller, niche topic rooms. 

For example, are you hosting an affordable housing event with government employees, lawyers, bankers, and other vastly different professionals in attendance? You can create rooms with topics like “Asset Development”, “Maintenance”, “Property Management” and “Compliance” to offer attendees a place to find specific topics and professionals.

Communicate – Early and Often

As you make changes, be sure your whole audience – speakers, vendors, attendees, staff – is aware of the changes and opportunities available.

Before your event, communicate with each of your audiences listed above to ensure everyone knows what to expect when they log in. Is the event open to everyone? Do they need to register online to gain access to the event? Or is the event exclusive and invitation-only? This is the first distinction you’ll need to make for your audience.

You can film welcome and quick tip videos to help orient attendees and vendors as they start using your platform. Use it to send updates about changes and other online features and tasks that need to be completed before, during, or after the sessions. 

But don’t stop there: this communication should continue throughout the event. Create places for attendee questions or concerns, set up polls to see how specific sessions performed. The marketing and informational communication help get everyone in the virtual door, but to keep them here, you’ll need to build ways to “check the temperature” of the event as it moves along.

Meet Me In The Cloud

Moving your large event to a virtual platform may not be easy, but in this new, socially distant world, the options are limited but the tools and expertise are rapidly increasing.

Need help moving your large event online? Meet Me In The Cloud has Webex event assist services that can help you transition smoothly. MMITC supports our customers with Pre-Session Planning, In-Session Support, and Post-Session Wrap-Up.

3 Tips for E-Learning Success

3 Tips for E-Learning Success

We’ve been talking about all the benefits of e-learning, but let’s take a moment to remember: online learning creates a less formal and more flexible approach to learning, which may lead your trainees to think they don’t have to take the courses seriously. Here are 3 tips to set yourself and your team up for e-learning success.

1.  Be Prepared

Every course is different. Make sure you have a reliable internet connection and the correct class “hardware” like a computer with adequate video and audio capabilities, as many e-learning courses incorporate interesting videos, graphics, quizzes, and more.

Allocate a good study space: be sure you have an area that works for you while also minimizing interruptions. The empty cubicle near the water cooler may be great from an efficiency standpoint, but it could create too many distractions for your employees who are trying to focus on mastering new material.

2. Set Goals

Create a schedule that also fits into your employees’ schedules if you can. Remind them to set goals for the day, week, and for the course as a whole. Make sure each goal is specific and measured easily: not only does this track progress, but it is also a great way to keep employees engaged as they complete each goal.

As you or your employee sets these goals, keep in mind that the best way to learn is in steps. Tackling one task at a time creates an easy environment to learn in. It will prevent you from being overwhelmed and also eliminate that “rushed” feeling while you try to complete too many things at once.

3. Participate

The old saying is true in life and in e-learning: you get out of it what you put into it. Participate in online forums and discussions, if applicable, and don’t forget to reach out and ask for help. If you’re struggling to understand a specific topic, talk to your classmates or the instructor. Taking charge of your own learning is the only way to achieve e-learning success.

E-Learning Offerings

If you want to implement e-learning elements into your own employee training programs, Meet Me in the Cloud can help. Learn more about our e-learning offerings here

 

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E-Learning Solutions: Learn From Anywhere

E-Learning Solutions: Learn From Anywhere

As more industries rethink their strategies and processes in a COVID-19 world, the huge shift to remote work is paralleled by an equally large demand for e-learning solutions.

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A Need for Customized Education

The US population has been and continues to be more educated than in past generations. The cost of that education, however, has increased exponentially, and more and more employers prefer applicants with higher degrees and certifications. 

Innovative technologies and processes are being implemented more quickly and at higher levels than ever before, but the standard training model for employees is often substandard or rushed to accommodate a deadline. There are many e-learning solutions to choose from. 

A 2019 Training Industry study reported that an average of $1,286 was spent per employee on training in a single year. In an effort to curb costs, many companies are increasing their use of virtual and remote learning opportunities.

Learn From Anywhere

LFA, learning from anywhere, is a natural companion to WFA (work from anywhere). Online learning is a staple of the educational landscape that has grown every year. 2016 saw 39% of post-secondary institution faculty members teach at least one online course during the academic year; by 2019, that number was 46%.

LFA Benefits

Self-Paced

In much the same way that WFA (work from anywhere) gives employees the opportunity to work from home, the coffee shop, and even another country while increasing flexibility and productivity, learning from anywhere allows students of all ages to tailor their education to their own learning style, schedule, and pace.

Unlike WFA, where either your hours or workload are static, with LFA there are a host of options to choose from: many training and education courses are offered in full- or part-time models, and some “boot camps” (short-term education programs) can be completed in as little as 4-6 weeks. This also allows an employee to better fit the class into their workday rather than shuffling things around to accommodate the commute and class time. 

Save Time

LFA also offers class-by-class customization. There are thousands of websites, apps, and online services that offer a multitude of individual or serial classes: you simply choose the subjects most beneficial to you or your employees. They can take a fast-paced refresher to Microsoft Excel invoice functions, or go on a deep dive with a 10-part comprehensive series. 

Save Money

Online learning is also more cost-effective. There’s no commuting cost or room rental fees for offsite training. Many services forgo the subscription model and offer individual class pricing options as well, making LFA even more cost-effective. 

Increased Engagement and Comprehension

Learner engagement and comprehension also increase in an online setting. With tools like Zoom, learners can respond more openly when they don’t understand something. There’s no public embarrassment over hard-to-grasp material, a learner can simply respond to a poll anonymously or post within the platform and this honest engagement gives the instructor a clearer measurement of the concepts that may need to be addressed again. And unlike a seminar or professional conference, the full curriculum and all class material are digitally available for students to reference after the class is completed.

Take the Next Step: E-Learning Solutions

The possibilities with online learning are endless, and Meet Me in the Cloud can help. Our e-learning solutions are tailored to your needs and the needs of your team.

Meet Me in the Cloud has a wealth of e-learning offerings to help accelerate the adoption process of your new collaboration platform by offering an interactive approach to learning. Webex, Zoom, Microsoft Teams. Our offerings simplify each platform for you and your organization, so everyone can start using the new platform quickly and easily – at their own pace.

Accelerate Adoption

Our e-learning courses focus on specific key areas to help you and your team learn how to use your new collaboration platform quickly and efficiently.

  • Interactive Activities: These courses include videos, quizzes, and more to help employees engage with the information.
  • Multi-Level Learning: We created specific courses for employees, executive administrators, even those who already feel comfortable with the collaboration platform, with or without previous experience. 
  • Step-by-Step Instruction: Each course is organized into helpful steps, so users can learn concepts incrementally. Each step builds upon the previous steps, providing a smooth learning experience. 

Overhaul the Training Experience

By utilizing e-learning for your training needs, employees can fit courses into their schedule instead of fitting their schedule around a live training session, thus streamlining the training experience. 

We also implemented these details into every course for the employee’s benefit:

  • Best Practices: We don’t just show your employees how to use their new tool; we explain the best practices for its use. 
  • Additional resources: For those who want to learn more, additional resources are included to help employees further their knowledge and understanding to make the most of their new tool.
  • Certificate of Completion: After completion of each course, the learner receives a certificate. This shows you that your employee has finished the training, but also provides the employee proof of their expanding knowledge and skill set. 

E-Learning Offerings

If you are looking for more in-depth training, try our E-Learning Courses. Meet Me in the Cloud also offers a Microlearning Library, which provides employees with short, on-demand training videos perfect for filling any small gaps, like forgetting how to perform certain tasks, when they need to learn something new, or when the tool itself gets updated and your employees are unfamiliar with the change.

With each purchase, you will have access to that course for 12 months, which means your employees can brush up on their training whenever they need to.

 

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