Universities and colleges all over the country and world have had to make decisions about returning to campus this fall. Some have instituted precautionary measures and are planning to return. Some have a hybrid option with some courses (typically labs) in-person and some courses attended remotely. Many have decided to remain virtual for the foreseeable future, in some cases, offering students the flexibility to attend remotely at a lower cost to stay competitive.
No matter the direction, universities will be highly reliant on virtual events for college students to ensure their experience and access to informative talks and interesting speakers remains. Here are some ways the colleges and universities we work with are using virtual events to keep students engaged, even if they are not on campus.
Explore Campus and Beyond
Whether students are in their first year of college or their last, each university has unique features to offer and present to its students. Many colleges have set up a virtual tour for current and prospective students to explore campus, and provide information on the history of different buildings and dedications. For returning students, think about setting up a livestream of certain iconic parts of campus, so they can feel connected even if away.
Reflect on what sets your university apart. Does your university have a planetarium, design lab, 3D printers, virtual reality experiences, or other cutting-edge technology? Set up a virtual event to explain how they work and to get students involved. Check out these inspiring women of color in STEM to speak and inspire your students in technology.
Universities are a very important part of the town they are in, so it is critical to maintain strong ties to local businesses and institutions. Consider connecting students virtually with local museums, libraries, businesses, and other groups to give students a taste of the local flair. Some organizations may also be in need of volunteers virtually, which is a great way for students to get involved in the community even when not on campus.
Host Interactive Virtual Experiences
Transition the same fun events that usually occur on campus to virtual so students can feel more connected. Host trivia and game nights on streaming platforms and offer different prizes to up the stakes and encourage attendance. Create a virtual coffee house and welcome virtual talent with an open mic night.
Host a craft-based or task-based workshop to teach a new skill to students. Check out these experts in home improvement and gardening for DIY projects and plant tips, host a cooking demonstration with top celebrity chefs and culinary experts, or explore the creative process with popular visual artists and writers.
Many universities offer free fitness classes for their students, so have students sign up online prior and then set a time for them to join the group workout. These fitness experts and health speakers can speak on healthy habits and lead a virtual workout for your students! If you have any other questions about how to make your virtual event interactive or ideas about virtual events for college students, connect with us to learn about speakers who can teach students something they may not normally learn in their classes.
Provide Mental Health and Wellness Support
During these unprecedented times, it is very likely that students may be in need of extra support. Provide them with information and clear instruction on how they can use the university’s counseling resources virtually if they want help. It is helpful to spend some time introducing the wellness professionals at your university, to ease the process for who students should contact if they need support.
Some universities offer virtual individual and group counseling, virtual drop-ins, and virtual yoga and meditation classes to ensure that students feel supported off-campus as well as on. For actionable ways to deal with stress and mental health, consider booking a trending mental health speaker to provide them with some guidance and inspiration during this difficult time.
Promote Career Growth
Being a part of a university goes beyond just the time spent on campus. Attending the same university connects people of all different ages in being able to reflect on similar experiences. Now is a great time to connect current students with alumni, whether through career panels, networking opportunities, or inspirational talks on life after graduation. Alumni can also host virtual events for college students to expose them to their industries, and talk about how their jobs have changed during the pandemic.
To ensure that you are providing information relevant to them, allow students to input their own ideas of what topics would be most beneficial to hear about. For ideas and inspiration for popular university speakers, check out our lists on business and technology speakers and political speakers.
Get to Know Professors
When universities are in session, there are many opportunities to meet professors and learn about their personal research and work. Plan programming and virtual events for college students to get to know professors that they may not be in class with. Professors can do this by hosting lectures and Q&A sessions online for students. For talks and lectures, think about ways to make virtual events interactive to encourage positive engagement.
Some universities have started virtual book clubs, where students can read along and tune in for virtual discussions about the themes with professors who write about or teach the books themselves. Identify and research books that will most resonate with college students at this time; for ideas, take a look at these popular Black authors.
Connect Students and Extracurriculars
Encourage club leaders to host “office hours” so students can hear about the different opportunities available on campus, and encourage them to look into ways they can continue their clubs’ missions virtually. Whether athletic, intellectual, philanthropic, or social, provide students a way to keep working with the group, even if they are not on campus.
Host a Virtual Performance
Just because not all students are on campus does not mean that they should miss out on fun programming like concerts, comedy shows, and celebrity appearances. Consider booking popular campus entertainers that can captivate your audience from anywhere. Without travel costs, famous celebrities are currently more available than normal times to connect with students through a keynote, moderated conversation, or Q&A session.
It is important to understand and recognize how college students may be dealing with such unprecedented circumstances. However, if you are able to incorporate some of these ideas for virtual events for college students, students will feel more connected with their peers, professors, and campus.