DIGITAL ENGAGEMENT DURING THE COVID-19 CRISIS
Supporting students remotely may be new for many of us, though some of us may already be experts. Either way, now is the time for each of us to be active in our online student engagement, connect them to resources, and most importantly, ensure they know we care and we’re here to help.
Remote student support requires more than being attentive to your email inbox – it will require proactivity and effort on our part to locate and engage with the students.
This page contains unofficial, informal guidance on supporting our students via online tools. It’s not a playbook, as much as some general ideas to get you started as we continue to support our students while they are away from campus.
You know your students, and you probably know which forums they use the most (how do they normally engage with your office?). Go to those platforms (whether on Facebook, GroupMe, Twitter, etc.) and make yourself available. Reach out to students and ask them to engage with you – to ask questions, express concerns, share support.
When you are “live” on a platform, post an initial post of “[Your name and role] is online and live to chat and answer your questions. Tweet @[your handle] or use the #[your hashtag] or post in the comments below, etc.”
Initially, students are not going to come to you, so you will have to reach out to them. You can do this macro, “Hey UGA students – do you have questions? Come chat with me!” or individually, “Hey @[student handle], I hate that we missed our weekly meeting today. How are you doing? Do you have any questions for me?”
If you are more astute at online communication, feel free to post live on Facebook and invite questions via the comments, or host a Reddit “ask me anything” chat. Be creative – represent the University well, and refer to official University statements and resources when possible, but be present and support the students. “I don’t know – let me check on that for you” is a fine answer.
That’s okay. Anyone can type an email, right? Ask your supervisor if it’s okay for you to communicate to students individually via email. You could simply start out with a particular student organization list, and start working your way through one by one. Individual, personalized communication will work best (single emails to entire lists are good for general information, but not for genuine connection).
So this isn’t necessarily about converting your daily job or student program into a digital format (although if you figure that out – awesome, go for it!) as much as it is about ensuring the students continue to feel engaged and supported during this strange time.
As we always are, we are here to support and serve the students. The simplest conversation can begin “just checking in. This is strange, isn’t it? Do you have questions? What are you worried about? Can I try to help with something?” and go from there. They may have specific questions for something not in your area, but you can offer to investigate for them. In short, be supportive, be a good listener, and work to find an answer whenever possible.
As always, please be mindful of the climate on social media before posting — just a quick check to make sure your posts are not tone deaf or insensitive to current events. This includes not just your post topic, but your tone on social (be careful with exclamation points, emojis, and gifs right now).
You can be as helpful in keeping your friends and fellow students connected as anybody! If you’re a student organization leader or member, go ahead and check in with the other members of your student org and see how everyone is doing. Once you get in the routine of your online classwork, you and your fellow members may decide you might like to set up an online org meeting. That’s awesome! Touch base with your Student Affairs adviser to let them know you’re doing so, and for assistance in setting a meeting up.
It’s helpful for students to know when and how to reach you. It is a good practice to set times and platforms to be available and to post those on social, or provide them to your director for posting on your website. For example “John Doe will be available on Facebook at 2p to answer your questions” or the like. Or “Jane Doe will be checking the J.email@example.com email inbox in real time at 2p today.” Then, make sure you’re immediately responsive during those times.
There is no expectation to keep posting at this time, but if you do want to keep sharing content, here are some good options:
- Updates + FAQ: Our highest priority right now is to make sure FAQs and campus updates are communicated and would appreciate your help with getting those messages out. (Don’t worry about the swipe up on Instagram stories, just point people to follow @universityofga for ongoing updates.)
- Closures: Lots of events have been canceled/postponed or services have altered their schedules. Please share those if it’s relevant to your audience.
- Campus Photos: If you have photos of cleaning (busses, windows, classrooms) or prep work for online learning (video conferencing), etc.
- Relevant Content: Our team is working on some UGA research and expertise angles (everything from healthy tips to how to entertain kids to economic impact of a pandemic). Those stories should start trickling out on news.uga.edu over the weekend if not early next week.
Now is a good time to produce valuable news-you-can-use content related to current events. The following types of posts are good options for conveying this information in a concise manner :
- Quick Tips + Facts
- Quotes from Faculty Experts
- Consider pausing any paid digital campaigns running.
- Please do not alter or create your own emergency graphics or health guidelines.
- Don’t be the expert. Questions about COVID-19 and other health related matters are best left to the medical professionals to answer. Refer your students to DPH and CDC resources for those types of questions.
- Share and amplify central communications and updates (these are typically posted after an ArchNews).
- Post timely notifications and updates to Twitter and Instagram stories only — Facebook and Instagram Feed are algorithmic and can cause confusion if people see that post days later.
- Please tag UGA Student Affairs and UGA in any cancelations or FAQ responses that need to be amplified centrally.
If you are receiving questions, point them to UGA’s page for Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information and Resources.
UGA Marketing and Communications is also developing content around health, wellness and prevention, so please do not create your own. Instead, look to amplify those messages over the next few days.