Over the summer, as part of its adjustment to remote learning, the College launched CampusGroups, a campus community platform that replaced Blink.
Although originally intended to help manage clubs, CampusGroups has seen much wider usage, such as scheduling for events and making College-wide announcements. So far, CampusGroups has streamlined daily tasks, such as registering for COVID-19 testing, scheduling dining pickups and reserving athletic facilities.
According to Nate Hintze, director of student activities, the College began to consider moving on from Blink around late spring, when the possibility of another remote semester became apparent. He said that student affairs wanted to find a different platform to help support clubs that are being run remotely.
“[Blink] was exceeding what it was designed for, and while we weren’t unhappy with it, we’ve had that for three years, four years, and during that time, we just didn’t look around at what was out there,” he said in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “And so we were asked to see what’s out there.”
Hintze, along with Mike Ranen, director of residential and student life and associate dean of student affairs, as well as Silvia Lorrain, associate director of student activities, tested roughly 15 platforms over the summer before concluding that CampusGroups was best suited to the College’s needs.
“[CampusGroups] really, from my standpoint, solved a lot of little problems that we would have, and it thought through a lot of great ways to engage students in ways other platforms hadn’t,” said Hintze.
Hintze cited many features of CampusGroups that elevated it above other platform options, such as its availability as an app and its custom website builder, as well as its ability to track audience engagement.
Khushi Patel ’23, chair of the Student Organizations Oversight Committee of the Bowdoin Student Government (BSG), said that the ability to host a virtual club fair on CampusGroups considerably lessened her workload.
“I was like, over the summer, how are we going to do [the virtual club fair]? I got this position, but I don’t know how anything’s going to work out now that we’re virtual. So that was really nice,” she said in a Zoom interview with the Orient.
Patel also noted the ease with which event organizers can track attendance and engagement using the RSVP function on the platform.
“Before the club fair, I had a big informal Zoom call for club leaders to introduce themselves and talk a bit about their club to first years before the virtual club fair, and that was, I would say, at least 190 people on a Zoom call,” she said. “So that was a great way to use CampusGroups, because all the club leaders emailed me, RSVPing, and I was like, you should go RSVP on CampusGroups.”
Reception from club leaders has also been generally positive. Patel mentioned that club leaders liked the ability to save their own booth and visit other ones when they had down time during the virtual club fair. Sonia Shah ’22, president of the South Asian Students Association (SASA), said she appreciated the cleaner look and user-friendly features.
“It’s easier to see the different events that clubs are having or to look up different clubs. And sending emails is now easier, too, because you can send them directly from the CampusGroups log-in,” she said in a phone interview with the Orient.
However, implementation of CampusGroups has been far from perfect. Lorenzo Meigs ’21, president of the Peucinian Society, said that he still preferred to send emails using a mailing list, as many members aren’t using the platform.
“A lot of people in Peucinian are not on CampusGroups or haven’t joined Peucinian on CampusGroups,” he said in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “So if we want to send out our weekly emails, they would only go to around 50 people, and a lot of people that are interested in visiting wouldn’t get the email.”
A problem in these early stages is that many upperclass students have yet to adopt the platform. Several seniors even claimed that they did not know what the platform was. By contrast, usage is ubiquitous among first years, as CampusGroups was incorporated into Orientation and remains integral to life on campus.
Some of the growing pains of using CampusGroups stem from Student Activities’ own unfamiliarity with the platform, the result of a fairly rushed timeline, as Hintze and Lorrain did the initial setup in only five weeks over the summer. As staff from Student Activities become more familiar with the platform and continue to adjust it, they will create a series of training videos to help club leaders become more acquainted with the platform.
“My hope is by getting our student groups to use it frequently, that will help them get other upperclass students to engage with it as well,” said Hintze.
Hintze also added that CampusGroups has a lot of potential to see even wider usage in the future, as its ability to synchronize with calendars could enable the creation of an integrated campus-wide calendar containing class schedules and various meetings and events.
“I think it has a lot of potential–we just need to continue to learn and have time,” he said. “I’d say with the old version, we had it pretty well dialed before we even let students open it. And I would say we are definitely not there with CampusGroups. We are still learning and students ask questions, and it’s a ‘I want to go look at that.’ I don’t know the answer right away, but we’ll figure it out.”