Georgetown University set out to make New Student Orientation (NSO) among the most engaging student events in its history. NSO is the place for incoming freshmen to meet other new students, explore the University, and immerse themselves in campus culture. Georgetown partnered with DoubleDutch to build an app that would serve as a private, social network on new students’ mobile devices to enhance student engagement during NSO.
Hear about the app's impact from two Georgetown students.
Merging University Tradition with Modern Campus Life
Designed to ease the transition for incoming freshmen, Georgetown’s New Student Orientation (NSO) introduces new students to the educational and social components of college life. NSO is a week-long event with hundreds of activities and sessions, some required for all, others tailored toward special interests (athletics, intramurals, and clubs), and others purely for fun. One challenge that university staff faces is finding the balance between promoting critical university programming and social activities. NSO organizers want to find a way to encourage students to get excited about both the more traditional activities (like convocation), as well as lay out all the options for some of the many special interest and social activities (like concerts, scavenger hunts, and ziplining).
Additionally, the week-long event schedule packed with options for incoming students can be complicated to navigate. Students wanted to know what their options were right before the events started, like they are accustomed to seeing from their mobile calendars. The paper agendas Georgetown printed for new students were frequently lost or left behind, so students were often unsure of what events were happening when and where. The University had already created Facebook pages to help facilitate networking, but there was no way to integrate the agenda and NSO content for students.
“Despite our use of Facebook and other social networking tools, the reality is that students don’t want to hear from us about programming on Facebook, and they often forget their paper agenda between events. Yet we noticed they always had their mobile devices in hand. We knew we had to tap into mobile if we were going to engage the digital native generation of new students.”—Lisa Davis, Chief Information Officer for Georgetown
Solution: Combining Social Networking with Event Agendas
The DoubleDutch platform allowed NSO attendees to keep track of their busy agendas, while simultaneously encouraging social interaction. The built-in social features of the app made it easy to ask and answer questions, generate conversations around the programming, and build community with other new students.
In the same way DoubleDutch apps thrill conference goers, the Georgetown NSO mobile app delighted freshman with their very own social network… and they couldn’t get enough!
In addition to providing a stellar student experience, it was important for NSO organizers to have an intuitive back-end system for sharing updates. With DoubleDutch’s easy-to-use content management system, NSO organizers could send push notifications to students’ phones about upcoming activities and make schedule changes on the fly.
“[The] app facilitated conversations that simply wouldn’t have happened without it. As a channel for engagement, we gave students more access to each other and the University. The NSO app was a great way to capitalize on student’s familiarity and comfort with using social media tools and to help them get the most out of our orientation programming.”—Justin Smith, Director of Orientation for Georgetown
Hosting a steady stream of conversation and prominently featured in the app’s navigation, the newsfeed encouraged students to interact with the content in a whole new way.
Georgetown used push notifications to remind students when important sessions and programs were coming up, where to find them, and any changes to the schedule.
Game mechanics, including in-app badges and point-based leaderboards, encouraged check-ins, comments, photos, and other app interactions throughout the event.
Through in-app surveys about events and features like check-ins, the app also generates valuable data that NSO organizers hope to use to improve programming for the coming year.
Amplified Engagement, Happy Students
Of the roughly 2,100 NSO participants (including student organizers and support staff), more than 1,800 people downloaded the app. 66% of users interacted in the app more than 10 times—proof of the app’s engaging design. With 1,839 posts, 1,223 likes, 944 comments, and 548 photos posted throughout the course of the three-day event, the app proved to be so successful that students used it long after NSO had ended. Georgetown saw more attendance at NSO sessions than previous years and attributed this increase to the app’s up-to-date schedule and push notifications.
“The New Student Orientation application was so successful in increasing program attendance and facilitating new connections among students that we are planning to use it at more of our events, like alumni weekend and homecoming. DoubleDutch has a great product, and we’re proud that Georgetown alumni, like DoubleDutch CEO Lawrence Coburn, are bringing this kind of innovative technology to the University.”—Lisa Davis, Chief Information Officer for Georgetown