Together, we can Protect Purdue.

See our FAQs

Tools and Tips for Creating Programs for Students at a Distance

Panel discussion moderated by Dr. Carl. Krieger, Director of Residential Education on April 9, 2020 with:

  • Chelsea Harris, Asst. Director, Programs, Student Activities and Organizations

  • Jenny Strickland, Interim Sr. Asst. Director - Integrated Communications, Student Development & Fitness for Recreation & Wellness

  • Payton Gross, RecWell Integrated Communication Student Intern

Session Outcomes

  • A brief walkthrough of how to use WebEx, a discussion of YouTube and Facebook Live
  • Hear about the steps taken by RecWell and Purdue Memorial Union staff to provide online programs for students.
  • A brief overview of additional technological resources
  • Hall of Music Tip Sheet provided for creating videos for social media and online content

WebEx Tutorial

How to use WebEx, the platform supported by Purdue, for meetings. Watch video here.

All Current Programming Relates to Steps to Leaps. Please brand it as such. Also, please use the hashtag #purduestepstoleaps on social media posts.  

Question #1: How did you start with your program planning?


The last week before everything really changed, our director at RecWell had us meet every day as a team to talk about what we could be doing, what we will do, what we should do. Getting feedback from staff and students. Once he started asking questions about what it would look like to get our programs online, we knew that fitness videos were already trending, and we thought about resources that we had. We had been working with Hall of Music Productions, Brad Thor's team, to make videos for recruitment, and he had reached out letting us know that we could work with them as a resource.

We created about 12 fitness videos before the stay-at-home orders were set. Along with cooking and nutrition classes. It took quite a bit of work during that week to quickly get everybody on board. Payton and I, along with some other staff, drafted a plan. We asked, “What can we do? What can we put online, and how can we put it online? I didn’t want to hear “no.” We wanted to figure out. We sat down with people from each area at RecWell and determined what we could do. We have a total of 11 virtual programs right now. 


At the union, we looked at our goals—to engage students in different activities throughout the year. Then we looked at the activities we had planned and what could be moved online. Out of all, only two were easily moved, and then we had to rethink what we were doing.

I spent a lot of time on the phone with vendors to determine what was possible. Then I reached out to people at other institutions to see what they were doing. Most weren't thinking about moving the traditional programming online at that point, so I sounded like a crazy human saying we still have to do this stuff.

We moved the traditional programs, like the trivia, online; that was an easy one to do. Then we started thinking outside the box. I asked the students, “What kinds of programs work when you are home? We currently have 21 programs scheduled for the month of April.


Can you talk about the kinds of conversations you had and what led you to choose the programming and methods you chose?


It's important that we live our mission to pursue healthy and active lifestyles and engage the Purdue community in doing so. Thinking about that and thinking about Steps to Leaps, well-being is one of the pillars and that is who we are. Purdue Recreation and Wellness. We're not just a gym, we're not just a building. If you watch any of our videos, you hear us talk about that often. We want to create a space for networking, another Steps to Leaps pillar. Everything that we do encompasses the entire idea of Steps to Leaps.

The tightest networks are created by connections and individuals who can participate in something, cooking classes, fitness classes, wellness opportunities. I like to call them TED Talks. Now the students can include their families or they can hop on a Zoom call on their phone or WebEx to do the fitness class with each other. I've gotten tons of picture messages, Payton has seen some come through on social media. So it's just really neat. We really had to think about what these students want, and how we give it to them in their language. If they're telling us Facebook is for their parents or grandparents, then we're not going to always put our content there.


Digital technology and social media can help regain interaction now that everybody is in isolation. RecWell is forming that community, still being authentic and relatable and showing support in all different areas.


The mission of the Purdue Student Union Board is to do programs and enrich the lives of students. So we tried to look at stuff that they wouldn't be getting day-to-day at home. We're not going to do a lecture because they're probably getting lectured enough to do schoolwork. A student brought up an article that was called My Friend Beyonce about how you become friends with these people online by what they post.

So how do we make students want to show up to our trivia nights because we're a friend of theirs? We worked a lot with Student Life marketing when I first got here on how to create authentic Instagram posts or ones that people want to follow to see the content. Create content that's catchy with fun slogans or silly videos and gifs, and memes. We're doing a meme contest with the theme og the quarantine and people wondered if that would be offensive. But students are going to post it, so we take it on and use it for our benefit. 


If you have things to share in your areas, Matt Vader can push them out through Student Life social media, which brings followers.

Question #2: Who did you bring in to work with you?


We bounced ideas off of each other in our office at RecWell and worked with Zane Reif. We also worked with vendors. We had been using Big Bounce Fun House rentals. They offer some game show rentals, and they have caricature artists. Then we got the students on board, because we could put a thousand things out there, but if they're not going to pay attention, then why do it?


We referred to the experts. We wanted to do it fast and right. So we figured out who on campus could help us. We could not have done anything without both Hall Music Productions and Student Life marketing. They helped us tremendously to get to where we needed to be. Payton and I recruited students who are still around to be the people in our videos. It's all about using your strengths. Students want to see students, and we want to focus on engaging them. Seeing their peers, the people that they were used to, makes them more comfortable. I actually had a group fitness participant email me yesterday out of nowhere saying thank you for the programs. She liked that she could continue to do the classes with the instructor that she was used to and comfortable with.

Question #3: What was your skill level, and how did that impact what you chose to do? 


As the integrated communication lead, I oversee our digital world. Everything that we put online, all the programs that we videoed with Hall of Music Productions has been uploaded directly to YouTube. But that's not really the main way that we reach our demographic of students. Mainly, we reach them through Instagram.

We share everything also on Facebook, but that reaches more of our alumni. On Instagram, we upload longer videos such as our group fitness classes and cooking demonstrations as IGTV. When a video is longer than one minute, you upload it through there, and viewers can watch the whole thing. If somebody doesn't want to watch from their phone, they have the option to click the link in our Instagram bio, and it will take them to YouTube.

I've had a lot of experience with online marketing, especially in my online master’s program. My degree is going to be integrated communications—Any type of advertising that pops up on your social media accounts that is tailored to you. I have graphic designers on my team who design content that we post. We writers who help come up with the captions to be authentic and relatable to students. 

Question #4 Why use Facebook Live/YouTube Live?


One shot. 30 minute blocks. You figure it out, you make it work, and it was thrilling. It was nerve-racking. But it was awesome. The students loved participating in it, they still talk about it. They used it for their own “brand” or social media presence. They share it on their own pages. It's great, it's marketing that's not official but it still happens. Every time you share online it's a touchpoint.

We discussed what to do when we are live and no one is there. Do you keep talking or do you end it and do something else? We landed on if no one is watching after 15 minutes, we will stop and upload a video of the activity, so it can be more impactful and not as awkward for the person who is hosting. 

Question #5: What technology did you use?  


Share your thoughts:



To join the conversation and learn more,
use the hashtag #PurdueStepstoLeaps on social channels:

FB Logo  Twitter Logo  Instagram Logo