To find out more about integrating a new tutoring program with the existing student culture, we spoke to Cecil VanBuskirk, the former President of the St. FX Student’s Union and a current member of Nimbus’s Student Advisory Council which helps Nimbus understand the needs of current students.
Did St. FX have a tutoring program before you got in touch with Nimbus?
We did have a tutoring program, but it was based out of our library and never really caught on with the wider student body. A lot of people would tutor each other off of books, right in their little core demographic. They’d find their smart, cool friend that would tutor them just for free in the library or, like what I did in first year, I just found my fourth year buddy and paid him a couple of bucks just to help me out. It was all very informal. So to have a company come in and offer a solution that kind of modernized the tutoring overall made things a lot better for the state of the FX tutoring community.
We partnered with the library, that’s how we got the whole thing going. We said, okay, we want to help you out with this and make this successful and the librarian loved the fact that Nimbus offered a very modern approach: used technology, hands off for them, hands off for us too.
How are you approaching getting students interested in Nimbus when the formal tutoring program already wasn’t part of your campus culture?
Nimbus has, I think, added a lot of value to our campus, but students didn’t really flock to the program right away.
People don’t like change, right? We tried to employ more marketing, just try and promote the fact that this product could save everyone time if they just tried. Sure enough, it did actually take up.
**according to our analytics, St. FX increased their sessions from 36 in their first semester to 220 in the fall 2021 semester
Did you notice anything that really got people’s attention?
Overall, what worked is when the student representatives actually talked about Nimbus. What we did is we went to all the different classes around when midterms and exams were approaching. We figured if we targeted the first years, that would create some succession in the idea of Nimbus. So, we went to the big first year classes and asked them to go check out Nimbus, it takes two flippin seconds, and we got people to go try and download the app on their phone. That was great for just general uptake. Word of mouth, you could call it.
That’s where we kind of pivoted, we were like, Okay, this isn’t a big school. They actually need to see people talking about it or else they won’t pay attention.
The promotional materials that Nimbus supplied that we just kind of copied and pasted were unreal. We loved the convenience of it and the overall branding of it because it was so easy to fit into our own brand. We saw a lot of traction on certain Instagram posts that Nimbus created. They would get a lot of uptake and likes.
We also did one or two contests. But word of mouth was the big thing for us.
When you got Nimbus rolling, how did you find tutors?
We basically just pivoted the already existing legitimate business onto the Nimbus platform. Something that we struggled with was finding tutors that were willing to do it. There wasn’t as much of a need for it because everybody knows each other – everybody knows somebody that can help them.
Once we got the word of mouth out there, the more it was connecting the groups that didn’t know each other. So, if somebody needed help in a science course that they randomly took, that was the opportunity because they had no friends in that class. In the elective classes too, those were the opportunities which I thought were interesting because it’s a little bit different. People were looking for elective tutors on their hard courses.
The team at Mount Allison mentioned that one of the big things about the Nimbus program is that they could connect tutoring programs from different societies so they’re all on this one platform. So, if you were a business student and you had to take a science course to get an elective credit, but the business society didn’t have any science tutors on staff, then you could go to the science team and get a tutor through the app.
Yes, exactly. It’s like building bridges across different departments that you wouldn’t otherwise have access to. I think that that’s the beauty of Nimbus. And this whole new proposition of bridging the gap between schools to build this network that’s broader than just one campus.
Did Nimbus help with admin after the fact as well?
Yeah, the Nimbus guys were often the single point of contact between all of us. St. FX has a complicated structure but, basically, the library and the Student Union talked but we weren’t bonded, you know? We were often pulled in different directions and we would talk to Nimbus at different times. They would be kind of like our secretary – the people that would kind of hold everything together.
How was the process of transitioning through the pandemic?
I was ending my term just as the pandemic was beginning, but it was weird. It was certainly weird. And that’s where Nimbus became a big asset because it’s online.
To think about how many students are struggling right now, I can only imagine it is amplified when there’s no connection to anybody. Probably procrastination goes up, people don’t want to do it because they don’t have that connection to the work.
How can you connect with people online? Like, like, I feel like you and I are talking in person to a certain degree right now over Zoom, right? How can you encourage people to feel that way? everywhere?
The transition process was so much easier than I thought it was going to be with Nimbus, because they did so much of the legwork for us. I think that that’s a huge asset for anybody that’s considering Nimbus, simply because we’re all busy. We all don’t have time to achieve our goals because we have often spread ourselves way too thin. And to have a goal that’s very simple, which is improve the learning environment of St FX or a school and improve the tutoring environment and to have a platform that does all the legwork to set it up for us even as far as the negotiated contracts. That’s what was amazing to me is, I was anticipating having to write these tutoring contracts and I hated just thinking about it but, sure enough, Nimbus pulled through to do it all for us. I think that that was a huge relief on me that I could then focus on what really mattered, which was trying to get students and tutors to the platform.
The beauty of joining with Nimbus is that the transition process is easy. They’ll do a lot of strategic development and consulting with you to make sure that they succeed because they’re just as vested in the students’ learning experiences as we are
Keeping up with the demand for your tutoring program can be difficult – Nimbus can help. With our help, program administrators reduce their workload by 52%, which has allowed 60% of our partners to expand current or add new student success programs. Our dedicated team can help inform you (and your student interns) on where to focus your marketing efforts, and can even provide custom materials and strategies to ensure your program success.