This week, we spoke to Charlie Burke, the Vice President of Academic Affairs for the Mount Allison Students’ Union about their successful fall semester where they expanded to hosting up to 40 sessions a week and how, when you have a solid foundation for your program, it begins to work for you.
What was your experience working throughout the pandemic?
Working in the pandemic was challenging because you can’t access people as easily as you normally can. There’s not that face to face interaction which I definitely really miss.
Everyone kind of moved online pretty seamlessly here at Mountain Allison, which has been really helpful. It’s just different because I don’t get to be as personable and as in touch with people as normal. We’ve made do with lots of zoom calls and lots of more emails and using our social media a little bit more heavily than we would in a normal year.
It was hard at first to figure out what works but once we got into the swing of things I haven’t hated working in the pandemic.
Your team increased the amount of sessions you had by quite a bit last semester – how did you manage to do that?
A lot of it just had to do with students going through midterms and finding Nimbus for the first time. Towards the final exam period students were more conscious of the app.
We also have a really great social media team within the university as well as our students’ union who’s helped promote Nimbus during peak periods. We also have an Academic Support Coordinator which is excellent; every time a student has come in is needing support, they just point them straight towards Nimbus.
I think it was kind of slow at first for students finding the app, but when students were really looking for help and needed it, we had the right people in the right places to catch them and point them towards Nimbus. Once students use it they’re hooked on it, just because it’s so easy to use. Then they tell their friends, and then they tell their friends, and that’s really helped.
Once students figure that out, they’re not hesitant to use it again, they’re just ready to jump back in to the next session.
”Once students use [the app] they're hooked on it, just because it's so easy to use. Then they tell their friends, and then they tell their friends, and that's really helped.
You are also bringing a lot of different societies onto Nimbus – how is that working?
I’ve been emailing societies about the app so a lot more societies have started to become aware of it and put their tutors on the app. Once other societies have seen the success, more students have flocked to become tutors.
I also have this little newsletter that I’ve been making with my senators that we send to societies. We’re always saying like, “Hey, remember Nimbus,” So I think they’ve been sharing that.
We’ve had a lot of students specifically from the Biochem Society, that I’ve signed up for the app. And we’ve been promoting it through there, and they’ve been moving a lot of their tutoring to Nimbus.
How’s your administrative workload been since you’ve pretty much exploded in sessions?
Surprisingly, as the sessions have gone up, the workload has gone down.
The first month was really about testing it out, figuring out where we need to be in term of students and figuring out our workload. There was a lot of work onboarding students and tutors and putting the word out about Nimbus. Then, once we started to get into the groove of it and students started finding the app, it’s been pretty good.
A lot of students at first were kind of like, “what is this” so a lot of it was answering questions. It’s well enough now that other students are able to answer each other’s’ questions and we’ve worked with the Nimbus team to make it what works best for our students now. We also have web pages now set up that answer common questions and walkthrough videos that they can watch and all that kind of stuff. There’s also guides on if you’re having this tech issue, what it might be or who you can contact.
If there were any issues we were running into, we just immediately reached out to the Nimbus tech team and they solved it really quickly for us.
I remember just like in the summer doing a lot of work and like really hoping that this would work for students. So it’s been really rewarding to see now that it’s taking off, and students are using it and finding success on the app without me having to constantly be on email about it. Now, I get maybe like one email or question every two weeks.
”Surprisingly, as the sessions have gone up, the workload has gone down.
You’ve mentioned Nimbus support a few times, do you feel that Nimbus helped reduce your workload?
Yeah, we’ve had a lot of times where students have come to us with a problem and instead of us trying to figure it out, a lot of times, we can just send it off to the Nimbus team, and they solved the problem for us. It could be sometimes as simple as “Oh, we’ve noticed when you were trying to input this student, you spelled the name wrong”
They also supplied us with a lot of the promotional materials and the app walkthroughs. Once we got all that stuff up and we were able to set up our own pages for that, it was great.
You’re always worried when you launch a new project so I’m really happy that students are using it and they’re finding success on it. It’s also hasn’t been that much of an additional workload. If anything, it’s relieved some of the work from our academic support. I’ve been very happy to see that it’s been working out.