No one likes change. When it comes to starting new programs, team leaders will often be met with resistance or reluctance – no matter how much potential the initiative carries. When St. FX Student’s Union decided to build on their school’s under-utilized tutoring service, they were met with this indifference.
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.
”"To have a company come offer a solution that modernizes tutoring and studying with friends made things a lot safer, accessible and sustainable for of the St.FX tutoring community."Cecil VanBuskirk
Did St. FX have a tutoring program before you got in touch with Nimbus?
Before Nimbus, our old tutoring program ran out of the school library and never was that popular with students. The most common way students would get tutors was off the books – they would ask their friends for help or pay one of the smarter students in the class. For example, in my first year I asked my fourth-year friend to tutor me for a couple of bucks as I needed it. It was very informal, which worked for a small community, but isn’t sustainable. To have a company come offer a solution that modernizes tutoring and studying with friends made things a lot safer, accessible and sustainable for of the St.FX tutoring community.
We decided to partner with the library, to get the initiative going. Our goal was to make the tutoring program successful, sustainable and accessible to all. The library also loved the fact that Nimbus offered a very modern approach using technology to make it a safe initiative that was hands off for the Library and for us (the students union) 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. We tried to employ different marketing strategies, to promote the fact that this product could save everyone time if they just tried it. After some persistence, we eventually found what was the best way to get the message out to students about how awesome and easy Nimbus is to use.
**according to our analytics, St. FX increased their sessions from 36 in their first semester to 220 in the fall 2021 semester – an increase of more than 600%
Did you notice anything that really got people’s attention?
What worked best for us was when the student representatives actually talked about Nimbus. We achieved this by visiting all the biggest classes on campus when students would need tutors the most: during the preparation period for midterms and exams. We figured that if we targeted the first-year classes, we could create some succession for Nimbus. So, we went to the big first year classes and asked them to go check out Nimbus, demonstrating to them that it takes two seconds by getting people to go try and download the app on their phone. That was great for uptake. Word of mouth.
That’s where we pivoted; we noticed that StFX isn’t a big school. The students need to see people talking and showing them why they should use something, or else they won’t pay attention.
The promotional materials that Nimbus supplied that we were able to copy and paste to our media streams were unreal. We loved the convenience and the branding of the ads because it was easy to fit their created messages into our brand. We saw a lot of traction Instagram posts that Nimbus created to be specific.
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?
Our situation was unique because we were able to use the already existing legitimate tutoring business (and few tutors that came along with it) onto the Nimbus platform quite seamlessly. Something that we struggled with was finding tutors that were willing to enroll through the old screening process. At the time, there still wasn’t the recognized need for tutoring through the official business streams that the Library and Nimbus offered because of the old system: everybody knows each other – everybody knows somebody that can help them.
Once we got the word out (literally) about Nimbus, the more it connected the groups that didn’t know each other. So, if a student needed help in a science course that they took as an elective without their cohort of friends, that was where Nimbus added so much value.
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. Nimbus has the opportunity to expand beyond their individual faculties to build a network that’s broader than just one campus
Did Nimbus help with admin after the fact as well?
Yeah! Ben and Will from Nimbus 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. We were often pulled in different directions, but we would talk to Nimbus at different times. They would be kind of like our secretary – the people that held everything together.
How was the process of transitioning through the pandemic?
I was ending my term just as the pandemic was beginning. It was a weird difficult time for everyone, but especially students. That’s where Nimbus became a big asset to students because it’s all online.
”...that's the beauty of Nimbus. Nimbus has the opportunity to expand beyond their individual faculties to build a network that's broader than just one campusCecil VanBuskirk
To think about how many students are struggling right now, I can only imagine it is amplified when there’s no connection to their community. Procrastination is on the rise; people don’t have that emotional connection to the work.
The transition process to an online model was so much easier than I thought it was going to be with Nimbus, because they did so much of the legwork for us (even as far as the negotiated contracts). 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 too thin. And to have a goal that’s very simple, which is to improve the learning environment of StFX by improving the tutoring environment, and to have it achieved through a platform that does all the set-up is nothing but an asset to the students. That’s what was amazing to me. I was anticipating having to write these tutoring contracts and other contracts but, sure enough, Nimbus made all the necessary arrangements to achieve our goal. I think that that was a huge relief on me and our team – we 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.
The Nimbus App can make connecting students with tutors easy and flexible. Let us show you how by visiting https://nimbuslearning.com/partners/.
Image Source: St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada / Brendan Riley / CC-BY-SA-2.0-CA