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Amid COVID-19, These Colleges are Building Better Digital Communities

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Amid COVID-19, These Colleges are Building Better Digital Communities

Original article published by Forbes.com on April 20, 2020
Author: Liz Engel

Wisr, pronounced why-zer, helps colleges create private digital communities for students and alumni to engage – to get a feeling for what life is like on campus, and to find friends and mentors with similar interests. The company is in the midst of a rapid expansion amid the pandemic as shelter-in-place orders and cancelled college visits have created a surge in demand.

Over the past month, Wisr has more than doubled its list of partner schools, including Yale, Brown, Duke, Cleveland State and more. Higher education is often considered a slow-moving enterprise. But Wisr has been able to onboard those admissions teams quickly. Average launch time has been 12 days, CEO Kate Volzer said.

“Higher ed, it’s like a tanker – you can’t just pivot on a dime. But what the industry has done so far, taking the whole process online, it’s really impressive,” she said.

The company says digital connectivity reduces stress and anxiety for students. For schools, it boosts engagement, it provides a more meaningful admissions experience, and gives a real-time engagement tool to see what students may need additional support.

“Right now, universities are working to create a new normal,” Volzer said. “Creating a dynamic digital campus experience isn’t a ‘nice-to-have’ anymore – it’s a necessity. And some schools are getting really creative with it. The more they can have these fun interactions with each other – it’s not just about lectures, filling out paperwork and all the tactical things that go along with school – the more you can give [these students] a place to be themselves, that’s a good thing.”

The University of Chicago, which has worked with Wisr for years, annually hosts the “largest scavenger hunt in the world,” and the school started up a virtual version of the game with its admitted students. About 600 actively took part, said Peter Wilson, the school’s director of undergraduate admissions, deputy dean and chief of staff.

Overall, 94 percent of its admitted students are actively engaged on Wisr, he said. And, in case you were wondering, over 800 viewed the “Ask Me Anything” with Levitt, who fielded over 100 questions.

“It’s been an incredible tool,” Wilson said. “We never anticipated the amount of discussion they would be having with each other. Right now, we’re seeing every possible emotion [from these students], from disappointment to missing out on their senior year, to being excited about spending more time with their families before going off to school. I think having this platform has allowed them to connect in a way they probably wouldn’t have been able to before arriving on campus in the fall.”   Read the full article here.

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