Tag: state university of new york at new paltz

Café New Paltz – One month update

This update is part 3 in a series about Café New Paltz, an exclusive online community using Ning for our fall 2009 accepted students at the State University of New York at New Paltz. See: article 1 | article 2

We continue to be extremely pleased with the engagement and relationship building inside Café New Paltz.

Quick Bites (stats as of 7:30 p.m. Feb. 9):

  • 282 members (1,323 initially invited on Jan. 2)
  • 712 photos posted by members
  • 38 discussion forums
    • topics include finding roommates, academics, pets in residence halls, residence hall questions, and more
  • Videos: We’ve posted 7, they’ve posted 4
    • Ours: 2 episodes on residence life, dining hall, around town, 1 week update, visit campus contest, welcome to Café New Paltz — average ~100 views each
    • Theirs: One member posted a video of herself singing the national anthem at her high school’s basketball game, another posted a tour of his room at home (parts 1 & 2!), a guitar riff, and a “name that riff”game
  • Birthdays: We’ve toned down our initial exuberance of 4 separate videos plus all of the other publicity on the site about member’s birthdays. We now have a text box on the top of the page as soon as they login that calls out birthdays, we post on their walls, and feature that member for the day.

Google Analytics

  • 8,111 visits
  • 78,631 pageviews
  • 17.03% bounce rate
  • 10:27 avg. time on site
  • Top 4 features: home page, chat, member profiles, forums

Things we’ve learned:

  • Scripting, producing, editing & posting 1 video every week is not realistic for our current staffing resources. We’ve loosened that timeframe to be a week and a half to two weeks between them if needed. Interestingly, the video views aren’t as high as we’d expect them to be.
  • These accepted students are eager to form relationships, to figure out who they’ll room with — already. This is 5-6 months earlier than the traditional process.
  • We’re reading a large number of posts in the forums by people who have paid their deposit already and are committed to coming to New Paltz.
  • Lots of anxiety being allayed earlier in the process. They’re finding roommates, and other students with similar interests (music, academic interests, extra-curricular activities, etc.). They’re asking if they can have cars on campus, if people go home on weekends, how many classes they will have to take, will their AP credits transfer, can they paint their residence halls, etc.

Next steps

  • On February 21 we will be inviting our first round of general accepts – approximately 1,000 of them – to join the community. From that point on, invitations will be sent to the latest round of new general accepts every two weeks.
  • In early March we need to start giving more serious consideration to what comes next. What happens after May 1, other than seeing how many of these members actually pay their deposit. Should we shut down the Café? Does it turn into a first year student community? What do we do with the members that choose not to come to New Paltz? Given the great amount of activity and interaction, I don’t see how we can shut it down, but we have to have a number of internal conversations between divisions to carefully plan the next stages.

What do you think our next steps should be?

Café New Paltz – 5 days in

Cafe New PaltzThis update is part 2 in a series about Café New Paltz, an exclusive online community using Ning for our fall 2009 accepted students at the State University of New York at New Paltz.

Wow. That about sums up the reaction my colleagues and I have had since launching Café New Paltz on Friday, January 2.

Quick Bites (stats as of 8:30 a.m. Jan. 7):

  • invited 1,323 early action accepted students
  • 169 members
  • 143 photos posted by members
  • 6 discussion forums started by members — including one with 33 replies

Videos
We posted two videos when we launched. I’m actually surprised at the low number of video plays, in relation to the number of members and their other activity. Everyone we have chatted with in the Café has been raving about them.

  • Welcome to Café New Paltz (2:06) – 66 views
  • Visit New Paltz (contest – 1:14) – 65 views

Jingle + Birthdays
My graduate assistant and his brother produced a catchy jingle for Café New Paltz that we use in the beginning and end of every video.

We noticed we have two birthdays in the community today. We’ve posted 4 happy birthday videos for them — one from the Office of Undergraduate Admission staff, one from two current students working in the Welcome Center, and one from each of our baristas. We also posted birthday wishes on their walls and pushed an activity update to the “latest activity feed” to wish them happy birthday.

More insights
Google Analytics Snippets (Jan. 2-6)
 

  • 1,539 visits
  • 18,758 pageviews
  • 20.40% bounce rate
  • 13:54 average time on site
  • top 3 features: home page, members page, chat page, and one person’s profile page (he’s popular!)

Finances

  • paying Ning $24.95/month to remove the ads
  • paying Ning $4.95/month to point to custom domain
  • paid $10.19 for domain name for one year

Anecdotes
Over the weekend our baristas spent countless hours (on their own time, without being asked!) inside the Café striking up conversations and making new friends. They let the community decide what the next videos are they will produce (we’re calling them “Flavors of the Week”), and the order they will be posted.

Some snippets I saved from one of many weekend chat sessions:

  • “I must be going. i’m definitely gonna log on again though, this is an amazing resource.”
  • “Yeah this is a pretty great thing set up here”
  • “Yeah, I’ve never run across a school with something this helpful and people this nice before! It’s great!”

They were also correcting each other’s grammar and spelling during one chat session. 🙂

A parent called my colleague in the admissions office to sign her daughter up for an event that is advertised in the Café. She said her daughter was very impressed with the Café and wishes other schools did something like this. The mom was very impressed with how much we were doing for our accepted students, and also commented on how cute and entertaining her daughter thought the two guys doing the videos were (our “baristas”). 

Next Up?
This Friday we’re going to send a re-invitation to the balance of original invitees that haven’t responded. The four videos our baristas are working on include residence life, dining services, clubs/sports/intramurals, and around town.

Plug for upcoming Webinar
Want to hear more about how to recruit on a budget? Sign-up for my HigherEdExperts.com Webinar in the Saving Big series, which will be held February 4.

Am I missing something I should be tracking? What are you interested in learning? What does the activity in your communities look like?