VisitND Tour Challenge Guide // University of Notre Dame Guest Blog

Welcome! This guide provides information and “lessons learned” about conducting a student tour competition using Modo Labs’ Kurogo platform and their Tour module. Information provided is based on the VisitND Challenge that Notre Dame successfully conducted in the Fall 2015 semester.

This guide was created by Matt Willmore at the University of Notre Dame; please reach out to him at mwillmor@nd.edu with any questions about the guide.

Background

The VisitND Challenge was conceived as a way to engage the student population in technology while also improving the guest experience. Because creating tours in Kurogo does not require technical/coding abilities, we were able to build an event that, while directly involving creation of content for the ND Mobile app, did not require technical ability.

Timeline

The VisitND Challenge, from organizing meetings to announcing the winners, spanned 4.5 months from August to mid-December 2015.

We focused all initial efforts on planning and strategy; because of the tight execution timeline, we needed to identify the entire path forward and be able to move quickly without needing to regroup. In addition, all meetings with the judging committee were scheduled in September; since the committee is comprised primarily of leadership from across campus, it was important to maximize our chances of getting on their calendars.

August

Idea formation; creation of charter and identification of ideal committee members

September

9/2 Met with the Executive Vice President (EVP) to review and get approval for the charter (PDF)
EVP asked members of the committee to participate
9/14 VisitND Challenge launch and beginning of marketing blitz (Interest Google Form // Registration Google Form)
Initial committee meeting (slide deck)
9/16 “Live” event outside South Dining Hall
9/21 Tour proposals due (PDF with compiled proposals)
Committee members tasking with reviewing and selecting top 10 proposals (Google Form)
9/24 Committee meeting to review top 10 proposals and resolve tiebreakers
9/25 Top 10 ideas announced and published to VisitND website
All teams notified of their results
9/28 Sandbox environments made available to top 10 teams
9/29-9/30 Mandatory one-hour team Publisher training — more details in IT Strategy below

October

10/31 All tours due (originally 5pm, but extended to midnight)

November

11/2 Open review time for committee members to vote on 5 finalists (Google Form) — more details in IT Strategy below
11/4 Committee meeting to discuss selection of 5 finalists and resolve tiebreakers
11/6 Top 6 tours chosen and announced (was originally 5, but scoring results showed a strong grouping of 6 at the top)
11/13 Top 6 tours added to the ND Mobile app with Publisher “front page” (Kurogo module) and link to public survey (Google Form)
11/16 Committee asked to rank the top 6 prizes (Google Form)
11/24 Committee meeting to confirm Challenge winners and rankings

December

12/1 VisitND Challenge winners announced (mobileND news article)
12/10 Final committee meeting, focusing on survey feedback and reviewing future plans for the tours

 

The organizers also conducted a weekly 30 minute call to review next steps, provide feedback on last week’s events, and make any last-minute alterations.

Funding & Budget

Img 3320 Small

We knew from the start that, given the plethora of activities available to students, they were not likely to engage in the Challenge without a solid incentive. Between the Executive Vice President, SAP, Modo Labs and mobileND we were able to gather enough prize money to entice students and provide takeaways for each of the finalist teams. Because each team had worked so hard to get to the top six, we didn’t want to leave any team empty-handed. The prize structure was as follows:

First place $2,500 cash (provided by the Office of the Executive Vice President)
Second place $1,000 cash (provided by the Office of the Executive Vice President)
Third place SAP jackets (provided by SAP)
Modo Labs Special Prize $1,000 cash (provided by Modo Labs)
Team Prizes $250 cash for teams that did not place 1st or 2nd (provided by mobileND)

 

The Office of the Executive Vice President also provided operational funding for miscellaneous expenses including equipment rental. Modo Labs’ in-kind gift offering use of the sandboxes was another substantial donation.

A key item not fully considered was securing long-term funding for the Tour module and Publisher pages prior to starting the Challenge contest. In all honesty, there were initial doubts that we would even recruit the minimum 10 teams to hold the Challenge, and so any concerns about identifying long-term funding were delayed until after the Challenge had concluded. As a result, this has caused delays implementing the winning student tour module while long term funding was sought and ultimately approved.

In reality, like with any software pilot, identification of long-term funding before the pilot commences is paramount. This is also an expense easily divided between departments. By identifying campus groups interested in the addition of tours to the app, you can split the cost of the Tour module and Publisher pages among the departments and ease the burden on everyone through their sponsorship. If you take nothing else from this document, take the advice to have your long-term funding identified ahead of time.

Communication & Marketing Strategy

Our schedule necessitated a short window to allow teams to submit entries — just one week. We found that by creating this sense of urgency people were more likely to take action instead of waiting. Because of this, it was imperative to market the Challenge as quickly and prominently as possible. We use the following methods to get the word out:

Screenshot Of ND Mobile App With VisitND Banner

  • A page on the mobileND website detailing the Challenge; this was also linked to from the banner in the ND Mobile app, and was seen as the primary information piece in all written communication
  • A 2-hour “live” event outside South Dining Hall. This was intended to get as many eyes as possible on the Challenge. We had handouts, free prizes (like SAP flash drives) for registering, one of those wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tube men, a loudspeaker with our SAP contact serving as carnival barker, and even an appearance by the ND Leprechaun and cheerleading squad
  • Advertisement in The Week, a weekly student email blast containing all upcoming events and promotions
  • Banner in the ND Mobile app that linked to a 1-page Publisher module with more information and links to register
  • Partnership with faculty in relevant classes to encourage participation (IT Management, design, etc.); in some cases, faculty made it an option to compete in the Challenge as an assignment
  • Email blasts to relevant groups including CS majors, design majors and students who have participated in prior tech events like hackathons and Arduino courses
  • As a side effect, the cash prizes helped to fuel the buzz about the contest.

The VisitND Challenge was also included in multiple issues of NDWorks, Notre Dame’s monthly newspaper for faculty and staff (see page 6 of the November 2015 issue and page 6 of theJanuary 2016 issue); however, these articles were during and after the competition, and more served to make campus aware of the event. Partially because of these articles, there was substantial casual awareness of the Challenge across campus, which in turns helps to promote the app.

A couple points to keep in mind:

  • We had mentioned the fact that no coding/technical skills were required, but students seemed to be hung up on the fact that making something for the app had to involve programming. We had to hammer that point home repeatedly, and it’s something we didn’t expect to have to cover so often.
  • We utilized a ladder of engagement approach to engage students in the Challenge. We didn’t ask them to build the tour as the first step; we just asked for who’s on their team and a list of stops they would potentially include (Google Form). During the “live” event outside the dining hall, we only asked for name and email address (Google Form), and then followed up with everyone that night to ask them to submit an (when it was more convenient for them).

In the end, these marketing efforts resulted in 64 team entries submitted (a couple teams submitted 2 entries).

IT Strategy

Thanks to the generosity of Modo Labs, we were able to host each of the top 10 teams on their own sandbox. This was primarily to prevent the teams from seeing the progress of their competitors. However, this event could be run on a single instance of Kurogo by limiting each team login to only edit the module of their tour.

Modo Labs was also able to tie each of those sandboxes to the free Kurogo Mobile Campus Preview app (iOS | Android), so a team could enter a code and see their tour in true mobile app form. This is not necessary for the challenge, but gave each team a realistic idea of how the tour would look and act in the app.

Besides free pizza, one big incentive for each team attending the mandatory one-hour training was that they would receive the credentials to their tour environment. As each team arrived, every team member was emailed a one-pagePDF (example) with information and credentials for accessing their sandbox environment. They were also given access to a shared folder in Box that included information for all teams, including where to rent video and DSLR cameras, and Modo Labs documentation on creating tour content in Publisher. Over that hour, we covered the following topics:

  • How to create and delete a tour stop
  • How to add text, photos and video to a stop
  • How to add the stop to the tour route and order stops
  • How to create the beginning/ending pages
  • How to publish finished pages
  • Where to access shared information in Box folder
  • Campus resources to help create content
  • Demonstration of existing Kurogo tours from University of Arizona and Belmont University
  • Demonstration of PhotoShelter for access to official university photos

PhotoShelter is Notre Dame’s official photo repository. While all photos can be viewed, paid access is required to access the full-resolution versions. We did offer PhotoShelter as a resource to the teams, and asked that they use the smaller, watermarked versions in their tours and to record which photos were used. We then gained access to PhotoShelter and replaced the low-res images with the full-res versions. This proved to be a massive time sink; we had expected a few photos to be used, but the teams used over 500 photos from PhotoShelter in all, requiring a lot of time to manually retrieve and replace each photo.

We chose not to instruct the teams on how to add YouTube and Vimeo data sources. Instead, we asked each team to submit a list of videos/channels they wanted to include, and then manually added those data sources to each team’s environment.

Once the top 10 teams were chosen, we kept in contact on a weekly basis, for two reasons:

  1. They were always aware that help and resources were available, and would not hesitate to contact us.
  2. The Challenge would always stay front of mind.

Because of this, only 1 out of the 10 teams did not submit a viable tour.

Open Review Time for Judges

On November 2nd, we invited the judging committee to an open hour where they could stop by and review the 10 tours. We knew that having the judges continually reset the Kurogo Mobile Campus Preview app would be tiresome, so we configured 10 iPads, each individually labeled and set to a different tour. This gave us the ability to have up to 10 judges at once reviewing a separate tour with no effort on their part.

Institutional and Corporate Partner Sponsorship

A large factor in the success of the challenge was our ability to work with partners, both campus and commercial, to offer incentives to students and share the workload. Groups involved in the Challenge included:

Office of the Executive
Vice President
Original desire to improve the guest experience; provided prize money and recruited judging committee
SAP Brought opportunity to mobileND; primary Challenge organizer; provided prizes at kickoff and for 3rd place winner
mobileND Program (Office of Information Technologies) Managed technical aspects; led team training of Kurogo and Publisher; managed communication with student teams
Innovation Park at
Notre Dame
Provided meeting space, graphic design and experience with student recruitment
Modo Labs Provided environments for top 10 teams; provided prize money and selected winner of their prize; were present onsite to award their prize. Morag Charlton in particular was instrumental in making this a success.
Division of Student Affairs Provided resources for kickoff at South Dining Hall (space reservation, power)
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