By Savannah Lewis
At the start of the semester, OrgSync — the software previously used by Cleveland State University’s student organizations to connect with the student body and run their clubs — reached its retirement and was replaced with VikesConnect.
OrgSync was bought out by the software company, Campus Labs, leaving Cleveland State no choice but to end their use of the site. The university decided to go with Campus Labs’ software, Engage, as its replacement.
After a vote among students on the old OrgSync software, the Department of Student Life decided to name Cleveland State’s version of the Engage platform “VikesConnect.”
VikesConnect offers new tools for student organizations to utilize as needed, such as the ability to tag events with special features so students know what will be happening before they attend. Such features include giveaways or free food, according to Matt Knickman, director of student activities and involvement.
Knickman explained that another new element of VikesConnect is the ability to label an organization as “emerging.” If an organization does not currently have four student officers and an advisor, the club would be considered an emerging organization. This helps give upcoming clubs a chance to utilize different tools such as tabling and other recruitment events while not having the required amount of students to be considered a student organization.
“I’m thankful that all the documents and forms transferred over, which we weren’t sure at first would happen,” Michael Nozak, president of Viking Expeditions (VE), said.
As a student leader for a General Fee Unit that also serves as an allocating body for other student organizations looking to complete service projects, Nozak received some training in VikesConnect over the summer.
“For myself, Viking Expeditions in OrgSync didn’t have a photo gallery and VikesConnect does, which is really cool because now we have a platform to share our photos so students can see what’s going on,” Nozak commented.
While there are many positive changes, there are some issues that Student Life has come across with VikesConnect. For example, it is more difficult to send out mass emails with VikesConnect than with OrgSync, according to Knickman.
It is to be expected with big changes, such as an entirely new software system, that it will come with some concerns. One that Knickman is most concerned with is how to help students learn how to effectively use the program.
In order to help make the change go as smoothly as possible, Knickman stated that they worked over the summer with some of the larger student organizations such as Student Government Association (SGA) and VE to help them get an understanding of VikesConnect. Student Life also held focus groups to identify issues and worked with faculty who may use the program so they could be aware and help others.
Since the start of the semester, Student Life has sent different tools to help officers of student organizations every week, said Knickman. These include the original launch email, notifying students of the new program, how-to guides and sending out emails with answers to the most commonly asked questions.
Knickman is also hoping to run in -person trainings soon to help students who may prefer hands-on learning. They will also have drop-in hours and specific sessions for officers to learn details that pertain to their position.
While there are numerous resources for student officers, the student body as a whole has not received much information about the new software. On Aug. 22 an email was sent out to officers, announcing the new software; however, the general student body did not receive said notification about the software’s release.
The Cauldron conducted a poll including questions about student involvement. In that poll, 59 percent of the students who took it said that they were involved in an organization, but only 27 percent said that they felt comfortable using VikesConnect.
While it may be easier for larger organizations to have their questions answered, that might not be the case for a smaller group.
“For other organizations, it might be harder for them because they are not quite sure who to contact,” Nozak explained.
In order to help other organizations, VE, Campus Activities Board and SGA are working to organize a training session for others who may want or need more information.
“We are trying to be cognizant and sensitive that we know it’s different,” Knickman said. “We added some features that we are excited about, and we hope that our students are [excited too].”