Maintaining consistent participation in programs throughout an entire semester is often difficult for a college recreation and/or wellness department. On the flip side, students find it close to impossible to maintain a daily routine that involves studying, work, exercising and socializing. Student participation tends to come in waves as scheduling fitness into their routine is a matter of convenience rather than commitment.
Many colleges, such as Calgary University, are finding that the key to success is constant engagement through competition and gamification.
Calgary University implemented a program called "Level Up" which allows students to scan a barcode when arriving to events and participating in healthy activities on campus. At this year's NIRSA Annual, a speaker from Calgary University explained that they saw a 50% response rate on surveys that provided the students experience points, or "XP" and that 93% of students gained at least some XP throughout the semester.
The incentive for students gaining XP is to earn prizes, and the greatest part is they don't even shell out their own money for these prizes! The trick is to communicate with local businesses and vendors and have them provide giveaways as advertisement to the students.
Incentive programs are a great way to apply this same idea to your recreation center or wellness department. Design your incentive programs to increase participation by providing a reward for doing your desired actions.
If your desired action is to drive high participation or to engage non-participants you may consider, the following options:
Increasing student engagement will always be an uphill battle, even more so for pop up programs such as incentive programs. In order to succeed, marketing must be effective, the incentive program must be highly accessible and you must also make it easy for them to play along.
Paper trails and punch cards are the typical route, but they create headaches of their own. Students will most likely lose or forget the punch card at home and there is always the possibility of cheating.
Upgrade your process and use technology. Software such as fitDEGREE not only provides a mobile app to engage students with check ins and unique user group class registration, but it also has a cloud based admin system that records all of the activity throughout the incentive program. Gone are the days of losing punch cards and worrying about those pesky cheaters. Have validated data and the ability to assess how well your incentive program did by utilizing technology.