July 08, 2011

We've Moved...

In case you're wondering why this blog hasn't posted anything since Jan 5th 2011, it's because we've moved our location to a Wordpress site > www.swiftkickonline.com/blog

See you there!

January 05, 2011

Sir Ken Robinson: Changing Education Paradigms [VIDEO]

Sir Ken Robinson continues to be a hero of ours for his ability to perfectly articulate how to imporve the educational system. In case you haven't watched any of his pervious TED talks, check them out here and here.

(via @NikiRudolph)

It is definitely an uphill climb to bring about a paradigm change to our current educational system. Fortunately, there are many colleges and universities that are making headway in reforming the current platform. Read up on the degree programs offered by Everest University and see their unique approach to providing a college education.

December 14, 2010

Dance Floor Theory In A Nutshell [QUOTE]

This is an except I wrote from an upcoming NCSL NOW! magazine article about online community engagement...

"When talking about online engagement my favorite place to start is offline on the dance floor. We've all been to good dances and bad dances. Good dances are proportional to the number of relationships built up on the dance floor. It's a simple idea, people are more likely to dance, have fun, and hang longer if they have relationships with the people around them to talk with or teach them new dance moves. So if you host a dance party, your job is to connect as many people together around shared interests to increase the number of relationships on your dance floor. It's not about you, it's about them connecting, learning, and growing from each other and the more relevant the introductions, the more likely the relationships are to solidify. You are the facilitator of engagement, not the gate keeper. After you've built up the relationships, you should be able to walk away from the dance and it will continue on without you."

December 13, 2010

Tis The Season To...Hire

With an amazing 2010 coming to a close for us at Red Rover and 2011 already looking like a landmark year, we're expanding the team and looking to recruit some amazing new people. Below are two roles we're hiring for in the next couple weeks. For both roles, they'd start off as trial contractual positions and if all goes well, move into full time positions within Red Rover within the first couple months of the new year. If interested, let us know, but know that creativity in submissions counts...


TITLE: Marketing / Sales Manager

OVERVIEW: The Marketing / Sales Manager populates and manages leads through the sales funnel to contract signed and payment received as well as renewing partners.


  • Lead Generation Setup / Logistics (Pre/Dur/Post) (Conf, Meetups, Mailings, etc)
  • Drive Leads through the sales funnel
  • Highrise CRM Management
  • Generate weekly, monthly, quarterly sales goals / reporting


  • Lead Generation
  • Deal Closings

IDEAL CANDIDATE (In order of importance):

  • Sales background/experience (better if was in education, best if was in Higher Ed)
  • NYC Based
  • Great/Hustle attitude
  • Understanding of the education market
  • Seen, experienced, or understand DFT
  • Skilled PookTre Artist...


TITLE: Community Manager

OVERVIEW: The Community Manager both grows and increases engagement within our community of “fans” and our "Rovers" (users).


  • Managing engagement and growth of our Digital Identities (Wiki, FB, Twitter, UTube/Vimeo, Slideshare)
  • Managing engagement and growth of the community around our users (Our "Rovers") through activities, events, contests, etc...
  • Generate weekly, monthly, quarterly community goals / reporting


  • Adoption Metrics (# of new community members)
  • Engagement Metrics
  • User Happiness (Qualitative, Quantitative)
  • Lead Generation

IDEAL CANDIDATE (In order of importance):

  • Community organizing experience (you are the one who connects people together. It's not about you, it's about them.)
  • NYC Based
  • Great attitude / personable
  • Seen, experienced, or understand DFT
  • Analytical understanding of how engagement leads to retention
  • Skilled Bog Snorkeler...

November 11, 2010

Engagement Based Leadership

Most student club advisors will tell you that club engagement goes through waves; some years are rockstars and others are duds. Almost every club starts the year with aspirations of rockstardom, but within a couple weeks, the excitement and motivation of the leadership team fades, and thus, the entire club activity withers. In pondering this problem, I've been talking more and more about an idea called engagement-based leadership (EBL), meaning that leadership is not a one-time elected thing, but rather an ongoing, ever-changing position rewarded based on engagement. Before I talk more about EBL, first let's dissect the problem of why student leaders fade within a month of being elected. 

Several years ago, I walked the second day of a 2-Day Avon Walk For Breast Cancer with my wife and some friends. Anyone who's ever done the walk knows how grueling it is. Blisters alone are painful, but the average Avon walker can expect to endure multiple layers of blisters building up until his or her entire foot becomes one big blister. It's disgusting and painful and makes the second day of the walk intense. The organizers know that completion of the walk is extremely difficult without a continuous onslaught of support from spectators and volunteers. That's why for every walker, they commit to line the entire path with at least five cheerers. On the last leg of the walk, my feet blistered up and shot a pain through my body with each step. Mentally and physically I was ready to quit. My motivation was gone. But then, as we turned the corner, there was a smiling old lady sitting in a wheel chair, wearing a cap to cover her bald head and holding a sign that read, "I'm why you're walking, Thank you." Like a bolt of electricity, my whole body reenergized and plowed toward the finish line. Imagine if the only rewards for walking the race were in the beginning when they pumped us up, and at the end when we crossed the finish line? The attrition rates would be horrendous! 

Like the Avon walk, student leaders begin the year excited and motivated about the idea of the journey they're about to start. They might have just attended an award ceremony where the outgoing leaders were showered in praise for the hard work they did throughout the year, which further motivates the incoming leaders. So much support. So much praise. And then, let's say within a month or so, reality sets in. The real work starts, and the "blisters" of being a leader build up. But unlike the Avon walk, with a motivational checkpoint waiting for you at every street corner, the next motivational checkpoint for student leaders most likely won't be for another six months, during their outgoing ceremony when they are praised for all the hard work they did throughout the year. Thus, within the first couple months of being a leader, the excitement and motivation fade and the attrition rates go up. It should be noted that some leaders drop off for other reasons, such as class overload, work overload, or personal issues.

What's a solution look like? 

As the advisor, you could make sure to set up a collection of individual checkpoints for your leaders throughout the year, so you make sure they stay excited and motivated. At bare minimum, let's say you create checkpoints that happen once per week for ten minutes where you praise them for the work they are doing and remind them of the bigger picture of student engagement. Just one leader multiplied out for eight months, that's just under five hours of your time. Now expand that to 50-300 leaders. If you don't think you have a life now... 

Enter EBL. The goal is still the same, keep the leaders motivated on an ongoing basis so they can survive through the typical student leader burnout, but in EBL, the tactics change. In EBL, you are moving the motivational checkpoints away from you as the admin/advisor and pushing it to the students. EBL builds in a peer-to-peer motivational system that is ongoing and ever present. Now it doesn't matter if you have 50 or 5000 student leaders. Actually, the more leaders you have, the better. 

How does it work? 

It's no secret I'm a fan of Whole Foods (also known as Whole Paycheck). Because there's a WF on my way home from work, I tend to frequently stop in and grab a few items. Over time, I realized that WF is one of the top five places I visit the most every week, which makes me a pretty darn engaged customer. In fact, WF should probably be rewarding me for being so engaged. Enter FourSquare, Yelp, and SCVNGR. For those unfamiliar with these three sites, they are, simply stated, mobile check-in tools. I can be anywhere in NY and check in that I am there via my mobile phone. Nothing special yet, until you start to receive prizes, titles, and recognition for checking in more often. For a while, I was crowned the Mayor of our WF because I was the most engaged customer. But then my speaking travel schedule picked up and for several months I disappeared and rightfully so, someone else took over as Mayor. 

EBL rewards students based on their engagement. The more engagement "points" you score, the more rewards, titles, and recognition you receive. To repeat from above, leadership is not a one-time yearly elected thing, but rather an ongoing, ever-changing position that is rewarded based on engagement. 

There certainly is much more to debate and discuss here, but consider this post only a surface-level introduction to the idea. I'm not interested in getting into the weeds just yet, so I purposefully left out many of the operational details. 

The Value of EBL? 

Admin/Advisor - Student Leader attrition rates will drop, which means student leaders will stick around longer and be more active in their clubs. The increased activity will make clubs more successful throughout the year. The admin/advisor also won't have to do as much individual student leader motivational check-ins. 

Student Leaders - Like a video game, the rewards and benefits built into EBL will keep the student leaders motivated throughout the entire year on an ongoing basis. They are going to have more fun because their clubs are more active and engaged. They also won't feel as much guilt about dropping off the map and letting the club die due to some personal issues they didn't plan for ahead of time. A new leader with the most engagement points is ready to step up to Mayorship. 

Students - They will have a larger group of active clubs to join. After joining they don't have to rely on a disengaged elected leader to keep the group going. Leadership is open to anyone who wants it and is willing to work for it. 

Wrap Up 

EBL is a blend of game theory and student engagement theory. Every student affairs professional knows the pains of deadbeat leaders and thus dead groups. EBL is a new paradigm in thinking about leadership. If we want to break out of the normal student engagement levels of 16-40%, we have to think differently. The ideas, tactics, and tech tools we use have to embody this new way of thinking. It's not just about making paperwork more efficient, that's just extracting more energy from the resources you already know exists. It's about exploring new potential energy that is sitting dormant in the 60-84% of the rest of your student body, that's a massive untapped pool of energy.

October 08, 2010

An Open Letter Back To The #SAchat Community

The Backstory

Kevin and I started The Student Affairs Collaborative in 2005 to test our hypothesis that a decentralized, open system of peer-to-peer learning built around shared interests would increase engagement and retention. 

We wanted to create a community in which everyone was a teacher at some level, and everyone supported each other to become more involved.

In the beginning, 100% of the content was written by me, Kevin, and our speaker friend Del Suggs. We then bribed our student affairs friends with cookies to help us write content, and slowly, over time, the site gained a readership.The SA Collaborative started to become the go-to place online for student affairs professionals to receive and share knowledge from their peers. The growth remained steady, and then Twitter came along... 

In 2009, over drinks at Panera Bread Co with Debra Sanborn, I pitched the idea of a weekly chat via Twitter for student affairs professionals, which would mimic the already established #EDchat (for teachers) and #JourChat (for journalist). She nodded excitedly at the idea, and a couple weeks later, on Oct 8th, 2009, we attempted our first #SAchat

I remember telling my wife how nervous I was that it was just going to be me and Debra tweeting back and forth for an hour, and it would never take off because there were no student affairs people on Twitter. I kept a shot of vodka close by to calm my nerves just in case :-).

The chat started extremely slow, but within 15 minutes a couple of people joined us from out of nowhere. Twitter hasn't opened up its history past Feb 2010, so the data can't be verified yet, but I remember the hour generating around 100 tweets and 10 people participating. 80% of those tweets came from me and Debra though :-/.

This week marks the one year anniversary of #SAchat, and the community has exploded in celebration. Last week, I jokingly declared that the SA Collaborative editors were bringing fireworks to the party, and fireworks they did bring! I've personally received tweets, emails, phone calls, faxes, and even postcards in celebration.

Where We Are Now

The last seven days of #SAchat'ter generated 2,500 tweets with 300 people participating! The hashtag #SAchat is the go-to place on Twitter for student affairs. Many people have the hashtag saved as a favorite search and keep it open all day on their 3rd party clients, which further solidifies its validity.

The SA Collaborative is now five years old, and has around 700 subscribed readers, 3,900 Twitter followers, 17 content contributors, and is the #1 ranking Google search for "Student Affairs Blog."

As expected, lots of additional niche student affairs chats are popping up with varying success. Most are initiated by the community, but some of the established organizations in the industry are launching their own chats. I say, the more the merrier! It makes sense that as the all-purpose #SAchat grows, sub chats with a more narrow focus will emerge. Once you've found the music fans, now you want to find the old-time-bluegrass-with-a-fiddle-in-the-band music fans because that is what you are really into.

A large percentage of the community only knows my name because of the generous outpouring of gratitude I've received over the past week. I tend not to overly participate in the weekly chats or blog. It's not that I don't care or have time, it's that you all will learn far more from your peers, who walk in your shoes 24/7, than from me being an outside supporter of student affairs. So I'll happily continue on from behind the scenes helping the community grow by facilitating as many relationships as possible, so we all continue to stay on the dance floor dancing together.

Why This Community Continues To Grow

Every community is comprised of champions, participants, and lurkers. This is also called the 90-9-1 rule in which 1% of a community will be the champions, 9% will participate, and 90% will simply lurk. Wikipedia is the most famous example of the 90-9-1 rule. The challenge of community organizers is to provide the right incentives to the right people so they stay engaged in the community. Champions want an audience to help and support, like they received when they were just starting off. Participants want an easy way to engage with people like them around relevant topics and to learn from the champions. Lurkers want a way to watch the activity between the champions and participants, and when ready, a way to easily test the temperature of the water.

I continuously work with the editorial team to make sure we are moving the community in the right direction. For the champions, that means making it easier for them to share their amazing knowledge to an increasingly larger audience. For participants, that means providing quality content, a fun atmosphere, and peers like them they can connect with. For lurkers, that means keeping the community as open as possible and providing baby steps of engagement like the TuesTally.

What's Next

We're only a couple of weeks away from launching a directory for the #SAchat community that will further facilitate relationships and learning communities around shared interests. I want to help the student affairs graduate students find, participate, and learn from the #SAGrad community. I want to help women who work in housing find, participate, and learn from the #wihsng community. I want to help first year experience people find, participate, and learn from the #FYEchat community. I want to help the #RLchat (Res Life people) community grow, the #SAASS (assessment people) community grow, etc, etc, etc. The new directory will make all of this possible, and I predict it will challenge the established student affairs organizations to rethink how they engage their community. Heck, the #SAchat community has already turned some heads!

Three Challenges

  • Challenge #1 - If you don't already have a blog, start one and add it to our student affairs blog directory. Write about your experiences at work so we can then share them with others who can learn from you. You're already a teacher to someone, they just haven't met you yet.
  • Challenge #2 - Help the community grow. Bring one new colleague to the next #SAchat. Email the SA Collaborative link to five new people. This party has just begun.
  • Challenge #3 - Think about how the lessons of this community relate back to your campus in terms of student engagement. How can you move away from being the gatekeepers of engagement and more toward being the facilitators of relationships around shared interests? How can you apply the 90-9-1 rule? How can you support more peer-to-peer learning among students? How can you help your students find old-time-bluegrass-with-a-fiddle-in-the-band music lovers like them? If it’s worked for you here in this community, there’s a strong possibility it will work for students on your campus. 

And Lastly

My excitement for this community is overflowing. I believe we are pushing not just student affairs forward, but the entire educational field. We’re working our tails off over here at Red Rover to duplicate the successes of this community with the students on your campus. Wait till we launch the #SAchat directory, then you’ll really see what I’m talking about.

I’m writing this post from my perspective, but really it’s a culmination of countless conversations between the editorial team that are well deserving of endless praise, so extra cheers and digital cookies to Debra Sanborn, Cindy Kane, Ed Cabellon, Liz Van Lysal, Stacy Oliver, and Kevin Prentiss.

Here’s to another 365 sunrises and sunsets on our great community! Queue the fireworks.

September 15, 2010

Starting Alumni Engagement Before Orientation

The deck below was created to frame the conversation around how Red Rover can support alumni departments with their goals. The slide show can also be viewed, downloaded, and embedded here.

September 14, 2010

Your Brain On Google [VIDEO]

via Alltop

September 09, 2010

Redefining Student Engagement Through the Fogg Behavior Model (Part 1)

BJ Fogg created the Fogg Behavior Model (FBM) through his work at the Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford University. The FBM states...

"Three elements must converge at the same moment for a behavior to occur: Motivation, Ability, and Trigger. When a behavior does not occur, at least one of those three elements is missing."

Fogg goes on to break down the three elements even further...

The FBM deals mostly with online software user behavior, but with a little twist, it can also apply to engaging students on campus.

Kevin, of Red Rover, created the Student Motivation Pyramid (SMP) to better understand the different student motivations. The SMP states...

"Students can be generally divided into three core engagement motivators: Comfort, Connection, and Contribution. Comfort is defined as a motivation for lowest common denominator connections on an individual level (e.g. you like sports, I like sports, let's be friends at orientation). Connection is defined as a motivation to join relevant interest groups and act together toward a common outcome (e.g. German Club, Chess Club, Magic Club). Contribution is defined as a motivation to give back to the campus by consciously leading and supporting the community (e.g. Student Leaders)."

In terms of student engagement, applying (trigger) the wrong motivation (comfort/connection/contribution) at the wrong time (ability) will have little or no effect. Such a simple sentence to write, but opens up a spider web of questions: 

  • How can we know when is a good time to apply a trigger?
  • How can we identify what motivates an individual student? 
  • How can we know what trigger to apply? 

The good news is answers are available and technology provides the helping hand. In Part 2 I'll dig further into each question to provide an overview of how campuses can better engage their students through these models.

August 31, 2010

Twitter As A Free Campus, Group Text Messaging Provider (Updated)

In May 2009 I wrote a post on how to turn Twitter into a free SMS alert system for your campus. Back then, the major hang up was people had to have a Twitter account for it to work. With student adoption of Twitter hovering pretty low at colleges, this was a problem.

Last week Twitter recognized the issue and introduced an updated tool called Fast Follow.

"The mobile team here at Twitter has rolled out a new feature called Fast Follow, and its genius lies in its simplicity: text “follow [account]” to 40404 (Twitter’s U.S. shortcode) and you’ll immediately start getting that account’s tweets via SMS—without ever signing up for Twitter."

Eric Stoller, writer for Inside Higher Ed, reported on Fast Follow and how it could be integrated into the campus culture.

"You could place your school's admissions Twitter account name and the Twitter SMS number on your marketing collateral. A school could even have multiple Twitter accounts that could then be included on strategic mailings or promotional microsites. Campaign tracking would be a snap! Prospective students do not have to be on Twitter to use Fast Follow."

Enterprise SMS tools will have a hard time justifying large price tags when competing against...free. I suspect an advantage they will have is back end assessment data. Though, knowing Twitter's history of openness, might be provided by a third party tool soon.

Curious to know if anyone has tried mass, or even departmental adoption of Fast Follow at their campus?