Debate Camp Canada’s Virtual Program Success

ACTIVE Network
May 18, 2020

 As the effects from COVID-19 continue to persist, businesses everywhere are looking for ways to pivot and adjust their plans. Educational programs, camps and classes are among those who are feeling the hurt from this pandemic. Despite all this, Debate Camp Canada is progressively moving forward and continuing to offer programming during these trying times.

Headquartered in Nova Scotia, Canada, Debate Camp (DCC) has been proudly serving students throughout Canada and Northeastern US since 2002. DCC is comprised of an established team from debate coaches to accomplished university level speakers. Filled with a pool of talent, it’s no wonder why they are able to extend their reach to over 1500 students.

The Switch 

The camp conducts classes based around a Parliamentary format—specifically British Parliamentary. With this format, in-person camps usually have a 1:4 student to teacher ratio, allowing for individualized teaching and assistance. This structure allowed for a simple transition to virtual offerings. 

After signing all 24 teachers on to make the virtual teaching jump, the virtual class construction began. DCC decided to offer two weekly classes, each lasting 90 minutes, all hosted on Zoom. Through ACTIVEWorks Camp & Class Manager (CCM), registration was easy. All they had to do was configure three new seasons. One new thing they had to keep in mind were time zones since virtual classes were equipped to have students from alternate zones in the same class. To do this, DCC utilized the CCM time zone forms.

The most important and tedious decision for this switch was determining which tracking and documenting materials/tactics would be utilized. By appointing two teachers as the dedicated camp coordinators, DCC was able to ensure the correct resources were supplied and staff logbooks were updated with each class. Teachers then document notes pertaining to each student’s progress in order to help identify engagement and skill progression. 

The Communication

Once DCC created a plan to successfully transition their programs, they now had to create one more plan—communication with camper’s families. The main method of communication was emails sent through the email tool within CCM. Through a variety of emails, DCC connected with families about the transition to virtual sessions and provided the new class offerings.

Another communication channel DCC utilized was social media. Facebook and Instagram gave them another platform to promote their organization and announce upcoming virtual programs. While on both social media sites, DCC made the decision to keep promotion to a minimum. This allowed them to still release news about their camps while remaining considerate of the effects stemming from COVID-19.

Another powerful form of communication was organic. Word of mouth. In a survey released to registrants, 15% of parents stated they heard of Debate Camp Canada’s programs from a fellow parent. This number helps to illustrate the interest parents have towards virtual programming and finding educational outlets for their children.

Moving Forward

While semester plans didn’t begin as hoped, Debate Camp Canada was able to push onwards. The camp was able to secure registrants, eventually selling out some sessions, and are now having to include additional sessions for the upcoming summer. Due to increased popularity, DCC has also made the decision to maintain virtual programming for the fall and winter seasons.  

For organizations looking into the virtual programming world, DCC’s Director Nick Szymanis says, “It’s crowded in this market space right now, so ensure that what you create stands out for a clear values-proposition.”

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