Current technology trends can be summarized in one word: virtual.
Kyle Anderson, the assistant director of Fitness at the University of North Carolina Greensboro (UNC Greensboro) said the COVID-19 pandemic made the entire industry shift to virtual in order to continue to serve students.
For example, UNC Greensboro put together a robust online program via technology like social media platforms that included everything from calligraphy workshops to a class on how to grow plants. “In its two-month pilot, we averaged a 5% increase in views and engagement,” said Anderson. “We were engaging an average of 871 people a day.”
However, this wasn’t sustainable. Anderson noted an influx of commercial platforms with free or affordable, high-quality content have come onto the scene, something that rec centers should consider. “Les Mills, F45, Apple Fitness, Peloton — the list goes on and on — have either launched or diversified their offerings while increasing quality production,” he said. “University recreation programs are not able to keep up independently.”
EXTRA CREDIT: Technology trends have changed exponentially over the last year and a half. What should you be paying attention to as the industry moves forward?
In whatever form, the fact of the matter is virtual programming isn’t going away anytime soon. Allied Market Research predicted the online/virtual market is going to grow from $6 million in 2020 to $60 million by 2027. Plus, Anderson noted younger generations will continue to push for virtual offerings.
However, tech fatigue can and will occur. Anderson said fitness is a social activity, and fitness technology can create a barrier to social connections. So, it’s key to be aware of this when deciding what virtual programming to offer. “There is merit in getting back to the basics,” he said. “Leverage in-person programming if permitted.”
But tech trends over the past year don’t stop at virtual programming. Kristi Levanduski, the manager of education at InnoSoft, agreed going digital will continue, but that includes things like forms and waivers to remote and eLearning opportunities.
Eric Vahey, the Connected Solutions specialist at Matrix Fitness, has also observed space reservations as another tech trend in the industry. “Some used pen and paper for this,” he said. “Some used a group exercise management platform like Mindbody, or modified their existing management system like Fusion to accommodate.”
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In order to know what’s trending, Levanduski suggested doing your research. Lean on pre-existing resources and talk to your vendor partners on what they can do to assist you, for instance. “Also, remember it’s going to take time to implement new technology and ensure your members are trained on how to use it,” she said.
Anderson echoed leveraging existing vendor relationships. “Ask your suppliers what they are working on,” he said. “Ask how you, at an institution that has access to a highly sought-after population, can help with their business objectives.”
Ultimately, students have grown up in a world of apps, online purchasing and more. So, Vahey said it’s key to invest in technology. Two specific areas he suggested were:
- Fitness wearables, which is a $100 billion industry
- Exercise mobile apps. Vahey said they are expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 21%.
“Incorporate these tools because the age group of the market you serve has the highest usage of these devices,” said Vahey.
All in all, it seems the current technology trends in campus recreation are only going to grow.
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