After almost a year of careful planning and preparations, Kennesaw State University (KSU) Sports and Recreation rolled out virtual group fitness classes for members.
The streaming option became available at the start of the fall semester on August 21. Classes at KSU’s Kennesaw campus then became available for members to join virtually from the Marietta campus and from home.
Carolyn Kuzontkoski, the associate director of recreation programs at KSU, said conversations around virtual group fitness began due to a desire for providing quality programming to students across both campus locations.
“It can be a bit of a challenge to get students to travel from one campus to the other,” said Kuzontkoski. “We still want to have options viable for our patrons. Another driving force is how do we serve our students who are not coming to our campus? We know there is a big influx in the number of students being online learners. How do you make them still feel connected? Those were big driving forces in having those conversations.”
The installation of the technology began in January. At the end of the spring semester, Kuzontkoski said they started planning out the logistics.
“During the summer semester, we did a lot for a soft launch,” said Kuzontkoski. “It wasn’t nearly the volume of class patrons we usually have. We had a lot of back and forth with our technology folks to get everything working correctly. By the time the fall semester rolled around, we felt very confident in rolling this out on a large scale.”
Class Details and Benefits
To accurately verify if a class participant is a member, KSU wanted to make sure to use Fusion Rec Management Software. Since virtual group fitness has been offered, Kuzontkoski said over 130 people registered for classes.
“Word is getting out,” said Kuzontkoski. “To my supervisor’s credit, Nigel Harris, he really had the initial vision for this. Currently, almost all our classes are made available both virtually and in person. We have quite a variety of classes. We have cycling, yoga, Zumba, other dance formats and more. One of the things we are also doing with our classes is when folks sign up, there is a prompt that recommends certain equipment. We have been surprised at what people have on their own.”
Kuzontkosk said the offerings help the department reach a population they have been wanting to serve for a long time. Also, there is sometimes a real intimidation factor for people who are starting new classes. Virtual options provide them a way to learn the class in a very safe way that breaks down barriers.
“Sometimes between campuses, the numbers are not always the same,” added Kuzontkoski. “We need to look at how much we are spending on instructors. With one instructor, we can do a lot more while still providing the same great quality to a large audience. It also increases our visibility. It really pushes the boundaries of what we can do, and it pushes our instructor team to get creative. It’s causing some creative ideas for our team.”
Advice for Campus Rec
For other recreation departments, before such an offering can be implemented Kuzontkoski said to first manage expectations. “It’s not an overnight process,” she said. “It’s important for everyone to have those realistic expectations of when you can actually launch this. The planning and troubleshooting take time. I’ve spent hours upon hours of back and forth with my technology team this summer getting everything ready.”
Another tip Kuzontkoski has is to be proactive with instructors who may be intimidated with this technology. KSU had in-person training sessions at the desired pace for each instructor. Also, they were not forced to participate in virtual group fitness.
For the future, Kuzontkoski said she hopes they can extend virtual platforms to more programs, allowing them to continue to serve online folks.
“I can see it growing,” said Kuzontkoski. “We just started looking at check-ins versus how many people are signed up. I’m looking forward to doing some feedback surveys from our patrons. Right now, there is still a lot we are playing around with. We want more qualitative feedback to improve it. As an instructor who taught these classes this summer, it’s been interesting, but it’s great. I love the idea that we are betting serving our students. People want a more personalized experience.”
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