A virtual online platform for campus groups, clubs, and Greek life

In order to help students safely engaging and consider extracurricular opportunities, students and staff have designed new ways for students to connect through virtual events.

screenshot of webpage of the online platform
(Image: Wharton School)

With the revision of the Fall semester regarding on-campus activities, club executives want to make sure that the college life experience is still of high quality for the Penn student body while interacting and sharing experiences in a safe and productive way.

While faculty are busy designing new recordings and interactive elements for their students, the Division of the Vice Provost for University Life, the Office of Student Affairs, the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships, and the College Houses have designed new ways for student groups and cohorts to connect online and hold virtual events.

“Wharton Council and Wharton Undergraduate Division will be hosting our virtual club fair on the Campus Groups platform,” says Lee Kramer, director of student life at the Wharton School. “Campus Groups is our club platform for Wharton undergraduate and MBA clubs.”

The fair will open on Friday, Sept. 4 and will be open for 24 hours to accommodate students in different time zones around the world. The live chat function will take place from 4 to 6 p.m. EDT on the 4th and from 9 to 11 a.m. on Sept. 5.

Wharton rising senior Vraj Shrof, says due to COVID-19, club executives such as himself have been worried about being able to reach out to freshmen and effectively organize events for the student body.

“To aid in safely engaging the student community with extra-curriculars, I am currently working with a team that has built a virtual platform where clubs and other organizations can hold events for students,” he says.

The platform provides an interface for all events to be in one place. Students can filter events, learn more about organizations, and join any event. During the event, students can video call, audio call, or simply text club representatives. Students can join a queue for any event to meet their representatives one on one or in a small group setting. Virtual rooms are created and shared automatically by the platform. The platform is made by students, for students.

“We will then use Vraj’s platform for live chats between the club leaders and new students,” Kramer says. “The live chat function will be linked from the Campus Groups platform. For example, if a new student would like to chat with a club leader from Wharton Women, they would go onto the Wharton Women booth in Campus Groups and then follow the link to Vraj’s platform to chat one on one.”

“Personally, joining a student club has played an integral role in my professional and personal development,” Shroff says. “I want to ensure that all the students get that experience even, perhaps especially, during such times.”

Shroff discussed how this platform will work with Penn Today.

Screenshot of virtual platform
Screenshot of the Virtual Events Platform (Image: Wharton School)

What is Virtual Event? What does this platform do?

In a nutshell, it is a centralized virtual platform for all campus events. Students can go to this platform, browse through all the school events in one place, and join the events they like. The focus of this platform is to facilitate that one-on-one or small group communication. Students can form a queue and representatives from the organization can talk to students one on one or in small groups of their choosing. On the other hand, organizations like clubs, fraternities, sororities, or any other group can use this platform to meet students and engage with them just like they would in a world without COVID-19.

Why did you decide to create this platform?

Even as a senior, navigating through all the events is notoriously difficult. Clubs have their external websites, Facebook groups, listservs, and many other modes of communication. My goal was to centralize everything in one location so everyone can find all the things going on at Penn just by one click. I wanted a platform that allows us to have that one-on-one conversation during Clubbing Night/SAC Fair, or that end of the event two-minute chat with the club leaders or the event speaker. Virtual Event makes all of that happen, and much more. 

How does the team handle security and privacy issues?

Only students from our school can access Penn events. We are using Google and Mircosoft’s infrastructure for this platform. They both have the most secure infrastructure in the industry. A lot of the components in this platform are as secure as your Gmail. So, safety is definitely the cornerstone of this platform. Moreover, the platform was designed with privacy in mind from day 1. We only collect a student’s name and email address. Video conferencing is also encrypted to keep the student’s conversations private. There are many other features dedicated to platform security and protecting students’ privacy.

When can students start using this platform?

The platform will be launched the week of Aug. 24 in a phased manner. Wharton Council will be the first one to get access to this platform. After that, it will be released to the entire Penn community. We are really excited about this platform. The entire team has been working really hard to make this happen in such a short amount of time. 

What would you like to say to the Penn community?

We want to thank the Wharton Council for their support with this platform. I hope club leaders, rush event organizers, and all the Penn groups take advantage of this platform. It was designed by students for students to address the problems we are facing due to COVID-19. I am certain students will find this platform very helpful. No one likes to be put in a Zoom meeting with 100 other strangers or sent to a waiting time with no idea of how many hours one will have to wait there. This platform will bring back the sense of in-person communication and create a stronger bond among Penn students.