Engaging prospective students, students, alumni, and community members via interactive online events at Columbia University

Concurrent Session 8

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Online events can engage multiple audiences, from prospective students through alumni and community members, by showcasing alumni achievements and faculty expertise.  This session will share examples from Columbia University School of Social Work’s online events, including the planning process, methods for engaging participants, and challenges when running live online events.  


Matthea Marquart has focused her professional life on education and training, both online and in person, since 2005. She currently serves as the Director of Administration for the Online Campus at Columbia University's School of Social Work, where she created the award-winning Institute on Pedagogy and Technology for Online Courses. She also serves as an instructor for Master's of Science in Social Work courses. Matthea's prior professional experience includes roles as National Director of Training at Building Educated Leaders for Life, President of the NYC Chapter of the National Organization for Women, and Director of Foundation and Government Relations at Inform, Inc. She has also worked internationally, in England, South Korea, and Spain. Matthea holds an MS in Social Work from Columbia University and a BA in English from Emory University, where she completed a year at Oxford University and additional coursework at UC Berkeley. She has been a Network for Social Work Management Policy Fellow, a United Way of NYC Senior Fellow in the Nonprofit Leadership Development Institute at Baruch College, a member of the Community Resources Exchange Leadership Caucus, and a blogger for New York Nonprofit Press. She earned a Certificate of Professional Achievement in Business by completing online business courses at Columbia University's School of Professional Studies, which has helped her understand the student perspective of taking online courses. She completed OLC's IELOL (Institute for Emerging Leadership in Online Learning) program in 2018, and is enrolled in the Council on Social Work Education's 2019-20 Program Director Academy. She was honored to receive the Network for Social Work Management's Exemplar Award in 2019 for exemplary performance and leadership as a social work executive leader. She enjoys writing and speaking about the unique opportunities and challenges of online instruction, and welcomes invitations to speak or facilitate workshops. She has published a dozen training and education-related articles since 2006, and her latest publications include the article Taking Online Social Work Courses -- 7 Professional Benefits, and the book chapters How Co-Teaching and Other Strategies Promote Lively Student Engagement, Instructional Strategies for Synchronous Components of Online Courses, and That Human Element: Fostering Instructor Presence Through Online Instructional Videos. She has presented at numerous conferences, including the Online Learning Consortium's Accelerate Conference, the Social Work Distance Education Conference, the International Conference on E-Learning in the Workplace, and The eLearning Guild New England Regional Instructional Design Symposium.

Extended Abstract

Online events can support student recruitment and retention, engage alumni and community members, and drive content marketing efforts.  At Columbia University School of Social Work, our online events are highly interactive and create community amongst the hundreds of audience members.  In the audience, prospective students ask questions and receive answers from alumni and admissions officers;  current students around the country chat with each other and with their instructors;  alumni from around the world network around specific issues.  Speakers have included current students, faculty, and alumni.  The range of event topics have highlighted the School’s expertise and included “Challenges Facing Psychotherapists in the New Political Climate,” “Veterans and Homelessness,” and “How Legalizing Marijuana Affects Adolescents.”


In this session, we will share the planning process driving our successful online events, share the technology and strategies used to engage participants, and share how we’ve addressed challenges that have come up during the live events.  Participants will be encouraged to share successes and challenges from their own online events, so that the group can learn from each other, and there will be time to ask questions as well.


The goals for this session:

By the end of this session, participants should be able to:

  1. Describe the benefits of online events, from marketing and retention through alumni and community engagement

  2. Describe the elements of successful online events, from planning through execution

  3. Share their successes and challenges with online events

  4. Ask questions and discuss solutions to potential issues