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In February 2021, amidst the global COVID-19 pandemic, non-profit Civic Spirit hosted one of their most involved events to date: a virtual 3-week civics symposium. The symposium, called We the Educators, aimed to equip teachers with the skills to have important conversations with students about participating in their schools, their communities and their country. 

To foster community while still staying safe, Civic Spirit chose Sched to organize their online events. With Sched’s simple content management, Zoom integration and personalized attendee experience capabilities, Civic Spirit was able to easily program three weeks’ worth of thought-provoking virtual events and connect educators from across the United States. Sched was the perfect fit for Civic Spirit’s virtual event needs. 

We the Educators

What is Civic Spirit?

Civic Spirit is a New York-based non-profit committed to strengthening civic education in American schools. Partnering with independent Jewish, Islamic, Christian and parochial schools, Civic Spirit takes a hands-on approach to engaging diverse groups of students in learning about what it means to be an active, knowledgeable citizen of the United States. 

Civic Spirit is guided by three core pillars: civic belonging, democratic fluency and civic skills. In a time in American history where fewer and fewer citizens are participating in their local government (since 1996, attendance at school board meetings, city council meetings and other civic events has dropped by 58%), Civic Spirit seeks to empower young people to reach voting age “with conviction and skills to better the civic life of our democracy.” Civic Spirit works specifically with faith communities to help young people navigate the intersection of religious upbringings and civic life. The organization has a knowledgeable team of historians, political scientists, religious leaders and educators who are dedicated to providing kids a comprehensive civics education. 

What does Civic Spirit’s mission look like in action? A coaching program for teachers, a student ambassador program and a Civic Spirit Day, among other signature programs. By engaging with everyone in the school ecosystem, from students to educators to administrators, Civic Spirit is able to affect change on all levels. Educators learn how to incorporate valuable lessons about civic engagement into their pedagogy and curriculum, while students get involved in hands-on projects that promote public-minded citizenship. 

Civic Spirit is continually working to advance civics education with their programming. February’s virtual We the Educators symposium was the latest in their mission to engage teachers shaping today’s youth. 

We the Educators: The Challenges

We the Educators was a 3-week virtual civics symposium with teachers at the center. With sessions like “Sermon Slam: A Rabbi, A Reverend and Sikh Leader on Civic Responsibility” and “Fighting Fake: Key Skills to Become Reliably Informed,” We the Educators offered a series of reflective discussions, text-based seminars and practical workshops that considered the unique elements of a global pandemic and a divided nation in American history. The 13 Zoom sessions were taught by world-renowned scholars and experts, such as Dartmouth College Department of Government Chair Russell Muirhead and Susan McWilliams Barndt, editor of the journal American Political Thought.

“100% of participants at the We the Educators symposium were teachers who worked all day online or in person with students under the pressure of COVID and the needs of their students,” says Civic Spirit executive director Lindsay Bressman. “When planning the symposium, we had expected that most participants would attend between one to three sessions given the extensive time constraints that educators experience in general, and particularly during COVID.”

This made hosting a virtual symposium a new challenge. Civic Spirit had the hurdle of adapting to online events with an audience who may not turn out if the event wasn’t streamlined and intuitive. How could Civic Spirit combat disorganized digital event registration and Zoom fatigue when attendees were already spending their days distance learning? 

We The Educators

Despite the circumstances, the online We the Educators symposium was a huge success. Even after long days of online teaching, educators turned out — and then some. “At the end of each session, the teachers did not want to leave! They often stayed on the Zoom call 10 minutes past when the seminar was meant to end, eager for connection, conversation, and community,” says Bressman. Due to the success of the event, Civic Spirit has opened their intensive teacher program to a national audience and will be running the Summer Institute virtually. Applications for the new new Educators Cohort are now open.

Civic Spirit was able to use the power of Sched to organize an impactful, community-focused event that connected hundreds of educators across the country. To make registration, attendance and interfacing with other guests the easiest part of participants’ days, Civic Spirit chose Sched for a seamless experience. 

Using Sched to Engage Educators

Civic Spirit used several of Sched’s key features to pull off the We the Educators symposium. Sched allowed Civic Spirit to easily manage three weeks’ worth of Zoom events with its smart, simple interface. 

Content Management

Sched gave Civic Spirit a clean, organized workspace to schedule 13 sessions, update event info on the fly and categorize and color-code events for ease of reference. With one central control panel, the We the Educators event organizers were able to update the schedule and see the changes reflected throughout their event materials, from their Sched site to their event signage. 

Sched’s schedule categorization function made We the Educators accessible for its attendees. By color-coding and creating custom filters for each Zoom session, guests could refine the three-week schedule according to their interests. They could filter for lectures that covered topics around civic belonging, civic skills or democratic fluency just by clicking on the topic that interested them most, and adding them to their individual My Sched schedule. Sched’s simple event management tools made registration a breeze for teachers who have attended their fair share of virtual meetings and events over the past year. 

Sched helped Civic Spirit simplify the scheduling process from both ends. We the Educators event organizers could make changes, no matter how big or small, to session schedules with peace of mind, while the teachers in attendance could easily sort and register for the sessions they most wanted to attend. Instead of joining only one or two Zoom events, Civic Spirit found that 50% of participants attended three or more sessions, with a total of 241 education professionals taking part in the event. With its quick and effortless interface, Sched made high event turnout for Civic Spirit’s first virtual symposium a reality. 

Zoom Integration

With Zoom as their preferred video conferencing software, Civic Spirit used Sched to connect Zoom meetings for each virtual event during We the Educators’ three-week run. Sending hundreds of registrants meeting links by hand is time consuming, complicated and runs the risk of error. Sched works in conjunction with Zoom, making We the Educators a hassle-free event — no last-minute link issues or calls from guests wondering where their registration email is. 

Civic Spirit organizers created their meetings in Zoom, then had the option to add the Zoom links to Sched via the Video Stream field in the Control Panel, or upload via spreadsheet. Teachers attending We the Educators were able to access Zoom sessions by simply finding the event in their My Sched schedule and clicking “Open Zoom.” Because of the simplicity Sched’s Zoom integration offers, Civic Spirit pulled off its 13 overlapping, multi-week events without a hitch, hosting 361 hours of learning across all 241 attendees.

Personalized Attendee Experience

Virtual events make it challenging to foster a sense of community. Joining a Zoom meeting without knowing or interacting with the other attendees can feel detached, but Sched’s attendee engagement features helped Civic Spirit connect educators from all over the United States. Personalized attendee profiles eliminated the worry that an online event would be impersonal. 

With 241 participants hailing from 18 states and spanning educational professions such as teachers, professors, administrators and civic organizers, Sched helped cultivate connection by allowing attendees to add a photo, bio and social media to their profiles. Participants could access an attendee directory and check out fellow guests’ professional credentials. Sched profiles make networking easy, which was an invaluable tool for We the Educators as a professional symposium. 

Conclusion

Civic Spirit faced unique challenges when trying to connect education professionals with its We the Educators symposium in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. How could a virtual event create community? How could Civic Spirit engage educators who have been distance learning for over a year? With the help of Sched, We the Educators involved hundreds of participants in meaningful dialogue over the course of three weeks. Seamless schedule management, Zoom integration and a personalized attendee experience made Sched the perfect choice to manage an event focused on conversation and connection. No difficult registration, video conferencing hassles or time consuming schedule updates — Sched is an effortless solution for virtual events that aim to cultivate community.