Focus on Being Useful & Fun – How the CEMC at the University of Waterloo Uses Social Media to Build Relationships

Jessica Won    February 12, 2018

Company Overview

The Faculty of Mathematics at the University of Waterloo opens its classroom doors beyond lecture halls to elementary and secondary schoolrooms in the community at large.

Through contests, face-to-face workshops, nonprofit school visits, and providing online resources, the Faculty of Mathematics extends their educational doors through the Centre for Education in Mathematics and Computing (CEMC). The CEMC is a community outreach organization that aims to increase interest, enjoyment, confidence, and proficiency in mathematics and computer science education among students and teachers within Canada and internationally.

To obtain more information about their outreach activities, please follow the links provided in each section:

MMT Program

In addition to outreach activities, the CEMC also offers a Master of Mathematics for Teaching (MMT) program. The MMT is designed to provide current grade school teachers of mathematics with an opportunity to expand their knowledge base and to gain a deeper understanding of the mathematics underlying the content that they teach students in the classroom. The program is unique, in that it focuses on the applications of mathematics – not on pedagogy – and is offered part-time, as well as online. The majority of the Centre’s customers are teachers. This program is a way of building new relationships with new teachers, who enroll into the program. It’s a way to tap into new networks and the program even finds that many of the teachers blog or tweet and retweet about the Centre.

How to Engage the Customer and Make Math Interesting

I do not speak for everyone. Math homework, for me, was overwhelmingly frustrating and boring.

The CEMC faculty, who facilitate the workshops and school visits, actively engage with students, teachers and the community by making math…well…fun (and still educational). Here’s how they do it:

  1. Make it Hands-on & In-Person

Have you ever been in a workshop where the presenter talked on and on? Did your body ever fidget uncomfortably in your seat or has your mind wandered somewhere else? Maybe that’s also just me. Well, through their face-to-face workshops and school visits, the CEMC faculty members, turn lessons into a workshop that goes beyond a simple lecture; it provides an interactive problem-solving session where students engage, sometimes in group work, with the questions and the CEMC Facilitator. This face-to-face interaction is friendly, the material is approachable and above all, the experience is engaging. The customers, in this case the students and their teacher, are engaging with an actual person and not just a faceless corporation.

  1. Ask Interesting Math Questions

Math problems in the classroom can sometimes be very dry. For example, Find the smallest positive integer that must be added to 2010 in order to obtain a perfect square (a square of an integer). Dry, right? Maybe that’s also personal too. What if you were asked a question like the one in the image above?

It’s more interesting, right? The CEMC creatively use real-world events, like the Olympics, to teach math topics. It’s an alternative way to frame dry topics and they use technology to their advantage. The Olympics math problem, used in this example, can be found on the CEMC’s Twitter page and their main website as additional web resources. It’s a part of their ‘The Problem of the Week’ program, and it is designed to provide students, from grades 3 and up, with an ongoing opportunity to solve mathematical problems. Many of their followers, teachers, use these math problems in their own classrooms, comment on posts or retweet them. 

  1. Your Customers are a Part of the Organization

The CEMC faculty and staff are actively engaged in their outreach activities to the teachers, students and the community that they have served over the years. Social media tools like Facebook and especially Twitter, are used to closely track, support, create and engage their networks by providing a forum for discussion.

‘If a Problem of the Week question is viewed as problematic, for instance gender misrepresentation, by many followers, and is not aligned with the Centre’s initiatives or best practices, the CEMC team will revisit their questions by reviewing the opinions of their followers to the particular question. The question will be re-evaluated and in some cases edited and a new post is made’ – J.P. Pretti, Director of CEMC

Clearly, social media plays an important role for the organization to maintaining their online community/networks. They use social media tools to facilitate an ongoing communication with their customers. This creates a more lateral interaction. It can be said too that Twitter has helped them build trust with their networks by providing venues in which their followers can demonstrate transparency and openness. It makes the teachers and users of CEMC returning for more!

 

Lessons for Others

Social networks are a very important tool for diversifying the ways in which an organization can engage with their customer. The CEMC engages with their community like we approach a long-term relationship. It’s not about a single interaction where you network with one another before moving to the next person or in this case, a customer. It takes dedication, a readiness to adapt, and the ability to think about how to take care of the customer’s experience with your media. It makes troublesome interactions better, such as: not having to go to great lengths to speak with a representative, face-to-face interactions are engaging and positive, or trusting that your opinions, as a customer, are being heard by the organization. This engagement takes effort. It’s intentional but not calculating. The goal is about forming, building and sustaining long-term relationships with your customers. I say that the CEMC has successfully accomplished this.

Organization: Centre for Education in Mathematics and Computing
Industry: Education & Community Outreach
Name of Organization Contact: J.P. Pretti, Director of CEMC

Authored by: Jessica Won

If you have concerns as to the accuracy of anything posted on this site, please send your concerns to Peter Carr, Program Director, Social Media for Business Performance.


References

CEMC – Centre for Education in Mathematics and Computing. (n.d.). Retrieved February 9, 2018, from https://www.facebook.com/pg/CEMC-Centre-for-Education-in-Mathematics-and-Computing-144088622275314/photos/?ref=page_internal

C. (n.d.). CEMC (@uWaterloo_CEMC). Retrieved February 9, 2018, from https://twitter.com/uWaterloo_CEMC

Design – Graphics, University of Waterloo. (n.d.). CEMC. Retrieved February 9, 2018, from http://cemc.uwaterloo.ca/

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