A virtual hackathon is an online event where individuals or teams collaborate and compete to create innovative solutions to a specific problem or challenge within a set timeframe, typically ranging from a few hours to several days. Participants in a virtual hackathon use their skills and creativity to develop software or other types of solutions that address the challenge presented.
Virtual hackathons are often hosted on dedicated virtual labs platforms that allow participants to communicate, collaborate, and submit their projects remotely. These platforms may include chat rooms, shadow labs, code sharing platforms, and project management tools. These hackathons are often run using agile software development practices, such as sprint-like design by focusing on the programming language used, the operating system, an application, an API, or the subject of the programmers.
Virtual hackathons can be organized by companies, universities, non-profits, or other organizations and may focus on a variety of themes or topics, such as health, sustainability, education, or social justice.
Organizing hackathons virtually offer several benefits compared to traditional in-person hackathons, including greater accessibility, lower costs, and a wider pool of participants from all around the world.
What is a virtual hackathon platform?
A virtual hackathon platform is usually a cloud-based virtual labs platform like CloudLabs which is used for seamless hosting of virtual coding events/hackathons. These platforms can support contests, various online coding assessments, and other programming projects. It enables organizers to send invites, communicate, run project evaluations and tracking, goal setting, organize prizes, and keep task records.
How to start a virtual hackathon?
Starting a virtual hackathon requires careful planning, effective communication, and support from a dedicated team. However, it can be an exciting and rewarding experience. Here are some steps to consider when organizing a virtual hackathon:
- Define the purpose and theme of the hackathon: Determine the goal of your virtual hackathon and the problem or challenge that participants will be asked to solve. The theme could be related to a specific industry, social issue, or technology.
- Choose a virtual platform: Select a virtual hands-on labs platform that supports remote collaboration, automation, communication, evaluation, and submission of project entries.
- Build a team: Recruit a team of organizers with diverse skill sets to help plan and execute the event. Assign roles such as marketing, sponsorship, logistics, judging, and technical support.
- Set a timeline and schedule: Determine the duration of the hackathon and create a schedule of events, including opening and closing ceremonies, workshops, mentorship sessions, and submission deadlines.
- Promote the hackathon: Spread the word about your hackathon through social media, email, and word-of-mouth. Target potential participants, including developers, designers, entrepreneurs, and students.
- Secure sponsorships: Secure funding and prizes from sponsors to cover the costs of the event and attract participants. Consider partnering with companies or organizations that align with the theme of the hackathon.
- Provide support for participants: Offer resources such as tutorials, documentation, mentorship, and technical support to help participants create their projects.
- Organize judging and awards: Choose judges with relevant expertise and establish a fair and transparent judging process. Offer prizes for top-performing projects.
- Follow up and evaluate: After the hackathon, gather feedback from participants, sponsors, and organizers to evaluate the success of the event and identify areas for improvement for future events.
How to choose the right virtual hackathon platform?
While choosing virtual hackathon platform, various offerings should be considered to enable hackathon implementations smoothly and efficiently as follows.
- Include key features such as customized landing page and event leaderboards, automated and multi-functional dashboard for organizers, participants, judges for quick and easy scheduling and task management. Proctoring, marketing, and operational tasks should be easily supported.
- Support workflows like ideation with text and file uploads, customizable assessment features and manual evaluation with media and link addition features.
- Host additional events like ideathons, business strategy contests, case study competitions, etc.
- Client based Hackfest for various clients and end-users.
- Availability of email, phone, live chat, training, and tickets support
- Use cases – idea crowdsourcing, workforce engagement, campus hiring drives, talent acquisition, etc.
What are the steps for running a virtual hackathon?
Check out the various steps for running a virtual hackathon below.
- Announcing the hackathon in advance six to eight weeks in advance of the virtual event.
- Choosing the best professional hackathon management platform that has both automation and support features.
- Organizing teams to help in sorting people into hackathon teams by sending out clear and easy-to-fill-out sign-up forms.
- Explaining the hackathon purpose through an FAQ sheet with informative links.
- Coaches or mentors for the participants to help stay focused within the project’s scope.
- Promoting your event by finding out the channels where the potential attendees spend most of their time online and advertise there.
What are the best practices for a virtual Hackathon?
The best practices for a virtual hackathon are listed below.
- Run a rehearsal by giving early access to the teams on the software to be used during the event, test the tech and its functionality.
- Assign teams with names to rely on teamwork during the event.
- Provide meals stipend for brain fuel and to support minimal workflow disruption.
- Promotional present by sending out goodie bag before the event to round out the experience for your participants.