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UO Advantage, A Meaning-Making Co-Curricular Collaboration & Interface

Four years ago I had the opportunity to propose to our Vice President for Student Affairs the collaborative development of an Experiential Learning Interface (i.e., ELI) in an effort to further support the experiential learning engagement, organization, meaning-making and translation of our students and alums. As depicted below, the model I had envisioned supported students tracking, organization, interconnection, scaffolding, translation and sharing of their self-assessment, personal/environmental needs assessment, goal setting, experiential learning, their co-curricular accomplishments and their sharing of their development, all scaffolded by ongoing reflection, feedback and communication/collaboration.

A Powerful and Transformative Collaboration

Something special was developed when Vice President Robin Holmes suggested turning the ELI concept into the face of the Division’s Co-Curriculum, nine learning goals (i.e., reflective thinking, connecting ideas, problem solving, social engagement, responsibility to others, intercultural development, leadership and civic engagement, health and well-being, and career and professional development) under which the UO Career Center, the Dean of Students Office, the Erb Memorial Union, the Holden Center for Leadership & Community Engagement, Physical Education & Recreation, the University Counseling & Testing Center, the University Health Center and University Housing collectively design, facilitate, and assess the diverse co-curricular experiences we all implement as part of our efforts to promote and scaffold student development.

Since then, I have had the opportunity to lead the UO Advantage Interface Design Team in the development of a gamified online interface designed to help students record, organize, strategize, process, endorse, translate and promote their experiential learning during their time at UO through the Division’s coordinated tracking of student’s participation in over a thousand diverse co-curricular experiences we facilitate each year. Students can also input co-curricular experiences beyond the ones the Division facilitates, which the interface asks them to align with the Student Life learning goals so that they earn badges for them and have them included in their UO Advantage counts and activity.

The Benefit of Dashboards

I believe there is tremendous value in the dashboard information students see in their main page (i.e., see mock sample above). If a student is struggling to declare a major, their UO Advantage dashboard could assist them and/or their advisor in exploring majors based on the types and categories of co-curricular experiences in which the student has already chosen to engage. If a student is struggling with their résumé content, their dashboard could assist them and/or their advisor in identifying theme-based and goal-aligned experiences/accomplishments to include. Further, the dashboard could assist students and/or their advisor in noticing and pursuing areas of growth and experiential learning development, and the system could notify them about gap areas and upcoming experiences that could help students address or bridge them. Students are guided to write notes about their experiences in a resume bullet format and their overall co-curricular information outputs in an editable functional resume they could use as content to share during professional networking or internship, job or grad school interviews, or as a customized resume they could submit for opportunities that interest them.

Metrics, Measurement, and Continuous Iteration

During its prototype year, the UO Advantage Interface recorded over 1,600 experiences in the system (e.g., from one-on-one appointments to year-long student-employment experiences, and from experiences students simply attend such as workshops or events to immersive experiences like international community service trips), counted over 49,000 student card swipes (i.e., students earn badges and other activity in the system when they swipe their cards upon their arrival to experiences), had over 12,000 students earning badges, numbers and stars in the system, and allowed us to report on student participation and performance by learning goal of the Co-Curriculum. Division departments are currently concerting incremental efforts to further measure the learning development performance of students at key co-curricular experiences in the nine learning goal areas, which will reflect in students’ UO Advantage pages and their dashboard as learning development stars.

Simultaneously, the Design Team is currently working on UO Advantage endorsements or collections of selected types of experiences that will earn students an endorsement of knowledge, experience or competency. We are developing and will soon prototype a professional readiness endorsement, which will require students to complete specific types of career development advising, training, professional networking and experiential learning to earn their endorsement badge. Through these endorsements we hope to further facilitate students’ preparation for the opportunities they pursue and, in turn, we are working with our employer network to ensure that the experiences we require students to complete to earn the endorsement will make them further attractive to their recruitment efforts. Other endorsements we are planning on developing will focus on leadership, social justice, sustainability, entrepreneurship and financial literacy.

Daniel Pascoe Aguilar, PhD, MDiv, is the Director of the University of Oregon Career Center. Daniel was born and lived in Mexico through his college education. Daniel has had five 5-10 year-long careers; has been a furniture designer, a singer/song-writer, a minister, a director of a crisis center, and a career-services professional. He has completed three graduate degrees in the US, a Master of Divinity, a Master of Science in Education, and a PhD in Instructional Systems Technology. Daniel is passionate about problem solving with students and alumni about meaningful career directions and powerful career strategies, as well as with university colleagues and community partners about innovative and strategic ways of collectively supporting the career development of our new generation of leaders. Twitter, LinkedIn.

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