Project Idea: Creating a Student Group Advisory

I have been playing with this idea for the past couple weeks, and am ready to get some feedback on it. All comments welcome! -Will

Problem:

Students often have a conveyor-belt experience in College. The first term is 70 days (for instance). A student will have two teachers and then moves on to another two teachers a week later. This is a systemic issue that can cause lead to students feeling alienated and vulnerable especially when life circumstances may feel overwhelming and lead them to drop out of the University. Students who feel more connected to other students and their professors may be more likely weather adversity.

Concept:

My students have been asking for a CS114 “alumni” site (a place to stay connected) since I started teaching regularly in the Fall of 2005. When I informally polled my class this term, there was a strong sentiment that they would like to keep more connected with each other and with me.

In response to conveyor-belt problem that I perceive, I want create a site and a process to stay in touch with students (who would like to, of course.) I am modeling this after a concept that is used at my son’s High School: he is part of a group called his “Advisory” which allows a group of students to create and maintain bonds with each other and a teacher.

Creating a group cohort-experience at KU has been tried in the past, but did not succeed for bald operational reasons — not on of the merits of the experience itself. This experiment in creating an “advisory”, cohort-like experience may not prove the efficacy of “cohorting” on retention, but may create some interesting ideas, processes and ideas for larger projects that could improve our students’ experience.

Questions:

There are a number of specific issues that I want to better understand through this project:

  1. What are the essential features of “cohort”-enabled, extra-curricular platform (technology and content) which lead to participation and engagement by students?
  2. How much time (workload) does it take to create, cultivate and maintain an active student cohort advisory group? (I have estimated that it will take 3.75hrs per week, for up 75 students. This estimate is sans set-up time.)
  3. Is it possible to “layer” groups of students from different terms into a single “advisory” group. Can one get an added value from the newbie-veteran interaction? (It is my intention to layer my classes into a single advisory platform.) This start to answer the question of scalability.

Project:

The underlying technology of the “advisory” group will be three Web 2.0 technologies:

  1. Blog
  2. Podcasts
  3. Once a month, synchronous meeting (something like seminar)

Baseline Content:

I envision content generated by me on a regular production schedule. Below is the baseline that I imagine would get us started and provide a backbone for the advisory group. (It could evolve in many different ways: a regular round-table podcast, more user-generated content, inclusion of other tools such as social networking tools, guided tutorials on creating an ELP, etc.)

1. Blog articles:

  • Personal Mastery (bi-weekly). Articles that talk about personal mastery skills such as time management, goal setting, commitment management, communications skills, etc.
    • Scheduled Topics
      • Review of David Allen’s GTD (Getting Things Done) Method (7/25)
      • Concept of Pareto’s 80/20 Rule (8/8)
      • Concept of Parkinson’s Law (projects take as much time as you give them) (8/22)
  • Cool Tools (bi-weekly). Articles introducing IT students to “cool tools”
    • Scheduled Topics
      • RSS Feeds (8/1)
      • Social Bookmarking (8/15)
      • Yahoo Pipes (8/29)
  • Book Reviews (monthly).
    • Scheduled Topics
      • The Four Hour Work Week by T. Ferriss (August)
      • Happiness by Tal Ben-Shahar (September
    • Unscheduled Topics
      • The Long Tail
      • Weaving the Web
  • Student generated content. I will proceed carefully with this idea, but I can envision students contributing to the blog as co-editors, topics for articles may include: Course Reviews from veteran students. Also perhaps study tips, life-balancing tips, etc.
  • All readers of the blog will be able to post comments and have discussions through the blog commenting feature.

2. Podcasts: I envision 3 podcasts per month. Each podcast will be approximately 20-30 minutes long

  • Interviews with professionals and educators (2X per month)
  • Scheduled
    • Peter Smith on Adult Learning Process (8/20)
    • Ellen Podolsky, Director of Help Desk Services at Children’s Hospital, Boston. (September)
  • Unscheduled
    • Mike Lorenz or designee on Looking for work while in school.
    • Mike or PLAC person talking about ELPs
  • Potential List of Interviewees
    • Likely:
      • Jon Greenberg, NHPR, New Media in the Radio Industry
      • Dr. Michael Knapp, Small business owner who survived the dotcom bust
      • Brandt Kurowski, Living the live of a Programmer
      • Mark Francillon, Teaching Programmers to Program
      • Kendra Ryan, On Web Usability and User Interface Design
    • Bigger Names:
      • David Allen (author, Getting Things Done.)
      • David Rose, Entreprenuer, Ambient Devices
      • Tal Ben-Sharar, Author, Harvard Professor
      • Brewster Khale, Archive.org
  • Interviews with an interesting student. (1X per month)
  • Special Interest Podcasts
    • Graduation-cast”. Interviews from the August 2008, Chicago graduation for KU
    • Others as I am inspired

3. Live Synch. Meeting (1X per Month). Still have to do the research into the best tool to use for this, but it would be something like elluminate or breeze. It will have at least the same functionality as KHE Seminar.

Building Community:

Starting: I will start by inviting my students who are currently finishing my course in the 0702C term. I will also invite former students (some, most, haven’t decided!) who completed my course and are still attending KU.

Layering: As I teach my next section of CS114, I will introduce them into the “advisory” around the middle of the term. New blood will flow into the advisory every 10 weeks. The blog will be set up so there will be easy access to previous content.

Size: I imagine continuing this layering process for a number of terms. I imagine that there might be a limit to how many students will make an optimal advisory group. But I don’t know what that number is. I can imagine it being at least 75-100 students, but it may be more or less. It may be unlimited, due to students naturally cycling out. This will need to be watched. (I have to admit that my first concern is getting enough participation and momentum to make it a viable and worthwhile project!)

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One response to “Project Idea: Creating a Student Group Advisory

  1. This is a great idea. Not only does it give us students a sense of community but a sense of elevated pride in our choice of university. As a final term associates student myself, I wish there had been a platform like this presented in my first semester with KU. Good Luck!

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