- Increasing Students’ Familiarity With Cocurricular ExperiencesA Pilot Trial
The transition from high school to college presents critical but predicable developmental challenges such as making new social connections and identifying social/leisure activities (Thurber & Walton, 2012; Tinto, 1993, 2007). Cocurricular experiences that create opportunities for students to become engaged on and off campus are particularly efficacious in helping students navigate these developmental challenges; such experiences contribute to students’ well-being, supportive relationships, sense of belonging, positive self-concept, leadership skills, and persistence (Astin, 1984; Busseri & Rose-Krasnor, 2008; Moore, Lovell, McGann, & Wyrick, 1998; Terenzini, Pascarella, & Blimling, 1999). Web-based social media networks (SMNs) are one avenue used by students to seek cocurricular activities and social interactions that are valuable for college adjustment (DeAndrea, Ellison, LaRose, Steinfield, & Fiore, 2011; Ellison, Steinfield, & Lampe, 2007; Leung & Lee, 2005). Thus, the current project aims to increase students’ familiarity with cocurricular experiences via a program enabled by an innovative SMN.
Methodology from design-based research was used in developing the program described here: Live It. Design-based research involves the creation of a program within the context that it will serve (Anderson & Shattuck, 2012; Brown, 1992). Live It was developed in collaboration with a Northeastern university’s Residential Life office, accounting for both the evidence base on college student engagement and the practical constraints presented by the context. Design-based research is iterative, meaning that multiple versions of a program are implemented consecutively. Research is performed in tandem with these iterations to inform and improve successive iterations (Barab & Squire, 2004). In the current paper, we provide a description of one program iteration and discuss future directions for consequent program iterations and research. Design-based research was an appropriate framework for the Live It program because it is typically used for innovative, interventionist research (Cobb, Confrey, diSessa, Lehrer, & Schauble, 2003). Finally, design-based research is often used in cases where theory is still being developed or changed (Cobb et al., 2003); we offer theoretical insights about students’ familiarity with cocurricular experiences in the discussion.
The Live It website displays cocurricular experiences on and near campus, such as volunteer opportunities, restaurants, hiking trails, and art classes. A total of 19 experiences were included during the current project based on the following criteria: (a) selected or endorsed by current students, (b) experience [End Page 892] based rather than product based, and (c) facilitated physical or mental health, sense of belonging, or personal relationships. Experiences were curated, meaning that the catalog of experiences contained a variety of information on how to have the experience: directions, cost, transportation, ideal group size, and general advice. The Live It program included access to this website as well as an accompanying $50 gift card that may be used at any of the Live It curated experiences that required monetary exchange. The gift card was provided by the university’s alumni association and removed any financial barriers to participation. The Live It program also included invitations to 8 events at Live It experiences hosted by Live It staff. Students could attend Live It experiences at any time and could browse Live It experiences online, but only Live It events were specifically advertised via email, the Live It website, and posters in the residence halls. This first iteration was implemented with a group of summer students living on two floors of a residence hall over 5 weeks.
Given that students had access to information about cocurricular experiences on the Live It website and could spend their gift card only for those experiences, we hypothesized that the Live It program would provide students with information about new cocurricular experiences. This information may be particularly valuable for first-year students who are beginning to acquaint themselves with the campus and surrounding areas. Familiarity with cocurricular experiences is important because students need to be familiar with a new experience to complete it. Thus, aim 1 of the study was to compare the number of experiences about which students learned via the Live It program with the number of experiences with which students were familiar without use of the Live It program, by...