When Presence (then Check I’m Here) first launched in 2014, our main goal was to increase retention and graduation rates with a software service that would more easily allow student affairs professionals to measure and understand student involvement.
But that was just the beginning.
At Presence, we believe that the student experience is the most meaningful when students have opportunities for holistic education. That is, college is not just about academic coursework or about extracurricular involvement. In order for a student to be successful, they need to engage with both.
And it isn’t just us who thinks that.
Employers no longer want applicants who just have college degrees. They want applicants who have degrees and who can demonstrate that they have workforce-ready skills.
Although some students are already developing these skills on campus through leadership roles, volunteering, internships, and study abroad, not all students have fair access to those opportunities. And even if they do, there isn’t an easy way for students to directly show prospective employers that they’ve developed particular skills through different experiences.
So we got to thinking — how could we bridge this gap and help prepare students for the workforce? And how could we do it while staying true to our mission of making student affairs professionals’ lives easier and helping students get more involved?
The answer was by building an all-inclusive co-curricular platform.
Not just a boring, static, actively unhelpful co-curricular transcript; not just a portal to market experiences and opportunities; not just a tool to track which students are participating in which opportunities.
We knew that this solution needed to be something that did it all. Something that would allow student affairs professionals to incorporate learning outcomes into their programs, that would show students what opportunities are available to them and how to fulfill them, and that would not only provide a co-curricular transcript, but an interactive roadmap to help students achieve their goals.
Today, we’re proud to introduce to you our biggest set of features released to date: our Co-Curricular Opportunities Platform.
The release of the Co-Curricular Opportunities Platform affirms a few of our core beliefs:
We believe that when students are presented with opportunities whose benefits are clearly outlined, they will work to achieve them.
We believe that staff members’ time is better spent on improving the student experience, not on filing paperwork and keeping track of clunky systems.
We believe that experiential learning is a better way for students to build essential skills to prepare them for the workforce and beyond.
We believe that student engagement isn’t the job of just one department, but the responsibility of the whole campus.
We’ve moved beyond just event attendance and organization membership. The Co-Curricular Opportunities Platform is the first in a series of product releases that reflects these values. Together, we hope to support your campus in building the best student experiences possible.
The Co-Curricular Opportunities Platform is inclusive of all of the experiences your campus offers: study abroad, service learning and volunteer hours, internships, on-campus jobs, certifications, awards, leadership programs, mentorships, research opportunities, apprenticeships, and more.
It’s fully customizable to your campus’ needs. It uses all the parts of Presence that you already love — conditional logic, customization, process automation, and comprehensive real-time data — and adds in the structure of experiential learning outcomes for a solution so powerful, it’ll change the way you think about programming on campus.
Figuring out how to get involved (and understanding why it’s important) shouldn’t be a mystery. With our Co-Curricular Opportunities Platform, students are empowered to choose the learning opportunities that are right for them.
Now, students will be able to explore opportunities, see what is required to achieve them, and find experiences that align with their goals — all on their own time, from whatever device they’d like. Plus, our SmartTranscript makes keeping track of their attendance and achievements simple, motivating students to go above and beyond, all while better preparing them for the workforce.
Transparent learning outcomes
Historically, the learning outcomes that were connected to programs were known as the “hidden curriculum.” Students didn’t necessarily know about them and they were sparingly applied to programs and experiences around campus.
But it’s time for us to have more faith in our students.
If our students can see a direct benefit to participating in a co-curricular experience, they’ll do it. Students want to be ready for the workforce. They want to be developing their skills.
So why hide those learning outcomes from them?
We built the Co-Curricular Opportunities Platform so that student affairs professionals could build the learning outcomes framework that works best for their campus and so that students could understand how various experiences translated into skills developed.
Whether you’re already using a framework from CAS, LEAP, DQP, or NACE, or you need some help figuring out how to build one that’s right for your institution, our Happiness Team has your back.
Competencies, skills, and levels
It isn’t enough to just have competencies or skills. You didn’t become an expert in anything overnight, so why would we build a system that didn’t allow for progressive growth?
You determine what levels make sense for your institution and what qualifies a student to have achieved those levels — it’s all fully customizable right in the platform. Students can see how far they have to go in developing their skills and what levels they have completed.
Plus, the earning and upkeep of these skills are automated — once a student swipes into an event or completes a required reflection, their progress is updated on their profile.
This is important for three reasons:
- It makes keeping up with co-curricular involvement a much simpler process, reducing staff time and headaches spent trying to track everything manually.
- It reduces any bias in the skill-assignment process. By automatically updating the student’s involvement record with what requirements they’ve completed, we’ve created a skill development platform that makes it easier for you to help all of your students grow — not just the ones who are already highly involved.
- It encourages students to continue on their journeys by allowing them to see what they’ve completed and what they have left to complete.
One centralized place
Co-curricular learning doesn’t need to be an overly-complex and disjointed process. It can be centrally-housed, seamless, and automated. And students shouldn’t have to play departmental gymnastics just to figure out what opportunities are available to them for growth — they should just be able to turn to one place and find all of the information they need.
You already know how Presence centralizes all campus events into one place, making it easy to figure out what is happening and how to get involved. We applied that same principle to our opportunities portal.
Students can learn what skills particular experiences contribute to right on their existing events dashboard and they can reverse that process by finding opportunities to participate in by exploring skills they want to build.
We didn’t want students to feel like developing their skills had to be something complex or overwhelming, which is why we made it as simple as possible for students to find, review, and enroll in opportunities and skill pathways.
You write the rules
In keeping with our mission of making student affairs professionals’ lives easier, we knew that the Co-Curricular Opportunities Platform needed to not just centralize co-curricular experiences, but automate the upkeep and earning of them.
That’s why we built automation and conditional logic right into the platform.
You determine the requirements for achieving different levels of a skill, and when students complete them, their achievements are automatically added to their SmartTranscript.
If you want to build intentional reflection into your skill development processes, you don’t have to collect paper forms or go around reminding students to complete them. Just build reflections into your workflow and the system will automatically remind students to complete them and notify you once they have.
Guess you can say ta-ta to “overwhelming amounts of paperwork” being covered under “other duties as assigned” in your job description.
Want to add some extra encouragement to the mix? With our Co-Curricular Opportunities Platform, staff can assign a point value to various opportunities and achievements. Once a student fulfills all of the requirements for that, they earn points!
As a staff member, you can set a campus-wide expiration date for student points, encouraging students to get involved semester after semester. You can do all sorts of creative things here, like hosting an end-of-semester auction where students use their accumulated points to purchase various rewards, like tickets to sports games, movie passes, or campus swag.
Okay, a moment of realtalk: co-curricular transcripts, in the form they most commonly take, are completely useless.
It’s not helpful to students or employers to simply have a piece of paper that is a bullet point record of what leadership roles a student held or service learning opportunities that they completed.
We imagined a transcript that not only showed what a student did, but what skills those experiences contributed to developing. We imagined something that didn’t just exist as a piece of paper, but that was interactive and actually told a student how far they’ve come and what exactly they needed to do to progress and how they could get there. We imagined something fully customizable, allowing students to show and hide different sections based upon the jobs that they were applying to and what skills would be most relevant to it.
In short, we imagined (and then built) something that was completely antithetical to the current idea of a co-curricular transcript, because we knew that they could be — and needed to be — done better.
Our SmartTranscript isn’t something that a student receives only once they’ve graduated. It lives with them throughout their entire time at your institution, helping them along on their journey.
Whether you’ve been building co-curricular pathways for years or this is the first time you’re hearing about them, we’re confident that our Co-Curricular Opportunities Platform will help you achieve your departmental and institutional goals and get your students ready for the workforce.
A special thanks to our campus partners who have helped us build and test this set of features — you’re awesome!
And if you’re curious about how you could go about developing learning outcomes for your campus, we’ve got your back with this all-in-one guide to co-curricular learning.