Badges: Recognizing and Encouraging Student Involvement

Innovation Profile #6

With budgets tightening and resource allocation becoming a more scrutinized process, student affairs departments are under increased pressure to demonstrate their impact on preparing students for life after graduation. Divisions need to develop innovative programming to help prepare students for the workforce while they're on campus.

But in order for student affairs practitioners to drive impact on campus, students need to take advantage of what you have to offer. The norms and expectations of college students are changing, particularly when it comes to their modes of communication. Student affairs divisions need to adapt to the times and reach out to students in ways that conform with their habits and preferences in order to engage them.

Case study: The University at Albany

Understanding that professional and personal development are priorities for both students and parents, but that students may not always recognize the importance of campus involvement to that end, the University at Albany developed the Pathways to Success program. By leveraging the popular gamification trend, the university developed a program where students can earn "badges" that designate their level of involvement. By increasing engagement, the program successfully helped students prepare for their plans after college.

Involved Dane

Students earn their first badge, called an "Involvement Dane" after the university's mascot, by completing six involvement-related accomplishments. From there, students can choose whichever path they wish to follow in order to earn more badges. Other "Dane" designations include academic, athletic, career, civic, intercultural, purple and gold (the school's colors), and wellness.

The Pathways to Success Program was designed to serve dual purposes: promoting student engagement in campus life and activities while allowing Student Affairs to collect and aggregate data about their involvement. In the short-term, the university is simply hoping to encourage participation in campus activities. But the long-term goals include identifying which types of activities are most popular and how student involvement is related to academic success.

What stands out about Albany's initiative?

  • Albany’s program brings attention to the importance and potential benefits of campus engagement, leveraging pre-existing campus programming to better serve students.
  • The use of gamification strategy is widely recognized to incentivize the current generation of students.
  • The options built into the various designations offered give students choice and the ability to select the pathway that is the best fit for them.

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