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Increasing Awareness of Extracurricular Opportunities 2010

Increasing Awareness of Extracurricular Opportunities at NCCU

Prepared by Tressie McMillan Student Researcher

Increasing Awareness of Extracurricular Opportunities 2010

April 24, 2010

Prepared for Dr. Colleen Fulford First Year Writing Director, NCCU

Increasing Awareness of Extracurricular Opportunities 2010

Increasing Awareness of Publishing and Scholarly Engagement Opportunities in the English Department at NCCU Tressie McMillan This report analyzes how the English Department at North Carolina Central University can increase student awareness of, and participation in, scholarly activities that enhance their marketability and skill sets. The analysis was conducted during the spring semester of 2010. The purpose of this report is to provide Dr. Collie Fulford, First Year Writing Director at NCCU, analysis of the department’s communication method and to implement policy solutions that increase participation in resume- and skill-building initiatives among English majors. An online quantitative study of NCCU students was conducted to: 1. Quantify how students currently learn of opportunities. 2. Assess student perceptions of communications methods in their academic departments.
3. Determine what social media and internet sites students currently use and with what

frequency. Interviews with students, faculty, and administrators were conducted with faculty, administrators and students at NCCU. Recommendations include: 1. Establishing a department Facebook page. 2. Training graduate students in the Writing Center to maintain department social network site. 3. Encouraging student and faculty buy-in by demonstrating the site in upper-level English courses and faculty meetings.

Increasing Awareness of Extracurricular Opportunities 2010

Table of Contents
ABSTRACT..................................................................................................................................iii Executive Summary.......................................................................................................................1 Introduction....................................................................................................................................6 Why Extracurricular Opportunities Matter ……………………………………………… 6 Increasing Student Awareness and Engagement…………………………………………. 7 Opportunity and Communication…………………………………………………………7 English Department EOs: Current Snapshot .............................................................................8 Decentralization...................................................................................................................9 Time, Location, Space.........................................................................................................9 Timeliness .........................................................................................................................10 Initiative and Investment ...................................................................................................11 Research Methods and Findings ................................................................................................12 Survey Participants ...........................................................................................................13 EO Awareness....................................................................................................................13 Perceptions of EO Communication……………………………………………………... 15 Students Choice of Social Media………………………………………………………...15 Recommendations……………………………………………………………………………...16 Facebook Page Creation and Maintenance…………………………………………….. 17 The Writing Studio………………………………………………………………..…….18 Faculty Buy-In…………………………………………………………………………..19 Conclusion…………………………………………………………………………………..... 20 Works Cited…………………………………………………………………………………… 21

Increasing Awareness of Extracurricular Opportunities 2010 Executive Summary English majors at North Carolina Central University benefit from publishing and networking opportunities (henceforth, “extracurricular opportunities” or EOs). These opportunities provide valuable training for graduate school and the workplace. Participation not only adds value to students’ resumes but develops writing, speaking and relationship-building skills. To increase student participation in these valuable opportunities it is important to increase student awareness of them. The primary method currently used to communicate these announcements is the posting of flyers on office doors within the department. This method is decentralized and dependent upon the will of individual professors. This method also requires students to patrol the halls on a regular basis for new information. With no guidelines for timeliness or organized posting rules students have to vet each flyer individually for appropriateness and availability. For example, one office door currently has an announcement with a due date in 2009 and partially obscuring a more recent announcement. This method creates unnecessary and counter-productive roadblocks for students. Purpose and Methodology This report proposes a centralized, electronic database of all extracurricular opportunities for English majors. To define the scope of the current problem of communicating EOs a random survey was conducted of current NCCU students. Without a mechanism to only administer the survey to English majors the survey was available to all NCCU students.

Increasing Awareness of Extracurricular Opportunities 2010 Self-identifying questions about major and classification was used to sort the results for current English majors. The study was used to determine how current English majors perceive the department’s effectiveness at communicating EOs. The survey also collected information about which social media and internet networking sites that students access most frequently. Scope and Findings Nearly half of all students surveyed said that their department could “do a better job” of communicating EOs. For English majors that number is over 50%. Of those students who have responded to an EO most of them said they found out about the opportunity by email. However, interviews with faculty members concluded that the majority of EOs are not emailed. Thus, many EOs are never distributed by the most effective means. Conclusions and Recommendations Over 80% of all students surveyed said they use Facebook “several times a day.” With student awareness so high, this proposal recommends the creation of a department Facebook page. Facebook offers mass emailing that could mimic the success of school-wide emails as seen in the aforementioned data. In addition, its event scheduling function would provide a calendar of due dates for each EO posted, addressing the current issue of outdated announcements crowding out active ones. The ability to post comments to each announcement would allow students to ask questions of the professor or faculty member who posts the EO. The current flyer system necessitates coordinating a face-to-face

Increasing Awareness of Extracurricular Opportunities 2010 meeting. With Facebook the professor or faculty member could answer at a time most convenient for them and their response can be viewed by other students, minimizing repetitive questions.

The University has published guidelines for the initiation and management of NCCU-branded media. To ensure compliance the page’s moderation could be restricted to staff members in the writing center. Staffed by graduate students, the writing studio has the technology and resources to manage the site with minimal training and zero financial investment. An English department Facebook page would provide a structured, yet responsive method of communicating EOs to students. It capitalizes on existing knowledge, awareness, and department resources. The proposal requires only buy-in from faculty and publicizing the page. That minimal investment could positively impact the marketability, satisfaction and profile of English majors and graduates.

Increasing Awareness of Extracurricular Opportunities 2010

Introduction This report examines the effectiveness of existing means of communicating extracurricular opportunities (EOs) to English majors at North Carolina Central University. The purpose of this report is to provide faculty and administration in the English department the data and method to implement an online database of EOs. Recommendations are provided for: Chair of the English department, First Year Writing Director, and the Technology Learning Center. Why Extracurricular Opportunities Matter Extracurricular opportunities are defined, for the purposes of this report, as any internal or external opportunity for NCCU students to engage in activities that augment their education. These include calls for papers (CFPs), academic conferences, symposiums, and publishing opportunities in journals, anthologies and other publications. EOs provide opportunities for students to use skills acquired during their formal education in a variety of settings. This is essential for students who plan to continue their education in graduate school, but it is also beneficial for students entering the workforce (Zernike). Researcher Betsy

Increasing Awareness of Extracurricular Opportunities 2010 Stevens conducted a survey among the top employers in Silicon Valley – the technology hub located in California – for the most desirable skills in college graduates seeking employment. Employers rated oral and written communication as the most important skill they look for in potential hires (Stevens, 1-13). NCCU has responded to this desire from graduate schools and employers by implementing the Quality Enhancement Plan in 2009 (Alston). The school-wide initiative is focused on improving oral and written critical thinking and communication skills in NCCU graduates. For the English department that focus is essential to its mission of producing graduates who can communicate across platforms. EOs extend the mission of the English department and the QEP into real-world environments where students can use what they have learned in class. These are critical opportunities for students to practice oral and written communication, expressing an idea, building relationships and networking. Yet, this very critical component of the QEP and department mission is currently relegated to flyers and posters on the walls. Increasing Student Awareness and Engagement Communicating available EOs will increase student participation. An online survey of NCCU students in March 2010 found that over half of all students think their departments can “do a better job” of telling them about EOs. Of the students who have participated in an EO, over 60% of them found out about the opportunity by an electronic means. Students, as judged by the number who have already participated in an EO, are interested, but finding out about appropriate EOs is ad-hoc, at best. Opportunity and Communication

Increasing Awareness of Extracurricular Opportunities 2010 The data collected for this proposal shows that all of the requisite resources already exist to initiate and successfully manage an online database of EOs. Student surveys show that students, across major and classification, are comfortable with interacting with faculty and peers online. The technology and learning center, housed in the same building as the English department, has a precedent for a department, NCCU-branded social networking page. The writing studio, staffed by graduate students in the English department, has computers and personnel to manage the site. This proposal outlines student perceptions of the English departments’ current means of communicating EOs. It also identifies examples of how universities, including NCCU, currently employ social networking to communicate with students and faculty. Finally, recommendations for how to initiate, manage and leverage a social networking page for English majors is detailed. English Department EOs: Current Snapshot A review of all EOs posted within the English department was conducted on February 18, 2010. The researcher performed a visual inspection of notices on each office door and hallway space. The doors with the greatest number of announcements were selected for further review. Office one had 18 announcements posted. Of those 18 six announcements had deadlines that had passed. The remaining 12 listed websites where further information could be located. None of the announcements listed the professor whose office door held the announcement as a contact. Office Two had more postings but fewer EO announcements. The largest posting was not an EO but a newspaper article. To view the other, smaller, announcements one had to physically move the article aside. Seven announcements were catalogued. All seven had viable, future deadlines

Increasing Awareness of Extracurricular Opportunities 2010 and websites for further information. One announcement instructed interested students to speak with their local faculty representative for assistance. However, no name or contact information for the local faculty representative was listed on the announcement. While it is logical to assume that the professor whose door held the announcement would be the faculty representative the best means for contacting him or her was not clear. This visual inspection reveals several problems with the department's current means of communicating EO announcements: 1.
2.

It is decentralized. Its access is limited by time, location, and space. It is not timely. It demands unnecessary initiative from both students and faculty.

3. 4.

Decentralization The current EO announcement method lacks any coordinated management. As it stands, faculty members receive information about an EO. Each faculty member then decides what is of most interest or what is most important to communicate. The distribution of the EO that meets those criteria is then dependent upon the faculty member finding the time to post the EO to their door or in the hallway. A process' success grows weaker with every additional step. This can be seen in email “blasts” – those forwards and listserv announcements people agree to receive and are often overwhelmed by. One of the reasons email forwards and listservs are so numerous is because they are so easy to send. Two clicks of a mouse and information can be delivered. That is a

Increasing Awareness of Extracurricular Opportunities 2010 minimal investment on the part of the sender. The desire to communicate information is reinforced by the immediate access to communicate it. By contrast the desire – or, the best intention – of a faculty member to communicate an EO within the English department's current system is not reinforced by immediately accessible means to communicate information. This restricts the flow of valuable information from faculty to students. A centralized, managed system that reduces the steps a faculty member must take to communicate an EO increases the likelihood of an EO being communicated. Time, Location, and Space The flyer system of EO distribution is also greatly restricted by the physical limitations – time, location, and space – of paper and access. Currently, a student inclined to respond to an EO must walk the third floor of the Communication building with the intention of seeing what has been posted. This requires that a student have access to the building during the hours that the building is open. If a student does not have a class on the third floor of the Communications building – English majors are still obligated to take core requirements in other departments located in other buildings – it is easy for them to miss an EO. To counter the lack of opportunity for happenstance – seeing an EO notice as one roams the halls for other purposes – students must schedule time that does not conflict with class, other student engagements or the building's hours of operation. That is an unnecessary obstacle that places the entire burden of navigation on the student. These physical limitations are also problematic for faculty members. Emailed EO announcements require the faculty member inclined to share it to print the notice. With the

Increasing Awareness of Extracurricular Opportunities 2010 current pressures to print and copy judiciously to save money, this creates a conflict between budgetary concerns and communicating valuable information that does not have to exist. Faculty members are also restricted by limited time to sort and distribute EOs. Interviews with Dr. Collie Fulford and Dr. Larry Nessly made clear the many demands made of a professor's time. Beyond the physical time spent out of their offices for teaching, the priority for faculty member' office hours is being available for student conferences, lesson planning and administrative duties. Reading, vetting and distributing paper EO notices can, and often does, fall down the list of priorities. Again, this is an unnecessary complication, most of which negatively impacts students. Timeliness Deadlines are an important consideration for all EO announcements. As with most things in academia, missing a deadline has negative consequences. The current means of EO distribution does not prioritize announcements by deadline. As seen in the visual inspection of posted notices many take up valuable space long after they are viable opportunities. A consequence of the decentralized nature of the current system, this lack of timeliness fails to communicate the importance of EOs to students. If EO announcements are not important enough to be organized according to their availability it is fair for a student to assume that EOs are not important to the department or to them. Initiative and Investment Perhaps the most counterproductive issue with the current EO system is the unnecessary initiative it demands of both faculty and students.

Increasing Awareness of Extracurricular Opportunities 2010 Faculty members committed to exposing their students to the benefits of EOs are solely responsible for initiating their distribution. Doing so requires an investment of the very things faculty members have a limited supply of: time and resources. Overcoming the obstacles of finding the time to distribute EOs and procuring the resources to distribute them demands an unnecessary level of initiative and investment. Students face the same obstacles. Seeking out EOs, as they currently demand, presupposes an awareness of their existence and importance that motivates the student initiative. Yet, there is no evidence in our survey that students have received any indication from the University that EOs are a valuable part of their education. Thus, the current EO flyer system presupposes a level of awareness that is not grounded in reality. Cultivating that awareness could encourage student initiative but without that cultivation, requiring student initiative seems unrealistic and unfair. Part of the education process is not just drawing upon what a student knows but exposing them to what they do not know they don't know. A centralized, organized and accessible means of distributing EOs supports the University QEP and department initiatives. A system that is responsive to students' needs also communicates that EOs matter – something that students may not know that they don't know.

Increasing Awareness of Extracurricular Opportunities 2010 Research Methods and Findings To address the weaknesses of the current means of distributing EOs several research methods were used to determine: i. How do students perceive the effectiveness of the current method of communicating EOs? ii. What electronic means are students most comfortable using for communication and social networking? iii.What resources currently exist within the department to address student needs? An online survey was designed to determine how well current NCCU students feel their academic department communicates EOs. The survey used a mixed methods design. Demographic, quantitative and qualitative responses were gathered. Participants were allowed to skip questions. They were also asked to volunteer their contact information for further contact by the researcher. There was no participation penalty for skipping questions or refusing further contact. The researcher acknowledges the statistical limitations of the study conducted. Because I lacked a faculty preceptor sending a mass email to all NCCU students was not possible. Because I did not have access to the entire student population I was not able to conduct a truly random sample. Instead, the survey was posted on NCCU's intranet site and announced in English classes by professors who agreed to do so. While the intranet site is available to all students the respondents self-selected. The same is true of students who responded to a class announcement.

Increasing Awareness of Extracurricular Opportunities 2010 In addition, this lack of access to the entire student population restricted my ability to filter for only English graduates. Students were asked to self-report their classification and majors to counter this limitation. Survey Participants 48 responses were collected between March 2, 2010 and April 2, 2010. None of the respondents skipped a question. 26 students agreed to follow-up contact. Of the 48 respondents 7, or 13%, listed their major as English. EO Awareness The current level of student awareness about EOs was the first step in identifying if they problem, as hypothesized, exists. In the survey EOs were defined as “an academic program, scholarship, or other academic opportunity” that was NOT mandatory for a class grade. Students responded: Student Awareness of EOs, Figure 1

Increasing Awareness of Extracurricular Opportunities 2010

An overwhelming majority of students surveyed have received notification of an EO. This suggests that there is an awareness of the concept of EOs, if not always an awareness of specific available EOs. How do students hear about EOs? The most common methods, ranked by response: How Students Learn of EOs; Figure 2

Increasing Awareness of Extracurricular Opportunities 2010

The survey shows that students who have heard of an EO in their department did so by a notice posted on the wall. A very close second was an emailed notice sent to students’ NCCU email account. The former supports my hypothesis that fliers are the most common delivery method of EOs. The latter supports my hyothesis that students are comfortable receiving EO information via electronic means. It is also important to note that the NCCU intranet digital board (“Eagle’s Nest”) ranks 5th of the six options. I hypothesize that the static nature of the digital board is less effective in communicating complex information like EOs. Emails allow for greater text and an easy means of responding to the sender for questions and further information. These results show an awareness of EOs and student interest in responding to them.

Increasing Awareness of Extracurricular Opportunities 2010 Perceptions of EO Communication To understand how students perceive of their department’s success at effectively communicating EOs the following was asked: Student Perceptions of Deparment Effectiveness, Figure 3

48% of students surveyed percieve their department’s current means of distributing information about EOs as either inadequate or ineffective. Students’ Choice of Social Media Students were asked about how frequently they use a list of the most popular social media websites currently available. Their frequency of use is used as a proxy for both their level of awareness of and comfort level with the corresponding websites.

Increasing Awareness of Extracurricular Opportunities 2010

Students’ Social Media Tools, Figure 4

The majority of students not only use Facebook but they do so at least once a day. It should also be noted that Facebook had the fewest number of students who never use Facebook. Therefore, Facebook is the most dominant in both awareness and use by the students surveyed. Recommendations The student survey supports that there is an opportunity to improve the methods departments use to communicate EOs. With the majority of all students surveyed showing a level

Increasing Awareness of Extracurricular Opportunities 2010 of comfort with social media sites and 48% of them perceiving that their departments could do a better job of telling them about EOs, using social media to address that perception is both logical and effective. These findings, combined with interviews and observations, support the creation of a department social media networking site that includes what works now and improves upon what does not work. NCCU students not only use Facebook on a daily basis but like most college students, they depend upon the social media network to provide information. (Berger)Student awareness of Facebook makes it the preferred choice for this department page. It also includes the functionality of the second most effective means currently used to communicate EOs: email. It also allows for two-way communication to resolve student questions. Faculty and student interviews reveal that the personnel and technology to create and maintain a department Facebook page already exists within the English department. These recommendations address how the page would be created and maintained; how it could be utilized by faculty and students; and how it could increase student awareness of and participation in EOs. Facebook Page Creation and Maintenance There is an existing template for the creation of an NCCU-branded departmental Facebook page. Dan Reis of NCCU’s Multimedia Designer for the Center for University Teaching & Learning serves as a liaison for faculty who incorporate social media into their

Increasing Awareness of Extracurricular Opportunities 2010 pedagogy. NCCU’s Social Media Club has a Facebook page that incorporates the functionality of the media with the mission of the University. To create a similar page for the English department the project would require a faculty preceptor. Dr. Collie Fulford sees the potential of such a page and as First Year Writing Director is a natural choice for faculty lead on this project. To become an official arm of the University the Facebook page must be registered in accordance with the University’s new Guidelines for Announcements and Events document. (cite) This document’s most recent revision clarifies the process for creating an internet presence for NCCU related events. The page must be registered with the public relations office by submitting details of its purpose and all responsible parties to Chantal Winston in the public relations department. After receiving Ms. Winston’s approval the page could be created. The Writing Studio For social media to fulfill its highest potential it must be integrated into the functionality of the organization using it. That includes regular maintenance, communication and moderation. To, again, maximize existing resources this report recommends that the existing Writing Studio, located in the English department, manage the day-to-day Facebook page maintenance. The Writing Studio is staffed by English graduate students who provide writing assistance to department undergraduates in writing effective college documents. The Studio is staffed Monday through Friday with evening and weekend appointments available by request. As of the Fall semester of 2009 English professors familiarized students with The Writing Studio by requiring consultations for student papers. This has increased awareness of the Studio among English students.

Increasing Awareness of Extracurricular Opportunities 2010 That awareness, combined with the expertise of the graduate students and the computers available in the Studio, makes it the ideal place to house the Facebook EO initiative. Graduate students would collect EOs from professors, post them to Facebook and monitor the page for questions and concerns during regular Writing Studio office hours. Graduate students could also advise students who use The Writing Studio for writing help of the page during their visits. Dr. Fulford could work in conjunction with Dr. Karen Keaton Jackson, the faculty mentor for The Writing Studio, to train and manage the graduate students in using the Facebook page.

Faculty Buy-In The Writing Studio’s implementation also serves as a successful blueprint for overcoming one of the major hurdles to the Facebook page’s success: department buy-in. Many online initiatives wither due to neglect and lack of visibility. To prevent that the English department – faculty, students and administration – must buy-in to its potential and importance. The importance of EOs is communicated to students by faculty participation in the process. Just as the Writing Studio was legitimatized by mandatory classroom participation, so, too, would Facebook page benefit from faculty members using the page in class. To encourage that process an online “show and tell” should be held during a faculty meeting. The graduate student staff at The Writing Studio, Dr. Fulford and Dan Reis would introduce the page during the meeting. This allows for immediate feedback from professors and examples of how it could be discussed in class.

Increasing Awareness of Extracurricular Opportunities 2010 After showing the page to the faculty tools would be created to make implementing the Facebook page into existing curricula as seamless as possible for professors. This would include the creation of Facebook “badges” – html code that creates an online ad (called a widget) that can be cut and pasted or emailed – for professors to include in class emails. The badges could be emailed using existing blackboard emailing functionality to the entire class rosters. Students could then save, copy and paste and click the badges for instant access to the Facebook page. Facebook also allows students to share pages they have joined with others on their own individual Facebook pages. That “sharing” could be encouraged by faculty members requiring page membership as part of an online writing exercise, for example. Such a writing exercise could include students researching and choosing an EO and writing the corresponding essay or application for participation. This provides visibility for the Facebook page, buy-in from the students, and guided instruction on how to use EOs to their benefit. Conclusion All college students, across discipline, will experience a very different employment picture than even the one five years ago. Experts agree that college students must begin managing their career before graduation, even before their senior year. Managing one’s career includes taking advantage of opportunities outside class to build and demonstrate skills employers value. NCCU recognizes this need, as demonstrated in its Quality Enhancement Survey. The QEP’s mission can be furthered by incorporating social media already familiar to NCCU students to increase their participation in Extracurricular Opportunities.

Increasing Awareness of Extracurricular Opportunities 2010 EOs are important for all majors, including the English department where liberal arts students have a particular burden of proving their value beyond academia. EOs provide avenues for English majors to network, develop skills and to build their resumes in preparation for graduation. A departmental Facebook page utilizes media already used, frequently, by current NCCU students. All that is required to implement this tool are resources already available in the department. Dr. Fulford has demonstrated an awareness of the potential of online media to impact learning. Her position as First Year Writing Director is a logical place to house the management of the Facebook page. Dan Reis has the technical expertise and experience with creating NCCU-branded social media. Together with The Writing Studio, Dr. Keaton Jackson and faculty buy-in the department’s Facebook page would be ready for implementation during the Fall 2010 semester.

Increasing Awareness of Extracurricular Opportunities 2010

Works Cited Alston, Regina R. 2009. www.nccu.edu. 5 April 2010 <http://www.sacscoc.org/pdf/2009%20track%20b%20qeps/North%20Carolina %20Central%20University.pdf>. Berger, Craig. College Students' Social Media Use and Implications for Millennial Activism and Citizenship . 24 April 2010. 24 April 2010 <http://futuremajority.com/node/10497>. Stevens, Betsy. "How Satisfied are Employers with Graduates' Communication Skills? A Survey of Silicon Valley Employers." http://www.westga/edu/~bquest/2004/graduates.htm. 2004. Zernike, Kate. "Making College ‘Relevant’ ." New York Times 29 December 2009: ED16.