Meeting the Charge
The launch of CollegiateLink in September of 2012 came after an official college-wide consultation focusing on retention and engagement. It involved students, faculty, and staff, as well as many strategic conversations with college executive administrators and members of the Niagara College Board of Governors. The rationale for creating a Co-Curricular Record (CCR) was guided by these conversations as part of the strategic plan. According to Lesley Calvin, CSEL’s Manager of Student Engagement and Leadership, the focus was on student retention and success, while supporting the achievement of career and educational goals.
Creating the Architecture
A thoughtful, deliberate approach to partnering with other departments on campus set the tone for the initiative. Students, staff, and faculty were introduced to the platform through user-friendly entry points and encouraged to explore what interested them. The CSEL staff knew that this intentionality would lead to an increased amount of information that could be accessible to students, thus impacting awareness and engagement levels. Student leaders from a variety of campus organizations leveraged the messaging functionality to communicate and engage with others. Additionally, the goal of intentional learning was supported through various co-curriculum tracks, attracting more students in the beginning of their first year.
Establishing Campus and Community Partnerships
From May 2015 to April 2016, more than 4,500 NC students – roughly half the total student population –actively used the Get Involved Co-Curricular Record Portal. Offering one centralized online hub for communications, the portal has made it easier for NC's diverse student body to explore engagement, leadership, and student support opportunities. User-friendly reports have also allowed for targeted student support plans and helped advising teams scaffold student success. There are currently four active curricula in CollegiateLink, largely the result of the intentional partnerships that span across the entire NC community:
- LEAD, a program designed to foster the leadership potential of Niagara College students and tracked through the Centre for Student Engagement and Leadership
- MyCareer Challenge, a program designed to optimize student career success by improving job search tools, track classroom and outside-the-classroom accomplishments, and utilize Employment Services at Niagara College
- Your Success in the Real-Life Global World, a program created for first-year students in the Bachelor of Business Administration International Commerce and Global Development track to better acquaint them with the greater Niagara Region community
- First Year Experience, a program designed for incoming first-year students to better support their transition to Niagara College
Students are required to reflect on their progress throughout each program, reinforcing reflexive practice and higher-order thinking. Student engagement in these programs has proven to increase participation in other aspects of the Niagara College community, creating a bridge between social and academic experiences.
While CollegiateLink’s co-curricular capabilities continue to be beneficial for engaging students and tracking their success, the features for managing events have proven to be even more valuable for NC. Students, staff, and faculty look to the opportunity board in the Get Involved Co-Curricular Record Portal to explore ways they can engage with the Niagara College. Additionally, community partners frequently post volunteer and other engagement opportunities, knowing that their message is guaranteed to be seen by a large portion of the student population.
Looking to the Future
Four years after successfully launching CollegiateLink, the Centre for Student Engagement and Leadership has solidified an engagement framework which spans their four Ontario campuses. The Get Involved Co-Curricular Record, along with other CollegiateLink features, has greatly impacted programming at Niagara College. “The Co-Curricular Record is the cornerstone of our department, allowing students the ability to reflect on their collegiate experience as they prepare for their next steps post-graduation,” explained Katherine Gottli, Co-Curricular Recognition Program Coordinator.
The CSEL staff knows that CollegiateLink has helped them promote a positive engagement model on their campuses. They’re looking forward to collaborating with faculty, staff, and students to identify and promote even more opportunities for an even stronger culture of engagement at Niagara College.