FIND THE GOOD IN THE BAD

COVID 19 has completely devastated life as we knew it. For college seniors like myself, the last semester of our higher education experience was interrupted and transformed into remote learning. Teachers across the nation must quickly and strategically transform their lessons into ones teachable on the online world, a world that isn’t accessible for all. Healthcare providers that are face to face with the deathly sickness don’t have enough PPE, essential workers put on a brave face and still go to work, millions of people are unemployed, people are dying, people are scared.

In the past two months my hockey career of 16 years ended, my last semester of college was halted, and a global pandemic has uplifted my status quo. Nonetheless, it’s safe to say I am feeling overwhelmed with emotions.

I’ve been home for a little over a month now, living in the same few outfits I packed for spring break, not knowing a global outbreak was about to happen. I miss living in my off campus apartment, my roommates, my classes, my internship, I miss college. But, this is my new normal.

I have found solace in being surrounded by my family at a time where some are isolated and alone.

My time on campus having the fun any other spring-semester college senior would be having is over. But the invaluable time I get to spend with my family is a gift.

There is always good in the bad, you just have to be open to finding it. I found my good. I found some sense of comfort while the rest of my body aches of sadness.

Just this little bit of comfort gives me enough hope to live in the present, focus on the good, and appreciate what I have. I never really got to spend quality time with my family. Life was always so busy. There’s five of us in a house, but all with 5 different schedules. But now, the world is partially on pause. I get to laugh with the people who I love and who love me the most. We cook, we play games, we drink, we binge movies, we laugh.

There sure are a lot of negatives surrounding us in life, but when we’re willing to find the good in the bad, life can’t make us feel any way we don’t want to.

The Relationship between Exercise and Happiness

Is there a relationship between exercising and being happy? Here are some quick facts that argue the relationship exists.

Exercising increases endorphins

Endorphins are “feel good” chemicals that produce feelings of euphoria. These are released through exercise. Through exercising, comes greater levels of endorphins in your body, causing a significant mood boost.

Exercise decreases stress

Feeling stressed? Exercise is proven to reduce levels of cortisol and adrenaline which in high levels, cause stress in the body. Reduce these stress chemicals by taking a walk, going on a run, or doing some yoga.

Exercise increases immunity

Getting sick can get in the way of our daily lives, especially if you find you are feeling tired and run down a majority of the time. Exercise improves our immune systems in a couple ways. First, it helps flush out any bacteria in our lungs or airways, thus decreasing the likelihood of catching the cold or flu. Exercising also improves how quickly our bodies can fight off illnesses. For example, when we exercise, our antibodies and white blood cells (WBC) circulate through the body more quickly, being able to detect and thus fight off illnesses sooner and quicker. Lastly, during exercise, our body temperature naturally rises during and after, this helps prevent bacteria from growing as well as helps fight off any infections.

Exercise reduces Depression and anxiety

According to James Blumenthal, PhD, a clinical psychologist at Duke University, data exists that suggests active people are less depressed than inactive people. Blumenthal also claims that exercise is proven to not only help treat depression, but also prevent relapse.

Amid the chaos and uncertainty of our current COVID-19 situation, I hope you find this helpful in your attempt to stay healthy, both physically and mentally. Despite gym closures, exercise is still possible at home. At home workouts are possible inside, or outside, but either way, are a great way to relieve stress, fight off sickness, and ultimately stay happy.

Market Research

The Importance of Market Research and SEO

Today’s marketplace is saturated with products and services. Consumers have a wide variety of options when it comes to choosing which product they would like to purchase. This makes it increasingly difficult for companies to compete, as well as keep updated with consumer needs, industry trends, opinions, and its competitors. To combat this and ensure you are up to date with your consumers and their needs, market research must be conducted!

The topic of market research interests me because of how important it is. From conducting market research, comes making informed business decisions. Market research starts with gathering, recording, and analyzing data from consumers, competitors, as well as the entire market. From there, the data gets turned into useful insight used to drive marketing strategies, product design, positioning, and communication strategies.

Market research can either be primary or secondary, or qualitative or quantitative. Primary research is new data. This type of research does not exist yet. Examples of primary research methods are surveys, focus groups, and research panels. On the other hand, secondary research is the data that already exists. It is already published data and is more cost effective compared to conducting primary research.

Qualitative research aims to find out what potential consumers think and feel about specific products/services. Quantitative research differs because it focuses on hard numbers and relies on hard numbers to make sense of data.

Last semester I took a Research Methods course that focused on all things research based. We explored both quantitative and qualitative research and the different methods of data collection for each.

My experience from this course led to my interest in market research in the digital marketing realm.

As important as it is to conduct market research in order to fully understand your consumers, competitors, and industry, it is just as important to optimize your content. There are millions of links on the web, what makes a consumer choose to click on yours? That is where search engine optimization (SEO) comes into play. SEO is “the practice of optimizing a website in order to achieve the highest possible ranking on search engine result pages”.

Backlinko shares some insight on key ways to improve SEO. Below are 5 quick tips.

1) Publish Research Content

This is content with data! Include a statistic, survey or study in order to achieve likes and clicks.

2) Create Visual Content

87.5% of marketers use visuals in their content. Visual content is growing fast and will lead to high SEO success continuing through 2020. Visual content includes images that are easily embedded.

3) Encourage Comments and Community

Encouraging user engagement leads to higher search engine rankings. Ask for comments, promote sharing, and as more community involvement evolves, the greater ranking is given.

4) Build Backlinks as a Podcast Guest

Podcast usage is a great way to build links. Podcasts are becoming increasingly popular in the US, and with popularity comes greater listeners/readers. The greater the audience, the greater opportunity for links.

5) Prune Zombie Pages

A zombie page has zero value. Having a few isn’t detrimental, but they do add up. Hundreds of zombie pages on your site will decrease your SEO. If you find you have zombie pages, try to eliminate as many as possible.

These are just 5 quick tips to keep in mind in order to achieve great SEO in the up coming years.

Mental Health and Athletes

Inside the Numbers of the Silent Epidemic

I decided to focus my topic of discussion this week on mental health, specifically in athletes. I am passionate about this topic because I have seen both the positive and negative effects of competitive sports on athletes first hand. I have seen close friends and teammates struggle with the pressures of competition, academics, and personal life experiences and I’ve seen these effects on my own life as well.

Mental health in general is a topic that people don’t talk about often. In the athletic community, it hasn’t always been taken seriously because of the negative stigma that surrounds it. In recent years however, people have been more accepting, more open, and more understanding to the seriousness of mental health problems in athletes.

This first post is set out to show just how prevalent mental illnesses are.

Here are some eye opening statistics.

Approximately 46.6. million adults in the US face mental illness.

33% of all college athletes experience significant symptoms of depression, anxiety or other mental health conditions.

Only 10% of those college athletes with mental health conditions seek help.

35% of elite (pro) athletes suffer from mental health illnesses.

Student-athletes are less likely to seek out professional help than non-athletes.

Student athletes are at greater risk to experience mental health problems such as substance abuse and social anxiety compared to non student athletes.

In the past, maybe we didn’t share about how we felt, but with recent initiatives that have valiantly been trying to end the stigma, we can finally talk about our mental health.

One campaign that comes to mind when I think about mental health initiatives is Bell Let’s Talk.

In just a 15 second video, Canadian telecommunications company, Bell, opens up communication about mental health, as well as promotes awareness and understanding.

Each year on Bell Let’s Talk Day, with every view of their video, Bell donates 5 cents to Canadian Mental Health Initiatives. Although the views help Canadian initiatives, their message of promoting awareness and ending the stigma is being seen all across North America which is what truly matters.

This Bell Let’s Talk day (January 29) Bell received 154,387,425 interactions, bringing their donation this year to $7,719,371.25.

If you do the math, that’s over 15 million views on the video!

With just a few seconds, Bell was able to promote awareness and raise financial support for mental health across North America.

IS 4220.01 Final Reflection

With the Spring semester coming to an end, it is time to reflect back on my work, specifically what I have done to contribute to the Signature Project class. What does it mean to reflect? For me, this means to actively think back on everything I have done for this course. How have I contributed? What have I learned? Would I recommend enrolling in this course? This reflection period is not necessarily to just list all that I have done, but to note the importance of that work. There is always a deeper meaning, and as I reflect back on this course, I must understand the meaning behind my work.

In this reflection, I will be reflecting back on the course and the Habits of Mind that I practiced over the last three months. The Habits of Mind must be kept into consideration because they are used to assess the effectiveness of these courses. There are four benchmarks that gauge the level of engagement students experience in general education classes. In this reflection, I will be giving specific examples and recall times when I practiced each Habit of Mind in this IS 4220.01 Signature Project class. Before jumping into the Habits of Mind, I am going to describe the various activities I undertook in the process of articulating, developing, planning, and implementing our signature project.

Three months ago, seven of us sat down in desks arranged in a circle, and read the description of the course. We began discussing what the current PSU first year experience entails. Each of us reflected back on our first year experience and the strengths of that experience, and areas of improvement. We began having an open conversation about the college application process and how stressful it is. I engaged in multiple conversations in class with my peers that helped us come to the consensus that would soon lead us to the journey map.

Our next step was to meet with Enrollment Management and learn what they do for the school in terms of creating the first year experience. We soon learned that Enrollment Management had an internal document called a “journey map” that they use to keep track of the stages and progress made in prospective student’s college onboarding processes. It dawned on us, that if we made this document public, available for first year students’ themselves to see, maybe then that would ease the college on boarding process.

Purposeful Communication

Purposeful communication is creating meaning through our interactions with people. Purposeful communication, whether is be verbal or nonverbal, can either spread knowledge, foster understanding, or aid in changing others’ beliefs/attitudes. Within this Habit of Mind, there are four signposts that reflect this habit. Those signposts include awareness of context, comprehension, purposeful expression, and effective application of strategies for communication. Across this semester, there are many times where I expressed purposeful communication through these various signposts.

The main signpost that I want to reflect on is awareness of context. I chose to reflect on this signpost specifically because I feel this signpost guided our signature project. Awareness of context means at the very basic level, people interpret messages differently based on their backgrounds. I practiced purposeful communication, through my awareness of context, when creating the language that is written in our interactive journeymap. I was cognizant that each first year student comes from culturally different backgrounds. Some students may be first generation, some may be international students, and some may come from a family where higher education is normal. Knowing that each student may interpret messages in different ways, I chose to create language in our journey map as basic as possible. For example, I wrote “ here are some resources to learn more about our school”. Before I wrote something like “ here are some resources to entice you to come to our school”, but I realized that language can be seen as forceful and persuasive. Instead, I chose to use language that could be interpreted by everyone as inviting and friendly.

Another place where I practiced purposeful communication can be seen through the signpost of purposeful expression. Purposeful expression means the ability to organize information from sources to then create a clear message. Purposeful expression can be seen all throughout our journey map. Specifically, I used purposeful expression when I hyperlinked information. “See further up here” in the campus environment stage is purposely hyperlinked to a Plymouth State made video promoting the University. Rather than explaining how our campus is unlike the rest, I chose to use a video to purposefully express that.

Problem Solving

Problem solving is explained as the iterative process of identifying problems and finding possible solutions. Within this Habit of Mind, there are four signposts; problem framing, challenge identification, plan development, and decision-making and revision, and evaluation of progress. Throughout this semester, we did nothing but problem solve. We worked collaboratively to identify weaknesses, or problems, and then brainstormed possible best fit solutions. For example, we identified that the school website is an issue, and worked towards finding a solution. That solution would be our interactive journey map.

One signpost of problem solving that I practiced is evaluation of progress. Throughout the development process of our journey map, I evaluated our progress continuously. Once each prototype of the map was created, I tested the journey map, and identified if any progress had been made. Not only did I test our prototypes for progress, but I engaged in conversations in class to determine whether or not we had made progress, and how to continue to make progress. Since the design process is iterative, we continuously tested our prototypes and had to evaluate if whether or not our journey map is on the road to achieving our desired outcomes.

Integrated Perspective

This Habit of Mind is characterized by the recognition that individuals beliefs and values are influenced by their experiences. I interpret this Habit of Mind in a very simple way. Our Signature Project class practiced Integrative Perspective simply because we each study different disciplines and bring a variety of perspectives to the table. In this Habit of Mind there are several signposts that exist. Those signposts are self awareness, perspective seeking, interconnectedness, and collaboration.

This semester, I have practiced a great amount of self awareness. Self awareness is being cognizant that my beliefs and values stem from my personal experiences. One specific time when I practiced self awareness was when our class was deciding if we wanted to pursue the journey map. I realized that the reason why I wanted to focus on an external journey map is because I wish I had one available during my application process. My reasoning for wanting to pursue our signature project idea came from my past experiences and belief that the college onboarding process should be less stressful.

Another signpost of integrated perspective that I practiced this semester is collaboration. Our Signature Project relied on our class’s ability to work collaboratively. I actively articulated my perspectives to my classmates, and I actively listened to others’ opinions and perspectives as well.  On the first day of class, I realized my ability to work with others will determine the success of our project. I am grateful I learned the value of working collaboratively since this will be an incredibly useful skill to have for my future professional life. One specific example of my collaboration is when our class discussed how we wanted to present our work on our poster. As a group, we had to come to an agreement on what we wanted to say in each section. Here, I carefully listened to what each my classmate’s had to say, and then, further communicated if I agreed or disagreed and why.

Self Regulated Learning

The last Habit of Mind is self regulated learning. This Habit of Mind is characterized by the want to learn, the ability to set goals, and the will to engage in a self-monitored learning process. Self regulated learning has three signposts. Those signposts are responsibility for own learning, engagement in the learning process, and metacognitive awareness. Over the past three months, I can confidently say I have learned the importance of this Habit of Mind, and I have practiced this Habit of Mind often.

One specific time I practiced self regulated learning, specifically engagement in the learning process, is when I researched why the college application process creates so much anxiety. I knew that if I wanted to learn why the process creates such uncomfortableness, I would have to commit to finding out why. From there on, I would sit and take the time to find credible sources on why the college application process creates high stress and anxiety levels. As I took responsibility for engaging in the learning process, I also took responsibility for my own learning in the class. I improved over the course of the semester and engaged in more work outside of the classroom to reach my goals. I set an expectation for myself to do well in the class, and in order to do so, I developed a plan to achieve that goal. I took responsibility for my own learning by developing my personal blog and continuously adding my reflections.

This semester I have gotten out of my comfort zone and truly was in charge of my own learning. What I put into the class was what I was going to get out of it. This class pushed me and tested my limits. I am extremely proud of the work my classmates and I did this semester. I have never had the ability to work on something that goes farther than a Moodle page, something that could actually be implemented into real life. These Habits of Mind will stay with me throughout my last year here at PSU, and hopefully will remain in the back of my head as I develop in my desired profession.

Student Showcase of Research and Engagement

Mark your calendars! Today I presented a research poster for the first time in my college career.

My Signature Project class presented our work for only a short hour, but we managed to speak with a handful of interested viewers. People seemed to really enjoy the work we have done! After a semester long of hard work, it was really humbling to see people actually care and show interest in our project.

It was a great experience. Our class was able to show off our work and speak with various people from around the campus. It was an opportunity to network, and learn about other students’ research. I hope I get another chance to do this again!

Pictured from Left: Megan Toman, Alexis Fagan, Julie Nagel, Sam Knapton, Alie Louie

IS 4220.01 Design Report

Though our IS 4220.01 course is slowly coming to an end, we want our work to still live on. We worked too hard to just set it aside. So, as the year is dwindling, I wanted to write a design report to act as a written record of our project. I hope others find this report, and use it to continue our work, or inspire them to create their own change. In this report, I will explain the problem we wanted to solve, our design and our design decisions, and lastly, an evaluation of our final interactive journey map.

Our Problem:

Problem Scope

In late January, when the semester was just beginning, a small group of us sat down with Professor LeBlanc, and set our goals for the class. Our signature project course is specifically made to explore “design” and what makes a good design. Also, we were to evaluate the first year experiences here at PSU and design new experiences for future PSU students. While researching online and meeting with current Enrollment Management what the current first year experience is like, we discovered a problem; prospective students have a lot of information to sift through, and finding that most relevant information for them is difficult. So, we needed to find the most fit solution for prospective students. From that day on, our journey to find a solution to our information overload problem began.

Technical Review

Today, there is a great amount of stress and anxiety levels surrounding the college application process. Some reasons include a greater population of high school graduates moving onto college, which leads to higher competition levels, the decrease of affordability of a college education, and pressure from families to perform and get into a “well known” university.

The Admissions and Enrollment Management teams are aware how stressful applying to college can be, and have a couple designs in place to aid in the process. Admissions uses a tool called “Mongoose” to text students and parents about reminders for application deadlines. There are also various emails sent out to students and parents to inform them of the next steps to take. Our school website has various resources for prospective students to use at any step of his/her process. There are plenty of useful tools to help relieve some of the stress, but none where all the information is in the same place. That is where our design comes into play.

Design Requirements

  • Is found within 3 clicks on the PSU website
  • Takes less than 3 clicks to find information in the journey map
  • Easy enough to follow, takes less than 10 minutes to click all the way through
  • Aesthetically rated 6+ on a 10 point scale
  • Rated 8+ on a 10 point scale for PSU branded
  • Hyperlinks include nearly 50% of the text

Design Description

Overview

Our design is a visual, interactive journey map, that guides prospective students through the most critical path of their college application process. How it works is, a prospective student would find it on the PSU website, load it, and click through the stages that are most relevant to them. For example, there are five different stages a prospective student could be at. Depending on that stage, that is what menu they would click. If a student is just in the beginning of the process, unsure if PSU is right for them, they would click the ” I am Ready to Learn about PSU” menu, which would take them to a list of hyperlinked resources that would let them get a feel for PSU. If a student has already been accepted, they would click the “I am Accepted” menu, and find out what the next steps are.

This is the main menu of our interactive journey map. Students would choose the most appropriate stage depending on where they are at in the application process.

Design Decisions

  1. We use informal, simple language
  2. Stay as close as we can to the critical path
  3. PSU branded
  4. Created a main menu with four stages (I am Ready to Learn/I am Ready to Apply/ I am Accepted/ I am Admitted)
  5. We decided to not replicate important information but provide a simplified version of that information and include hyperlinks to the details on the PSU website
  6. Include “back” buttons
  7. Include “speak with admissions” buttons
  8. Created final “ I am ready for classes” closing passage

Use

Our interactive journey map will be used by prospective students of PSU. Parents would also be able to use it, if they are curious about their child’s next steps in the college application process. The journey map could be accessed via computer or mobile device. Students would click on menus most relevant to them, and have options to click on hyperlinked sources to find information regarding whichever stage of the application process they are in.

Evaluation

Overview

Our plan for evaluating our design was based by experimental testing of a prototype. We created various prototypes, and critiqued them according to the feedback we received from the Admissions, MCCS and Student Enrollment teams.

Prototype

We began by individually, creating a prototype for our sections. This is my prototype for the “Inquiry” stage.
Our next step was to put our prototypes together, and make one journey map.
After testing our prototype, we realized there were still some sections to add, our next phase was to add all the needed information to build our final prototype.
Our most recent final draft of the journey map.

The design process is iterative. It took us many trials and errors to put together our final journey map. It started out from post-it notes on the board, to stories on the application “Twine”, to reorganizing our work on the chalk board, and then many presentations to the Student Enrollment team. From that process is how we came to our most final edition of the journey map.

So, What are the Next Steps?

Going forward, we need to figure out where this journey map will go once the semester ends. Will we hand it over to Admissions? MCCS? Who will make sure the links stay updated? These are all very important questions we need to find the answers to. One thing is for certain, we want to see our interactive journey map be implemented in the first year experience. We want our design to do its intended job, and make the college application process a little more simple.

Our class will be presenting a poster in the Student Showcase of Research and Engagement on May 2nd, from 2-5pm, if you would like to learn more about our work. We hope to see you there!

Texting is the Future for Higher Education. Who Would Have Thought?

Text messaging is revolutionizing the way we communicate – Sophorn Chay

PSU Admissions currently uses Mongoose to communicate with prospective students.

With the current population of incoming college applicants, the primary method of communicating is via text messages. What I proposed for my personal research project in my IS 4220.01 class, is PSU should recognize this trend, and use it to make the on boarding process easier for incoming students. Student callers exist, and I believe student texters should as well.

I first looked into the stress and anxiousness that surrounds the college application process. I wondered, what makes students the most overwhelmed? Thinking back to my personal experience, the answer is easy; information overload. Not only was I completely swamped by facts and figures, but I felt I couldn’t reach out to anyone at admissions. I didn’t know who to contact, and I definitely didn’t feel comfortable enough to just pick up the phone and start conversation. This led me to think- what if I was able to simply text a current PSU student at any time of the day?

Last semester, I explored the online disinhibition effect. When proposing this idea to Enrollment Management, I noted its relevance. Prospective students may engage in benign disinhibition, and feel more comfortable to disclose information, and ask questions they might not feel comfortable asking an administrator. Not only would potential PSU students feel more comfortable texting, but they would be able to get help at any point in the day.

These “student texters” would not be confined to the normal work hours of the day. Instead, prospective students would be able to receive help from morning, until dusk. There are obviously the most appropriate times to send messages and when to answer messages, but that determination would be at the student texter’s discretion.

I sat down with the director of Admissions today and discussed the possibility of this being implemented at PSU. Our meeting went really well, and if we can legally make it work, this will become a part of the PSU first year experience.