One of my favorite WCET activities is coordinating our WCET Awards initiative. I am lucky to have the opportunity to learn about the incredible work being done by various institutions and organizations in higher education. WCET highlights this work through our WCET Outstanding Work (WOW) Awards, which honor member institutions and organizations that develop technology-based solutions to challenging educational needs. This year’s WOW award winners were just announced yesterday!
Congratulations to Colorado State University/ Grit Digital Health, Embry Riddle Aeronautical University Worldwide, Colorado Technical University, Open SUNY, and University of Montana.
Over the next several weeks, each of these institutions will be featured here on WCET Frontiers to discuss their award winning initiatives.
Today’s blog is focused on the You at College initiative with Grit Digital Health and Colorado State University. Thank you for your work to increase student success!
Learn more about this specific initiative in our upcoming WCET member only webcast on September 27th! Join us 9/27 to discuss Scalable & Personalized Interventions for Student Health.
-Lindsey Downs, WCET
The Impact of Mental Health Issues
As a clinical psychologist in a college counseling center struggling to keep up with the number of students seeking services, it was evident to me that the mental health of our student populations is negatively impacting student success.The facts speak for themselves with 74% of students indicating that their mental health negatively impacted their academic performance in the past four weeks (Eisenberg & Lipson, 2017).
Furthermore, the average annual institutional revenue lost due to attrition is $10 million and reports consistently indicate that issues outside of the classroom (i.e. emotional distress, family challenges, lack of belonging) consistently rank among the most common reasons for leaving. With a tendency to take the road less traveled and a passion for the positive psychology movement (the study of the strengths that enable individuals and communities to thrive) I was lucky enough to join a team (Grit Digital Health) of experts in behavioral health, technology, marketing/communications and college administration, to find a solution.
Partnering for a Solution
Grit Digital Health partnered with Colorado State University to find a solution to help our students succeed. We started with a year-long research process to get an accurate snapshot of the challenges impacting the mental health, well-being, and academic achievement of today’s students. What surfaced were extremely simple but eye-opening insights:
- mental health challenges in college don’t occur in a vacuum,
- students turn to the internet as their first place for support both as digital natives and due to the fact that it’s a lot less intimidating than talking to a parent or counselor; and,
- every student is unique in their strengths and risk factors necessitating equally personalized solutions.
A Three-Pronged Approach to Well-Being
Taking these insights to heart, our teams at Grit Digital Health and Colorado State University pioneered a well-being model using a human-centered design process to develop a three-pronged approach:
- Succeed – academic and career success),
- Thrive – physical and mental health),
- Matter – purpose, connection, and campus involvement).
Our team adopted a comprehensive approach to ensure that the solution is able to connect each and every student with resources to support them in tackling whatever challenges come their way.
Developing YOU at College
As digital natives, we knew that the solution also had to meet students on their terms, via laptops, tablets and smartphones. We coupled the transcendence of technology with our well-being model and YOU at College was born – a digital solution that is customized for each campus and furthermore to the needs of each unique student.
YOU includes a wealth of content topics with over 900 resources, spanning everything from making friends, study tips and tutors, to hard hitting topics like anxiety, depression and addiction. This content takes the form of evidence-based and informed videos, brief bite-size articles, and campus-specific resources. YOU provides engaging means for students to explore vetted online resources and, most importantly, campus support to increase engagement and the overall effectiveness of existing programming. The portal also includes interactive assessments that increase students’ self-awareness and provides recommendations regarding action steps to build resilience, as well as a Campus Analytics Dashboard allowing campus administrators the ability to view aggregate usage data and engage in proactive resource planning to support student success.
YOU at College is the platform offered by Grit Digital Health and can be customized for specific campuses. For example, the implementation at Colorado State University is called YOU@CSU.
When surveyed, 87 percent of YOU@CSU users reported learning about a new campus resource and 76 percent reported being able to better manage their stress. 98 percent of first-year users reported learning about a new skill or resource across their academics, physical/mental health, and campus involvement. YOU@CSU has had over 50,000 unique visitors since its launch in 2016.
Expanding to Other Campuses
Since our initial partnership with Colorado State University, YOU at College has been scaled to reach an additional 20+ campuses across the country.
As the YOU at College network grows, we break down barriers within and between universities leading to the sharing of ideas, further functionality extensions, and best practices for student well-being, health and success. Through innovation, strategic partnerships and multidisciplinary collaboration, we created a scalable solution to help tens of thousands of students stay on track to succeed, connecting them with the right resources at the right time no matter what challenges come their way.
Nathaan Demers, Psy.D.
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
VP & Director of Clinical Programs – Grit Digital Health
Eisenberg, Daniel & Lipson, Sarah. (2017). Healthy Minds Study: 2016-2017 Report. Accessed from: http://healthymindsnetwork.org/system/resources/W1siZiIsIjIwMTcvMDkvMTIvMTNfMjZfMDRfMTgzX0hNU19uYXRpb25hbC5wZGYiXV0/HMS_national.pdf