Central Michigan University is rolling out a new way to reach its campus community for innovative ideas using two ideation websites for faculty, staff and student use.
The websites, which act like interactive online forums, were created in-house and are a part of the university’s Quality Initiative (QI) information gathering process in conjunction with its continuing Higher Learning Commission accreditation push.
The concept behind the websites is to cultivate user input on possible projects the university should pursue as it moves toward its accreditation goals. Student and staff users will have the option to post departmental initiatives, unique problems, concerns or project ideas much like any other online forum. Ideas can then be voted up or down, or “liked,” pushing the top ideas to the forefront, according to Kole Taylor, communications manager for Information Technology at CMU and the designer of both websites.
Each accreditation cycle takes on a focused priority, and in this round, CMU is focusing on student success as they transition into college life.
By gathering information and ideas directly from the campus community, the university can focus on the unique needs of each college to meet that goal.
“The administration is very interested in building a community, and they’re very supportive of a Quality Initiative that’s constructed by our community,” said Debra Poole, a psychology professor who is spearheading the QI operation.
Since the websites were created and will be monitored by university employees, both cost next to nothing to create, according to Claudia Douglass, interim vice provost of Academic Affairs.
While no cost was associated with building the websites, the total budget for the QI process is $106,000.
The websites are just one of many tools for information gathering during QI, but they might prove to be the most innovative.
“There’s a growing understanding that in collecting information, if you have a way to distill it from as many people as possible, using new technology is a great way to expedite that process,” Pool said. “We don’t expect a lot of people who aren’t into being on a computer to plug into this, but I think there is a segment of the faculty who are unlikely to come to a forum. Or even unlikely to come to a unit meeting, and some of these individuals may really enjoy or have a history of getting on to ideation websites and we might be able to reach them that way.”
Although CMU has had subscriptions to similar ideation websites in the past, the in-house creation of these two websites marks a first for the university.
Yet, those used to surfing the Internet should be familiar with the concept behind ideation.
“Ideation websites have been around for a long time,” Poole said. “They’re actually mandated for 24 federal agencies. For example, the FBI posts evidence for unsolved cases. Political parties are using ideation websites. You can get on and join competitions where businesses are offering a reward or a prize for best ideas. You can get on and design a Fiat.”
Aside from gauging faculty and staff input, Poole and others have put a focus on student input.
The student website, which will act in the same capacity as the faculty component, is an exciting prospect for Kelly Wright and Caitlin Homrich, the two students in charge of managing the page.
“It’s really streamlined,” said Homrich, a senior. “And I think its nice because with the college wide forums or the different events we host on campus, students might be a little more timid to bring up their ideas.”
Or too busy, adds Wright, an Eaton Rapids graduate student.
“So 2 a.m. might be the best time for them to post something, in that case,” Wright said.
Both websites are fully operational, said Poole and her student monitors.
For Homrich, having the university care about student input is indicative of the essential CMU experience.
“As a student, I’m very excited that we’re required to do this,” she said. “We have a group of faculty and students that are so motivated to do a good job and to crowd source through the whole university. They’re making sure that we’re taking in as many ideas as possible to find the best ideas and to implement them to the best of our abilities.”
To offer up an idea, visit the Academic Affairs homepage on cmich.edu.