After a major renovation incorporating and expanding three existing buildings, GW opened District House in August 2016. District House is a 900-bed residence hall that offers communal spaces and retail dining on its lower two levels.  The lower two levels of student space and retail dining are open to the public and managed by the Center for Student Engagement. The first year managing the District House communal space, which includes bookable conference rooms, modular furniture, a dance studio, a bike storage room, and a student food pantry, was by all accounts a success. The number of bookings, the amount of time the spaces were in use, the number of individuals and organizations impacted, and the caliber of experience offered to clients all show positive outcomes upon review.

Reservations Breakdown

Our new spaces were heavily used from the beginning, and as the spaces became an essential part of the space inventory on campus, usage increased rapidly.

There were 4,900 reservations for spaces in District House in the 2016-2017 academic year, with the cumulative time booked totaling 12,843 hours. The informal use of rooms outside of reservations became commonplace as well; however tracking the frequency and length of unscheduled use is difficult to do accurately. According to reserving organizations, 100,700 individuals attended activities in reserved spaces in District House. Two hundred eighteen different student organizations booked space in District House.

Reservation data also allows us to understand which days and rooms prove to be the most popular with clients. Sunday is the most popular day of the week with 643 bookings occurring on Sundays within the spring semester alone. This is followed by Monday (544 bookings in the spring) and Wednesday (521 bookings in the spring). The B132 multipurpose room or dance studio is far and away the most popular space, with 545 bookings in the spring alone. This is followed by B114 (316 bookings in the spring) and B118 (295 bookings in the spring).

Client Feedback

In May 2017, we distributed a survey to District House clients, defined as any individual who made a reservation for a District House space. The 45 responses showed District House clients were satisfied with their experience during the past year. Specifically, clients rated their reservation-making experience an average of 3.43 out of 4, the furniture in the space a 3.66 out 4, and their interactions with our staff a 3.33 out of 4.

However, there are clear areas where improvements to our processes, facilities, and services are needed– notably in-room technology functionality and support, communications related to reservation fulfillment, and facility issues (room smell, light timers, etc.). The lowest rated functionality of District House from the client survey was in-room technology, scoring an average of 3.03 out of 4 – while users were generally satisfied, the unreliability of tech and the inability to get immediate assistance proved frustrating for many.

Overall, clients confirmed that District House significantly expanded available meeting/event space on campus, as well as available “hang out” or “living room” space on campus. Additionally, 67% of students who responded to our client survey indicated that District House contributed to the sense of community on campus.

Recommendations

While we were excited to see the building grow into a lively part of GW’s campus environment during the first year, we also recognize that there are areas where we still need to develop and mature. Based on information from the client survey, student staff feedback, and usage data, CSE Reservations has put forward a number of recommendations for improving the effectiveness of the space and space management. Highlights include:

  • Implement a practice-based training for student employees that provides clear overview of policies and procedures in addition to technical and event support capabilities
  • Increase the number of student staff members on the CSE Reservations team to better meet the needs of the individuals and organizations using the space
  • Expand online presence to include information and photos about available spaces and booking policies (including tabling on the B1 level)
  • Provide clarity about bookings for individuals (non-student organization/non-department events), specifically, posting a guide on the website
  • Open recurring booking earlier – at least one month prior to semester begins
  • Increase the amount of available tables and types of tables within rooms
  • Allow groups to check out a digital projector as a back-up to in-room technology

Conclusion

District House has become a meaningful addition to GW’s campus filling a need for additional student centered space. The CSE plans to continue to build upon our first year in District House by expanding the quality, accessibility, and atmosphere of the space. In an effort to ensure progress, the CSE Reservations team has developed a 10-year strategic facilities plan that considers the current needs of the spaces and how to ultimately make the spaces as supportive to student learning and community building as possible.

In the CSE, we often present trainings and workshops for which we write curriculum. In order to learn how to write better, more intentional curriculum, Kaitlyn Schmitt attended the ACPA Program Design School in Dupont Circle on September 12-13, 2017. This two-day event, led by Erin Fischer of The Leadership and Training Studio, focused on improving curriculum-writing skills for both task-related curriculum and competency- or soft skills-based curriculum. The event was targeted for leadership development educators and professionals who write curriculum for training.

System for Writing Curriculum
At this event, we learned a useful system for writing curriculum. For task-based curriculum, first list the steps of the task. (We used the example of baking a cake.) Get feedback from others to make sure the steps are clear and no steps are missing. Then, divide the steps into sections. For soft-skills-based curriculum, build a similar outline, starting with describing the importance of the skill and defining relevant terms. Then add in more steps to educate about the skill, starting with an action verb. For example, if you are teaching about patience, steps might include “Discuss feelings of impatience,” “List things to do while waiting,” and “Analyze situations when patience is valuable and when it’s not.” To complete the plan, add these steps: “Show the model,” “Practice the skill/model,” “Deliver the final tips,” and “Create an action plan.” Again, divide these steps into sections.
Next, for each section, consider appropriate learning methods, that is, interactive activities that test the learning. Examples of learning methods include pair and share, case studies, debates, projects, flow charts, role-playing, brainstorming, vision boards, concept mapping, and simulations. Once you have determined the steps, the sections, and appropriate learning methods, the work of writing curriculum becomes much easier.

As an example, below is the plan I made during the event for an upcoming Excellence in Leadership Seminar session on recruitment and retention in student organizations. This is a 60-minute session.

Steps Sections/Titles Learning Methods
1. Discuss the importance of recruitment and retention.
2. Define the terms.
Foundations - Debate importance of recruitment versus retention
3. Explore inclusivity in organizations.
4. Compare strategies for recruitment.
Recruitment - Reflect on previous feelings of joining or not joining an organization
- Brainstorm recruitment methods (e.g., tabling, fliers)
- Debate the benefits and drawbacks to individual recruitment methods
5. Show the “Motivating the Middle” model.
6. Discuss ways to implement the model. (Practice the model.)
Retention - Pair and share how this theory applies to their organization
- Pair and share what strategies they can implement in their organizations
7. Deliver final tips.
8. Create an action plan.
Action Plan - Debrief how the content helped participants with the current issues they are facing

Varying Learner Styles
When developing a workshop or program, it is important to consider different styles of learning. Consider who is in the audience, their level of knowledge of the topic, and their stage of development. We discussed William Perry’s model consisting of dualism, multiplicity, relativism, and commitment in relativism. Different learning methods are appropriate for learners in each stage.
Additionally, the facilitator recommended considering the three most common perceptual styles as defined by the Institute for Learning Styles Research (ILSR): visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. We brainstormed ways to engage learners who prefer each style. Great curriculum will incorporate learning methods that reach learners with different styles.

Facilitator Guides
We also discussed writing facilitator guides using a pattern of four types of instructions: Facilitator Talking Points, Activity Instructions, Debrief, and Transition. By repeating this pattern and adding a Welcome and Closing, you can create a complete facilitator guide. The facilitator guide should be detailed enough for someone who has never facilitated before and who has not previously reviewed the content. Facilitator guides should be written in bullet points so they are easier to read.

Usefulness
Overall, the Program Design School provided a framework that encourages intentionality in workshop development. I regularly write curriculum for workshops on soft skills for the Excellence in Leadership Seminar, and this year I am writing more curriculum with the intention that someone else will facilitate the workshop. While I will likely not follow the system exactly, I have already applied what I learned at this event and I plan to adapt the system to match my own style. If ACPA repeats the event, I would recommend it to anyone who develops curriculum for workshops.

In April 2017, 259 student leaders responded to the Student Organization Resources Evaluation survey. The Center for Student Engagement (CSE) used that data to make improvements to resources for student organizations, including online resources, advising, and the Excellence in Leadership Seminar (ELS).

More than 55% of students said they would like to see the OrgSync Guides re-organized, so the OrgSync Guides were re-organized and made searchable by keyword. Available under the “Files” tab in organizations' OrgSync portals or in the “Search for Anything” bar, these written guides on topics such as “OrgSync How To’s” and “Organization Finances” can assist student leaders with many common organization tasks, on-demand, when they want it, at their own pace.

Staff advisors continue to build relationships with student organizations. More than 55% of students preferred receiving support from their staff advisor. Seventy-three percent of students were satisfied with their advisor’s level of involvement in their organization, and 24% of student leaders would like more involvement from their advisor. Both student leaders and advisors were encouraged to discuss the advisor's level of involvement and how they can best meet student needs.

Forty-five percent of students were not familiar with the Student Organization Resource Desk for receiving walk-in advising, and 11% of students confused the Resource Desk with CSE Finance Office hours to complete financial transactions. Despite this, nearly 80% of respondents who did visit the Resource Desk in 2016-2017 resolved their issue on-site. Thus, the CSE is increasing marketing of these resources, including pointing out resources in advising meetings and asking advisors to promote their hours at the Resource Desk to their organizations.

Finally, several feedback-driven changes were made to ELS, a workshop series to provide student leadership development that also serves as student organization training. Last year, three out of four students reported being satisfied with ELS. Participation in ELS had a positive impact on student organizations, including providing student leaders with increased knowledge; greater self-awareness; more connections with students, faculty and staff; and more ideas for their organization. New ELS topics were introduced to provide more options and address the variety of needs of student organizations that students detailed in the survey. New topics include GW Policies and Procedures, President’s Roundtable, and Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership.

Additionally, a significant minority of students indicated preference to attending student organization training in one day instead of throughout the year. To accommodate this preference, a block of ELS sessions will be offered on September 30. Dubbed “ELS Express”, attendance at these sessions will meet the training requirement for student organizations and help student leaders be prepared for the academic year.

Overall, the Student Organization Resources Evaluation provided valuable usage, satisfaction, and learning data for student organization resources, allowing the CSE to focus our improvement efforts in areas of need.

This blog has been created so the Center for Student Engagement and its staff can share news, updates, and insights into our field and the GW student experience.  Pieces will come from every level of our staff and will give everyone an opportunity to present their perspectives, passions, and ideas.  Posts will go up on a weekly basis and will be shared broadly so I hope you will take the time to read what our team has to say each week.

Tim Miller, Associate Dean of Students