Campus Climate Surveys for Community Colleges

older student photoWhen going about conducting a campus climate survey, there are a number of factors that need to be taken into account. Community colleges have special considerations in the administration of their campus climate surveys. Issues surrounding student demographics and resources can all affect the success and results of your survey. These considerations and differences do not make conducting a campus climate survey on a college campus impossible nor useless. Understanding these differences enable you to make the changes necessary to cater your survey to your particular institutions needs.

Student Demographics

Community colleges have a different student body makeup than that of a traditional 4-year college or university. One of the biggest mistakes you could make while conducting a campus climate survey on a community college campus is to assume that all of your students are the same.

To make sure that you are able to understand your survey results within the context of your different student groups, make sure to ask distinguishing questions, as well a questions that would only apply to those particular students. This can be accomplished by placing skip-questions strategically within your survey; that way, students only answer questions that directly apply to them. Here are a few student types that require special consideration.

Part-time students

Community colleges generally have more part-time students than they do full time students. This differs from more traditional colleges where there is a sizable student population that resides on campus and have more full-time students. When surveying, make sure to take their status into account. Part-time and full-time students may have different experiences on campus. For example, part-time students may be more likely to take night classes to make room for their work schedules and therefore get a different perspective of campus than day students.

2-year degrees

Campus climate surveys are meant to be administered every two years or so. This timeline is useful to see trends over time; conduct the surveys too frequently and it becomes harder to see the effect of policy changes or opinions. The fact that a lot of community college students pursue 2-year degrees means that many students will not be able to participate in a second survey. If many of your community college’s students are pursuing 2-year degrees, it may not make sense to follow up with students for future surveys.

Collecting information from 2-year degree students can still yield useful information even if you won’t be able to follow up with them again in subsequent years, as is the case with 4 year students, which allows for multiple opportunities to survey. In a way, you can use this to your advantage; every two years the majority of your students will be giving you a fresh and potentially less biased data of their experiences on your campus.

Older Students

Community college students tend to have a broader age range and educational backgrounds vs. traditional 4 year colleges and universities.  Make sure that the survey instrument allows for skip/branch logic so certain questions can be skipped if it does not apply to older student demographic.

Commuters

Community colleges see a fair number of students who commute to school. Commuters do not spend the same amount of time on campus, especially at night. They most likely do not live in the campus dorms, where many instances of sexual assault occur. While sexual assault can happen anywhere, anytime, commuters may not be the most helpful group to understanding campus climate. Make sure to ask distinguishing questions to sort answers from those that live on campus and those that don’t.

Community class members

Those involved in community classes are not considered enrolled students. However, they are important to survey because they interact with the campus as well. The problem with community class members is that they may not be involved in the campus awareness campaigns related to the campus climate surveys and may end up not participating in the campus climate survey. Community college’s campus climate survey questionnaire should include demographic questions that allow for segmenting the results by this group.  Your college may wish to forego surveying community class members and focus only on enrolled students, demographic questions can help you make sure of inclusion/exclusion.

Resources

The second biggest distinguisher between traditional 4 year universities and community colleges is resources. Community colleges may not have the funding or research teams that are often considered necessary to conduct a successful campus climate survey. However, do not let your funding or campus resources discourage you. Campus climate surveys can be conducted on budgets and with non-social science research teams.

Lack of funds

Community colleges often work with tight funds. Conducting a full campus climate survey can be an expensive project. For campuses with tight funding, hiring outside consulting teams may make economical sense, especially if you do not want to pay for surveying packages and statistical programs. Fortunately, most colleges have access to at least one of these types of programs, one of the biggest costs of conducting and analyzing a survey.

Other ways to save funds would be to assemble a small but competent team to create and conduct the survey. Besides having a small team, the survey may need to be shortened at first to save money on surveying costs. A small, concisely written survey is better than not administering a survey at all.

No research teams

Not all community colleges have research departments. This is especially relevant to trade and vocational schools who likely do not have the social science research skills or departments often used to conduct campus climate survey. The good thing is that a research department or school of social science is not necessary to conduct a successful campus climate survey. The lack of these main resources just means your college must get more creative with who they pick to create the survey. Research skills transfer into many disciplines, and there are bound to be students or faculty at your community college qualified for the job.

Conclusions

Conducting and administering a campus climate survey to a community college poses its own unique challenges, but it is not an impossible project. With the proper preparations and considerations taken into account, your survey can be successful and bring about valuable information about your campus.

 

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Photo by COD Newsroom  "New Student Orientation"

Five Resources for Conducting Campus Climate Surveys at a Community College

Campus Climate Survey Resources and Tools Campus climate surveys are not only useful to 4 year private institutions and public universities, they can be very useful to community colleges as well. Although there are special circumstances which need to be taken into account for conducting effective climate surveys in community colleges, they can be adapted and administered successfully.

Here is a list of 5 helpful resources to assist you in creating and administering your campus climate survey.

NotAlone.gov on Campus Climate Surveys

This is the official government website surrounding the issue of sexual harassment and assault. It gives general information about “how to respond to and prevent sexual assault.”

On their homepage, there is a link to their Resource Guide, which in turn gives schools several links to sources that are intended to help schools create their own campus climate surveys. The government’s own toolkit is included, which gives schools information on why the surveys are important, what they aim to accomplish, and how to successfully create and distribute a survey. This guide also includes a sample campus climate survey, which can be used as inspiration and adapted to your campus’ needs.

Learn from Other College's Campus Climate Survey Experiences

Possibly the most helpful resource for community colleges is learning from how other schools carried out their own campus climate surveys. Rutgers University--New Brunswick was the first university to run a pilot of this new campus climate survey. They documented their process, and created a document to share what they learned with other universities.

In their executive summary of their findings, they briefly mentioned the key lessons that they learned through the surveying process.

  • “Campus climate surveys provide more meaning when they are part of a larger assessment process.”
  • “The administration of campus climate surveys has the most impact when it is linked with the development of an action plan.”
  • “One size does not fit all.”
  • “It is important to find ways to represent all student voices.”
  • “A campus climate survey can be an educational tool in and of itself.”

We highly recommend reading Rutgers Campus Climate Surveys: Lessons Learned from the Rutgers-New Brunswick Pilot Assessment in full, as it provides very valuable insight into the survey process, as well as addressing problems they ran into. Detailed sections include methodology, preparation of assessment measures, implementation of measures, data analysis, and feedback on the survey experience.

Community Colleges and Campus Climate Surveys

Community colleges experiences with campus climate surveys serve as good resources.  There is an ever expanding number of community colleges who have completed campus climate surveys and have published their findings online. Grand Rapids Community College, Feather River College are just two that have publicly shared their experiences and findings. Since campus climate surveys should be tailored to your institution's specific needs, make sure to make the necessary changes on sample surveys to reflect your campus.

Online Survey Tools to Administer the Campus Climate Survey

There are numerous ways to survey a group of people, including interviewing, sending surveys in the mail, telephone, and handing out questionnaires. All surveys have their limitations, but the most adaptable and cost-effective surveying method for community colleges is the online questionnaire.

In choosing the right surveying tool for you, it is important to understand what type of capabilities you want your surveying tool to have. Do you need to have a high level of control on what the survey looks and feels like? Do you need for your statistical analysis to be done within that program, or do you only need a simple collection method to then analyze in a bonafide statistical package?

Idealware has a great article about different surveying tools and the needs they fill. They break down the different tools by ability and price.   One one end of the spectrum are simple and affordable options such as Survey Monkey, and on the other end of the spectrum is Qualtrics, a much pricier option.  The core requirement for Campus Climate Survey's is for the survey tool to ensure anonymity (e.g., IP addresses or any other identifiable data is not captured as part of the response).

Some colleges are engaging third party companies to run the campus climate survey as a stand-alone research project.  The budgetary requirement for this approach tend to be significantly higher.  For community colleges, there are a range of options that could fit their budget and need to augment capabilities.

Statistical Packages to Analyze Campus Climate Survey Response Data

For those looking to analyze survey results in a statistical program, one the one end of spectrum are simple tools such as Excel and on the other end are high sophisticated analysis packages such as STATA and SPSS. Both of these packages are heavily used in social science research. Many community colleges have access to some sort of statistical program.  An equally capable analytics software package gaining a lot of tracking in academic research and data analytics is R.  It is free and open source and its vast array of analytics and graphing libraries make it a formidable competitor to STATA and SPSS.   On

 

The benefit of using statistical packages in the analysis of surveys is that you can achieve results that are statistically significant. These packages are powerful and offer a multitude of ways to analyze your data, many of which cannot be completed in online survey tools. While they require skill to master, they yield powerful and trusted results.

Resources on your Campus

The last, but most important resource that is available to you in creating and administering your campus climate survey is your campus itself! Community colleges are filled with faculty and students qualified to assist you with survey research, especially those studying social science. In the planning of your survey, don’t forget to utilize the talent on your campus!

In the end, a campus climate survey conducted at a traditional 4 year university and one conducted at a community college may need to be adapted differently to meet their campus’ needs, but the resources used to create and distribute the surveys have a lot in common. In recognizing the tools available to you and your academic institution, you will be able to ensure the success of your campus climate survey.

 

Campus Climate Survey and New Initiatives at University of Chicago

uchicago photo The University of Chicago released its Spring 2015 Climate Survey NORC Report on September 1, 2015. The NORC, an independent research corporation, conducted the Sexual Misconduct Survey: “Attitudes, Knowledge and Experience” (also referred to as the Spring 2015 Climate Survey) on behalf of the University of Chicago in April 2015.

Design of the University of Chicago’s Campus Climate Survey

It was designed by the University faculty committee, based partially on a similar survey conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology  and the “Not Alone” survey toolkit created by the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault.

Campus Climate Survey Achieved a Response Rate of 31%

All enrolled students who were at least 18 years of age at the time of the survey were invited to participate during a two-week field period that ended on April 28, 2015.  A total of 12,485 undergraduate students and graduate and professional students at  the University’s Hyde Park campus were invited to participate in the survey. They completed surveys from 3,955 students, for an overall response rate of 31.7%.

New Programs and Priorities

Campus Climate Survey After the survey was completed, the University of Chicago is making new initiatives this coming year to address issues raised by the Campus Climate Survey.  They intend to substantially redesign the content and approach for their sexual misconduct prevention training, provide training for all new graduate and professional students, and launch a student run website (umatter.uchicago.edu) that makes university policy, procedures and resources easier to access. You can view all of their initiatives here.

UC’s proposed efforts are their first steps toward addressing the results from this year's Campus Climate survey. During the fall quarter,  their Campus and Student Life (CSL) staff will bring together interested students to discuss key findings from the Spring 2015 Climate Survey with a particularly focusing on how the results can best inform the University’s prevention and education strategies. This will provide an all inclusive meeting to help improve policy and community education of sexual assault on campus between both students and staff.

You can find the Spring 2015 Climate Survey Executive Survey here.

Will Other State's Follow NY’s “Yes Means Yes” Policy

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“Yes Means Yes”, also formally known as S5965, is leading the way with new and improved sexual assault policy and campus climate surveys. It won a unanimously popular vote in New York; which is one of the most densely populated and diverse states in the nation. The bill was signed into law July 7, 2015 and it requires both parties to obtain consent for each step and action related to sex. The law applies only on college campuses. At its heart is a simple concept: instead of "No Means No," it's "Yes Means Yes."

It switches the dynamic of consent in what could be an empowering way. The aims to change the power structure of the “hook-up” and making it law, in hopes that college sexual assaults will decrease especially with mandated campus climate surveys. The legislation, proposed by Governor Andrew Cuomo and called "Enough is Enough," was passed unanimously by the state Legislature.

Governor Andrew Cuomo is breaking down barriers with his legislation. This is a progressive movement in favor of reducing sexual crime in colleges. The Yes Means Yes Policy is formally articulated as such:

An act to amend the education law, in relation to the implementation by colleges and universities of sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence and stalking prevention and response policies and procedures; and to amend the civil practice law and rules, in relation to  privacy of name in certain legal challenges to college/university disciplinary findings; and making appropriations...

So if “Yes Means Yes” is passed in New York? Why not everywhere else? Here are Five Reasons why the rest of the United States should follow their lead.

1- Fulfill the Need for a Uniform Definition of Affirmative Consent to Sexual Activity

All ambiguity will be relinquished when states implement a statewide definition of affirmative consent. The definition for New York reads as follows:

"Affirmative consent is a knowing, voluntary and mutual decision among all participants to engage in sexual activity. Consent can be given by words or actions, as long as those words or actions create clear permission regarding willingness to engage in the sexual activity. Silence or lack of resistance, in and of itself, does not demonstrate consent. The definition of consent does not vary based upon a participant's sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression."

If implemented on a national level, or even on a state level, it will relinquish confusion of the boundaries of affirmative consent. This will aid in confusing legislation and court cases, because the meaning would be clear and concise nationwide and statewide.

2- Policy for Alcohol and/or Drug Use Amnesty

Provides that no bystander or victim that reports, in good faith, any incident of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking, will be charged with an alcohol or drug use violation of the institution's code of conduct.

This is a great step in the direction for students to build their faith in the universities, and coming forward for crimes that happen during parties, and outings. The people affected are college students and most cases are likely to happen during events in which alcohol is involved.

3- Increases Options for Survivors

Requires that an institution adopt and implement a "Students' Bill of Rights" as part of its code of conduct. The Bill of Rights shall include, but is not limited to, the opportunity to report a sexual assault to law enforcement or the institution, to be protected from retaliation, and to access services and resources. The Bill of Rights shall be distributed widely to students and college community members and shall be sent electronically to students at least once annually.

The student bill of rights allows options for survivors to confess crimes and seek justice. The availability of two options will likely increase chances of reporting crime.

4- Student Onboarding and Ongoing Education Campaign

Requires institutions to develop and implement a year-around, ongoing campaign on sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking education and prevention.

With students on board and informed about sexual assault, they will potentially begin to stand up against crime and spread the message across campus. This shows how the students have power with their voices.

5- Campus Climate Surveys/Assessments and Improvement

Institutions will be required to conduct a campus climate survey (assessment) developed using standard and commonly recognized research methods, and to conduct the climate survey no less than every other year. Each institution will ensure that answers to Campus Climate Surveys remain anonymous and that no individual respondent is identified. Each institution shall also publish the high-level results of such surveys on their website provided that no personally identifiable information shall be shared.

This requires the disclosure of public information of Campus Climate Surveys while also keeping it’s respondents as anonymous. All information will be broadcasted on their university websites, giving students and parents access to instances of sexual assault as well as students general attitude about the campus climate.

Campus climate surveys will create the transparency institutions needs to know where they stand and prioritize areas they need to improve.

Domino Effect? “Yes Means Yes” Law May Be Applicable For The Rest

Many states have already have some form of sexual assault policy and implementation strategy. The feasibility of implementing the “Yes Means Yes” policy statewide (and strictly only in federally funded colleges and universities) can mean that other states can easily adopt these policies, because they already currently exist.

The “Yes Means Yes” policy (S5965), requires all colleges and universities in the State of New York to implement uniform prevention and response policies and procedures relating to sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking. There is already existing policy in states like Michigan. Why shouldn’t states follow New York’s lead with “Yes Means Yes” policy and campus climate surveys?

All in all, “Yes Means Yes” law has been improved, refined, clarified and successfully implemented in two US states. Due to it’s broad scope of policy, it is malleable and able to mold and custom-fit into different colleges and universities. It holds a huge capability of spreading around the nation and going viral. With that, it has great potential to be applicable to the rest of the states. The only question is, will they begin to follow suit?

Photo by PeteDz.

Michigan Introduces “Yes Means Yes” Policy & Campus Climate Surveys

Campus climate survey at Michigan StateAlthough some may be weary of this decision, Michigan lawmakers have introduced “Yes Means Yes” policy, through Senate Bill 5102 and House Bill 4903 to the state. The senate bill was introduced September, 24, 2014 to make efforts to stop sexual assault on campuses. This makes it one of the 16 states who have been introduced or passed bills in relation to “Yes Means Yes” policy. "Bills like this in and of itself can't end sexual violence but it can be a very positive first step in changing the culture and the norms," said Executive Director Kathy Hagenian.

U Mich Leads the Pack on Campus Climate Surveys

Actions have been taken in Michigan colleges and universities. The forerunner, University of Michigan, currently administers Campus Climate Surveys. They have taken measures to reduce sexual assault and spread awareness of affirmative consent. The University of Michigan released the findings of a second campus climate survey of students on the Ann Arbor campus regarding sexual misconduct. U-M was one of 27 universities across the nation to participate in a survey sponsored by the Association of American Universities.

“This research [Campus Climate Surveys] is vitally important to our understanding of this problem so we can design education and prevention efforts in the most effective manner possible,” states their university president Mark Schlissel.

The university released a video earlier this year to bring additional awareness to the university’s commitment to creating a campus free of sexual assault, and broadly share the policy and reporting resources.

Universities and colleges in Michigan are beginning to enact progressive “Yes Means Yes” policy. After its introduction to the state, further action on sexual assault, affirmative consent, and campus climate surveys look like they may be in progress in the near future.

Photo by rogamuffin

Photo by David Paul Ohmer

Photo by Jeremy Bronson

Campus Climate Surveys: What to Expect in 2016

campus climate survey for 20162016 is a big year for Campus Climate Surveys and legislation. The surveys aims to give institutions the opportunity to better understand their campus and to make informed decisions about how to create and improve the safety of their educational environment. Recently, the US Senate Hearing 7.29.15 addressed the official bill The Campus Accountability and Safety Act. With that, the White House Task Force is adamant about cracking down on sexual assault and violences on campus.  With that, this upcoming year Campus Climate Surveys will potentially be federally mandated for all colleges and universities.

The first step in solving a problem is to name it and know the extent of it -- and a campus climate survey is the best way to do that. The White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault

Several states like California and New York have already adopted these surveys and other policies like “Yes Means Yes”. This is a standard that requires affirmative consent — affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity — throughout the encounter, removing ambiguity for both parties. With these two proactive states leading the way, the Campus Climate Surveys surveys will soon be required as part of a Title IX/Clery Act compliance program.  So what do these tests entail?

They compromise student and employee knowledge about:

    • The Title IX Coordinator’s role;
    • Campus policies and procedures addressing sexual assault;
    • How and where to report sexual violence as a victim/survivor or witness;
    • The availability of resources on and off campus, such as counseling, health, academic assistance;
    • The prevalence of victimization and perpetration of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking on and off campus during a set time period (for example, the last two years);
    • Bystander attitudes and behavior;
    • Whether victims/survivors reported to the College/University and/or police, and reasons why they did or did not report.
    • The general awareness of the difference, if any, between the institution’s policies and the penal law; and
    • The general awareness of the definition of affirmative consent.

With the topics being brought to light in the college community, many people will now be educated  about the basics of sexual assaults and what to do if involved. Many people remain unaware about the severity and frequency of sexual assaults. So, the surveys are an excellent tool in providing “education” to people who would otherwise be blind to an offensive and serious situation.

Surveys May Hold Problems Clearing Areas Of Ambiguity

The surveys seem invaluable but, there are also challenges like areas of ambiguity for the utilization and implementation of them. It is unclear for what purpose a climate survey would be used: “Is it intended as a consumer information tool, an institutional improvement tool, an enforcement mechanism or some combination of all three?” The answer to this question could have a substantial impact on how a survey is designed and on how schools and others react to its results.

However, the plausibility of how these tests results can impact schools across the nation is incremental and erases many doubts. But, the usage and implementation continues to be questioned. As legislation improved and becomes widespread, we will begin to see change in colleges and universities. California and New York provide proof that Campus Climate Surveys and “Yes Means Yes” legislation can work and be properly enforced.

Forerunners New York and California Enact 2015-16 Bills

New York and California are two out of fifty states to enact “Yes Means Yes” legislation requiring Campus Climate Surveys and legislation against sexual assault state-wide. As these forerunners continue to implement their policies, they set an example for the rest of the states to follow.

State by state Campus Climate Survey requirements as of Dec 2015

The leader of the pack, California created a standard in 2014 that requires affirmative consent throughout the encounter, removing ambiguity for both parties. The law protects both individuals by ensuring that there is a mutual understanding. Legislation deems a person who is incapacitated by drugs or alcohol cannot give consent. With this legislation, California colleges are being held more accountable for prevention, evaluation and a consistent protocol surrounding sexual assault.

New York’s Campus Climate Assessment Policy gives institutions the opportunity to increasingly understand their campus and to make informed decisions when it comes to providing a safe educational environment. Beginning in the 2015-2016 academic year, each State University of New York State-operated and community college will conduct a uniform climate survey that ascertains student experience with and knowledge of reporting and college adjudicatory processes for sexual harassment, including sexual violence, and other related crimes.

With these states creating the standard, Affirmative Consent laws and policies are making their way through the states. To Keep updated with continuing legislation, here is an updated list of Title IX Schools under investigation for Sexual Assault by the US Department of Education.

Affirmative consent legislation isn’t just about the more than 20 percent of young women and girls who will have to live as assault survivors. It’s about the 100 percent of women who have to live every day, never quite certain of their physical safety. Research shows that with affirmative consent education, we can create a culture of respect.”

 

Campus Climate Surveys - How The Legislation Has Evolved

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The Early Aspects Of Legislation

Over the past two years, campus sexual violence has grabbed the attention of filmmakers, lawmakers and the White House. This issue is garnering lots of attention — which is good for students safety in colleges and universities.

From the start, United States legislation has struggled in concisely defining “affirmative consent”. The policy colloquially known as “No Means No”, deemed to be a problem early on with its adoption at universities because of it’s loose terms of sexual assault. For many years, student reports of assault have been frequently mishandled. This discouraged survivors to come forward and identify themselves as victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. The majority of state laws define sexual assault using the old consent standard (“No Means No”) in terms of campus sexual assault. However, there are sex offenses that can be charged in the criminal justice system using an affirmative consent standard. While “no means no” has become a well-known slogan, it places the burden on victims, which makes it their responsibility to adamantly show resistance.

Unfortunately, early legislation faltered in identifying assaults and effectively executing its laws to implement safety for students in college. Since “No Means No” and other policies have been lackluster in its efforts, the government and several states have taken strides for improvement.

This has led to the establishment of Campus Climate surveys. The surveys are created to afford institutions the opportunity to better understand their campus and make informed decisions when it comes to providing a safe educational environment. The states that utilize this service will conduct a uniform climate survey that ascertains student experience with and knowledge of reporting. As well as college adjudicatory processes for sexual harassment, sexual violence, and other related crimes.

Recently, the state of California enacted SB 967 legislation to make “Yes Means Yes” the consent standard on college campuses, which takes a major step toward preventing sexual violence. This legislation requires preventative education during student orientation, increased access to counseling resources and training for adjudication panels. Thus, we begin to see a shift in policy and legislation being adopted by universities that increases security and prevention of continual sexual violence on campuses.

Confining The Confusion of Legislation

Presently, the implementation of Campus Climate Surveys and new legislation have made huge strides in confining the confusion of sexual assault on campus. Legislation is beginning to narrow down the definition of consent and sexual assault. Each has it’s own interpretation like California, whose  “Affirmative consent” means affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity. Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent, nor does silence mean consent”. Making these terms transparent is very important in effectively tackling the problem.

Until now, these sanctions have been voluntarily adopted by colleges; SB-967 gives them the backing of a government mandate. In addition to creating a vaguely and subjectively defined offense of nonconsensual sex, the bill also explicitly places the burden of proof on the accused. Stating that they must demonstrate that he (or she) took “reasonable steps … to ascertain whether the complainant affirmatively consented.” Policies as such are controversial and burden the victims more than necessary.

One of the task force's recommendations for revising sexual misconduct policies included defining consent as a "voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity." Past consent should not imply consent, nor should silence or the absence of resistance, the guidelines recommend.

Schools nationwide are in the process of rewriting or have already rewritten their sexual assault policies, procedures and prevention education programs to meet standards in the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act, known as the Campus SaVE Act. That took effect in 2013 as part of the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. With a fairer process, more students are coming forward to report crimes, and in time campuses will be safer.

Improvement of  the Federal Government’s Enforcement Efforts

The Obama administration is working to improve the Federal Government’s enforcement efforts, and to make them more transparent in practice. He states:

“We need to build on these efforts. To better address sexual assault at our nation’s schools, we need to both strengthen our enforcement efforts and increase coordination among responsible federal agencies. Also, and importantly, we need to improve our communication with students, parents, school administrators, faculty, and the public, by making our efforts more transparent.”

In 2014 President Obama proposed this call to action to identify the problem and to solve it. The White House Task Force was created to protect students from sexual assault. They have proposed a new standard to dealing with sexual assault on campus strive to show sexual assault survivors that they are not alone. The Task Force helps schools live up to their obligation to protect students from sexual violence.

  1. Identify the scope of the problem on college campuses;
  2. Help prevent campus sexual assault;
  3. Help schools respond effectively when a student is assaulted; and
  4. Improve, and make more transparent, the federal government’s enforcement efforts.

Obama has stated that, Campus Climate Surveys are necessary and will be mandated in 2016. He feels that a mandate for schools to periodically conduct a climate survey will change the national dynamic. The Federal government will have a better picture of what’s really happening on campus. Schools will be able to more effectively tackle the problem and measure the success of their efforts (notalone.gov)

Developing A Comprehensive Sexual Misconduct Policy

The Task Force has created a way for colleges and universities to have an easily accessible, user-friendly sexual misconduct policy. They realize that many schools do not have adequate policies and that there is no one approach that suits every school. So they have created a policy aid that will help with the grey area that each school will have due to their diversity.  The White House Task Force states:

We are providing schools with a checklist for a sexual misconduct policy. This checklist provides both a suggested process for developing a policy, as well as the key elements a school should consider in drafting one. Importantly, schools should bring all the key stakeholders to the table – including students, survivors, campus security, law enforcement, resident advisors, student groups (including LGBTQ groups), on-campus advocates, and local victim service providers. Effective policies will vary in scope and detail, but an inclusive process is common to all.

In June of 2014, they provided schools with a sample Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with local law enforcement. The MOU can help open lines of communication and increase coordination among campus security, local law enforcement and other community groups that provide victim services. This can also improve security on and around campus, make investigations and prosecutions more efficient, and increase officer's’ understanding of the unique needs of sexual assault victims. They will explore legislative or administrative options to require colleges and universities to conduct an evidence-based survey, also known as Campus Climate Surveys, in 2016.

In essence, The White House Task Force has played a big role in the improvement of legislation in colleges and universities with sexual assault. They seek to clearly define the problem, identify it, and solve it. The implementation of Campus Climate Surveys is a very important aspect of this process. It’s mandatory implementation in 2016 will only lead to vast improvement in sexual assault policy and legislation on college and university campuses nationwide. Policy and legislation has only improved since progressive policies have been implemented and helping  sexual assault become widely known all over the nation.

 

Photo by Mark Fischer

The 7 Steps to Conducting a Successful Campus Climate Survey

Conducting campus climate survey If your educational institution has decided to conduct a campus climate survey, you may be struggling with where to begin. You are not alone; designing a successful campus climate survey is a complex task, one that requires thorough planning, collaboration and hard work by everyone involved to yield useful information.

The United States government has issued a guide to help colleges in their efforts to reduce sexual assault on their campuses. This guide goes in depth on creating campus climate surveys. It is full of valuable information and deserves a thorough reading. However, for those looking for a quick overview, here are 7 basic steps to creating a campus climate survey to get you moving in the right direction.

Step 1 - Set Goals and Milestones

Sit down and discuss with your administrators, deans, Title IX coordinators to understand what kind of information you are wanting to gain from conducting a campus climate survey. Creating goals and requirements for the final survey will become your guideline for developing the survey.  It is also very important to set a deadline for major milestones, which include:

  1. Survey design
  2. IRB approval
  3. Finalizing technology/administration and analytical setup
  4. Administering the survey
  5. Conducting analysis
  6. Publishing results
  7. Determining action items, priorities, budget, roles/responsibilities for upcoming year

Step 2 - Engage with IRB

The order of this step may change depending on your educational institution’s approval process.  Most colleges/universities will have a formal Institutional Review Board (IRB) process to make sure the survey follows the IRB guidelines.  This may require proposing the project before any work is done.  Other IRB or campus review boards will only need to approve the final survey draft before it is sent out for responses. Check with your university’s or college’s human subject research guidelines before administering surveys.

Step 3 - Assemble a Team

After you have reached a consensus on the goal of your campus climate survey and know how you will engage with the IRB, it is time to assign roles and responsibilities of survey creation, review and distribution.  You will most likely need a multi-disciplinary team to help you. Preferably, you will have representation and cooperation from the following participants:

  • Research faculty (social science research)
  • Academics
  • Administration
  • Student representatives
  • Grad research assistants
  • Title IX administrators and coordinators
  • Counseling services employees

If you are reading this blog post, it is most likely that you will be the main coordinator who will come up with initial list of survey questions and setting review meetings and deadlines to keep the project progressing

Step 4 - Create and review survey

With your team assembled, many workshops and planning sessions will be needed to complete the survey creation process. These workshops will be essential to ironing out what questions are needed to obtain the information you are looking for. During these meetings, it is very important to take notes, particularly on the rationale for each question that is included. These notes will prove a valuable resource, especially when you run the survey again.

When the survey starts to come together, it is wise to test your campus climate survey with a focus group. These participants will be able to give you feedback, making you aware of things you need to change, questions you need to clarify, etc.

Finally, always review your final survey before it is sent out to your respondents. Some things to check for other than grammar and spelling are length, biased/leading questions and statements, confusing or misleading questions, etc.

Step 5 - Administer the Campus Climate survey

When your campus climate survey is completed and ready to be distributed, make sure to do it in a way that protects your respondent’s anonymity. There are a number of ways to distribute surveys, with the most popular being internet-based distribution. By using online survey programs such as Qualtrics or Survey Monkey, you have control over when the surveys open and close. They also offer tools to analyze the data when it comes in.

Make sure to distribute your survey to as many people as possible to ensure you are getting a good number of responses. Too few responses can lead to results that are not statistically sound.

Step 6 - Remind your respondents to take the survey

To increase your respondent numbers, make sure to periodically remind people to take the survey. Do not overburden them with reminders, however, or this could lead to people becoming irritated and less likely to respond.

Another way to gain more respondents is to incentivize the survey. This could be accomplished by offering a tangible reward, either to all respondents or to one or a few lucky respondents. Not all colleges and institutions offer incentives for their survey, so be sure to discuss incentives and budgets that comply with your institution’s values and budget.

Step 7 - Start analyzing the Campus Climate Survey data & results

After the survey response collecting time period has passed, or you have reached your sampling goal, close the survey. You may now start analyzing the results!

Many survey programs will allow you to analyze your results with their tools, but most will not be able to analyze open-ended questions. Make sure to analyze these answers carefully, as they often provide unique and interesting insights that can not be collected through traditional multiple choice questions.  You may need a grad assistant to "code" the responses so they can be analyzed as quantitative items

Publish your findings!

Those are the 7 basic steps to creating a successful campus climate survey! While these steps have been stripped down to their most basic forms, there is still a lot of complexity behind them. Remember, this guide is not a substitute for reading the full guide issued by the government, but a supplement and a springboard. Use these basic steps to start your planning, and refer to the full guide for more detailed instruction.

 

Introduction to Campus Climate Surveys

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Campus climate surveys are becoming closer and closer to turning into government mandate. With sexual harassment and assault garnering increased media attention, college and university institutions can no longer remain silent and inactive. Your school may be Title IX compliant, but are you doing all you can do to protect your students? Because sexual harassment and assault are very complex issues, tackling the problem can be very confusing, and it is difficult to know where to start. One useful tool that can help you understand and prevent sexual assault on your campuses is a campus climate survey. It is important to understand exactly what these surveys are, and why they are important, to be able to implement them successfully.

What is a Campus Climate Survey?

A campus climate survey is comprehensive survey which gathers information on demographics, perceptions of administration, assault and harassment occurrence, attitudes and perceptions of sexual assault, etc. This type of survey is administered on a campus-wide basis, and responses are recorded anonymously.

The most important information that is gathered through this survey is the occurrence of sexual harassment/assault, and the attitudes of faculty, staff and students surrounding this issue. All of this information is then used to identify problems on campus, prevent future cases of sexual assault, and improve response to cases brought to the university or college.

Five Reasons Why Campus Climate Surveys are Important

1- Understand what is happening on your campus

Understanding the attitude towards sexual harassment/assault and how it expresses itself on your campus gives you a valuable tool to work towards correcting the problem.

If a college or university relies on reported rapes to gauge their campus atmosphere and safety, they are only seeing a fraction of what goes on. Studies have concluded that only 13% report a forcible rape, and an even smaller and shocking 2% report being raped if they were incapacitated during the incident. Anonymous surveys are more likely to yield accurate results as the anonymity makes it easier for students and faculty to express their true feelings and experiences. Understanding the statistics of sexual assault on your campus-- how often it happens, where it happens, how it is viewed-- is the first step to stopping it.

2- Identify goals

After you have collected results and analyzed the information from the survey, you should have a clear picture of what is happening on your campus. From here, you can address the areas of concern. With concrete data your administration can develop goals that are realistic and measurable. With solid evidence on your side, programs and initiatives are more likely to receive the funding they need.

3- Set Priorities

Change happens slowly, and it would be near impossible to address all issues surrounding sexual harassment and assault at once. A campus climate survey will help you identify your most pressing concerns first. By identifying your most pressing needs, programs changes and implementation will be expedited. You will also understand in what areas you will need to train your administrators to make your changes most effective.

4- Build Awareness and Gain Support

Sharing the results of the campus climate survey with your campus body, while it may be unflattering, can raise awareness for issues that did not have support before. Share your concerns and goals with your student body; they will see that the administration is actively working towards solutions and they can offer valuable resources (volunteering, marketing, research, etc.) to help accomplish the goals.

5- Measure progress

The continual administering of campus climate surveys lets you track the effectiveness of your programs and chart your progress. This is an invaluable tool to help you evaluate your programs and make necessary changes. There is no better way to track your progress than through campus climate surveys.

Your students and faculty are trusting their safety to you and your administration.

In the effort to make schools safe from sexual assault and harassment, campus climate surveys are a great tool to understand what is going on on campus and what areas can be improved. Since these types of surveys may become government mandated in the near future, it is important to understand what they are for and why they are important.

For more information about the purposes and importance of conducting campus climate surveys and fighting sexual assault, visit notalone.gov.  

Photo by romanboed

Using Custom Fonts with AWS OpsWorks, Cloudfront and Rails 4.1

We attempted to update the fonts of course apps to custom fonts and it was a very painful experience.  Here is the summary of the challenge and the various solutions we banged our heads against, and finally a solution that worked.

The setup

The following problem and solution will only apply to you if you are using a setup similar to ours.  We have an AWS Opsworks hosted Rails app which is using Cloudfront as the CDN then you will face some interesting challenges.

The Problem

The browser is throwing this error and refusing to load the font because the font is coming from a different domain (e.g. dxxxx.cloudfront.net) vs. what is displayed in the address bar.  When browser did a GET request on the font file from cloudfront, it did not get the Origin header allowing the site in the address bar to use this font... In a way, it is preventing you from hot-linking a font file.  Even though you it is a licensed font and you have it in your repo assets.

Why does this problem exist?

Fonts are special assets, unlike images, js and css, they come with higher intellectual property protection standards and browsers are starting to recognize that.  If your assets are being loaded via cloudfront's SSL URL then everything except fonts will load fine, browser console will show CORS error.

Rule out "quick fixes" for opsworks / cloudfront setup

  1. You can whitelist CORS settings on cloudfront; while necessary, this is insufficient, because cloudfront will just cache the headers as provided by your load balancer (meaning your nginx/app instance)
  2. Changing nginx configuration would have been an easy fix but this will not work because if you are using Opsworks standard setup/deploy recipes, nginx header customization is not an option for you
  3. font-asset gem will not work because you rails app will not get to serve the font assets at all, assets will be served by nginx by default as it sees the assets in public/assets directory and saves your rails stack from having to serve these assets
  4. Setting "config.serve_static_assets=true" will not work, again, nginx is setup in standard opsworks setup to serve as a reverse proxy and will serve a precompiled asset (font) just as it would serve an image without hitting your rails app
  5. rails-cors gem will not work, again for the same reasons as before, pre-compiled assets get served by nginx, there is no easy way to reach back into your app where gems like rails-cors and font-asset could help

The Hack

We were able to get custom fonts to work only by setting up another origin in cloudfront which would hit an s3 bucket for all paths with "webfont.*" in their names.  For this to work the font had to renamed to have "xxx-webfont.ttf" filenames.  Here is the list of changes/setup we created to fix the CORS pain:

  • Setup an S3 bucket which will have all your fonts
  • Rename the fonts to have the word "webfont" in the name
  • Setup a CORS policy in this bucket (sample here)
  • For your cloudfront distribution, which already has a Default origin setup, add a new origin which will point to this s3 bucket
  • S3 bucket permissions
    • You can have your s3 setup as a "public website" if you are ok with all the fonts in your bucket to be publicly accessible, we didn't. We created the bucket with default permissions and then let cloudfront Origin setting create a special policy to access this s3 bucket
  • Now create a new Origin in Cloudflare; in  Origin Settings make sure to:
    • Set Restrict Bucket Access = Yes
    • In Your Identities, let it Create a new Identity (this will be used by cloudfront to access your restricted s3 bucket which has the fonts)
    • Set Grant Read Permissions on Bucket = "Yes, Update Bucket Policy".  This will create the policy for the bucket and let cloudfront access it
    • In Origin Behavior make sure to set the path pattern to be "-webfont.*" which will make sure that any path having a webfont request will be directed to the s3 bucket origin which you just created; all other paths will be hitting your standard rails stack and will be cached as before
    • Also make sure to set Forward Headers as whitelist, which will allow you to add Origin as a whitelisted header

Screenshot at Sep 21 00-47-15

  • Now in your Rails app, your CSS needs to have "url" instead of rails font URL helpers.  The reason for this is simple.  These font files are static, we do not expect to be generating digests for them and having "url" will allow us to access these files by their origin names instead of one which has the has digest appended to it.  We wanted to keep things simple as we will not be changing the fonts too frequently, and if we do, the filenames will be different enough thereby not needing of the hash digest (vs. assets like application.js, which change frequently while having the same filename).  Ultimately, you can always use query string to override the caching behavior if you are really concerned that stale font files are hanging around in the interwebs for too many hours infecting people's vision.  If you really want to have the precompiled hash-digest files then you will need to copy these to the s3 buckets, you have three options here, we didn't bother with this, we are ok with copying over the font files manually to the bucket as part of our process:
    1. In your chef recipes, you can have a step after asset pre-compilation to copy the assets to the bucket
    2. If you use a continuous integration setup (we use Codeship), then you can use that service to precompile and copy assets (font files, e.g. *.ttf, *.eot, *.wof*) over to the s3 bucket with every deploy
    3. You can use asset-sync gem to copy over the assets after pre-compliation set

With these changes in place, we were able to get the fonts to work in Chrome, Firefox and Hindernet Exploder.  Too many hours wasted to learn all this.  Wish AWS had made it simple to customize the nginx settings...

wish you luck!

Your Progress Bar May be Broken

journey of thousand miles photo

Question - Should e-learning courses have progress bars?

If you answered Yes then you will not be rebelling against the norm that online courses are expected to have a progress bar, it is pretty much a requirement.  Everyone has it, we look for it when we are presented with a multi-page survey or an e-learning course.  We want to know where we are.

If you answered No then we would love to hear your rationale, because this was our position as well, since our launch two years ago.  Progress bars can be distracting.  If I am at 0%, and after 10 minutes of learning and clicking, i am at 3% then it tells me the embarrassingly minuscule progress I have made and that a long and arduous road lies ahead.  So is it better not to show anything at all rather than to show a participant that they still have 97% left?

If you answer It Depends then your answer is a bit more correct vs. the Yes/No answers… read on and find out why.

>> You have read 20% of this article

Why obsess over progress bars?

Since our livelihood at Get Inclusive depends on delivering engaging educational content through online courses, we have to take all aspects of the learner’s experience very seriously.  A progress bar (or lack thereof) is a very important component of the learner’s experience.  In this post I want to share with you what we found, how we thought about it and how we ended up putting this research to practice.

>>>> you have read 30% of this article

So what is the consensus on progress bars research?

Turned out (to our surprise) that very smart people (with PhDs) have spent a lot of hours researching and publishing the effectiveness of progress bars.  During our search for the ultimate truth on this seemingly simple topic of progress bars, we came across a 2013 meta-research that nicely combines all the other research into a neatly packaged consensus. These researchers (from City College London, Google UK and Gallup Poll) cite that:

… effect of progress indicators appear to be mixed, where some studies found that progress indicators reduced drop-offs, some concluded that they increased drop-offs, and yet others found that they had no effect on drop-off rates.

Drop-offs are bad.  This is when the participant either stops working on the survey, or stops paying attention.  For all intents and purposes, drop-off means you have lost the participant.  They will do whatever is needed to get to the end if it is a requirement but if they had an option, they would rather not participate.

>>>> you have read 45% of this article

Relevance of this study to Get Inclusive

While this research was focused on experiments observing participant behavior with multi-page surveys, the relevance to online e-learning courses should be readily apparent.  In multi-page surveys, as in online e-learning modules, participants are presented with content (statements, questions, videos, cheesy photos, etc.) and are asked to respond to questions.  e-Learning modules may have more emphasis on content but the mechanics or content delivery and participant interaction remain very much the same.  Please note that at Get Inclusive we have a 0% cheese policy, we are highly allergic to it, so we really obsess over the content as much as on the dilemma of the progress bar.

What really matters in these long interactive content delivery methods (multi-page surveys or e-learning courses) is drop-off rate – this happens when a participant closes the browser windows, or just tunes out and starts clicking the “next” button as if they are being chased by killer whales or, physically dropping off their chairs out of sheer boredom.  Drop offs are bad.  They have to be measured and managed.  We measure drop-off in terms of level of engagement on any given page.  Measuring the number of participants who didn’t finish is not enough.  Drop-off is not a cliff, it’s a slow slide and as an e-learning training provider or a multi-page surveyor, you should be able to pinpoint where the slow-slide into drop-off land began.

>>>> you have read 50% of this article

Not all Progress Bars are Created Equal…

What we really loved about this research is that they took the (ahem, cheese warning) progress on the progress bar research to a whole new level.  They did this by setting up 32 experiments and showing the participants three types of progress bars (yes, we were in heaven when we found out that there are different types of progress bars):

  1. Linear progress bar – constant speed, e.g. if you are on page 1 of a 10 page survey, you will see progress bar jump up 10% as you go from one page to the next.
  2. Slow-to-fast progress bar  – starts out slower than the your actual progress, but as you are closer to the end it speeds up,  e.g. it may show 5% increments in the beginning but larger gains towards the end.
  3. Fast-to-slow progress bar – as you can guess, this one starts out with bigger leaps in the beginning as you turn the pages but slower towards the end.

And the winner is…

According to this research, the fast-to-slow progress bar is a clear winner.  Constant speed (linear progress bar) increases drop-off.  Slow-to-fast progress bars also increase drop-off rates, as it is plain discouraging to be rewarded “less” than the mathematical actual progress.  So why is it that fast-to-slow progress bars are so effective?  Before we go there, let us consider the ethical implications of using such a progress bar which does not reflect the true mathematical reality of where a person is.

And what about the ethics of this magic trick?

Having a “fast-to-slow” progress bars does seem to be a manipulative mind-trick designed to dupe the learners into believing that they are further ahead than they actually are.  So before we considered whether/how to implement, we had to be comfortable with the ethics behind it.  In this complex domain of intersection of mathematics, learning and philosophy, we turned to our favorite Chinese philosopher (no, not Confucius, actually his predecessor Laozi) who said: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”.  Let us look at what the steps are for a learner when they participate in one of our courses:

  1. Participant opens an invitation email sent by their employer/college administrator
  2. Participant clicks on an enrollment link in this email to arrive at the course registration page
  3. Participant enters email/password to register
  4. Participants starts the course and is presented with the content (content pages that take a total of 20-50 minutes to complete)
  5. Participant clicks “done” at the end of the course and receives a PDF certificate

The participant who takes the first step (i.e., clicking the enrollment link) is infinitely more likely to complete the course than one who ignored the email.  Should that not count for anything? we believe it should.  But then there is another drop-off point, what if they come to the registration page but see this as a less important/less urgent task vs. other things and never return.  Again, another very important step that is mathematically not linked to the progress bar at all in a traditional sense.  Why would we present the participant with a big 0% if they have taken these important steps.

No credit for the biggest obstacle to learning? e-Learning participants navigate around the biggest obstacle at the beginning of the e-learning course,one that doesn’t exist towards the end – namely, assessing Cognitive Load of the task – how much mental effort is this thing going to take.  Two activities requiring identical time commitments can have different cognitive loads, e.g. Multiplying pairs of 4 digit numbers for 10 minutes vs. reading your favorite newspaper.  Participants are trying to assess whether the cognitive load is worth the positive (or negative) incentives that come with participating in the course.  Participants develop this tradeoff as quickly as they can, in the first few interactions, and then they confirm this assessment in the next few interactions and continue or put this in a “return some other day” bucket.

The very low (less than 10%) completion rate of online courses at sites such as Coursera raise questions about how to measure progress.  The completion rate increases to 25% for students who answered at least one question correctly on the very first quiz (Inside Higher Ed).  Beginnings matter, progress in the first few pages is much more important towards achieving the goal relative to the last few pages.

In the case of courses at Get Inclusive, we ask participants to engage in real thinking and self-reflection and share their thoughts.  Participants aren’t putting on a video and taking a nap.  They have to put mental energy into it.  We are asking them to get over the cognitive miser part of their brains.  It is really challenging for participants to get through the first 10 pages as compared to the last few pages.  The progress for these first interactions has more value because this is where the participant is committing to the process.  Why wouldn’t we reward them with faster progress during these first few pages?

Beyond lazy estimates

I hope you are seeing our thought process here.  Mathematical truth is critically important yet just a partial truth.  A progress bar needs to be more than a lazy and simple division of “current-page divided by total-pages” based estimate.  A progress bar needs to consider and acknowledge all the obstacles the participant has overcome to get to where they are and how this progress relates to their reaching the “goal”.  Now we are in the land of heuristics-based progress bars and are comfortable talking you through how we implemented it in our courses.

Progress Bars at Get Inclusive

Everyone Start at 8%

Our customers (employers, college administration) send out an email introducing us and letting their participants know that we are providing an online course and communicating any other requirements (deadline, incentives, etc.) All participants who put in the effort of opening this email and clicking a link in it to register for the course are acknowledged with an 8% progress.  Several factors are taken into considering to come up with this number, which include drop-off/engagement rates and obviously the high degree of importance of these initial steps.

Acknowledging Cognitive Load

Participants are then presented with course content.  We know that they will be doing an assessment of cognitive load and deciding whether they should participate in the course now or come back “tomorrow”.  For this main part of the learning process, we show a distraction free progress bar at the top which visually (not numerically) communicates where the participants is.  You are looking at the first page of the course in the image below, the 8% starting progress carries over visually.

Visual vs. Numeric Progress Bar

We opted for a visual progress bar (as opposed to numeric) in the actual content pages.  We believe it matters a lot less whether the progress is 45% or 55%, it is “half-way”.  And this rounding is perfectly communicated via a green bar that fills from left to right as the participant makes progresses through the course pages.  On the dashboard, however, both visual and numerical versions are displayed.

Fast-to-slow Progress Bar

After having progress-bar-free courses since our founding, we had sufficient reasons to evolve our thinking and dip our toes into the murky lands of progress bars.  We experimented with various profiles and ended up with the one shown below.  A curve-fit formula helped us implement this in code.

For a participant going through the course, we first calculate the course page progress (x-axis), which is based on the lazy math (current page divided by total pages).  As noted earlier, this does not acknowledge the cognitive load assessment the participant is making and the important “commitment” steps s/he is taking during the first few pages of the course.  So we acknowledge that by adjusting upwards the first quarter of the course.  We also consider the content of the course pages in this adjustment.  Content presented earlier is foundational and progress there has a relatively higher impact on subsequent modules.  We expect this to be the case for most instructional courses.

>>>>> You have read 95% of this article

What about the "slow" part of the fast-to-slow progress bar?

What goes up must come down and the progress bar that moves with larger increments in the beginning must slow down towards the end. This raises an important question - isn't this demotivating towards the end? while this may be true, there is strong evidence to suggest that as humans we naturally experience higher motivation levels towards completing a task if we can visualize (literally see) the goal or the finish line.  For e-learning courses, being near the goal is represented by the progress bar being nearly full (or visually more full than empty).  Evidence of this extra motivation closer to the goal has been a subject of several research efforts (e.g., Cheema and Bagchi 2011).  So all in all, the fast-to-slow progress bar reduces progress increments from the second half where extra motivational juice is naturally present and acknowledges the challenges the participants have to overcome during the first half by higher progress increments.

What’s next

We launched the progress bar about a month ago.  We will be evaluating the engagement data we collect to see what the impact is from our days of not having a progress bar at all.  We will not be evaluating the efficacy of our chosen fast-to-slow progress bar vs. linear as we are satisfied with what the research has concluded.  What we are curious about is improving the accuracy with which we attribute progress in the initial steps because…

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step

Laozi (c 604 bc – c 531 bc)

You have reached 100% of this post – Did you observe that you were presented with a “You have reached x%” message during the beginning sections of this post.  Did you notice that it went missing? was having it helpful? From a purely word-count perspective, you were at 34% when we showed 50% completion.  Would love to hear your thoughts on this.

Campus SaVE Act - responsibility and the consequences...

consequences_responsibilities_campus_save_act.png

Now that the Campus SaVE Act is being implemented in college and university campuses across the country, the work is well under way in educating the student population about the issue of on-campus violence and bystander intervention. At this point, it should no longer be a subject for people to talk about in dark corners or behind closed doors in dorm rooms across the nation. Still, it is not a topic that many will feel comfortable discussing openly so it’s important for universities to find ways to motivate and encourage those who must take part in these courses to actually want to be an active participant. There are several ways that they can accomplish this. What about colleges and campus that have not yet implemented the Campus SaVE act or do not have a plan in place?

While there are consequences for failure to meet the requirements set out in the new law, the most effective approach for success will to encourage participants to want to take an active role in the Campus SaVe Act program. This will require each campus to seriously consider the answer to several important questions before they can proceed in finalizing their new program of education in this regard.

What are the Consequences for Students and Employees Who do Not Take the Required Courses?

Getting campus administration to become more proactive in dealing with the Campus SaVE Act requirements is no easy task. Not only will they have to allocate funds for this training program but they will have to incorporate this new perspective on this old activity in order to change the thinking of many on this very sensitive subject. The consequences for the institution’s that do not comply is clear; any institution found to be in violation of the ACT may have penalties imposed that could be as high as $35,000 per violation in addition to the limitation or even suspension of eligibility of receiving federal aid if necessary. Considering the fact that most institutions would not be able to keep their doors open makes this a cause for serious concern.

Consequences for the Students / employees?

However, for the student the situation is not as clear. Each institution will be required to implement their own level of consequences for students who fail to comply with the new law. Title IX coordinators in each school are considering their options to motivate staff, faculty, and students to want to comply with this new law. For some, they consider making it a requirement for graduation but that route raises additional concerns. The student may opt to wait until the end of their educational career to take the required courses and in effect, defeating its purpose.

Other campuses are considering making it a requirement for registration. Students who do not wish to take the courses will not be permitted to enroll in the classes they need in order to complete their education. It is clear, that while the law has found a favorable following in many cases, there are several issues that still need to be addressed in this regard.

How will a college or university be judged on its efforts to implement this new law?

There is also the issue of how to determine the success of any educational institution that is expected to meet these new requirements. Administrators at every institution will have to define and find a way to measure their success in terms of compliance. Should this be determined by the percentage of students that have completed the course or should it be set by some other parameter? Since the penalties for non-compliance can ultimately be damaging to the educational institution, it is in the institution’s best interest to find out exactly how their rate of success will be measured within the guidelines of this new Campus SaVE Act.

Without a doubt, the idea of making our educational institutions across the nation safer is an important goal that everyone should be concerned with. However, the new law still leaves behind numerous questions that must be answered or at the very least clarified in order for any of them to see any type of measurable success in implementation.

# # #

image courtesy: johnloo@flickr

Not My Athletic Teams! Six Rape Myths and Reality

Athletes tend to have higher acceptance of rape-supportive statements vs. control group. This summary looks at key findings from research paper "Understanding Community-Specific Rape Myths : Exploring Student Athlete Culture" by Sarah McMahon

Violence Against Women – Review of Prevention Training Programs

In an effort to reduce the level of abuse that these women have to deal with educational programs have been implemented to refocus society’s pattern of thinking so that women can be viewed as a more valuable asset. Here are several online training programs that have proven effective in helping communities to reach their goals.

Violence Against Women – Review of Effective Training Programs

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Every year millions of women and young girls from around the globe are forced to live every day under the ever-present threat of violence. Statistics show that one out of every three women will have to at some point in their lives cope with either some sort of physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. The impact of these assaults, not only affect the women victims but all of society as a whole. In an effort to reduce the level of abuse that these women have to deal with educational programs have been implemented to refocus society’s pattern of thinking so that women can be viewed as a more valuable asset. There are many different topics that can be covered in these programs. Here are several online training programs that have proven effective in helping communities to reach their goals.

The Online Training Institute

http://olti.evawintl.org/images/courses/Brochure/OLTI-eFile.pdf

The Online Training Institute program provides CEUs for professionals who are responsible for investigating sexual assault cases. The program focuses on keeping them abreast of the latest developments in regards to sexual assault. They apply extra emphasis on how to handle cases involving adult and adolescent victims who know their attackers. It addresses the unique issues such as community attitudes and biases that often interfere with the investigation process and how to overcome them. Courses offered in this program include “What Does Sexual Assault Really Look Like?”, “Preliminary Investigation: Guidelines for First Responders”, and “Effective Victim Advocacy in the Criminal Justice System: A Training Course for Victim Advocates.”

Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs

http://learn.wcsap.org

The WCSAP sponsors several online courses that cover a variety of topics that address the issues of violence against women. They offer several recorded webinars and online training courses that talk the student through a variety of issues dealing with violence against women and how victims, advocates, and others involved should deal with them. They keep everyone concerned up to date on the latest topics that deal with sexual assault as well as provide direct links to other National Resources that deal with such topics as “Understanding Sexual Violence”, “Working With Survivors”, Preventing Sexual Violence”, and “Addressing Public Policy.”

VAWnet.org

VAWnet.org

The National Online Resource Center on Violence Against Women online training has virtually everything anyone might need to know about violence against women. They cover topics on domestic violence, sexual violence, transitional housing, survivors of domestic violence, building healthy teen relationships, parental issues, foster care, addressing discriminatory housing barriers for victims of domestic violence, and addressing domestic and sexual violence, substance use and mental health issues. Each program tool is designed to raise awareness, increase or enhance each individual’s knowledge base so that they are better equipped to deal with this type of crime.

UNODC

Training_Curriculum_on_Effective_Police_Responses_to_Violence_against_Women [PDF]

The United Nations’ training curriculum is specifically designed to enhance the knowledge of the local and national police so they are better equipped to respond to reports of violence against women in intimate relationships. The online training lessons include effective measures of preventing violence, how to respond and investigate reports, and how to best utilize the available resources in order to meet the needs of victims during and after an incident.

Center for Disease Control

Training_Practice_Guidelines [pdf]

The CDCs Professional Training program concentrates on training techniques on how to deal effectively with the complexities involving sexual and intimate partner violence issues. Their comprehensive programs encompass many different people and groups that may have to address these issues and teaching multiple approaches on how to address these complicated situations. Some of the courses included in the program include: “Definitions of Sexual Violence and Intimate Partner Violence”, “Identifying the Needs or Problems to be Addressed”, and “Workplace Policies and Practices.” These programs can be tailored to address specific concerns in a community and the instructors are free to adjust the program accordingly.

The problem of violence against women has been around for centuries and will not be overcome without taking a proactive approach to redirect people’s thinking and attitudes towards women. These online training courses can be very effective tools at reaching people who may not be able to get this information otherwise. Considering the fact that as of 2014 1/3 of the world’s population now has access to the Internet, an online means of education is the most available.

Note: Image source hannes.a.schwetz

Crime Against Women – Statistics Around the World

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For centuries women have been subjected to injustices all across the globe. As part of our own history, women have only in the last 100 years begun to emerge as viable participants in our modern society. Throughout the passage of time, even in cultures where women held a relatively acceptable role it was only secondary to that of any male counterpart in her family. It is that secondary status that has permitted most crime against women to be accepted by societies all over the world.

A Global Perspective

Although the passage of laws in more developed countries has brought about a reduction in violence against women, the problem still exists in large form due to lingering cultural attitudes. According to the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, at least 35% of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence. Other reports go even further by saying that 70% have experienced intimate partner violence in their lifetime.

In countries like Australia, Canada, Israel, South Africa and the United States, this type of violence accounts for 40-70% of their female murder victims.

Rape as a Weapon of War

In countries like Bosnia and Herzegovina there were 20-50,000 women raped during their 1992-1995 wars. In Rwanda estimates suggest that 250,000 to 500,000 women and girls were targeted for violent rape in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The tactic is used to humiliate, dominate, instill fear, disperse and forcibly relocate civilian members of a community or ethnic group. According to the Global Justice Center, “rape is being used more than any other prohibited weapon of war including starvation, attacks on cultural objects, and the use of herbicides, biological or chemical weapons, dum-dum bullets, white phosphorus or blinding lasers.”

Asia

More than 64 million girls worldwide become child brides, however 46% of women between the ages of 20-24 in South Asia are reported to be married before the age of 18. This has resulted in early and unwanted pregnancies that bring on life-threatening risks for many adolescent girls making them the leading cause of death for girls between the ages of 15-19.

Human Trafficking

Every year millions of women and girls are brought into modern day slavery. At least 55% of those in forced labor worldwide and 98% of those in forced sexual exploitation are female. According to the UNODC, the most common form of human trafficking, making up 79% is sexual exploitation of women and girls. In regions of the world where there is a lot of political unrest like the Middle East, there has been an increase in the human trafficking of women as they are forced to flee conflict areas in search of refuge. Instead, many are then forced into prostitution and sex slaves in other countries.

European Countries

Even in the more developed European countries it is reported that between 40 – 50% of women experience unwanted sexual advances, physical contact or other forms of sexual harassment at work. According to the UNICRI, one in ten women have been stalked by a previous partner, 31% of women who report being raped by a partner have been repeatedly raped (six or more times) and just over one in ten women experienced some form of sexual violence by an adult before they were 15 years old.

The Americas

In the United States, 83% of girls aged 12 – 16 have experienced some form of sexual harassment in public schools. The UN reports that in Latin America a woman is assaulted every 15 seconds in Brazil’s Sao Paulo. In Colombia, the number of cases where women have been disfigured by acid thrown in their faces quadrupled between the years 2011 – 2012. And of the 25 countries that are considered “high or very high” in rankings for “femicides” (killings of women that seem to be related to their gender), more than half are in the Americas.

Space does not permit the detailed listing of the rampant crime against women that happens on a global scale every day. It is clear that even in our modern day and age, the issue still remains to be of major concern. While these numbers may appear to be staggering it should be a sobering fact to note that even they represent a far lower number of crimes than actually occurred. Because of the shame and guilt felt by most, many crimes are never reported. It is clear that more work needs to be done in this area.

With the UN and other organizations campaigning worldwide in reeducation programs designed to change the view many people have about women, there has been a great deal of improvement but the problem still continues on a large scale. Even developed countries that claim to be more progressive still have underlying cultural biases that keep women in a more vulnerable position.

As more and more laws are passed like the Campus SaVE Act, designed to protect the human rights of women, we will continue to see a progressive change in the world’s view of women and a major reduction in these numbers and the promise of a better future for women the world over may eventually get fulfilled.

[Photo Andrea@flickr]

Crime Against Women – Statistics on Campuses and Campus SaVE Act

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According to an interview with Susan Carbon, Director of the Department of Justice, even though the nation has witnessed a decrease in the area of violent crime in recent years, the area of crime against women has actually experienced a dramatic increase. Ms. Carbon pointed out that the primary areas of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking still continue to have a major impact on many women across the country.  Campus SaVE Act is a bold and necessary step towards addressing these crimes. As many statistics bear out, each year:

  • One in every four women will experience severe physical violence by a former spouse, boyfriend, or significant other.
  • Stalkers will victimize approximately 5.2 million women with domestic violence-related stalking being the most common.
  • One in five women can expect to be raped in their lifetime with 1.3 million rapes being reported every year.

Crimes Against Women on College Campuses

While these figures can be quite sobering, these four major crimes can be even more alarming when they occur on college campuses. However, there is an added layer of concern as statistics show that a major contributing factor to the increase violence against women on college campuses seems to be a direct result alcohol in many circumstances.

It appears that many college rapists avoid the justice system by targeting women who will not be considered credible because of alcohol, drug use, or some other similarly related factors. Their tactics are often to ply the women with alcohol before using force. The statistics seem to give weight to this argument:

  • 19% of undergraduate women reported experiencing completed or attempted sexual assault since entering college. The majority of these assaults occurred while the woman was incapacitated with alcohol.
  • There is a higher risk of incapacitated rape while a woman is in college.
  • More that 80% of undetected college rapists reported committing rapes of women who were incapacitated because of drugs or alcohol.
  • Still, as alarming as these figures are they are not reported with any level of accuracy.

Most Crimes are Unreported

While these statistics may seem a bit extreme it becomes even more disturbing when you consider that most crimes that involve violence against women go unreported, leaving their victims to suffer in silence because of traditional views and societal attitudes. For most women, they will be left alone with feelings of guilt and shame, never reaching out to seek the help the need from police, hospitals, crisis centers, or shelters. It is estimated that only 2% of victims of incapacitated rape reported the assault to law enforcement.

What Can Be Done About It

This paints a grim picture of the level of crime against women on college campuses, however there are other added layers of violence against women that are quite common when it comes to assaults that occur on college campuses. Consider the facts that unlike other forms of sexual assault or violence against women, many of these crimes are committed in full view of witnesses or bystanders.

With 60% of alcohol-facilitated rapes occurring at parties there are more often than not witnesses to the crime, yet few people feel compelled to intervene. Clearly, this is where the new Campus SaVE Act can be of immense support. With the need to change the campus culture a re-education needs to be implemented that will offer new programs like Bystander Intervention Training to change the social attitudes that continue to contribute to this growing problem on our nation’s campuses.

As we watch our nation’s campuses evolve under this new law, we’ll see new educational programs emerge to redirect college thinking starting from the top down. Administrators will be enlisted as partners in reaching out to all those involved. Bystanders will be less afraid to speak up when they see things without fear of repercussions and with the combined efforts of drug and alcohol abuse centers working with the school police, department of justice, and other authorities we will slowly begin to see much of the crimes changing making our campuses safe for women everywhere.

Photo credit Flickr

 

Crime Against Women - History of Laws Around the World

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Back in the 18th century B.C., the Babylonian King Hammurabi established a governmental collection of 282 laws that established a set of conduct for his people in ancient Mesopotamia.  In that set of laws there were very clear distinctions laid out for both men and women. According to Hammurabi’s Code, “if a man killed a pregnant maid-servant,” he was punished with only a fine.  However if he were to kill a “free-born” pregnant woman, his own daughter had to be sacrificed as retribution.  Clearly, these pre-Biblical laws helped to shape people’s views of women from our earliest times in recorded history.  While Hammurabi may have been thinking of only his time, the influences of his laws have echoed throughout history and the same theme of crime against women has continued with little change for many millennia.

Mankind’s Historical Record of Crime Against Women

In 1997, according to the United Nations Human Development Report, after nearly 50 years of research and study, they came to a significant conclusion.

“No society treats its women as well as men.”  While the differences in the gender gap vary from country to country, they determined that women were more often than not relegated to second-class citizenship all around the world.  Here are a few examples.

The Congo

One of the most heinous demonstrations of crime against women, even in these modern times is the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  This country has earned the label of the “rape capital of the world.”  The prevalence and intensity of sexual violence against women has been described as the worst in the world.  The Congo has long held a history of violence against women but the offenses have increased in recent years because of the political unrest that is growing in the country since most of the militia believe that sexual assault against women is a justifiable weapon in times of war.

Asia 

In countries like China and India, the term “missing women” refers to a skewing of the gender ratio.  In China for example, for many years a family was only allowed to have one child and since a male child is considered much more valuable than a female child parents were allowed to kill any female child born to them. Society, in many of these regions is now experiencing a shortage of women for their men to marry.

Western World - Crimes of Honor

Crimes of honor are considered to be crimes that are directly connected to the honor or shame of the men in society.  For years, in many western cultures many patriarchal societies have given men the authority over women in every aspect of their lives.  Through this authority, women can be overpowered and controlled by any male position (a boyfriend, husband, or father) in order to protect his position and status in society.  Any woman who did not comply with his rules, or established hierarchy was subjected to all manner of abuses throughout their lifetimes.

It has only been in the last century that women have slowly begun to close the gap between the sexes and have earned their own rights as dignified citizens of this modern world.  While crime against women continues to plague our society today, it is clear that with new laws constantly being established throughout the world the pattern is finally beginning to fade away.

Is it possible to see a world without crime against women in our future?  Many believe it is only a matter of time.  Until then, we have to rely on the continuous progression of laws to protect women from the historic violence that they have had to contend with for millennia

Photo Credit: Ben Sutherland

Campus SaVE Act - How to Comply

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With the new Campus SaVE Act now signed into law, educational institutions are now expected to meet even more details included in this expanded view of violence. The new reporting guidelines outline additional obligations and that require them to implement very specific policies, procedures, and training for staff, faculty, and students in regards to sexual and intimate partner violence. The new law, passed in March of 2013 is quite detailed and will require all higher educational institutions that receive financial aid programs under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 to comply with every aspect of it. This could be a challenge for some institutions as they not only need to understand the new language of the law but also how it has been expanded from previous laws to include gays, lesbians, transgender individuals, Native Americans and male victims of dating, sexual assault, and stalking.

Here are some of the most basic efforts that every institution should include to help them to prepare to comply with this new law.

Public Awareness

One of the first things that every university should begin with is a campus wide public campaign that informs everyone involved about the new law. These announcements and programs should encourage a collaborative effort to let anyone who could possibly be affected by the new Campus SaVE Act to know of the requirements and what will be expected of them. This means informing students, faculty, campus security, human resources, residence staff, counselors, and health staff of the changes and what is to be expected.

Collect Data for Campus SaVE Act

Institutions must also begin collecting and compiling data about the new categories of crimes that fall under the law. These will include hate crimes based on gender identity or national origin. This is required information that must be included in their ASR reports due to be submitted in October of 2014.

Consult With Legal Counsel

The law is very detailed and may need clarification for some so it is advisable that every institution consult with their legal counsel and review each of the required policies, the proper procedures, and practices that may possibly be construed as sexual misconduct in order to determine what actions and adjustments may be needed for them to meet these additional expectations.

Implement Training Programs

In addition, they must revise existing programs or implement new educational training programs for all students, staff, and faculty so that the expanded understanding of the new law will be fully understood by everyone that may be impacted in some way by the new Campus SaVE Act.

A Good Faith Effort

While preliminary guidance regarding the new reporting regulations were issued in May of 2013, there are still more details expected in regards to the new requirements, all involved institutions are expected to make a “good faith effort” to begin compliance while they are waiting for more clarification on the new crime reporting rules.

Consult the U.S. Attorney General

It is strongly recommended by Congress that all institutions look to the U.S. Attorney General’s office and the Secretary of Health and Human Services for assistance in the best way for them to comply. They should be assured that they will receive the guidance they need on all types of prevention and educational programs and procedures that can be best applied to their situation.

 

[Photo credit: Mark Fischer flickr ]

Crime Against Women - A Brief History of Laws in the US

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Throughout history, regardless of a woman’s culture or background they have been subjected to all sorts of unjust offenses.  While men have suffered their own assaults women, historically have had to bear the brunt of all manner of abuse.  From early childhood, they were raised without rights, some barely treated better than slaves, while others may have had the appearance of freedom they were often kept under the control of a male family member. The violence they have endured over the years has gradually receded and over time the passage of laws has made life a little more humane.  Here is a brief history of how those laws have impacted crime against women in the United States over the past 200+ years.

1800-1900 - Its not really a Crime... is it?

At the beginning of the 19th century a woman’s legal status in life was directly connected to her husband, brother, or father.  By law she could only expect to be subservient and dependent on these close family members.  European settlers who believed that husbands had the God given right to correct their wives through the use of physical punishment in various forms of domestic violence influenced the culture of the time.  The laws offered little to no protection from crime against women.  Wife abuse or other forms of family violence was often supported and encouraged by societal expectations and religious morals.

The case of Calvin Bradley vs. the State of Mississippi in 1824 was the first of many major cases of domestic abuse was decided in the state Supreme Court.  The ruling that the husband had gone to excessive lengths to “chastise” his wife set a precedent for the establishment of new laws favoring women to be put into place.  By the mid 1800s wife assault had become illegal in several states across the country.

1900 - 1950 - Women Take on New Roles

By the time the 19th century arrived the United States had changed its image completely.  Instead of a strong agricultural community the nation had entered into an age of industry.  Along with the new face of the nation, a new family image was also evolving.  Men were no longer working at home but were seeking outside sources of income leaving women behind to take care of the home and children.  Education was not an option for many leaving them again with a lower status of unintelligent, weak and of little consequence with few options for change.  Family matters were considered private and intimate affairs that should be resolved behind closed doors.  Because of this, even with the new laws protecting wives from abuse these types of incidents were often unreported.

Women were still not allowed to have their own property or vote in most states.  It isn’t until 1920 that the Nineteenth Amendment is passed, guaranteeing women the right to vote.  Equal rights were not given to women until 1923.

With the rise of the Feminist Movement, gradually more laws began to emerge that slowly worked to overturn strongly entrenched thinking among many in society.  With the passage of the right to vote in 1920 women were gradually being allowed to enter public office, which lead to more laws giving women additional protection than ever before.

1950 – 2000 - Harassment and Crime Against Women Get Recognized

By 1986 the United States Supreme Court decides on the case of Meritor Savings Bank vs. Vinson – determining “that sexual harassment creating a hostile or abusive work environment, even without economic loss for the person being harassed, is in violation of the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”

While crimes against women may have begun to decline the statistics show that offenses were still very high.  In the 1980s, these issues were now being addressed in Congress.  In 1984 the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act was passed in an effort to prevent more incidents of family violence and to provide shelter to those victimized and in 1994, Congress passed a major crime bill, the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994.  This bill was known for creating a never before seen number of programs focused on assisting law enforcement to fight violent crimes predominantly committed against women.  The scope of the law was now reaching far beyond those of family abuse and extending to cover other acts of violence against women.

The 21st Century - Expanded Laws to Stop Crime Against Women

Today, the VAWA is the latest legal win in fighting crime against women.  Through this law a number of grant programs and funding for violence prevention, investigations and prosecutions, and victims services have been implemented.  Whether the crimes are domestic in nature or a stranger assault the evolution of laws protecting women have moved from those in the private family circle to protect all women regardless of social status, sexual orientation, or relationship to the assailant.

The law was reauthorized in 2000 and again in 2005 where its protection was extended to battered and trafficked immigrants with enhanced penalties for repeat stalking offenders.  It also added programs for American Indian victims, sexual assault victims and programs to improve the public’s response to domestic violence.  

While the occurrence of crime against women continues to be a problem in our society today, the hope is that with the continuous passage of laws expanding protection of women’s rights there will be a marked decline eventually leading to eliminating the problem all together

(image courtesy of Cornell Kheel Center - Six women including Mary Dreier, Ida Rauh, Helen Marot, Rena Borky, Yetta Raff, and Mary Effers linked arm in arm in their march to City Hall during the shirtwaist strike to demand an end to abuse by police . Other shirtwaist strikers follow behind carrying a union banner, Dec. 3, 1909)