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The National Convergence Technology Center (CTC) leads the Convergence College Network (CCN), a group of 50+ community colleges and universities from across the country that shares resources and best practices at both regularly scheduled meetings and special one-off webinars. One challenge with a group that large (and it’s still growing) is finding ways to keep everyone active and engaged in the community. There’s the obvious benefit to the CCN schools of participating in the discussions and attending the events. But could the National CTC do more to encourage engagement?

CCN membership is divided into levels. Only the more engaged CCN member schools are classified as “Level 1.” It’s the “Level 1” CCN schools at this level get partial travel reimbursement to attend IT educator conferences and professional development events. However, classification of CCN member schools Level 1 or Level 2 had been mostly a subjective decision.

A rigorous, objective rubric was needed to manage and incentivize this growing network of colleges. We needed a better way to quantify which school was “Level 1” and thus deserving of the travel reimbursement help.

And so a “points system” was developed. In return for that travel reimbursement help (plus a few other perks), a “Level 1” school now had to clearly demonstrate engagement. A points list was created to itemize of all the ways a CCN member school either engaged with the group or contributed to grant goals. For example, attending a CCN quarterly meeting would be worth 1 point; hosting local recruitment events would be worth 2 points; recruiting a new school to join the CCN would be worth 5 points. To maintain “Level 1” status, CCN schools now must meet a 20-point threshold. Because the available points on the grid total close to 50, schools have flexibility regarding how to earn those 20 points. This, to us, is where the game element kicks in – everyone knows the goal is to score 20 points. The strategy is how to get there.

This new system was unveiled to the CCN community in December 2013. For the first time, CCN member schools had a clear, organized roadmap to pursuing “Level 1” membership and the attached benefits.

Anecdotally, since the December 2013 roll-out, National CTC staff has observed an increase in CCN attendance at meetings. Faculty members started to make comments about the points at meetings to make sure they were getting credit for attending. Point-tallying now involves passionate debates about what’s counted and what isn’t.   And all the while, the National CTC has stepped up efforts to continually remind the CCN community about the points.

It seems to be working. But could the uptick in engagement be proven?

We looked at attendance rates for every quarterly BILT and CCN meeting since November 2013 (one month prior to the points introduction). While meeting attendance can fluctuate, there is a noticeable upward trend in the percentage of active CCN members that participate (post-points launch). See the chart below.

Note that we have accounted for the overall proportional increase in CCN membership. The chart reflects the percentage of CCN member schools at the time of each meeting who actually attended the meeting.

chart

So… if you’re looking for ways to engage a large group, a system like this with game elements may be something to consider.

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