Student Success Center innovates way to award
By Ryan Kryska
GCU News Bureau
Every once in awhile — maybe about as often as a total solar eclipse – something as good as Grand Canyon University’s Student Success Center comes along.
The online resource packed with multimedia learning materials launched the same day as the total eclipse in August 2017 and has garnered close to 1 million searches and a prestigious award in the year that followed.
The mobile-friendly website acts as the home base for more than 1,000 templates, style guides, quizzes, games, tutorials, videos and more, all available to the public but catered toward GCU students and faculty. GCU students can log in to unlock additional content and features, like access to eBooks for their courses.
It was built by the University’s Academic Web Services department, which gathered thoughts from every crevice of the campus before developing.
“If you can dream it up, they will build it for you,” said library services director Nita Mailander, who says she regularly refers students to the website through the Ask a Librarian program. “It really filled a need that we didn’t realize we had. It’s been a real boon for the students.”
The website earned a CODiE Award for the Best Higher Education Learning Content Solution in June from the Software & Information Industry Association. Academic Web Services Director Miranda Hildebrand and Manager Shanna Wise were in San Francisco to accept the award.
“This was truly a collaborative effort driven by student feedback and departmental input throughout the University,” Hildebrand said. “The CODiE award is recognition for Grand Canyon University’s commitment to investing in the development of innovative solutions that help our students achieve academic success.”
Chris Neikirk, lead designer for the website, said Academic Web Services has been “creating curricular multimedia” for the past 10 years.
“We’ve curated hundreds of multimedia resources along the way, so we wanted to provide a singular space and bring all that together,” Neikirk said. “Before last year’s update the site was just a link farm and we wanted something more robust. We wanted the students to be able to log in and have persistent access so they could save. We wanted to take a true sense of what the student was looking for.”
The site’s current project manager, Brittany Buschatzke, said students’ profiles on the website are curated specifically for their courses, meaning the tools they need most will automatically be the easiest to access.
The center’s homepage has toggle tabs and a log-in spot at the top right and featured and popular resources below. But what sets the Student Success Center apart is its search capabilities.
“It’s all for GCU content, so what they are searching for is almost definitely going to help them whereas if they are Googling, it might help them but they might also be getting incorrect information,” Buschatzke said.
Wise said developers Nathan Harris’ and Jeremy Mone put in at least 1,000 hours of development time in their efforts to maximize the search engine.
“This is one of the most resource-heavy projects we’ve ever invested in,” Wise said. “It’s not just a resource for students on campus or students online — there are resources for anybody. We’ve gone and shared it with other institutions, students in high school can use it — anyone can.”
Hildebrand said she has seen first-hand how the center can be used outside GCU.
“I shared a couple of the resources with my son,” Hildebrand said. “He has taken the periodic table of elements to share with his chemistry teacher in high school and she was excited to share it with her other students. In addition, he shared the writing process with his English teacher and again, she thought it was fabulous and started sharing that resource with her students.
“It’s exciting to see some of our resources not only help college students but also help high-schoolers who are preparing to come to college.”
Contact Ryan Kryska at (602) 639-8415 or firstname.lastname@example.org.