User accessibility prioritized in update of Jewell student handbook

Over the summer of 2018, the William Jewell College student handbook was given a makeover in order to increase its efficiency and make it more user-friendly.

According to Ernie Stufflebean, Director of Student Life, the major changes to the handbook for the 2018-2019 school year included revising the layout and format of information.

“For the most part, there haven’t been any significant changes to policy, per say, but we reorganized the way the policies are presented. In the previous rendition of the handbook, we had policies arranged to reflect how they supported the values of the institution,” said Stufflebean. “However, the feedback we received from organizations like Student Senate, while they appreciated seeing the alignment… it made it difficult sometimes to find things they were looking for in the handbook. They didn’t know where to look.”

In order to help students know where to look for the information they were seeking, the student handbook was given a new look. Stufflebean and other leaders on campus viewed the student handbooks of other institutions and worked to connect and link specific policies with common themes together.

“We took that feedback and looked at other institutional handbooks as well, and we tried to develop a format for the handbook that was organized in a different fashion. We tried to make it very quick and easy to get to a particular policy or to the information that students were seeking. So everything is linked to or directly from the Table of Contents,” said Stufflebean. “Much of the student handbook, especially with regards to policies, can be found through clicking on the links that go to our institutional policy library that houses all of our institutional policies. Some of those links may go to the Student Consumer Information website, and if a policy is not found in one of those two locations, it links to a page internally within the book.”

Stufflebean and others are hoping that the recent changes will help students have an easier time navigating the handbook, and that they might come across additional useful information due to the new links included throughout the policies included in the handbook.

Although the major changes to this school year’s handbook were made to address its organization and ease of use, additional changes were made to the college’s values, with the hope that the new values would help to guide every student’s experience at William Jewell. The changes to the college’s values help to define and provide reason for the learning outcomes that Jewell is trying to promote.

“I think the values reinforce the sense of community and culture that define who we are and how we go about education and how we live in community. I think those values just really provide that construct and framework for us as an institution, which really identifies who we are and what we believe and what we value. And of course we have the larger mission statement for our institution which provides some definition and parameters as to how we intend to move towards the mission of the institution… I think it just provides that definition for who we are, what we value, and what it is we are trying to achieve here at William Jewell,” said Stufflebean.

A new addition to the handbook this year is the implementation of co-curricular learning. The Critical Thought and Inquiry classes are already well implemented into students’ class schedules, but the new co-curricular learning aims to frame the student experience outside of the classroom.  

“Well, I think it is important to identify the learning outcomes that we strive to meet with regards to our programs and with what we are doing outside of the classroom… I think students are very used to seeing learning outcomes and objectives in a particular course, and we have kind of moved that ideology and that thinking to everything that is occurring outside of the classroom as well. We know that students living off campus and being engaged outside of class has significant value, and there is a lot of learning that occurs through those opportunities and experiences, but I think this helps the different programs and departments providing that out of classroom experience. It makes us think about what we do, how we do it and why are we doing it. What is the intended outcome of what we do, what are the intended learning objectives from the things that we do? It becomes intentional, its tangible and you can really identify where students are growing and hopefully students can identify where they are growing and learning through their involvement and leadership positions on campus through service learning and community service and those kinds of events,” said Stufflebean.

The co-curricular learning will be visible on campus in various ways. The varying goals of the co-curricular learning have been broken down into common statements, which will now be tagged onto the descriptions for many events advertised on platforms including the Presence application and flyers.

“One of the things you are going to see on Presence is that all of our events and activities, even those sponsored by student organizations, we are asking them to identify specific learning outcomes, and we’ve organized those in our specific learning domains and dimensions. On every event that you see on Presence, it’s going to be tagged with one particular dimension of a learning domain that that program is striving to fulfill or achieve. So students will hopefully then begin to recognize how these opportunities and activities really fill in their total educational experience at Jewell, and where that fits within the larger picture of what the institution hopes to achieve regarding the co-curricular experience of being a Jewell student. This is why we want our students here, why we want them living on campus, we want them to be immersed in this experience for the entire four years, so that when they leave Jewell they have a skill set that will be invaluable to them, whether that next step will be their first job or starting their career or graduate school, whatever that may be, we are trying to prepare them for that,” said Stufflebean.

Overall, the biggest change to the look of the student handbooks this year is its new organization and layout. The focus of the handbook’s makeover was to make it more effective and user-friendly for all students, staff and faculty.

“I think it is most definitely the layout and presentation… the way it’s organized, it’s broken down with information about the college including our story and our traditions, it talks about our student development philosophy, and from there it goes into the array of policies that are upheld in this institution. We’ve tried to organize it in a way that is hopefully more user-friendly and can help students to be able to fund what they need with regards to that information in one place. That was our objective,” Stufflebean said when asked about the most important changes to the handbook.

The 2018-2019 William Jewell College student handbook has been given a face-lift and can be viewed by all on the Jewell Central website under the students tab. The changes to the handbook were done in hopes of better serving the Jewell community and adding framework for the student experience outside the classroom through the implementation of co-curricular learning.

Photo courtesy of Sofia Arthurs-Schoppe. 

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