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Centralized calendar for professors' office hours, suggested topics for conversation, and goals checklist -- all made week-specific.

Centralized calendar for professors' office hours, suggested topics for conversation, and goals checklist -- all made week-specific.

Photo of Sara Sligar
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Sara commented on Office Hours App

Alex, Thanks for checking in! Yes, I've been doing some research with some information technicians at my university to test viability and learn more about the software purchasing process. I have learned that FERPA laws, which protect student information, may consider the times of student-professor meetings protected information. That means that the scheduling portion of the app would need to meet very stringent authentication guidelines that can only be met by a few very powerful companies (e.g. Google, Facebook, etc.). It might be possible to piggyback on other authentication services or have the app operate as a plug-in for established courseware like Canvas, and I'm investigating those angles, as well as corroborating the FERPA feedback. In the meantime, I am focusing on the app's capacity for conversation topics/goal-setting/reminders/etc, which would be less sensitive material.

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Sara commented on Office Hours App

Hi Alex, awesome, thank you! Those milestones are really helpful. I will start hunting for teammates, and I can start the user interview stuff on my own right away. Yes, a subscription-based revenue was exactly what I had in mind -- it's important that students don't have to pay anything upfront themselves!

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Sara commented on Office Hours App

Hi Shane! Yeah, I've definitely thought about it. I was thinking about this app as something that could be used in combination with some of the other ideas about refinancing schools, because it aims to address one of the problems that results from the insanely high cost of higher ed. Basically, at every level of higher education, low-income students not getting enough institutional support during their studies. This is a major problem because low-income students often haven't had the opportunity to build certain academic skill sets that their peers have developed. So they end up doing worse in classes, which widens the gap between socioeconomic groups on campus. In the worst case scenario, students end up dropping out and are still left with crippling amounts of debt, and without the job prospects that would allow them to pay them off. (For example: http://www.pressherald.com/2015/05/10/hardest-hit-college-students-who-never-finish-school/) Even if students stay in school, this success gap can endanger their grades and harm their self-esteem, which can both make it harder to find high-paying jobs after graduation. Right now, some universities offer a 2- or 4-week program over the summer for entering first-years to build their research and time management skills. But this alone isn't enough to affect the gap that exists.

In short, I think that as we try to roll out more ambitious projects for re-thinking the higher ed funding structure, we also have to think about low-cost ways to provide support to low-income students. Otherwise we'll just prolong the cycle of debt and widen the socioeconomic gap. That's why I was focusing on the part of the challenge that's about enabling graduation.

Do you have any ideas about how to further address the issue of cost? One option might be to have the app grant certain monetary rewards for checking off "goals"; those rewards could be funded by a company that would advertise on the app. Some economic studies have suggested that paying students for their results actually decreases their interest in the activity, though, so I'm not sure it would be the best idea.