The Flight Academy Brings Fun and Games to Career Planning

KENNESAW, Ga. (Sep 2, 2019) — The Michael J. Coles College of Business is injecting some fun into its career-readiness program in a move to inspire students to get serious about planning for their futures.

Launched this semester by Coles College Undergraduate Programs, the Flight Academy is an engagement program built on the Suitable software platform that awards points to students who participate in activities that help prepare them for life after graduation. These include attending career fairs, guest lectures, academic program information sessions, career prep workshops, and a variety of other development activities.

“What we want is for students to explore different activities that will get them to ask ‘which major is right for me?’,” says Anne Winn, Coles College’s Assistant Director of Undergraduate Programs. “And ‘are there careers that I’m looking for that line up with this major?’ It’s all about helping students connect their education to what their future careers look like.”

The Flight Academy QR Code

Common ways for students to log points include scanning QR codes into the Suitable mobile application from a qualifying event or submitting written reflections.

Participating in a qualified activity earns students points in one of eight categories based on necessary core competencies identified by the Flight Academy build team:

  • complex problem solving/how to think,
  • communication,
  • collaboration/teaming,
  • relationship management/networking,
  • leadership/self-awareness,
  • global/intercultural education,
  • community engagement, and
  • innovation/entrepreneurship.

“These core competencies will be enhanced by our students attending events where they will learn how to interact with employers, how to build an effective resume, and how to dress in proper business attire,” says Academic Advisor ChiDozie Nkema, who worked on the build team. “At the end of the day, we want our students to increase their chances of getting a job in their field once they graduate from KSU.”

Gameplay Breeds Engagement

If developing professional skills is not enough to motivate students to engage with the Flight Academy, UP has also added a healthy dose of fun and competition into the program.

Students can compare their point totals against their peers’ using online leaderboards, and can rank up as they hit certain milestones. They also earn digital badges for accomplishing specific tasks. For example, students receive the Coles 101 badge for completing a series of challenges meant to introduce them to valuable College resources like the Dean’s Suite, their academic advisors, and the offices for their major departments.

“We understand that with Generation Z coming through college, it’s a different experience for them,” Winn says. “To reach them, we’re going to have to meet them where they live. The games and the competition are all part of that.”

In addition to the bragging rights students gain as they move up the leaderboards, UP plans to offer other rewards for accumulating points. Potential rewards they are exploring range from lunch with the dean and VIP admission to Tetley Distinguished Leader Lecture series events to scholarships and honor cords for top performers’ graduation caps.

The Rollout

While the goal is to make the Flight Academy available to all Coles College students, the initial rollout includes only students in BUSA 2150, the first course in the College’s Hughes Leadership and Career Program. The Hughes program is a series of three non-credit career-readiness courses that all Coles College students must complete before graduation.

Students in 2150 are required to participate in development activities, which they now track within the Flight Academy. Integrating the Flight Academy into Hughes is part of a larger initiative to focus less on graded assignments in BUSA courses and more on experiential learning. Dr. Hope Baker, Associate Dean for Assessment and Undergraduate Programs, says these changes will contribute to University President Pamela Whitten’s goal to make Kennesaw State a top-tier R2 institution.

“We want to help students decide on a major earlier to keep them on a timely graduation path; encourage them to participate in experiential learning activities that connect then with practitioners in their fields; and provide opportunities to develop self-awareness, leadership, critical thinking, and professional polish,” she says.

UP will roll the Flight Academy out to BUSA 3150 and 4150 in Spring 2020 before opening it up to all Coles College students next academic year.

The Flight Academy’s Future

The fun, competitive elements of the Flight Academy will ideally motivate students to continue using it once they have satisfied their BUSA requirements. From that point, the platform will become a record of development activities that students can include on their resumes. They can also send employers links to view their earned badges and developed skills.

Future plans for the Flight Academy include allowing academic departments to create their own competitions and badges, working with employers to develop badges that will help them identify potential candidates, and building an alumni engagement network.

“I want the entire College to feel ownership of the Flight Academy and fully utilize it,” Baker says. “The goal is to make it easy for faculty to manage activities, so they see it as another learning tool for their students. It needs to become an integral part of the Coles College experience.”

– Patrick Harbin

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