Although we are far from perfecting the use of IdeaScale, it is easy to imagine a future where we don’t know what we ever did without it.
IdeaScale, Georgetown’s online platform for students to pitch ideas, launched in the spring of 2012. The online community grew considerably over the summer, and many students have started to actively monitor new posts. This program represents a significant shift in the way that the administration engages students, and it demonstrates an encouraging sign of transparency.
The concept of an online idea forum started back in fall 2011. Upon stepping into his role as Georgetown’s chief operating officer, Chris Augostini saw engagement as an essential component of the university’s strategy and began developing partnerships with students. His first major initiative in this theme was the launch of Hoya Roundtables, a series of two-hour sessions in which administrators and students come together to discuss important campus issues.
The popularity of Hoya Roundtables sparked the idea of a virtual community intended to mimic the roundtables in a more accessible way. After an extensive search, it became clear that the IdeaScale platform would provide exactly that. The Georgetown University Student Association was also looking to implement a similar system and ultimately partnered with the Office of the COO to bring IdeaScale to students.
Seven months after its launch, IdeaScale has seen over 1,600 users cast over 12,000 votes on nearly 150 ideas. With that level of engagement, it is hard to argue that the program has been anything but a success. The student body clearly finds it useful to have a single space where they can express their ideas and concerns directly to administrators and campus leaders.
As with any new system, we are still trying to figure out how this online forum of ideas should operate. Accordingly, it is of no surprise that the most common complaints from students revolve around the lack of feedback built into the platform.
Given the level of student engagement over the summer, it is likely that this school year will see significant growth in user interactions via this online platform. As more students flock to IdeaScale to offer their solutions to Georgetown’s biggest problems, it is not yet clear how the university administration and staff will respond. If administrators begin providing direct feedback on idea posts, what was previously a big gap between students and the administration might be filled. If not, IdeaScale may end up being little more than a forum for frustrated students.
But while there is no official body responsible for giving feedback on IdeaScale posts, some student leaders actively comment on posts and use the suggestions to advocate on behalf of the community. The GUSA executive has been particularly active, frequently bringing suggestions from IdeaScale to their meetings.
For the future, a system of “IdeaScale responders” has been organized to represent the administration and keep the conversation going. It is our hope that the IdeaScale responders will become increasingly active on the comment sections and provide students with feedback. It is our hope that the IdeaScale responders will become increasingly active on the comment sections and provide students with feedback in between Hoya Roundtables events.
IdeaScale has given a platform to students hoping to voice their opinions. Whereas before, student concerns went unregistered, they are now documented in a public, transparent manner. Although there is no built-in guarantee that steps will be taken to address any of the issues discussed on IdeaScale, simply having the information presented publicly is a valuable service to Georgetown students.
Michael Crouch is a senior in the McDonough School of Business. He is a secretary of information technology in GUSA. Tyler Sax is a senior in the College. He is managing director of the SIPS fund.