For more than 15 years, Dwight Cochran and I worked in academic publishing and health care. We are honored to know and work with many innovative and passionate health educators, physical educators, exercise scientists, doctors, nurses, psychologists, public health experts across the country. Their shared goal is to help other human beings perform better, be more productive, and succeed in all dimensions of life.
Seeing the Problem
As we listened and learned from these teachers, it became clear to us that they share common challenges and frustrations. A big problem is the perception of wellness. Some college students perceive fitness and wellness classes as another incarnation of high school PE class, just an easy way to fill a requirement. Across the campus, some faculty and administrators don’t view wellness as core to the general education goals of the institution. The wellness programs are often threatened by budget cuts or exclusion from the general education curriculum.
Harder still, health educators are teaching into the headwinds of an obesity epidemic that is getting worse every year. The higher education system in which they work is under increasing pressure to validate rising tuition rates, increase retention and graduation rates, address skyrocketing student loan debt, and demonstrate that college graduates have fundamental workplace skills needed on any job, in any profession. Students who do receive a college diploma are graduating into a world with fewer high-paying jobs for them. Having good technical skills is not enough to get ahead, especially when most college students end up in professions different from what they studied.
Wellbeing is (should be) the Core Mission of the University
We know that wellness is more than just taking care of your body. It’s more than exercise and eating well. It is more than yoga classes, meditation, and health spas. Wellness is about the whole individual, and in the case of higher education, it’s about the whole student. Science proves that there is a fundamental connection between mind and body. Dimensions of a person include the physical, mental, intellectual, spiritual, emotional, social, environmental, occupational, and financial.
Health and human performance faculty are teaching the skills and knowledge that will help students perform better in everything they will do. Isn’t that fundamental purpose of higher learning, to help students think critically, communicate well, problem solve, and create new things?
Wellness belongs at the center of the university. Student wellbeing is a key objective to which every academic program on campus contributes. So why aren’t more universities and colleges taking it seriously?
Helping to Solve the Problem
We knew that we could help; our experience, knowledge and abilities put us in a unique position to make a difference. Like so many people in this world, I wanted to do something that would make a difference. Before working for Kaiser Permanente, Dwight created and managed health promotion campaigns in Africa and the Philippines. My academic publishing background, instructional design experience, and connections to the human performance discipline put me in a unique position to create a new innovative approach to wellness education.
Real Personalized Learning
The big academic publishers and new education technology companies say that they offer products that “personalize” students’ learning. But that just means they are using adaptive technology to help students memorize the facts that are in the textbook. Cram, test, and forget. Everyone is unique; we can’t shove all students down the same academic shoot.
Bearface learning systems engage students through evidence-based self-assessments about their knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors. We give students immediate feedback. We put academic concepts within the context of students’ self-system. We make those concepts relevant to students and thereby motivate them to develop and use their metacognitive system to set learning goals and strategies. We give students tools to use their cognitive system and knowledge to process the relevant information that will help them achieve those goals.
The classroom becomes a place where professors coach and mentor, not lecture. Classrooms become places where peers share ideas and learn from each other, not stare out the window or check Twitter.
Bearface works because students learn on their own terms, within their own context, their own self. This is true personalized learning in a way that is impossible to do in a textbook and very difficult to do in a large classroom.
Data to Show Behavior Change
Education is about promoting healthy and productive attitudes and behaviors. We are teaching students to do things. We need the data to show that students can do, not just understand.
Bearface provides the data collection tools and analytics that enables educators to track student progress is terms of the attitudes and behaviors, not just how much they memorize. We give instructors the tools demonstrate how their course aligns fully with the general education goals of the institution. We help provide evidence to show students, parents, employers, accreditation organizations, and the community that the university graduates people with healthy and productive attitudes and behaviors.
Our vision is to give our friends content and tools that help prove that they are doing work that is central to the mission of their school and critical to the future success of our society. Bearface is a collaborate effort that includes our brilliant authors, wise academic advisory board, strategic partners, friends, and family. If you are interested in writing, researching, reviewing, blogging, advocating, or inspiring Bearface to do more, let us know. Let’s change together.