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Online platform Onward promotes student engagement

| Friday, December 4, 2015

In their campaign platform, student body president and vice president Bryan Ricketts and Nidia Ruelas introduced the idea for Onward, an online forum for students to submit and vote on ideas for improving the University. The forum officially launched through student government’s website on Sept. 29.

The site is accessible through studentgovernment.nd.edu and requires a Notre Dame login. Students can submit ideas as well as up-vote or down-vote ideas they like or dislike, and respond to other students’ posts. All posts begin with the tag “ideation stage,” but can gain “implementation” status when student government begins to look into moving forward with them.

Constituent services director John Kill said the development of Onward is a gradual process, and the forum provides an opportunity for students to be involved in the discussion and implementation of new ideas.

“It’s early still but as we continue to define how we want Onward to be used. … I think we will see an incredible increase in student body involvement … to make this University a better place,” he said.

The staff in constituent services is getting in the habit of consistently publishing reports that contain the top ideas on Onward, Kill said.

“We’re not quite sure how often we’ll publish reports, but we’re thinking every four to six weeks, we’ll have a report that will evaluate the top 10 ideas,” Kill said. “[Onward] keeps us accountable to the students, and it keeps the students accountable to their ideas.”

Campus technology director Michael McRoskey, who was involved in the technological process of creating Onward, said the best comparison for it was an idea-sharing platform that shared layout similarities with the social media site Yik Yak.

“We partnered with OIT to use this idea-share service, and people can sign in with their net IDs,” McRoskey said. “We wanted to give students the opportunity … to be empowered. This is kind of like removing the barrier, and you can post your ideas right from your dorm room [with] the most popular ideas being upvoted.”

McRoskey is also in the process of launching student government’s new website in the upcoming weeks. He said the current website lacked engaging content and visuals.

“We took the current website and totally refreshed it, so that it’s more dynamic and shows what’s happening on Onward. It’s very visual and mobile friendly,” McRoskey said.

The website’s main purpose is to show students that student government is working for them, and to showcase newly implemented ideas and accomplishments, McRoskey said.

“People can see what student government does because a lot of people don’t understand what student government does behind the scenes,” he said.

McRoskey said Onward provides an interactive platform for students and their representatives to communicate and talk about student concerns and possible solutions. McRoskey said some popular topics feature on Onward are prices in The Huddle, the printing quota and various complaints with food services.

“It empowers students to share their ideas and … sort of refine them,” McRoskey said. “It’s not just complaining because people comment on that idea … and work towards synthesizing a solution.”

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About Selena Ponio

Selena Ponio is from Dallas, Texas and is currently a senior at the University of Notre Dame. She is the Associate News Editor for The Observer. Selena lives in Breen-Phillips hall and is majoring in International Economics with a concentration in Spanish and is minoring in Journalism, Ethics & Democracy.

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