Webinar Recap: Effective Communication Skills That Support the College Experience

Recently, we held a webinar featuring three renowned panelists to discuss how effective communication skills support students’ college experience. This panel of experts discussed how Kognito helps students develop communication skills and healthy relationships through practice-based learning as well as how faculty and staff can hone their skills to foster a campus community built on trust.

The panelists in this webinar included Hailey Hardcastle, recent college graduate and mental health advocate; Dr. Glenn Albright, Co-Founder of Kognito; and Kim Wieland, product lead at Kognito.

In this presentation, Hailey offered the student perspective as she discussed her personal mental health journey as well as her experience using Kognito when she was a student at the University of Oregon. Kim highlights specific products from our portfolio that teach critical life skills related to mental health, substance use, healthy relationships, and misconduct prevention. Glenn explains the science of cognitive learning, why Kognito uses virtual humans, and the importance of practice in teaching valuable life skills.

Continue reading for highlights of the webinar or watch the full recording here.

The Importance of Early Intervention, the Whole Child Approach, and Emotional Skill Building

Hailey Hardcastle kicked off the presentation by sharing her story and what led her to advocate for student mental health nationwide. Hailey’s mental health journey began when she was a child, facing the adversity of life before she entered kindergarten. She was an excellent student but was considered a worrier by her teachers. She stressed about getting perfect scores and worried about her home life. Her teachers eventually recognized that she was becoming more disengaged in class and noticed other behaviors such as picking her nails and becoming anxious about small things. Her teachers spoke to her about their concerns and in doing so, discovered that she was being abused at home.

This led to the start of her mental health journey. Her mother and teachers gave her the support and resources she needed. With early intervention, Hailey developed the emotional skills that allowed her to trusted adults and talk about what she was feeling and what was happening in her life. This lived experience turned into mental health activism as she got older. When she was in high school, Hailey and a group of her peers began to advocate for improving the mental health landscape in their home state of Oregon. They helped pass House Bill 2191, which allows K–12 students to take mental health days in the same way they would take an excused physical sick day. The purpose of the bill was to equalize mental and physical health and help students who are struggling. As a result, Hailey and her peers started a larger conversation about how physical and mental health are connected. This is a law in 11 states and 9 other states have proposed it at this time. Hailey has also conducted a TED Talk on why students should have mental health days.

When Hailey started college, she joined the Student Advisory Board at the counseling center at the University of Oregon. Here, she was introduced to Kognito’s At-Risk Mental Health for Students. She recalled how engaged she was in the simulation and how it was applicable to her life and what she was seeing around her as a mental health advocate. Hailey and her student advisory board spearheaded a student campaign to engage more students into taking the program. She recognized that the program could be even more beneficial to incoming students. This led to the creation of another campaign, which is in progress, to have all incoming freshman take the training as part of orientation.

How Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Affect Adults Later in Life

Dr. Glenn Albright discussed how before COVID-19, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) were the number one public health concern due to their impact on both mental and physical health. ACEs happen in the first 18 years of life and can be caused by determinants such as a parent’s or another adult’s actions in the household in the following ways:

  • Swearing at you
  • Insulting you
  • Putting you down
  • Humiliating you
  • Making you afraid that you would be physically hurt
  • Hitting you so hard it left a mark

ACEs are also caused by sexual abuse, a household member being incarcerated and/or a problem drinker, divorce, mental illness, or attempted suicide. According to the CDC, 61% of adults surveyed across 25 states had one ACE, and 16% had four or more. This report revealed that 30% of individuals surveyed had experienced two or more ACES by age 17.

Glenn discusses how the impact of ACEs and trauma affect students in the classroom. There are many emotional and behavioral issues that can stem from ACEs, such as:

  • Executive functioning (following directions, problem solving, etc.)
  • Memory systems
  • Emotional regulation
  • Concentration/attention difficulties
  • Learning disabilities
  • Social/behavioral problems
  • Increased risk of depression, anxiety, and substance use

What Makes Kognito Simulations Effective

Kim Wieland discusses Kognito’s mission in upskilling to recognize that all students are coming onto campus with different backgrounds and skills. With Kognito, students and faculty are practicing communication skills while also receiving feedback on different communication strategies used in the simulation. This gives them the opportunity to gain knowledge about different interactions that they might have as well as allowing them to practice and build confidence in those skills. Kim goes on to give a brief demo of At-Risk Mental Health for Students and go in-depth into the different topics included in our higher education product portfolio.

Kognito simulations teach evidence-based communication tactics drawn from components of neuroscience and social cognition. These include motivational interviewing, trauma-informed communication, and assertive communication. These simulations also allow learners to emotionally regulate; mentalize the theory of the mind; and experience empathy, empathic accuracy, or cognitive empathy. The use of virtual humans in the simulations gives a range of instructional benefits, including:

  • Allowing for a safe space to self-disclose and experiment
  • Encouraging increased engagement and openness
  • Decreasing transference reactions
  • Decreasing social evaluative threats
  • Addressing implicit bias
  • Working effective across races/ethnicities
  • Providing neutral appearances
  • Motivational interviewing is cross cultural

Lastly, many efficacy studies are performed through Kognito simulations to measure satisfaction and engagement; self-efficacy and behavior change; and qualitative data on self-reflection and behavior change. For At-Risk Mental Health for Students:

  • 98% rated the training good, very good, or excellent
  • 94% stated their ability to communicate will improve
  • 66% stated an increase in proactive conversations with friends, students, and colleagues

Kognito has several efficacy studies that show a significant increase in self-efficacy and the confidence needed to recognize a student in distress and approach them about seeking support services.

Watch the Full Webinar

Watch the full webinar today to hear more from Hailey, Glenn, and Kim as they discuss the importance of teaching communication skills at colleges and universities and learn why Kognito’s practice-based training is effective for emotional skill building. Click here to watch the full webinar or contact us today to learn more about how Kognito can make an impact at your college or university.

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