June 16, 2022 | Upswing Partners

Partner Showcase: Colorado Education Initaitive

Nod: Mitigating the Negative Effects of Adolescent Loneliness through a Research-Based Social Skill Building Platform using Inclusive Design

Submission by Emily Love, Ph.D., Chief of Research & Development, Colorado Education Initiative



About Colorado Education Initiative and the Nod Pilot
For 15 years, Colorado Education Initiative has been at the forefront of improvement, innovation, and change in Colorado’s public education system. CEI’s mission is to accelerate systems change to ensure that every student in Colorado is prepared and unafraid to succeed in school, work, and life and ready to take on the challenges of today, tomorrow, and beyond. CEI is committed to isolating race, class, gender, and language to interrupt bias in the system; to supporting educators to redesign systems; and to developing mindsets, practices, and conditions that disrupt inequity.

Grit Digital Health develops behavioral health solutions through design and technology that envision a new way to approach mental health and well-being. In addition to Nod, they are the creators of YOU at College, a personalized well-being platform for students and Man Therapy, a ground-breaking men’s mental health campaign. The company aims to solve critical health problems through innovation and creativity.

In partnership with Grit Digital Health and The Upswing Fund, CEI launched a pilot to address the pressing issue of loneliness among adolescent populations by transcreating the NOD app for a high school population. Aligned to Upswing’s key focus area of expanding the use of digital tools, the Nod pilot launched in spring 2022 across 8 high schools in Colorado.

Watch the learning session here...

Project Accomplishments
- Completed the Nod app transcreation process through a co-design process with a student advisory committee (now live in the app store)
- Designed onboarding protocols for pilot schools and developed a pilot launch package for easy implementation
- Onboarded 8 high schools that served 3,859 students during the spring semester of 2022


Key Takeaways
- Loneliness is a challenge within high schools
- Teachers & students alike are willing to engage with the right interventions
- Devote adequate time for multipronged recruitment & onboarding
- Size of the pilot allowed us to identify challenges and explore solutions
- Students and teachers felt they were just getting started and wanted the opportunity to continue to use Nod in the future
- Student co-research & design is essential for success
- Nod resonated with high school students - design, topics, and activities were on point

“I’ve tried a lot of these [apps] in the same vein, and I always came away feeling a little patronized. I don’t feel like I ever experienced that while using Nod. I always felt like it was designed for me, with me in mind.” (Senior, University High School)

“Nod has helped me see the other side of people.” (Freshman, West Grand High School)

“I’m a freshman doing sports for the first time. Nod really helped me communicate with my seniors and juniors - it helped me to get my emotions out.” (Freshman, Sargent High School)

What’s Next

  • Seek additional funding to expand pilot with a focus on district-wide scaling and an impact evaluation
  • Explore opportunities to pilot Nod for High School outside of Colorado
  • Finalize a school-level data dashboard to understand reach and impact

Interested in learning more?

This work is still in its pilot stage but if you want to learn more about potentially partnering, please contact Emily Love ([email protected]) and Nathaan Demers ([email protected]).

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