Experience Journey Map: A New Experience Design Tool for Structuring Youth Activities
We introduce a new experience design tool, an experience journey map, to assist youth professionals in planning engagement, immersion, and absorption activities. Experience journey maps are based on customer journey maps, which are widely used in business service design. This new approach highlights strategies for engendering deep structured experiences during the activity. The map is a matrix of columns and rows. Columns represent the sequence of the activity. Rows are experience-structuring strategies derived from the Theory of Structured Experience. These strategies include service performance strategies, deep structured experience strategies, and engagement, immersion, and absorption strategies. We present a case study showing how the experience journey map can be used to plan impactful youth activities.
Texas 4-H Post-Secondary Academic Success Study
We compared post-secondary academic achievement of Texas 4-H Alumni who graduated from high school in 2013, 2014 and 2015 against the Texas population. Data sources included the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC), the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB), and an online survey. Texas 4-H alumni substantially outperformed the population of Texas higher education students on completion rates, baccalaureate graduation rates, marketable skills, student debt, ACT scores, and dual credit enrollment. Program opportunities for Texas 4-H to build upon this success are provided in the recommendations section.
Moving Toward Engaging, Immersive,
and Absorbing Structured Experiences for Youth
With the many youth development organizations available today, kids have the opportunity for learning and development through structured experiences while out of school. There are many outcomes that result from participating in these experiences. Youth who participate in out-of-school programs have better grades, greater aspirations for college, less substance abuse, less involvement in sexual activity, and better physical fitness than youth who do not participate. Yet, full participation and retaining members in out-of-school time programs are in decline. Why?
While it is impossible to find a single cause, it is clear that structured experiences are unsuccessfully competing with powerful economic and social forces directed at capturing and holding the attention of today’s youth. Kids are perpetually bombarded with an extraordinary and dazzling array of technology, devices, and media that vie for their attention both in and out of school. These technologies are truly amazing, with the ability to communicate virtually anywhere on the globe. Astoundingly realistic games and simulations also capture and secure youth attention, carrying them to rich, provocative, and sometimes frightening imaginary lands and scenarios. Fantasy becomes blurred with reality, attention is held hostage, and interactions with adults and other youth, rich potential for learning and growth, continue to diminish. This cycle continues daily for most youth in today’s world.
How can recreation, art, and sport-based out-of-school time programs hope to compete with these attractive (and sometimes distractive) technologies? How can managers, teachers, parents, and youth leaders provide developmental balance for their tech-bombarded children? Our current research agenda is directed at finding strategies that result in highly engaging, immersive, and absorbing structured experiences for youth. We aspire to equip adult leaders with knowledge of specific strategies they can use to successfully compete. Our vision is not a world devoid of electronic attractions; those will be significant forces in the lives of youth for the foreseeable future. But, we do aspire to greater balance. We envision a world with fewer “virtuals” and more “reals.” In the world we envision, real adults and real youth learn and grow through real structured experiences that are highly engaging, immersive, and absorbing. We aspire to do our small part toward contributing to the evolution of that world.
Progress to Date:
- We have developed a formal theory proposing specific strategies for structuring engaging, immersive, and absorbing experiences. That paper is published in Annals of Leisure Research.
- We have developed questionnaires that can be used to measure the quality of structured experiences: Engagement, Immersion, Absorption, Deep Structured Experience, Perceived Value of the Structured Experience, and Delight.
- We have completed one study thus far to test propositions of the theory of structured experience.
- We have developed a programming model that integrates rich knowledge about the culture of youth programs and intentional programming with our deep structured experience model.
- We have outlined a specific research agenda on structured experience.