Campus Recreation to add challenge course

The Department of Campus Recreation will be constructing a challenge course for use by UIS students and faculty. The course will be finished by the beginning of August and serve as a team building exercise for a variety of groups.

According to Director of Campus Recreation James Koeppe, the course will consist of a number of difficult activities designed to improve communication and teamwork. Some examples of these events include complex tasks such as a spider web net through which the group must pass each of its members while not touching the net, as well as more traditional events such as a trust fall from a platform.

The course will also include communication-based stations which will require the group to work together to balance various objects on ropes.

Participants will not be able to learn much by simply banging their heads against difficult challenges, however. Groups will also have a discussion with their instructor after each event; by discussing the issues they encountered during the challenge and how they worked together to resolve them, Koeppe believes groups can learn lessons from their experience that they can then apply every day.

Koeppe feels that the course can be used by a variety of groups both on and off campus. “A lot of our student groups, our offices and departments, they’ll all be able to use it. But then also I’m hoping that our alumni that have businesses might want to bring their businesses here for professional development,” said Koeppe.

He also added that youth groups, and even prospective students might use the course. “If kids have a good experience they might say ‘Hey, UIS is a place I might consider.’”

In his previous job, Koeppe presided over multiple challenge courses for 16 years. He described the changes he saw in groups as they undertook these challenges, stating, “For a group, it definitely is huge on teamwork. As a group walks away, ideally they can pinpoint ways they’re going to work better tomorrow as a team or a company than they did yesterday.”

This type of activity has become more common among university campuses in recent years. Georgia Tech, for example, advertises their course as an “opportunity to bridge leadership theory and leadership practice through activity. Working in small groups, participants tackle multiple assignments and challenges, which allow participants to exhibit leadership skills and to receive swift feedback on their progress.”

The Association for Challenge Course Technology has over 2,500 members worldwide, and attempts to facilitate research and development of this emergent industry. The wide range of research done on the topic seems to indicate that a challenge course is a great addition to UIS.

According to an analysis of existing studies done by H. Lee Gillis and Elizabeth Speelman, “Higher effect sizes for group effectiveness affirmed the use of challenge course experiences for team-building experiences.” The study concluded that, “Challenge courses are an effective tool for impacting a variety of educational and psychological constructs with a variety of participants.”