Online Platform

To facilitate easy and efficient application and judging processes, Big Ideas@Berkeley uses an online application and review contest platform that features three portals:

  • A judging portal where judges can login to a secure webpage, view proposals assigned to them, and submit their scores and written feedback. Big Ideas@Berkeley also requires that the judging portal allow for anonymous judging (e.g., administrators can hide one judge’s reviews of a proposal from another judge reviewing that same proposal, and administrators can hide the identity of judges from applicants).
  • An applicant portal that allows student teams to login to a secure webpage to edit, upload, and submit a PDF document that contains the text of their written proposals. The applicant portal also contains an entry form that asks students to provide their names, email addresses, fields of study, etc. In the final round of the Contest, administrators also embed survey questions into the entry form to assess students’ development over the course of the Contest (see Evaluation) and to assess students’ perceptions of things like the resources provided during the Contest. Notably, Big Ideas@Berkeley requires that the applicant portal be embedded into the Big Ideas webpage using an Iframe so that it can be easily accessed by potential applicants.
  • An administrator portal that allows Big Ideas@Berkeley staff to manage both the judging and student portals (e.g., edit applicant entry form questions, assign proposals to judges, review which judges have submitted their feedback, review materials that student teams submit). The administration portal also allows Big Ideas@Berkeley staff to set Contest deadlines (e.g., indicate a cutoff deadline by which students must submit their proposals via the student portal).

Online Application & Review Platforms Used To Date
In 2011, when the Blum Center first began managing Big Ideas@Berkeley, the application and review process was conducted manually. Students submitted their proposals by email and their applications were then shared with judges who reviewed and ranked the proposals. However, as the Contest grew, it became necessary to take advantage of the speed and efficiency offered by online review platforms. There are numerous platforms currently available that allow contests to collect applications, distribute them for review, and track progress.

Over the past three Contest cycles, Big Ideas@Berkeley has used three different online platforms. These platforms all had their strengths and drawbacks, and as a result, none of these has emerged as a perfect option. However, the experience of using multiple platforms provided information on what features are most important when considering an online platform. Big Ideas@Berkeley staff are using the following metrics to re-evaluate additional platforms over the 2013 summer:

  • Flexibility: The platform needs to be flexible and should allow managers to create different judging criteria, create different categories, assign percentages to review criteria, query and sort information, and generate customized reports.
  • User Interface: The platform needs to create an easy and intuitive user experience for applicants and judges.
  • Content Management: The content management process (creating forms, assigning judges, generating emails) needs to be quick and intuitive.
  • Appearance/Identity: The platform should have a clean and professional appearance and also allow Contest managers to incorporate their own branding.
  • Customer Service: The platform needs to have a good IT support team.
  • Cost: Platforms can vary widely in cost (and, notably, cost is not a perfect indicator of performance).

During the 2011-12 Contest year, Big Ideas@Berkeley used YouNoodle to facilitate the judging and applications processes. Big Ideas experienced some difficulty with the content management system (e.g., restrictions in which types of questions could be asked on applicant entry forms) and with the user interface (e.g., unintuitive judging interface). There was also no option to tailor the appearance of the platform so that it would reflect the Big Ideas identity.

As a result, during the summer of 2012, Big Ideas@Berkeley staff conducted an initial review of other contest platform providers. During the review, the cost of using each platform was weighed with the features of each platform, along with the ease of use for the potential users and administrators. Based on the findings from this review, Big Ideas@Berkeley switched to WizeHive during the 2012-13 Contest year. Overall, Big Ideas@Berkeley found WizeHive’s user interface to be extremely straightforward, but found the content management system to be less intuitive and more difficult to manage (e.g., editing applicants entry form fields, assigning judges to proposals within each category, and creating different judging criteria for different categories were all challenging). Wizehive is also relatively expensive for the services they provide (costing about $9000 for the 2012-13 Contest year).

As previously mentioned, Big Ideas Staff will be reevaluating online platform options over Summer 2013. Findings and conclusions will be incorporated into future iterations of the Toolkit.