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New program coaches student vets on helping peers

Oct. 4, 2013 - 03:38PM   |  
The program simulates a conversation, letting the player work toward one of multiple solutions.
The program simulates a conversation, letting the player work toward one of multiple solutions. (Kognito Training)
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Kognito Interactive, working with Student Veterans of America, has released a new virtual training program to guide student veterans on how to help peers who are having trouble adjusting to college life.

The training builds on another program released about a year ago that helps school faculty members learn how to work with student vets, Kognito CEO Ron Goldman said.

“It’s important to make sure that veterans themselves know how to best serve each other,” Goldman said, adding that even if they’ve been through similar experiences, vets might benefit from some guidance on having what are sometimes difficult conversations.

Goldman likens the program to a flight simulator, but instead of guidance with takeoffs and landings, it offers help figuring out what to say to vets having difficulty with university academics or culture.

The program presents users with cartoon images of two student veterans. The user takes control of one of these vets, deciding what that person should say to help a fellow vet having one of three different types of problems.

Users choose between various lines of conversation and responses. Progressing well in the conversation earns users up to a maximum of five stars in the program. If a user chooses a bad response, the program allows the conversation to “go back in time” and try again.

Users are presented with suggestions throughout, and there is often more than one way to succeed or fail.

“It actually gives you hands-on practice,” Goldman said. “It’s a confidential environment. You can try things you would probably not try in real life and see how it works.”

Colleges typically can purchase the program and make it available to their students for between $3,000 and $5,000 per year, he said. If a student attends a school that has not purchased the peer support program, it can be purchased individually for $25 per user, Goldman said.

The version of the program designed for school faculty and staff costs a similar amount for entire colleges and universities. The per-user price is $32. Goldman said that more than 100 colleges and universities around the country use the program currently.

Goldman said that the program’s interactive approach is more engaging than the lectures or PowerPoint presentations traditionally used.

Michael Dakduk, executive director of Student Veterans of America said that through its similarity to video games, the program “is approaching the younger generation of veterans where they’re at.”

“Just because we’re veterans does not mean we’re experts on all of these issues,” Dakduk said. “I hope that we can get more faculty, staff, veterans and students at large trained on how to identify issues that some veterans may be facing and make sure that they can be trained on how to provide the best referral.”

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