Why Chaplife is the App we Need, and Need to Improve

ChapLife is a sleek and helpful COD platform for extracurricular engagement, but many students remain unaware of it. Can this be explained?


Graphic by Zainab Imam

Yusra Jaleel, Staff Writer

Getting involved with campus extracurriculars is a convenient way to make the most out of the differences by meeting like-minded people while simultaneously doing activities students enjoy. Here at College of DuPage, there is an unsung tool intended to make campus involvement a simpler action. 

ChapLife is a website that houses all information relevant to each of COD’s official 84 organizations. Employing a widely-used campus engagement platform called Presence, ChapLife is accessible through the ‘Student Life and Resources’ tab on the college’s main page. The site features pages dedicated to the campus’s organizations, schedule of upcoming events, and extracurricular-related forms.

Upon first glance, ChapLife seems like a valuable and convenient platform that makes navigating all of COD’s opportunities for involvement pretty feasible. Yet, despite all of these useful features, it doesn’t seem to be widely used or even recognized across the student body. I only recently learned of it myself and have discovered in the process that it’s already existed for several years. Is there an explanation for this disconnect?

The ‘Organizations’ page alphabetically lists each of COD’s organizations, and each specific activity has a section allotted for basic information, upcoming events, and a clickable icon to join or contact the club. The ‘Events’ page chronologically displays all upcoming extracurricular events on campus while noting the affiliated organizations; this page also offers users the option to choose a grid, list or calendar display of the schedule. The ‘Forms’ page contains links to a few specific applications and forms that are generally applicable to all activities such as a club adviser form, a request for club tabling and a new club inquiry form. The site also presents a search bar and several filter options: category of organization, name of a specific organization, tags, dates, and several others. 

Additionally, students are also provided with the opportunity to login through their insideCOD information; under their specific account, students can view current memberships, officially accumulated service hours, and a detailed timeline of all previous organization memberships. 

Accounting student Andrea Jovanovic describes her personal experience with ChapLife beginning late into her first semester at COD and only because of another student briefly mentioning it in passing. She recalled using it to fill out forms for giveaways and see all the clubs offered by the school. However, because of many organization pages remaining inactive, Jovanovic admitted, “I didn’t get to get as involved as I wanted to.” 

Her experience depicts two central issues: ChapLife is pretty difficult to unearth without already knowing it exists, and it isn’t updated regularly across many organizations. Although it is accessible from the school’s main website, a student would already need to be familiar with its features to even know to click on it. 

The tool isn’t even advertised on the homepage. It is tucked away into a subsection. One can find the direct website via a search engine, as is possible with other platforms affiliated with the college. However, without already knowing about ChapLife compared to how familiar students are with BlackBoard, this would be difficult. 

As a recently appointed administrator of a COD club, I’ve foraged through ChapLife from both a posting and receiving perspective on a couple of occasions. The site is noticeably more difficult to navigate as the former than the latter. Not only are there a considerable number of vague icons to navigate through, but the site itself doesn’t provide much direction. If my fellow officers hadn’t been so experienced with ChapLife, I would be lost in knowing what information to include inside of a blank, massive textbox. Many organizations are not updating their pages regularly or even at all, and it is arguable that the ambiguity of the site from the administrative end contributes to why. Nonetheless, ChapLife loses its practicality without this information.

This subsequently leads to another prominent issue with the site: its marketing. It isn’t discussed or marketed around campus, whether that be from staff members, to incoming students at New Student Orientations, or from physical posters. Notably, the current version of ChapLife is actually not the original. The previous version, also called ChapLife, assumed a reputation of being very outdated and difficult to use. Additionally, that version of ChapLife persisted for several years before COD began using Presence to create the website. 

Nevertheless, by maintaining the same name and not even advertising a change, many admins and staff members previously familiar with it held onto their negative biases towards ChapLife. With so many people weary of it, there’s less of an urgency to take advantage of the features the new site has to offer. 

Despite these aspects, there are still several organizations that are concise, active and consistent on their ChapLife page. To illustrate, the Phi Theta Kappa page lists sections dedicated to an overall summary of the club, the requirements to join, the process of joining, the location of the PTK office, a description of the meetings, Zoom link recordings of all previous meetings, opportunities for leadership positions and the advisers’ information. As an officer, myself and the other Phi Theta Kappa leaders dedicated a section of the page to introducing ourselves in order to create a sense of welcoming. Students also have access to both the monthly meeting Zoom link and a contact form. The Phi Theta Kappa page utilizes the features of the website to not only be as thorough and useful as possible to potential and current members but to also maximize on membership engagement. 

Northern Illinois University’s version of ChapLife using Presence has sections dedicated to experiences and resources in addition to the three COD lists. HuskieLink is directly linked to its own social media pages, and all organization pages follow the same format of listing basic information, naming officers, linking documents, linking a contact form and a clickable option to join the organization. This demonstrates that the issue isn’t with the platform at all, but rather with how it’s being used.  

Fortunately for COD students, Phi Theta Kappa is hosting a workshop for extracurricular officers to not only bring awareness to ChapLife and its many assets, but to also teach admins how to use it effectively for better engagement. We are also creating a physical display outside of the Office of Student Life that will provide visual instructions on how to navigate the site effectively on the student end. 

When speaking with Jovanovic, she also candidly noted that, “There’s still a lot that could be improved, mainly the knowledge on how to use it and the marketing of the site itself. Overall though, it’s a useful tool.”  She did say it best herself: all in all, ChapLife is a useful and functional application that could and can benefit many students at College of Dupage, it just isn’t utilized to the best of its abilities.