21 Voices

21 Students, 1 Company, Better Products

A Cengage Learning research project to better understand the students of today — and tomorrow

What is 21 Voices?

21 Voices is a research program conducted by Cengage Learning to help the company’s employees understand and empathize with college students in order to gain insights into their daily lives. Such insights help the employees design and deliver products that both engage and delight students.

Twenty-one students participate in 21 Voices across the United States. They are drawn from different regions, genders, and socioeconomic backgrounds, and they represent a mix of different majors, as well as academic and extracurricular interests. What distinguishes 21 Voices is that it is not focused on the development of a specific new product but is, rather, focused on the end-to-end lives of the students involved, with the intention of discovering new opportunities to help students succeed.

How Does it Work?

Students are paired with Cengage researchers to do weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly activities.

  • Weekly

    Each week, student participants conduct a self-report activity such as writing a blog, drawing their day, taking pictures of their environment, or a variety of other activities that help them describe or illustrate their lives. The students send these materials on to their researchers.

  • Monthly

    Program researchers conduct a monthly call or video chat with student participants to discuss the student submissions and ask follow up questions or explore topics of interest. Students also participate in intermittent surveys so that researchers can more deeply explore emerging themes.

  • Quarterly

    On a quarterly basis, the researchers visit the students to spend a day with them, observing their lives. Researchers visit students at different times to observe periods of interest such as the first week of class, the middle of the semester, the week of finals, etc.

  • Annually

    Student participants attend an annual summit with the research team to share findings.

An Inspired Effort

Fifty years ago, documentary filmmakers tracked the lives of a group of seven-year-old school students drawn from a variety of different backgrounds. It began in 1964 with a documentary called 7Up, and a new documentary about the group’s lives has been produced every seven years since.

That project was the inspiration for Cengage's 21 Voices program. The Up series is a film project, of course, whereas 21 Voices is a research project based on self-reporting and observation. But while details may differ, the overall goal of 21 Voices is the same as that of the film that provided its inspiration: get to know students better than anyone else, thereby deriving unique insights into their daily lives.

21 Voices FAQ

Eligibility and Recruiting

I have heard that family members of Cengage employees are ineligible, who all does that include?
Employees, directors, officers or agents of Cengage Learning, Inc. or their affiliates (“Cengage” or the “Sponsor”) and members of the immediate families (parent, child, sibling and spouse of each) or households (people living with the Employees, directors, officers or agents) of any of the above are prohibited from participating in the 21 Voices program.
Who should apply?
21 Voices will be comprised of undergraduate students from domestic schools. We are looking for traditional and non-traditional students, from 2-year and 4-year institutions, and it does not matter if the schools are private (for profit). International students are also welcome to apply.
What should I expect from the application process?
We are using a tiered recruiting process to help us ensure a diverse representation of students. In our first tier, we are looking for balanced representation across year of study, region of U.S. and unique school. We will have no more than one student per school. If your application moves to the next tier of screening, you can expect to receive an email containing a link to an additional form where we gather more information about you. In our second tier, we are looking for diversity across several dimensions. Recruiting for 21 Voices will be taking place May – July of 2014. You can expect to hear from us regarding the status of your application (either way) by July 31, 2014.

Student Experience and Commitment

For how long do the participants need to commit?
Students can participate in the program as long as they are enrolled in a domestic college and an undergraduate. A Freshman beginning the program in the Fall could potentially participate for four years. Students will be signing one-year contracts, and then renewing for each subsequent year of participation.
Will 21 Voices students be available to Cengage Learning for other purposes?
While participating in the 21 Voices program, students will not and should not be asked to participate in any other data gathering initiatives for products or promotional purposes with Cengage Learning. The primary goal of this program is to better understand and empathize with student’s lives. The Cengage Learning 21 Voices team does not want to endanger the nature of student’s participation.

21 Voices Website

There’s a problem with the website, it looks like it’s losing its text, what’s up?
We are having some problems with the site when using IE. There do not appear to be these problems when using other browsers. Clearing your cache solves the problem for most people, and there do not seem to be any problems viewing the site in other browsers.
The application form looks very simple, how are you going to guarantee diversity with so few questions?
We are using a 2-tiered application process. The simple form on the website represents our initial screening questions based on the highest priorities for diversity and eligibility. Students who meet these criteria will be sent an additional, more comprehensive, application form with instructions for next steps.

Apply to be a part of 21 Voices

We have closed the 21 Voices application process for the 2014/2015 academic year. We will begin taking applications for the 2015/2016 academic year in March of 2015. Thank you for your interest!