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Inside Bucks County Community College's Bucks+ Initiative

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Bucks County Community College’s largest transfer partner is Temple University. To better help their students transition to Temple University and prepare them for life after Bucks and beyond, they developed Bucks+ and partnered with Suitable. Since Temple has been using Suitable, Bucks is able to seamlessly integrate and blend their student success system with Temple’s. Suitable’s mobile-first technology is designed for the younger generation of students and has helped increase student engagement at Bucks more than ever before (even through the pandemic) by providing students with a virtual roadmap through the Bucks County Community College student experience. 

About the School

Bucks County Community College is located approximately an hour north of Philadelphia. Since their biggest transfer partner is Temple University, Bucks constructed a co-curricular and experiential learning program called Bucks+ that aligns with Temple’s called FLDP, and now Temple Together so that their students can transfer experiences like they do courses and be set up for success once they start at Temple.

Challenge before Suitable

In 2014, Bucks launched a few department specific initiatives and there seemed to be great participation for a few years, but then it started to decline. They needed to reevaluate what they were doing to actively engage the younger generation of students. After doing research, Bucks was looking for a platform that was equipped with tools geared towards the tech savvy generation of students. They were seeking a platform that was fast, efficient, and mobile. The average attention span of Gen Z is 7 seconds and if there are too many hoops to jump through, many students will not take efforts to carry through. Also, Gen Z students do not like to waste their time, they want to know why they are doing something, so it’s no wonder why the  competency-based framework of Bucks+ is so effective.

Life with Suitable

Bucks County Community College  immediately knew that Suitable was the best option for Bucks+ because of our mobile first technology, gamification, and Temple’s existing partnership with Suitable. Bucks knows that students spend hours and hours on their smartphones each week and Suitable’s unparalleled mobile app is the best way to reach them. Additionally, with Suitable, administration can send tailored push notifications to students to remind them of news or deadlines, update them on changes to event logistics, and encourage them to get involved. This has been a far more practical alternative to emailing students, which has about a 17% open rate across the industry. Students simply ignore emails that they think are spam. And most emails are spam. Suitable’s platform also incorporates a gamified approach. As students progress through Bucks+ they gain points, earn achievements, and can be featured on the Influencer Leaderboard. This is an effective way to engage Gen Z students because they value individualism; students want to feel valued for their efforts so gamification incentivizes students and creates friendly competition among them. 

Temple has been using Suitable for a few years and uses Suitable to track their students’ experiential learning graduation requirements. This prompted Bucks to create their Bucks+ program on Suitable, so that their students can transfer their experiential learning and ensure they remain on the right track to completing their graduation requirement. Fortunately, Temple had already defined a set of core competencies that Bucks could adopt. This made the value proposition of integrating Bucks and Temple experiential learning even stronger. Students could easily continue developing the skills they had already been honing. Temple’s use of Suitable also adds validation to Bucks+; there is greater incentive to participate if they know their involvement will transfer with them. Using Suitable has allowed Bucks students to be more prepared for whatever their next destination may be, Temple or the workforce. Employers were telling Bucks that they wanted students that have initiative. With Suitable, every student is given a personalized Experiential Learning Record to showcase their initiative and tell their professional stories. This Experiential Learning Record has a shareable web and mobile version as well as a portable version that can be printed out.

Outcomes Achieved

Shortly after Bucks launched Bucks+, the school had to go virtual due to the COVID-19 outbreak. They were worried that students would stop engaging in experiential learning because they also had to do online learning for classes. However, with Suitable, Bucks didn’t miss a beat and was able to pivot their programming on Suitable to completely virtual in a matter of days. They offered students over 80 opportunities to engage remotely through Suitable and Bucks was actually seeing an increase in student engagement!. Suitable’s revolutionary platform offers great flexibility to engage students no matter what the format.

Suitable also provides real-time data to better track student engagement and student retention than ever before. Our platform provides an unprecedented amount of both qualitative and quantitative data about student engagement right out of the box. Schools can also create custom reports based on their needs. They can also use our data analytics to better assess a variety of outcomes.

Plans for the Future

After a successful Phase One, soft launch in Fall 2019, Bucks+ will go campus wide to engage the entire campus, an additional 6,400 students. They would also like to integrate Suitable with other systems like Credly and Canvas. Lastly, Bucks plans to explore strategies to measure success of Bucks+ graduates (employed or transferred) to create a predictive model of what success students look like at the college.