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Student Engagement
Student Development

Inside ACU Compass: Roadmaps for Holistic Student Formation

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Jessica Fischer

Digital Marketing Specialist

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Solutions Used

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Description

The recipe for student success consists of many factors. Determining what those factors are for your students can be a challenge.

These factors, infused with data and insights, will clarify the most important elements of your school's student experience. At Abilene Christian University, they landed on 5 'lanes' of growth outside of the classroom that are key to a student's holistic development at ACU.

The next challenge for ACU to solve was how they would support thousands of students in each of these 'lanes' and provide each student with a personalized roadmap for their ACU journey.

Learn how ACU rose to the challenge, used these 'lanes' to maximize the student experience and found success using Suitable to support holistic student development.

About the School

Founded in 1906, Abilene Christian University is one of the largest private institutions in the Southwest.

Located in Abilene, Texas, ACU has approximately 5,300 students enrolled. The university offers over 100 different bachelor's, master's, doctoral, and online degrees. ACU has over 100 student organizations and 17 NCAA Division 1 sports teams.

ACU is consistently ranked for its innovation, first-year student experience and learning community according to U.S. News & World Report 2022.


 

Challenges before Suitable

The team at ACU was looking for a way to track experiential learning that aligned with their strategic plan after asking themselves "What does it look like to engage students academically, spiritually, professionally, and experientially?"

When the strategic plan was first introduced with other technology, the administration was frustrated with the lack of flexibility of legacy tech and its inability to integrate with Banner.

Derran Reese, the Director of Experiential Learning, pitched the idea of creating a visual roadmap for a more holistic student experience to higher-level leadership.

Based on ACU’s strategic plan, the roadmap featured 5 "lanes" of growth and the team began looking for an app that students could use to complete and track their progress right from their phones. The ACU team also wanted an app that could capture chapel / spiritual formation events and track attendance hours.

Brad Crisp, the Dean of the School of Business at ACU, is also a professor and made technology research a class project. Suitable was one of the technologies being compared in the business class in Spring 2019. Suitable was deemed the best platform after all the research and comparisons were presented. Many students were excited about the gamification features, the administration loved the data capabilities and everyone could benefit from the mobile-first, user-friendly nature of Suitable.

Brad pitched the data and research to Derran in early Fall 2019 after they attended a Partner Panel with University of Pittsburgh. Derran, Brad and Cyrus Eaton, the Dean of Spiritual Formation and  Campus Chaplain, decided unanimously on Suitable due to the flexibility and capabilities of the platform in June 2020 and ACU Compass was born.

To launch Compass on Suitable, the ACU team created a committee of 7 people to help map out how to use Suitable, create roadmaps for different career paths and best support the strategic plan. The committee started working in Fall of 2020, with a representative from each of the major colleges.

The Compass pilot program launched in Spring 2021 with the business college and small segments from other colleges.

Brad's class again took implementation upon themselves for a group project and helped get Compass up and running on Suitable.

Life with Suitable

On Suitable, Compass was launched to all undergraduate students in August of 2021.

Compass focuses on 5 ‘lanes’ of holistic student growth:

  • Intellectual
  • Spiritual
  • Personal
  • Professional 
  • Cultural 

Not only has engagement skyrocketed, but the administration has greater visibility into the progress of their students.

In the Business School, 84% of students are actively using Compass to complete activities, fulfill chapel requirements and earn badges. Students are also preparing for life after graduation through the Professional Development Badge (strongly encouraged in Senior capstone) and Pre-Business Badge (new requirement for Freshmen and Sophomores to enter major)

Supporting the campuswide goals of a Christian University, Compass is also helping the ACU team manage and track students’ progress towards spiritual growth. 

Students have responded well to the shift to Suitable, and are benefitting from:

  •  An improved student experience with Spiritual Formation
  • An accurate, efficient two-way Banner integration
  • Expanded ways to measure student engagement beyond merely Chapel attendance (reflections, submissions, response to Mobile Nudges, etc.)

The ability for faculty, staff and students to create and request their own events for approval.

ASK THE ADMINISTRATOR

“Suitable lets students see what experiences are available to them right now within the student journey - whether it’s for personal growth, spiritual growth or professional growth - it’s all right there.”

Derran Reese, Director of Experiential Learning
Abilene Christian University

Take a look at the accomplishments of the Compass initiative at Abilene Christian University

  • 87% overall undergraduate engagement rate
  • Over 83,000 activities completed
  • 84% of business students actively using Compass to complete requirements for graduation
  • More data to direct spiritual formation efforts and support the strategic plan
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Additional Outcomes Achieved

87% of undergraduate students at ACU are using Suitable to populate e-portfolios, showcase digital badges and track progress. Suitable is helping the ACU team support the school’s strategic plan, lightening the load of manual tracking for administration and giving students a real-time look at their roadmap, progress and goals.

Plans for the Future

The Compass team recently launched more roadmaps and programs, and have even more in the works, including:

  • Experiential Learning: Study Abroad, Internships, Research & Creative Projects
  • Honors College
  • LYNAY - Leadership and Community Engagement program
  • Student Support Services
  • Minor in Entrepreneurship (coming in Spring 2022)
  • Certificate in Entrepreneurship (coming in Spring 2022)

The ACU team is also working on a Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) that focuses on leadership development. This year, they’re creating badges for 2 leadership development programs that will be tracked through Suitable.

The team is aiming to launch roadmaps through Suitable for all residential academic programs by Fall 2024 and even considering utilizing Suitable for online degrees (ACU Dallas) and some residential, graduate programs.

In addition to big goals moving forward, Derran, Brad and Cyrus are continuing to assess outcomes such as first-year retention, experiential learning participation and effectiveness and leadership development as they work to improve the student experience, support the strategic plan and help develop well-rounded students.