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Student Engagement
Student Retention

Bucks County Community College: Improving Student Retention & Scaling High Impact Practices

JFischer

Jessica Fischer

Digital Marketing Specialist

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Solutions Used

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Description

In an effort to engage students digitally, improve retention, and track co-curricular activity, Bucks County Community College teamed up with Suitable to create a personalized, mobile-first student experience


BCCC created Bucks+ to motivate Gen Z students to get involved and track the positive impact of engagement on student retention.

Bucks+ sets students up for success by scaling high-impact practices and equipping them with an experiential learning record that follows them beyond their time at BCCC.

About the School

Bucks County Community College is a public community college based in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Between their highly-rated online community college and three campuses, the college educates approximately 7,450 undergraduate students amongst over 70 different academic programs. 

With 45 student-run clubs and organizations and 10 intercollegiate sports competing in the Eastern Pennsylvania Athletic Conference (EPAC) and the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA), Bucks CCC knew they needed to engage their students digitally and boost involvement in order to improve student retention.

 

Challenges before Suitable

In order to develop well-rounded students and track retention, the BCCC team needed to find a way to measure the impact of student engagement in real time and scale high impact practices digitally.

Once staff started to dive into what captures Gen Z students’ attention more effectively, they knew something had to change. Knowing that Gen Z students are heavily reliant on their mobile devices, the faculty at BCCC wanted a way to engage students digitally and directly on their cell phones.

"Students didn't know WHY they should participate in things that were outside of the classroom. They thought they should just come and do their classwork and just move on. They really wanted to know "if I go to this panel presentation...what's in it for me? What am I going to get out of that?"

- Tracy Timby, Dean of Business and Innovation, Bucks County Community College

In addition, administrators were seeing declining attendance to campus-sanctioned events and speaker series. This combination of challenges led BCCC to look for a solution that boosts, tracks, and reports co-curricular activities and incentivizes students to get involved

Life with Suitable

The Bucks+ pilot was launched with four personalized core competencies, then added Bucks Pride as a fifth core competency once the program was adopted campuswide.

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Tracy and her faculty chose Suitable for its mobile-first, user-friendly platform and advanced gamification features. Students adopted the app easily and the unique gamification features were a gamechanger for student engagement.

"I didn't really think that a Leaderboard would have so much of an impact. But it really does. It is stunning to see how much students will engage so that they will earn points for their participation.  Thus giving them an immediate return, so it's fast, it's a quick ROI, and they move up the leaderboard so they feel this sense of accomplishment."

Tracy Timby, Dean of Business and Innovation, Bucks County Community College


Thanks to the flexibility and personalization capabilities of Suitable, Bucks+ was born, aligning what’s happening in the classroom with the efforts and impact students are making outside of the classroom at BCCC. Bucks+ not only tracks the data and experiences of students while they’re attending the college, but they have a co-curricular record of experiences and programs they were a part of even after they continue on.

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Bucks+ was designed to integrate with the College Success course to create strategic learning plans for students, ensuring they understand their goals and what it takes to succeed at BCCC and beyond. Bucks+ corresponds directly with activities required in the College Success program, not only earning students a grade in the classroom but earning them points in the Bucks+ app that allows them to move up the Leaderboard.

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Once Bucks+ launched across all programs, the BCCC team saw an increase in student engagement, more interactions with Career Services, and a positive impact on student retention.

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When BCCC was forced completely virtual during the COVID-19 pandemic in Spring 2020, Bucks+ helped students pivot and stay engaged. Students could attend remote appointments with advisors, work on a student self-care badge, listen to the campus podcast, and track community involvement right from their phones.

Bucks+ allows students to track their progress, directly seeing what they’ve accomplished and what they still have left to do.

ASK THE ADMINISTRATOR

If the implementation of Suitable had not been so easy to do - it would have been a disaster. It was probably one of the easiest campus-wide implementations I’ve ever been a part of or witnessed.

Tracy Timby, Dean of Business and Innovation,
Bucks County Community College

Take a look at the accomplishments of the Bucks+ initiative

  • Bucks+ increased student interactions with Career Services by 86%
  • Student retention increased by nearly 15% when students completed 5 or more activities on Bucks+ (vs. no activities completed)
  • Significant increase in student engagement since Bucks+ was introduced
  • Bucks+ helped boost retention, engagement and performance across all GPAs, not just amongst the ‘top performing’ students
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Additional Outcomes Achieved

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Despite challenges surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, BCCC continued finding ways to leverage Suitable's mobile capabilities to keep students engaged using mobile nudges, scorecards, and experiential learning records.

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Plans for the Future

Tracey and her staff are planning to continue to improve the Bucks+ platform by expanding the use of Suitable’s mobile-first capabilities.

The BCCC team is launching a Refer-a-Friend program, to get more students involved who haven’t engaged with Bucks+ before. Since the data supports that retention rates improve dramatically when two or more activities are completed - this initiative will help improve student retention outcomes by bridging the gap between no activity and manageable, ‘bite-sized’ engagement activities.

 

The administration is also working on ways to maximize the use of mobile nudges and reflections to help boost engagement and illicit feedback from students both online and upon returning to campus.