Colleges across the nation have access to federal dollars they can use to purchase technology that boosts student retention and success.
Historically Black Colleges & Universities, as well as schools with larger-than-average underprivileged student populations, are eligible for a series of grant programs designed to strengthen these institutions and give at-risk students a better chance at succeeding.
At Jackson State University, Dr. Loria Gordon and her team took advantage of Title III funds to create The Honors Experience - a pilot program within the JSU Honors College.
The Honors Experience combines all of the Honors College's various outside-the-classroom activities into one system, streamlining data collection and helping Dr. Gordon and her team make smarter, more informed programming decisions. Get an in-depth look at how Title III was chosen from a long list of grant programs available to HBCUs and how JSU used those funds to launch The Honors Experience on Suitable.
Jackson State University was founded nearly 150 years ago, in 1877, as Natchez Seminary.
JSU was initially established to educate newly freed African Americans to become ministers and teachers.
Located in Jackson, Mississippi, Jackson State has approximately 7,000 students enrolled. The university offers over 90 different bachelors, masters, specialist, doctorate, and online degrees. It is one of the largest HBCUs in the United States and the fourth-largest university in Mississippi in terms of student enrollment.
JSU is ranked in the Top 20 amongst Historically Black Colleges & Universities by U.S. News, ranking highly for social mobility, research and service.
Jackson State administrators were struggling to adequately track student involvement. When it came time to collect and report attendance numbers, the team identified several inefficiencies that made it difficult to choose programming, plan events and know what types of experiences students were looking for.
Dr. Gordon and her team knew that student engagement was lacking, but there was no clear view of why or how. This made it difficult to fix engagement challenges and get students more involved.
To correct this, Dr. Gordon’s team enlisted Suitable to help them create The Honors Experience, which launched in Fall 2021. The program’s goals were clear – increase student engagement, promote student success and track the data needed to make informed decisions.
Since adopting Suitable and launching The Jackson State University’s Honors Experience, the team now focuses on 14 core competencies for honors college students:
Dr. Gordon and her team used Suitable’s customizable digital badges to revamp their approach to data tracking and encourage student engagement. By using digital badges and the mobile-first Suitable app, the team got a clear view of attendance and engagement data, while students gained an easy way to get involved and see their progress towards career-defining achievements and goals.
Not only does the team have more visibility, they’re using Suitable’s user-friendly platform to track student requirements and completions in real-time. Suitable provides a complete platform that benefits both administration leaders and students equally.
Students are using Suitable to populate e-portfolios, showcase digital badges they’ve earned and build complete co-curricular transcripts that show progress towards marketable skills to future employers. Students at JSU are uploading their resumes, using Reflections to dive deeper into their experiences on campus and getting plugged in immediately, starting at New Student Orientation.
In addition, Suitable is helping the JSU administration support the school’s Strategic Plan. The platform’s data and analytics capabilities are helping the JSU administration quantify student success by making engagement metrics and attendance data readily available. By utilizing e-portfolios, digital badges, mobile nudges and other mobile-first engagement features on Suitable, the team is taking a student-centric approach to success, career readiness and the pursuit of excellence that align with the university’s mission.
Once Dr. Gordon and her team chose Suitable to support The Honors Experience, they’ve been able to ditch the spreadsheets and get greater transparency into student success. Not only is student engagement increasing, but the team at JSU is leveraging data from the Suitable app to identify at-risk students, prepare their students for future success and more.
With innovative technology and more visibility, the administration is able to support the strategic plan and better tell the Jackson State story.
Moving forward, Dr. Gordon and her team want to expand the use of Suitable beyond the Honors College to create a university-wide student success initiative.
Within the Honors College, Dr. Gordon wants to further evaluate the efficacy of programming, events and services.
Dr. Gordon and her team have a goal of collecting more data, analyzing outcomes and using the metrics to scale future initiatives.
In the future, JSU leaders will be able to define student success based on student behavior data collected in the Suitable platform. By utilizing these metrics, the team wants to rewrite what student success means for a Jackson State student.