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Student Engagement
Student Retention

Montclair State University: Sustainably Boosting Student Engagement & Retention

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Jessica Fischer

Digital Marketing Specialist

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Solutions Used

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Description

Experience Montclair was revamped in Fall 2018 to better align with the strategic plan of Montclair State University’s Student Development and Campus Life Division. What started as a pilot with first-year students rapidly transformed into an enterprise mission for student success and career readiness.

Montclair State University created Experience Montclair to grow student engagement, but with the help of Suitable, MSU has seen a significant improvement in student retention while also seeing a decrease in the rate of course withdrawal.

Experience Montclair sets students up for success by getting them plugged in from day one with the First Semester Achievement badge, which structures pathways to student persistence and retention.

About the School

Montclair State University is a public college based in Montclair, New Jersey. MSU is a leading institution of higher education in New Jersey and the second-largest university in the state. The university is designated a Research Doctoral University by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education.

Situated on a 252-acre suburban campus just 12 miles from New York City, MSU educates over 21,000 students between undergraduate and graduate programs and offers over 300 different majors, minors, certifications, and specialized programs.

Challenges before Suitable

The Montclair team revamped Experience Montclair to provide activities, events and workshops that stimulate students’ intellectual curiosity and career readiness through academic and co-curricular programming. The initiative was intended to promote active student engagement from the very first semester. But the participation and interest just wasn’t there.

While they had a plan in place for student success, the program failed to capture students’ attention and evoke action.

In addition to low engagement, the team was relying on manual, tedious, error-prone processes such as surveys and spreadsheets to track student engagement and attendance.

Experience Montclair relaunched in 2018 on Suitable’s mobile-first student engagement platform to promote student success and better track retention and participation data.

Since then, the Montclair team hasn’t slowed down, launching new initiatives and getting students set up for success from day one.

Life with Suitable

Experience Montclair’s framework originally focused on ten core competencies that were designed to increase student participation in co-curricular programming. 

The MSU team used Suitable’s customizable digital badges to revamp their approach and allow individual schools and programs to customize the student experience.

 In Spring 2021, administrators launched pilots in hopes that other programs would develop their own, personalized Experience Montclair dashboards relevant to their needs for Fall 2021 and the future.



With the First Semester Achievement badge (FSA), Experience Montclair's positive outcomes have increased year over year. FSA is not only boosting student engagement but shows a direct correlation with lowered course withdrawal rates and increased GPAs for participating students.


Montclair continues to see strong ROI from their switch to Suitable--not only in student engagement but in student retention as well. 

As Experience Montclair continues to launch new versions across various academic programs, the MSU team expects further increases in student engagement, retention and success in the years to come.

 

ASK THE ADMINISTRATOR

"We already had the initiative in place before Suitable ... but it wasn’t working."

Ginnae HinsonDirector, Career Services, College of Science and Mathematics at Montclair State University

Take a look at the accomplishments of the Experience Montclair initiative

  • Experience Montclair’s FSA badge correlates with higher GPAs for participating students.
  • All students who participate have a personalized Experiential Learning Record and online Co-Curricular Transcript to carry with them post-graduation.
  • Administrators have seen a significant increase in student engagement since Experience Montclair was revamped.
  • The projected ROI continues to increase since using Suitable.
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Additional Outcomes Achieved

After three years of partnership with Montclair State University, the outcomes continue to speak for themselves. Even through the pandemic, not only has student engagement grown year over year, but Montclair State is leveraging data from the Suitable app to improve student retention while also decreasing the rate of course withdrawal.

What started with first-year students has rapidly transformed into a full-campus initiative for student success.

Plans for the Future

Moving forward, MSU is looking to launch enterprise options within different schools and programs, creating unique dashboards and badges depending on area of study.

Montclair plans to require completion of the FSA badge by week 7 of the first semester, then use the data as an indicator of those students who are not fully engaged and conduct early outreach/intervention.


In the future, MSU hopes to be able to define student engagement based on student behavior using Suitable to build student profiles based on collected data. The next step would be integrating the data collected in the Suitable app with the university’s central communication system, Navigate for a full-campus data transformation, tracking the entire student journey--inside and outside of the classroom.