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Student Engagement
Student Development

Inside University of Pittsburgh Honors College Outside-The-Classroom Curriculum

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John Steele

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Description

The University of Pittsburgh Honors College takes outside-the-classroom experiences seriously. Keeping in mind proven research that shows that High Impact Educational practices and encouragement for outside-the-classroom experiences drive student success, the Honors College teamed up with Suitable in the Spring of 2020 and has seen exponential growth in student engagement and professional success ever since. 

Dr. Audrey Murrell, Acting Dean of the Honors College, took us through how Pitt utilized Suitable’s integration to further their students' outside-the-classroom engagement at our 2020 Pathways conference. Audrey demonstrated how this partnership put her students on a path to professional success.

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“That mix of opportunities was something that we got thrusted into doing because of the COVID pandemic, but it has been an innovation for us that we intend to keep moving forward.” 

Dr. Audrey Murrell: Acting Dean of the University of Pittsburgh's Honors College

About the School

The University of Pittsburgh, sitting in the heart of the city of Pittsburgh, is a public research university. Pitt currently has over 28,300 students across its campuses, with the Honors College accepting up to 600 incoming students per year. For Pitt, the co-curricular experience is a top priority, making the Outside the Classroom Curriculum (OCC) a must-have in the Honors program.

Challenges before Suitable

Before Suitable teamed up with the Honors College, Pitt had already implemented Suitable campus-wide to deliver an institutional initiative they dubbed the “Outside the Classroom Curriculum.”

The team at Pitt also saw a disparity between male and female student participation. Administrators found that male students were more likely to participate and engage in more competitive activities, whereas female students were less likely to participate. Pitt and Suitable staff teamed up to increase the engagement between both groups by creating more individualized and collective activities.

That’s where Suitable stepped in. With our intuitive mobile integration that works behind the scenes, university officials could gather insightful data on student engagement. Our personalized mobile dashboards, delivered through our app, provide unique profiles for every student. Administrators can easily see the opportunities, successes and challenges each student is facing, in real-time. Suitable also allows administrators to create tasks, experiences and recommendations tailored to each student’s individual needs.

Life with Suitable

In partnership with Suitable, Pitt Honors elevated their Honors OCC with our mobile app to help ensure students were gaining the core competencies that Pitt encourages for its students. In partnership with recruiters, Pitt and Suitable co-created badges and milestones endorsed by actual employers. These incentives for engagement not only kept students actively connected with the university but also created powerful connections with potential future employers. Additionally, Pitt students can use Suitable as an online portfolio to use when applying to national scholarships and jobs. 

University officials also found engagement disparities between male and female students; specifically, they found that individual participation in competitive activities was more popular among male students. This led to decreased engagement among female students. 

To address this, Suitable teamed with the University of Pittsburgh to revamp our modes of engagement to include two different methods: individual and collective. We worked with Pitt to create innovative and unique individual experiences, as well as a competition specific to student organizations. The most engaged student organizations were provided additional funding.

This had a profound impact on female participation. Female students were now more likely to engage and participate in activities and events for the benefit of their organizations versus for their own gain. Pitt’s renowned Dean’s Outstanding Student Organization Award is awarded every year to student organizations that are most engaged. Within the first year of implementing these two modes of engagement, the Women in Business student organization won this award because of their exploding participation. 

With Suitable, Pitt Honors has been able to better understand the value of their co-curricular experience. In addition, administrators report an increased ability to assess where students are in development of specific core competencies necessary for short- and long-term success. 

To expand on this success, administrators have since decided to build co-curricular and experiential learning requirements into their degree programs.

Take a Look Into the Pitt Honors OCC Achievement Dashboard

  • Badges and milestones approved by recruiters and employers
  • Personalized development reporting to gauge where students are in core-competency development
  • Leaderboard so students can see how they stack up against classmates and administrators can create competitions and incentives.
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Outcomes Achieved

The University of Pittsburgh has historically been an in-residence university, with most experiences and activities hosted on campus and in person. But as the coronavirus pandemic upended the traditional ways we engage students in higher education, Pitt has adapted to virtual experiences thanks to Suitable. Our mobile-first platform has allowed Pitt to reach students with a notification and a few taps on their phones. Pitt students can now experience the university from anywhere, while still gaining those core skills and competencies that Pitt values. The University of Pittsburgh now has a diverse portfolio of experiences for its students to gain and learn skills that will put them on a path to success.

Plans for the Future

After a successful year with Suitable, Pitt Honors will become the 5th department to successfully personalize a dashboard for their students. With more personalized dashboards tailored to each student's needs, together with the University of Pittsburgh, we can continue to grow student engagement in virtual, hybrid and in-person formats.