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Bucks County Community College (BCCC) partnered with Suitable to develop and scale the Bucks+ program. Being a 100% commuter school, BCCC struggled with student engagement and retention, as well as connection. With the help of the Bucks+ program and Suitable, students are able to enhance their personal and professional acumen by building critical competencies and career readiness skills. Suitable’s platform makes it easy and fun for students to engage on campus and throughout the Bucks County community.
Founded in 1964, Bucks County Community College is a public community college based in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Across its three campuses and communities, the college educates approximately 6,500 students – all of which are commuters. With over 90 academic programs and certificates, Bucks is ranked as the top online community college in Pennsylvania. Their 15-to-1 student to teacher ratio helps students connect with faculty and feel more comfortable before going out into the workforce.
As a commuter and online college, BCCC had a low student engagement rate of 6% in 2019. Many students were unsure how to find out about student organizations and campus-wide events. This posed a problem because students would go directly home after class and miss out on campus activities. When looking for a solution, the previous Dean of Business discovered Suitable at a conference. Since BCCC’s largest transfer partner is Temple University, who also partners with Suitable, the Dean immediately secured funding for Suitable from their Strategic Initiatives Board. In 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic occurred, BCCC quickly implemented the Bucks+ Program through Suitable across campus to combat the possibility of low student engagement and retention.
BCCC’s Bucks+ program would not be where it is today without Suitable’s built-in competency framework and digital badging system. BCCC determines its competencies by aligning them with those of Temple University’s Fox School of Business, one of their largest transfer partners. This makes for a seamless integration with Temple’s student success system. Digital badges are based on college initiatives, programming and student development efforts that fall within the different competency categories. During COVID-19, Bucks+ introduced a self-care badge that involved completing activities or attending events that promoted personal well-being, such as participating in meditation or watching a TED Talk about the importance of self care. An incentive for completing more badges include priority access to special events or opportunities.
Suitable also offers the capability to create pop-up badges, such as the New Student Orientation badge. While students are at new student orientation, they are encouraged to download the Suitable app to complete this badge and start being acquainted with campus. The badge walks students through the steps of scanning the QR code and writing a reflection to evaluate the orientation. From here, all students are exposed to Suitable again in their required first-year experience course. Several touchpoints that use Suitable are built right into the course, so all students are required to download the application and complete the course’s activities.
In addition to digital badges and competencies, Bucks+ has increased student retention with Suitable by leveraging the calendar of events, leaderboard and Co-Curricular Transcripts. On Suitable, students have access to the full calendar of events, field trips, and more – all at the touch of their fingertips. Especially being a 100% commuter campus, prior knowledge of the events helps students plan in advance when they need to stay on campus. Suitable’s platform also displays different leaderboards that help motivate and inspire students to continue engaging. Finally, Suitable’s Co-Curricular Transcripts are a way for students to showcase their college experience. When interviewing for a job or applying to transfer to another university, the Co-Curricular Transcript is something students can use to articulate their learning and development.
Not only has student engagement improved, but student retention has too. Since partnering with Suitable, the team at BCCC has refined and scaled the Bucks+ program, gathering best practices, data and insights along the way. They are focused on retaining their students by extracting the data available on Suitable. In AY 21-22, BCCC discovered that completing just one activity through Bucks+ boosted retention over 14%. If students completed 5 activities, that retention rate skyrocketed to 95%.
Partnering with Suitable has been a huge success for Bucks County Community College. To keep this momentum and success going, BCCC wants to track the outcomes of students who complete the New Student Orientation badge and those who do not. On top of that, they would like to continue building analytics to see which aspects of Bucks+ are having the greatest impact on student outcomes, especially retention.
As the Bucks+ program and Suitable partnership continues, BCCC also wants to focus more on their online student population. With the recent adoption of Suitable’s Canvas Integration, BCCC’s faculty can seamlessly incorporate Bucks+ into their courses directly from their Canvas dashboard. This way, BCCC’s online students can earn extra credit by completing activities or attending events that instructors create themselves.