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Inside Shippensburg University's Raider Ready Initiative


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Shippensburg University decided it was time to take the initiative to better prepare their students for the future with essential skills that they were not developing in the classroom. After doing extensive research, they found that many business leaders report a skills gap in their workforce. According to an Adecco Study on the skills gap in American workforce, published in February 2020, 92% of business leaders think Americans aren’t as skilled as they need to be. In addition, 44% report lack of soft skills such as communication, creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration. To beat the statistics for their school, Ship created Raider Ready, a student development program. They partnered with Suitable to better engage students and to have robust technology to track student progress and visualize their data. With Suitable, Ship is achieving unprecedented outcomes, even when students were remote due to the pandemic.

About the School

The Shippensburg University is located in Pennsylvania and is one of the 14 schools that are a part of PASSHE. Ship has over 100 undergraduate programs with about 9,000 undergraduate students. They transformed their student experience and call it Raider Ready to prepare students with essential skills that they need for lifelong success.

Challenge before Suitable

The staff at Shippensburg University sat down with local employers to discuss how their students were performing in the workforce. Although students were prepared academically, employers were reporting that many graduates were missing core workplace competencies. Ship needed to respond to this feedback but was at a loss. How could they help all 9,000 undergrads develop these skills at scale? Ship couldn’t rely on courses to solve this problem and knew the solution lived beyond the walls of the classroom.

Life with Suitable

To start, Ship surveyed their employers to get an initial sense of the competencies they should focus on, but they also turned to industry experts such as Dr. James Heckman and Daniel Goleman. James found that IQ tests, SATs, etc are not the only important factors behind a student’s long term success. His research suggests non-cognitive skills are just as predictive if not more. Daniel Goleman’s work identified the Emotional Domains and Competencies which consists of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. To address the foregoing, Shippensburg University constructed a student success initiative called Raider Ready. They partnered with Suitable to effectively engage their students and provide their students with an enriching outside the classroom. Raider Ready scaffolds students through co-curricular and experiential learning activities that help develop the 8 NACE Career Readiness Competencies. With Suitable, students were now empowered to bridge these learning gaps on their own.

That is why Ship knew there could be only one home for Raider Ready - and that was Suitable. Every time a school partners with Suitable, student participation has increased. The intuitive mobile app provides students with a centralized location for all on-campus activities. It also makes it easy for students to see what they’ve done and what they have left to do. Suitable incorporates micro and macro levels of achievement that stack on top of one another. This allows Ship to effectively scaffold the students’ development and provide a clear pathway to success. Suitable’s unique design encourages students to progress to deeper levels of achievement. In addition, Suitable provides each student with an Experiential Learning Record which is comprehensive visualization of their journey and accomplishments outside the classroom. Students can share their records anywhere over the web or download a printable format to take with them.

Administratively, their previous system proved inadequate and so when Ship replaced it with Suitable, it removed all the manual overhead. With Suitable’s set it and forget it tracking, staff and admins can stop wasting time on repetitive low-value tasks, and now focus their time on strategy and making improvement to the student experience. Ship can visualize their data right on their dashboard and make customizations where desired. The custom reporting has helped Ship elevate their assessment and accreditation efforts. Plus, to address low email response rates, Ship admins were able to utilize Suitable’s push notifications to improve students awareness and communication. Staff can simply write, send, and schedule push notifications directly from their admin dashboard.

Outcomes Achieved

In the Fall of 2019, Raider Ready was launched to freshmen and open to sophomores as well. 97% of students were engaged on Suitable, with 3,902 experiences completed. In addition, there were over 2,000 experiences completed with sophomores. Ship also put out a pre-semester and post-semester survey to assess the learning and development.  

By analyzing the data that Suitable provides, Ship was able to prove that students who engage have a strong self-reported sense of career readiness. Ship was also able to analyze Suitable’s unique data to uncover a positive correlation between students that used the Suitable app and their performance in class. Without Suitable, Ship wouldn’t have been able to engage students at scale nor demonstrate how they were helping graduates become “Raider Ready”.

Plans for the Future

Fortunately, Suitable is already built to help schools engage students virtually, that is why when campus was closed down due to COVID-19, Ship didn’t miss a beat with student engagement. In fact, the transition to remote went so well that Ship is considering Suitable’s newest product, our “Virtual Student Engagement Toolkit”. Ship also plans to build out additional achievements and milestones for students. Doing so will continue increasing campus adoption, and unlock opportunities for research on other outcomes, such as placement rate, starting salaries, and retention and persistence.