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Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas implemented their Students Achieving Milestones (S.A.M.) program that provides a framework for students to enhance their personal, academic and professional opportunities by being exposed to, participating in, and gaining experience in student success and career readiness skills. Walton partnered with Suitable to scale the S.A.M. program and prepare their students with transferable skills for life after graduation through fostering an environment of continuous learning and growth.
Of the 30,000 undergraduate students at the University of Arkansas, 8,000 of them attend Sam M. Walton College of Business. Only 5 years after being founded in 1926, the college of business administration was the first undergraduate program to be accredited by the AACSB. In 2022, Walton College was ranked as the number one North American undergraduate program in Supply Chain Management by Gartner. With the university’s location in Northwest Arkansas, Walton College has accessible relationships with employers at Walmart, Tyson Foods and more.
Based on employers, advisory boards and the NACE competencies, Walton College implemented the S.A.M. program in Fall 2019 to create parallel opportunities inside and outside of the classroom. Walton started with a freshman class of 1,500 students, but in Fall 2022, will have about 2,500 new freshmen joining the program. With student enrollment increasing at a rapid pace, Walton College needed a platform to manage and scale their 12 unique competencies within the S.A.M. program. This is where they turned to Suitable.
Walton College personalized its Suitable experience to align with their needs through three main capabilities: Suitable’s digital badging system, LTI integration with Blackboard, and electronic student portfolios. Suitable’s digital badges are used to highlight the learning that occurs outside traditional classroom settings. Each of these badges have five different levels of engagement – exposure, interaction, participation, expertise, and mastery. At Walton, digital badges can be stand alone or a prerequisite that scaffolds other badges or experiences, such as studying abroad.
To ensure freshmen coming into Walton are prepared, they participate in the S.A.M. Scavenger Hunt badge on Suitable. This is an opportunity for students to get familiar with the platform through participation in simple activities, such as uploading a professional picture or following Walton College on social media. Some of S.A.M.’s other featured digital badges include the following:
In Fall 2022, 2,500 freshman students across 108 sections were completing the Freshman Business Connections badge. For Walton’s 50+ instructors, managing this badge with Suitable was quite easy. Additionally, Suitable’s LTI integration with Blackboard made assignment and attendance tracking, as well as weekly reporting seamless for instructors and students because everything is housed in one dashboard.
The Career Management badge comprises required assignments that are all integrated into one of Walton’s upper level supply chain courses. From attending a career fair preparation workshop to developing an elevator pitch, the badge’s activities support Walton students in a manageable way without adversely impacting the instructor. At the end of the term, Suitable displays, with ease, which students did and did not complete the badge for instructors to assess.
As mentioned before, there are badges that build upon each other, such as Walton’s Global Intelligence badges. The badges are broken up into two levels – awareness and engagement. Within each level, Suitable makes certain assignments available only after prerequisites are completed so activities can be properly prioritized. This truly ensures students gain a foundation of awareness in global intelligence that will then allow and encourage them to do more. Walton plans to require the awareness level for students interested in studying abroad.
Moving on, another one of Suitable’s solutions that Walton relies on is the LTI integration between Suitable and Blackboard. Walton is able to easily launch integrated courses through Suitable’s digital badges while reaching more students. Also, instructors do not have to sign into Suitable. They can send and receive data with Suitable right from their Blackboard dashboard - which expands the number of faculty willing to participate. Of course, instructors still have full control of grading assignments.
A major benefit of this integration is that students can automatically build an electronic portfolio on Suitable as they complete their coursework. This electronic portfolio is viewable at all times to the students. They are able to see the different activities they accumulated while at Walton and refer back to them should they need to for an interview or employers.
After a successful four years, Walton College has future plans for Suitable and the S.A.M. program. To begin, they will consider updates to their badges to better align them with specific skills gaps that employers are identifying. Along with this, Walton is looking to strengthen employer relations by incentivizing students to participate in their badges. When employers are searching for students who completed their badge, Suitable has straightforward and real-time reporting for Walton and the employer.
Besides employer badges, Walton plans to create more badges that can be used in the classroom, specifically within the business core courses through Suitable’s LTI Blackboard integration. Finally, Walton hopes to require specific Suitable activities to be completed for access to certain events and programs. An example of this is requiring students to complete the Career Management badge before attending the career fair so that they are better prepared to network with employers.