A Shippensburg University networking platform will experience major changes in the upcoming months as part of a plan to increase online engagement with students.
Ship Link, a networking service for student groups, is a Facebook-style site with which students and student groups can connect with one another. It is also a one-stop shop between the Student Government Association (SGA) and the services it offers on-campus groups.
The platform is currently run by OrgSync, an online communication management system. However, SU’s contract with OrgSync is “coming to an end soon,” according to Sarah Schenk, assistant director for student group services and leadership development. The program launched several years ago.
Once the university’s contract with OrgSync expires, SU plans to overhaul the site with a new OrgSync layout or choose a new provider entirely.
“Ship Link will have a different look for the future,” Schenk said.
OrgSync recently merged with Collegiate Labs, another communication system, to become Campus Labs.
If SU decides it does not like the format of Campus Labs, it will begin the search for a new, cost-effective provider.
One of the issues Schenk hopes to resolve — with or without a new provider — is student frustration over having to use Ship Link for their groups or personal use.
Student groups are mandated to keep their rosters updated on their pages, and previously were required to attend Ship Link training before the platform launched.
Groups that do not update their Ship Link pages are at risk of losing Student Government Association (SGA) recognition. This means that they cannot request a budget from SGA or use SGA services.
Although there are more than 150 student group portals open on Ship Link, only “a few groups” actively use their accounts, according to SGA vice president Makayla Glass.
“Some groups are very active [on ShipLink],” Glass said. “If changes are made we want student input.”
Schenk attributed student reluctance with using Ship Link to the fact that current SU students are used to pen-and-paper interactions with SGA.
This will eventually not be a problem because all of the paper-and-pen students will have graduated, Schenk said.
At that point, students will be trained on Ship Link from the beginning of their college careers.
Another issue with OrgSync is its functionality. Ship Link’s website can be hard to navigate, causing some students to have difficulty accessing all of its features, as well as properly receiving emails and announcements, Glass said.
“We are entertaining new platforms to see what works best,” Schenk said. “Leaving it the way it is now is not an option.”
Schenk described Ship Link as a way for students to document their time at SU.
The website allows students to “check in” to on-campus events by swiping their student IDs, which are linked to each student’s Ship Link account.
It is also a way for SU’s administration and staff to study attendance and find out which events are most popular with students.
“It’s a good way to track what events work, and what needs to be revamped to be more successful,” Schenk said. “It’s really beneficial as a means of communication.”
Schenk said she knows of some features that would be beneficial to the platform.
However, this will not be a quick process by any means, with Schenk describing the overhaul as “a lot of work on the back end.”
Schenk said a survey will be sent to students before the end of the semester regarding the upcoming changes. The survey will be made available on students’ Ship Link accounts.