Software alerts students of academic status

By John Kearney

Screenshot from Delagate’s Application Sidebar. Photo courtesy of DCCC website

Starfish Early Alert is a thumbnail that exists alongside frequently used Delagate applications such as Canvas, Student Email, and Degree Works.

The retention program, consisting of 7,000 online profiles, has features that are pertinent to student success, advocates say.

David Murtha, dean of the Career and Counseling Center and one of Early Alert’s coordinators, said the program aims to identify students exhibiting behaviors not conducive to student success before they have no choice but to withdraw from or fail a course.

“Historically, many institutions would send midterm warnings to students,” Murtha said. “However, when it is halfway through the semester, it is often too late to turn grades around.”

The Starfish program was launched in fall of 2015 as a more efficient replacement to SARS (Scheduling and Reporting System) the preceding online feature of the Early Alert system, according to David Pringle, director of Student Completion Programs.

After its conception, professors were directed to implement “kudos” and “warnings” to their students with respect to their academic standing in the class. Kudos are sent to students who show above-average academic standing in a course. Warnings are sent to those missing classwork, those who are unable to attend class regularly, and to those at risk of failing a course.

Humanities Professor Francesco Bellini, recalled attempting to warn a student of missing work through one of Starfish’s click-and-send messages during the Fall 2016 semester.

“The letter was typed as though I had written it and my name was signed at the end,” Bellini said. “We went back and forth with the administration and eventually agreed on a neutral reply.” Professors are now able to customize these messages.

The program has proven itself beneficial in its mission. According to data from the fall 2017 semester, students who received kudos had a seven percent higher credit-completion rate than those who did not; they were also seven percent more likely to come out of a course with a C or higher, said Pringle.

Two new features have been added to Starfish during the 2017-2018 academic year: “My Success Network” and “Raise Your Hand.”

“My Success Network” is a directory for all the staff in the Career and Counseling Center, as well as any given student’s profile’s instructors for the current semester, and tutoring information.

“Raise Your Hand” gives students a space where they can ask questions, such as those pertaining to work-study opportunities, those with questions related to tutoring for coursework, and “I Need Help,” a category for general inquiries that pertain to any college-related matters.

“I Need Help” allows for concerns of any school-related program, ranging from the financial aid process to food products in the cafeteria, to be sent to the correct department and answered via online messaging.

“It’s been a work in progress, and we have been revamping it and hearing concerns,” Murtha said. “Even though we have had it for almost two years, these past semesters reflect the direction we are heading towards.”

Contact John Kearney at

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s