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Starfish Updates Retention Software

Starfish Retention Solutions has updated its hosted retention application specifically to provide features for tutoring and advising centers. The upgrade includes tutor scheduling, synchronization with Outlook, the ability to manage students within a specific cohort, and other new features. The company also said that it has signed on Colorado State University's Global Campus as a subscriber.

In the new version of the application, students can schedule time with tutors in the same way they could already reserve meeting times with advisors or instructors. Meetings can be one-time or recurring appointments. The program also tracks no-shows and offers attendance verification, as well as tools for capacity planning and payroll.

The upgrade also enables advisors to manage their schedules directly from their Outlook calendars. For example, if a conflict arises on the Outlook calendar during the time an advisor typically meets with students, Starfish will recognize the conflict and adjust the times that a student can choose from to make a new appointment. In addition, an advisor can cancel a student appointment from within Outlook and communicate the change to the student. Advisors can document notes on one or more students at a time, submit appointment availability for the entire term in one action, and e-mail multiple students simultaneously while logging the message as a note within each student's online folder.

Advisors can track performance of and manage interactions with students in cohort groups, such as athletes, TRIO program participants, first-year students, and students on academic probation. That includes being able to set up automatic notifications of low grades or send e-mail requests for feedback to instructors currently teaching students within a targeted cohort.

The Starfish application consists of two programs: Early Alert, which helps institutions to identify at-risk students based on their interactions in class, and Connect, which provides students with a personalized contact list of instructors, advisors, tutors, and counselors.

Recently, Colorado State University's Global Campus deployed the application ultimately to help the online university program improve student retention. But for the short term, said Angela Ellis, associate dean of student success, "we are focused on accelerating the time it takes to connect with a student and offer support when an issue has been identified either through direct faculty feedback or from the student's actual academic performance. As an online institution it is very important to know when a student is falling behind."

The Starfish software checks the academic performance of students within the Blackboard course management system, looking for clues such as missed assignments, attendance, or lack of activity in the online course, and alerts advisors when an issue is identified.

"Our previous process for tracking students was quite labor intensive and placed a significant burden on our faculty members to complete what is otherwise an administrative function of reporting and tracking," said Ellis. "Starfish is allowing us to achieve the same objective in a more efficient way by making use of the data that we already had in place but could not tap as easily. Now we are able to connect with students sooner when issues arise, reinforcing our commitment to their personal success."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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