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Becker College Turns to SaaS Student Retention System

As part of its effort to improve graduation and retention rates, Becker College has adopted a hosted early alert tool and a case management system from Starfish Retention Solutions.

The 1,800-student school with campuses in Worcester and Leicester, MA used a Title III grant as the foundation of an effort to improve its student retention rate via a more streamlined academic performance early alert process and other student support services, like boosting supplemental instruction and adding more technology in classrooms. Becker is also using the grant to expand its existing first-year experience (FYE) program.

A committee of faculty, administrators, and staff reviewed five companies before selecting Starfish "because of its ease of use and its seamless integration with the institution's existing Angel learning management system," the college said in a news release.

Starfish's two software systems--Early Alert and Connect--work together. Early Alert is an early warning and student tracking system that makes it possible for instructors, advisors, and academic staff to identify at-risk students in real time. Connect is an education networking and case management system designed to help students access a personalized list of instructors, advisors, and counselors.

Being able to integrate with Angel proved to be a big factor for the college because it "makes life so much easier for faculty," Betsy Fuller, Becker College's vice president of academic affairs, said in a news release. "They need only one click to get into the Starfish system, and with just a couple of clicks they can report their concern about a student. The system also makes it easy for us to close the loop with faculty members to let them know that the concern has been addressed."

The Starfish system automatically generates progress surveys three times during the academic term that are then sent to faculty members for feedback on student performance. It has been configured to capture concerns about such activities as student behavior, low grades, and absence and allows users to create "To Do" items or reminders to tell students to submit their financial aid forms, complete their resumes, or attend career workshops. The college estimated that nearly 80 percent of its faculty has used the system since the beginning of the fall 2011 academic term.

Fuller also noted that, in addition to the more mundane details of keeping students on track with their responsibilities, faculty members "also like to use the system to send a 'kudo' to a student for a job well done."

The college reported it will expand its Title III goals to incorporate additional student service departments such as financial aid, the registrar, and career services into the Starfish system so students can more easily access all available services as part of a "one stop shop where students can get the help they need to stay on track," said Carol Mercier, the college's retention software coordinator.

About the Author

Jim Barthold is a freelance technology reporter. He can be reached at jimbarthold@comcast.net.

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