Retention

Penn State Adopts New Student Advising Technology

Pennsylvania State University will start using Starfish by Hobsons enterprise software to identify and assist at-risk students in real time.

Pennsylvania State University will introduce new online student advising technology that school officials believe will help it better identify at-risk students and connect them with services that can help them.

Beginning with new student orientation in May 2016, all Penn State campuses will use Starfish by Hobsons as their primary digital student advising tool. The enterprise software will replace the university's current ISIS and eLion advising features that deliver advising notes, early progress reports and online scheduling of advising appointments. Training sessions for academic advisers will begin in the spring.

Starfish helps retain students by tracking their progress and moving them toward graduation. It has the ability to group students into cohorts, which can be tracked together and communicated with all at once. Student advisers can also use tools within the program to notify instructors or other colleagues when actions for specific students should be taken.

"We see these new tools as mission-critical to our work," said David Smith, associate dean for advising. "The platform will help Penn State more deliberately and systematically focus on student success."

Through the use of a new dashboard, students will be able to directly request assistance and reach staff across various departments for help with tutoring and mentoring. Penn State will also have the capability to create an individual success score for each student, based on customized factors, to spot at-risk students or to reward those that excel. Integrations with LMS systems also allow advisers and staff to identify students' specific academic challenges based on their class performance.

"Advising is not just about selecting classes or checking on degree requirements," said Penn State Executive Vice President and Provost Nicholas Jones. "It involves a sustained conversation that enables students to understand and articulate how the many pieces of their education come together as a whole. Starfish gives us a single advising platform for collaborating across the university, and provides our advisers and faculty with tools to quickly support students that need guidance."

The Starfish Enterprise Success Platform comprises four modules, including Starfish Early Alert, Starfish Connect, Starfish Advising and Starfish Insight.

Hobsons acquired the Starfish Retention Solutions startup last February.

About the Author

Michael Hart is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and the former executive editor of THE Journal.

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