New Starfish program bridges gap between professors and students

Aprille Mohn September 29, 2017 0

Starfish_Megan White

Photo by Megan White

This year, Elizabethtown College is embracing Starfish, a new software tool that will ease the advising process and assist students in achieving success. Starfish allows faculty to view students’ academic progress, keep an eye out for any obstacles students may be facing and offer help to any students struggling.

Already, approximately 96 percent of first-year students have used Starfish, and more than half of the faculty are logged on. How can Starfish be used, though?

Starfish has five main features, like the five points on a traditional sea star, and each feature provides a different facet of assistance for students.

The Flag feature is to be used by faculty if they notice a student is struggling. Raising a flag alerts students as well as their first-year advisers, allowing students to view the concern and contact whomever they believe could help. By Sept. 13, three attendance related concern flags had been raised, and the students had logged on and reached out to their professors to explain their absences.

The Hand Raising feature is for students unsure about something in a class. They can use the “raise your hand” feature to make sure the question goes to someone who can answer it.

Four hundred and four first-year letters of introduction have been submitted as well as nine questions asked via “raise your hand.”

The Kudos feature allows faculty to offer positive feedback to students for successes in the classroom or other positive occurrences. In the first week of class alone, professors gave out 14 kudos to students.

The Connect feature refers to the ability students have at any time to view “My Success Network” and contact human resources at the College.

Early Alert Progress Surveys have the potential to occur anytime in the semester, not only between weeks five and seven, and provide an opportunity for professors to voice specified praises and concerns to the students in their classes.

Further information was provided by Associate Dean of Students and Director of Academic Advising Stephanie Rankin, as well as Student Information Systems and Starfish Coordinator Michelle Henry.

According to Rankin, a large part of what makes Starfish such a good resource is that it operates in real time and is constantly flowing. It is a live resource that can be accessed at any time and allows students to expect quick responses.

When asked if there was one feature she thought was most important, Rankin responded that while Early Alerts may be paramount at key times in the semester, she typically views a combination of flags, kudos and hand raising as the most useful.

With the extended opportunity for communication and the wider scope of connections between staff and students, either party can initiate the contact, be it the student through raising their virtual hand and asking a question or through the professor offering feedback using kudos or flags.

Rankin’s recommendation in regards to Starfish is for students to log in and use it often. Students shouldn’t hesitate to access their network should they struggle, or to raise a hand. “Raise your hand,” Rankin said. “If you send it, people are going to respond.”

In order to use the new Starfish software, students must visit the “Info for Students section of the College’s website, and then click on the Starfish button.

Students’ current JayWeb usernames and passwords are carried into the Starfish software

After logging in, there are four steps that students should follow to get the most out of the new Early Warning delivery method.

First, students should click on their names at the top right corner of the home page, and then customize their profiles, adding pictures and more information about themselves.

Lastly, students are advised to add their cellphone numbers to the program. With an added cellphone number, students will be able to receive text notifications about their grades and questions.

For further information on how to use Starfish, students can go to the Office of Academic Advising page on the College’s website and click Starfish on the sidebar. There are explanations of the software as well as links to several short instructional videos.


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