New early warning system introduced at Seton Hall

Seton Hall has introduced a new early warning system created by an outside company in order to notify students, mentors and advisers if a student is performing poorly in a particular class.

Paul Fisher, director of the Teaching, Learning, Technology Center, said the system was created by Starfish Solutions, a company that works with Blackboard, among other systems, to create retention and student support systems, according to the company’s website.

“This product allows us to create a relationship between the student and their advisor or mentor in freshman studies,” Fisher said. He added that the system is based on ‘flags,’ which are raised for students professors are concerned about.

According to Fisher, professors can flag a student for a reason, such as poor participation, and the student is then sent an email with the flag ‘poor participation,’ along with any comments the professor made. Fisher added that the email is also forwarded to the student’s adviser, or in the case of freshmen, mentor, and possibly the department chair.

Seton Hall has been using an early warning email system for approximately nine years, Dr. Tracey Gottlieb, dean of Freshman Studies said.

According to Fisher, the first system was created within Seton Hall.

“In the old system a graduate assistant in Freshman Studies would receive that email and track down who that student’s advisor was and forward them the early warning email received from a faculty member,” Fisher said. According to Fisher, the advisor would then try and contact the student and help them through any difficulty they might be having.

Fisher said the Starfish program is an improvement over the old system because it eliminates the ‘middle-man,’ “allowing the advisor to take action sooner.”

“It also keeps track of both flags raised and action taken making it a much more comprehensive system than the previous one,” Fisher said, adding, “Now if a student changes their major or their advisor, the new advisor can see all the previous flags and interventions, giving the new advisor a complete picture of the student.”

Gottlieb said that while the program was primarily focused on freshmen, any undergraduate student could potentially be flagged in the system.

Gottlieb added that professors have been sent emails with instructions on how to use the Starfish program.

“In addition, the TLTC is holding workshops for faculty and answering any faculty questions quickly to make sure they are able to easily use the system,” Gottlieb said.

If a freshman is flagged, Gottliebb recommended that the student speak with his or her mentor at freshmen studies, as well as the professor. Students who are not freshmen should speak with their advisers.

“Communication is crucial,” Gottlieb said.

Dr. Jon Radwan, an associate professor of speech communication said he felt the new program was superior to the old early warning system. Radwan said most students he had flagged took action to resolve the issue.

“On the whole the program is worthwhile and successful because the warning system brings more people into the picture,” Radwan said. “When an advisor or freshman mentor gets involved the student has more help and access to more resources to deal with the problem.”

Radwan added, however, that there were kinks in the system that needed to be worked out. He said an email he had sent a student did not include the comment he had written, only that it was urgent to contact him.

“My other issue was that Starfish emails to students are signed from the SHU Student Success team, but there is no such team,” Radwan said.

Fisher said, though, the TLTC is working to correct these types of problems. The comment problem has been corrected, he said, adding, “Students could see the comments if they logged into Starfish directly but we now including the comments in the email the student gets as well.”

Fisher added they have also decided to sign the emails differently so as to minimize confusion.

“The team that worked to get this system up and running thought this was generic enough and conveyed that there was a team of people here to ensure your success but we have since changed the signature to come from Dr. Gottlieb instead,” Fisher said.

In addition to warning students and faculty about possible classroom problems, the Starfish system can be used to flag students for positive contributions as well.

Freshman Brendan Dolan was recognized for good work in his English class.

“I think positive messages are a good way to let students know that their professors are watching them progress,” Fleiss said, adding, “Of course they should also send out warning emails as well though, just to keep us on our toes.”

Freshman Brenna Fleiss was also flagged in her English class for good focus.

“I think that having a teacher have you recognized for good work is awesome,” Fleiss said, adding that getting the email made her feel more productive this semester.

Caitlin Carroll can be reached at

Follow Caitlin on Twitter @CaitiGirl

Author: Staff Writer

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