- Associated Press - Monday, July 7, 2014

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - A new system is being rolled out at all four University of Missouri system campuses this fall that will let faculty, advisers and other key staffers keep an eye on each student’s progress by searching for issues that could hinder the student’s success.

The early alert system, MU Connect, started as a pilot program last year on the Columbia campus, where it drew positive reviews, The Columbia Daily Tribune reported (https://bit.ly/1mXysTu ).

In addition to alerting key people in the student’s educational life to potential problems, it also provides information that can provide encouragement and praise for the student’s accomplishments.

“What it really helps with is us getting a better handle on if the student is struggling in just one class, because that’s an entirely different conversation than if the student is struggling with all five of their classes,” said Jim Spain, vice provost for undergraduate studies at MU. “The goal is to move to an earlier intervention model.”

Administrators had made development of an early alert system on campus a priority for years, he said.

In the spring 2013 semester, the university’s College of Engineering implemented a pilot of MU Connect that uses a tracking program known as Starfish, Spain said.

Administrators analyzed the pilot last semester and decided to start MU Connect on all four Missouri system campuses, which will implement the Starfish program at their own discretion, he said.

The new system gives students the ability to schedule appointments with their academic advisers, who have access to all of the student’s current information on grading and any notes made by the adviser, faculty members or the student.

The university sets the criteria that determine when a student is struggling, Spain said.

Starfish will cost the university $88,400 for the coming year, funded with part of a $12-per-credit-hour instructional technology fee students pay every year.

Tina Balser, who worked on the pilot for the engineering school, has been hired to coordinate the new program. She and other administrators are working to develop options for social and health flags for the students, too.

“The biggest challenge with all of this is adoption - it’s a change,” Balser said.

Another option is a financial flag that can alert a student and their adviser when a payment is due and a hold has been placed on the student’s account.


Information from: Columbia Daily Tribune, https://www.columbiatribune.com

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