USD has launched a new academic warning system to replace Starfish, the previous system that allowed professors to raise concerns about students’ academic well-being. The new system, called Coyote Connections, lets faculty warn students and their advisors about attendance, low scores and issues with participation in class.
Part of the problem with Starfish was that USD didn’t have full control over the program, and its performance didn’t meet the administration’s expectations during the three years it was in use, said Stephen Ward, director of USD’s academic and career planning center. So as the contract with Starfish was approaching its end in March, administrators sought a new system.
“There were some issues with Starfish that we felt like we weren’t getting the kind of technical service that we needed for it to perform up to our expectations,” Ward said. “And the other thing that Coyote Connections does, is it provides several quantitative measures that can help advisors and students figure out what major its best for them.”
Coyote Connection provides ten years’ worth of academic data from USD students, which enables professors to statistically track a student’s academic standing. For example, getting a ‘C’ in a certain class may be an early warning for a student’s performance in a given field.
“The likelihood of their graduating in that major is constantly measured by this system,” Ward said.
The academic risk assessment feature of Coyote Connections will not be fully launched until next fall. Parts of the system are already in operation, however, and Starfish is no longer being used for academic alerts.
Another benefit of Coyote Connections is that it’s much more integrated, said USD provost Jim Moran. The system will be able to tell whether students follow-up when concerns are raised, and what the result was in the end.
“This is a process of trying to give us more information to provide additional support to students, to move them successfully through graduation,” Moran said.
The data garnered from one student can then be used to help other students. Moran said this information can help identify what types of support students need from faculty, and even whether the students are in the right major.
“I think it allows us to pay a lot more attention to individual student trends – how is this student progressing in a given major?” Moran said. “It’s an interesting process because we’re using some predictive analytics.”
The rollout has not been completely flawless, however. Small technical glitches have popped up as the system has been rolled out, Ward said.
“To be honest, we had several little issues that we found when we launched it,” Ward said.
The academic warnings that professors have sent through the system, for example, haven’t been worded as intended, Ward said.
The challenge some professors have faced isn’t uncommon with the introduction of a new system, Moran said.
“Change is always difficult,” Moran said. “Inevitably, we know there are going to be some people that have a hard time getting used to a new system.”
On the whole, Ward said that the difficulty of getting used to a new system is worth it, in the context of the improvements offered by the new system.
“There have been some growing pains with this system that we didn’t anticipate,” Ward said. “Overall, I think the faculty like the fact that it’s kind of easier and has more options on the progress survey, so I’ve heard some good things about that.”