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Early alert system helps at-risk students


By Joe Ferguson

Published November 28, 2016

Joe Ferguson

Joe Ferguson (UB Student, Class of 2019) was born in Sacramento, CA, but currently lives in Lockport, NY. He is studying Marketing/Public Relations and Communications. He hopes to get a job in as a marketing person or PR agent for a California-based company when he graduates.

A new web-based system combines technology, research and predictive analytics to identify and prioritize students who are struggling, in order to help them get on track and Finish in Four.

The Student Success Collaborative (SSC) is a new early alert system designed to help UB improve student success with at-risk and off-path students. It leverages 10 years of UB’s student performance data to assist advisors by identifying key courses, grades, and GPA’s predictive of success in each program on campus, and provides information that will enable advisors to have earlier, more proactive, and more data-informed conversations with students.

From there, advisors can help students make smarter academic decisions, reduce time to receive their degree, and lower their risk to graduate. 

Growing resources for a growing population

An Overview Page of the Early Alert System

The SSC Overview page

The idea was conceived a few years ago through a partnership between Academic Affairs and University Life & Services, to create a student experience that results in higher retention and graduation rates for a growing student population.

“There are nearly 4,000 new freshmen who joined UB this Fall, bringing our undergraduate population to over 19,000 students,” said Kristina Costanzo, Assistant Director and Early Alert Systems Administrator for the Office of Student Success and Retention. “It becomes increasingly hard to tell which students have fallen off path or need a little more attention to ensure they are successful.”

The web-based early alert tool highlights common variables for advisors, allowing them to accurately identify at-risk students. The system also helps to aggregate and understand the data it collects for advisors to understand. It changes the tough conversations that advisors sometimes find themselves needing to have with students.

“Traditionally, the students who met with their advisors tended to be either the highest performing students or the students struggling the most,” Costanzo said. “This tool helps us reach the students who are in the middle, who have a B or C average and may not be displaying obvious signs of being at-risk, but could benefit from a little extra guidance.”

Data assisted success

Academic Notifications Page for the Early Alert System

Academic notifications page in the SSC

The SSC provides a 360-degree view of a student’s academic health that enables advisors to understand all kinds of metrics and early warning signs early on in a student’s career. The system can create customizable watch lists, giving advisors the power to filter through sub-populations of students to keep a closer eye on specific students. The tool also calculates a predictive risk score for each student, measuring their likelihood to graduate at the institution based on how similar students have performed in the past.

Equipped with objective metrics and visuals, advisors can help evaluate and compare alternative decisions and help students graduate on time. They will also benefit from the enhanced collaboration among the many student support systems on campus that the system provides, through shared note-taking, conducting coordinated interventions, and connecting students to the resources they need.  

“Grades are symptoms of other things,” Costanzo said. “This system won’t do everything, but it opens the door to have those necessary conversations and to better help our students achieve academic success.”

Right on track

Success Tracker for the Early Alert System

SSC Success Tracker

As of the Fall 2016 semester, all UB advising centers are using the SSC Early Alert System, along with interested faculty and offices in University Life & Services and Academic Affairs.

UB is in the process of implementing the expanded SSC Campus platform with GradesFirst functionality that includes: easy appointment scheduling for advising and tutoring services, ability to input manual early alerts, and administer academic progress reports early in the semester. The SSC Campus platform will serve all students (undergraduate and graduate) with a pilot expected in Spring 2017.