SBCC begins using online tool to connect teachers and students

ALEXIS SMITH, Channels Staff

This week students can expect to receive emails about their outstanding, or concerning performance through a new online program called Starfish.

The program, which goes through Pipeline, is just starting to take effect in hopes to strengthen online communication between instructors and students.

“As a faculty we really try to work together and listen to our students, and figure out ways to help them succeed in our classes,” said Kimberly Monda, past-president of the Academic Senate. “We know that students face so many challenges and we hope that something as simple as this software program might help them make that extra connection.”

Starfish will allow instructors to keep in better contact with students in regards to their academic standing. It’s an early alert system that will be used for create a progress survey on an individual basis.

There are two componants of this program, Early Alert and Connect. Currently only Early Alert is in use, and the Connect feature will roll out next fall.

The program was proposed in the fall of last year as a way to replace two current online programs, OnTrack and Grades First, which will save the college $60,000 annually.

Starfish has four flags that instructors can send students, which then emails them, if they miss class, receive a low score, miss an assignment or if they are in danger of failing. The flags encourage students to communicate with instructors about bad grades and their place in the class.

“The reason we have the flags is to just follow up with students. It’s not meant to be punitive,” said Academic Sen. Raeanne Napoleon. “If anything, this is another way to effectively communicate with students. We want students to be successful.”

Starfish also has three “kudos,” which are sent to students if they are succeeding. They can be sent to students who are showing improvement or outstanding academic performance or who are just doing well in the class.

Students have the option to receive text messages notifications when they receive are flagged or sent kudos.

Starfish has been introduced to City College to make interactions between students and instructors more personable, especially in large classes, Napoleon said. She teaches a class with up to 140 students and said she expects the program to help with time management since most instructors, herself included, don’t have the time to personally email students throughout the day.

Starfish streamlines the data since it can be accessed in one place, allowing the Academic Counseling Center to get a better gauge on a student when they come in for counseling. A student can be flagged in all of their classes and come into academic counseling and the counselor will know exactly where the student is at, because they can see these flags.

The Connect feature will allow students to schedule appointments with instructors and counselors online. This will expand the times students can meet with instructors and counselors, and even allow them to have meetings off-campus.

“As a counselor I’m excited to collaborate with faculty to provide students with early information that will support their success,” said Christine Grant, a counselor at City College.