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ON ALERT: Effort To Track Student Progress with Early Alert System

By: Olivia Dennis, Staff Writer

At Long Island University, there’s a digital alert system that’s designed to flag students who may be struggling with their courses.

During the second week of the semester, a notification is emailed to campus faculty by the university to evaluate the performance of individual students. Professors are not required, but are encouraged, to complete the survey. The results from this Academic Early Alert System are then sent to the Brooklyn Campus’ Promise Office.

Students who have been flagged as being at-risk in a particular course – due to excessive absences or poor grades on assignments – are then assigned to meet with an adviser in the Promise Office. Those advisers are called success coaches by the university.

According to LIU’s Program and Policy Handbook: “The Success Coach will share the unsatisfactory alerts with the respective Director unless he/she is the instructor on record. The instructor should meet with the student to discuss the early alert and plan of action to improve performance.”

During the mid-term period, a second alert is sent out to campus faculty to receive an update on the performance of students. The handbook notes that “if the same student receives a second early alert in the same semester, the Center/ Program Director and the Director of Student Affairs and Administrative Services will meet with the student to define a plan of action.”

Just as the vast majority of LIU students will never fall into academic probation, few students are even aware that there is an Academic Early Alert System. But many like Gillian Vallaste – a senior who is majoring in chemistry and minoring in English – can relate to the obstacles that many students can face, especially at the start of a new semester. “There are plenty of times that focusing on academics becomes challenging,” she said. “I find it helpful to think of academics as completely separate from my actual life.....I definitely believe in taking days off when you need them.”

The goal of the program, university officials explain, is to serve as an intervention to help a student from potentially failing a course. Marketing Professor Kenneth Ellis supports the premise of having an early alert system. “I have seen similar systems work in other colleges where faculty are required to participate and review student’s results with the department chair,” he said.

But whether the program has been successful or not at LIU has not been revealed. In response to Seawanhaka questions about the Early Alert System and how effective it has been, Michael Berthel – the executive dean of students – issued the following statement: “The Early Alert System is a valuable tool to help students succeed in their classes. The program allows faculty to provide feedback on how a student is progressing in a class. We use the results to help students improve their progress and make corrective actions to ensure their success while the semester is in progress. We encourage students to communicate with their faculty, seek assistance from their Success Coach and utilize the many resources offered at LIU.”

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