Early Alert Pilot Mid-Term report
As of 17 February, 2010
This is the second semester that we have implemented the pilot-project of the Early Alert initiative. The purpose of the Early Alert system is to provide a support net for those students who are struggling early in the semester; students who may drop a class if intervention comes later in the semester when an intervention may be too little, too late.
The EA pilot cohort is comprised of students who met the same criteria as those in the Fall semester: prospective Allied Health students who are enrolled in at least two ‘gateway’ courses (link to full description).
The spring cohort of the Early Alert pilot was considerably smaller than that of the Fall (26 vs. 40). There were 41 instructors involved in the Spring group (24 Part-Time / 17 Full-Time).
As of February 17th, there have been 7 withdrawals (WD). One student had enrolled in ACA115 when it was not needed (i.e. had taken it at a previous school). One student enrolled in five courses, but was withdrawn from four when she over-cut in all four (i.e. she never came to the four). A third student was dropped for over-cutting two courses.
By February 9th (week 5), all participating instructors were required to submit a report on each of their respective EA cohort students. As of 2/17, Fifty-two reports from instructors had been submitted. While many required “no intervention” those needing attention fell into the following categories:
- 6 Excessive absences
- 2 Incomplete homework
- 5 Participation
- 1 Test-taking skills
- 16 Grades
- 2 Other
The intent of the 5th-week report is to ensure that all instructors are indeed monitoring their students, and that they are familiar with the software and the reporting/intervention process that we have developed. This requirement has illuminated a number of issues.
- Participation. Even after the Feb 9 five-week due date (Feb 11), only 50% of instructors had submitted reports. By Feb 17th, there were still 22% of instructors who had not submitted. It could be argued that this was not due to communication. Explanatory and reminder emails were sent on: 1/7, 1/20, 2/4, 2/16
- Timely Communication / Assigning Priority. A new feature on the software, this allows instructors to indicate whether a report is high priority, medium priority, or no intervention required. Of the 52 reports submitted, 1 was listed as high, 6 medium, 36 no intervention and 9 had no priority indicated.
To look more closely at individual cases, the one high priority is the student who did not attend any classes of her 4 (5?) classes.
- One instructor rated this a high priority (i.e. one of this student’s five instructors indicated that this student’s absences were worthy of immediate attention). This report was submitted on Jan 21 (three weeks after the semester began).
- Another instructor sent an email on Jan 29 (four weeks into the semester), indicating that the student had never attended class
- A third instructor submitted a report on Feb 16, via the software, indicating: No Intervention Required
- A fourth instructor submitted a report on Feb 17 (six weeks into the semester) indicating that the student had not attended
- A fifth instructor never submitted a report
Another student was withdrawn (WD*) from two of three courses.
- Instructor 1 submitted an EA report on 1/29 (three weeks into semester). Priority: Low. “Student attended one class and missed two exams.”
- Instructor 2 submitted an EA report on 2/4 (four weeks into semester). Priority: Medium. “Only attended one day, never returned.”
Another student had a report submitted on 2/9 (4+ weeks into semester). Priority: None indicated. Instructor comments:
- “She has only a few absences left as she couldn’t afford to take the ccap (if that is the name of the free transportation). Because she had missed days, she got behind in her homework and lost”
- Add’l Comments: “She does do her homework but I don’t think she puts enough effort toward it to be a learner of the material”
- Initiating / Follow-up communication with student. There are instances that have this trail of communication:
- Proposed Intervention: “CAPS will call student.”
- Intervention Implemented: “Tried to call – no phone contact information available.”
Another student was reported on Feb 1. The instructor indicated that the student needed help with test-taking skills. On Feb 3, the intervention note reads: “instructor referred student to Academic Support for tutoring.” As of Feb 17th, there was no follow-up reported. [What’s next??]
Don’s comments: I think the issues speak for themselves. On one hand, the glass could be seen as half-full…at this point in the semester the total number of withdrawals is relatively low. The half-empty glass says that perhaps a few of these withdrawals could have been prevented, given earlier intervention. As we have mentioned consistently, the purpose of this pilot is to develop/refine the process. Whether it is the process of reporting, or the process of intervening, we need some work. Additionally, I am not sure we are even receiving reports of all those students who may benefit from some form of intervention (we’ll really know when we look at grades/gpa at the end of the semester).
I think the solution on that end may be more aggressive “marketing” of the process and system to instructors – particularly adjuncts. This semester, many did not seem to know or understand their role until we sounded the alarm (5-6 weeks into the semester…so much for early alert). Of course, by having full and part-time instructors participate in this process, we are making them aware of it.
Accessibility to the software is another critical piece. While we created a form for adjuncts to fill out and return, 24 of the 41 instructors were adjunct; i.e. over half of the participating instructors were not utilizing the software. We do have it available for them on campus, but either technological barriers or lack of knowledge of their computers with the software led to most submitting the form.
A final piece is keeping it front of people. I believe that if reminders are not sent out, then it becomes out of sight out of mind. Which is somewhat understandable, given the workloads of most instructors.
We will re-visit this as we approach the end of the semester, and look at it in the summer to devise a way to scale it up.