Launch of Starfish Enterprise Success Platform
Executive Vice President and Provost Nicholas P. Jones
Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015
The Nittany Lion Inn
On behalf of the University, I welcome you to this event marking the kickoff for Penn State’s utilization of the Starfish Enterprise Success Platform. This is an exciting day in the evolution of our institution’s academic advising and reporting processes.
The patented Starfish platform helps hundreds of colleges and universities efficiently scale their student success programs so that more learners can make informed choices to achieve their academic and life goals and finish what they start. The platform identifies at-risk students in real time, pinpoints areas of concern, connects students with valuable services, and helps assess which services and interventions will keep students on track.
This is a landmark decision for Penn State.
In configuring the new student information system, the LionPATH advising team discovered the need for a more robust advising toolkit to offer the Penn State academic advising community. The LionPATH steering and executive committees approved procurement of a vended product that would integrate with the LionPATH student information system for University-wide use. A group of representatives from the academic advising community then evaluated proposals received through a formal RFP process.
After a thorough evaluation of the proposals, and solicitation of feedback from the academic advising community, Penn State selected the platform from Starfish Retention Solutions—a comprehensive software system that will deliver enhanced functionality after ISIS and eLion are decommissioned. For instance, the decommissioning of ISIS means that advising notes, early progress reports, and online scheduling of advising appointments will end, but we expect Starfish will easily fill these immediate gaps.
We are now implementing Starfish to bring a more substantial set of tools to the advising community. The robust nature of Starfish also will help to deliver quality academic advising at scale.
To realize the benefits of Starfish, we will need help from academic leaders from across Penn State to promote it and to encourage faculty and academic advisers to use the system.
This is a University-wide initiative, available to undergraduate and graduate programs. We wanted to have a single platform for the documenting of advising interactions, especially given the fluid and varied nature of educational opportunities available through Penn State.
It is increasingly clear that data and predictive analytics, along with other early-alert systems, are critical components of retention and student success. The introduction of Starfish is part of an effort to bring this capability to Penn State. And, to realize the potential benefits of early interventions, we need faculty to use early progress reports in their classes.
Starfish delivers a more comprehensive set of advising and early-alert tools that will promote retention and student success. Starfish also aligns with other efforts aimed at promoting student achievement. For example, Penn State has implemented an early-start program for incoming first-year and adult students, programs for online learners to increase success rates, scholarship opportunities for adult learners, and a micro-scholarship initiative that provides incentives for pre-college students in select Pennsylvania school districts to take steps to be more college-ready upon graduation from high school.
Starfish is part of these larger strategic investments that the University has initiated to advance student learning and degree completion. It also aligns with the important work we are doing with Civitas Learning, an innovator in predictive analytics.
This kickoff comes at a great time because, Hobsons—which acquired Starfish Retention Solutions in February—announced earlier this month the release of Starfish 6.
Starfish 6 enhances support to students before enrollment, improves student interfaces, and deepens data integration capabilities.
The latest updates to the Starfish platform reflect recent feedback from the Starfish client community, of which Penn State is now a part. They include three vital elements.
- First: Expanded Advising Support. Starfish 6 extends the platform’s powerful meeting and communication capabilities to engage prospective students before they arrive on campus. Prospective students often meet with advisers to discuss career aspirations, financial challenges, and academic plans before they make their enrollment decisions. Often, information from these critical meetings is never integrated into the student’s record. With Starfish 6, staff can engage students and track outcomes of these meetings—even without a student ID. When the student enrolls, notes and messages from the meetings can appear alongside data from other campus technologies.
- Second: A Friendlier Student Interface. What if campus staff could help students navigate their challenges before the data indicate there may be a problem? Starfish 6 features an updated agenda-style interface designed to support all students—not just those predicted by an algorithm to be “at risk.” Without new logins or passwords to remember, students can see their progress, ask for help, schedule appointments, and follow specific steps to manage common academic and administrative concerns.
- Finally: Streamlined Data Integration. Campuses like ours are awash in data, but often lack the tools to integrate across systems to ensure that critical information is available to the right people at the right time. Starfish 6 introduces simplified data files and hosted adapters to ensure that data from many sources can be used to generate a holistic picture of every student.
Academic advising is obviously an important component of student success.
Each one of us probably has gotten where we are today thanks in part to meaningful guidance and advice we received during our academic years.
We need to reinvent and reinvigorate the culture around academic advising at Penn State. We must create an environment in which our students more readily see and understand the value of engaging with their academic advisers.
Advising is not just about selecting classes or checking on degree requirements.
It has to be about a sustained conversation that enables students to understand and articulate how the many pieces of their education come together as a whole. Using the note function of Starfish, for example, will enable all advisers—professional and faculty—to contribute to the ongoing conversation about a student’s progress through the University.
So, we’re excited, and you should be, too. The Starfish Enterprise Success Platform—about which you will learn much more today—will enable us to elevate our academic advising to a high level our students should come to expect.
At Penn State, we’re excited to be a champion of superb academic advising, along with exploration, discussion, and implementation of best practices in this area. I hope your learning experiences today have a profound impact on the academic advising work you’ll be engaging in afterward.
Thank you all for inviting me here this morning, and for your hard work and support as we move forward with the Starfish platform.