Among various strategies to improve college retention rates, many institutions have adopted early alert systems throughout the past two decades. But have early alert technologies already seen their better days?
Early-alert systems have their place on some college campuses. When implemented and used correctly, they can be a huge help for students struggling academically. Still, it’s important to recognize the potential gaps an early alert system leaves in the support process. The general consensus is that early alert systems are unpredictable. Few schools are overwhelmingly in favor of them, and many schools are on the fence. It’s truly a mixed bag. Any technology that receives such mixed or mediocre reviews warrants further consideration.
The following are common problems institutions might encounter into when using an early-alert system. It’s important to be aware of the issues and know where early alert systems serve as an aid and where it might be a hindrance. When used incorrectly, even the best early alert systems can stand in the way of students getting the support they need.
Early alerts aren’t actually that early. It’s usually after a problem has already happened. Many alerts are more like maintenance.
2. Keeping track of students
It’s hard for instructors to track every student, especially if they’re at a large university and classes (especially freshmen and sophomore classes) have hundreds of students. At that point, it’s difficult to flag more than class attendance or poor grades. It poses an equity problem when instructors struggle to keep up with every student and some inevitably fall to the wayside.
3. Threatening approach
When a student is notified they’ve been flagged in the system, it can be quite threatening, especially when they receive an email from a faculty member. Even though faculty has good intentions to help, students may wonder what they did wrong or be nervous to interact with faculty members who can seem unapproachable, particularly to first-generation students who are navigating the college system for the first time.
At many universities, students are responsible for taking action after being flagged. They receive an email describing next steps and who to contact for help—but how many students actually reach out to the suggested point of contact? Not many, if we had to guess.
4. Inconsistent follow-up
One faculty member might follow up with a student via email. Another might direct a student to a support office. Another might set up a meeting with a student. This inconsistency diminishes and the quality of support students receive and creates inefficiencies within faculty departments.
Additionally, students tend to ignore text messages and emails. Especially if it’s an email sent from “The Office of Advising” as opposed to a specific, individual faculty member.
5. False flags and lack of support for the whole student
What if a student needs counseling support or help getting involved on campus? What if they’re struggling financially and need advice before it’s too late? While grades, attendance, program completion, and academic performance are important, institutions must focus on the whole student. That includes physical, mental, and emotional needs, too. Academic performance and attendance aren’t indicative of overall wellbeing. A student with great grades who attends class every day might be struggling in ways early alert systems can’t recognize.
6. Undefined objectives
Many schools implement an early-alert system but don’t plan out what happens after a student is flagged. How will the student get help? Who will help them? Are there enough support staff to manage incoming alerts? What type of alerts can be addressed via email and which require in-person intervention?
Many argue that faculty should initiate support interaction with students because students aren’t likely to use campus support services on their own. However, most campus support services are neither equitable nor easy to access. It’s no wonder students don’t use them. To get help, students have to send emails, locate a physical office building, talk to a chatbot, wait for an appointment to roll around, etc. They have to jump through hoops to get in contact with the right person in the first place, let alone get an answer to their question.
For student support to be effective, it must be easily accessible, equitable, fast, and accurate.
Easily accessible – Can students get help from the right person when they need it, or do they have to jump through hoops to get there?
Equitable – Can students of every demographic, employment status, life stage, background, etc. find help when they need it? Or do hierarchies and campus structures benefit some students but not others? More on this here.
Fast – Can students get help whenever they need it, or do they have to wait hours or days for an email response or appointment slot?
Accurate – Can students get the correct answer from the right person right away?
The solution that checks all these boxes is EVAN360.
EVAN360 is designed to empower students by giving them access to what they need ahead of time. We want to empower students to reach out for help when they need it and make faculty more efficient and effective. The goal is to make it as easy as possible for students to get help.
EVAN360 is not another early alert system, nor is it designed to completely replace an early alert system. It is, however, a tool that allows institutions to offer students support in a way that’s never been done before.
If you’re seeking to improve retention rates and early alerts systems aren’t quite getting the job done, learn how EVAN360 can here.