Big brother: new program monitors students

The Early Alert Retention Network (EARN) is a new program designed to enhance the interaction between students, faculty and staff. The program was created to organize all notifications sent out to students.

For the past six years, UTSA has been one of seven universities in Texas vying for Tier One Status. To achieve this status, UTSA must meet a number of requirements set by the American Association of Universities. These requirements include enhancing graduate and undergraduate research, developing nationally acclaimed academic programs and increasing graduation rates, which administration hopes to achieve through EARN.

Students are to make EARN profiles through their Blackboard Learn accounts, where the notifications will be sent. UTSA faculty and staff such as professors, counselors, student advisors and financial aid staff can trigger these notifications.

“EARN is designed to help organize the process for alerting students and advisors if a student is potentially in academic trouble, and also to give positive feedback to students, ” said Kenneth Pierce, vice provost for information technology and CIO.

Notification types can vary; some may be related to academics, financial aid or a student’s wellbeing. Notifications can also be sent in the form of “flags.” A student may be flagged if a faculty member has concerns for the student’s academic success.

For example, if the student has been missing classes or receives a low midterm grade he or she will be notified to seek a tutor or to contact the professor.

Previously, students would receive the 45- and 90-hour holds via ASAP while trying to register for classes. At this point, it is too late to take action and still register when scheduled. Now, students will be notified to see an advisor as soon as the alert is triggered.

“It’s a collaborative effort between faculty and student support services on campus that are advising and tutoring to ensure that you, as a student, are being successful,” said Angel Gibbons, the CIO project director.

There are even planned alerts for student Supplemental Instructor Leaders and other student-run support groups, such as those by the Tomas Rivera Center.

EARN is being tested by a pilot group of 18 faculty members in 24 classes. In the spring of 2014 most support systems, including financial aid, the Tomas Rivera Center and Counseling Services, will be using EARN in close association with faculty and advising centers.