Over the last five years, Ramapo College of New Jersey has been intentional with academic advisement and its use of Starfish Early Alert. Using Starfish by Hobsons, Ramapo College of New Jersey created a loop of communication between campus departments, and streamlined its outreach efforts on its campus of 6,000 students to lead more students to acdemic success. The institution’s strategy was recognized at Hobsons University when Ramapo was awarded the 2016 Education Advances Award.

Ramapo’s old model of student success consisted of three offices: Educational Opportunity Fund Program, Office of Specialized Services, and Athletics. To find out more information regarding student updates, the three offices sent faculty members multiple surveys throughout a semester. As a result, these offices were unable to ‘close the loop’ when submitting feedback, faculty received multiple surveys for the same student, and the surveys were time-intensive due to manual processes. Ramapo realized each office was focusing on the same student separately, rather than examining the student relationship across all offices and began to investigate how to create ripples of success and carry out a strategic plan for their campus.

Increase student success by helping students with early signs of academic problems earlier in the semester

In 2015, Ramapo received a grant from the Gates Foundation recognizing its efforts to use technology to integrate with advisement and students across campus.

Implementation of Starfish began with two steps in Ramapo’s strategic enrollment and management committee. To begin with, Ramapo added Strafish Early Alert software to increase academic engagement and student persistence as aligned with the college’s strategic plan. Secondly, Ramapo focused on improving and streamlinging campus-wide student case management.

Change work needs to be small enough to be managed, but big enough to be meaningful

When implementing Starfish Early Alert, Ramapo had three goals: reducing the number of units sending academic progress reports to faculty, increasing the percentage of faculty-submitted academic progress reports, and providing earlier outreach to academically at-risk students.

Based on Ramapo’s findings from 2013-2014, it successfully reduced from three to one the number of surveys sent to each faculty member, 77 percent of faculty submitted academic progress survey results, and 56 percent of courses included submitted surveys. Ramapo increased from 20 to 30 percent the amount of academic at-risk students who met with their advisor twice at least twice before course registration dates.

After the first year of utilizing Starfish Early Alert, Ramapo expanded the ripples of academic success that had been created on campus. Based on campus-wide feedback, it adjusted its 2014-2015 goals and outcomes by expanding students’ success network connections on campus, increasing the percentage of faculty-submitted academic progress reports, providing earlier outreach to academically at-risk students, and streamlining progress surveys to serve more students with targeted feedback. Ramapo extended Starfish Early Alert to more campus offices and to a wider group of students with diverse academic needs.

Concluding the third year of using Starfish Early Alert, Ramapo had 12 offices using the student success platform, increased students engagement through Starfish, and received detailed feedback from students, faculty, and staff alike. Professional staff in a student’s success network increased by 50 percent and the amount of first-year students on academic warning who received academic advisement increased by 60 percent beginning with the spring 2014 semester.

As Ramapo moves forward, they plan to create more success plans for students and analyze the impact of certain flags on first-year student retention. To learn more about Ramapo’s Starfish by Hobsons campus plan, three-year findings, and trends, listen here. 

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