How Starfish Can Help With Emergency Response and Remote Learning

As many of you in the Starfish community are preparing for the potential impact of coronavirus COVID-19 on your campuses, we want to share a few ways that other institutions have incorporated Starfish into emergency preparations and shifts to remote learning environments. 

Institutions such as NYU, Florida Atlantic University, Pierce College, and Penn State are leading the charge in developing innovative ways to incorporate Starfish’s platform to support their efforts to plan, prepare, and respond to COVID-19, and have been active in sharing their ideas with the Starfish community.

In a recent webinar discussion, NYU, Florida Atlantic University, and Pierce College discussed strategies for using Starfish to connect and engage with students during the transition to remote learning. You can view the recorded webinar here.

Starfish clients can also share ideas, ask questions, and access resources on the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Response group in the Starfish Compass Community Portal

Below is a summary of some of the strategies Starfish clients can use to prepare for and respond to emergency remote learning situations.


While planning for potential risks, Starfish can help identify groups that may be at greater risk and tailor communications and resources.

  • Use a “request help” flag where students can self-identify if they have been potentially exposed to COVID-19. And, faculty or staff could also raise this flag when a student has expressed concern to them as well.
  • Tagging students with an attribute when a student was within 30 miles of the epicenter to be able to communicate to that group: knowing that the epicenter will continue to expand, this would be an ongoing update.
  • Identifying and tagging students who are currently studying abroad

These attributes and flags can expedite communication to these students, tailor specific messaging, and provide accurate information to end-users via the Starfish Overview tab. Importantly, decisions on how to use these flags and attributes will need to be made at the institutional level to ensure FERPA and HIPAA compliance.

Support and Respond:

Institutions can send mass-messages or targeted communications to specific cohorts or individuals who may be impacted. Surveys and alerts can be used to better understand the situation across campus. 

  • Send mass-messages to their students (class roster, advisee cohort, department) as needed to update them on Coronavirus-related topics
  • Use a “discussed Coronavirus” speed note on each appointment type within Starfish to understand how and when students are requesting more information
  • Use survey tools to assess faculty and students concerns and how their classes are being impacted (decreased attendance, missed assignments)

Remote Learning:

For institutions that take steps to move classes online, Starfish can help ensure students keep getting the same level of support from their faculty and staff support networks virtually.

  • Convert in-person office hours to virtual with a Phone Number or Zoom Room URL as other locations in faculty and staff Office Hours. This allows students to see how they can connect with their instructor remotely.
  • Use flags and progress surveys to monitor student engagement (attendance, assignment completion) for remote students and remote classrooms. One institution is using progress surveys weekly to allow for constant interaction and communication. 
  • Update kudos language to encourage students during this difficult time and provide them with reminders of how to connect with services despite being remote.
  • Add Instructions to office hours that students will see on the pre-confirmation screen when they make their appointment. This may be helpful for those who want to communicate specific instructions for their students regarding meeting procedures as the situation continues to be updated.
  • Students can make appointments via their phones, since the appointment making feature is mobile responsive

We will continue to share more information as we hear more about how institutions are using Starfish to support their response efforts. Thank you again to NYU, Penn State, and the other Starfish institutions who are coming together to share their ideas.

If you have any questions about how to adapt Starfish at your institution please contact your Project Consultant or contact us here.

Topics Higher Ed Student Success and Advising

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