Texas Tech has a history of deep commitment to student success. Faculty, academic advisors, academic coaches, and other staff across campus work to support the institution’s more than 39,000 students.

Challenges with a legacy platform

Texas Tech had been using a shared student success technology platform for many years but was experiencing some limitations. For example, efforts to identify and quickly engage students struggling in classes were challenged by an inability to use grades recorded in its Blackboard learning management system. Despite more than 70,000 documented interactions in 2019-2020, another challenge arose when system constraints made it unnecessarily difficult to connect the right support personnel with students needing assistance.

“With so many communications coming at our faculty and staff members, we needed to free these team members to spend more time interacting with their students,” says Joshua Barron, Senior Director of Student Success. “As it was, they were either completely uninformed or were completely exhausted from sifting through a flood of automated email updates.”

While Tech’s previous platform was able to notify team members in a student’s support network, it also required notification workflows to be uniform across all units. The leadership team had implemented several manual workarounds to manage these alert cases; however, these fixes still generated numerous emails, placing a substantial processing burden on advisors, faculty, and others.

“To achieve our university’s strategic goals, we need exact data to identify students who need help, we need assurances these students are getting the help they need, and we need to know what’s working and where we need more focus,” says Dr. Patrick Hughes, Vice Provost of University Programs and Student Success. “Periodic progress reports and alert-raising functionality is valued, but we’re remiss when our systems ignore available grade book and attendance data, or when we don’t provide students the ability to ‘raise their hand’ for help.”

Making the move to Starfish

Texas Tech needed its system to appreciate the complexity of its colleges and support programs with equally sophisticated notification workflows. “A quick look around shows that one-size-fits-all solutions simply aren’t acceptable in today’s technology landscape,” Barron explains. “We began looking for a system that could support the complex needs of our institution and the many competing responsibilities of its people. We needed a solution that would consistently demonstrate increasing concern for usability, accessibility, customization, integration, accountability, and analysis of impact — our students deserve nothing less. We found that solution with Starfish.”

Texas Tech is currently in the midst of its “A Foundation for the Next Century” strategic planning initiative, which outlines the school’s key strategic imperatives through 2025, including educating and empowering a diverse student body, enabling innovative research and creative activities, and transforming lives and communities through strategic outreach and engaged scholarship. Starfish’s holistic approach to technology will help equip faculty and staff to achieve these goals.

“I’m particularly impressed when technology invests positively in culture,” explains Hughes. “It’s clear Starfish was designed with an appreciation for the time, and effort users invest when they raise a flag, post office hours, run a report, ask for help, or schedule an appointment. For us having a platform that delivers on the user promise is essential; closing the loop is critical.”

Accelerated implementation in a challenging season

When Texas Tech started working with Starfish in April 2020, they had only six weeks to migrate data and get the new student success platform up and running. Advisors needed to be able to manage meetings with students using Starfish starting June 1.

During this period, Texas Tech was also adjusting to the COVID-19 pandemic. Advisors were meeting with all students remotely and providing support during an incredibly challenging time.

“We didn’t want to diminish what our campus team had already been doing, especially because there’s already been so much change,” Barron explains. “They needed to go into the summer and fall fully prepared. In a season requiring enormous flexibility, grace, and understanding, our users remained generous and understanding. This further compelled our entire implementation team to deliver.”

The tight deadline meant an accelerated implementation and rapid release. Starfish and Texas Tech worked in close partnership to meet the June 1 date, facilitating documentation of online advising for existing students and more than 8,500 new Red Raiders attending virtual orientation. The team met every day to prioritize goals and address issues. They focused on the integration of the institution’s LMS and SIS systems, mapping and assigning advisors and support personnel to average caseloads of 600 students each and getting the core components of Starfish – Advising and Case Management – in place.

“In my opinion, Texas Tech’s Application Development area and our SSR Stakeholder Support personnel completely redefined excellence in campus collaboration. The Starfish team was equally invested. They went beyond the call of duty to meet our deadlines and minimize disruption,” says Barron. “They listened carefully to our needs and made a point to be fully transparent and incredibly responsive.”

For their work on this critical project, the Texas Tech Student Success team was commended by Offices of the President and Provost. “The commitment and talent of our student success team in partnership with Starfish made this project possible,” says Dr. Michael Galyean, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs.

Ramping up for analytics

With the June 1 milestone successfully achieved, the team is now focused on implementing the analytics modules of Starfish. Texas Tech has partnered with the Starfish Strategic Consulting team to develop an Intervention Inventory of student supports and build out the data models that predict and measure student success.

“This will bolster the efforts of our campus academic advising function as well as provide meaningful analytics to support institutional strategic decision-making and planning”

Dr. Patrick Hughes,
Vice Provost of University Programs and Student Success

Building on the hard work of staff, faculty, and leaders and its strong foundation of student success, Texas Tech is accelerating toward its student success goals. Now, with a new technology partner in Starfish, the university is positioned to even more rapidly expand its capacity to support students into the future.