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Early-warning advising system slow to catch on


By Laura Ory
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, December 7, 2005
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SuccessNet scheduled to receive examination

A program meant to alert advisers about students who are failing class was not as effective as some might have hoped, but will be used again in the spring.

Early Alert-Success Net is an early-warning system instructors and professors had the option of using this semester to warn advisers about a student who is failing or not coming to class.

The program is supposed to enable advisers to help students get back on track, but several advisers said they had met with only one or two students who were referred to them throughout the course of the semester.

Robin Rarick, a chemistry adviser, said she met with only one student who was referred to her, and the student had an appointment to meet with her before he was referred.

Rarick said the program may need to be changed in some ways to improve its effectiveness.

"It does have merit, but it needs to be assessed," she said.

Yolande Serra, an atmospheric physics research scientist, decided to use the program for her natural sciences class.

"It sounded great, but these classes are challenging for freshmen," said Serra, who decided not to refer any of her students this semester. "I would have reported half my students."

Serra said the problem may be related to the students' level of preparedness. She tried to respond to the needs of the students in her own class after realizing many of her students didn't know the math and physics concepts used in the class.

More than 600 students were referred to their colleges during the seven weeks the program was in effect this semester, said Guillermo Uribe, director of the University Learning Center.

Once a student is referred to his or her college, it is up to the individual colleges to decide a course of action for those students. Often, a referral is e-mailed to a student's individual adviser.

Elaine Marchello, a veterinary science and microbiology professor and coordinator, said she was able to experience the program from both advising and teaching perspectives.

Marchello used the program to refer students in her traditions and cultures class, and also met with students she advises for the department of veterinary science and microbiology.

Although not as many students responded to referrals to meet with Marchello for advising as she expected, she said she believes the program will succeed.

Marchello said an e-mail letting students know when they are referred by a teacher may encourage students to speak with their teachers to receive any needed help in the course.

In the long term, Marchello said the program can be effective in identifying students who need the most help and have received multiple referrals.

"It's going to send a signal that these students aren't doing well across the board. That's when it's going to help," Marchello said.

Uribe said feedback from faculty, advisers and students about the program will continue to be collected and any necessary improvements on the program will be examined in the spring.

Whether the program has an effect on student performance and retention will also be researched, Uribe said.



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