To combat the issue of declining enrollment and miscommunication between professors and students, Pasadena City College (PCC) has implemented Early Alert, an outreach system aimed to inform and track students’ progress throughout the semester.

The program, still in its pilot phase, is integrated in Canvas and allows for “easier communication and collaboration” between the professors and students, counselor Ingrid Arana said. The system is designed for faculty members to send out communicative indicators to students, such as  “Kudos” or “Flags,” to inform them on how “well they’re doing in their courses.”

There are four flags in total, each tailored towards the students’ progress throughout the class, according to Arana.

“There’s an attendance concern flag, a missing late assignment flag, academic flag and the other is a general concern flag,” Arana said.

The general flag, she says, is different from other flags because professors are able to  “personalize their messages” to their students if they are facing certain circumstances that do not fall under the criteria of the other three flags.

When a flag is administered by a faculty member, students will be notified immediately and can decide whether or not to follow up with the email.

“Students will receive an email when a flag is made,” said Associate Dean of Learning Resources John Gillette. “The student can then make an appointment at one of the [academic support] centers, or they can wait until one of us will reach out to them.”

Although Canvas already has a messaging tool embedded into its system, Early Alert is different due to its integration of all of the school’s services. This allows for easier interaction and communication between faculty and students.

“We realized that faculty members already have an intervention in place,” Arana said. “They already email their students, meet with them before class or have something in place. [Early Alert] allows for a systematic way for the campus to do these alerts all at one time.”

Due to the program’s easy-to-use application, Arana said that students’ referrals can be tracked easily by clicking on the tracking tab and seeing whether there are any active alerts. From this, faculty members can be notified if a student has been accommodated yet.

Dr. Valerie Foster, President of the Academic Senate and biology professor, notes that Early Alert is an “additional component” on Canvas for professors to utilize towards general issues concerning their students.

“There’s an ability to communicate within Early Alert, but it’s not specifically towards [grading] assignments,” Foster said. “It’s more general, like ‘students aren’t turning in their homework’ or ‘Oh, I noticed a student is despondent and they aren’t participating in class discussions.’”

Last Fall semester, Early Connect began pilot testing and was incorporated into different courses, such as english, math and English as a Second Language (ESL). It was limited to professors who expressed interest in testing out the system for their classes. Currently, the system is more open for any faculty to use, according to Arana.

Early Alert is expected to be fully implemented into Canvas for all faculty members for Fall of 2019.

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