Many colleges have limited staff time and capacity to encourage and respond to early alerts. Therefore, institutions should focus their time and attention on the courses and faculty that have the greatest impact on students. These courses are often developmental or gatekeeper courses with high enrollment. If students fail these courses, their chances of making progress toward a degree decrease significantly.
As part of their most recent Quality Enhancement Plan, Santa Fe College department chairs identify approximately 50 faculty members per year who are teaching the highest-risk gateway or developmental courses, then designates those individuals as Navigating the College Experience (NCE) faculty. Though all faculty members receive training and communication about early alert, these faculty must especially understand the importance of the system.
NCE faculty members receive earlier reminders than other faculty to submit early alerts. Instead of the standard reminders at weeks four and eight, these individuals receive reminders at weeks three and seven.
Not only do these earlier reminders encourage utilization, they also encourage reporting about more than just grades. By week three, many faculty members have not yet given any large assessments of student performance. Therefore, the faculty members must focus their alerts on behavior, participation, or other signs of distress.
Four ways to engage faculty in early alerts
To increase compliance and interest in the system, Santa Fe College incorporated several communication best practices into their reminders:
1: The nudges come from trusted academic leaders, such as the provost and other senior faculty members. Faculty inherently trust these individuals and are more likely to respond positively to their communication.
2: The emails regularly remind faculty of the early alert system’s mission to support students.
3: The emails contain outcomes data, anecdotes about successful interventions, and even national data on the effectiveness of early alert systems. The anecdotes personalize the impact of early alert, increasing the effectiveness of the reminder. All of this information convinces busy faculty that submitting these reports is a good use of their time.
4: The emails include specific examples of risk that students might display. Especially for newer faculty, this guidance helps them think beyond student grades or academic performance so that student success staff have more holistic insight into each student’s situation.