Student Success

The 5 Types of Academic Alerts Used By Success Centres

Academic Alert Systems are campus-wide efforts that support students throughout their entire learning journey. By leveraging an early alert system, institutions are more effective at identifying struggling students before it is too late to get them back on track. 

The earlier the alert, the more time and resources are available to help a student. Support centers can turn alerts into actionable initiatives by referring students to integral Advising, Counseling, and other Student Support Services.

Alerts are often categorized as academic factors, behavioural factors, and non-cognitive factors. Most alert programs allow staff to identify the challenge the student is facing and then route the alert to the appropriate department to enable corrective action. This can help support the student in the most proactive and impactful way possible.

From an administrative perspective, it is important to categorize your early alerts because it will allow you to build systems and workflows to efficiently and effectively move students from struggling to succeeding. This article will show you the academic alerts most commonly used by student success centres and what you can do to help the student.

Poor Performance In Class

Needs assistance reading/writing: A lack of reading and writing skills can often lead to academic performance issues. Most higher education institutions provide support for students with these challenges, including a writing centre. Through the writing centre, students can submit assignments online and get helpful feedback from school resources virtually or in person.

Lack of understanding of course content: Students often require tutoring support to help master the class content. By providing additional learning support, including high-dosage tutoring, a student’s performance can be radically improved in a short period of time.

Student is not submitting assignments: Often, students have difficulty completing coursework and are not submitting their assignments on time (or at all).  With additional support, students usually get back on track and succeed. A peer mentor, tutoring support, or sometimes just booking help with a teacher assistant can enable students to succeed. Having ample opportunities for students to access help will lead to a greater chance of usage.

Outside of Classroom Distractions

Student appears upset/stressed: Instructors can help identify struggling students by picking up queues that cannot be found using AI/data. With regular interactions, instructors can identify students at risk and try to intervene with additional supplemental support. Sometimes the support needed is non-class related, such as time management skills or how to effectively take notes. It has been shown that students believe their professor will resolve an issue more effectively than an administrator. The instructor can be the first line of defence for student success.

Lacks study skills: Learning how to study is a skill that many students need to develop and have never been taught. This alert is often triggered during a student’s first year of higher-ed when they are subject to many new and complex systems. Meeting 1-on-1 with students in tutoring sessions can help impart these skills. This will also allow the student to connect with and trust the university to have their best interests in mind- which will aid in student retention.

Student mentions outside distractions: All students have pressures outside the classroom that can impact their academic performance. Family, financial, and academic reasons all contribute to a student’s mental state and academic performance. Offering passive (videos and literature) as well as active (advisors and early alerts) resources can greatly assist with a student’s ability to perform well in school.

Financial Constraints

Student lacks funds to purchase books and/or course material: Many students save diligently to afford tuition. But tuition is not the only cost associated with higher education. Once you take food and housing into consideration, a student may not be able to afford the additional books and course materials. Schools that have programs where students can donate textbooks and materials to “pay it forward” for other students are a fantastic way to help students succeed.


Student planning to leave the institution: Some students find the transition to higher education very difficult. They may have applied to a program that no longer interests them and may consider dropping out. Many students don’t realize that most institutions provide a wide range of options, such as attending part-time or changing programs. By sharing the possibilities available to them through meaningful advising sessions, your chances of retaining that student increase significantly.

Student disclosed a disability: If a student has a disability, the instructor (if made aware of this) can determine if the student is eligible for accessibility services that will provide the right aid for the student to succeed in class. It’s all about communication and exploring options to help the student.

Student disclosed mental/wellness issue: Students can and often do get overwhelmed with the pressures of higher education. From the fast-paced learning environment to social pressures, living away from home for the first time can be challenging. Schools are providing more and more services on campus to help ensure student’s health and mental wellness is supported. Ensure that your school provides relevant resources to support your students even outside of their education.

Student Code of Conduct

Student is not complying with course attendance policy: Excessive and unexcused absences reduce the amount of course material the student can realistically acquire and retain. An effective early alert system will notify you when a student is missing too many classes.

Inappropriate pattern of behaviour in class: When a student is regularly disruptive, confrontational, and/or exhibiting other inappropriate behaviours in a class, universities and colleges must deal with these students in a structured way. When a student prevents other students from learning, they should be dealt with in an appropriate manner.

All policies and notices must be given and maintained as proof of compliance. Clearly, poor behaviour is a reaction to a stressor, so this can be a catalyst to create meaningful change for the student. Use this as an opportunity to help the student learn and grow.

Final Thoughts 

Enabling students to remain successful on their learning paths is gratifying and difficult work. While your institution may have a different list of alerts, hopefully you were able to extract some value from these common alerts used by student success centers.

Broadly speaking, it is important to support your students as much and as often as possible. More so, providing multiple avenues to support students can be a real asset. As a first line of defence, empower your instructors to direct students towards services that can help them. Students often trust their professors have their best interests in mind.

Developing workflows that seamlessly transition students from struggling to succeeding is a huge asset. Don’t do away with nuance and developing individual relationships- but integrating systems such as early alerts, or even standardized practices among departments can increase your efficiency and effectiveness. To continue learning how your school can improve its systems, reference our authoritative Guide to Managing Student Success Centers.

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