As a collaborative and protective early intervention program, the early-alert program is designed to help increase the retention of students in higher education. Also known as “early warning systems,” early-alert programs aim to offer formal assistance to students who may show signs of poor academic performance at the start of their course.
However, while this program benefits both the students and the institution in many ways, it often fails to produce the results that are expected from it. Why do student early alert systems fail, and what are the things to avoid when deploying a student early alert system? If you have these burning questions in your mind, gear up as this article will help you explore the answers.
Goals of an Early Alert Program
Almost all higher education institutions have an early alert program. However, unfortunately, many fail to reap its benefits because the program lacks thoughtful planning and implementation. Furthermore, the early alert programs they create often fail to focus on the primary goals.
An excellent and well-curated early alert program aims to achieve the following goals:
- To identify all student-related problems and trends that may interfere with and affect their personal and academic goals.
- Develop competent and practical strategies that can address these issues that may harm the future of the students
- Provide regular assistance to students and help them to choose authentic and valuable campus resources
- Create collaboration between the students and the faculty and support each to play a role in the former’s academic success collectively
One of the best qualities of successful early alert programs is that they are both reactive and proactive. They involve the right people and use appropriate metrics to serve as a critical part of any institution.
Every early alert program comprises two different components:
- Alerts: These are feedback systems that deliver red flags to support groups of agents about students who might be showing signs of troubling behavior.
- Intervention: This involves using an appropriate outreach method and addressing the issues identified through the alerts.
It is safe to say the implementation of early alert programs has become quite common in universities offering 4-year education programs to students. According to a survey report, institutions that aim to improve student retention consider an effective and well-curated early alert program among their top priorities.
Additionally, as per an article, 90% of private and public institutions providing a 4-years education program have an early alert program. That said, not all student early-alert programs are a success. They may sound easy to implement and process, but at times they fail to generate ground-breaking results for both the institutions and the students.
Why is that so? If you run an early-alert program but it has failed to achieve your goals, the next section of this article will help you explore the possible reasons.
Top Reasons Why Student Early Alert Systems Fail
In an ideal world, an early-alert program can help an institution prevent its students from leaving their academic goals and losing all hopes of becoming a professional. This is often achieved through timely intervention; however, due to inefficiency and poor coordination, many colleges find it hard to save their students.
Here are five top reasons why student early alert systems fail and how their failure affects the institutions and the students.
Early Alert Programs Are Usually Pretty Expensive to Manage
Early alert programs are not luxuries but necessities of institutions. Unfortunately, however, colleges sometimes make this program pretty expensive to manage, leading to their failure. For instance, they overstuff these programs with resources and staff members that might not add any value to the lives of the students.
Besides, some institutions even create different offices for experts leading these programs. As a result, it becomes impossible for colleges to maintain these programs’ high costs in the long run.
Furthermore, in the pursuit of delivering affordable wrap-around services to students and institutions, most programs fail to manage their costs effectively. Therefore, they suffer from a downfall much earlier than predicted.
These Programs Often Lack Narrow and Clear Objectives
Unfortunately, most programs do not have an objective other than identifying students who might be at risk. This goal is admirable, but achieving it only doesn’t fulfill the primary objective of a student early alert program.
With unclear and broad objectives, faculty often flag a large number of risks and then overwhelm their staff with extensive alerts, challenging their ability to resolve them. Sadly, a program that lacks clear-cut goals may see itself shutting down sooner than expected.
Most Early Alert Programs Don’t Consider Faculty
A successful early-alert program is one that sustains and increases the participation of the faculty. The engagement of faculty is vital for the staff to know which students are at high risk and demand more attention and care.
However, unfortunately, many programs, when designed, fail to communicate clear goals to the faculty. Therefore, a lack of communication between the staff and the faculty members leads to many students leaving institutions due to a lack of academic interest.
A Lack of Connection Between Coordinated Intervention and Early Alerts
As stated earlier, it is not just about identifying early alerts. These programs aim to curate coordinated intervention required to respond to and tackle the alerts smartly. However, the lack of guidelines and poor instructions makes it impossible to generate consistent and high-quality intervention in some cases.
Student support staff and advisors often end up responding to alerts in varying ways. As a result, this impacts the effectiveness and efficiency of staff and the care that the students may aim to achieve. In addition, the discrepancies in the responses of advisors usually create different outcomes, thus affecting the way problems are handled throughout an institution.
Poor Support Staff’s Training
Many programs often utilize their resources and time on data collection and Artificial Intelligence. While these tasks are essential too, training of the staff and the use of resources to connect with students are more critical to implementing a student early alert program in an effective way.
Furthermore, many early alert systems fail to achieve their objectives because they only intervene in on-campus issues. They overlook off-campus communication and problems, thus failing to look at the broader picture.
Many students rely on early alert programs to save them from losing focus on their education. However, when these programs fail, students have nowhere to go, and they prefer to leave the institutions, affecting the overall institution’s retention rate. So, considering the importance of this program, how can you make sure that it remains a success for a long time?
How to Run a Successful Student Early-alert Program
From its deployment to management, an early-alert program requires particular technique and attention to benefit everyone depending on it. Below are some tips and tricks to help you establish a successful student early-alert program.
Design a Program that Considers All Involved Parties
Many programs fail because they either avoid involving faculty or delay providing the required training to their support staff. Faculty participation is key to running a successful program, and so is the ability of the staff to handle every situation smartly.
Therefore, when designing an early-alert program, it is imperative to communicate every expectation to the faculty and support staff to avoid any non-compliance or confusion. Moreover, you should also ask the faculty to give their input on the reporting dates and the methods of intervention they want to go for.
Furthermore, all faculty members should be given sufficient time to submit any early alerts, ensuring proper research and evidence available on the signs that the students might have shown.
Create a Program With Narrow and Clear-cut Objectives
Instead of focusing on a broad category of students, you should create an early-alert program for a well-defined group of students. It is all about narrowing the focus so that the institutions can easily measure the impact of interventions.
Further, when tied to strategic and more significant goals, clear specific objectives create success stories. Moreover, it is also convenient to communicate specific objectives to faculty and support staff rather than ambiguous and broad plans of the program.
Deploy Right Resources and Right People
If you want your program to make a meaningful connection with the students, include the right student support staff in your early-alert system’s team. Remember that most at-risk students are unmotivated to share their problems with outsiders, so it is essential to use the best people for this program that excel in offering their services without judging the abilities of the affected party.
In addition, if you want to connect with the students, use your resources to meet them off-campus to allow them to communicate their issues more openly. It is all about putting every effort into the process to increase the student retention rate and help a student get back on track.
Update Data Regularly
Many early-alert programs fail because they don’t focus on processing the updated student data. To avoid that, create a process that routinely creates and uses reports collected from the faculty. In this way, the program would be better positioned to identify students who may have fallen off track only recently.
Things to Avoid When Deploying a Student Early Alert System
When implementing this program, make sure to avoid
- Expensive resources may not add any value to the results. While AI is imperative to generate efficiency in any system, it’s expensive to use and manage. So, consider avoiding it and focusing on resources that can help you achieve the program’s results more efficiently.
- Delaying assigning responsibilities and roles within the program’s team. Don’t delay the process of assigning a leader that can facilitate meetings and keep a check on updates and data entries. You can also hire a data coach from outside the institution who can help support staff and faculty to access and use collected information correctly.
- Dragging an alert. Suppose you received an alert from a student. Instead of dragging or delaying it, curate a plan and take action as soon as possible. The impact of an alert may wither away with time, making any intervention useless.
- Not Making Reports and Taking Feedback. If you want an early-alert system to serve for a long time, you need to make sure that every case the program handles should have a report for reference. Besides, ensure to take feedback from the students to understand their perspectives and views on the performance of the system.
If you run an early alert program for an institution, know that it can help increase retention rate and save the lives of thousands of students, provided you conduct and manage it correctly. The system helps your team identify some signs that require your attention, so you can intervene on a timely basis and prevent the students from getting off track.
This article looked at five top reasons why student early alert systems fail and explored things that should be avoided to prevent this from happening. We hope that the information above has helped you to create a system that can involve the faculty in the process and, at the same time, ensure that each objective is clearly communicated to all the parties involved. To learn more about this topic, you can read our authoritative guide on how to use early alert systems for student success.