Duquesne University Increases Student Access to Advisors and Instructors with Starfish CONNECT

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System Adoption Highlights Focus on Student Experience and Success

This has been one of the most seamless integrations of a Building Block into Blackboard I've seen

Starfish Retention Solutions, Inc., a leading provider of student success systems, announced today that Duquesne University has engaged Starfish CONNECT™ to help them achieve their goal of improving student engagement and success. Starfish CONNECT is an educational support networking system intended to enhance collaboration between students and their advisors, instructors and student services.

Located in Pittsburgh, Pa., Duquesne University is a private, coeducational university with more than 10,000 students. Consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and 131-year tradition of academic excellence, the institution offers an extensive selection of undergraduate and graduate degree programs across 10 schools of study. Known for its innovative use of educational technology, Duquesne University uses the Blackboard Learning System™ and Blackboard Community System™ to facilitate teaching and learning and to assist various academic units in supporting student success. Duquesne is also a leading member of the Pittsburgh Blackboard Users Group, having hosted two major conferences to share best practices related to e-Learning across the region.

For the last several years, advisors in Duquesne University's A.J. Palumbo School of Business Administration and John F. Donahue School of Business have sought to increase their interaction with undergraduate and graduate students in order to provide the academic support services that students need to be successful. Specifically, advisors wanted earlier and more frequent interaction with students so they could guide them to appropriate learning resources such as tutors, Writing and Learning Center assistance, career guidance, internship opportunities and campus service events. Moreover, they wanted to improve their scheduling system. Until recently, undergraduate and graduate students scheduled appointments with their advisors via phone, drop-in, email, or the online appointment application posted on the school's Web site.

With nearly all business courses using Blackboard, the advisors contacted Ruth Newberry, director of educational technology for Duquesne University, for assistance in developing community sites on the Blackboard system to post links to academic support services, career guidance and academic forms. Placing this information in Blackboard, where students accessed learning materials and other academic resources, had students commenting on the usefulness of the advising sites for accessing materials. However, students continued to request an easier way to schedule appointments with their advisors.

After reviewing several commercial solutions designed to facilitate advising and/or scheduling services, Duquesne University's Palumbo-Donahue Schools of Business adopted Starfish CONNECT in January 2009. In addition to its ease of use and comprehensive feature set, Starfish CONNECT was selected because of its integration into the institution's course management system (i.e., Blackboard). "This has been one of the most seamless integrations of a Building Block into Blackboard I've seen," commented Newberry. A Building Block is an application created by third party developers that is used to extend the functionality of the core Blackboard Learn Platform.

Students and advisors have greeted Starfish CONNECT with tremendous enthusiasm, citing the system's easy accessibility through Blackboard (single log-in), personalized student and advisor experiences, ability for students to identify reasons for appointments and ability to select from various locations for a meeting (phone, office, webinar, chat). Additionally, system reporting is helping advisors make changes to advising processes and the type, as well as the amount of, information provided.

"Academic institutions must make support services easily accessible to this highly mobile, digital and diverse student population," said Keith Solarczyk, academic advisor for A.J. Palumbo School of Business Administration, Duquesne University. "Within one week of using Starfish CONNECT, half of my students made appointments with me with ease. The email notifications from Starfish allow me to prepare for each student appointment and understand any reasons for cancellations, which is important to me as an advisor. Starfish is clearly dedicated to making us successful so that we can focus on helping our students."

Given the positive reaction by both business students and advisors to the initial rollout, Starfish is now being enabled for use this spring semester by selected advisors in Nursing, School of Leadership and Liberal Arts. The next phase of adoption will be to enable Starfish CONNECT this summer for other Duquesne advisors in its other schools for the incoming freshman class and by fall for their current advisees. Additionally, Starfish will be made available to faculty across campus and for academic support units, such as learning skills, career services, and others, to easily facilitate appointments with students. In addition, more sophisticated reporting will be generated to assist advisors with continual improvement of services and monitoring of student success.

Accessible with a single log-in to an institution's course management system (e.g., Blackboard, WebCT, Angel), Starfish CONNECT enables students to access a personal contact list of instructors, advisors and counselors who are dedicated to helping them succeed. The system places these people and services at the students' fingertips, offering self-service scheduling at times that are convenient for both parties. Starfish CONNECT also helps students overcome their natural reluctance to engage with new people and campus services by letting them learn more about the support services that are available and review endorsements from other students who have benefited from the services. In addition, the system generates valuable performance data for the institution, including resource utilization, that helps optimize future service offerings.

"Starfish Retention Solutions has benefited greatly from working with Duquesne University," said David Yaskin, CEO and founder of Starfish Retention Solutions. "We continue to learn from their experience in student advising and services - feedback that makes our solutions easier to use and more effective. Working together, we have created a terrific partnership that will continue to reap rewards for students, instructors and academic service providers throughout the Duquesne community."

About Starfish Retention Solutions
Starfish Retention Solutions is a leading provider of student success systems. The company offers a collection of software solutions that harness the power of the campus community to engage, motivate and graduate more students - securing valuable tuition revenue through student retention. Specifically, the solutions help institutions identify at-risk students in real time, based on their daily course work performance, and then connect them to the resources designed to help (e.g., advising, tutoring) - all while assessing which services and interventions are working. For more information, please call 703.260.1186 or visit http://www.starfishsolutions.com.

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