Troy University’s eTROY Online Course Delivery Division Uses Starfish® to Identify At-Risk Students, Facilitate Communication Between Instructors and Advisors

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eTROY Plugs Starfish into Blackboard System to Transform Learning Management System into a Student Retention Tool

Starfish goes beyond providing single login integration with Blackboard. We are able to make use of the rich information about how students are doing in real time, so that when an issue arises the right people in our organization know.

Starfish Retention Solutions, Inc., a leading provider of student success systems, announced that Troy University’s online course delivery division, called eTROY, has been using Starfish for the last 12 months to improve its ability to track the academic activity and progress of its students, ensuring that at-risk students receive help as quickly as possible to complete their program of study.

eTROY serves more than 15,000 geographically dispersed students, many of whom are active-duty soldiers enrolled through the eArmyU initiative. The program uses the Blackboard learning management system to deliver online course materials to its students.

“We continually look for tools and systems that can integrate with our existing Blackboard system in order to make use of the wealth of data that we already have about our students’ performance, but also to make the user experience as efficient as possible for our instructors and students,” said Ronnie Creel, director of educational technology at eTROY. “Starfish enables us to use our existing systems while helping us address our student retention and persistence goals.”

Like other institutions, eTROY places great emphasis on helping its students achieve their academic goals. This commitment, however, can sometimes be more challenging in an online environment where instructors, advisors, and support staff do not meet with students face-to-face. National averages indicate that completion rates for online courses typically fall between six and 10 percent lower than their traditional equivalent. Additionally, online institutions are required via accreditation standards to provide student services comparable to those of a traditional ground-based campus.

As a result, eTROY provides its instructors and advisors/counselors with the latest tools to assist students as quickly as possible. As a simple plug-in to the institution’s Blackboard system, the Starfish system offers a systematic way of identifying students who are at risk and helps the institution to manage its efforts to intervene and provide support. Starfish can also integrate with other learning management systems including Moodle, ANGEL, and WebCT.

Specifically, eTROY has configured Starfish to identify when a student has not logged in to an online course within the last seven days and then again within 14 days, automatically sending messages to the student’s instructor, and advisor/counselor, as well as to the student. Messages can be sent to students via Facebook, text, and regular email. In the spring 2011 term, more than 26,000 system-raised flags for inactivity were noted. In addition, 53 percent of students identified as having not logged in to an online course did so within four days of receiving a message from the Starfish system, indicating a level of reengagement with the course.

The institution is also using Starfish to obtain feedback from instructors at several points throughout the academic term on various aspects of their students’ performance (e.g., poor participation, low grade concerns, incomplete assignments). In addition to identifying at-risk students, eTROY uses Starfish to identify students who are performing well, automatically sending positive, encouraging messages to these students to keep them motivated. In the spring 2011 term, 168 instructors used the system to congratulate nearly 1,400 students for outstanding performance. Also, eTROY uses Starfish to alert instructors and advisor/counselor(s) of first-time students who are taking classes from Troy University.

“Starfish goes beyond providing single login integration with Blackboard. We are able to make use of the rich information about how students are doing in real time, so that when an issue arises the right people in our organization know and can take steps to help the student,” commented Creel.

Accessible with a single login to an institution’s student information system, portal system or learning management system, Starfish is a collection of two software systems. Starfish EARLY ALERT™ is an early-warning and student-tracking system that makes it possible for instructors, advisors, and academic staff to identify at-risk students in real time. Starfish CONNECT™, an education support networking and case management system, helps students access a personalized contact list of instructors, advisors, and counselors who are dedicated to helping them succeed. Together, the systems generate valuable performance and resource utilization data for the institution, which helps optimize future service offerings.

“Online programs like eTROY have a terrific opportunity to mine an enormous amount of data regarding student performance and engagement, but it can be difficult to make sense of the data without the right tools,” said David Yaskin, CEO and founder of Starfish Retention Solutions. “Starfish is uniquely able to work with online programs to leverage their investments of time and money in a learning management system to address the important issues of student success and persistence.”

Starfish will be presenting at the upcoming Bb World Conference in Las Vegas, Nev., July 12-15, 2011. In addition, Ronnie Creel from eTROY will lead a Webinar presentation on the institution’s experiences leveraging its Blackboard system as a student success and retention tool. The complimentary Webinar will be held on July 28, 2011 at 2 pm ET.

To register, go to

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 in order 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 faculty concerns, and then connect them to the resources designed to help (e.g., advising or tutoring), all while assessing which services and interventions are working. For more information, please call 703.260.1186 or visit


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