Implementation of Academic Alert System: a Change Management Project

Implementation of Academic Alert System: a Change Management Project

Implementation of Academic Alert System:
A Change Management Project

IT 6930
Management and Leadership Report


Professor Brent Wilson
Kristi Thorland

April 18, 2011


My name is Kristi Thorland and I work at Arapahoe Community College (ACC) as the Administrative Coordinator for Academic Advising. Our department provides academic advising for our degree programs and transfer advising for students wanting to go to four year colleges and universities to complete bachelor degrees.

A less well know service that we provide is academic probation and suspension advising. If a student’s grade point average falls below 2.0 two semesters in a row, they are put on academic suspension and are required to meet with an academic advisor to reflect on their lack of success. With the assistance of an advisor, the student makes a strategic plan for improvement before they are allowed to take classes at the college.

Unfortunately many students stay on academic suspension for several semesters in a row and often end up dropping out of college. Some students who drop out of ACC go to another community college to “start over”. While other students may become so discourage they never attempt to return to college again.

Identifying the Problem

Many of the students who get on academic suspension are underprepared for college and become overwhelmed by the new environment and academic expectations. We wondered how to identify these at-risk students prior to them getting on academic probation or suspension. How can we intervene and assist these students with support services such as tutoring or other strategies so that they can be retained and eventually complete their educational goals?

Investigating a Solution
Jerry M., the Director of Advising and Retention at ACC was introduced to the STEAR (Student Tracking Early Alert Retention) system through a state-wide directors meeting. This computer application was designed to help higher education setting identify students at academic risk. Instructors identify the students in their classes who are at risk of not passing due to low test/quiz scores, poor attendance, and missing assignments. The instructors then submit this information into the “Academic Alert” system. This information is then shared with academic advisor who attempt to contact the student and provide interventions (tutoring, time management skills, etc) that will assist them in improving their academic standing so that they can successfully complete their classes.

Since we knew that the software system was being used by the Community College of Denver with great success, Jerry and I decided to investigate the possibility of using the STEAR system at ACC. (From this point forward the STEAR system will be referred to as the Academic Alert system). We set up a meeting and requested a bid proposal for the Academic Alert system that could be customized to meet ACC’s needs. Sue E., the Academic Alert system product representative, demonstrated the software program and discussed the customization possibilities as well as customer support services and the cost of the system implementation.

After our meeting with Sue, Jerry and I had several discussions and decided that the Academic Alert system would meet the needs of the advising office y providing a way for instructors to systematically identify the at-risk students early in the semester. Once the instructors identify and enter the information about the students into the alert system, the students would be assigned to an academic advisor. The advisor would be able to contact the student and provide them with academic counseling and referrals to tutorial services in order to provide interventions that could prevent students from failing classes and dropping out of school. The Academic Alert system appeared to be an ideal tool to help us increase student success and retention.

Plan for Executive Approval
We knew we would need to convince the upper administration of the value of purchasing and implementing the Academic alert software system before we could move forward with any change processes. Jerry scheduled a meeting with the executive team and presented a persuasive argument as to why the college needed to change ht way we provide some of our academic advising services. Acting as the “primary change agent,” he argued that we needed to identify students at academic risk early in the semester so that we can provide
supportive interventions that will help student successfully complete their classes. During his presentation he illustrated many of the skills and characteristics of “change leadership” as described by Recklies (2002), including accepting the need for change, communicating the need for change, and defending the need for change.
McLagan (2002) states that stakeholders in organizations must ask many questions before initiating any change processes to ensure that the changes will add value to the organization and that the changes aren’t just a current trend. Jerry described and demonstrated how the Academic Alert system could be used as a tool that the college could use to leverage positive changes that would improve our student retention and degree completion rates. After much discussion, the executive team approved the purchase of the Academic Alert system and gave permission to begin to implement the procedures needed to train the faculty and academic advising staff on the computer software and the Academic Alert processes.

Change Process Team
After we received approval to purchase and move ahead with the Academic alert program, we formed a team of four members that would support the change processes required. The team members included Jerry M., the director of advising who acted as the primary change agent, myself, Kristi T., acting as the supportive change agent, Sue D., the product representative for the Academic Alert Software Company, and Mary S., who is the ACC data management specialist. Below is a chart that summarizes the function of each team member.

Team Member / Skills and Primary Tasks
Jerry M. / Primary Change Agent – (qualities described by Recklies (2002)). Express enthusiasm for change, provides leadership to motivate people, bring stakeholders together, define goals, delegate responsibilities to team members, provide information updates, wide range of interpersonal skills – able to relate to a variety of individuals, listen to suggestions and concerns.
Sue D. / Academic Alert Technology Specialist. Computer technology skills related to product. Guides initial training and use of product with Jerry and Kristi. Provides customization of the product to meet the needs of ACC. Work with ACC IT staff to set up network drives and uploading of software and other software support services. Work with Mary S. to ensure the safe transfer of database information.
Provide customized data reports.
Kristi T. / Supportive change agent – coordinates team meetings and team communications. Works with Academic Alert product specialist to ensure the computer software program is working correctly for faculty and advising staff. Serves as the primary contact person for questions and problems regarding the use of the academic alert system by faculty members and advising staff.
Trains Pre-Enrollment Services staff on the Academic Alert system.
Redistributes students put on academic alert to specific advisors.
Trains advising staff on the processes for following up with students on alert. Tracks participation rates, writes progress reports.
Mary S. / Database Specialist. Provides updated data from the Banner system
to the Academic Alert Technology Specialist to be uploaded to the Academic Alert network drive. Ensures that the coding for student data is correct. Provides updated data regularly so that the instructor s’ student rosters are current and that the Academic Alert student databases are consistent with the Banner database.

Change Process Team and Skills

Change Strategy –Timeline for Implementation and Supportive Follow up
Fall Semester 2010

July 8Pilot study with ten faculty member to test Academic Alert software
August 10Academic Alert System: Information and demonstration to faculty one week
prior to the start of the Fall semester.

Aug/Sept/Follow-up small group training sessions for faculty members
Sept 6Academic Alert system Training for academic advisors. Advisors trained to document interventions and strategic plans to assist students.
Sept 10-Academic Alert system opened for First Session Alerts
Oct 18Instructors identify at-risk student and enter their information into the alert system for follow up interventions by academic advisors.

Sept 30Academic Alert Training for Pre-Enrollment Services.
Dual enrolled students (students who are high school students and attending
ACC for college credit) who are put on academic alert may be at risk of not
graduating from high school.
Oct 20-Academic Alert System – Second Session Alert
Nov 5Faculty are encouraged to submit name of student who are failing.
Students are encouraged to withdraw from classes before the withdrawal
deadline of November 8, 2010.
Nov 10Send out faculty Feedback survey for Academic Alert system
Dec 2Send out Academic alert questionnaire to academic advisors so they can
prepare for verbal debriefing meeting on December 9, 2010.
Dec 6Last day of classes for the Fall 2010 semester
Dec 9Advising Staff Academic alert Debriefing Session
Spring Semester 2011
Jan 3Include Academic Alert Information in Orientation Packets for new adjunct
faculty members
Jan 25Send out email reminder to faculty to use the Academic Alert System when it
opens on February 7 for the First Session Alert. Include overview information
and links to instructions on how to login, submit alerts, and navigate the
Academic Alert System for faculty members.
Feb 7- 22Academic Alert system (First Session alert) opens for faculty to submit the names
of their students at academic risk who can benefit from interventions.
Feb 10academic Alert Training Update for the Academic Advising Staff
11:00-1:00 Room A1000
Feb 16Academic Alert Faculty Training Session 3:00-4:00 p.m. Room A1000.
Feb 28-Academic Alert system (Second Session alert) opened for faculty input of
March 4students who are failing and need to withdraw before the withdrawal deadline
of April 11, 2011.

April 13Send out Faculty Feedback survey for Academic alert system.
April 15Team meeting to identify information to include in automated data reports.

April 18Send out academic alert questionnaire to academic advisor to prepare for
verbal debriefing session Thursday April 21, 2011.

April 21Academic advising verbal debriefing session for Academic Alert Spring 2011.

May 9Last day of classes for the Spring 2011 Semester.

Pilot Testing June 2010

For the Academic alert pilot testing, I identified ten faculty members and invited them to volunteer to test the academic alert system using the students in their second session summer school classes. Because we had very limited time, we emailed the instructors direction and screen shots illustrating how to login to the system and submit alerts. I was available to answer questions and provide assistance to guide them through the process. Six of the instructors participated in the pilot testing. There were several issues and problems logging into the system. Part of the problems were caused by having scripted incorrect login names and having a strong security system software that prevented the instructors from gaining remote access to the server hosting the alert system. We had email communications with many of the instructors and gained insight into what processes needed more clarification. From this we were able to modify the faculty instruction job aid. But the login process seemed to cause the most problems. The information from the pilot testing prepared us for the first full faculty launch of the Academic Alert system for the fall 2010 semester.

Faculty Training for the Fall 2010 Semester

The week before the Fall semester started, the faculty members were required to return to the ACC campus and participate in meetings and updates that prepared them for the semester that was about to unfold. Jerry scheduled several faculty training sessions to introduce and demonstrate the Academic Alert system. The deans from all of the colleges as well as the department chairs were actively supportive of the change processes that the Academic Alert system would require their faculty members to embrace. The deans and department chairs attended the training sessions and provided encouragement to their instructors. Having the deans and department chairs actively involved and supportive of the change process was a major strategy used to prevent resistance by faculty members. Lewis (2006) and Madsen (2008) both talk about how it is important for management and leaders to actively support change processes if they expect them to be successful.

In addition to the information gained from Jerry’s presentation and demonstration of the Academic Alert system, faculty members were given written copies of instructions on how to access the Academic Alert application and how to navigate within the application in order to put a student on academic alert. I was listed as the primary contact person for questions or problems concerning the Academic alert system.
Two Types of Academic Alert Sessions – Overview
The faculty members were informed that there are two different Academic alert sessions during the fall and spring semesters. During the First Session Alert (weeks 5 through 7)
the faculty members are asked to review their class rosters for student who are at academic risk who could potentially be helped through early interventions by the academic advisors.

During the Second Session Alert (weeks 11-12 for the fall and spring semesters) faculty are asked to identify student who at this late point in the semester “cannot pass” their class due to poor grades, frequent absences or other causes. The main focus is to identify these students to that they can be alerted to withdraw from the class prior to the withdrawal deadline. This type of academic alert prevents students from receiving failing grades and getting on academic probation and suspension.

Faculty Change Processes
There are two major change processes that the faculty members needed to implement to facilitate the Academic Alert system. First, the faculty needed to provide opportunities to evaluate the knowledge level and skills of their students related to the subject matter they were teaching, within the first four to five weeks of their classes. By providing early knowledge assessment opportunities like quizzes or participation in class discussions, the instructor is able to assess the “academic risk” of their students. When they identify students at risk, they need to submit an academic alert through the Academic Alert system. The earlier the student is identified, the sooner the academic advisors can provide supportive interventions, like tutorial services.

The second change process the instructors needed to learn was how to use the Academic Alert compute application system in order to put a student on academic alert. The instructor needs to login to the academic alert application through their myACC account, then select their Faculty Tab and locate the Early Alert login link under the Faculty Quick Links section of the webpage. Once they are in the Academic Alert program, they select the Faculty link on the left sidebar. This will bring them to a page that lists their classes. When they click on the class link, it will bring them to a web page that lists their class roster. When they want to put a student on academic alert, they simply click on the student’s last name and it will bring them to the alert page.

To create an academic alert, the instructor selects the check boxnext to the items of concern that have caused the student to be put on alert. The list of items includes low quiz/test scores, frequent absences, low participation, never attended class etc. There is also a text box where the instructor can type in specific information they would like to share with the academic advisor who will be following up with the student. The instructor then clicks on the Submit button to activate the alert process.

Once the alert is submitted, the student will receive an automated email telling them that they have been put on academic alert. The email will contain the course title and their instructor’s name and contact information as well as information to contact the Academic Advising office for help with their classes.

Academic Advising Change Processes

Change Processes for the Academic Advising Coordinator
The coordinator for academic advising (this author) coordinates the communication and transfer of the submitted alerts by the faculty members to the specific advisors who will attempt to follow up with the students placed on the First Session Alert. During the First Session Alert (weeks 5 through 7), the coordinator needs to check the Academic Alert system at least once a day to redistribute the student names who have been put on alert, to the academic advisors. This process ensures that the advisor can contact the student in a timely manner and initiate academic interventions to assist the students.