EARS Encourages Student Academic Success 

By Kelcey Norris

Various Youngstown State University faculty members worked together to create a system in hopes of assisting students with their academic success. 

YSU faculty can offer academic assistance to students in an efficient and affordable way through the Early Alert Reporting System, or EARS, portal.

After terminating a contract with Starfish, the former program used for early alert reporting, the need for a similar-functioning application emerged. 

Claire Berardini, associate provost for the Division of Student Success, sought an in-house temporary version for the academic portal. 

“The purpose of the system is to help students assess and understand where they’re at in a course at any given time,” Berardini said. “If they need to make some kind of correction, the sooner we can bring their attention to it and bring people in place to help them find solutions.”

If a student appears to be lacking academically, a professor can notify the student that a change is needed by flagging them in the system. 

The student is alerted, as well as facilities such as the Writing Center, the Math Assistance Center and the Center for Student Progress. 

“This process of identifying students who are either falling behind or appear to be struggling for some reason shows them they have support and the institution is behind them,” Berardini said. “It’s a really powerful thing.” 

Becky Varian, director of YSU’s Center for Student Progress, said she believes taking the initiative for the academic portal will benefit students’ overall success. 

“Students that don’t withdraw or finish the course with a D or F are more likely to graduate,” she said. “Our graduation rate recently climbed at YSU to over 40 percent. … We’re moving in the right direction and we want to continue to do that.” 

According to Varian, reaching out to students struggling will encourage them to change their bad habits with assistance fueled by her department. 

“When a flag is raised, academic coaches from the Center for Student Progress will be reaching out,” she said. “Students who use supplemental instruction tend to complete their courses at a higher rate.”   

Not only is the system’s goal to help students reach their graduation date, but, according to Varian, there has already been money saved by creating the technology in-house. 

“The new system is essentially free to use,” Varian said. 

Marianne Cohol, project manager of EARS, said although the program’s physical construction is complete, there was still work to be done. 

“We worked with the advisers to show them how to use the application. They worked with IT to develop videos and training opportunities for faculty if they needed it,” she said. 

Cohol said she believes the next challenge will be encouraging faculty members to use the system when they see a student struggling with attendance, participation or course completion.

“We will be educating the faculty on the different university resources available for the type of risks that may be identified,” said Cohol. 

According to Berardini, although this is a temporary solution to early alert reporting for the university, the administration hopes it will lead to finding something that sticks. 

“We’re looking for something that gives us a holistic view of the student, not just how they are in the classroom,” Berardini said. “Now we only see one dimension of a student, and we hope to see three or four that may impact their ability to be successful.” 

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