Inver Hills and DCTC partner to implement student success platform

Inver Hills Community College and Dakota County Technical College have partnered to relaunch Starfish, a communication platform that gives faculty and staff the means to offer students timely and direct feedback about their academic progress. A part of EAB, a global consulting firm focused on education, Starfish also provides students with a central location to access academic and counseling support resources on campus.

The Office of Institutional Effectiveness (IE) at Inver Hills and DCTC is responsible for administering the Starfish student success software. Wendy Marson serves as IE director at both colleges. Wendy reported that over the summer of 2022 a work group representing both institutions collaborated to make sure Starfish would unfold as the ideal platform to help enhance an informed, proactive, and connected campus community centered on promoting student success.

“Two members of our IE staff, Heather Hohenstein and Allison Reeck, have done a tremendous amount of work on the Starfish project,” Wendy said. “We have also received guidance from Amy Carney, an EAB strategic leader, who will be giving a presentation on the Inver Hills/DCTC Starfish partnership this November at CONNECTED22, the EAB national conference in Orlando, Florida.”

Allison Reeck is the IE management analyst. Allison pointed out that the partnership between the two colleges offers a number of advantages.

“Our partnership gives us an immediate group of peers working with similar students—sometimes the same students—with whom we can share ideas and practices for achieving the best Starfish outcomes,” she said. “While each college has a distinct culture, we’ve found that cross-pollination of ideas provides opportunities for both schools to enhance our student support repertoire.”

Allison added that Starfish on the front end provides a single, integrated place for students to connect with support resources, including faculty and staff support, e.g., advisors, tutors, and specialized areas such as TRIO and Veteran Services.

“Starfish also enables different support resources to connect, which means when an instructor refers a student to tutoring, that instructor will receive a notification when tutoring has reached out to the student,” Allison said. “On the back end, Starfish enables us to look at student use of support resources and explore how that relates to their academic success. This helps us focus our efforts on interventions that provide the most benefit to our students.”

Heather Hohenstein is the Starfish administrator and enrollment analyst in IE. Heather related that Rebecca Jacobson and Aria Kronebusch, academic and financial aid advisors at DCTC, served on the Starfish implementation team this past summer. In fact, Rebecca attended CONNECTED21, which brought together Starfish partner institutions from across the country.

“Kristin Thoennes, English faculty at Inver Hills, wrote the content for the new flag wording that Amy Carney will be spotlighting at CONNECTED22,” Heather said. “Amy will also be describing how our Starfish partnership relates directly to the 2021–2025 Strategic Plan shared by both institutions. The second goal of the Strategic Plan is to improve student success—bringing together effective learning, access, persistence, and completion—through enhancing a culture of student belonging and integrated support.”

[Note: Starfish flags and referrals alert students that they need to take some action.]

Faculty perspective: Kristin Thoennes

I joined the summer work group as a way to more fully embrace Starfish. Prior to our work, I’d had a love/hate relationship with Starfish because, while I knew the program had the potential to help students be successful, it was incredibly time consuming to raise individual flags for so many students. I got angsty over each one, trying to find the right tone, trying to include the specifics of what each student was missing, trying to be encouraging and personal. The writer in me was too invested in the rhetorical situation for every single flag.

When I asked Heather if I could write some generic templates for faculty to use to speed up the flag-raising process, she enthusiastically agreed. So now, we have the four generic flags that allow faculty this simple process:

  1. Choose the student’s name.
  2. Choose the course.
  3. Choose from the four generic flags.
  4. Hit “save.”

The beauty of these generic flags is that they autofill with an encouraging message and are signed by the Starfish Support Network. So, I’m happy to report that I am raising more flags (and earlier) than I used to, and my love/hate relationship with Starfish now feels more like a healthy partnership on behalf of our students!

Kristin Thoennes
English Faculty
Inver Hills Community College

More about Starfish…¹

Students succeed when they are engaged with an informed, connected, campus community

The Starfish student success platform helps colleges and universities scale their student success efforts so more students can achieve their academic and life goals.

At its foundation, Starfish’s platform helps higher education institutions implement reliable data to pinpoint areas of concern and opportunity within courses and student populations, as well as institutional programs and services.

Upon identifying these opportunities, the platform enables staff to connect students with helpful resources on campus and also allows administrators to refine their student success strategies.


Starfish Demo Videos

Setting up a Starfish “Profile

Default “Welcome View” Starfish Dashboard

Starfish Student Success Network

Starfish “Calendar—What’s Upcoming”

Courses Tab, Getting the most from Starfish

Learn more about the Starfish student success platform at Inver Hills and DCTC by contacting:

Heather Hohenstein
Starfish Administrator/Enrollment Analyst
Office of Institutional Effectiveness
Inver Hills Community College

Allison Reeck
Management Analyst
Office of Institutional Effectiveness
Inver Hills Community College

¹ SOURCE: EAB Acquires Starfish

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