Virtual Academy Speeds Identification of Students at Risk


The Idaho Digital Learning Academy, a virtual K-12 school established by the Idaho legislature in 2002, is looking to accelerate the identification of students who need special help to succeed academically.

To help with the effort, the school has signed on with Starfish Retention Solutions, which is providing Starfish Early Alert and Starfish Connect. Starfish Early Alert is a tool that tracks students and attempts to provide early warnings for instructors and staff to identify those who might be at risk of failure for whatever reason.

Starfish Connect is a tool that provides students with a directory of instructors, advisors, and counselors to help schedule time for discussion, when needed, and allows students to select both the mode and topic for discussion, such as e-mail, chat, phone, and in-person meetings. It also provides information about support services offered through a school and displays peer evaluations of an institution's support services. On the administrative side, the system also generates reports on performance data, including resource utilization.

"In an online class, there is no 'back row' from which a teacher can draw in a disinterested student. One of the best ways to gauge student engagement is to keep track of how often they log in to their online courses. Unfortunately, this is also one of the greatest challenges," said Ryan Gravette, technology director for IDLA, in a prepared statement. "With Starfish, we will know this in real time, and be able to reengage students and get them back in the class."

He continued: "The impact of Starfish on the IDLA organization is going to be very large. We are changing the way we work and the way we go about identifying our at-risk students, and helping them accomplish their goals. Starfish is giving us a chance to build better relationships with students, and communicate to them that someone cares, someone is paying attention and wants them to be successful."

Idaho Digital Learning Academy serves about 10,000 students. It's open to all Idaho residents, including homeschool students and those attending brick and mortar schools. It serves gifted students and those looking for credit recovery. It also serves adult learners.

About the Author

David Nagel is the former editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal, STEAM Universe, and Spaces4Learning. A 30-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art, marketing, media, and business publications.

He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at .