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University announces innovative early alert program

The Thrive Priority Support Network connects students with the right resources at the first sign of academic difficulty
December 21, 2015

Students having trouble in their studies will have access to extra support before they even think to ask for it.

The University of Calgary is launching an early alert program called the Thrive Priority Support Network at the start of the new term in January.

“Thrive aims to connect undergraduate students in need of support to the right campus resources at the earliest possible moment,” said Julie Stewart, Thrive co-ordinator and academic development specialist from the Student Success Centre. “Small problems can turn into much bigger issues if they aren’t addressed quickly.”

Early alert programs are becoming more common at post-secondary institutions 

The University of Calgary’s early alert program was piloted in two phases from winter 2014 to winter 2015 with professors across a number of faculties. The Thrive system is tailored to the University of Calgary’s teaching and learning context using a combination of grades from in-class tests and assignments, and confidentially reported concerns from professors to create a full picture of how a student is doing.

With the program rollout in winter 2016, the University of Calgary joins only a handful of Canadian universities that offer this type of program, which is starting to be viewed as a best practice. Institutionally, the development of an early alert system is identified as a priority in the comprehensive institutional plan and the campus mental health strategy. 

“The Thrive Priority Support Network furthers the University of Calgary’s goal of creating a healthy and caring campus community,” said Dru Marshall, provost and vice-president (academic). “This program is an important step toward ensuring students have all the resources they need to be successful.”

Students identified for outreach by change in baseline performance

Capable students can experience significant academic difficulty for a variety of reasons, including challenges in their personal lives. Thrive is designed to detect dropoffs from a student’s normal range of academic performance and connect the student to resources as soon as possible.

Thrive is optional. Students who appear to be struggling may receive an email from an academic development specialist. The student can set up an appointment, decline support, or simply ignore the email.

The program does not yet include graduate studies, undergraduate medical and veterinary medical students, or undergraduate law students. The next phase of the project will target post-graduate students.

The voluntary faculty reporting form will play a key role in identifying students who may be struggling. Teaching staff can use this form if they are concerned with a student’s academic performance in their class. See the Student Concern Reporting Form. A link to it can also be found on the SSC website.

Faculty can learn more about the Thrive Priority Support Network by visiting the Student Success Centre website.

Students interested in learning more about the program can find relevant information. 

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