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Early alert program helps dozens of students manage personal, academic challenges

Thrive Priority Support Network offers earliest possible support to undergrads whose academic performance is being affected by challenges
February 9, 2017
This cute little dinosaur, created by Rich Farr, a graphic designer with University Relations, is the star of the Thrive program's video and other communications.

This cute little dinosaur, created by Rich Farr, a graphic designer with University Relations, is the star of the Thrive program's video and other communications.

Unexpected challenges in a student’s personal life often have an impact on their ability to perform academically. In fall 2016, the Thrive Priority Support Network, an early alert program at UCalgary, reached 100 undergraduate students and helped them connect with just-in-time support to manage a variety of issues that were affecting their academic performance. Thrive connects students with academic development specialists in the Student Success Centre who help them identify strategies and resources to manage whatever challenge they’re facing.

“Early alert is a priority of the Campus Mental Health Strategy, and we are pleased to see the growing impact this program is having on our students and our ability to create a caring campus community,” says Susan Barker, vice-provost (student experience).

“Often patterns of declining grades or marked changes in classroom performance signal that a student may be struggling with something else in their life,” says Julie Stewart, the Thrive Priority Support Network program co-ordinator. “Students that we see through Thrive can struggle with everything from unexpected financial issues to family crises and health problems. We’ve been able to connect them with the right campus resources to address their needs, whether that’s the SU Wellness Centre, Financial Aid, program advising, or academic support.”

Instructors can help struggling students access the support they need

Instructors play a key role in helping students access timely support. Using the D2L gradebook allows the Thrive system to create a holistic picture of how a student is performing across their courses. This information combined with instructor-submitted concern forms helps Thrive prioritize the students in greatest need.

Instructors are also often the first people to notice when a student starts to struggle. “Signs like not showing up, or patterns of requests for deferrals or extensions can all be signs that a student’s having a hard time,” says Stewart. Instructors can alert Thrive to these issues by completing the confidential instructor concern form that’s located in their faculty centre.

“Students who were identified through the concern form were very likely to come in for support last semester, so we appreciate faculty taking the time to submit their concerns," says Stewart.

Program helps undergrads connect with the right resources at the right time

“In the past, we were only able to reach out to students after their final grades were in, and we were way behind in helping them access supports that could have had a big impact on how they navigated their challenges,” says Roxanne Ross, manager, Student Success Centre. “We’ve successfully identified and connected with students who were struggling with a variety of challenges, and we’re pleased that we were able to help them access appropriate support much earlier than we would have been able to otherwise.” 

Student privacy and comfort is key to the success of the program. Students have to feel that a Thrive appointment is a safe place to talk about their issues. That’s why all record keeping for Thrive is kept confidential and stored separately from a student’s academic record.

Instructors can learn more about Thrive by visiting the Student Success Centre website. Support is available for setting up the D2L gradebook for compatibility with Thrive through Teaching and Learning.

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