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It is common for students to be unaware of or over-estimate their academic performance in classes. Early Alert helps raise students’ awareness of their progress and provides strategies for academic success.

Early Alert Process for the USP Teaching Community

Collaboratively, the USP teaching community decided that participation in Early Alert would be standard procedure for all USP courses. All courses approved by the USP Faculty Senate Committee include information about Early Alert and at least one assignment to be graded in the first four weeks of the semester so that the Early Alert grade can be derived.

All USP instructors are asked to provide an Early Alert grade in the fifth week of classes indicating if students have academic performance or attendance issues.

The following suggestions are intended to help instructors prepare for Early Alert.

  • Plan graded assignment(s) in the first three weeks. If a first-year student is here for four weeks and has not yet had the expectation for a graded learning endeavor, that student is likely to assume that they are doing well and that they do not need to be “studying” (that, according to MAP-works survey data and other first-year student research).
  • Tell students that the early assignment(s) will comprise their Early Alert grade.
  • Directly and regularly reference academic resources in your syllabus, on your course D2L page, during class time, etc. Sample syllabus language is provided below.
  • Keep attendance records and emphasize the importance of attending class through personal contact and reinforcing policies.
  • Talk directly and regularly with students about the expectations for “out-of-class” preparation, studying, reading and investment in learning.
  • Mention Early Alert grade in class during weeks four and five.

Students will receive an email revealing their Early Alert grade. The email they receive will also include links to resources to assist them.

Sample Syllabus Language

After the third week of classes, you will receive a grade for your overall progress in this course and each of the courses you are taking in your first semester. This process is called “Early Alert.” The registrar’s office will send you an E-mail during the fifth week of classes reporting on academic performance and attendance for each of your classes.

Early Alert is designed to help you evaluate your study skills and your class attendance so that you know if you are on the right track. If you need to make some changes, there are resources available to support your academic success. These Early Alert grades are not permanent and will not appear on your transcript.

Students’ Need for Early Alert

Generally, first year college students self-report that they expect to do well academically before the semester begins. In the first few weeks, many express surprise that there is “not much work to do for my classes.” It is common for first-year students to experience this misperception because in many of their high school classes there was a lot to do, including near-daily homework or quizzes. Close or substantive reading (“studying”) may also not have been necessary in many high school classes or time may have been allotted during classes for that type of activity. The initial college load can appear light to students – “Only a few exams and a paper or presentation? Nothing due until mid-October? Well then, I don’t need to study,” the first-year student may conclude. “Nothing is due.”

Early Alert Necessitates Early Graded Assignment(s) and Attendance Records

To assist first-year students, USP instructors include early assignments in their course design. These early assignments can help assimilate students to the value of reading and the ongoing critical analysis of texts and course materials that we call “studying.” As those who teach in the first year, we are teaching more than our subject matter. We teach habits of mind to our students. We cannot assume that all first-year students already know what is expected for their “out of class” academic work.

Students’ attendance in their USP courses in the first four weeks of the semester is another important indicator of their potential academic success and retention in college. USP instructors need to take attendance so that they are ready to provide that information for the Early Alert report. In addition, whenever possible, USP instructors should contact students who are not in class. Quest I instructors and peer mentors should call or email students who miss a class session to inquire about their well-being and reinforce the importance of being in class.

Purpose of Early Alert in the USP

As a teaching community encountering students in their first year of college, the expectations we create teach them how to be college students. Early Alert is part of our effort to further fuel students’ academic success by acculturating students to their higher education journeys; increasing their self-awareness and responsibility; and connecting them to resources as early as possible. Retention of our students is our utmost priority. Early Alert can make a difference.