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New early warning system identifies struggling students in arts, social sciences

A new “early warning” system will help electronically identify struggling students in such departments as psychology, history, languages and philosophy and get them the help they need before it’s too late, according to Tanja Collet-Najem.

“A lot of first-year students don’t know what to do if they’re struggling academically,” said the acting associate dean of student and academic affairs in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. “We’re a university that takes care of our students and tries to help them succeed. We’re here to help them if they’re having difficulties.”

Designed to help first-year students in FASS, the program will require instructors to log on to the system, download a class list and flag the name of any students who obtained a grade in the D or F range on an assignment worth 10 percent or more of their final grade.

The system will identify students with two or more failing grades in separate courses, which would automatically trigger an e-mail alert to the head of the department, who would then contact a departmental academic advisor so they could call in the students to provide them with the counselling they need to get back on track.

“The hope is that by providing advice before the voluntary withdrawal deadline, students will perform better and have a more successful first year,” said Dr. Collet-Najem, an associate professor in Languages, Literature and Culture. “More first-year students will be obtaining the grade point average they need in order to remain in good standing.”

Collet-Najem said the system will be secure and ready to go this fall in FASS, but she hopes it will eventually be used in other faculties across campus.