Starfish by Hobsons Awarded Two Technology Trailblazer Awards by Complete College America

University of Nebraska – Lincoln

Fast Facts

Starfish in Action

Consolidating Advising Systems to Impact Student Success

Mark Askren

Mark Askren

“In order to achieve the goals in our strategic plan, it’s absolutely essential that we approach student success in a holistic way, with good data to drive decisions. Starfish has been an important partner in that endeavor.”

– Mark Askren, CIO, University of Nebraska – Lincoln


A large, public research institution, UNL is highly decentralized with an approach to academic advising that included both professional staff and faculty members in many locations.In 2011, the Chancellor of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln announced a university priority to improve the six-year graduation rate.

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Over the past four years, UNL credits the Starfish Enterprise Success Platform with fostering transparency and accountability for advising services, creating new collaborative partnerships, and enabling systematic and intentional tracking and support of student progress for time to degree. As a result, UNL is tracking measurable improvements in four- and six-year graduation rates, a decline in the number of students on academic probation, and increased service utilization by identified at-risk populations (such as undeclared students).

Specific goals at UNL included:

  • Improve Campus Coordination and Academic Advising. Prior to 2012, UNL’s eight academic colleges each used their own advising systems. Now the Starfish platform creates a unified electronic advising record for all 19,000+ undergraduates across campus and enables academic advisors to access all advising records.
  • Develop an Early Warning System to Identify and Support Students. The Starfish platform gives UNL a way to collect manual and automated flags for a variety of student populations (e.g., learning communities, first-year students, and those on academic probation). Students who receive multiple flags are contacted by an academic success coach for follow-up.
  • Facilitate Academic Messaging and Planning.  All students on academic probation are required to attend a group intake session (scheduled through the Starfish platform) and then meet with recovery coaches to develop individualized success plans. Each plan includes specific goals and to-do items designed to help the student return to good academic standing. More than 1,300 success plans were filed in the Starfish platform in the spring 2014.

“Implementing the Starfish platform has helped to transform UNL’s institutional culture, creating new collaborative partnerships across multiple units, and enabling systematic and intentional tracking and support for student retention,” said Amy Goodburn, Ph.D., associate vice chancellor for academic affairs.

“It is not an exaggeration to say that the implementation of Starfish has been a ‘game changer’ for transforming UNL’s climate for undergraduate advising and academic support services,” said Harvey Perlman, chancellor.

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