FHSU News

Fort Hays State continues to seek ways to increase student success

PAR Story

07/19/17
By Diane Gasper-O’Brien
University Relations and Marketing
HAYS, Kan. -- Fort Hays State University long has been on the cutting edge of initiatives that benefit students.

This summer, FHSU launched a predictive analytics reporting program called PAR, geared for student success by learning a little about students even before they reach campus.

PAR is a product of the software tool Starfish and is an expansion to the Tiger Early Alert program that Fort Hays State has been using the past five years.

“Tiger Early Alert allows faculty and staff to report concerns of student progress during the semester, but that system is reactionary,” said Dennis King, FHSU assistant vice president for student affairs in charge of enrollment management and retention.

“The addition of PAR will allow us to do many things,” he added. “For instance, we will be able to set up students’ pathways where they take courses that are complementary to the degree they are pursuing, based on past students with similar backgrounds.”

King said he believes FHSU is the only school in Kansas implementing this system to date.

Through the PAR system, Fort Hays State will be able to study analytics based on student characteristics from the past eight years. King has been attending conferences the past two years “looking for this type of product,” and the enrollment management committee invited several companies to campus.

“None of those were quite the fit for us,” said King, who knew he had to be patient to find what worked best for FHSU. “With the investment of time and money, we wanted to get the right fit. Then we found Hobsons.”

PAR features a student success matrix that helps document multitudes of combinations of characteristics to help analyze traits for success.

“PAR gives decision makers a strategic view of what’s happening in their student population,” said Jan Poston Day, director of Partner Success for Hobsons out of Washington, D.C.

King agreed.

“This is going to put a great amount of knowledge and information in advisors’ hands to help the students,” he said.

Starfish is owned by Hobsons, a global management company with a branch geared specifically to education.

Hobsons helps students identify their strengths, explore careers, create academic plans, match to best-fit educational opportunities and reach their education and life goals.

Representatives of Hobsons were on campus in June for a two-day training period for FHSU faculty and advisors. Since then, King, Associate Provost for Academic Affairs Dr. Tim Crowley and Larry Rupp from FHSU Technology Services have had biweekly conference phone conversations with Hobsons staff in an effort to streamline the implementation process.

Day explained that the program is tailored to what each university needs.

“The technology can help identify not just an individual student but students who share the same risks,” she said. “We’ve found some interesting pockets of risks at different universities. The more you know the risk factors or success promoters before they arrive you can effectively channel those students into a program that will help them.”

“It’s all about guiding students through a pathway to success,” said Jean Russell, a Hobsons account manager from Arizona. “There is no right or wrong answer for anything. It’s what works best for you.”

When faculty return to campus for the fall semester, King and the enrollment management committee will be aided by a graduate student in the enrollment management office who will help with training and work with departments on how to use Starfish.

“This is a tool we are very excited about,” King said. “This piece will give advisors and faculty help in assisting students before the start of a semester, tools to help students have success along the way rather than waiting until the end of a semester to see what worked and what didn’t.”

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