Student retention rate is a popular topic on campuses today. Institutions want students to complete their degrees, and many are reaching out to find new ways to keep students enrolled. One method believed to help is encouragement platforms. Many educators and experts believe that praising students; even minimally, can encourage better retention, grades, and engagement with a course. One company, Starfish Retention Solutions, has new technology that may help.

Starfish was founded in 2007 by David Yaskin. Yaskin’s digital feedback platform was designed with the intent to create a tool that helps students and faculty communicate better by raising flags in regards to a student’s performance. It warns instructors when a student is falling behind, or if their academic performance is improving. The platform has a “kudos” tool with customizable messages so faculty can send notes of praise and encouragement to students who are showing a breakthrough in their learning. It also allows instructors to automatically check in at certain points of the semester and supply updates on their roster. The idea is not to just send praise to the highest achievers, but to encourage academic success for everyone. Early research states receiving kudos from numerous professors can further increase a student’s motivation to succeed.

Starfish works with most Learning Management Systems and Student Information Systems. It will automatically gather information from the LMS or SIS and put it in a secure, easy to access location. It is highly customizable and no two instructor’s pages, notifications, or warnings will be the same. Students receive notifications through their email or LMS.

Professor Margaret Annuziata, a professor at Davidson Community College, said “Students like to get positive feedback. It doesn’t happen enough.” She later said that sometimes receiving kudos had more impact to the student than a verbal praise after class.

According to experts, the need for these feedback platforms comes from the increasing number of students entering college unprepared for the coursework. Research groups are currently conducting studies to learn whether these platforms do in fact increase graduation rates. Early reports are very promising and show great potential. The first full case study will be complete in 2015 when the first class using these platforms is scheduled to graduate.

It seems that digital feedback platforms like Starfish are here to stay. They can help reduce dropout rates, increase graduation rates, and make the flow of communication between students and faculty easier.