How do instructors use Starfish?

1) Starfish EARLY ALERT is an early warning and student tracking system at UNCG that takes a more holistic approach to student success rather than concentrating solely on students with traditional at-risk characteristics. Starfish EARLY ALERT relies on reporting by the campus community to identify students who need additional academic support. How does it work?

Step 1: Instructor Feedback: At any point in the semester, instructors can raise alert flags, congratulatory kudos, and helpful referrals to provide students with feedback. To allow for more efficient reporting, instructors will receive an email invitation to complete Academic Status Reports (ASR) at the 4th, 7th, and 12th weeks of each semester and will be asked to make note of academic and/or personal concerns. For a comprehensive guide that summarizes the UNCG flag, kudos, and referral options available, check out our Detailed Guide to Flags, Kudos, & Referrals. Below is a quick summary of the feedback items that Starfish offers instructors:

  • Flags are used to let students know of an instructor’s concern for their performance. Instructors can raise academic flags (class attendance concern, low average/at-risk of failing course, and missing/late assignments) and behavioral flags (academic integrity concerns, disruptive behavior, and personal concerns). The flag options available to raise for personal concerns include (PC: financial hardship, PC: food/housing insecurity, PC: mental health/well-being, and PC: general). Additional comments on academic flags are optional but encouraged and will be delivered to the student verbatim, so first-person comments are recommended. Comments for behavioral flags are required but not sent to students. These comments are seen by support staff in receiving offices.
  • Kudos are used to recognize student accomplishments and to congratulate them on their academic performance. Instructors can provide kudos for students
    who are showing improvement in the course, who are off to a great start or showing outstanding academic performance. Kudos comments are optional but encouraged and will be delivered to the student verbatim, so first-person comments are recommended.
  • Referrals can be raised to suggest a helpful campus resource that may aid in a student’s academic performance. Referrals may currently be issued to the following offices: Academic Achievement Center, University Writing and Speaking Centers, the Math Help Center, Career & Professional Development, Students First Office, International Student Services & Support (IPC), the Office of TRIO Programs, the Office of Accessibility Resources & Services (OARS), and the Digital ACT Studio. Referral comments are not sent to students but are seen by support staff in receiving offices.

For instructional guides on how to raise flags, kudos, and referrals, please visit the Starfish How-To page. Instructions for raising items manually are provided, as well as how to complete the Academic Status Reports.

Step 2: Student Notification: When an academic flag, kudos, or referral is raised on a student, the student is automatically notified with an email addressed from the course instructor (check out our sample email templates to see what email messages students receive) and is provided with general recommendations for how to get back on track in the course. Any comments provided by the instructor when raising an academic flag, kudos, or referral will be seen by the student. NOTE: If a behavioral flag was raised for a student, the student will not receive notification of this. Instead, the Dean of Students Office or the Office of Student Rights & Responsibilities will provide outreach to the student or to the instructor, depending upon the nature of the concern. For this reason, comments must be provided when raising a behavioral flag. Behavioral flag comments will not automatically be seen by the student but may be communicated later in follow-up with the DOS and/or OSRR offices. See the linked infographics to learn more information about each behavioral flag type located on the Starfish How-To page.

Step 3: Student Action for Flags & Referrals: Any time an academic flag is raised on a student, that student receives instant notification and recommendations for what steps to take to improve. When a student is referred to a resource, they receive instant email correspondence from the referred office with an invitation to get started. It is always up to the student to take advantage of the support they have been offered. Student action in response to behavioral flags will vary based on the type of issue reported and the nature of follow up outreach conducted by the Dean of Students Office and/or the Office of Student Rights & Responsibilities.

Step 4: Clearing Flags: Once a student takes action, the original flag may be cleared by the advisor or support staff member with whom they interact. The instructor who raised the original flag is also encouraged to clear the flag if a student’s performance has improved in the course. Because an advisor, support staff member, or instructor must intentionally clear a flag, many flags may remain “active” for the duration of the term. However, this does not mean that the student has not taken action and instructors are encouraged to raise new flags if their concerns persist or worsen.

2) Starfish CONNECT allows faculty and staff to post office hours in Starfish so students can easily make appointments to discuss course-related topics or concerns. This appointment management system ensures that students, faculty, and staff stay connected and save time scheduling appointments. Faculty and staff can customize appointment preferences including appointment name, length, scheduling deadlines, locations, and instructions. Office hours can be set up on a recurring basis or as a one-time occurrence and can be limited to a specific population of students (i.e. your advisees or students in your courses). Instructors can also set an email reminder and notification preferences to suit their needs. Lastly, Starfish offers the ability to sync your Starfish calendar with your iSpartan calendar to allow for easier calendar management and avoidance of double-booking. For instructions on how to post office hours and sync your calendars, please refer to the Starfish How-To page.

How do instructors access Starfish?
Instructors can access Starfish in three different ways: Log in directly via Users can also find a Starfish button on the iSpartan Apps & Tools page. Lastly, there is a Starfish link within Canvas (log into Canvas and click ‘Account’ to find Starfish in the menu of options)

How do instructors get guidance on using these features?
For step-by-step guides and tutorials on how to use Starfish features, refer to the Starfish How-To page. Faculty and staff who have Starfish questions can also contact Starfish support at for additional help. Lastly, Starfish 101 workshop sessions are posted to every semester to meet the ongoing training needs of the campus community.

How are instructors kept up to date on Starfish news and features?
Starfish updates are communicated at the beginning and end of each semester via Campus Weekly. Additionally, a Starfish newsletter is emailed twice each semester to inform UNCG instructors and advisors of any important updates, news, and events related to Starfish. The newsletter is sent to all undergraduate course instructors and advisors. All released newsletters for the academic year are also accessible on this page at any time.

September 2021 – Starfish Newsletter

November 2021 – Starfish Newsletter