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Early Alert: Is There Such a Thing as Being Too Early?

Ask any college student what the more stressful part of college is, and chances are the answer will be waiting to get your grades back. On the flip side, one of the more exciting things is seeing your grades reflect all the hard work you’ve put in throughout the semester. Typically, students can expect to see their grades progress at midterms and then at the end of the semester. So, one can imagine the curiosity of students when they receive an email telling them that they can view their grades so far, even after only five weeks of class.

The Early Alert program at SAU aims to help students who may be struggling to adapt to college life academically. The program helps identify students who may have gotten off to a rocky start in 100 and 200-level classes and provides them with resources that can help them rebound quickly. According to the early alert page on sau.edu, “Early Alert communicates that you have identified a student who has academic difficulty or is at risk of not being successful in a degree program.” The overall goal of Early Alert is “early detection and outreach.” SAU is hoping to clear these potential roadblocks for students before they become too big of an issue and to keep them on track to reach their academic goals.

On top of the academic goals of the Early Alert program, SAU also hopes it can have an impact on students who are struggling outside of the classroom too. The webpage stresses that all outreaches are done with ample caution and that nothing from the early alert program is added to a student’s permanent record.

As the Early Alert program continues to grow, some SAU faculty and students believe it has a good head start. One professor, who teaches multiple 100 and 200-level courses, and therefore is required to use Early Alert grades finds it to be “a great tool;” “It helps me and my students identify what we both can do better. If a student is struggling I think it’s my job to help.” They see Early Alerts as a positive. However, other professors expressed concerns about whether 5 weeks is enough time to provide an accurate report on a student’s progress, given the likelihood of having few assignments and other opportunities to receive grades.

Students also seemed to have a divided opinion on Early Alert grades. James, an upperclassman, expressed how he has never been impacted by Early Alert grades, “I personally don’t think 5 weeks is enough time to decide if someone may be struggling in a class accurately. I remember classes where I’ve only had half-a-dozen grades around 5 weeks in”.

Other students have seen the benefits that can come with Early Alert grades. One student who preferred to not be mentioned by name recalls how Early Alert grades helped them bounce back in a particular class, “I didn’t take this one class very seriously the first few weeks of my freshman year, and once I saw the 5-week grades come in, it was a real wake up call! Without the Early Alert, who knows if I ever would have realized in time that I needed to start putting in more effort”. Other students gave similar responses, centered around the importance of giving students a reminder before things become too late.

Students and faculty both have differing opinions on the idea that the Early Alert program here at SAU is an effective way to distinguish students who may be in need of some form of assistance. Receiving grade updates after only five weeks of classes may seem a bit premature to some, but the overall consensus is that the program is doing its proper job.

Jackson Graber is a staff writer for The Buzz.