Sept. 8 to 16 is the Early Progress Report window in Starfish

September 03, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Faculty and staff are encouraged to report student progress in Starfish to allow for a collaborative and proactive approach to assisting undergraduates.

The Early Progress Report window for undergraduates this year is Sept. 8-16, followed by a mid-semester reporting window of Oct. 5-14. During these timeframes, instructors will be prompted to comment on students’ progress in Starfish.

In an email to faculty and staff, Executive Vice President and Provost Nick Jones said that a team approach to student support is more important now than ever, and reporting student progress in Starfish can enable others to help.

At a time when many students are learning remotely, Starfish is the central place for instructors to document and share the successes or challenges a student may be encountering in a course. It gives instructors the ability to note areas of concern, like whether they believe their students have reliable access to technology; and other important indicators of student progress, such as absences or inadequate class participation or completion of assignments.

Similarly, Starfish can be used to reinforce student habits or outcomes that are likely to lead to success in a class. Such reporting helps to activate a broader network of support services as opposed to just contacting a student or their adviser directly.

“It only takes a few moments to notify students who may be struggling,” said Eric Marsh, Glenn Professor of Engineering Education at Penn State. “It can be the wakeup call that a student needs to seek help early enough in the semester to recover.”

Progress reporting is accomplished when instructors use the flags and kudos system in Starfish. A flag or kudo will generate a template email to the student, adviser, or both, depending on the type of message.

“Perhaps the best part about Starfish is that it allows instructors to very easily connect with their students with a message that is specific to their situation,” Marsh said. “Whether it be a kudo celebrating good work or a flag saying ‘we should talk,’ the student gets a message addressing their need.”

Students are highly encouraged to act upon messages they receive in Starfish. Students should make contact with their instructors if they receive a flag. Additionally, students should not assume their instructors have no concerns about their progress just because they did not receive any flags in Starfish. It is always helpful for students to track their own progress in a course by checking in with both instructors and academic advisers.

Across Penn State, Starfish is used in a robust manner to support student success.

“Instructor-initiated flags and kudos help academic advisers have a better sense of what kind of outreach students may need,” said David Smith, associate dean for advising and executive director of the Division of Undergraduate Studies. 

“At many campuses we have seen exceptional usage of Starfish by instructors. For example, at Penn State Hazleton over 90% of students received an instructor-initiated flag or kudo in spring 2020.” 

The ability to reach and support students is critical to Penn State's commitment to student success, Smith said.

“As Hazleton and many other campuses demonstrate, working collaboratively between instructors, academics advisers, learning specialists and others enables us to see our students and to help support them during this particularly challenging time.”

The Division of Undergraduate Studies is part of the Penn State Office of Undergraduate Education, the academic administrative unit that provides leadership and coordination for University-wide programs and initiatives in support of undergraduate teaching and learning at Penn State. Learn more about Undergraduate Education at


Last Updated September 14, 2020