Starfish early progress reporting begins Sept. 7

September 03, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Faculty and staff are encouraged to report student progress in Starfish at two different points in the semester to allow for a collaborative and proactive approach to assisting undergraduates. Feedback through Starfish can be a crucial step in activating a larger support network for students.

The early progress reporting window for undergraduates this year is Sept. 7-17, followed by a mid-semester reporting window of Oct. 4-13. During these timeframes, instructors will be prompted to comment on students’ progress in Starfish. The sooner instructors can provide progress reports, the sooner students, their advisers and support network can take action.

Through Starfish, advisers touched the lives of tens of thousands of students at Penn State in 2021. Between Jan. 1 and Aug. 27 there were 98,513 advising appointments made through Starfish. Summer alone accounted for 29,921 of these appointments from June 1-Aug. 27.

At a time when many students are adjusting to life on campus or online learning through World Campus, Starfish is the central place for instructors to document and share the successes or challenges a student may be encountering in a course.

In early progress reports, advisers are looking for signs that a student may or may not be successful in class. These flags often take the form of observable behaviors like timely submission of assignments, class attendance and overall engagement rather than performance on graded assignments. It’s also an opportunity for instructors to note if they think a student doesn’t have adequate access to technology.

Such reporting of flags helps to activate a broader network of support services, known as the Starfish Success Network, as opposed to just contacting a student or their adviser directly. Kudos through Starfish can be used to reinforce positive behaviors from students and can give them the confidence to continue being successful.

“It’s important that we approach students holistically and build trust,” said David R. Smith, associate dean for advising and executive director of the Division of Undergraduate Studies. “On a national level, we’re seeing indicators that students are feeling burned out. And it’s not just our returning students, but those who are coming to college for the first time.”

Students are highly encouraged to act upon messages they receive in Starfish and contact 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.

The Division of Undergraduate Studies is part of the Penn State 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 07, 2021