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FSU Pilots New Tool to Help Students Succeed Impact
Fairmont State News

FSU Pilots New Tool to Help Students Succeed

Nov 10, 2009

This fall, Fairmont State University is one of three state universities piloting a new tool to help improve student retention and academic success.

The West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission selected FSU, Marshall University and West Liberty University as pilot institutions for hosted software called MAP-Works that generates surveys and allows the virtual sharing of information. MAP stands for Making Achievement Possible. Pierpont Community & Technical College is participating in the pilot as a partner with FSU.

MAP-Works was developed through a partnership between Ball State University and Educational Benchmarking (EBI). According to its web site,, the mission of MAP-Works is to help students reach greater levels of academic success, to keep students from dropping out by identifying problems earlier, to build relationships and to connect students with campus resources.

The software supports online links between students and resources for support. Every student has multiple direct connects in the online environment, which creates a team of faculty and staff to help each student based on their needs and interests. For example, first generation college students can be connected with the Academic Advising Center; all students can be connected with their advisors; and athletes can be connected with coaches.

"MAP-Works helps provide early support for problems. We can spend less time diagnosing problems and more time providing solutions and helping students," said Dr. Erica Harvey, Director of Strategic Planning and Assessment and Professor of Chemistry.

All first-time, first-year FSU and Pierpont students took an extensive survey on September 8-15. Faculty and staff have been participating in training on MAP-Works and can view the survey responses and generate reports to help identify students who are at risk of having problems with academic success or of leaving FSU or Pierpont. The survey had an impressive 65 percent overall response rate.

"The survey covered many factors that might not immediately come to mind as being related to academic success," Harvey said. Pre-college factors and social, academic and financial factors were included among the questions. FSU and Pierpont also had the opportunity to add 20 questions to the survey that were specific to their campus environment.

"Before taking the survey, students were informed that they might be contacted by faculty or staff members for follow-up discussions based on their responses. By reviewing the students' responses, faculty and staff members were able to determine if students were facing academic, social or personal issues that could adversely affect their successful transition into a higher education environment," said Pamela Stephens, Coordinator of Academic Advising.

MAP-Works is helping FSU and Pierpont find areas where more support is needed and to look for trends in data to find out which students are leaving the institutions and what risk indicators they shared. Data collected so far includes quadrants that show institutional strengths and weaknesses so that time and resources can be focused where needed.

"We have found that homesickness is an issue for some of our first-time students, but we also have found that one of our strengths is that people here are really dedicated to Fairmont State and Pierpont," Harvey said.

Students receive their own personal reports that also suggest success strategies. For example, as part of the survey students give information about their study habits and the grades they expect to receive. If these factors don't match up, that will be mentioned on their report. Another example would be that if a student indicates he or she is worried about math, then that student would receive information on resources to help.

Last week through Thursday, Nov. 12, a short check-up survey is being sent out through MAP-Works to first-time first-year students. Students are being encouraged to make an appointment with their advisors to talk about goals and course selections for the spring 2010 semester. Advisors will have access to a report on the check-up MAP-Works survey to use in working with students.

"Some students said the September survey was too soon in the semester for them to accurately answer some questions because they were just beginning to make the adjustment to college. The timing of the follow-up survey should be well enough into the semester for the students to now know how the semester is progressing for them. The follow-up survey will also provide us with comparison data highlighting any changes, positive or negative, in the students' responses since the first survey deployment," Stephens said.

"We have encouraged freshmen who have completed the surveys to take their reports with them when meeting with their academic advisors for spring semester pre-registration to discuss the results."

FSU will present HEPC with a report on the success of this fall's efforts.

"MAP-Works is a treasure trove for data mining and analysis to find areas where we can improve as institutions at helping students succeed," Harvey said.