Purdue University, in partnership with SunGuard Higher Education is releasing a course management system called Signals. Signals was initially tested at Purdue and developed by its associate vice president of Academic Technologies, John Campbell. Like other course management software, it provides space for electronic grading and disseminating course materials, but Signals goes further. Signals is a student retention program, designed to designate struggling students early on in courses, allowing instructors and other academic resources to reach out and provide support.
Signals works by allowing both students and professors to monitor progress and success in a certain course. Color-coded signals--red, yellow, and green like stoplights--indicate a student's risk level for failing the course. The students see these signs whenever they log onto the course's website. Depending on the signal, it offers suggestions and resources. For example, a student doing poorly in chemistry might be reminded by the program of a tutoring program available for schools. The program also reminds professors of their students' progress and gives them options to offer help and insight. For examples of how Signals works, check out this presentation. In addition to the information professors input like grades, Signals also has access to previous student information and grades. It also integrates into existing BlackBoard technology.
In this new story on the software, one professor with 900 students over three lectures praised the software, particularly it's early detection. Signals starts tracking students by the second week of class. Often professors must wait for the first major assignment to realize a student is behind. Overall, professors at Purdue have praised the program. It will be exciting to see how other universities integrate this product, especially with the University of Phoenix moving towards personalized course management (check out TEL Blogger Michelle's post about that here!).