Academic Senate contemplates adding new counseling tool ‘Starfish’

By Cynthia Solis

Starfish or canvas?—Senate members deliberate the pros and cons of adding a new management system for students.

The East Los Angeles College’s Academic Senate discussed whether to implement Starfish— a tool that would be used for counseling to track student progress and success within one platform.

Starfish is a case management system that has capabilities for in-depth advising and degree planning by creating tailored responses to support students’ ever-changing needs. 

This platform helps students regarding class requirements, adjust plans to reflect a students’ academic goals, directly connects them to course registration services, and track interventions.

Many board members expressed concern regarding the implementation of Starfish. Some concerns being that many of the available features are also available on Canvas. 

On Canvas faculty can monitor students’ grade and send a direct message that they can access on their phones using the Canvas app. This is not a unique function only found in Starfish. 

Professor Steve Wardinski, member of the Curriculum Committee, expressed his worry that implementing Starfish might overwhelm and confuse students because they would be unsure whether to acknowledge their teachers, on Canvas or via Starfish. 

Professor Mary Romo, Chicano Studies, agreed with the Senate there should be a new form of technology but is unsure if Starfish is the answer. 

Some members also drew attention to the similarities Starfish may have to ConexED. 

ConexED is the current technology software that instructors use, a browser-based platform that allows students to connect and engage with their instructors, student support staff, and other students. 

Academic Senate president, Jeffrey Hernandez, attempted to ease the member’s worries by saying that instructors don’t have to implement it if they don’t want to, but that Starfish does act as a one-stop-shop. 

He said that Starfish connects a gap and offers personalized, supplemental instruction, which could benefit students. Hernandez said Mt Sierra College embedded a link to Starfish within Canvas so that students can access the “success center” portal. 

This portal allows them to have tailored service links as opposed to going back to a long list.

There was a roll call vote which allowed for each member to agree, disagree, or abstain from the proposal of implementing the Starfish service. 

Although there was much debate regarding the implementation, an overwhelming majority pushed the motion forward. 

Hernandez also announced that there has been a growth in the honors program and that the director of the program, Dr. Nadine Bermudez, Ph.D., will be stepping down, so there will soon be a job announcement going out. 

Hernandez also encouraged members who don’t want to apply for the position to join the selection committee.

Steve Wardinski also proposed the approval of curriculum for academic senators. The committee regularly gets suggestions, and the Senate received a motion but instead must decide whether the classes would be approved. 

The document consisted of seven pages covering: new emergency class proposals, course change requests, new credit course requests, skills certificate change requests, certificate of achievement change requests, degree change requests and intent to archived                        locally-approved programs. 

There was unanimous consent, so the classes were approved. 

President Alberto Román, who attended the meeting, said that in the past six years, enrollment had dropped about 20,000. 

ELAC is currently being funded by the enrollment numbers from the 2017-2018 school year taking that into account, the drop in enrollment is concerning 

ELAC has lost approximately 18,000-19,000 full time students (fts) which adds up to about $100 million loss to the district because ELAC makes up about 25% of the district’s fts. The district’s fts has three components, 70% is student funding, 20% supplemental funding, and 10% success and outcome. 

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