SAILS: Early Alert Faculty and Advisor Resources

The following are resources and information links for faculty, staff and advisors to facilitate the Early Alert process.

What is SAILS?

The SAILS (early alert) system, using Starfish Retention tools, has been implemented at Virginia’s community colleges in support of the student success goal. Implementation of SAILS will allow instructors to identify, communicate, and provide guidance to students demonstrating behaviors, performance, and characteristics that correlate with risk of not succeeding academically. Students who receive feedback early in the semester regarding their progress are more likely to seek assistance and support when needed.

How will SAILS help college faculty, staff, and students?

SAILS gives instructors a quick way to keep track of their students’ academic performance by raising “flags” when a pattern of behavior that causes concern is apparent or by sending “kudos” to acknowledge positive contributions to academic success.

When do instructors raise flags or kudos to alert students of their progress?

Instructors who teach, BIO 101, ENF courses, ENG 111, MTE/MTT courses, MTH 163, and SDV courses receive an email notification from TCC prompting them to submit the “progress survey”. There are two progress surveys for most sessions: an initial progress survey (prior to the census date) and a mid-term progress survey (prior to the withdrawal deadline). Instructors should submit their progress surveys for all their courses upon receiving the prompt email. If the instructors do not have feedback for their students, they should select no feedback and then submit.

All instructors can raise flags or kudos for students even though they do not receive the email as stated above.

When will instructors be notified to submit the progress surveys?

Emails are sent to instructors periodically and strategically for each session. There are two progress surveys for each session except for the 4 week sessions which only has one. The initial survey occurs prior to the census date and the mid-term survey occurs prior to the withdrawal date.

What flags can an instructor raise?

The six flags include:

  • Assignment Concerns
  • Attendance Concern
  • In Danger of Failing
  • Low Participation
  • Low Quiz/Test Scores
  • Never Attended
  • General Concerns

Instructors can add comments to provide students with additional information regarding their progress. Comments are listed in the email message to students and all comments are disclosable by FERPA. The automated email message to students is signed by the instructor to make the message more personal and to encourage students to follow up directly with their instructor. Students can reply back directly to the instructor via the email message.

What happens after I submit a flag or kudos?

  1. Students receive an automated email message signed by their instructor for all raised flags and kudos, including the comments provided by their instructor. The General Concern flag is the only flag that does NOT generate an email notification to students.
  2. Students are directed to follow-up with their instructor regarding all flags and to visit the appropriate office, such as Financial Aid, Veteran Affairs, Counseling, and/or Learning Assistance Services.
  3. The instructors are responsible to clear the flags after concerns and appropriate resources have been discussed with their student within two weeks.
  4. Appropriate student support services will follow-up with students who received flags for Never Attended, In Danger of Failing, and General Concern. They will be responsible to clear those flags and close the loop for those three specific flags.

Who follows up with students and clears the flags?

Students are encouraged to follow up with their instructors; therefore, instructors should clear the following flags once the concern and appropriate resources have been addressed or within two weeks of raising the flag: Assignment Concerns, Attendance Concern, Low Participation, and Low Quiz/Test Scores.

Who is the college lead for SAILS?

Christine Damrose-Mahlmann, Ph.D., AVP for Student Success, serves as the college lead for SAILS. Please contact her directly for additional information or training at