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Starfish is an Early Alert Retention program used by more than 200 institutions across the country. NLU implemented Starfish in 2014 in an effort to help students connect more easily with their "support network" and for faculty and staff to identify students that are having trouble in a class or need assistance so that we can proactively provide this support and, ultimately, help keep students enrolled and on track to reaching their goals.

Faculty, staff, and all currently enrolled students can access Starfish through the NLU portal. Faculty and staff can find the Starfish link in the Faculty/Staff tab in the Employee Services section. Students can access Starfish through the Student tab.


NLU Faculty are required to utilize Starfish in the following ways:

Progress Surveys: A Progress Survey is an early term snapshot of how students are doing in a course and must be completed for each course taught. Progress Surveys open at the beginning of the second week of the course and remain open for 10 days. A Progress Survey must be completed even if there are no issues to report at this time so that we know all students are accounted for and off to a good start in the course. An email indicating that Progress Surveys are open with a link to the surveys will be sent to the NLU email account.

Report student issues throughout the term: Faculty can provide feedback at any point throughout the term in Starfish to help students succeed. The options available include:

Referrals to Library & Learning Support: By making a referral in Starfish, notice is automatically sent to the student and Library & Learning Support indicating that academic support is encouraged. This academic support is skills based in the general areas of writing, research, math, science, and/or study skills. A student should be referred if they understand the assignment and are in need of content review or if the student needs to build skills in the areas of writing, research, math, science and/or study skills. Faculty should provide a detailed note explaining the need for a tutoring referral with specific comments on the student's academic progress. The Library & Learning Support staff will proactively contact the student about an appointment and services. Faculty should expect a notification when the student has received academic support services with notes on the student's progress. 

Flags for students that have stopped attending or are in danger of failing:  If a student stops attending a course for an extended period of time or is in danger of failing a course, a Flag can be raised in Starfish. By raising a Flag, the student get email notification of the concern and the assigned academic advisor will be notified as well. The advisor will contact the student to offer assistance, discuss options with the student, and help them resolve this concern before they fail the course.


Resources for Faculty:

Faculty Starfish Tutorial: Faculty can view an online tutorial for using Starfish.  It is recommended that all faculty review the tutorial prior to using Starfish for the first time.

Starfish Faculty FAQ: Use this FAQ to learn the basics of using Starfish and all things faculty need to know.

Not sure if you should use Starfish or other methods for reporting a concern or making a referral about a student?

Faculty play a critical role in the retention and success of NLU students.  This Faculty Strategies for Supporting Students guide provides faculty with tips to use throughout the term to help students succeed.

Questions about Starfish should be referred to Steve Neer, Executive Director of Advising and Retention, at




    NLU’s Chicago campus on South Michigan Avenue occupies five floors of the historic Peoples Gas Building. This landmark building, across the street from the Art Institute of Chicago and Grant Park, is easily accessible by train, bus and car and is surrounded by restaurants, parking lots/garages and shops.

    122 S. Michigan Avenue
    Chicago, IL 60603
    (888) 658.8632
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    (888) 658.8632
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    (888) 658.8632
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    (888) 658.8632
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    (888) 658.8632
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