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California Community Colleges Educaiton Planning InitiativeAn important objective of the California Community Colleges (CCC) Education Planning Initiative (EPI) is to simplify the lives of CCC students, counselors, faculty and staff. As EPI develops its tools and services, this objective has served as a guide, ensuring the promotion of student success.

Each of these toolsets, from the CCC MyPath Student Portal to CCCApply and others included in the initiative, are designed to transform business processes and remove barriers for students. One key component of this strategy is the implementation of the Hobsons Starfish Enterprise Success Platform, which is live at three of the 13 colleges selected as pilots.

Representatives from two of those institutions joined members of the EPI at the RP Group’s recent Strengthening Student Success Conference to discuss the lessons learned from their implementation process. Those lessons provide insight into the implementation process currently underway.

Sponsorship, Communication

At the conference, Arleen Hollosy from Santa Barbara City College and Dipte Patel and Sabra Sabio from El Camino College joined David Shippen and Warren Whitmore from the EPI in sharing the lessons they learned implementing the Hobsons Starfish Enterprise Success Platform. The five lessons they shared begin with the importance of sponsorship. This includes support from key players such as faculty, counseling, Admissions and Records, IT and administration.

A crucial aspect of this support stems from communication. Using all available channels, the implementation process excels when it promotes engagement and answers the question, “Why are we getting these tools?” Additionally, the human resources aspect should not be ignored. Strong, consistent leadership should provide reasonable expectations with resources and a realistic division of labor. Progress meetings should be held and successes should be celebrated.

Lead From The Middle

In addition, faculty and staff training is a priority, with an emphasis on “leading from the middle.” Lead staff and faculty should be trained first, through workshops and in-services and utilizing available resources. These potentially could include the development of a “How-to Guide” website for students, faculty and staff. An essential component of training should include testimonials, such as other faculty’s success stories using the tools and sharing students’ responses, which show the value.

Finally, the implementation team should ensure that the proper allocation of time to accommodate process changes. Any changes should be evaluated to determine if the adjustments are being made for the benefit of the students. In addition, team dynamics play a crucial role. It is important that the implementation team include a good communicator/leader and all key players, as well as represent opposing opinions. Ultimately, the implementation process requires a clear vision and goals. The question should be asked, “If you were not afraid, what would you do?”

What Is Hobsons Starfish Enterprise Success Platform?

In coordination with the Chancellor’s Office, CCC professional associations, the Academic Senate for CCC and the Student Senate for CCC, the EPI team established governance for the program including the creation of five statewide steering committees. One of the committees, the Education Planning-Degree Audit Systems Steering Committee (EPTDAS) selected Hobsons Starfish Enterprise Success Platform to support the goals of the EPI grant. Starfish is a web-based, mobile friendly, Software as a Service (SaaS) platform that is used by counseling faculty, instructional faculty, staff and students. Three key functional areas are the Degree Planner and Early Alert/Connect.

Degree Planner is an electronic education-planning tool that takes key information a student enters into the system, the path the student chooses, and builds a multi-year selection based on information that the college/district has included in the system. The student has access to their plan 24/7 and they have the ability to communicate with their counselors. The tool also has a built-in degree audit which college evaluators are able to check for graduation requirements, transfer, IGETC/CSU certifications and degree postings.

Early Alert/Connect is a retention and scheduling tool that will allow faculty and staff the ability to track students and engage more deeply with them before it is too late. Messages can be sent to all students and individual students, or referrals can be sent if a student is struggling in a particular subject and needs tutoring services or other student services on a campus. Connect will assist colleges with appointment scheduling and wait-room kiosk functionality for those who have “walk-in” appointments. This feature allows students to make appointments with their counselors, allows counselors to block their time, and allows the ability for notes to be taken and shared among not only the counselors but also the student and counselor.

The Purpose

The tools developed by the EPI could be included in an institution's Equity Plans. The goals of the tools are to humanize processes, with a student-centric emphasis. EPI seeks to facilitate one-on-one interaction and reduce complexity. These tools will promote collaboration on your team by providing a common language, which will help foster healthy conversations. To learn more about the EPI, please visit our website,

David Quintanilla is a project team member of
the California Community Colleges Education Planning Initiative