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The Challenge: Provide New Students Early Feedback on Academic Expectations

The first semester or two in college can be a learning experience for a student – not just in course content, but in how to study and the quality of work expected in written assignments and exams. In 1992 the University Faculty Senate mandated a Mid-Semester Grade Reporting System. This was implemented as a paper-based system that provided feedback in the sixth week of the semester to first- and second-semester students about courses in which they had a grade less than C. As technology evolved, the paper-based system became less effective. Additionally, aware of research on student learning and the positive effects of frequent and early feedback, some faculty and administrators believed that a system that provided earlier and more frequent communication would be more effective.

The Solution: Make the Notification Earlier and OnlineEarly Progress Report

Penn State Brandywine (then Penn State Delaware County) began improving the Mid-Semester Grade Reporting System several years after its start. They began by making the notification earlier in the semester and adding some capability for analysis of the impact of the early notification, and then later moving the system from paper to online. The goal was to provide early information to students and their advisors about unsatisfactory progress while there was still time for them to improve and pass the course, rather than failing or dropping it. The intent was that through this early feedback, over the longer term, both student academic progress and retention would improve. By the late 1990s this prototype had been implemented at the 12 campuses in Penn State’s then Commonwealth College.

However, much of the rest of the University was still using the original 1992 Mid-Semester Grade Reporting System. As technology advanced, the Registrar and the Faculty Senate were interested in making the system more contemporary and more useful: students did not relate it to the online eLion advising system; there was no way to track faculty participation; and no way to evaluate the system’s impact on student performance.

In 2007 a team with representatives from the Vice President and Dean for Undergraduate Education, the Commonwealth Campuses, University Park colleges, the Registrar, and Information Technology Services began meeting to design an Early Progress Report for students that would be available online University-wide. Their work included a review of other similar systems in use at universities across the United States, and focus groups with both faculty and students to help determine what was needed and what should or could be evaluated. The Early Progress Report was implemented in 2009-2010. In this system, feedback to students and advisors is provided earlier, between the third and sixth week of the semester, and is fully integrated into the online eLion advising system. One outcome of this earlier date is that faculty had to review their teaching approaches to ensure that they have a means to evaluate students in the first three to six weeks of the course. In the system’s first full year, evaluations were completed for 53% of eligible students at University Park and 72% of eligible students at the campuses. To assess the shorter-term value of the system, the University Registrar will provide monitoring reports to colleges and campuses each semester. Units such as Faculty Senate and the Administrative Council on Undergraduate Education will review participation annually. Longer-term assessment will determine whether the system is achieving its goals of improving academic progress and student retention.

For more information about Penn State’s Early Progress Report, visit or contact Nancy Herron, Associate Dean for Academic Programs, Office of the Vice President for Commonwealth Campuses,

September 2010

Robert Pangborn

Robert Pangborn
Vice President and Dean for Undergraduate Education

"The development of the Early Progress Report..."more

   Robert Pangborn
   John Romano
   Madlyn Hanes

   John Harwood
   Nancy Herron

Design Team Members:
   Rick Coons
   Lee Coraor
   Mary Beth Crowe
   Peter deVries
   Michael Dooris
   Karen Duncan
   Renata Engle
   Angela Linse
   Andrew Nichols
   Jackie Ritzko
   Stephen Savard
   Nicholas Warcholak
   Eric White

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