Watermark app brings new high tech tools for student retention


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A new student engagement software has been implemented at Amarillo College. Watermark SS&E, formerly called Aviso, is a retention tracking platform that helps students with time-sensitive tasks and alerts.

“It helps faculty and staff guide students to the resources they need to be successful,” Pamela Madden, director of Title V project, said. “This software can help us as faculty and staff identify, communicate and follow up with students. Students will get the most out of their college experience by engaging with the app and utilizing it to contact their success team when they have questions or concerns.” Although new to AC, many professors and administrators anticipate good things coming from the software. 

According to Madden AC, along with many other institutions, struggle with retention. AC is committed to improving retention numbers. Retention is a student’s continuous enrollment year-to-year until they complete a program or transfer to a university.  “Many of our students drop out or just stop coming to college without any notification,” Madden said. “AC decided to find a way to help students before this happens. We are being proactive in our processes and utilizing a software retention platform will help us be proactive and help students at the first sign of trouble. Sometimes students don’t tell us what is going on, but some signs are there that will allow us to start the conversation with our students who did not show up to class or suddenly are not doing well in their class. We are able to work with them to get them to tutoring or other resources they might need. We are also using this tool for attendance tracking in all classes.” She said. 

Although AC has not had much time with this software, many students and professors have formed their own opinions. “I’m an 80s baby, so I’m used to pen and pad, so like this new technology is not really for me, so I’m kind of, what’s the word these kids use now? I’m not woke or hip yet,” Bryson Walker, a mass media major, said. 

“I’m trying though. I feel like it slows down the process because of the internet. It’s kind of a hit or miss where sometimes it crashes and sometimes it doesn’t. So, I mean it’s a 50/50 type thing. So, I don’t really like it.”  

 Watermark allows instructors to access data on students, like GPA, test scores and attendance. The app also allows direct communication with students through email or text. 

“It seems like it’s there to collect data for us, which is going to help us serve students better to understand their needs to understand their presence on campus so that if somebody is struggling than another, somebody else will be able to hopefully help with the retention of students and getting that number to where we want it, so if it helps students, I’m all for it,” Aaron Faver, a government instructor, said. 

“I do like that it sends an alert off because, by the time I get around to contacting the student, a lot of the time, they’re not checking their emails anymore,” Stefanie Decker, a faculty coordinator of social sciences, said. “So at least the advisers probably have a lot of ways to get in touch with them. I like that. It gives a way to communicate if they are missing class and we don’t know where they are. They’ve just disappeared,” she said.

Watermark is one part of the QEP or Quality Enhancement Plan, the purpose of which is to increase student fall-to-fall retention to 75% by 2025, according to Amy Pifer, first year experience director.  

“It is AC’s goal to help our students get to their end educational goal of a certificate, associate’s degree or transfer program at a 4-year institution or into a career or job in that area.” Madden, said. “Our goal is for students to complete all goals, so if this app helps the students by connecting them with the college, then yes, it will further the future of AC.”

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