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California Community Colleges Education Planning InitiativeEven as many California Community Colleges (CCC) students enjoyed their summer breaks, work continued on college campuses implementing an education planning tool suite developed as part of the CCC Education Planning Initiative (EPI).

The tool suite — known as the Hobsons Starfish Enterprise Success Platform — combines Degree Planning and Early Alert retention tools to help students in mapping out a multi-year plan to successfully complete their associate degree, certificate or transfer career pathway.

Building An Education Plan

Degree Planner is an electronic education planning tool that uses key information a student puts into the system and the path the student chooses to build a multi-year plan based on information that the college/district has included in the system. The student has access to their plan 24/7 as well as 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, intersegmental transfer certifications and degree postings.

Early Alert/Connect is a retention and scheduling tool that will give faculty and staff the ability to track students’ progress and engage more deeply with them before it is too late. Messages can be sent to all students or individuals, and referrals can be sent if a student is struggling in a particular subject and needs tutoring services or other on-campus services.

Connect will also 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 enables notes to be taken and shared among not only the counselors but also the student.

EPI Program History

The Education Planning-Degree Audit System Steering Committee (EPTDAS), made up of eight pilot districts, was charged with conducting industry research, developing counselor and student-based requirements, then publishing and evaluating a competitive request for proposal, including references from across the country. Three vendor finalists were invited to provide oral presentations and demonstrate their systems to the steering committee.

As a result of this process, the steering committee selected the Hobsons Starfish Enterprise Success Platform to support the goals of the EPI grant. Starfish is a web-based, mobile friendly, software platform that is used by counseling faculty, instructional faculty, staff and students. It comprises three key functional areas:

  • Degree Planner for developing and maintaining step-by-step academic plans
  • Early Alert for student monitoring and planning
  • Connect for online appointments and case management

Building on lessons learned from the piloting effort, the EPI is now focused on a statewide rollout of the education planning toolset. The primary mission of the EPI program is to promote the implementation of an education planning tool. Participation is entirely optional for any California community college. Colleges interested in only Early Alert and/or Connect may still take advantage of the negotiated pricing with Hobsons.

What Are Guided Pathways?

According to the Foundation for California Community Colleges, “Guided pathways reform is a student-centered approach that can dramatically increase the number of students earning community college credentials, while closing equity gaps.”

A guided pathways approach involves the entire college, working together to integrate initiatives such as: Student Success and Support Program (SSSP), Equity, Basic Skills Transformation, the Strong Workforce Program and California College Promise. The purpose of guided pathways is not to work with a subset of students. Modeled from the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) Pathways Project, guided pathways “helps colleges clarify paths to student end-goals, helps students select and stay on path, and ensure quality learning.”

EPI Aligned With Guided Pathways

The Hobsons Starfish Enterprise Success Platform, accessed through CCC MyPath, aligns closely with the Guided Pathways initiative. Based on the approach desired by individual institutions, the toolset can be configured to accommodate the needs of students, their counselors and the institutions. The Starfish platform aligns to three of the four dimensions by:

  • Joining the Path:

    • Based on the pathways developed at a student’s chosen college, their academic assessment/placement and transcript information, the degree audit program calculates the remaining coursework and pre-populates the education plan with courses and sequence.

    • The student then provides information about their life, such as work schedule, timeline objectives, etc., into the education plan, which then forecasts the timing of courses.

    • This information can be modeled using different scenarios created by the student, and by the student with their counselor, to select the plan that works best to achieve their goals. (Note: The final education plan must be approved by a counselor.)

  • Keeping to the Path:

    • Plans are visible to both student and counselors throughout their journey, supporting ongoing adjustments based on scheduling or academic needs.

    • Ongoing monitoring (e.g., early alert) and communications within CCC MyPath manage referrals (e.g., online tutoring, veterans’ services, etc.) and "closed loop" student services through completion.

  • Ensure Learning:

    • Student services information can be paired with learning outcomes captured by external systems to evaluate effectiveness and tune performance.

For more information on the Hobsons Starfish Enterprise Success Platform, visit the EPI website at The website contains vital background information regarding the Initiative as well as status updates.

David Quintanilla is a project team member of
the California Community Colleges Technology Center