The instant that first-year students see their course schedule for the first time, panic may begin to set in. It can be quite intimidating for new students to navigate unknown, and in some cases, historically challenging classes.
Rochester Institute of Technology combats the freshman worries with Supplemental Instruction, a program of structured study-groups led by students who have already taken the specific courses. Some courses that are currently supported by the program include Principles of Microeconomics, Pre-calculus and University Physics.
RIT’s program has also been honored as one of the most successful in the world.
Housed within the Academic Support Center, the program was selected as the 2012 Outstanding Supplemental Instruction Program by the International Center on Supplemental Instruction at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and was recognized at the seventh annual International Conference on Supplemental Instruction May 30 in San Diego. RIT’s program was selected based on evidence of improved student learning, increased graduation of participants, successful marketing and campus-wide recognition.
“Supplemental Instruction, or SI, basically provides proactive, small-group support for the students,” says Wendy Gilmore, a student-support specialist in RIT’s Academic Support Center, who coordinates the program. “The weekly study sessions, which are tailored to specific course sections, offer students an opportunity to discuss and practice course material with their classmates, helping to increase student engagement, boost grades and minimize the withdrawal rates.”
The program thrives on its Supplemental Instruction Leaders, students who have already taken the course and are trained to plan and facilitate Supplemental Instruction study groups. SI Leaders often know where students might struggle and can help students develop a better understanding of course content, as well as more effective ways of studying. The program’s strength also comes from a newly designed mobile app that helps students stay on top of the weekly study session and a popular YouTube channel that introduces Supplemental Instruction.
“The SI program may only be 4 years old, but it’s already an important piece of what the Academic Support Center provides,” says Dan Hickey, assistant director of RIT’s Academic Support Center. “We want students and our campus partners to know that we are a resource for them.”
“This unique model of support for RIT students wouldn’t be possible without our stellar team of SI Leaders, graduate assistants and institute partners,” Gilmore says. “We are thrilled that RIT’s program has been recognized by the International Supplemental Instruction community.”
To learn more about RIT’s Supplemental Instruction program, go to si.rit.edu.