Chemistry students talking next to a centrifuge.
Photo by Bill Adams/ The University of Iowa.

The Office of Teaching, Learning & Technology is actively investigating and testing ways to provide learner-centered feedback through interventions grounded in the science of learning. The Elements of Success project began as a collaboration with Russell Larsen, Lecturer in the Department of Chemistry, to provide customized feedback to students in his section of General Chemistry I, a large introductory chemistry course that can be a particularly challenging course for many first-year students.

After determining that data in ICON and in the online homework system contained important information predictive of student success, OTLT collaborated with ITS-Administrative Information Systems to construct a special dashboard page in ICON that provides feedback in the form of cues to students to help them improve their performance.

This system of customized feedback is called “Elements of Success.” It consists of the following elements:

  • A widget on the ICON course home page that contains students’ point totals and a link to the main dashboard page.
  • The main dashboard page that includes three separate sections that summarize students’ performance in the course, provide a final predicted grade, and display customized feedback about students’ performance in online homework and actions they can take to improve their performance.
  • A special widget on the ICON course home page—shown only to students with less than 50% of the total possible points—that contained information about tutoring resources offered by Academic Support and Retention.

“Initial student feedback has been positive,” Larsen says. “As an instructor in a class with over 1200 students enrolled, I am often asked, ‘How am I doing, and how can I improve?’  With the ‘Elements of Success’ widget, students can easily access up-to-date, personalized information that can help them answer these questions for themselves.”

Larsen and Sam Van Horne (Assessment Director), are co-principle investigators of an IRB-approved study of whether usage of “Elements of Success” is effective in helping students improve their performance in the General Chemistry I. The project is funded, in part, from an Innovations in Teaching with Technology Award to support detailed analyses that will inform the next iteration of Elements of Success in Fall 2015.  For more information, contact Sam Van Horne (