The Innovating Large Courses Initiative (ILCI) is focused on supporting academic units to create sustainable change for learning in large courses at CU Boulder. The initiative aims to improve student success in these courses through team-based efforts and cross-campus collaboration. At the center of the initiative is the department-based Course Team that will collaboratively work to identify and address the particular issues associated with student success in their respective course(s). Teams will work together for three years to identify, plan, and adopt course design practices and implement effective teaching strategies that support student learning. During our first year of the initiative, teams worked both individually and collaboratively to determine their strengths and aspirations to improve student success. Additionally, with the assistance of ODA, the teams identified that sense of belonging was one of the main barriers to student success. The EBIO (led by Warren Sconniers), ATOC (led by Katja Friedrich), and CSCI (led by Sreesha Nath) teams and Kevin Hemer from ODA, created student surveys to gather data on students’ sense of belonging, self-efficacy, academic obstacles, and the three elements related to Community of Inquiry model (i.e., social presence, teaching presence, and cognitive presence) during the semester. The three years of the initiative will include the following phases:

Phase I (AY 22-23)-Planning
Phase II (AY 23-24)-Implementation
Phase III (AY 24-25)-Evaluation and Sustainability

During the AY 23-24, we will focus on assessing the implemented changes and evaluating how these changes match the intended outcomes, for both individual teams’ objectives and alignment with the ILCI objectives. 

Initiative Goals

  1. Collaboratively interrogate the factors that impact student success in high enrollment courses.
  2. Learn from others’ experiences, and from selected resources, course design and student-centered teaching strategies that can be implemented to promote learning for all students in large courses.
  3. Adopt equity-minded practices for course and assessment design.
  4. Implement, document, and embed changes to courses so that the changes become part of the course and program structure and culture. 
  5. Investigate potential solutions involving instructional technologies.
  6. Share knowledge gained from the course team projects with the campus community.

A coalition of partners from across campus will support course teams in each step of the process, from initial questions through implementation, assessment, and sustainability planning throughout the three year project period.

To support the work, each Course Team will receive $10,000 per year for three years.

Four course teams were funded for the Fall 2022 cohort.

EBIO 1210/1220 General Biology 1 & 2 (@1000-1500 students across 4-5 sections)

Goal: Improve student learning with active learning, engagement, and data-driven changes using literature supported educational frameworks (NGSS, STeLLA)/Lens of Expectancy-Value Theory (EVT)

Team: Warren Sconniers, Andrew Martin, Terry Bilinski, Caitlin Kelly, Abbey Paulson, Micaela Seaver

ATOC 1050 Weather and the Atmosphere (@1400 students across 4 sections)

Goal: Create a common curriculum for all sessions and consistency in instruction; improve active participation and creating learning community; improve equity among all students

Team: Katja Friedrich, Derek Brown, Elizabeth Cassano, Andrew Winter, Carl Hager

CSCI 1300 Introduction to Computer Science (@980/across 5 sections) 

Goal: Increase engagement in both lectures and recitations to (1) reduce the DFW rate for all students; (2) increase the retention of students (focused on URM, female, and non-binary); (3) encourage motivation in students to successfully complete the course; and (4) prepare students for better performance in future CS courses and subsequently their degree.

Team: Sreesha Nath, Supriya Naidu, Rajshree Sreshtha

*Please note the above information may be missing team members.

The large lecture course can be an efficient way to reach a large number of students, but there are widely known challenges to creating a meaningful experience for students and faculty alike. How do we engage students in their own learning when they are among hundreds in a lecture hall? How do we spark curiosity, critical thinking, and deep learning? Are there ways to create connections in a large classroom that support student success? 

The Innovating Large Courses Initiative (ILCI) is a new program focused on supporting academic units to create sustainable change for learning in large courses at CU Boulder. The initiative aims to improve student success in these courses through team-based efforts and cross-campus collaboration.

Large courses exist in a kind of ecosystem, wherein many people contribute. At the center are students and faculty, who are supported by Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs), graders, department staff and advisors, Learning Assistants (LAs), department and campus tutors, librarians, and an array of other learning support staff. Thus, at the center of the initiative is the department-based Course Team that will collaboratively work to identify and address the particular issues associated with student success in their respective course(s). 

Course Teams will be led by a faculty team manager. Teams will work together for three years to plan and implement effective teaching strategies that support student learning; and identify and adopt course design practices that align instruction, assignments, learning activities, and assessments with course learning outcomes. Teams will identify factors that affect student success and develop and implement their action plans to improve student success. Campus-wide partners will assist course teams to identify co-curricular and academic support strategies to address student learning needs outside of the classroom context.

The Innovating Large Courses Initiative aims to promote communication and collaboration among campus partners to support initiative goals. The initiative will employ the following strategies:

  1. Course Teams (meet approximately every 2 weeks throughout the academic year) will be led by faculty and include department or course leaders, graduate teaching assistants, and undergraduate student representatives. Teams will focus on one course or course sequence in their respective department or program, meeting frequently to create, implement, evaluate, and revise the team action plan. Each course team has an identified faculty Team Manager who will provide leadership, organizational support, and communication among team members and with initiative leaders. Course teams will commit to work together for the duration of the three-year project period (student members will change as needed).
  2. The Large Courses Institute (Four Friday mornings in September) will be the launch event for the initiative. Course teams will participate in guided sessions with an external facilitator who will inspire and support participants in the initial thinking about project goals. Campus experts will facilitate engaging sessions on key topics. Course teams will meet with initiative leaders to create team action plans. 
  3. The Assessment Support Team consists of CTL and ODA assessment experts who will work with the course teams to create and carry out feasible assessment plans, including data collection, analyses, and interpretation of results. 
  4. The Initiative Coalition (meets once per semester) comprises the initiative leadership, course team managers, staff, and student support partners. The coalition will convene each semester to share progress on plans, learn new strategies for teaching and assessment, discuss challenges, and address needs for support.
  5. The Innovating Large Courses Conference (annually, beginning September 2023) will be a one-day event open to the entire CU Boulder community. Course teams and invited presenters will share their experiences on various topics in teaching large lecture courses. All course teams will be expected to participate in some way each year.

A course or course sequence (i.e. COUR 1001 and 1002) should be selected based on institutional data about the course, including history of enrollment, grades, and withdrawal (DFW) rates. Course data should be examined to understand the ways in which student enrollment and success in the course might vary by race, gender, or major. 

Questions about a course might include: How do we create a welcoming and inclusive learning community? What instructional strategies can engage students for deeper learning? How can assessments be used to provide meaningful feedback to both the instructor and the student at key points in the course to improve both instruction and learning? How can course design strategies support more effective instruction? What academic and social support do students need to persist and succeed in this course?

Questions about student learning and performance in a course sequence might include: Do the course prerequisites adequately prepare students for this course sequence? What factors contribute to different levels of performance? How can knowledge or skill gaps be identified and addressed to support student success in the course series and beyond?

For information about courses, visit the online tools at Student Success Analytics Hub. Information about students, including graduation rates and survey responses can be retrieved from the Office of Data Analytics

Units will form their course teams depending on the makeup of the course and department. Course teams should include key members of the course’s ecosystem, including regular course instructors, the faculty course coordinator or curriculum chair, GTAs, an undergraduate student who has taken the course (hired as a student assistant–see below), and a staff member who supports the course. A team manager should be identified in the application. 

Student Members

Students should be intentionally included as partners on the course teams. Research has shown that when students are actively engaged in their own education, they learn more and contribute positively to the education of others. As instructors of recitations and labs, GTAs play key roles in skills development and spend one-on-one time with undergraduate students.

A Graduate Teaching Assistant who has been involved with the course will participate in each course team, and should be compensated by the department for their participation. Compensation can take different forms, such as stipends, differential workloads in GTA contracts, or as a project for a Lead Graduate Student Fellowship.

An undergraduate student assistant should be selected for each course team. Undergraduate students will commit to 5-8 hours per week and be paid by the CTL as student assistants. Student assistants will participate as members of course teams and be included in course team meetings and activities. Student assistants will have responsibility for designing and carrying out small assessment projects, and will assist with the analysis and interpretation of results. 

Participants in Course Teams agree to:

  • Be active participants in a course team to plan, implement, assess, and reflect on course and teaching changes;
  • Share progress and lessons from projects at the Innovating Large Courses Symposium each September for the duration of the 3-year funding period; and
  • Prepare a summary report (2-3 pages) to share annually with the Initiative Coalition.

Course Team Managers agree to:

  • Coordinate project activities for their own course team;
  • Communicate with leadership team members and the Assessment Support Team; and
  • Participate in Initiative Coalition work sessions once each semester.

  • Course teams will receive an annual project fund of $10,000 for design and implementation needs. Course teams will decide how the funds will be used to support project activities. A team’s budget might include a course release for the team manager, but this may not be necessary for all teams.
  • Undergraduate student assistants will be paid separately by the CTL, and do not need to be included in the course team budget.
  • Course teams will receive ongoing support from initiative partners such the Center for Teaching & Learning (CTL), Office of Information Technology (OIT), Office of Undergraduate Education, and Office of Data Analytics (ODA).
  • Individual participants will receive an annual formal letter documenting their participation, which may contribute to teaching and/or service expectations and can be included in a dossier.

For More Information

Please contact the Center for Teaching & Learning,

The Innovating Large Courses Initiative aims to improve the quality of the student experience in large enrollment courses, leading to improved learning and persistence. A primary focus for the initiative is to improve student success in courses with high DFW rates. Many of these courses include but are not limited to introductory or foundational courses (1000- and 2000-level courses). The application should include a justification for the course choice using institutional data about the course.

We invite teams from CU Boulder academic departments to submit an application focused on one course or course sequence. Departments should demonstrate commitment to identifying and making sustainable changes to the course curriculum or instruction to support student success. Applications must be submitted by a department chair or associate chair with a letter of support from the department chair. 

Allowable Expenses

Initiative funds will support typically allowable expenses, including but not limited to:

  • Faculty course release
  • Hourly wages
  • Materials and supplies used in the project
  • Books and supplies
  • Registration fees for group training webinars
  • Software licenses to collect or analyze data

Non-allowable Expenses

  • Pay or travel expenses for professional consultants or outside speakers

Three steps to preparing a successful application: 

  1. Submit the Intent to Apply form to get access to protected course data.
  2. Download the application form and review it with your course team.
  3. Prepare the final application as a single PDF and upload at the submission link.

For assistance with the application, please contact

Applications must be received by the deadline, June 30, 2022, 5:00 pm MST. Decisions about funding will be announced no later than August 1, 2022.