“Elements of Success appealed to me as an opportunity to support student success,” says Philip Combiths, assistant professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders.

Combiths uses the platform in Phonetics, an undergraduate course with 100 second-year students. For many, this foundational course represents a significant transition—considering speech sounds from a scientific perspective.

By aggregating data from the ICON Gradebook, Elements of Success, often called EoS, generates real-time performance feedback for students in an easy-to-understand, visual format. EoS helps students identify areas for improvement and create personalized plans for success, empowering them to reach their academic goals for the course. The tool was developed by the Office of Teaching, Learning, and Technology (OTLT) and Administrative Information Systems, in close collaboration with faculty at Iowa.

“It helps students understand how they’re doing in a course and how they can use course materials to improve on their own,” says Combiths. “It’s so important for students to use that transparency to take ownership, which is especially valuable at this early stage of their undergraduate career.”

On average, students who used Elements of Success earned a course grade about half a letter grade higher than those who didn’t, according to research by Jane Russell, director of OTLT Research and Analytics; Anna Smith, OTLT learning analytics specialist, and Russell Larsen, professor of chemistry.

Easier setup

In fall 2022, the Office of Teaching, Learning, and Technology and Administrative Information Systems designed the configuration wizard, a new functionality that lets faculty easily set everything up at once.

Alberto Segre, chair of Department of Computer Science and Gerard P. Weeg Faculty Scholar in informatics professor, teaches Computer Science I: Fundamentals, a course with 220 first-year students that emphasizes how to approach problems computationally.

Segre used EoS three years ago and returned to the platform this fall.

“I’ve found a significantly improved system with an enhanced setup process,” says Segre.

The wizard also offers instructors more control over grade configuration, allowing faculty to set up their own grade schemes if they choose.

“It can handle the grade calculations better and allows me to express my grading criteria in a relatively clear way,” says Segre. “I can tell it to drop three of 12 assignments and to remove all non-graded items from the equation, making the option to configure grade estimation a nice feature.”

Fostering transparency

The ability to provide more transparency and build a grade distribution within the platform appealed to Julie Alexander and Stephanie Batterson, lecturers in the Frank Business Communication Center. They each teach four sections of Business Communication and Protocol, a core course in the Tippie College of Business.

“The most valuable feature is the level of transparency it provides to students,” says Batterson. “They can view where they fall within a distribution of 100 students across four sections, gaining a more comprehensive understanding of not only their performance but their use of ICON and other tools available to them.”

Nearly 70% of Batterson’s students viewed EoS at least once this semester. “It’s an easy-to-use tool for instructors to provide more data to students,” says Batterson.

As Julie Alexander used the platform, she noticed additional advantages emerging.

“It saved time grading and reduced the number of students’ questions about performance,” says Alexander. “The course context provided by EoS paired with the personalized feedback I give to students led to much richer conversations about course performance. I think it’s a bit of a game changer.”

Learn more

Watch a short video on how Alexandra Nica, associate professor of instruction and director of undergraduate studies in economics, and an Iowa undergraduate student benefited from Elements of Success.