Supplemental Instruction (SI) in Virtual Environments

Supplemental Instruction is an internationally recognized model of peer-led academic support, most often paired with STEM courses that a) are approved for general education credit, b) have historically high DFWI rates, and/or c) are gateways to a major. The focus of SI is on high-risk courses as opposed to high-risk students, cementing the idea that practical engagement in the material is essential to success in such courses and emphasizing that exposure to concepts is not the same as deeper learning. 

Supplemental instruction at EMU typically offers support for general education (e.g., BIO 110, ECON 201) and/or program gateway courses (e.g., CHEM 121, BIO 251/252, etc.) with high enrollment and moderate-to-high drop or fail rates. SI also supports a small number of courses within majors that include complex and highly-concentrated content for which students often request help (e.g., CHEM 371, BIO 301).

SI Sessions are:

  • Specific to the section / professor
  • Voluntary and free for all students enrolled in the course
  • Non-remedial; a proactive approach to ensuring student success
  • Presented at least twice per week at times voted on by students
  • Not a second lecture; they are collaborative review sessions for students to practice applying the material

About Supplemental Instruction Leaders (SILs):

Students who work as SILs have previously taken the course in question and earned a B+ or better. These students are typically referred to us by faculty members. Each SIL completes approximately 3-5 hours of online training modules, followed by a 2-day intensive in-person training workshop, before the beginning of their first semester as a SIL. Our training is focused on Growth Mindset, metacognitive learning strategies and tools, and using Bloom’s Taxonomy to help students work their way into higher-level critical thinking skills. You can expect your SIL to be well-versed in learning and study strategies.

About Virtual SI:

Virtual SI sessions are not unique to our current situation in a global pandemic; rather, online SI sessions have been used with great success in a number of colleges and universities. Over the last 9 weeks at EMU, we have already identified many best practices in offering SI sessions online.

  • SILs have been using their personal laptop computers and tablets, while participating students may join sessions through a computer, tablet, or smartphone
  • Zoom has proven to be the tool of choice among EMU’s SILs, although some have used Google Meet, MS Teams, and Adobe Connect within Canvas
  • The most popular external tools used include PollEverywhere and Kahoot
  • SILs have access to a huge “handout” database through Google Drive; this database is organized by subject and holds examples, worksheets, activities, and other session ideas created by SILs over the last five years+
  • SILs are strongly encouraged to record their sessions and provide the recording to all attendees

This summer the Holman Success Center (HSC) is supporting two Chemistry classes with virtual SI, CHEM 121 with Dr. Amy Flanagan-Johnson and CHEM 371 with Dr. Harriet Lindsay. For more information about academic support services provided by the Holman Success Center staff, visit the HSC website.


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