Academic Programs — First-Year Seminars

Description of the program
First-year seminars: Q&A

Deadline for Proposals

First-year seminars are offered only during the fall semester. Proposals for Fall 2014 are due on Friday, January 31. Seminars offered in previous years may be found on ISIS by setting the session date to a previous semester; please review these offerings and the guidelines below before submitting a proposal.

  • A first-year seminar must be proposed and approved each semester that the course is offered.
  • Approval of a proposal does not carry over to subsequent semesters.
  • This rule applies since funding is limited and because the program seeks to present balanced and varied offerings of interest to entering students.

All proposals must be submitted using this web form.

Guidelines

The FYS Program is a joint project of the Office of the Provost, CLAS, other UI Colleges, and the Honors Program, with funding provided by the Office of the Provost. The guidelines below apply to all proposals regardless of the instructor's collegiate affiliation. Please review this web page for additional information on the program, including tips from instructors.

First-year seminars introduce entering first-year students to the intellectual life of The University of Iowa, giving students an opportunity to participate in a small class with a faculty member.

The seminars are designed to help students make the transition to college-level learning through a mastery of the content of the seminar and by active participation in the student's own learning.

FYS Content

  • Students in a first-year seminar are expected to participate actively in their own learning; to encourage this, instructors rely on classroom discussion, team projects, research activities, and other interactive assignments that are student-centered. Quizzes and exams are not used.
  • Course titles, descriptions, assignments, and classroom experiences should be vibrant and relevant for entering first-year students. For tips on creating a strong course description, visit this link.
  • First -year seminars help students to make the transition to university-level expectations through the discussion of related topics and through assignments that help students learn to read, write, and to participate in class.
  • Seminars also help students to connect socially and intellectually to others in the class.
  • First-year seminars focus on the joy of learning and on helping students to experience the excitement that accompanies scholarly research, intellectual and creative work, and the exploration of new knowledge.

Policies and Procedures

  • Seminars are always offered for one hour of credit.
  • First-year seminar enrollment caps are set at 18 students. Classes with fewer than 16 students are generally canceled.
  • Each seminar meets at least once a week and must begin during the first week of classes.
  • All seminars must meet for a total of 750 minutes over the course of the semester.
  • Some seminars are offered on an off-cycle schedule, meeting, for example, for a longer class period or twice a week but ending by mid-semester. Off-cycle courses must meet for a total of 750 minutes, regardless of their end date.
  • Instructors should note when key required courses in math and the sciences are scheduled and should try not to schedule the FYS during these times. Other important gateway courses should also be considered. Checking the ISIS schedule and noting which classes filled and their times might be of help.
  • Classes with low enrollments are generally canceled by the Office of the Provost.
  • Instructors agree not to use quizzes or exams as part of the evaluation of student work. Final exams are never given.
  • First-year seminars are graded with letter grades, but often, because of the special nature of the first-year seminar experience, instructors find that a strict adherence to a college's recommended grade distribution is not feasible.
  • All rules for adding, dropping, and withdrawing apply, with the exception that the second-grade-only option may not be used on a First-Year Seminar.
  • Transfer students with more than 24 semester hours of credit when they enter UI are not eligible to enroll in a first-year seminar; transfer students with fewer than 24 s.h. may enroll in a FYS.
  • Generally, students should not enroll in more than one first-year seminar because of limited seating in the courses. Remind students to be thoughtful of others.
  • Credit hours from first-year seminars count toward graduation as elective hours but are never applied to General Education Program requirements.
  • First-year seminar credits may not be used to satisfy major, minor, or certificate requirements.

First-Year Seminars: Q & A

Who may offer a first-year seminar?
Any faculty member, including emeritus faculty, are eligible to teach a FYS. Instructors with full or part-time appointments may propose and teach first-year seminars. Teaching assistants are not eligible.

What should be included in the proposal?
The proposal must include the proposed course number indicating the administrative home of the course. All courses must be approved by the departmental chair, head, or DEO before the proposal is submitted. This approval must be indicated on the form.

All courses are titled First-Year Seminar but include a descriptive subtitle. Subtitles should be chosen carefully and must indicate the content of the course and must be lively and relevant, helping to draw students into the course.

The course description must suggest the interactive nature of the course and the importance of student participation. Sample assignments, readings, and activities should be listed.

The proposal should show how the students will engage in the intellectual life of the University community, better understand the expectations for college-level work, and make social and intellectual connections.

What are the deadlines for proposals?
FYS are offered only in the fall semester and proposals are due generally by January 31 for the next fall.

What course number should be used?
If at all possible, 029 (older numbering system) and 1000 (new numbering system) should be used. (Sample: 610:029/CLAS:1000)

Other numbers appropriate for courses designed for first-year students are also acceptable. Departments should create a first-year seminar course if one does not yet exist in a particular department or program. Please submit the appropriate add form through the MAUI Course Approval system.

If departments offer more than one seminar, section numbers should be added to distinguish the offerings.

Are there Honors offerings of first-year seminars?
Those who would like to offer a first-year seminar limited to Honors students should contact the Honors Program for more information.

How are courses scheduled?
Once a course is approved for the First-Year Seminar Program, instructors should work with the administrative home of the course to schedule a room, following the same procedures as for any other offering. The course number indicates the primary, administrative home of the course.

Courses may meet for one hour each week of the semester or for two hours each week for half of the semester or the instructor may propose an off-cycle format. Each course must meet for 750 minutes during the semester, even if using off-cycle scheduling. Other scheduling rules and format requirements must be met. Visit the Classrooms website.

How much work should be assigned in a first-year seminar?
The experience of many instructors has been that first-year students do not know how to read or to study intensely or efficiently. Keeping this in mind, instructors should gauge course work on the "two hours of study for one hour of credit" model. In a 1 s.h. first-year seminar, the outside assignments should be based on how much a student can prepare if the student devotes two hours to the task. This may be as little as 15 pages of material per week or may be substantially more depending on the materials and the particular ability of the students.

Instructors must introduce students to the appropriate methods of reading, writing, and studying the materials of the course.

Is a syllabus required?
Yes, a syllabus is required. Follow the syllabus guidelines for your college; those without undergraduate syllabus guidelines are welcome to use those provided by CLAS.

How are students evaluated?
Letter grades (A - F with +/-) are used and instructors should follow the College's usual grading policies. Instructors agree not to evaluate student performance by examinations or quizzes, but to rely instead on classroom participation, papers, projects, and other more participatory assignments. Because of the nature of the course, most instructors find it is not feasible to follow the recommended grade distribution of the College. The College encourages all instructors to use their best professional judgment when assigning grades.

Who approves course grades?
Instructors should follow the usual practices of their departments and submit course grades as they would for any other course, but no later than the registrar's deadline for undergraduate course grades.

Is there an attendance policy?
There is not an attendance policy for the first-year seminars. All instructors are expected to describe any attendance expectations of the course on the syllabus and to discuss them on the first day of the class. Since the course is highly participatory and dependent on attendance, it is recommended to include these in the grading scale.

Should instructors hold office hours?
Yes, students should be informed of the instructor's normal office hours on the syllabus and in class and should be encouraged to visit the instructor during office hours. Some instructors make this an assignment, understanding that the ability to meet with a faculty member is key to a student's success at UI.

Are course evaluations required?
Yes, course evaluations are required. Instructors use the evaluation or assessment forms provided by either CLAS or the First-Year Seminar Program. CLAS returns evaluation forms to the instructor's home department once read.

More information may be found at this link.