Frequently Asked Questions

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How do I address my instructor?

In academic environments is it customary to address an instructor as “Professor [Surname]”.  The professor salutation is an honorific designation, meaning that its use denotes respect and recognition of expertise within a discipline.

Your instructor will specify how he or she prefers to be addressed.  Some instructors adopt a more informal rapport with their students and may prefer to interact with them on a first-name basis.  When in doubt, use the more formal salutation.

How do I communicate with my instructor?

Your instructor will specify any communication preferences, commonly at the beginning of the course, within the syllabus, on ICON, or at other times throughout the semester when the need for efficient communication may be high (for example, prior to exams).

It is a good idea to consider which method of communication (email, phone call, face-to-face interactions before/after class or during office hours) is best to address your specific questions.  In-person conversations may be the best means to discuss important or complex questions.

Asking Questions During Office Hours:   Your instructor’s office hours are listed in the course syllabus and perhaps on your ICON course site. This is the time your instructor has set aside and prioritized to meet with students every week. 

Be mindful that instructors may have other obligations immediately before or after class, and possibly other academic responsibilities such as teaching other courses, research, departmental obligations, or service to professional organizations throughout the week.  Therefore, your instructor may prefer to meet during office hours unless a direct course conflict exists.

Communicating Via Email:  Your instructors will communicate their email preferences, policies, and expectations.  Students should not expect email responses outside of normal business hours or on weekends unless the instructor has specified that responses at these times will be provided.

Emails and online communications with instructors and teaching assistants are expected to be professional and display proper email etiquette, including the following components:

  • Emails should be sent from the student’s official email address
  • Emails should contain a specific topic in the subject line
  • Course/section should be included in the subject line or early in the body of the email
  • Emails should contain an appropriate salutation to the instructor, including a greeting and addressing the instructor by their title and last name unless otherwise indicated by the instructor (e.g., Dear Professor Smith)
  • Emails should contain a clear, concise, and to-the-point message or question that cannot be answered via other course resources (ICON, textbook, syllabus, etc.)
  • Emails should contain complete sentences and proper grammar
  • Emails should contain a signature line that includes the student’s full name

What do I do if I have to miss class?

Carefully review the course syllabus for information regarding absences, as some instructors have very specific expectations and requirements.  These may vary depending on whether the absence is excused or unexcused (see the examples below).  Instructors should be notified of an absence in advance of the class session to be missed.   Courses of action may differ for absences from exams or significant class activities versus absences from a class session that does not included graded coursework.

  • Examples of unexcused absences include: parking issues, vacation, family-related activities, leaving town early for the weekend, non-emergent dental or medical visits, employment or work-related activities, volunteer activities, oversleeping, or studying for another course.
  • Examples of excused absences include: contagious illness or an illness which prevents reasonable classroom participation, mandatory religious obligations, funeral/wake/visitation and reasonable travel time to/from, unavoidable circumstances beyond the student’s control, and official UI activities.

Your instructor may ask you to provide documentation to support the necessity of your absence from class.  Examples of appropriate documentation include:

  • A screen shot or picture that includes the date and time of the conflicting event, your name, and a sufficient amount of information to corroborate the reason for the absence
  • A link to an online obituary that lists you as a family member and the date/time for memorial services
  • For prolonged medical excuses, the expected duration of the absence or date of return to classes

Additional information regarding University of Iowa policies for class absences may be found here:

Finally, misrepresenting the urgency of the absence from class may be considered academic misconduct.  Be honest with your instructors; instructors will do their best to provide reasonable and fair accommodations for class absences.  While accommodations may not be possible for all circumstances, in many instances instructors can help you find appropriate resources or solutions to prevent additional absences in the future.

What can I expect for academic rigor?

Time commitment: For a 3 semester hour (SH) course with in-person classroom sessions, students should expect to spend 150 min in class per week plus 2 hours of independent study per semester hour (6 additional hours of outside of class time per week for a 3 SH course, on average).  This equals approximately 9 hours per course per week.  In this scenario, a student taking 5 courses (3 SH each) should reasonably expect to spend approximately 40-45 hours a week on academic work.

The time commitment for online courses will be similarly substantial, although the balance between structured course activities and independent study may vary.

Courses with a laboratory component typically require a greater amount of time spent for the lab session compared with lecture-based courses.

Understanding Course Numbering

Courses are numbered to designate the department or program offering the course and whether the course is considered to be elementary, intermediate, advanced, or graduate level.  Different levels of rigor are expected for each.

An elementary course is broad and introductory in nature while being highly structured with multiple means of assessing student work. This means that students will be exposed to numerous dimensions of a given topic and the concepts provided set the foundation for more advanced coursework in this area.  Some elementary courses are numbered below the 1000-level, but most are numbered 1000-1999.   Examples: HHP:1050 Exploring Athletic Training, HHP:1400 Human Anatomy and Physiology, SRM:1060 Contemporary Issues in Sports, TR:1070 Perspectives on Leisure and Play

An intermediate course generally is not recommended for first-year students and is considered better suited for second-year students or above. These courses may require prerequisite(s) or assume prior knowledge.  Intermediate courses are often numbered from 1999-2999, however, some courses numbered 3000-3999 are considered intermediate to advanced. Concepts presented may be complex in nature and students are expected to demonstrate critical thought to independently find connections between concepts.  Examples: HHP:2350 Biomechanics of Sport & Physical Activity, HHP:3500 Human Physiology, SRM:3158 Sport and Recreation Promotion

An advanced course (general numbered 4000-4999) ordinarily is geared for students earning a major, minor, or certificate in the academic area, requires prior knowledge or prerequisites, and focuses on development of a deep body of knowledge within a discipline.  Examples: HHP:4410 Advanced Human Anatomy Laboratory, SRM:4198 NCAA Rules Compliance and Enforcement, TR:3164 Therapeutic Recreation: Rehabilitation

How should I study for HHP courses?

Many high-quality resources are available that highlight effective study techniques.  Here is one example that provides numerous strategies you may find helpful when studying for your courses:

It may, perhaps, be more important to consider what “learning” is and why it is important to focus upon what you learn in a course versus what grade you earn.  Simply put, learning is the development of an understanding of the relationships between ideas or experiences, along with the ability to apply prior knowledge to novel circumstances.  Thus, while your coursework will facilitate an understanding of a wide range of concepts within your discipline, the ultimate goal is that the knowledge and skills developed throughout your undergraduate program are transferrable to your future career.  

Even more broadly, we hope your undergraduate experiences shape a lifetime of curiosity about the world—the creation of you as a “life-long learner”.

Your success in and out of the classroom while you are at the University of Iowa will depend upon a combination of factors:

  • Your attitude regarding your classes and your college experience
  • Your appreciation of the learning process
  • Your approach/behavior within your classes
  • Your approach to studying outside of class

Attitude Toward Your College Experience

An attitude of positivity and gratitude will help you to get the most out of your college experience. Viewing your classes as an opportunity to learn and to expand your perspective, a true privilege, will create a purpose which motivates your success and creates happiness. Taking the contrary viewpoint, that coursework and the college experience are a chore, an obstacle that must be overcome, will lead to bitterness, closed-mindedness, and dissatisfaction with your experience.

Some strategies that students can use to create positivity in their lives can be found here.

An Appreciation of What Learning Is

Students will often confuse learning with memorizing. Learning is the ability to acquire new understandings that can be applied to novel situations. While memorization of key, factual information is a small part of this, true learning depends much more heavily upon …

  • Reading and listening comprehension (understanding complex ideas expressed verbally)
  • Verbal reasoning (using current knowledge and logic to develop ideas/solutions)
  • Quantitative reasoning (using an appreciation of values and mathematical relationships to develop solutions)
  • Creativity (generating new ideas and connections)

Developing these more important aspects of learning requires critical thinking. That is, working on your own mental model of how something works, and then testing this model through reasoning or applying the model to solve a problem.

To understand the distinction between learning and memorizing, consider the following situation: a class is presented with the question, “How does the heart rate change following loss of blood due to hemorrhage?”

Student A remembers previously learning that blood pressure is the most important thing for the body to regulate, and that a decrease in blood volume will decrease blood pressure. She then thinks through how the body will detect a decrease in blood pressure and how this will affect the signals the brain sends to the heart, and she deduces that the result will be an increase heart rate in order to maintain blood pressure.

Student B does not concern himself with the thought processes of solving this problem. He just waits for the instructor to work through the problem, and he writes down the final answer. In studying, he memorizes that a loss of blood will lead to an increase in heart rate, but he does not necessarily know how or why.

Which of these students will be better able to solve a new problem pertaining to how some other stimulus, for example an expansion of blood volume after eating salty food or a decrease in pressure after standing up, affects heart rate? Student A will have already developed the necessary connections and thought-process. Student B will be confronted with a novel situation for which no information has yet been memorized. Student A will be able to answer an exam question pertaining to this novel situation, and more importantly, Student A will be able to apply her knowledge more effectively in a practical setting.

Classroom Behaviors That Support Learning

Most content you will need to understand in any class will be presented within a lecture. Tips for getting the most from your classroom experience include:

  • Approaching the classroom with a positive attitude: each class is an opportunity to learn, not something you are forced to endure or a figurative hoop to jump through that will translate into a particular letter grade
  • Before class: perform assigned readings, review objectives for the upcoming session, take 10 minutes to review the notes from the previous class, and list questions about the upcoming content that you hope to have answered during class
  • Create an environment for successful learning:
    • In a face-to-face course, sit near the front of the classroom and minimize distractions (silence phone, close browsers on laptop)
    • In an online course, make a regular, weekly schedule for watching the lectures; watch lectures in a distraction-free environment; consume lectures in small enough chunks that your focus does not take a serious dip
  • Take good notes: resist the urge to write/type everything. Before you begin writing, listen to the entire idea being expressed. Only then should you paraphrase or summarize the idea in your writing. Students that get too wrapped up in capturing every single word will miss the meaning and ideas expressed in those words. Details can always be filled in later through readings or pointed questions, the most important thing to get from the lecture is the big-picture. Online courses can be especially dangerous in this regard as the ability to pause and rewind might encourage some students to write down EVERYTHING. Resist that urge, instead try to write down the big-picture ideas from each slide in your own words.
    • As an aside, research indicates that individuals learn more in lecture when taking notes with pencil/pen vs. a laptop; typing is faster than writing (about 3x), which encourages verbatim note-taking; writing forces paraphrasing, that is capturing the meaning of the content as opposed to focusing on every word, and this additional level of processing is very important. If you choose to use a laptop, try using a stylus vs. typing, or force yourself to hold off on typing until you have a formed idea to express.
  • Above all, THINK! Do not try to memorize the presented info, or capture all of the presented information, but rather try to understand the concepts presented. When questions are presented, try to formulate an answer in writing. If you are asked to discuss something with classmates, do so. Many students will forego these thinking opportunities, instead waiting for the instructor to present some factual information to memorize (e.g., the “correct answer”).  However, the facts are not the most important aspect of the lecture, the opportunity to think is most important.
  • Ask questions! If you do not understand something, lecture is the perfect time to ask. This will help you to be an active participant, it will immediately clarify areas of confusion, and it will demonstrate your curiosity and engagement to the instructor. Many students may be intimidated to ask or answer questions within a lecture course, but getting over the fear of being perceived as unknowing and the fear of being wrong is a crucial hurdle to clear for life-long learning
  • After class: review the content that was presented and create an outline of the big-picture ideas. Generate questions that are still unanswered that you can attempt to clarify later in your studying.

Studying Outside of Class

The key to utilizing your time outside of class, just as it is within the classroom, is to engage in critical thought. Try to avoid “pretend studying.” This includes things like mindlessly copying your notes, making flashcards, or reading without thought. These activities make you feel like you are accomplishing something because you are putting time in, but they are akin to walking on a treadmill at 1 mph. The time is there, but the intensity is not.

Reading is a crucially important skill for academic success, and like any skill, it improves with practice. While college reading is challenging, do not use that as a reason to forego your reading. Reading will often present the material in a different way than lecture, and evidence suggests consuming the same information in multiple formats leads to greater retention. Perhaps more important, reading in a class today will further develop your reading comprehension skills, which will improve your performance in classes down the road. 

To get the most out of your reading, follow these tips.

Beyond reading, students must put critical thought into the material that has been presented. Students must engage deeply with the material, try to put it into their own words, and then receive critical feedback. Things to considered in this process:

  • What are the big ideas from each lecture, and how do they connect to one another?
  • What are the details surrounding these big ideas? For example, if learning science concepts: what are the mechanisms that cause these things to occur (the “how”)? what is the purpose of these things in the broader sense of serving the organism (the “why”)?
  • How does one lecture’s content connect to the other lectures from the unit?  How about connections with content from other units in the same course?  From other courses you have taken? 

There is tremendous benefit in putting your thoughts into writing or into diagrammatic form. This synthesis is important for promoting critical thought. It is very easy to review material and to think you understand it, but in fact you are only familiar with it (you recognize terminology). You only truly understand if you can put it into your own forms of expression. Often during this process, you will determine what you know definitively and where there are holes in your understanding. Your understanding will reach even higher levels if you can communicate your understanding to someone else capable of providing feedback (e.g. fellow students or instructors).

Another crucial aspect of outside of class studying is developing the ability to focus on the task at hand. The notion of multi-tasking is largely a myth, with research indicating that those who multi-task the most are the worst at managing multiple things at once, and those who are most effective at taking in new information and making decisions are those best able to focus their attention on a single topic and avoid distraction. Research also indicates that it takes over 20 minutes to regain focus on a complicated task once we allow ourselves to be distracted.

See here for more tips on how to effectively structure your study time outside of class.


The bottom line is that learning takes a positive attitude, a proactive approach, and lots of discipline and hard work both in and out of the classroom. Even with all of these elements in place, performance is strongly affected by aptitudes and pre-requisite abilities. Thus, some students will perform better than others. However, using the information above will allow you to maximize your potential within the classroom, and more importantly this approach will set you up as a life-long learner.

This broadly-applicable summary of best practices for learning was thoughtfully crafted by Professor Peterson.

What can I do with my degree?

The site below provides an abundance of information for a wide variety of health-related careers.  This is a good resource if you are curious to learn about different health-related careers that are available, the educational requirements (for example, completion of undergraduate or graduate degree programs), average salaries, and job outlook:

The Hamilton Project is another resource that may be helpful in identifying potential careers across many different fields.  You can select a major from a drop-down menu, input a few other factors such as age and sex, then view the most common jobs associated with this major, projected earnings, and the percent of graduates in this field who are employed full time: Putting Your Major to Work: Career Paths after College

Earning an undergraduate degree, regardless of the program of study, signifies that an individual possesses skills and abilities broadly applicable to a wide variety of professional settings.  Thus, one sometimes under-valued benefit of your educational experiences is transferability to numerous career opportunities that may be outside of your specific area of study.

If I am interested in a career in health care (medicine, physician assistant, dentistry, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and others), what is the advantage to majoring in Health and Human Physiology?

All Health and Human Physiology coursework requires an understanding of scientific principles related to human function.  One strength of our undergraduate program is the provision of ample opportunity for hands-on laboratory and experiential learning experiences to complement and reinforce the core science concepts taught within courses.

What do I need to know about asking for a reference letter?

The first step is to be aware of what a reference letter is: a summary of content knowledge, interpersonal skills, maturity level, and directly-observed behaviors (honesty, integrity, ethical choices, grit, or conversely, other less-desirable characteristics) that you have demonstrated to your instructor and that are relevant for a specific career path.  A reference letter is not a “rubber stamp” that you are highly recommended. 

Some instructors may have minimum requirements (e.g., GPA or graduate school entrance exam scores) and therefore may not agree to provide a reference for students who do not meet certain criteria.

Here is a handout developed by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) that highlights desirable characteristics suggested for inclusion in reference letters (see the second page): Key Areas of Interest to Include in Reference Letters.  These characteristics are broadly applicable to virtually all programs that require reference letter submissions.

Some considerations for requesting reference letters:

  • Request reference letters well in advance of submission deadlines; it is generally recommended for references to be requested at least 3 weeks prior to submission deadlines. 
  • Your instructor will ask you to complete a FERPA form that indicates whether you waive your right to view the reference, the academic information you give permission to include within the reference, and the specific programs to which your information may be released.  Your instructor may also ask you to provide your resume, personal statement, or other supporting materials such as standardized test scores.  
  • It is very important that you provide detailed information regarding the specific program and program requirements to which you are applying, and submission information for all references (due date, modality – online, email, post mail).
  • Finally, University of Iowa employees are not permitted to receive gifts or monetary compensation for providing reference letters—while we appreciate the sentiment and thoughtfulness of a receiving a gift card, for example, we much prefer the satisfaction of receiving a thank you down the road and hearing about your exciting upcoming career plans.


For additional suggestions regarding asking for reference letters, see:

How do I add or drop a course, or switch sections?

Contact your academic advisor.  It is always a good idea to discuss any potential changes with your academic advisor.  Please note that there are deadlines in place for changes in registration.  See:

For how-to information related to changing your course enrollments following the initial registration period, see:

For grade-related policies, GPA calculations, other grade designations (such as satisfactory/unsatisfactory, course honors designation, auditing a course, second grade option, and others), you may find this link helpful:

The Advising tab on the Department of Health and Human Physiology’s website ( provides many excellent resources for students, including course registration-related information, career advising, volunteer and experiential learning opportunities, and other resources provided by the University of Iowa. 

Finally, additional information related to earning a Bachelor’s degree at the University of Iowa may be found in the Student Handbook: