REACH – Redesigning for Active Learning in High-Enrollment Courses

Primary Objectives

The REACH team partners with faculty and instructors to:

  • Transform high-enrollment, lecture-based courses into more active and inclusive learning environments that can be sustained by academic departments
  • Inspire greater student responsibility for learning by increasing student inquiry and engagement with the subject matter
  • Improve student learning

Early Indications of Impact

In fall 2018, 6,600+ students are participating in REACH courses. The courses feature:

  • Consistent, active and inclusive course structures and practices
  • Co-created learning objectives, curricula and assessments
  • Expanded TA training and development
  • Improved student engagement and learning
  • Increased lecture attendance, from often less than half to 80-90%

Faculty and instructors report:

  • Increased skill in designing active learning courses
  • Increased collaboration with colleagues about their teaching


The following are key requisites for participation in REACH:

  • Large lecture, gateway courses
  • Dean’s Office support
  • Departmental endorsement
  • Cohesive departmental team with standardization and uniformity in course offerings

(No prior experience or knowledge of active learning is needed.)

Participating Departments and Courses

Department of Anthropology

  • Anthro 104 – Cultural Anthropology and Human Diversity

Department of Chemistry

  • Chem 103 – General Chemistry I
  • Chem 104 – General Chemistry II
  • Chem 109 – Advanced General Chemistry

Department of Communication Arts

  • Com Arts 250 – Survey of Contemporary Media
  • Com Arts 260 – Communication and Human Behavior

Department of Kinesiology

  • Anatomy and Physiology 337 – Human Anatomy
  • Anatomy and Physiology 338 – Human Anatomy Lab

Department of Mathematics

  • Math 171 – Calculus with Algebra and Trigonometry I
  • Math 217 – Calculus with Algebra and Trigonometry II
  • Math 221 – Calculus and Analytic Geometry I
  • Math 222 – Calculus and Analytic Geometry II
  • Math 234 – Functions of Several Variables

Department of Materials Science and Engineering

  • MS&E 350 – Introduction to Materials Science

Department of Physics

  • Physics 103 – General Physics
  • Physics 104 – General Physics

Department of Statistics

  • Stats 324 – Introductory Applied Statistics for Engineers
  • Stats 371 – Introductory Applies Statistics for the Life Sciences


  • Ivy Corfis, Professor, Dept. of Spanish and Portuguese, College of Letters & Science, and EI Senior Fellow
  • Brian McNurlen, Assistant Director, DoIT Academic Technology

Leading Partners

Other Features

Additional Background

The REACH Initiative aims to transform large, introductory, lecture-based courses into sustainable, active learning environments that increase students’ engagement in their own learning.

The initiative will build on successful innovations across campus that strive to enhance the undergraduate experience through student-centered learning practices. REACH will not only reinforce the common goal among these efforts, but will extend their reach to encompass tens of thousands of first- and second-year students over the next 5 years.

While excellent examples of active learning already exist in many of our undergraduate programs, especially in courses with low student-to-instructor ratios, the logistics and sheer number of students in high-enrollment lecture-based courses often inhibits innovation and experimentation.

To set an expectation of active, flexible learning for all of our students, especially our first-year students, and to ensure improved student learning outcomes are accessible universally, the REACH team will partner with faculty and instructors to redesign large, introductory lecture-based courses to be more student-centered and inclusive.

Grounded in the research, the REACH initiative will integrate evidence-based practices, effective technologies and ongoing assessment into the selected courses. Ultimately, students in the redesigned courses will spend a significant amount of class time on activities that will require them to be actively processing and applying information in a variety of ways, such as answering questions using electronic clickers, working through problem-based case studies, engaging in group projects and peer-to-peer evaluation, as well as completing technology-enhanced assignments.

Course Selection Criteria
In collaboration with the university’s deans, courses will continue to be selected primarily based on their classification as large, introductory, high-enrollment courses (100 students or greater). To ensure sustainability, departments form teams of faculty and staff to participate in the transformation, teaching and evaluation process, and commit to sustaining and enhancing the redesign in future offerings.

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