University of Iowa

First-Year Seminar Policies

Scheduling a FYS

First-Year Seminars are limited to 16-20 students, cannot be offered through distance education or online (must be taught face-to-face), may be team-taught, and meet for a total of 750 minutes over the course of the semester.
     15 50-minute sessions:
     One per week for 15 weeks or
     Twice per week for 7.5 weeks

     10 75-minute sessions:
     One per week for 10 weeks or
     Twice per week for 5 weeks

Seminars may meet for the entire semester, or may be offered off-cycle. For example, a seminar may be offered for 75 minutes per week for the first 10 weeks of the semester. Off-cycle courses must start during the first week that undergraduate classes are in session. Seminars that meet on Mondays must be scheduled for an additional 5 minutes to make up for missed holiday time.



To encourage students' active participation, instructors rely on classroom participation, papers, projects, and other interactive assignments, and, consequently, instructors agree not to use quizzes or exams as part of the evaluation of student work. Quizzes or exams should not be part of the evaluation of student work in a First-Year Seminar. FYS courses provide students an opportunity to explore subjects new to them. The no-exam policy encourages students to move beyond their comfort zones to tackle new academic challenges. Student learning in First-Year Seminars can take place through active classroom participation, well-crafted papers, thoughtful discussion, and well-planned and executed projects.

Courses must be offered for graded (A-F) credit. Instructors should decide whether or not to use plus and minus grades; however, the syllabus should tell students clearly whether plus or minus grades will be used.

For grade approval, 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.

Specific and detailed suggestions on how to draft an effective grading rubric can be found on the ITS-Teaching, Learning & Technology website.


Feedback & Course Evaluations

To maximize students' First-Year Seminar experience, instructors are encouraged to gather informal feedback from their students early in the semester. These are not formal course evaluations; consequently they are not included in any official record, nor are they required. FYS instructors find early feedback to be very useful for making sure that their courses are on track. A FYS Early Feedback Form is a starting point, but should be modified to fit specific a specific course. Also consider selecting a single question from those listed on the early feedback form and asking students to respond to it in a one-minute "paper", written during class time. See more information about First-Year Seminars on the ITS-Teaching, Learning & Technology website.

Course evaluations are required. Instructors should use the course evaluations developed by their department or college. These can also be modified by including additional questions that provide useful information about students' perceptions of their learning. Instructors who offer their course through University College should contact with questions about course evaluations.