First-Year Curricula

First-Year Courses

Formal curricular support in the form of first-year or orientation courses aid first-year students in the transition to college-level study and engagement with the university community. The ideal course would take place in a student-centered classroom environment and encourage students to develop skills and strategies that transfer across majors, such as critical thinking, speaking, writing and self-awareness, while stimulating personal and social development. The course would also share academic expectations of a university environment along with general and major-specific regulations while exposing students to the co-curricular learning opportunities found through campus resources and organizations. 

Currently, several of Oregon State University’s colleges and departments offer discipline-specific orientation courses, while U-Engage courses allow first-year students in any major to explore an area of academic interest, develop skills necessary for success at the university level, reflect on their goals for their time at Oregon State and forge connections with the campus community. Beginning with the establishment of faculty learning communities-of-practice for instructors of first-year and orientation courses during 2013-14 academic year, this professional development opportunity will help to align first-year-focused courses around a set of common learning outcomes for first-year students.


  • Allow for the development and adoption of a common language and “college-knowledge” base for student success
  • Foster academic growth, a sense of belonging, a knowledge of support systems and campus resources and increased self-awareness as learners and members of the Oregon State community among first-year students


Mark Hoffman
Associate Dean for Undergraduate Programs, College Of Public Health and Human Sciences

Ruth Sterner, First-Year Experience Coordinator
New Student Programs and Family Outreach

Large-enrollment courses

Large enrollment introductory courses can be especially challenging learning environments for first-year student engagement and success. To effect substantial change in the educational experiences of first-year students, we must not only look to bolster co-curricular programs and services but also to reform curriculum and pedagogy to create engaging, active learning environments that promote success of all students.

The Writing Intensive Curriculum program and the Center for Teaching and Learning’s Global Learning and Hybrid Course Development programs have proven to be successful models in creating faculty peer learning groups, giving faculty an opportunity to share expertise and new approaches toward improving student learning and success.


  • Develop more substantial faculty peer learning groups for improving large-enrollment courses
  • Acquire funding to support course redesign for high-freshman enrollment courses and the top failure-rate courses


Susie Brubaker-Cole
Associate Provost for Academic Success and Engagement

Kay Sagmiller
Director, Center for Teaching and Learning

Relevant Initiatives


ESTEME@OSU was recently awarded a three-year, $2 million grant by the National Science Foundation’s WIDER program to implement evidence-based instructional practices in calculus-based 100- and 200-level biology, chemistry, engineering, mathematics and physics courses. The work afforded by this grant will lead to the creation of instructional design and pedagogical communities-of-practice and subsequent research on these communities, as well as research on the effectiveness of the use of evidence-based instructional practices using a variety of methods. The results of this research will be shared broadly with the university community as a means for enhancing student learning. This work is expected to impact the approximately 10,000 Oregon State students who enroll in STEM courses, along with approximately 50 faculty and 300 student instructors who will benefit from learning community environments.

ALEKS Math Placement

Beginning in summer 2014, the Department of Mathematics will offer the ALEKS Math Placement system to assign newly admitted students to the most appropriate math course for their knowledge level. The online, web-based test includes adaptive questioning to quickly and accurately determine what a new student is ready to learn, as well as learning modules to allow students to prepare for their assigned math course or to retake the exam. The exam can be taken at home with a personal computer or at an on-campus computing facility, and can be retaken up to four times. The ALEKS system also enforces enrollment in math courses at or below a student’s score range. Learn more about the ALEKS Math Placement system here.