The SOAR Project

Course Redesign for Improved Student Success

The SOAR (Student Oriented Active Redesign) Project is a collaborative effort between the Center for the Advancement of Teaching (CAT) and the Office of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies to support Temple University schools and colleges in redesigning courses with consistently high DFW rates.

Courses selected for the SOAR project have been identified as having consistently high DFW rates across most sections of the course and were not intentionally designed to restrict capacity in a major or professional field, or they have other persistent issues that need attention. Departments or colleges identify one or two faculty per course to participate in the SOAR project. The dean/chair nominates faculty passionate about teaching undergraduate students and open to the possibilities that course redesign might offer them. In this year-long program, faculty work alongside CAT educational developers and educational technology specialists to redesign courses and implement them.

SOAR-based redesigns include intervention at multiple levels: learning goals, assessments, teaching and student engagement methods, mode of content delivery, and sometimes the selection of course content itself. For their efforts, faculty receive a stipend per course split into 2 payments (summer and spring). They also receive an opportunity to network and work with an interdisciplinary group of faculty, training and one-on-one consultations about teaching and use of technology in teaching, and the possibility of co-authoring articles or presenting at conferences.

Does it work?

Course redesign has been proven to:

  • Enhance quality of student learning
  • Improve student success and retention, helping students to “fly in four”
  • Maximize access for at-risk populations
  • Ensure that courses meet accessibility standards
  • Improve student satisfaction while maintaining standards

Case Studies

Course redesign has been successfully implemented at institutions all over the country, including at Temple University. Here are a few of the success stories1:

  • University of North Carolina-Greensboro: student retention improved substantially in all redesigned courses. For instance, in Precalculus I the DFW rate went from 77% to 38%.
  • Florida Gulf Coast University and Indiana U–Purdue U Indianapolis: respectively reduced DFW rates from 45% to 11% in fine arts and from 39% to 25% in introductory sociology.
  • University of New Mexico (undergraduate minority student population of 46%): 41% of traditional psychology students received a C– or below compared to 23% after redesign.  
  • University of Massachusetts: in spite of more difficult exams, scores in a redesigned biology course averaged 73% vs. 61% in the traditional course. Attendance averaged 90% in the redesign vs. 67% in the traditional.
  • In our pilot phase:
    • Many participating courses saw a meaningful decrease in their DFW rate.
    • Students self-report acquiring skills beyond their gains in knowledge that will benefit them in the future (e.g., improved time management, increased self-confidence, and ownership of performance outcomes).
    • Faculty self-report newfound excitement, confidence, and energy for teaching due to their newly developing skills and newfound perspective for learning.

1From the website of the National Center for Academic Transformation:

What is the faculty commitment to the SOAR Project?

Participation in the year-long project and its research study and program assessment includes:

  • Participation in the intensive three-week Summer Course Redesign Institute
  • Implementation of the redesigned course 
  • Participation in monthly SOAR cohort meetings led by CAT staff
  • Participation in the research study, including a pre-post survey before the institute and during the fall/spring semesters which includes a written reflective component; and a 3-part interview series across the year.
  • Inviting your students to complete a pre-post survey during each semester.
  • Providing your final grades for the redesigned course to the SOAR research team 
  • Deliverables include redesigned syllabus and preliminary and final curriculum design.
  • Note: CAT’s research team will be conducting classroom observations and observations of the institute and community meetings. An educational developer will conduct periodic observations of class and provide feedback to support your redesign.
Common Concerns

Some misconceptions may include:

  • Improving retention means grade inflation or lowering standards

The SOAR Project will assist faculty in improving student success while maintaining quality and standards.

  • All courses will be redesigned the same way

There is no “one size fits all” solution that will work for every course. Courses will be redesigned to fit the needs of the particular discipline, students, and faculty.


For more information on Student Oriented Active Redesign, please contact