Supplemental Instruction (SI) Overview and History

Supplemental Instruction (SI) was first developed in 1973 by Dr. Deanna Martin at the University of Missouri at Kansas City. SI is an academic assistance program that provides weekly, peer-led group study sessions for students taking historically difficult, gateway, and bottleneck courses. SI sessions bring students together in a collaborative learning environment where they improve their understanding of course material, review and discuss important concepts, develop study strategies, and prepare for exams. In SI, students connect what to learn with how to learn. SI is provided for all students who want to improve their understanding of course material and improve their grades; SI is not a remedial program for struggling or failing students. Students who attend SI sessions on a consistent basis traditionally earn a half to full letter grade higher than those students who do not participate in SI.  

Purpose and Goals of SI

  • Help students become more independent learners. 
  • Reduce DFW (D, F, and Withdraw) rates in targeted historically difficult courses.
  • Improve student grades in targeted historically difficult courses. 
  • Increase re-enrollment and persistence of participating students. 
  • Ultimately, improve the graduation rates of students at MSU Denver. 

By encouraging regular attendance, SI aims to accomplish these goals through helping students: 

  • Understand what to learn and how to learn 
  • Develop transferable study skills 
  • Gain problem-solving experience through trial and error 
  • Develop analytical and critical thinking skills 
  • Become more actively involved in the course 
  • Engage in discussion and collaborative activities with peers 
  • Build connection to the MSU Denver campus community 

Key Elements

  • The SI Program supports historically difficult courses at MSU Denver. SI course assignments are based on challenging content and high rates of D’s, F’s and withdrawals – not because of the way it is being taught or by whom it is being taught. 
  • SI Leaders are assigned to a specific faculty/section(s) and plan and lead at least two 50-60 minute SI study sessions per week that integrate what to learn with how to learn. 
  • SI Sessions are voluntary, outside of class, and beneficial for ALL students (not just for students who are struggling). SI Sessions are open to all students in the course section and is not viewed as remedial. 
  • SI Leaders attend all class sessions for their designated section(s) as a model student, getting to know the students and staying up-to-date with all course material, expectations, and challenging content to students.
  • SI Leaders are encouraged to collaborate with faculty to discuss the course and how to best support the students. 
  • SI Leaders attend training before the semester begins and ongoing weekly professional development to continue sharpening their professional and leadership skills, including topics such as strengthening student academic performance, session facilitation tips, using inclusive language, and strategies for marketing sessions to students. 
  • Students who regularly attend SI Sessions earn higher grades and have lower DFW rates (D’s, F’s and Withdrawals). Data has also demonstrated higher graduation rates for students who regularly participate in SI. 

Differences between Supplemental Instruction & Other Academic Supports

Grid Comparing SI to other supports

Faculty Role

Faculty support is critical to the SI Program’s success. Typically, the more students perceive that the faculty and SI Leader are a team, the more students participate in SI. Research indicates that students participate in voluntary and optional academic supports much more when they perceive that support – like SI – aligns to the faculty’s expectations of how to be successful in the course. 

However, we fully recognize the busy schedules of our amazing faculty partners. We do not expect faculty to be involved any more than they are willing or able. SI is not intended to create additional work or time commitments for faculty! 

What Are the SI Faculty Requirements?

  • Have Access to the Canvas Course: SI Leaders should be added to your Canvas class in “SI Leader” role so that they can access content, email students, and interact in discussion questions.(See instructions below) 
  • Introducing SI to the Class: Allow the SI Leader to make a 2-3 minute announcement during the first class so they can introduce Supplemental Instruction to the class, let students know who they are and what an SI Leader is, share SI Session information, and personally invite students to attend SI Sessions. 
  • In-Class Announcements: Continue to allow the SI Leader to make brief 1-3 minute announcements throughout the semester to remind students about SI and encourage their attendance. 
  • Faculty Promotion: Allow the SI Leader to post SI Session information for students to see each class. You can also remind students about SI Sessions in your own whole class announcements, during individual conversations with students, and by sharing SI Session information on class materials (e.g. syllabus, handouts). 
  • Meet with your SI Leader: The relationship between SI Leader and faculty should be professional and collaborative. It is recommended that faculty meet with their SI Leader for at least 10-15 minutes per week to discuss course content, upcoming exams, the progress of SI Sessions and participants, helpful learning/study strategies, and any other additional questions or concerns that may arise. 
  • Promote SI Program: Help maintain the message that SI is an encouraged activity for all students and avoid the message that only students who struggle benefit from attending SI. 
  • SI Program Assessment and Evaluation: We may be in contact with you about assisting us to provide information for SI program evaluation: exam grades and/or grades after exams. (Note: FERPA allows institutions to collect these data; students’ right to privacy regarding this information will be fully protected.) You can always email exam grades anytime to SI Program Staff to analyze and compare SI participants’ grades to non-participants’. 

Can I Offer Extra Credit and/or Find Out which Students Participate in SI Sessions? 
SI only works if attendance is anonymous. The goal of SI is to improve students study skills and earn better grades because of what they learn. This can only be accurately assessed if the faculty don’t know who has attended and they don’t receive extra credit to improve their grades simply by showing up. Therefore, SI Leaders know that they are never to share the names of students who attend with their faculty members. 

Offering Extra Credit for these, instead: 

  • Multiple options faculty have offered for extra credit include: 
  • Attending faculty office hours 
  • Visiting the Tutoring Center 
  • Visiting the Writing Center 
  • Participating in academic skills workshops hosted by various programs on campus 
  • Attending presentations on campus related to the course 

What Can I Do if I Know Students Who Would Make Great SI Leaders in the Future? 
If you have current or former undergraduate students who would make great SI Leaders, please encourage them to apply when our applications are open – or email [email protected] to ask questions about the role! You can also always email [email protected] or [email protected] to make sure we have them on our list of students to email about applications. We have found that students are more likely to apply when a faculty member directly encourages them. 


Our application window is typically mid-semester, the semester before. Application materials and instructions can be found on our website: 

How Do I Add My SI Leader to Canvas? 
The steps to add an SI Leader to Canvas should only take 1-2 minutes to complete. You will need your SI Leader’s net ID (the first part of their MSU email before the @ sign – for [email protected], rmcdonald is their net ID). If you have difficulties, you can contact SI Program Staff or the MSU Denver IT department. 

  1. Log in to Canvas.  
  2.  In Course Navigation, click the People link.  
  3. Click the Add People button.  
  4. To add a user, you can search for users with up to one of three options: email address, login ID, or SIS ID. To select a search option, click the button for your preferred search method.  
  5. In the Role drop-down menu, select “SI Leader”  
  6. In the Section drop-down menu, assign the user a section in the course. If you want to limit the user(s) to only interact with other users in their section, click the Can interact… checkbox.  
  7. Click the Next button.  
  8. Select Submit.  
  9. You can also view these helpful instructions, from the Canvas Community website, by clicking here.    

How Can I Encourage My Students to Take Advantage of SI? 
Here are some ways faculty members have promoted SI to students and encouraged their participation in SI Sessions: 

  • Promote SI to all students in their class, not just those who are struggling, since students of all levels learn from each other by attending SI. 
  • Include information about SI on their course syllabi. 
  • Post announcements about SI on Canvas and other course platforms/materials. 
  • Add their SI Leader to Canvas, so they have another avenue to connect with students and access the course material students have access to. 
  • Send exam scores to SI Program Staff to share SI Participants’ vs. Non-SI Participants’ scores and announce the results to students to encourage them to attend sessions. 
  • Make announcements about SI Sessions in addition to and/or with the SI Leader when they make announcements and reminders of SI Sessions. 
  • Collaborate with the SI Leader to find creative ways to market the session to students in the class. 

What Could I Add to My Syllabus?

We recommend SI faculty partners include a brief “blurb” on SI in their course syllabi to demonstrate your support of the SI Program and encourage students to attend SI Sessions.  This is optional, as we know your syllabi may already be completed, but here are two examples of a description that can be modified or simply cut/pasted: 

Basic syllabus statement:

Supplemental Instruction (SI) group study sessions are available for this course. SI provides free group study sessions at least twice a week, and students who regularly participate typically earn higher grades. SI is beneficial and open to all students enrolled in this class, not just students who are struggling. For information about the days, times, and locations for SI Sessions, refer to the SI website:

Longer syllabus statement:

Supplemental Instruction (SI) is Available to You for Free! 

Supplemental Instruction (SI) group study sessions are available for this course for free, two times a week throughout the semester. These SI Sessions are planned and facilitated by your SI Leader, a student who has successfully completed this course in the past and is attending class and preparing SI Sessions based on the class content. SI Leaders plan sessions where students can improve their understanding of course material, review and discuss important concepts, develop study strategies, and prepare for exams.  

SI is beneficial for everyone and open to all students enrolled in this class, not just students who are struggling. Students who participate regularly in SI Sessions typically earn higher final course grades and exam grades than students who do not participate. You do not need to prepare anything to attend an SI Session, but bring your class notes with you. 

For information about the days, times, and locations for SI Sessions (for this course and all others supported by SI), refer to the SI website:  

Questions? Contact Us.

For further information, please contact us via email or visit us in person at MSU Denver Tutoring in the Jordan Student Success Building, Suite 220.

Supplemental Instruction

Office Email:
[email protected]

Campus Location
JSSB Suite 220

Mailing Address
Metropolitan State University of Denver
Campus Box 62
PO Box 173362
Denver, CO 80217-3362