Northern Arizona University: A suite of initiatives to help first and second-year students

As part of our e-Literate TV series of case studies, we had a chance this fall to interview faculty and staff at Northern Arizona University about, well, a lot of stuff.[1] Rather than highlighting a specific program or course redesign, NAU has invested in and implemented a suite of initiatives focused on improving student learning and success by rethinking the experience of (mostly) first-year students.

The core challenge NAU faces is to make these student-facing changes while facing growing enrollment, particularly for full-time undergraduate students.



To make matters more interesting, more than 40% of first-year students are first-generation – a demographic group that can be fully capable of getting a degree but with an uphill climb in the first year. These challenges lead to a somewhat unique situation for a large research university. In this first episode, we highlight the suite of initiatives and how they fit together.

(Video source:

In upcoming videos we’ll take a deeper look at two programs. In episode 2 we’ll look at NAU’s student support outside of the classroom, driven partially by the Integrated Planning and Advising for Student Success (IPASS) initiative. In episode 3 we’ll look at NAU’s use of a modified emporium for first-year math courses.

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  1. Disclosure: Our e-Literate TV series of video case studies and explainer videos is funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. []

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About Phil Hill

Phil is a consultant and industry analyst covering the educational technology market primarily for higher education. He has written for e-Literate since Aug 2011. For a more complete biography, view his profile page.
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