The University of Iowa

Instructors play an important role in helping their students use Elements of Success and get the most from the program. These best practices can help you to better tailor Elements of Success to the needs of your classes.

Introducing Students to Elements of Success

  • Take some time to explain Elements of Success to your students and give them occasional reminders to check it. This can impact how useful the students find the tool to be.
  • You can introduce Elements of Success as early as you’d like in the course if you’d like students to start thinking about their goals right away, or around the time of the first assessment, when most instructors turn on Grade Estimation or Percentile Rank.
  • Let students know where they can find Elements of Success in your ICON course and what features you would like them to focus on.
  • You can also give students quick reminders to check Elements of Success after major assessments. These may be in class, via ICON announcements, or both.
  • Elements of Success can also be a useful tool to use during office hours or when working individually with students. It is a quick way to check student progress and show them what information to focus on.

ICON Gradebook Management

  • How you set up and manage your ICON gradebook can impact how accurate the grades are in Elements of Success.
  • Update your gradebook regularly. On average, students check Elements of Success about once per week.
  • Set a manual grade posting policy in ICON so that assignment grades are released to all students at the same time. This is important because once grades are posted in ICON for an assignment, Elements of Success views any assignment without a score as zero. This will cause some students to have artificially low scores in Elements of Success.  
  • When you set up your gradebook:
    • Set up assignment group weights early so they are visible in Elements of Success.
    • If using the grade estimation feature, make sure you set up your grade scheme in Elements of Success to match the one in your syllabus. In order to set up your grade scheme in Elements of Success, contact the ITS Help Desk.
    • Let your students know about your grading policies and how they could impact the way grades appear in Elements of Success.
    • Setting a course so that students work at their own pace tends to not work well with Elements of Success. The program treats ungraded assignments as zeros, so if you do allow students to work ahead, don’t post grades until all students have a grade listed for that assignment.

Grade Estimation and Percentile Rank

  • Elements of Success is designed to help students better understand their grades, and students report they find the Grade Estimation and Percentile Rank features to be the most helpful parts.
    • Grade Estimation shows students their estimated grade based on the points currently available, category weights and the course grade scheme. This works well in courses that do not have curved grades.
    • Percentile Rank shows what percentile student scores fall into based on points available and category weights. This works best for courses with a grading curve.
  • Since early formative assignments are often graded based on participation, we recommend waiting until the first major assessment before turning one of these features on, so students don’t see major swings in their performance initially.

Personalize Custom Updates

  • The My Updates section includes auto-updates instructors can turn on or off, such as Top Files and grade increases, percentile decreases, etc, but instructors can also customize those updates and add their own.
  • Customizing updates increases the chances students will read and use the information in them.
    • You can edit course updates to make changes such as changing the opening lines of the auto-updates to language fits the tone of your course better.
    • You can add custom course updates that relate to specific situations. For example, you can send students who get certain grades on an assessment resources or learning strategies, ot you can remind them that they are eligible to retake an exam.

Resources (Find help for this course)

  • Elements of Success includes a link to resources that can help students with the course.
  • You can let the Elements of Success team know what resources you’d like attached to your course by emailing the request to the ITS Help Desk.
  • Resources include general messages to students, links to the writing center, tutoring and other campus resources, links to office hours in ICON, and anything else that can help students succeed in the course.
  • Students may need reminders to check resources.

My Goals/Action Items

  • Under My Goals, students can set their goal grades and choose action items to help them reach those goals.
  • It is important to set a new goal period after important milestones in your course so students can readjust their goals and learning strategies as they move through the course.
  • Elements of Success has a list of potential action items instructors can add to the course. Instructors can also add learning strategies that are specific to the field or course.
  • Action items can also be changed throughout the course. Adding one or two action items specific to a unit can help students adjust their learning as content changes.  
  • Students appreciate customized action items and are more likely to use action items if some are specific to the course.


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