Helping U of T students through proactive coaching

Helping UofT Students Through Proactive Coaching

“LEAF funding helped support a 5 year effort to better support first year Economics students in their academic achievement.”

– Prof. Oreopoulos


LEAF funding helped support a 5 year effort to better support first year Economics students in their academic achievement. First year instructors required students to take a ~60min online “warm-up exercise” at the start of the course. Students were randomized into different groups, some receiving online advice about time management, studying, adopting a positive mindset, setting goals, etc. Some students also received follow-up text-message coaching from trained undergraduates. Over 20,000 students participated, but the programs showed little effectiveness against a comparison group in terms of improved grades and persistence. There were some signs of improved mental health.


Department of Economics,
University of Toronto, Mississauga.

Project lead(s)

Professor Philip Oreopoulos

Year LEAF Granted


Funding Stream


LEAF Priority Area(s)

Digital Learning


Impact of the Project on Students

Students reported liking the initiative and agreed that it should continue. As mentioned, there were small improvements to average measures of mental health.

Impact of the Project on Faculty

The effects were not large enough to justify its continuation, though the work has been documented and the program has been made available for others to modify or test in other situations.

Resources Developed from the Project

You can review many of the programs here:

Future Plans

The project has been helpful in trying to better understand our students – we collected an enormous amount of information about our students, allowing us to track their performance and experiences over time. The fact that we were unable to improve grade achievement, despite enormous effort and confidence in the program we delivered, suggests challenges in supporting our undergrads more generally. More expensive and mandatory personal assistance may be needed to make greater progress. Otherwise, there appears to be a large number of our students arriving who do not have the capacity or desire to meaningfully change their study habits in a way that could change their trajectory.