Supplemental Workshops in Science (SWS) opened its first three workshops in fall 1991. Its original focus was on liberal arts classes such as history, sociology, psychology, and anthropology. After several years, the workshops shifted its mission to life sciences which included biology, chemistry, physics, and statistics. At the present time, SWS provides workshops for nearly three dozen lower division lectures each quarter.
Because of its success in helping students master course concepts, SWS was designated a Cal Poly Plan program for AY 1996-1997. This designation continued until 2010 when the College of Science and Mathematics provided additional funding to expand the program. In 2011, SWS was selected to be a Student Success Fee program based on its two decades of strong program performance.
Workshop facilitators are usually juniors who are majoring in the subject. Each week they attend lectures, meet with the professor, develop lesson plans, and meet twice a week for 90 minutes with students enrolled in the lecture. Prospective workshop facilitators receive 16 hours of training which includes working with a mentor, developing lesson plans, and leading a workshop.