Higher Education Blog

  • Staying Healthy To Keep Our Brains Healthy

    Photo by Tanner Van Dera on Unsplash: https://unsplash.com/photos/oaQ2mTeaP7o

    University/college is stressful; there’s a mountain of homework, assignments, projects and tests on top of the challenges with growing into a fully-fledged adult. This mountain though, can only be conquered when our brains are at their best. To keep our brains in shape, we have to make sure that our body is in shape as well. Regular exercise and healthy living can potentially be the single best improvement a student can make to help with college/university. Scientific research has shown that exercise improves both learning and memory - can a student ask for anything more? Often the biggest fear for busy students, however, is the time commitment. Time spent staying healthy should be thought of less as time wasted, and more as time invested in school and on yourself. You might lose an extra hour or two of studying, but the benefits exercise and healthy living contribute to your brain will multiply the value of the hours you study.

    So how can you maximize the benefits of healthy living?

    Practice good sleep hygiene

    It’s easy to say, but it’s probably one of the hardest things to do as a college student. There’s just so much that we want to do every day, from school assignments to hanging out with friends. Some days, there’s just no way that you’re going to get eight hours of sleep, and that’s okay. As long as it doesn’t become a habit and if on average you’re still getting a good amount of sleep, your body will still be able to refresh and re-energize. The amount of sleep isn’t the only important factor either. Especially with online school, it’s easy to mess up your sleep schedule and begin to sleep during the day and stay awake all night. Our body has a natural sleep-wake cycle and flipping it definitely won’t help our brains.

    Eat healthy

    Eating healthy is hard as a student. It takes time to prepare meals and ready-made healthy food seem to be more expensive. A lot of that is out of control, but try as much as possible to eat whole foods and make sure you’re consuming enough fruits and vegetables. Meal prepping for the entire week on the weekend can help so that you’re not strapped for time on a busy school day. In the business of school, try not to miss a meal either. Without nutrients, our body and brain can’t function, so it’s important to eat our three meals a day.

    Stay physically active

    It’s scary to think of how many hours we probably spend sitting in a chair as a student. Most of it is unavoidable; it’s hard to study or type up an essay without sitting at our desks. So, when you have time to spend away from your desk, be sure you’re participating in physical activity. Even a mere thirty minutes daily, can go a long way to keeping your body healthy and your mind fresh. If you don’t think a daily goal is possible, set a weekly goal instead. It’ll give you some flexibility and even if you’re not active every day, you can make it up on other days. Physical activity isn’t restricted to going to the gym or running outside. Playing sports with your friends, going for a hike or even strolling through campus for an hour is incredibly good for you.

    Do you have a compelling story or student success tips you’d like to see published on the Pearson Students blog?  If you are a university/college student and interested in writing for us – click here to pitch your idea and get started! 

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  • Sustaining Yourself in University: Self-Care and Avoiding Burnout

    Photograph by Ann Yang

    Photograph by Ann Yang

    Ann Yang, student, Ontario Tech University  |  March 17, 2022

    Maintain your machinery before your machinery demands it upon you.

    One of the most toxic mindsets common in post-secondary students is the idea that “I can rest after I’ve gotten my degree.” Who can blame us? When the world demands high academic achievements, strong network connections, and extracurricular success, we are bound to be overwhelmed. There are only so many hours in the day. Unfortunately, many choose to sacrifice self-care. Having a healthy social life, getting eight hours of sleep, and taking breaks became a student’s guilty pleasures. We are constantly haunted by the voices chanting “you should be doing something productive right now.” Under this mindset, we become stretched thin by all our responsibilities, and burnouts become inevitable. In this article, I will teach you how to redefine success, take care of your body, and recognize the signs of burnout.

    Defining Success

    Success can be defined in many ways. In the post-secondary setting, students are often judged based on their academic achievements. However, we are not solely defined by our grades. Sure, having a high GPA may lead to professional recognition and access to further education, but ultimately, it does not indicate our worth. It neglects contextual factors such as family troubles, health issues, or an ongoing pandemic while measuring only a fraction of our abilities. So, can we really say that a 95 is more successful than a resilient 60 that inspired many in their community?

    Oxford Languages defines success as “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.” While this is true for short-term goals, it is often misused when we describe a human being. When we say “success,” we often extract characteristics like wealth, power, and fame as if they are the entirety of success, but these items are never the sole purpose of one’s existence. For a student, our goal of existence is not “to have good grades.” It is ultimately to live, to enjoy living, and to help others enjoy living. It is to be at peace with our journey. Of course, the details of your aspiration depend on yourself but remember that success must root in satisfaction and happiness. It cannot exist if it is not sustainable or is reaped from a puddle of misery. Achieving your ambition should never rely on you constantly burning the candle from both ends.

    Practicing Self-care

    As students, we tend to limit our vision to temporary objectives and lose sight of the larger world. We neglect the long-term impacts of our sacrifices. For example, staying up late makes you more prone to falling asleep mid-lecture, your body has needs that it must meet by any means necessary. If you keep pushing yourself to the limit without tending to those needs, your body will attempt to forcefully do so itself, or it will break down.

    To ensure both physical and mental wellbeing, you must properly treat your body with respect and care. Here are a few things you can do to practice self-care today.

    • Eat well, sleep well, and exercise are the foundations of self-care. Listen closely to your body signal and respond with kindness. Carry a healthy snack on you, if you often get hungry in class. Find a spot on campus for a quick nap if your body craves rest. If you are too busy, try to find unique ways to fulfill those needs, like asking a friend to go grocery shopping together instead of your usual hangout activities. In your spare time, try to get some movements, however small. It can be going to the gym, jogging between your lectures, or just choosing to take the stairs to your dorm.
    • Learning your destress method. Everyone is unique in their preferred destress methods. Think back to what you like to do in your free time and how it made you feel. Some people feel at peace by expressing their feelings through paintings. Others like to reflect upon their thoughts via journalism and meditation. Some go for a run; others enjoy a nice hot bath. Don’t be afraid to venture out and try new self-care activities. Once you found something that helps, incorporate it into your daily schedule and practice often.
    • Building a resource kit. You may not always have the energy to help yourself. Prepare a small box with a handful of useful items for when you are feeling low. The content of the kit is often personal and specific. Some ideas include materials for destressing (like candles and chocolate), notes of affirmation, and a list of people you can reach out to in a time of crisis. Take the time to learn what resources are available to you and keep the information in your kit. It is always better to be overprepared than underprepared.

    Of course, this list is not comprehensive, but it is a good starter. It is also crucial to remember that you should not attempt to perfect every item listed. It is better to move at a pace you feel comfortable with by setting small, personal, and reasonable goals.

    Facing Burnout

    One of the common consequences of prolonged stress is burnout. When burning out, you are emotionally drained and physically tired, unable to reach your usual level of productivity. Some common symptoms are reduced energy, motivation, and attention, as well as the feeling of helplessness, inadequacy, and frustration. You may find yourself to be procrastinating uncontrollably and experiencing a lot of detachment. While stress thrusts you into a reactive state, burnout makes you withdraw and disengage. Remember, the turning point between stress and burnout can be slow and hard to identify, so be sure to stay attentive to your physical and emotional state.

    The best way to avoid burnout from the get-go is to integrate an adequate number of breaks and self-care activities into your schedule. By routinely unwinding yourself after a tough day, you are building back your capacity to handle stress. It may be easy to treat breaks as a guilty pleasure, but it is crucial to maintain your sharp mind before it demands of you.

    In the event of a burnout, there is really not much you can do except give yourself adequate rest. At this stage, your body is quite physically rebelling and fighting against work, begging for a break. For example, just like how physical injuries heal over time, you cannot rush a recovery by force, but you can provide various accommodations to assist the healing. In this case, it is to accept the fact that you need a break and put down your work for a proper rest. Contact your professors for extensions, get a sick note, and take a two-day vacation. Allowing the complex machinery that is your mind to heal completely before diving back into the busy academic life is simply more efficient than wallowing in despair for a week.

    Going forward, try to identify the source of your burnout and find ways to solve, limit, or mitigate the impacts. To name a few strategies, taking fewer classes, setting work-life boundaries, and developing healthy stress outlets can go a long way.

    Do you have a compelling story or student success tips you’d like to see published on the Pearson Students blog?  If you are a university/college student and interested in writing for us – click here to pitch your idea and get started!

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  • 7 Tips for Creating an Effective Video Presentation

    Sylvia Harnarain, student, Ontario Tech University  |  February 22, 2022

    COVID-19 affected the entire world in some form or another, and students were no exception to this. With the transition to online learning, professors had to come up with new and innovative ways to engage students and create assignments for us to complete. A common assignment that I have gotten over the course of my online learning experience is pre-recorded video presentations in place of live-in-person ones. Video presentations are a creative way to present information, but can be a big undertaking. Not only do you have to do the research, but you also have to be able to present it effectively. What are some ways to make an effective video presentation you ask? Don’t worry, I’m here to help with 7 tips for creating an effective video presentation!

    My platform of choice is Microsoft PowerPoint to create video presentations.

    Less is more when it comes to text

    I’ve always been taught that the best presentations are the ones with the fewest words on the slides! I’ve definitely carried that advice with me throughout high school and university. Having less text makes it not only easier for the audience to understand and follow along with, but also helps you, as the presenter stay organized, and not get lost in a jumble of words.

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  • Submit a Blog Pitch for the Pearson Students Blog

    Thank you for your interest in writing for the Pearson Students Blog!

    The Pearson Students Blog features pieces written by students with topics that focus on their post-secondary experience—student success, student life, study tips, sustainability, productivity, organization strategies, exam preparation, and more. While topics can be wide-ranging, they must relate back to the post-secondary student experience in some way.

    Please keep the following in mind:

    • Your blog pitch should be a paragraph in length and be no more than 150 words.
    • Please provide in your pitch a brief explanation as to why your topic is important.
    • Be sure to submit your pitch with your university/college e-mail address.
    • Do not send an entire blog submission or it will get rejected.
    • Once our team reviews your blog pitch, you will hear from us within five (5) business days regarding the next steps. If your pitch is accepted, you will be given a link to the correct place to submit a draft, as well as guidelines for blog-writing.
    • If your blog is accepted and your draft is finalized, the Pearson Students Blog team will schedule your blog to be published on the Canadian Pearson Students Blog site. Feel free to share your published blog on social media and/or list it as an accomplishment on your LinkedIn profile. This is a BIG opportunity to be PUBLISHED—celebrate it!

    Here are some example blog pitches:

    "There is no such thing as being “bad” at English! Some of us may struggle, but anyone can learn to write an A+ essay. Whether it’s learning to read a book critically or figuring out how to organize an essay in a way that is both creative and coherent, students struggle to make an essay their own. But I have good news! All it takes is a few steps to write creative, organized, and interesting essays while still following all of the rules your professor has given you. This blog article will share 7 important tips for writing a great essay. One example is “Step 5: Quality over quantity when it comes to quoting…”

    “Growing up, my parents told me "do what you love, and the money will follow." Though my sister decided to take this to heart and become a full-time musician, my parents were actually rather skeptical of her decision. In June 2017, my sister and I formed a soft-rock band, and our lives have never been the same. What started as a hobby has turned into a whirlwind adventure of recording an album, playing live shows, and connecting with people on a new level. I have started using social media marketing to connect with our audience, and have gained communication skills through negotiating with music venues for concert bookings. My parents were right: if you have the ability and the skill, and you love what you do, go at it full-force, and success will someday follow.”

    “I think as a college student taking several classes, each with their long lectures and hour-long exams, having to complete a set of questions and activities on a weekly basis isn't the best. It's even worse when you get all the tricky questions. But, MyLab and Mastering program is not out to kill your grades. I was able to use the programs in my sciences courses to see how well I understood the material. It's actually great supplemental material, as well. In this article, I'll talk about my experiences using the programs and my tips on how to make the best of it.”

    Once we accept your pitch, you will receive an email notification (check your spam folder!). Then you will have 14 days (2 weeks) to submit a draft. We are excited to read your pitch!

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  • 5 informal assessment strategies for meaningful formative insights

    Whether you teach online, in-person, or a hybrid format, you can regularly take the temperature of your class and quickly adjust your teaching strategies based on how your students are learning. Here are five easy techniques we’re using to evaluate our classes throughout each lesson and the entire semester.

    1. Watch for understanding

    Read the room. You’re most likely already doing this. Observe and interpret cues from body language and facial expressions or written language by monitoring discussion board interactions.

    If your class is broken into smaller groups, all having their own discussion, it can quickly get chaotic and hard to monitor the learning going on. You can easily assess the room using the +1/-1 count method. As you observe the groups either by walking around the classroom or monitoring the chat, keep a running tally. When someone recalls or applies a lesson correctly that’s plus one, and when you hear a misunderstanding that’s minus one. Then choose a number (minus 3 for example), and, when you reach it, bring the group together for a quick reset.

    2. Ask questions

    Gain insights by regularly asking your students questions that gauge student understanding and detect any misconceptions. You can also do this at the end of a lesson by asking students to come up with three highlights and a question they still have.

    When students are the ones generating questions it gives you an idea of what misconceptions are out there. Are there any concepts that many students are still struggling to grasp? You can use that info to address those things in upcoming lessons.

    3. Confidence check in

    Ask for student feedback often and let them know you actually use it to make the learning experience better. Most teachers (us included) stop in the middle of a lesson and ask if there are any questions but that assumes that the students who have questions feel comfortable enough to admit they may be the only one who doesn’t understand something.

    Instead, you can ask everyone to put fingers up showing their comfort level with the content (one finger for no confidence, two for low confidence, and three for high confidence). This gives you a quick sense of how the class is doing. You can also do it online with surveys and poll features.

    4. Scan data

    Make use of any available metrics you have at hand to notice trends in student engagement. For instance, learning platforms like the ones within Pearson’s MyLab® flag struggling students early on.

    Is there an upward or downward trend? Are students spending more time than usual on a certain topic? If students are dropping off, are they returning to the activity later? Also take note of everything around you like interactions on discussion boards and the types of questions you have coming your way.

    5. Be deliberate

    Every interaction with students in any context can provide valuable insight, so you should craft interactions to inform student learning and your own teaching. You should always be assessing, adjusting, and adapting strategies as you learn about your students.

    Remember, be deliberate as you watch, ask, check in, and scan for insights so you can help your learners and improve your teaching strategies.

    Deeper understanding

    Take a deeper dive into these strategies with our webinar. Watch the recording to learn more and don’t miss the answers to questions that came up during our live Q&A.

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  • Are you experiencing teacher burnout?

    Have you been hearing the term “burnout” a lot lately? What is it? What are the signs? How is it different from just plain old exhaustion?

    Psychology Today defines burnout as "a state of emotional, mental, and often physical exhaustion brought on by prolonged or repeated stress."

    Recognize the signs

    If you are experiencing most of these symptoms you may be experiencing burnout.

    • Having trouble getting yourself to work or getting started on work or a lack of motivation.
    • Noticing your job performance has slipped. Burnout can happen slowly so compare your performance to that of previous years vs. weeks or months.
    • Experiencing changes in your relationships with those around you either by having more conflicts or being more withdrawn.
    • Spending a lot of time thinking about work when you’re not working. If you can’t turn your brain off during family time or when you should be sleeping, it could be a sign you’re in burnout mode. 1
    • Finding it harder to concentrate. Is it more difficult to plan a lecture or answer a complicated student question? 2

    You’re not the only one

    If you checked off most of the items above and are feeling burnt out, know you’re not alone. 52% of employees say they are experiencing burnout and 75% have experienced it at some point in their career. 3

    Kevin R. McClure, associate professor of higher education at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, shared this about his experience with burnout: “I hit a physical and emotional wall. I was tired — tired in a way a nap couldn’t fix. At the end of a particularly long day, I remember a Zoom meeting in which a colleague suggested that we find a way to recognize our graduating master’s students. My immediate response was: ‘Do we have to?’ It was uncharacteristic enough for another colleague to say they were worried about me.” 4

    The pandemic seems to have only increased the number of people experiencing burnout. A survey conducted by The Chronicle of Higher Education found that 70% of the faculty members they spoke with currently felt stressed, while back in 2019 only 32% said the same thing. Plus more than half those surveyed were seriously thinking about retiring or changing careers. 5

    There is hope — Coping with burnout

    Burnout, if not addressed, can lead to serious impacts on your physical and mental health. McClure (with the help of his colleague) recognized the signs and was able to do something about it and you can too.

    Try some of these techniques to get back to your old self.

    • Don’t view burnout as failure
    • Prioritize mental health (enough sleep, good nutrition, exercise, socializing in a safe way)
    • Take time to do activities that take your mind off of work (reading, cooking, running)
    • Find ways to express all your emotions about the situation and keep a close support system (human or animal)5

    When it comes to burnout, it’s important to remember you’re not alone — most people experience it during the course of their career. There are many ways to overcome it, you just have to recognize the signs.

    Sources

    1 “10 Signs You’re Burning Out — And What To Do About It,” Forbes, April 1, 2013.

    2 Mayo Clinic Staff, “Job Burnout: How to spot it and take action,” Mayo Clinic, June 5, 2021.

    3 Morrison, Courtney. “16 Employee Burnout Statistics You Can’t Ignore,” everyonesocial.com, May 4, 2021.

    4 McClure, Kevin R., “Burnout is Coming to Campus. Are College Leaders Ready?,” EdSurge, August, 14, 2020.

    5 Gewin, Virginia, “Pandemic burnout is rampant in Academia,” nature.com, March 15, 2021.

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  • How this Western University professor used Mastering and Learning Catalytics to improve student engagement in a large first-year class

    The challenge of engaging 600+ first-year students with different levels of background knowledge

    Assistant professor and course coordinator, Dr. Ayman El Ansary teaches an introductory Engineering Statics course at Western University.

    One of the biggest challenges he faced was balancing the varying levels of prerequisite knowledge. For some, the fall term may be a review for some, while for others it will be all new material.

    Additionally, Ayman found that first-year students tended to be shy about making mistakes and interacting with instructors, making it difficult to engage a class of over 600 students.

    Grading mid-terms and final exams for this large cohort also required hours of commitment from Ayman and his TAs who said this was “incredibly time-consuming and painful.”

    Using Mastering to imitate the tutorial experience with immediate feedback—which ensured students were prepared for upper-level courses

    When Ayman chose to use Mastering Engineering for tutorials and homework assignment, Pearson Canada’s Digital Learning Managers worked closely with him to understand what he needed and how Mastering can support him in these areas:

    Example-Based Learning

    To help students master core concepts outlined in his learning outcomes, Ayman assigned Mastering tutorials interleaved with worked examples which were followed by problem-solving exercises.

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  • How faculty can use etextbooks to encourage students to read

    Why don't students do their assigned readings? Many aren’t motivated to read through dense pages of information. eTextbooks have encouraged more students to read because of its interactivity and convenience.

    But technology alone doesn't improve learning. Instructors play the most important role in encouraging students to read.

    A 2015 Educause study looked at how an instructor’s use of eTexts affects student reading and learning. It found that 70% of students preferred eTexts over paper textbooks because of instructor highlights and annotations. This feature is just as important to them as the eText saving them money.

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  • Teaching about Indigenous Food Security: Q&A with Melissa Hardy and Dr. Lynne Lafave

    In honour of National Indigenous History Month, we spoke with Melissa Hardy, a Mi’kmaw Dietitian, and Dr. Lynne Lafave, associate professor at Mount Royal University, on the importance of teaching about food insecurity in higher education and why they chose to write about Indigenous food security in the latest edition of Nutrition: A Functional Approach.  

    Tell me a little bit about why you chose to write about food security in Indigenous communities. 

    LL: Thinking about nutrition and assessing nutrient adequacy is based on the premise that everyone has access to and can make healthy food choices. We wanted to take a step back and contextualize the food landscape within Indigenous communities.

    Food security is the first step in the process of making healthy food choices, then once food security is addressed, the opportunities and decisions of food choice can be explored.

    Awareness of nutrition experiments conducted shortly after WWII perpetrated on malnourished Aboriginal communities have been brought to the forefront.

    In line with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission #18, we have an obligation to partner with Indigenous communities to create nutrition education opportunities that meaningfully reflect First Nations, the Métis Nation, and Inuit groups.

    Food security is a term that means different things to different people. What does it mean to you and why is it important?

    MH: Food security to me means having access to enough food that is safe, culturally appropriate, and nutrient dense to meet the needs of individuals, families and communities across the lifespan.

    It’s a complex topic that encompasses food systems and food sovereignty, which for Indigenous peoples are significantly impacted by colonization, as we wrote about in Chapter 13.5 of Nutrition: A Functional Approach.

    Food security is important because nutrition is integral in all aspects of health, whether it be physical, mental, spiritual, or emotional. Nutrition plays a role in every major physiological system in the body and having the right balance of essential nutrients will help with optimal human functioning and overall wellness.

    Being fed is essential, but consuming adequate nutrition that supports individual preferences, is optimal. We all deserve to feel our best and reach our potential. We cannot have this without food security.

    Can you shed some light on the importance of education in addressing food insecurity?

    LL: The Truth and Reconciliation Commission Call to Action #18 states that we must acknowledge the state of Indigenous health in Canada. Food security is a key factor in health and we need to know what is happening in all communities if we strive for change and improved health within Indigenous communities.

    MH: In short, I would say, the importance of education in addressing food insecurity would be to ensure efforts to address food insecurity are culturally appropriate and allow for Indigenous self-governance. 

    It’s 2021, and thus way past time for the truth about Canadian history to be taught- at all levels. In university we are taught about high rates of illness and food insecurity in Indigenous populations, but never given the opportunity to learn why.

    Many of the health problems faced by Indigenous people today are due to diet and are directly related to Canada’s cultural genocide of Indigenous peoples. The World Health Organization (WHO) recognized colonization as the most significant social determinant of health affecting Indigenous peoples worldwide.

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  • Melissa Hardy, a Mi’kmaw Dietitian, on the importance of teaching Indigenous history and learning from wisdom

    As a Mi’kmaw Dietitian who grew up eating wild game, my style of eating wasn’t talked about in my dietetic training. In fact, during my 4 years of university, the only time I consumed moose meat or rabbit was when I went back home to visit.

    When I talked about eating wild game it was shocking for many of my classmates. During my time in university, I tried to conform, and I deliberately choose to reduce (not eliminate) my meat intake, and became disconnected from my roots.

    It was other Indigenous people, those who carry the knowledge—not dietetics—that re-taught me that traditional food is what’s best for my overall wellness.

    My first job working in Northern Cree First Nations really allowed me to see dietetics from a different view. Many of my clients, coworkers and friends who went through the Residential School system shared their experiences with me and how it has impacted their eating habits today.

    It is because of the resilient survivors’ stories that I learned the truth about chronic, intentional food restriction, unethical nutritional experiments, forced consumption of spoiled food, and deliberate withholding of traditional foods, and the impacts it continues to have generations later.

    Many of the health problems faced by Indigenous people today are due to diet and are directly related to Canada’s cultural genocide of Indigenous peoples. The World Health Organization (WHO) recognized colonization as the most significant social determinant of health effect Indigenous peoples worldwide.

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