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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Black boxes on a video call. Silence after asking a question. An empty discussion board. Teaching online can make it difficult to see when students need extra help.
85% of students said the pandemic has negatively affected their grades and academic performance . To prevent failing, how can you spot students falling behind and help them succeed online before it’s too late?
Watch for trends in data
One of the biggest benefits to using educational technology is the ability to monitor student progress closely. Aside from a gradebook, teaching platforms like Revel give you a detailed look into how students are keeping pace with their readings and their individual performance.
From education to eating, the pandemic has impacted every aspect of society. We asked Dr. Lynne Lafave, the co-author of Nutrition: A Functional Approach, how COVID-19 has affected our nutrition and how students can learn to build healthier eating habits during these stressful times.
How has COVID-19 affected nutrition habits?
A great deal of research world-wide has investigated predictors of healthy and unhealthy eating habits. Food prepared and eaten at home has been generally found to be healthier with higher nutrient density (more nutrients per calorie eaten) and lower energy overall. As a result, preparing and eating food at home is considered an eating habit associated with improved health and nutrient sufficiency.
In contrast, what we know is that adults, adolescents, and children are more likely to eat nutrient-poor energy-dense foods when the food is eaten away from home, school, or work. Examples of these nutrient-poor energy-dense foods include pastries, chips, soft drinks, and confections (candies and chocolate). The connecting characteristic is the ultra-processed nature of these foods and consuming larger proportions of these foods is a strong predictor of lower dietary quality and weight gain. Therefore, frequent eating food away from home is considered an unhealthy eating habit.
So, when various physical distancing restrictions were implemented to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and people spent more time at home, it seemed a reasonable hypothesis that this could lead to improved healthy eating. But nothing could have been further from the truth.
It seemed a reasonable hypothesis that spending more time at home during the pandemic could lead to improved healthy eating
Researchers quickly began to investigate the effects of COVID on eating habits and found some surprising results. In Italy, one of the first countries to institute lockdown measures, there was a significant increase in chips, sugary drinks, and red meat consumption among children and adolescents.
Evidence continues to trickle in demonstrating that poor dietary choices and increased drinking behaviours have increased world-wide as a result of the pandemic. In fact, Canada's Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, used her year-end 2020 address to caution Canadians about their higher alcohol consumption and encourage non-alcoholic options.
Why is the pandemic having a negative effect on eating habits?
To understand the impact of the pandemic on eating habits, we first have to understand factors that influence them.
Food choices are driven by a whole host of factors such as physiological aspects (hunger and appetite), cultural and social pressures, dietary components, familial and genetic factors, and cognitive-affective factors. Cognitive-affective factors such as perceived stress, anxiety, and depression may influence food choices which may help us to understand pandemic eating patterns.
Research has linked anxiety and stress to unhealthy lifestyle choices including the desire to eat and drink to feel better. This type of eating as a coping mechanism represents a stress-avoidance strategy of emotional eating to manage negative emotional experiences.
Popular culture addresses these ideas in media and comedy. Just think of a cartoon story about someone who has just broken up with their significant other, diving into a container of ice cream to drown their sorrows. Research evidence demonstrates that being in a state of sadness predisposes individuals to increased consumption of unhealthy foods.
2020 proved to be a challenging year for educators, to say the least. Many instructors, however, rose to the challenge by bringing creative and collaborative teaching ideas into their online classrooms.
To celebrate all the good things that happened in a tough year, we asked instructors to share their successes from the fall 2020 semester.
Here are 4 trends describing what worked well for instructors:
1. Keeping it short
For a generation of students growing up on social media, instructors found that bite-sized activities kept them most engaged and attentive.
New year, new beginnings. Learning to be an online student was a challenge for many of you last semester. Mistakes were made and lessons were learned. With the winter semester just over the horizon, this is your chance for a fresh start by learning from the past.
Alexandra Clare, CEO & Co-Founder, Re:Coded | December 1, 2020 in Professional
Unreasonable FUTURE is a unique multi-year initiative bringing together disruptive entrepreneurs to create a more sustainable and equitable future for all. Its founding sponsors are Pearson, Fossil Foundation and Accenture. This Q&A series spotlights a few of the ventures in the program to provide a glimpse into the innovative work that is being nurtured.
Training youth in conflicted affected areas to join the digital economy
How would you describe your business to your grandmother?
Our goal at Re:Coded Labs is to democratize access to quality learning and ensure that youth from underserved communities are prepared for the rapidly changing workforce of today and tomorrow. We do this by offering transformative learning experiences to talented youth and educators, in a range of technical and non-technical skills, with the goal of facilitating high value employment in the digital economy.
We offer three core products / services under one umbrella:
Immersive Career Driven Learning Programs
Each of our immersive programs has one goal: to help launch a new tech career for talented youth being left at the margins of the global digital economy. Throughout the programs, students apply theory to real-world problems, learn software development or design skills, and receive instruction and support from industry leaders while maximizing their personal growth. Our students then receive dedicated career support to help them land their first job in the tech sector.
Educator Innovation Programs
Our intent with these programs is to achieve systemic change in outdated learning models and education systems. We do this by empowering educators to reimagine learning for the future of work using our own pedagogical and metacognition framework.
We develop a range of educational products that enable learners to learn faster and more effectively.
What problem does your business solve for society?
We’re in the midst of a digital revolution and traditional education systems and outdated learning models are failing to prepare youth for the future of work. Nowhere is this more evident than in countries that are already affected by conflict, violence, poverty and disaster.
Meanwhile, COVID-19 has caused massive economic disruption, exacerbating the effects of this technical transformation. While the net impact of this pandemic is uncertain, youth who were already at the margins of the global digital economy risk being further left behind and entering a dangerous cyclical relationship between economic disenfranchisement and instability, unless we ensure they have the skills, resources and networks to thrive. We exist to reconcile this global digital inequality divide by providing youth with in-demand skills and networks in order to create opportunity and good jobs for entire communities.
Where did you source inspiration?
The inspiration behind what we do comes from witnessing the problem firsthand. In June 2014, I first traveled to Iraq to implement a peace-building initiative for Syrian refugees who had been displaced by the civil war. Upon seeing the lack of access to meaningful education & employment opportunities for youth, I set about researching initiatives that could bridge the education and employment divide in the wake of conflict.
Two years later after securing seed funding, I teamed up with my co-founder Marcello to create an organization with a startup mindset and a mission to empower youth by teaching high-end technical skills for the digital economy. My background is in human rights law whilst Marcello’s is education in emergencies.
What’s something you know now that you wish you knew when you started your business?
Everything and yet nothing! Starting and growing this organization has been one of the steepest learning curves of my life. I came from a legal background without an MBA or any experience running a business. Yet, every failure has been an opportunity to learn and grow. From designing our first programs to managing complex operations in conflict zones to hiring — it’s been a fun challenge. I’m not sure any business book or course can prepare you for what is to come on the journey of social entrepreneurship.
What’s the best place for people to learn more about your company’s work or to follow your progress?
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While many educators use MyLab, Mastering, and Revel to assign homework and assessment, these platforms host a wealth of other engaging activities students can use to improve their understanding of class concepts.
Many students find physics really difficult. Even students with great math skills struggle with the abstract concepts and theory application. To help them visualize concepts better, you can use PhET simulations in Mastering Physics.
These interactive simulations gives students a way to apply what they’ve learned to a real-life scenario by making decisions or changing variables. This low-stakes environment encourages experimentation where students can learn from their mistakes. Not only will students be able to see concepts and theories in action, but also see how physics is used in the real-world.