Higher Education Blog

  • 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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  • 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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  • 4 Study Tips for Students Who Left Studying to the Last Minute

    Whether you’ve fallen behind because you’re a master procrastinator or missed a lot of classes, not all is lost. In university and college, cramming is unhealthy and unsustainable.

    However, if last-minute studying is your last resort right now, you can still use whatever time you have left to your advantage and learn better time management next time.

    Here are 4 tips and tools you can use to make the most out of studying last minute:

    1. Focus only on topics you’re struggling or unfamiliar with

    When studying last minute, you may not have time to review all your class materials and study notes. Focus on what you don’t know yet.

    To identify what you don’t know, take a practice test. It may not be fun to realize how much you have to study for, but this preliminary assessment will let you clearly see where you need to spend time studying.

    After you’re finished, review all the questions you got wrong and see if there are any trends. Maybe they are all from the same chapter or involve the same concept.

    If you’re using MyLab or Mastering in your course, use Dynamic Study Modules to save time. It will not only learn what topics you’re struggling with but also adapt its questions to give you get extra practice on topics you’re not familiar with.

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  • 7 common student procrastination excuses and how to overcome them

    “Nothing is so fatiguing,” famous 19th century philosopher William James explains, “as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task.” This fatigue of procrastination is a university and college student’s worst enemy. When we asked what your biggest struggle is as a student on Instagram, most of you said procrastination and motivation.

    Here are 7 of the most common procrastination excuses we hear from university and college students and how you can overcome each one:

    1. I’m too tired, lazy and stressed.

    Tell yourself you only have to do 10 minutes of work today. Find an easy task (i.e. read over your assignment, write one paragraph) and just start. When you finish, you can put it away guilt-free.

    Chances are, starting will create a momentum for you to do more. Even if you don’t, doing a little every day is better than not starting at all.

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  • Healthy Eating: The COVID Contradiction

    By: Lynn Lafave

    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.

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  • 7 Little-Known Features of MyLab, Mastering, and Revel (Part 2)

    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.

    Here are 7 little-known features in MyLab, Mastering, and Revel you can use today. Find 7 more lesser-known features of MyLab, Mastering, and Revel in Part 1 here.

    Mastering

    1. PhET Simulation Tutorials, Mastering Physics

    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. 

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