Higher education blog

Explore insights, trends, and research that impact teaching, learning, and leading.

  • 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.

    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.

  • Person writing at desk

    Studying Techniques: A guide to organizing your approach to studying

    By Caleb Ripley

    A good approach to how you study can make all the difference in your ability to feel prepared on exam day. This blog covers spaced repetition, active recall, and Feynman technique as studying methods to help you prepare for any quiz, assignment, or exam you may have as a post-secondary student. Regardless of your major, or field of interest, these study habits will make you retain what you learn and genuinely understand the content. In this way, these techniques can improve your overall academic performance by streamlining how you think about studying. The best part is that these techniques are evidence-based revision and study techniques, meaning you can trust their efficacy.

    Spaced Repetition – Refining learning

    • Fundamentally, spaced repetition allows you to utilize flashcards (virtual or physical) to space out the content you need to know over days, weeks, and months leading up to an exam. This is contrasted by cramming where you overload your mind with a lot of content in a short period and forget most of it after the assessment. Spaced repetition helps with memorization and comprehension, and it helps to reduce the “forgetting curve” which is essentially a theorem that suggests that we forget things consistently over time at an exponential rate (where % remembered is on the y-axis and time is on the x-axis). To prevent this deterioration of knowledge, you can repetitiously practice what you’ve learned through active recall at points along the forgetting curve which slows down the forgetting process, and over time you start to remember increasingly more of what you read and take notes on. This counteracting of the forgetting curve through active recall techniques allows for spaced repetition to be the most intuitive and straightforward way to organize your thoughts and structure your understanding of various topics so they stick. What you may take away from the forgetting curve is that the more your brain must work to understand something, the stronger the encoding process is. There are three easy steps to implementing spaced repetition in your studies. First, use google spreadsheets and create a different sheet for each course and, within each subject, list what you need to review in the first column (A). Second, write the date you revised that topic in the next column. Continue this to track your spaced repetition of each subject. Finally, color coat each revision date in Green for proficiency, yellow for moderate, and red for struggling. In doing so, you can optimize what you’re focusing on so that you can improve in the areas that are giving you the most difficulty. As time progresses, your red areas will move to yellow and then green, and your understanding will broadly improve as well. In closing, focus on the topics you have marked as red and optimize your approach to studying these red topics so that you can balance out what you need to know.  

    Feynman Technique – Approaching Learning

    • Albert Einstein said, “you don’t know something well if you can’t explain it to a child”. This principle is what guides the Feynman technique which is a technique designed to help you understand complex subject matter by deconstructing its components and individually grasping each idea. In this sense, you will have broken down, easier-to-understand concepts that add to the sum of the larger and more complex idea. One way to utilize this technique is to take a broad idea such as, “Why do economies of scale reduce the cost of production?” and break it down into smaller components such as “Why do costs fluctuate?,” then you ask yourself, “Why can I get something cheaper from wholesalers?” then you can start to further elaborate on these simplified questions to have a more intuitive understanding that costs fluctuate due to factor input costs, and these input costs are variable. The larger a corporation, the larger its production scale, and this capacity leads to a decrease in cost per unit of output which further enables an increase in scale and reduced costs of production which translates into lower prices for the consumer. Take these questions, and “teach them” to yourself or others in a study group. Finally, the Feynman technique adds value to your studying routine for four key reasons. First, it helps you identify important topic areas. Second, it allows you to deconstruct these complex topics and break them down using simple language. Third, you can use this simple language to better grasp the problem areas which, when resolved, leads to a more intuitive understanding of the content. Finally, this technique allows you to then take your intuitive understanding of the individual parts of the complex idea and transfer this understanding to other topic areas clearly to you and easy to utilize.  

    Active Recall – Learn, Elaborate, Regurgitate.

    • The point of active recall is to retrieve information already in your brain to elaborate on the newly learned subject matter. Essentially, active recall is based on asking yourself questions and retrieving information from your brain rather than trying to simply put novel information into your brain. For example, while reading a chapter in your textbook, it is more helpful to create questions based on the key areas of each paragraph. Use the previously mentioned spaced repetition, to go back and answer those questions at the end of the chapter, and make sure that you’re connecting the subtle details. For example, active recall for a biology student may include reading a chapter in Neurophysiology, and writing down essential questions such as, “Why does negative feedback result in an oscillation of the controlled variable?” or, “What is Einstein’s diffusion equation and what is D for ACh?.” In doing so, you’re engaging with the content at a deeper level and you’re enhancing the retrieval proposal. To create an actionable plan to utilize active recall, you should follow this three-step structure. First, write down questions while reading the chapter or lecture notes. Second, go back to the end of the chapter and answer those questions from memory or lecture notes. Finally, have a colour coating system. For questions, you couldn’t answer at all mark them red, for questions you could partially answer mark yellow and for questions that you had an easy time answering mark them green. In closing, active recall is beneficial for four key reasons. First, it is versatile meaning it can allow you to streamline and optimize your learning experience regardless of the subject. Second, it allows you to constantly test yourself so that you are aware of what you don’t know. Third, it saves you time by optimizing what you focus on, and it improves the depth and breadth of your knowledge. Finally, it highlights your mistakes because you’re forced to retrieve the answers to your questions from memory and this identifies specific gaps in your knowledge.

    In conclusion, we’ve discussed Spaced Repetition, the Feynman Technique, and Active Recall as functions of a good study routine. Collectively, these are evidence-based learning techniques that have been proven to optimize the way students approach knowledge acquisition, their ability to retain what they study and most importantly they improve the brain’s ability to overcome mental obstacles; such as the so-called “forgetting curve” which, when ignored, puts constraints on the amount of information that can be effectively processed. It is through techniques like these that students can improve their academic performance. Best of all, the Pearson suite of products (MyLab, Revel, Mastering...,) includes an easy-to-understand interface that allows users to utilize the above techniques in real-time. For example, in Pearson MyLab, three important tools relate to the above-mentioned study techniques. First, “Demo docks” walk students through how they will solve the problem if they get it wrong. Second, a “study plan” is an option that allows students to engage with active recall and focus on improving in areas they’re struggling with automatically through the software. Finally, the ability for students to interact with the interface and answer questions, create a study plan, highlight their textbook, and takes notes means that all their learning needs are in one place, and this reduces the obstacles to learning and improves your experience as a student.  

  • Understanding Goals and Progress - What Is a Goal?

    By Caleb Ripley

    Congratulations! You’ve been admitted into the next chapter of your life and as the visions of future achievements start to flood your imagination, I wish you the very best! Higher education can be a rollercoaster at times, and I would like to offer a three-step approach so that you can achieve your maximum potential and sidestep some of the mistakes that others have made. First, is to define what a goal is, then we look at how to set yourself up to achieve the goals you set and finally we look at the importance of being consistent.

  • 3 Tips for Balancing Academics, Work, and Extracurriculars as an Incoming First-Year University Student by Marianna Hsu

    Going into university is such an exciting time in your life. It is understandable why so many people refer to their university years as “the best four years of your life.” As a university student, it can be overwhelming finding a balance between joining clubs, growing friendships, doing well academically, and working a part-time job. As an incoming freshman, it can be especially challenging trying to navigate the transition to university. In this blog post, I will talk about my experiences and tips on how to balance your busy university life as an incoming first-year student. 

  • Out of the Office, Back to Basics: A Student's Perspective on Remote Work

    Photograph by Allyssa Harman
    Allyssa Harman, Ontario Tech University  |  June 15, 2022

    Introduction: Why Should I Consider Remote Work?

    My workday was off to a productive start as I had just finished editing my final assignments for the winter semester. Satisfied with my efforts, I saved my documents and began my next project, all while sitting comfortably on my laptop at home. Future employment opportunities have quickly become the main topic of discussion amongst my peers. Like many students, I have submitted my resume to countless employers, though many of my peers have admitted they are unsure of where to go after graduating. However, I am explicitly targeting remote opportunities for long-term employment, and here’s why I think any student with doubts about their future should do the same.

    You should know that uncertainty is normal in our constantly changing world, now more than ever. Sometimes you might be caught off-guard, unsure of where to go next or who to turn to, and that’s perfectly fine! Though remote work might not be for everyone, it is worth a shot for many to see if a viable long-term career option would best suit their needs. I was very hesitant to pursue remote work at first, especially considering the conforming nature that workplace culture has been founded upon. Despite my initial uneasiness, I now firmly believe that working from home will be the basis of future employment. As both companies and workers are realizing the benefits that come with this new model, there is no better time to join the remote workforce!

    The Benefits of Working from Home:

    There are plenty of benefits to consider when looking at the future of remote opportunities, especially as a post-secondary student looking for work. For one thing, international students have benefited from the shift to online environments and remote jobs, with many saving on travel costs and getting the chance to stay close to home while continuing their studies. Individuals who suffer from severe health and immunity issues find it significantly easier to take online courses or work remotely. Many students who have worked during the school semester admit to skipping classes because their shifts and in-person lectures overlap; online courses make it simple for students with busy lives to plan out their schedules in a way that suits them best. Online working environments can positively impact staff, with many corporations learning these benefits after disposing of the one-size-fits-all model for their employees throughout the global pandemic. Overall, it is hard to look past the upsides that come with skipping the commute to the office and working at home instead.

    My Experience with Online Learning:

    In March 2020, the global pandemic halted my winter semester. I distinctly remember telling my friend that I would see her on Tuesday for our next lecture, only to have all classes cancelled the next day. The online transition differed for all institutions, with some acting faster than others. My university was very quick to transition, with the aforementioned Tuesday lecture proceeding as scheduled in a digital environment.  The first semester was stressful for both students and professors, especially those unfamiliar with or not fond of online teaching and learning. Little did we know that this new learning format was far from a “one-time thing”, as every semester since then has consisted solely of online courses. During the ease of lockdowns and restrictions I had a class that was intended to be hybrid, though we only had a fourth of our lectures offer the option for learning in-person due to unforeseen circumstances. My experiences with online learning have only further contributed to my positive outlook on digital work environments, as I see no benefits when considering in-person learning now that we have comfortably adapted to these new formats.

    My Perspective on Working From Home:

    I have struggled to land positions regarding remote work opportunities due to my lack of experience. Many employers want upwards of three years in a specific field, something out of reach for those who have been trapped by the pandemic’s toll. Additionally, many jobs still demand that people commute daily or travel long distances for work. These jobs can be done remotely in many cases and often require employees to pay for travel costs out of their own pockets. I recently completed a remote opportunity where I worked part-time creating social media advertisements. From my experience, in-person training takes significantly longer than online learning and can detract from one’s adjustment to the workplace. Overall, the opportunity to learn online has significantly improved my skills and increased my chances of future employment.

    The Future of the Workplace:

    Many students that are looking for work today lack experience due to the pandemic, and several companies are hesitant about their next steps when hiring because of this. Furthermore, COVID-19 has forced companies to rethink how they structure schedules, operate work environments, and view their employees as a whole. Despite these points, I am quite optimistic when looking to the future, and I believe the ideal solution for many would be to seek permanent employment that they can do from home. There are plenty of people who enjoy remote work over traditional careers, particularly students with erratic schedules. Online work will bring significant change as more student’s flock to this emerging field, instigating a shift in workplace culture as we know it. Overall, I think the world of remote opportunities is largely what you make of it, as it provides many chances for you to improve your resume and learn new skills online!

  • 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! 

  • Photograph by Ann Yang

    Sustaining Yourself in University: Self-Care and Avoiding Burnout

    Photograph by Ann Yang
    Ann Yang, student, University of British Columbia  |  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!

  • 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.

  • 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!