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  • Instructor standing in front of a class of diverse adult students

    Transform your teaching with MyLab Math

    By Callie Daniels

    “Do the right thing for every student, every time.”

    Callie Daniels has lived by this motto since she first heard it as an undergraduate education student.

    Now, after 30 years as a higher-ed math instructor, Daniels understands how truly important that advice is — and has taken her time to share her teaching knowledge in a new webinar.

    “Math is challenging, and some of our students are barely hanging on.”

    She likens struggling math students to cowboys in a rodeo, holding on to their horses’ saddles for dear life.

    “It’s hard to know what their needs are going to be when they get to us,” Daniels says, “but if we can determine the right thing and just do it, then that’s the best we have to offer our students.”

    Her statements highlight a key dilemma for educators: How can you continuously offer your best to students while avoiding burnout?

    “MyLab uses your time wisely and your students’ time effectively.”

    Author Callie Daniels knows that when higher ed math instructors have the right tools at their disposal, it’s much easier to meet students where they are.

    Engaging, interactive resources like MyLab Math and eTextbooks can help you empower learners and more easily identify and address your higher-ed math students’ needs.

    In her 30-minute on-demand webinar, Daniels explains how to tailor MyLab Math and eTextbook resources to your unique teaching style and objectives

  • College students listening in a lecture

    The Success of the First-Ever Learning Catalytics Summit

    By Pearson

    At Pearson, we’re always listening to faculty and students and, recently, we kept hearing one refrain over and over — classroom engagement was at an all-time low. Fortunately, we knew just what to do. In fact, we had a solution ready.

    For years, Pearson’s Learning Catalytics interactive student response tool has been helping instructors and students connect in meaningful ways. As soon as we knew classroom engagement was lagging, we knew we needed to host a Learning Catalytics Summit to help more instructors learn how to use — and make the most of — this incredible tool.

    On August 1, we hosted the first-ever Learning Catalytics Summit to great acclaim. Attendees participated in four different webinar sessions hosted by Learning Catalytics experts. Each session focused on a specific advantage of Learning Catalytics, but they all spoke to the ways the student response tool can help instructors see learning as it happens.

    The overall message: Learning Catalytics is a powerful student response and assessment tool. As session-leader Aaron Warnock said, “Learning Catalytics — and I cannot exaggerate — revolutionized my classroom.” Brad Mehrtens concurred in his session, adding, “Learning Catalytics makes a huge difference in student engagement at any scale.”

    How Does Learning Catalytics Work?

    Designed to work on laptops and all common smart devices, Learning Catalytics gives instructors a way to connect directly to students and know when everyone is following a lesson and when some are falling behind. This real-time assessment allows instructors to adjust their teaching in-the-moment and address student confusion before it becomes a problem.

    Learning Catalytics empowers instructors to:

    • Engage students with 18 question types that include graphing, drawing, multiple choice selections, open-ended dialogues, and more
    • Identify misconceptions and monitor responses to find out where students are struggling
    • Facilitate peer-to-peer learning with automatic grouping of students so that every group has a member who understands the material

    These features are available whether the class is in-person or online, making Learning Catalytics useful in every teaching environment. As Brad Mehrtens said about his experience using Learning Catalytics with even difficult-to-connect-with classrooms, “[The students] were there, they were engaged. [Learning Catalytics] works… It’s the only thing that works.”

    What Did the Learning Catalytics Summit Cover?

    The summit’s four unique sessions provided a wealth of information on how Learning Catalytics works and how instructors can use it in all kinds of classroom settings and situations. An hour-long each, the sessions included:

    “Unleashing the Power of Learning Catalytics in a Hybrid Environment” with Aaron Warnock

    Aaron Warnock’s session focused primarily on the way Learning Catalytics’ question-and-answer function helps instructors connect with students and students learn better in hybrid environments. Aaron showed audiences how students can answer questions by drawing graphs, clicking on different regions of an image, highlighting relevant information, evaluating complex problems, or simply filling in a multiple choice answer.

    Aaron noted that the different question types give instructors a lot of flexibility in the ways they monitor student learning. Plus, the questions make it easier to get students to answer without them feeling uncomfortable, because everyone participates and no one feels put on the spot.

    “When I saw Learning Catalytics for the first time, and the eighteen different question types that are available, I was instantly sold,” Aaron said. “It creates a fantastic, engaging learning environment for students.”

    “Transforming Large-Classroom Activities with Learning Catalytics” with Brad Mehrtens

    Being a professor who routinely teaches classes as large as 600 students, Brad Mehrtens understands the challenges of connecting with students. In his session, he spoke to how Learning Catalytics helps him keep students engaged in even the largest lecture halls.

    After regularly watching class attendance dwindle — particularly after the COVID-19 pandemic — he started using Learning Catalytics. He immediately had a much better sense of how well his students were learning and, to his delight, attendance evened out.

    “I was as deflated by the pandemic as anyone was, and Learning Catalytics has made me excited about teaching again,” Brad says. “And I don’t say that lightly. It has completely recharged my battery and made it fun to be back in the classroom”

    “Connecting with Learning Catalytics for Success Throughout Your Course” with Pamela Sandstrom

    A number of years ago, Pamela Sandstrom was using other types of student response tools — but that all changed. “Once I switched [to Learning Catalytics], I’ve never even thought about using any other instant response system because of how much [Learning Catalytics] can do,” she said in her summit session.

    Centered on the ways Learning Catalytics can positively impact a course at multiple moments and in numerous ways, Pamela’s talk discussed how useful the real-time data on student learning is to her instruction.

    “Learning Catalytics provides formative assessment,” she said. “But to me that means that I don’t have to wait till the test, or even till the end of the lecture — [I can see] how they’re doing in the class real time”

    “The Tips and Tricks You Need to Know About Learning Catalytics” with Terry Austin

    During his session, Terry Austin shared his screen to demonstrate exactly how Learning Catalytics works and all the ways he can customize it for the needs of a specific class. As an instructor who has been using Learning Catalytics for a decade, he had a lot of great tips and tricks, ranging from linking Learning Catalytics to a Pearson Mastering class to using it to improve seat maps to incorporating it into classroom presentations.

    “Learning Catalytics is clever,” Terry said, noting how much the tool is capable of doing. As attendees to his session and the summit as a whole learned, he was right. Learning Catalytics can empower instructors to assess student learning in-the-moment, improve student engagement, and make classroom time much more successful.

    As Terry noted, there’s a good reason he’s been using Learning Catalytics for a decade.

  • A man is sitting within his home office, interacting on his laptop while writing down information.

    Getting to the heart of great courseware

    By Pearson

    For instructors and students alike, the path to success has become far more challenging. Students are arriving with different life and learning priorities, and varying levels of preparation. Everyone’s working harder, in the face of greater obstacles and deeper uncertainty. Instructors and students both need more effective support, in an era where resources are scarce. Courseware has always been a key resource, but today it needs to deliver more than ever. This makes your courseware decisions even more crucial. 

    Great courseware doesn’t just happen: everything about it is intentional. In this blog post, we’ll discuss how we're delivering on three of Pearson’s core priorities for building courseware that helps instructors and learners thrive – outcomes, equity, and accessibility.  

    Achieve the outcomes that matter

    The most important outcomes are those that learners and instructors want, to help them realize the lives they imagine. Our outcome-based design processes help us understand and identify those upfront, as a “north star” to keep all of us aligned and on track. 

    When we say “all of us,” we’re talking about a wide array of world-class, cross-disciplinary experts all working together, including: 

    • Learning scientists who ensure our products reflect the latest, best evidence on what helps students learn, helps instructors teach, helps people effectively use technology, and helps promote career progress 
    • User experience and content professionals who build and evolve engaging and personalized digital learning platforms, maximize relevance, and present material in powerfully compelling ways
    • Assessment experts who embed opportunities for continual student progress assessment, and identify opportunities to improve our products
    • 6,000+ trusted authors who bring their unique voices and cutting-edge knowledge -- so students never forget they’re learning from other remarkable human beings.

    All this expertise translates into real effectiveness and strong outcomes. Take, for example, the experience of The University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC), which serves 305,000 online students worldwide, many non-traditional or not fully prepared for college-level work.

    Responding to a goal of reducing developmental prerequisites in college-level math and statistics, UMGC faculty assessed Pearson’s MyLab® and an OER alternative through a 2.5-year pilot encompassing 12 instructors and 6,500 students. Based on the pilot’s remarkable results, UMGC has rolled out MyLab widely. That’s translated into dramatic improvements: from 60% to 80% student success in statistics and from 50% to 80% in algebra compared with OER.

    Faculty evaluations have improved, too. Freed from grading, instructors had more time to guide individual students, and they also had richer data to tailor courses around their needs. 

    UMGC’s experience is just one example of how Pearson’s outcome-based design is rooted in superior learning science is helping real learners. Outcomes like these thrill us – they’re why we do what we do. 

    Extend great learning to everyone

    At Pearson, the words “diversity, equity, and inclusion” aren’t cliches or trendy buzzwords. They’re a way of life deeply grounded in beliefs we’ve held for generations: Every individual can benefit from learning, and learning is a powerful force for positive change. Everyone should be welcomed into learning. Everyone should have a fair opportunity to learn, and learning should work for all students.

    What matters more than our beliefs is what we do about them. We’ve built, and we enforce, comprehensive policies for making sure we authentically, inclusively, and respectfully represent people of all kinds. We are committed to minimizing bias. Our content celebrates diverse identities and lived experiences (see some complimentary examples here). We draw on many best practices and frameworks to provide high-quality inclusive content. We offer practical ways to report and dialogue about potential bias in our products.We do all of this so that our products are more inclusive, more relevant, and more accurate. Our DE&I approach to content development results in better products that center learners and increase student engagement.

    Finally, we understand that effectively embedding diversity, equity, and inclusion in our work is a journey. We honor and promote DE&I internally, to ensure that our offerings are created by teams who reflect those we serve. We’re proud to have earned the Human Rights Campaign’s “Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality” award, inclusion in Bloomberg’s Gender Equality Index, and a top grade in the Disability Equality Index, the most comprehensive benchmark for disability inclusion.

    By doing all this, we’re serving learners’ demands. Our 2021 Global Learner Survey found that 80% of learners were trying to educate themselves about issues related to social justice, diversity or gender equality, rising to 84% among millennials and 85% among Gen Z.

    Ensure accessibility to meet everyone’s potential

    For too long, people were excluded from full access to education based on disabilities that were irrelevant to their potential. We’re determined to overcome that, one individual at a time. Our commitment is woven into our learning materials, development processes, innovation efforts, employee culture, and partnerships.

    More specifically: We follow Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 guidelines and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act for products copyrighted 2022 or later. We’ve established comprehensive accessibility standards for creating products that are perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. We’ve built a roadmap for addressing accessibility issues in our existing MyLab and Mastering courses, and we’re doing extensive audits to remove barriers elsewhere. Our teams participate in rigorous, ongoing accessibility training. As of this writing, we offer nearly 900 accessible eTextbooks, and we’re working with T-Base Communications to accelerate delivery of top-selling Pearson titles in braille and reflowed large print.

    Finally, to make sure we truly understand what learners need, we work closely on an ongoing basis with key members of the disability and advocacy community, and with organizations such as W3C, DIAGRAM Center, DAISY Consortium, Benetech, and the National Federation of the Blind.

    Get what your learners deserve

    Delivering on these commitments to outcomes, equity, and accessibility requires extensive resources, skills, and commitment. Not all of the world’s courseware reflects these values. But we think today’s learners should expect no less – and neither should you.

    Explore new ways to help your students succeed.

  • A young woman using proctoring tool on a a desktop.

    The role of remote proctoring tools in academic integrity

    By Dr. Caladra Davis

    Academic integrity has been of paramount concern in distance education since its inception. Arguably, the integrity of online classes received increased attention in recent years due to the pandemic when many instructors and students alike were thrust into the world of online learning by force.   

    During this time, upwards of 75% of all undergraduate students were enrolled in at least one distance education course. Further, 44% of undergraduate students took only online classes during this time (NCES, 2022). Some online instructors utilize measures outside of traditional tests to discourage cheating, such as projects, open-ended assessment questions, or other “internet resistant” question types (Suzuki, 2000).   

    However, many of these instructors also require proctored testing as part of their academic integrity toolbox. While in-person proctoring may be the gold standard, as far as control over the testing environment and the test-takers, remote proctoring may be a more cost-effective option for students who do not live near a testing center or students who need to minimize proctoring costs.  

    Pearson has partnered with two titans of the online proctoring industry to offer remote proctoring options directly within MyLab®: ProctorU and Respondus.   

    ProctorU

    ProctorU has been a well-known provider of online test proctoring since 2008. Once an institution or instructor secures an agreement with ProctorU, instructors will receive an institutional key to enable this proctoring option in their MyLab courses. Depending on the type of license that is granted, the testing cost may be covered by the institution, or it could be passed to students with a paywall before they can access the test.   

    Once enabled, ProctorU can be required for selected tests or quizzes. The process for students could not be simpler; students log into their MyLab courses and access their tests or quizzes as they normally would. When students start their tests, a window pops up that walks students through the steps to start their proctored test experience.  

    After completing the multifaceted identity verification process that includes biometric keystroke analysis, facial recognition, and challenge questions, students are monitored virtually by their webcam, microphone, and ProctorU software.  

    Respondus

    Respondus has been part of the online testing industry for over 20 years. Respondus Monitor is their automated remote proctoring system that uses a student's webcam and industry-leading analytics to detect suspicious activity during exams and has been integrated into MyLab since 2020. To enable Respondus Monitor, instructors can choose to enter the Respondus license of their institutions, if available, or they can immediately choose the Student Payment option, which will pass the nominal test cost directly to the student.     

    Respondus Monitor can be required for selected tests or quizzes. Further, instructors can customize the authentication sequence that students must complete prior to starting their tests (e.g., include custom instructions, require students to show their ID, check students’ environment, etc.).

    Proctored testing is one of many tools often utilized by online instructors to help ensure the academic integrity of their courses. For more information about our platform proctoring options, explore MyLab and Mastering® features or speak with your sales rep today.  

      

    Sources  

    United States Department of Education. N.d. Fast Facts. National Center for Education Statistics. Accessed October 26, 2022. https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=80  

    Suzuki, J. (2020, August 4.). Writing good questions for the internet era. American Mathematical Society Blog. https://blogs.ams.org/matheducation/2020/08/04/3229/

  • Improve learning by adding video

    Improve learning by adding video

    By Pearson

    Video is everywhere. With more than a billion hours of video footage viewed on YouTube every day,1 it is a medium that most students are both familiar and comfortable with. The question is not whether to use videos in higher education, but how to use them to improve learner outcomes.There is plenty of research that touches on the role of video in learning, and there are even some studies that specifically examine the different ways of using video in university or college courses.

    After reviewing and analyzing this research, we’re confident that most higher education courses could improve learner outcomes by supplementing instruction and other learning content with relevant educational videos.

    Here are three reasons why.

    1. Students want to learn from videos

    Video is part of higher education even when it’s not officially part of the learning experience. Some higher education students prefer videos to written sources and many will seek out subject-related videos on YouTube, even when they’re not assigned.

    In a survey of hundreds of business students:

    • 71% said they used YouTube as part of their academic learning
    • 70.5% believed they could learn a lot about a subject by watching related videos instead of reading a book2

    In a 2020 study, a group of higher education students was given 30 minutes of online research time to learn enough about a topic to write a brief summary. On average, the students spent 8.5 of their 30 minutes watching videos. Only 15.7% of the students watched no videos at all.3

    Studies also seem to show that the appeal of video is not limited to particular subjects or learning preferences.4 Whatever the course, and whatever the makeup of the student body, including videos can engage students in learning.

    2. Supplemental videos improve learning

    Videos clearly appeal to students, but do they actually help them learn? When combined with other learning methods, there is evidence that they can.

    A 2021 study looked at different ways of using videos in higher education courses. The researchers found that pivoting the course to video — dropping existing teaching methods and having students watch videos instead — did improve learning somewhat.

    But the biggest improvements came when video was added to the existing course content, rather than replacing it.5

    This may be because adding video gives students more ways to understand the content. If the learning didn’t take hold from a lecture or a written text, maybe it would from a video. Whereas when video replaced other methods, if a student didn’t grasp the content from the video, they had no alternative ways in.

    3. Videos can directly affect learning

    Does including videos improve learning by making the course more engaging, or do the videos themselves help improve learning? Understanding this helps determine the best types of video to include in higher education courses.

    A 2014 study experimented with integrating different types of videos into lectures. When the videos were mainly entertaining, students’ motivation and engagement improved. Higher motivation and engagement are associated with better learning outcomes.

    But when the videos were mainly educational and directly relevant to the lecture topic, students performed better on post-lecture quizzes than those who attended a lecture without videos.6

    This shows that while videos can affect learning by engaging students, they can also have a direct effect on students’ knowledge.

    Improving learning for students at all experience levels

    To summarize, based on a range of studies:

    • higher education courses should include videos
    • videos should supplement, not replace, existing course content and instruction
    • videos should be educational in nature and directly relevant to the subject

    When videos are integrated into higher education courses in this way, students — whatever their previous academic history — are more likely to outperform their predicted grades.7

  • A woman with short hair and glasses sits at a desk smiling at a laptop. Behind her are shelves of books and decorative items and a glass wall to the outdoors.

    End of term: Tweaking your course for next term

    By Dr. Terri Moore

    Many of you may be experiencing those end-of-term emotions ranging from relief to exhaustion. On top of all the final grades and last-minute faculty duties, it’s time to think about the next term’s classes, whether that’s a short summer session or getting a jump on Fall class designs.

    Course review

    If you’re a Revel® user, I suggest you examine your aggregate class data from the easy-to-access dashboard view before automatically copying the current course into the next term’s course shells. The dashboard view gives you a wealth of actionable data.

    The Revel dashboard is a completely different tool for analytics than I have ever used in terms of providing numbers that reflect what was working and what needed improvement. The data helped to inform my decisions about the efficacy of the current course and implied changes I could make to the current design to increase students’ engagement and content proficiency next term. Let’s walk through what I found most helpful.

    Educator Dashboard insights

    The Revel Educator Dashboard provides a great deal of information in the following areas:

    • aggregated class data for a view of overall performance
    • score details to see class performance on each type of assessment assigned
    • struggling and low performing student gauges for quick identification and communication
    • assignments with due dates as well as additional details, including challenging items
    • settings tab showing assessment types and ways to improve the course design

    Assessment data

    When reviewing the assessment data, I ask myself if there are any settings or scoring policies that I might change to increase both engagement and comprehension.

    The view score details section provides aggregate scores for students on each type of assessment assigned, allowing me to note assessment types that received low scores. This can indicate a lack of understanding or a lack of participation. By drilling into the details of some assessment types within the assignment view of the grades section, I might see a lack of participation rather than low scores. This could indicate I should assign greater value for these types of assessments if I feel they are sound activities for students to become proficient with the content.

    Increasing the weight of certain assessments might incentivize students to complete them. Or, by allowing fewer attempts for the Revel module or chapter quizzes, students may be less likely to complete the quizzes without fully understanding the concepts they should have read before taking the quiz.

    You might choose to exclude certain types of assessments next term if you feel the value is less than you wish for students to expend energy and time completing. In that manner, you might increase compliance on the assessments you feel are more robust in helping students acquire the knowledge needed to become proficient in your courses’ required outcomes.

    I acted weekly based on the struggling and low activity student gauges by sending a brief email to those students and it made a dramatic difference in my classes, both face to face and online. For three years I conducted my own efficacy study by examining the effect of using this intervention strategy with my low-performing students. I opened the dashboard view early Monday mornings after the Sunday due dates and dropped each student an email stating I noticed they were having some issues in completing their work in Revel the previous week. I would tell them to contact me if I could be of assistance with anything.

    This simple, very quick intervention was so telling during COVID-19 when students would email me back and share things like they had little connectivity at home with four siblings using the same Wi-Fi, or they had lost their homes and were in the process of moving. Issues that I had no ability to resolve yet tugged at my heart. However, I could put skin on the computer by letting my students know I cared and connected with their struggles. Even if the student was simply slacking, they knew I was an active presence in the online classroom. We know from research on distance learning that human connections between students and teachers, and between peers, are often the variable that increases persistence to completion.

    Over our three years of COVID-19 I have seen an increase of slightly more than 25% retention in my online classes and 13% in my face-to-face classes. Apparently, being engaged with the content outside of class was equally important as in-class presence.

    Deeper course analysis

    The next question I pose for myself relates to what I can change or renew for even greater success next term.

    When you scroll beneath the dashboard to the assignments and you see challenging items, this means there are questions on the quizzes that many of your students did not answer correctly on the first quiz attempt. This could indicate the concept is difficult to grasp by simply reading the material.

    When you dig deeper, you can see the exact question/concept where students struggled. This information has prompted me to add some of my own content to the Revel material to increase students' understanding. For instance, with psychology, operant and classical conditioning are concepts often confusing for intro to psych students. I have added material in my LMS, class, or Revel by using the highlighting and sharing a note feature to increase students’ understanding of that difficult concept.

    I also like to look at overall trends in the term by scanning the dates, the scores, and the participation. This can inform me about seasonal changes in students’ performance such as midterm slump, spring break fever, or those times in any of our terms where students’ performance historically declines.

    Student engagement tactics

    Interventions to increase student engagement might include reducing the number of assessments or using more active engagement assessments, such as asking students to present or to work collaboratively to engage them more fully.

    If you go to the resources tab and open your book, you can select the section you found of challenging items. Highlight that section, add a note or even a URL to create an active link in your students’ notes. You could add a TED talk, or, as I did with my psychology students, a link to YouTube of The Big Bang Theory show where the actors are using operant and classical conditioning to train their significant others. When you share notes like this, the information appears in your students’ notebooks, and they can use your notes as study guides.

    Revel offers the right amount of actionable data for me to understand my students’ progress, their engagement, and where they experience challenging concepts. The platform also helps me improve my delivery, increase student success with Revel, and helps students become proficient in the learning outcomes.

  • blog image alt text

    Outcomes: Scaffolding student success

    By Dr. Terri Moore

    My colleagues and I often chaffed under the stress of needing to get ready for our classes while attending the dreaded college-required professional development sessions on “Outcomes” designed to comply with accreditation. We were offered little more than college-dictated Educationese required inclusion in our syllabi.

    Most of the outcomes were far too broad and vague to be measurable, and I began to daydream about how to make these days have some merit. I started to muse about outcomes. I needed a definition beyond what’s left at the end of something.

    Specifically, what is a useable learning outcome? What would meaningful outcomes look like? Linda Nilson tells us that learning outcomes are what we want our students to be able to do by the end of our course. Therefore, it makes sense to think about designing meaningful course-specific outcomes by looking at the desired end and working backwards, determining the building blocks needed to reach those goals.

    Patricia Cross stated the sole purpose of teaching is learning. This does not mean the teacher is the singular path to learning. In fact, learning often occurs best when the wise teacher gets out of the way to allow it to happen organically. Conversely and sadly, there can be a great deal of teaching with little, to no, learning.

    I felt myself in the later position more than I would like to admit, working so hard while my students expended little energy. I was expending the lion’s share of classroom energy. I wondered how to flip this energy grid, so the students would become the primary energy consumers.

    Learning scientists tell us that deep learning is not easy, it takes effort. Effort = expenditure of energy. So, if my students spent little energy, and learning consumes lots of energy, then the ratio of teaching to learning was seriously off-balance in my classrooms. I was doing so much teaching that was not resulting in a proportional amount of learning. I realized I needed to become the classroom learning facilitator.

    I daydreamed about my ideal class with students learning. Teachers often believe we are the keepers of knowledge and only from our mouths may students learn. We’re the rock stars, dancing as fast as we can in front of the class, exhausted at the end of the day. And, while rock stars often get glowing student reviews, studies have shown students often mastered less than students in classrooms with methods focusing on learning outcomes rather than what the teacher teaches.

    Sound outcomes contain three statements:

    1. how the outcome will be measured;
    2. what the conditions will be for demonstrating the outcome;
    3. and, the criteria for evaluating the student’s performance of the outcome.

    How the outcome is measured might be stated in terms like; define or compute. The conditions for measurement might include; speeches, portfolios, or maps. Finally, the criteria for evaluating are the rubrics developed to measure progress.

    There are cognitive, psychomotor, affective, social, and ethical outcomes; however, I am only examining cognitive outcomes. Bloom’s taxonomy remains an excellent framework for developing cognitive outcomes. These cognitive processes begin with knowledge. Without knowledge, students have no material with which to construct an end result.

    Parroting new information in order to remember is the first rung. This might be coupled with comprehension, the second learning process, where the student is able to express the information in their own words. The third rung is application, using newly acquired information in unique situations. The fourth step analyzes the new information understanding how the components relate. Synthesis follows as students use isolated components creating new skills or products. The student reaches the top of the cognitive structure and is able to see from a new vantage, evaluating the relevancy of this learning.

    It is important to note that outcomes have little merit without motivated students. Maslow’s hierarchy of need offers an excellent frame for motivation – beginning with the subfloor of meeting physiological needs and safety concerns, moving to a sense of belonging, leading to increased self-esteem, and culminating with self-actualization.

    I am able to address each in my classrooms, creating environments with little effort that are physically comfortable, a safe space emotionally and physically, with collaborative activities increasing belongingness, giving constructive and meaningful feedback that increases self-esteem, and encouraging students to design their paths to uniquely defined success leading to self-actualization.

    The principles of Bloom’s learning ladder coupled with the scaffolding of human/student motivations in Maslow’s research integrate learning and motivation producing my dream classroom.

    The learning outcomes were supporting my course redesign. I reviewed assignments, assessments, and classroom strategies. If I found an activity or evaluative tool having little connection to the learning outcomes, I eliminated them, creating other activities better aligned with outcomes. I limited the number of outcomes so I could measure each and offer timely feedback so students had a very transparent view of what it would take to be successful.

    My class gradually became far less about how much material I was able to cover than about how much progress students were making toward a final goal of mastery. This sometimes led to decreasing the amount of content I had assumed necessary simply because the textbook offered X number of chapters.

    I kept in mind the BIG question, “What do I want my students to be able to do when they walk away from my course?”

    Now, a warning! This outcome-based, learning-centered environment is often noisy. I have had one or two neighboring professors, request a room change due to the enthusiastic discussions and sometimes raucous laughter emanating from my students’ engagement with each other and the course principles.

    I once had a provost, invited to visit student end-of-term presentations, become so engaged with the students and their learning that she remained for the entire class rather than the few minutes she had intended.

    I’ll also warn that you must be prepared for changes in yourself. Motivation is infectious. The more motivated I became to create a sacred space for my students to learn, the more motivated they became to learn, which in turn reenergized me. I had found my teacher fountain of youth. The energy grid was teeming and flowing all over the place, back and forth from me, to students, to outsiders. I went home at night, not exhausted, but energized.

    So, I guess I’ll express gratitude for those many tedious and painful college “Outcome” in-services for boring me into daydreaming and taking action.

  • blog image alt text

    How to design a course backwards

    By Debbie Schmidt

    Being assigned a new course can fill a professor’s heart with joy, dread, or a bit of both.  The joy can come from the excitement of being able to create something new; to put into use all the techniques and technology that you have learned about and exercising the academic freedom that you may have been denied teaching courses designed by others.  Some may dread it because of the daunting amount of work necessary to design and implement a new course; often without extra time or pay to do it.

    Recently, I found myself in both the camps of joy and dread.  I was given the opportunity to develop the fully online version of Anatomy and Physiology at my college.  I have taught the subject many times, so I knew the course, the student population, and the resources well.  I had just completed courses myself about creating engaging online courses and I had lot of ideas ready to go.

    Then, I was begged to revamp an old course in Human Diseases, a course I have not taught before, knew little about the student population or resources, and just had an old syllabus to go by.  It also had to be changed from a 16-week semester to an 8-week term.  And oh, by the way, it started in two weeks.  Ugh.

    So, there I was, designing two different courses and I had two vastly different attitudes about it.  With the time crunch, I had to be very deliberate about how I invested the time I had.  Human nature had me wanting to spend all my time on the course I was excited about.  That felt good.  It was fun to me.  But I also had a responsibility to produce a good course for the other about which I was less excited.

    For a moment, I sat there with the world of possibilities swirling before me.  Syllabi, readings, PowerPoints, videos, delivery platforms, assignments, labs, quizzes, exams and more piled up inside my head, threatening to bury me under the weight of the time needed to create them while each rallied for my attention first.  It was hard to know where to start!

    Then I remembered the work of Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe called Understanding by Design in which they recommend that instead of starting at the beginning, I should start at the end.  Their strategy called Backward Design, also called backward planning or backward mapping, is a process meant to be used to design learning experiences and instructional techniques to achieve specific learning goals.