• Find Your “Why” to Reach Shared Success in OPM Partnerships

    Brought to you by Pearson’s Online Program Management team

    Scot Chadwick, Pearson’s Vice President of Partner Success, knows exactly why he pursued a career in higher education: to change lives, and reach non-traditional learners who couldn’t access traditional on-campus programs.     

    That goes back to his days at eCollege, an early pioneer in providing comprehensive technology, services, and support to help institutions move online. More recently, he put his passion to work at the University of Colorado, leading the rebuild and relaunch of CU Online’s team and operations, and set the multi-campus unit on a path to grow from 900 to 6,000 fully online students in its first five years. Here, he shares his experience and insights to help institutions excel in the fast-changing online environment, and partner successfully with Online Program Management (OPM) service providers.  

    What’s your ‘why’?   

    I really enjoy what I do, but more importantly, I enjoy the impact of the work.    

    I started with eCollege, an online pioneer that was a common ancestor to today's OPMs. We offered institutions and their online learners a wide set of services, technology and support, with a first-of-its-kind shared-success business model. One day early in my career at eCollege, one of our academic partners shared an email with us from one of their students, a single mom living in rural Iowa. In her note she said, ‘I just graduated, and I'm so excited. I just wanted to thank you for offering this program online, because I would have never been able to get my degree if it wasn't offered online. There’s no way I could have made it work.’    

    I’ll always remember that. It made a powerful impact on me because I was raised by a single mom who was never able to get her degree, and it still bothers her to this day.   

    When I think about the work that we do, it's about providing opportunity.  

    You’ve been on both sides of the table. How do you build a true collaborative partnership between a university and an OPM, and overcome the challenges?   

    First, it’s about having shared goals. And, as in any good relationship, it's about really good, candid communication. It's about not being afraid to talk about the things that aren’t going well and that we need to be better at together, as well as celebrating things that are going well.    

    Achieving sustained success is very challenging for any online program. Many partnerships go through ebbs and flows: great times where programs are growing at an extremely rapid pace, and other times when they aren’t. Situations change. The individuals involved may also change, which can influence the tenor of a partnership.    

    When you’re in a challenging phase it helps to take a step back, assess the program(s), the market, your shared financials, and make sure your shared goals are still valid, and you still see them the same way. Then talk openly about how you can achieve them together going forward. There’s always room to deliver a better student experience, and to address core issues that may be getting in the way. 

    You’ve stressed shared success. How do you and our partners define that?  

    Shared success means our interests are aligned, both partners are motivated to achieve our shared goals, and we both benefit from achieving them.  

    A shared success goal might be program growth. Or it might be extending a program’s reach to serve students the institution can’t support today, whether geographically or otherwise.    

    The institution may want to deliver a unique and personalized learner experience or demonstrate to employers that their graduates have the skills and competencies that prepare them for career success. These are just a few of the goals we’re working toward every day with our partners.  

    How can an institution make sure its online programs, and our services, align with its unique mission?   

    Again, it starts with clarity of goals, and the why behind the investment of funding and resources. If an institution wants to expand the population they serve via online programs, how will doing this help them achieve their mission? I’ve seen institutions move rapidly into the online space without first investing time with their faculty and staff to ensure everyone understands how it aligns with their institution’s mission.  

    It's critical to have clarity on why it matters. That can be at an institutional level, but it also should be at a school, college, department, or program level.  

    Scaling a high-quality online program in today’s market is challenging and requires genuine collaboration, communication and support institution-wide. 

    There will always be stakeholder questions about how and why the institution is investing significant resources in this area. Effective institutional leaders listen and can clearly articulate “Here’s why it’s important. Here’s how it connects to our mission and something that's bigger than all of us. Here’s why we’re well positioned to do it and how you can contribute to our success.”   

    Institutions and leaders have also become more sophisticated in how they approach expanding their online footprint. Increasingly, they know to think critically about the “why” of their programs and apply a formal process to evaluate opportunities and program readiness internally, sometimes even before they ask us what kind of support we could provide.  

    What might success look like five years from now? What should partners focus on to get there?    

    Historically, many learners thought: ‘I’ll get a degree, and then it’ll pay itself off… somehow.’ But now learners are rigorously evaluating higher education ROI upfront. As just one example, Google has reported significant growth in searches for the ROI of specific credentials – an MBA, an MS in Business Analytics, an MSN degree, a project management certificate, you name it. Earlier this year, for the first time, searches for alternative credentials outnumbered searches for degree programs.    

    Learners are making more consumer-based decisions in a more competitive environment. Institutions need deeper insight into who they’re serving, and into the learner’s overall experience from the first interaction forward. Traditionally, consumers tolerated less-than-stellar experiences at higher education institutions. Those days are over. You want to re-enroll both current alumni and the new alumni you’re creating every day. To develop that brand loyalty, the experience you deliver in every interaction matters, at every stage of the student journey, digital or live. 

    How do you build teams to deliver high-growth online learning that delivers these great experiences and outcomes?  

    I feel fortunate. My team’s work really matters. We get to have a generational impact on people’s lives. Not everybody gets to do that. For me as a leader, everything starts with making sure this is as meaningful to everyone on my team as it is to me. Then, I work to inspire them to continuously learn, challenge themselves, be unafraid to fail, and be collaborative. And I make sure we’re having fun!  

    Layered onto all that, we need a structured and formalized approach to how we engage with partners. We need to ensure we’re aligning ourselves and our leaders with theirs, reflecting what’s important to them as an institution and in their individual leadership roles.    

    Strategic relationship management is really challenging. The impact of our partnerships is massive. We take that very seriously. We must work every day to show value to the institution and to each of its leaders.  

    That involves engaging many people within our organization. Across Pearson, our team has incredible capabilities. It’s our job to bring in that specialized expertise to make sure every partner and program is as successful as possible. When it’s time to think about the partnership’s future, we want them to think: ‘of course we want to do this with Pearson, because this team understands us, and we’ve built trust in what we can accomplish together.’ 

    When you’re not changing learners’ lives or building great partnerships, how do you recharge? Where would we find you on your perfect weekend?  

    I live in Colorado, and we definitely take advantage of living in this amazing state. My hope is you’d find me on a river, somewhere in the mountains, fly fishing with my wife, my kids, and my dog.

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  • Starting with Stackables? Learn from Maryville

    by Pearson

    You woman holding laptop looking out her window

    Brought to you by Pearson’s Online Program Management team

    Stackable courses offer immense promise to both learners and institutions. To get started with them successfully, it helps to learn from early adopters – including expert innovators such as Maryville University. 

    Maryville is a nationally recognized pioneer in access and opportunity, meeting learners’ fast-changing needs, and helping people quickly gain practical value from education. Even before the university launched stackables, it partnered with leading regional businesses to offer targeted short-term certificates and badges for employee upskilling, reskilling, and career progress.  

    As Maryville president Mark Lombardi says, “We have entered an era of the democratization of education where access and opportunity are expanding and workforce training on a continual basis is a career imperative. Universities must be able to deliver different types of education and high skill training on a variety of platforms to meet the needs of a growing and diverse workforce and a wide array of employers.”  

    Stackables: A Natural Next Step 

    One key element of Maryville’s growth strategy involves attracting learners who’ve earned some college credit but no degree. These are typically working adults who want to earn promotions or transition into better careers. For learners like these, stackables are attractive and efficient. 

    According to Katherine Louthan, Dean of the School of Adult & Online Education, “We’re solving for future of work issues, focused on upskilling in areas with high industry demand. Students in our existing degree programs tell us they need to dive into the content areas more quickly, so they can showcase what they’ve learned to advance in their position or even start new careers. This is a reasonable approach and one we wanted to accelerate for learners so they can apply what they’re learning right away, and gain value whether they complete a full degree or not.” 

    Innovation That Builds on Strength 

    As Maryville moved into stackables, says Louthan, it made sense to build on existing program strengths. “Where were our signature programs? Where are we growing in the future?” 

    Maryville is especially strong at the intersection of business and technology. It had already launched highly successful programs in areas such as cybersecurity, data science, and software development. Its Fall 2021 stackable launch plan focused on these strengths and included five undergraduate-level certificates in computer science: the three aforementioned subjects, plus artificial intelligence and UX/UI.  

    All are offered for credit towards a degree, or stand-alone for immediate credentialing. Like all of Maryville’s degree-linked stackable offerings, they carry the same pricing and fees either way.  

    Two post-bachelor’s certificates, Big Data and Machine Learning, are offered as stand-alone and embedded within Maryville’s graduate programs in computer science, offering a shorter time commitment and a seamless onramp into a full graduate program if and when learners are ready. 

    In another example of programmatic innovation, Maryville is offering a new post-bachelor’s certificate in Communication Sciences and Disorders, designed for career changers planning to enroll in master’s programs in Speech Learning Pathology (SLP) or doctoral programs in audiology. These individuals often already have a bachelor’s degree but need multiple courses to “level up” before they can pursue graduate work. 

    Communication Sciences and Disorders bundles an essential undergraduate-level foundation in crucial areas such as voice, speech, language fluency, swallowing, and hearing disorders. Carefully crafted to prepare learners for highly competitive graduate programs -- including Maryville’s – it also connects learners to innovative “learn by doing” resources such as the Master Clinician Network. Through MCN, learners can take part in guided observation and start building clinical skills even before they enter graduate school. 

    Off to a Strong Start 

    Since the Fall 2021 launch, early signs are positive, says Louthan. “We’re getting great feedback from students who are experiencing success. We’ve had a lot of interest in areas such as AI and UX where many professionals need to upskill to stay relevant or advance. Our content is also aligned well with employer feedback. We believe we’re creating a successful starting point in addressing students’ growing demand for more flexible options. Whether they will go on to complete their degrees is yet to be seen. We are more focused on whether they are achieving their goals, and we hope they will come back to Maryville when they are ready to, or need to, upskill or reskill again.“ 

    “Challenges always exist in times of change,” says Louthan, “and we are in a time of significant disruption in education and industry. As we work to drive down the cost of education, having a menu of options to meet both learner needs and market demands will require continuous analysis. We also recognize that while certificates are attractive in emerging areas of technology and computer science, some more traditional areas may still require a degree. Students have shared that during this transitional time many employers still require a bachelor’s degree for consideration. 

    “Considering the future of work and the rapid rate of change, we know the model must shift so we can offer learners what they need and want to reach their goals – whatever their goals may be. As lifelong learning evolves, we will continue listening to our learners and employers to best meet their needs. We believe milestone achievements matter to students and they should be recognized for their achievements and able to apply them along their learning journey. We are focusing our work on their success and their ability to achieve their goals.” 

    Placed in broader context, stackability fits well with Maryville’s key strategic goals and institutional mission: to create a global, student-centered active learning ecosystem, to drive transformational innovation around learner outcomes, to define its success by learner success, and to expand access and opportunity. 

    As Dean Louthan concludes, “We understand education isn’t one-size-fits-all. Different students have different circumstances and considerations, and Maryville is committed to being as inclusive and accommodating as possible. Our certificate programs underscore this mission, serving as alternative paths to meet learners where they are — and help them reach their career goals.” 

    Learn more, and explore Pearson's online learning offerings and OPM services  

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  • Designed to Deliver Value: The University of North Dakota Introduces Certificates to its Cyber Security Program

    by Pearson

    Man looking out the window, with laptop open in front of him

    Brought to you by Pearson’s Online Program Management team

    How do you deliver value to learners and employers alike? In the hot field of cyber security, the University of North Dakota has cracked the code with the design of its recently launched online program.

    The University of North Dakota is a public research university in Grand Forks, N.D. It offers more than 120 online degree and certificate programs, encouraging students from around the world to explore more than 225 fields of study every year. UND is dedicated to its mission to provide transformative learning, discovery and community engagement opportunities for developing tomorrow's leaders.

    Designing transformative online learning experiences

    In consultation with Pearson Online Learning Services, Vice Provost for Online Education and Strategic Planning  Jeff Holm chose to align the cyber security curriculum with highly sought-after and industry-recognized certifications. Advancing skills in cyber security can mean better job security, higher pay and more leadership opportunities for learners — program features that align with the university’s mission.

    To create a program that appealed to a broad audience while meeting UND’s high pedagogical standards, UND and Pearson established a collaborative working relationship. The teams partnered on course development, tailoring courses to 14 weeks each. Both partners agreed that this gave learners the right amount of time with the material and addressed their needs for convenient, short courses that deliver work-ready skills.

    The university also relied on the partnership for market research and insights, marketing and enrollment support to widen its reach. The strategy was to give more learners valuable career preparation by including certificates in the degree program. With the addition of cyber certificates to the online program, learners can gain recognizable, industry credentials as they move toward earning a full degree — making them more valuable to employers sooner.

    “UND offers a variety of options so learners can tailor their M.S. in Cyber Security to fit specific interests and career goals,” Holm says. “The cyber security master’s program offers four tracks (or) stackable academic certificate options.” One certificate is mandatory. Learners can select two of three other certificate options and graduate with a master’s and three academic certificates. The tracks and certificates include:

    • Cyber Security Analyst track aligned with the EC-Council Certified Threat Intelligence Analyst (CTIA) certification
    • Ethical Hacking track aligned with the EC-Council Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) certification
    • Computer Forensics track aligned with the EC-Council Computer Hacking Forensics Investigator (CHFI) certification
    • Secure Networks track aligned with the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certification
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  • Pearson’s Maestro of Marketing Brings a Human Touch to a Customer-Centric Strategy

    by Michael Collins

    Man sitting in chair, smiling, as he is reviewing content on his laptop

    Brought to you by Pearson’s Online Program Management team.

    Since Michael Collins joined Pearson Online Learning Services as senior vice president of marketing and learner acquisition, he’s been working to harmonize and humanize everything we do to engage and enroll learners in our partners’ online programs.

    Collins brings a background in journalism, marketing, public relations, corporate communications, and — not least — music. In this interview, he shares insights that reflect where he’s been, what he’s seen, and where we can make the greatest impact for partners by building lifelong relationships that keep learners coming back.

    You studied music in college. What did you learn from that experience?

    Sometimes you can be the lead in a musical or in a play, right? But many times, you’ll be part of the ensemble. In marketing, I’ve learned it’s much the same. Sometimes you’re still part of the ensemble, and you have to switch between supporting roles. I may be leading marketing and learner acquisition, but I’m also part of a leadership team working to achieve shared outcomes. Even where I’m the lead within my own team, sometimes another member of the team has the stage.

    Beyond that, when we work with our partners, we’re also part of their team. So, knowing how to make all these teams work together well at the same time is one of the most important things I can do.

    You come to Pearson from the CFA Institute, the leading global provider of investment management education. But you’ve also played key marketing roles in other industries. What lessons do you see as especially relevant for your work here — especially your work with institutions?

    There’s a note that runs through my career in terms of working in-marketing, whether it’s been in retail, manufacturing, distribution, technology, or tech-enabled service companies. And that’s about creating affinity that makes customers want to keep buying from you.

    I ran global marketing at Iomega, which made external storage drives: Maybe you remember the Zip drive. We went from $140 million to $2 billion in revenue in under 36 months. We sold through retail channels like Best Buy, as well as through distributors who sold to retail. And I learned the power of channels and partnering.

    It’s one thing to sell your product or service, but how will you help partners be successful, so they want to keep partnering with you? That’s our challenge, too. We’ve built a business model where, when Pearson’s partners are successful, we’re successful. And our partners in turn succeed when their learners succeed.

    And it’s never one-and-done. In our student success and retention work, and in everything else we do, we need to be relentlessly focused on making both learners and partners more successful continually.

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  • Guarding the Online Learning Galaxy

    by Jaime Mordue

    Brought to you by Pearson’s Online Program Management team

    When a college professor tells me that they never imagined their in-person course could be so engaging in an online format, or a student interacts with learning more online than they would have in the traditional classroom, I know that I, along with my incredibly talented team, are fulfilling our mission.

    We are Pearson's Learning Design Solutions (LDS) team, and our job is to reimagine traditional higher education courses for the online environment. Last year alone, we supported over 1,400 courses across 35+ programs for over a dozen of our university partners. We developed courses in disciplines such as Law, Social Work, Public Health, Education, Nursing, and Business, among others. It's a responsibility we take very seriously—not only to deliver amazing online learning—but to help safeguard the integrity and validity of the entire online education “galaxy.” It's no secret that online learning has had its naysayers, so if we prove them wrong while delivering, time-and-again, for students and academic partners... then, we fulfill our mission.

    With decades of expertise in online education and course development operations, LDS brings science and insight to ensure our college and university partners' online courses are designed and developed to meet the highest expectation of quality and efficacy. Our tenets are straightforward:

    1. Pedagogy: LDS brings data and science into designing courses to ensure they meet the appropriate rigor, engagement levels, and measurable outcomes. All instructional designers in LDS engage in regular professional development in the industry and hold various levels of certification in Quality Matters (QM). The team is currently supporting several partners in aligning courses to QM standards, including Regis College’s Nursing programs and Health Sciences programs.
    2. Equity: By designing through a lens of historically informed compassion and empathy, LDS consults to design courses with equity top of mind. LDS seeks ongoing team training opportunities in a commitment to raise diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) standards for online learning. LDS recently supported a university partner interested in auditing courses to identify ways to improve inclusivity in course content. All course components produced by LDS meet current WCAG 2.1 AA and Pearson’s Global Content and Editorial Policy.
    3. Research: By participating in, and helping to conduct, ongoing research in online learning, LDS helps partners refine practices, innovate learning solutions, and keep up with generation after generation of digital learners. LDS is currently engaged in collaborative research with multiple partners, who are focused on developing learning analytics dashboards to advance data-driven learning design insight and practice.

    It's especially meaningful when faculty recognize that designing together with Pearson’s Learning Design Solutions team positively influences their course beyond project boundaries and into their regular teaching practices. A recent Brookings article, Online college classes can be better than in-person ones, reaffirms that online learning is gaining recognition and thriving beyond the potential consequences of the pandemic. This is a goal for us—to use our education (super)powers for the good of all learners, no matter the model or method.

    Learn more, and explore Pearson's online learning offerings and OPM services

    Originally published by the Pearson Insights blog.

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  • The benefits of dual credit CTE programs in the current K–12 environment

    Three seated students and a standing instructor look at electronics equipment.

    Across the nation there have been increasing conversations surrounding Career and Technical Education (CTE) and the benefits of including dual credit programs in the course curriculum.

    Increased demand for CTE programs

    There is a rising need throughout the country for skilled tradespeople. Professions such as nurses, diesel mechanics, welders, electricians, and plumbers are all facing shortages of new talent as experienced workers begin leaving the workforce. This growing need for workers along with the increasing costs of higher education creates more demand for the ability to get a jump start on obtaining college credits and professional certifications at the high school level.1

    Higher levels of achievement

    Dual credit programs (also known as dual enrollment or concurrent enrollment) that allow students to earn college and high school credits while still in high school increase the likelihood they will not only graduate high school but attend college to earn a postsecondary degree or certificate.

    By allowing students to choose specific career paths and specialties, they are given autonomy in their vocation and education that is often not available to the typical student until much later in their higher education path.

    With students studying practical skills for their chosen career path, both attendance and engagement increase as their advancement becomes tangible. Students who complete CTE programs leave their schools with usable skills that employers desire.

    Reduced costs

    Advocates of these programs emphasize the reduction in college costs for students and families. Dual credit courses are often offered at a much lower price and do not require added expenses such as room and board. And, when students complete dual credit courses, their overall time spent earning a college or postsecondary degree is reduced.2

    CTE dual credit courses also reach a wide range of students across a variety of ethnicities, backgrounds, incomes, and socioeconomic situations to help create equity and reduce barriers in higher education.

    A 2019 study done by Washington’s Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction found that low-income students had a higher participation in CTE compared to other types of dual credit. They attributed this to the fact that CTE dual credit in their state is offered at little to no upfront cost for students (as can be the case with non-CTE dual credit).3

    Example of a successful program

    Many states across the nation have experienced immense success with their CTE and dual credit programs. Utah has continually improved its dual credit program that has been in place since the late 1980s. The state’s program ensures enrolled students receive both high school and college credit that corresponds to first-year coursework at the various public colleges, universities, and technical colleges within the Utah System of Higher Education.

    One example is Utah’s Jordan School District, which has made it a focus to increase access to dual credit for CTE students. They partnered with Salt Lake Community College to offer over 90 dual credit courses with many of those courses categorized as CTE. The district allows each high school to choose which courses to offer based on staffing.

    These courses are offered to students at $5 per credit hour. Because of low-cost programs available in districts across the state, more students have been able to participate in CTE dual credit courses. “In the 2019-20 school year, [Utah] CTE dual credit students earned over 90,000 CTE credits with CTE courses making up 28 percent of the total dual enrollment credits earned in the state.” 4

    Why CTE programs?

    Dual credit courses can be immensely helpful in fulfilling the undeniable need to support K–12 students as they progress through their education and begin to develop career skills. The ability to support equity, accessibility, continuity of education, and affordability are demonstrated advantages of these programs. Through support of dual credit CTE programs, schools and districts can meaningfully impact the career paths of their students and help encourage their future development as both post-secondary students and professionals in the working world.

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  • Taking a Proactive and Positive Approach with Students about Academic Dishonesty

    by Jessica Bernards and Wendy Fresh

    Three women are looking at a laptop computer screen. Two are seated at a desk while the third is standing.

    As educators, one of the biggest issues we have recently had to tackle in our classrooms is the increase in academic misconduct. At our college, there was a 703% increase in academic misconduct reports from Winter 2020 to Winter 2021. Additionally, there has been a tremendous rise in ed tech companies that flourished during the pandemic. We feel like every time we look in the app store, a new “math solver” app appears. As educators, we can’t even keep up!

    In a presentation with Pearson Senior Learning Designer Dr. Elaine W. Tan we discussed specific strategies to be proactive with students about academic integrity. One of those strategies was to introduce academic integrity at the beginning of the term. This proactive approach from day 1 has really made a difference in our classes. In this post, we will go into more specifics.

    Define academic misconduct in your syllabus

    It’s important to define different forms of cheating and why they’re problematic. It’s equally important to state the value of academic integrity for learning. Many students might not see a given behavior as cheating until you tell them. In fact, in a College Pulse study1, students were asked how acceptable or unacceptable it is to Google homework questions to find the answers and use study websites to find answers to test or homework questions. Over 50% of the respondents said it was acceptable to Google homework questions and 44% said it was acceptable to use study websites to find answers to test or homework questions.

    A syllabus statement about academic integrity, including a link to your institution’s student code of conduct, is an important first step to making sure your students are all on the same page. See the wording that we include in our syllabus.

    Discuss academic integrity early

    Dr. Tan’s research2 found that most students don’t find cheating a problem, with only 15% saying they are very or extremely concerned about contract cheating. This may be because instructor’s aren’t talking about it. Only 1 in 5 students had instructors that discussed that cheating was problematic. Those are alarming statistics, and a good reason why it’s so important to begin the conversation early.

    One way to begin that conversation is by setting aside time in the first two weeks of class to show them a video covering academic integrity. Presented in an engaging way, a video like this gets the students’ attention and is more effective than lecturing them. You can also find a math-specific academic integrity video in the MyLab® Math shell for our textbooks Precalculus: A Right Triangle Approach, 5th Edition & Precalculus: A Unit Circle Approach, 4th Edition.

    Build connections with students

    More findings from Dr. Tan’s research show that one of the reasons students turn to academic dishonesty is because they feel a lack of personal connection, or a sense that instructors don’t know or care about them. This can be especially true with online learning and the isolation brought on by disruptions to learning over the last few years. We can address this proactively by creating a connection within the first days of class.

    Something we started doing this past year is having a required 10-minute one-on-one meeting with each student within the first two weeks of the term. Within that meeting, we communicate to them that we are invested in their success and how the course material can help them achieve their real-life goals. We also talk about academic integrity with them. Get the template email we send out to our classes.

    Set clear, specific instructions

    Have clear and specific rules and instructions for assignments and exams so students know what is ok to use and what is not. This even comes down to stating “you cannot use the solve feature on the calculator to get the answer.”

    One of the things we do is use an exam policy checklist that students have to complete before they’re able to take their test. This checklist states which resources are allowed and which are not, links to the student code of conduct, and clearly lays out the consequences for an academic misconduct violation. View our exam policy checklist.

    By bringing in these strategies at the beginning of the term, we have found that the number of academic misconduct issues in our courses has decreased dramatically. Although academic dishonesty may never fully go away, it is important to talk about and provide students with the education to improve their actions.

    Dive deeper

    Watch the full presentation, Proactive and Positive Ways to Engage Students about Academic Integrity.

    Get sample documents for communicating with your students about academic dishonesty


    Sources

    1. Academic Integrity. (2021). College Pulse.

    2. Bakken, S., Tan, E. W. & Wood, A. (2021). A Research Review on Student Cheating. Pearson Learning & Research Design.

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  • Use Online Learning to Drive Change, Create Opportunity & Thrive Amidst Disorder

    by Sasha Thackaberry

    Sasha Thackaberry, Ph.D. recently joined the executive team at Pearson Online Learning Services (POLS) as Vice President of Student and Partner Services. Previously, she led Louisiana State University’s online program organization, where in just four years, her team grew from supporting 800 students in 9 programs to over 12,000 in 120+ programs, while keeping a strong focus on quality. Her online learning experience has been honed throughout a career at LSU, SNHU, and other innovators. See how her experiences shape her current work at Pearson to help learners and institutions thrive.

    Sasha, tell us something we should know about you.

    I get really geeked out about what’s next, and how to drive change – both in education, and in my own teams. I’m interested in building teams that get addicted to evolving, and to making the next big thing happen.

    Even today, change is underrated. Disruption is going to occur continually, and I’m passionate about how we move things forward towards a more effective fusion of education and technology.

    “High-tech, high-touch” isn’t a new concept, but in higher education, historically, we haven’t done it all that well. Now, though, there’s a lot of insight we can draw on to do better. For instance, we can use more of what’s been learned by behavioral economists. The techniques so often used to sell us stuff can also be used to remove barriers to learning and encourage people to continually engage in it.

    You’ve said institutions can go beyond resilience to become truly “anti-fragile”: able to thrive amidst disorder and chaos. How?

    It starts with creating and building a foundation that enables you to be proactive and flexible, no matter what. Then, there’s a reactive piece: when you see something coming down the pike, always getting ready, seeing what works and what doesn’t, pivoting quickly. You can build in “space” in your systems and processes, and keep things as simple as possible.

    Two issues are key. First, institutions must invest heavily in their technology infrastructures. Valuable data is everywhere, but you can’t react if you don’t know what’s going on.

    Second, there’s culture: committing to pivot on a dime and be super creative. One of the best ways is to be very upfront about failures because they teach us how to change. Obviously, there are exceptions, but in higher ed environments, failure is too often viewed as a lack of competence. Instead, we need to embrace smart risk, and then be ready to pivot fast if it doesn’t work. You need leaders who can approach "Black Swan” events as opportunities to do really great things, as some institutions did during the pandemic.

    COVID changed things forever, but what are we learning about the new higher ed environment that’s emerging?

    We now have a marketplace of many different sizes, types, and forms of learning – and our audience looks radically different. A generation ago, few expected the post-traditional audience to become the only part of higher ed that was growing. Twenty years from now, people will look back and ask each other, “Do you remember when they based everything on the degree?”

    We see young people who aren’t all headed straight to college. They’re doing other things first. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I just think we must accommodate their needs as learners.

    Then, there’s “education as a benefit” from employers. Our infrastructures need to accommodate that, and many other flexible options – not just paying by credit card, but also subscriptions. More of what we do needs to be time-variable. People are voting with their enrollments, and they’re saying: I want shorter, faster, more applicable.

    You were a pioneer in stackables. What advice would you offer to those who worry about learner outcomes and building viable programs that don’t just cannibalize current programs?

    To begin, you can’t overly focus on cannibalization of revenue. If an early automaker thought, “If I build cars, I’m gonna cannibalize my base of horse customers,” they missed the point. It’s about what people want. It’s not about what we want to create for them. If you don’t disrupt your own business, someone else will.

    But it’s not just about defense. You can start a virtuous cycle of creating stackables by yourself, partnering with content providers to build them, and ingesting them from other places.

    Colleges and universities have amazing resources for learning in their faculty and their content knowledge. Many times, those same faculty and that same content can be used to create short-form credentials that open the door to a wider set of learners. It’s not only about the degree or a single point-in-time credential. All of us will need to continually learn and collect new credentials throughout our careers. Stackables empower institutions to set up lifelong partnerships with their students – from a traditional experience through a fully online experience, from a degree to a single hour-long, just-in-time learning session.

    Some folks worry about whether microcredentials will really have the value they promise. But institutions can develop a lot more information about what is being learned. And as we get better at intervening with post-traditional learners, we can get better at moving them to the appropriate classes or paths.

    You do, however, need to remain focused on your institution’s actual mission, to avoid mission creep. Not every institution needs to be everything for every learner. Each institution has its own unique strength, lens, and approach to learning. In the online space, it’s no different.

    You led LSU’s initiatives in non-degree and degree online learning. How did you bring faculty aboard?

    There are always champions: people who’ve discovered ways to get innovative things done. Find them. Then support them with all the expertise and political capital you can. If you make early adopters successful, others will come on board. I’ve never been in an environment where you didn’t have innovative faculty. It’s always a question of critical mass and political will.

    LSU was proud of building its own internal online learning organization without an external OPM. Now you’re at the company that pioneered the OPM model. Can you reflect on the decision to partner or go it alone?

    I had a very unusual situation at LSU. I had Board support, strategic focus from the President, and the best boss I’ve ever had – a Provost who promised to block and tackle for me, and came through every time, whether it involved changing policies or getting mainframes reprogrammed. She was willing to be unpopular – and that included fighting to protect our budgets.

    When you work with an OPM partner, there’s a contract in place, and dollars for things like marketing and recruitment are protected through that contract. Many institutions really don't know the true cost of learner acquisition, marketing, and recruitment. They may not know what it means to do digital campaigns, or the differences between a website and landing pages, and the implications for marketing spend. That requires specific talent, and it can be hard to get.

    At LSU, I was empowered to build a team from the ground up, where we had to be super-creative, use super-modern techniques, and be super-efficient. And it worked. But when an average institution has a strategic communications budget of, say, $200,000, and you propose dropping $6,000,000 on marketing for an online program that has 5,000 students this year, that budget line tends not to get preserved. You might start out with the commitment, but it gradually turns out that you can’t afford to market the program to reach the scale needed to sustain it.

    Even just the technology behind online programs can be challenging. You need a CRM, autodialers, texting, chat boxes, web development. Universities are not historically excellent at all that. If you can’t build that, you must get it externally.

    Not everything is either-or, and when we build service packages for new partners at Pearson, they’re differentiated and customized to each institution’s needs. But I can 100% say that if you don’t have certain ingredients to scale, it’s better to go with a partner.

    You’ve been a thought leader at institutions like LSU and SNHU, but also in organizations like Quality Matters. Based on all you’ve seen, can you share any final reflections?

    I’ve had the incredibly good fortune of meeting many great people who’ve been eager to have candid conversations about online learning. It seems strange to say this, though: this is still a relatively small and new field. The opportunities are wide open. We really are still at the very beginning of online education.

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  • Consumer Behavior and its Impact on the Non-Degree Online Higher Education Market

    by Joe Morgan, Vice President, University Partnership Development, Pearson

    A young person listening from laptop and taking notes in paper

    #2 in a series

    In my first post The student as consumer, and the burden of choice, I suggested that when learners face a high stakes purchase (the full degree) and information overload, they often narrow their decision to either known institutions or those that rank on Page 1 of search results. The endless aisle sounds great until you have to walk down it. The learners’ simplification strategy and conscious or unconscious bias excludes lesser-known institutions from the consideration set, even if they may be the “best fit.''

    In this post, I examine consumer behavior and its impact on the online higher education non-degree market. Those who have worked in direct-to-consumer businesses (either digital or brick-and-mortar) will recognize the language of consumer behavior trial, offer, purchase, add-on purchase. For learners as consumers, this language is profoundly relevant, and it is vital to the institution’s strategy for non-degree online learning programs.

    How consumer-learners reduce perceived risk

    In their study, Behavioral Changes in the Trial of New Products, Shoemaker and Shoaf found that consumers respond to the perceived risk of trying a new product by reducing the consequences: they buy a smaller quantity (trial). The growth of the non-degree market (certificates) is that very behavior in action.

    For the new traditional learner older, more diverse, navigating career and family obligations, concerned with increasing debt, and having spent years away from any formal academic setting entering a full degree program raises the stakes. Their anxiety is palpable. The resulting behavior is predictable.

    If a learner is uncertain about moving forward, or unsure they can succeed, they update their beliefs through a consumption experience (the trial). What better consumption experience than to begin with a “smaller-quantity,” affordable, low-stakes online learning program that provides an immediate, career-enhancing credential and a powerful signaling opportunity to the learner’s social and professional networks?

    Non-degree online program development and a wider view of student acquisition cost

    I hear many question the economic value of certificates to the institution, relative to the cost of acquiring each student. In isolation and barring substantial scale, one would be hard pressed to show meaningful economic return on a modestly priced certificate. But that misses the bigger point. If viewed as a valuable student acquisition strategy, the university generates exposure, awareness, and trial by delivering short form, employment-relevant content.

    With an appropriately constructed “offer” (freemium, credit bearing, pathway to degree admissions, university credential, digital badges) for these certificates, the institution creates affinity. Upon completion, and with a student’s newfound confidence, some of those learners will enter a degree program at that same institution (the “purchase”). When reskilling and upskilling becomes necessary, the student returns to what is now familiar (the add-on purchase). Coursera calls this “the flywheel effect”:

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  • Outcomes-based assessment. The key to teaching critical thinking.

    by Dr. Shelley Gaskin

    Two women are looking at a computer monitor. One of the women is pointing at the screen. Other people are sitting at the table, also working on computers.

    What is critical thinking?

    Teaching students to think critically and solve problems is a widely pursued goal in higher education. Definitions of critical thinking vary but basically come down to having students examine an ill-defined or messy problem and carefully apply the knowledge and skills they have acquired during the instructional process to analyze the problem and suggest a solution.

    To learn to think critically and solve problems, students must take an active role in constructing and defending their knowledge. The best way for students to demonstrate critical thinking is to attempt one or more outcomes-based assessments.

    Outcomes-based learning and assessments

    What will my students do “out there”—in the real world of family, work, and community—as a result of what we do “in here”—in my classroom? 1

    This question presents a useful way to think of student learning outcomes and enables us to envision a broad, overall view of course content and goals. Sometimes this is termed “backward design” or “designing down,” referring to a process of defining intended outcomes first, and only then defining the content and designing the instruction.

    Defining the desired outcomes first is relatively easy for information technology courses. It is not difficult to envision what IT students will do “out there,” because of the discipline’s relatedness to employability skills. We have always been comfortable with helping students bridge classroom and real-life experiences.

    Once intended outcomes for a course or unit of instruction are determined, a student engages in observation, practice, and other learning activities to demonstrate mastery of the knowledge and skills associated with the course content. A student is then prepared to engage in an outcomes-based assessment, actively engaging the student in learning to think critically and solve problems by making judgments and taking appropriate actions that are observed and evaluated, simulating what occurs in real life.

    Skill development

    Discussions and evidence of critical thinking determined from outcomes-based assessments typically include the differentiation between novice and expert work. Authors such as Willingham and Riener2 and McTighe and Ferrara3 look at the progress of the students in terms of moving from novice to expert. Think of student performance as a continuum of competency; for example, the varying belt colors one can earn while studying martial arts.

    Students develop critical-thinking skills by observing excellent work and engaging in learning activities to obtain the knowledge and skills necessary to achieve the outcome. Student skills eventually become routine compared to the beginning of their learning when careful thought was required.

    For example, you can relate the learning process to how individuals learn to play a video game. They watch a friend, the expert, play a game and then gradually, with practice, learn the game mechanics. Additional practice leading to mastery moves them from novice to expert to eventually being able to strategize the game play and become an expert.

    Assessment of critical thinking

    An outcomes-based assessment is also referred to as an authentic assessment in the sense that the assessment is realistic. An authentic assessment engages students to apply the knowledge and skills they have acquired during the instruction in ways that reflect problems they would encounter in the real world. Such an assessment has no right or wrong answer but rather reflects the thinking of an expert in the field.

    The outcomes-based assessment provides the opportunity for students to apply their knowledge and skills to ill-defined problems like those in real life. Doing so requires integrating the discipline-based knowledge and skills they have acquired with completing various learning activities. Students learn to think critically by attempting an outcomes-based assessment that is representative of a current problem an expert in the discipline would encounter.

    Both the student and the instructor apply an analytic rubric to the result, discuss the results, and based on the instructor’s feedback, the student may attempt the outcomes-based assessment again until the work is of professional quality as determined by the rubric. When students attempt outcomes-based assessments, they are likely to be more effective as professionals.

    How to develop an assessment for critical thinking

    As instructors, we know that developing and grading an assessment that has no right or wrong answers can be time-consuming. Fortunately, there is abundant research and examples of how to do this, and many Pearson textbooks include outcomes-based assessments. For example, the GO! Series for Microsoft Office 365 uses an outcomes-based framework, and each unit of instruction includes numerous critical-thinking assessments and accompanying rubrics. Each instructional project includes a critical-thinking quiz so the student can immediately review the project and identify the purpose and benefit of creating the information.

    To develop an assessment for critical thinking, one useful device is the GRASPS model developed by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe and detailed in Designing Authentic Performance Tasks and Projects.4 The acronym GRASPS stands for:

    G—a realistic goal

    R—the role of the student

    A—the audience

    S—the real-world situation

    P—the product or performance the student will demonstrate

    S—the criteria for judging success

    For example, in a class where you are teaching Microsoft Excel, you could use the GRASPS model to develop an assessment for critical thinking as follows:

    You are an assistant in the Supply Chain and Logistics department of an online vitamin company (role). Your manager asks you to create an inventory status report (real-world situation) to present to the Chief Financial Officer (audience) of the company so the company can estimate warehouse costs for new products (goal). Based on inventory data, you develop an Excel workbook (product) that presents the inventory information in a way that makes it easy for the Chief Financial Officer to visualize warehouse needs (criteria for success).

    How to grade an assessment

    Students learn to think critically by attempting outcomes-based assessments that are representative of a current problem an expert in the discipline would encounter. Multiple exposures to outcomes-based assessments provide students the opportunity to apply their knowledge and skills to ill-defined problems like those in real life. To do so, students must integrate the discipline-based knowledge and skills they acquired during the instructional process.

    An analytic rubric distinguishes novice work from expert work. On completion of an outcomes-based assessment, both the student and the instructor apply an analytic rubric to the result and discuss the results. Based on the instructor’s feedback, the student attempts the outcomes-based assessment again until the work is of professional quality as determined by the rubric.

    An analytic rubric divides a product or performance into distinct traits or dimensions. As the instructor, you can judge and score each trait separately. The rubric is known ahead of time by both the student and the instructor. The analytic rubric gathers evidence of the student’s performance against a set of pre-determined standards. By applying the rubric, both you and the student can place the performance on a qualitative continuum.

    For teaching productivity software, here is an example of an analytic rubric that can be applied to any critical-thinking assessment such as the GRASPS example above:

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  • Pearson’s learning tech wins awards

    by Pearson

    Pearson’s learning tech wins awards

    We’re proud to announce our learning solutions have won the following awards.

    MyLab® Math and MyLab Statistics won the CODiE Award for “Best Higher Education Mathematics Instructional Solution,” which recognizes the best instructional solution that offers mathematics curriculum and content for students in higher education math subjects.

    Revel for Political Science/History/Sociology/Psychology also won the CODiE Award for “Best Social Sciences/Studies Instructional Solution,” which recognizes the best instructional solution for social sciences/social studies curricula and content for students in the higher education or PK-12 markets.

    In addition, we were a finalist for the following award.

    NCCERConnect was a finalist for the CODiE Award for “Best College & Career Readiness Solution,” which recognizes the best digital product or service that develops 21st Century workforce skills and knowledge for students.

    The CODiE Awards were established so that pioneers of the budding software industry could evaluate and honor each other’s work. Today, the Awards continue to honor excellence in leading technology products and services. At Pearson, we've been creating innovative learning experiences since the Awards began in 1986, and our latest award-winning instructional solutions are evidence that we’re never satisfied with the status quo. Keep reading to learn more about what makes them unique.

    What is MyLab?

    MyLab Math and MyLab Statistics use data-driven guidance to improve results for students, with engaging, interactive content by expert authors that better helps them absorb and understand difficult concepts from developmental math to differential equations.

    MyLab gives instructors a comprehensive gradebook with enhanced reporting functionality that makes it easier for instructors to understand which students are struggling, and which topics they struggle with most.

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  • End of term: Tweaking your course for next term

    by Dr. Terri Moore

    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.

    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.

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  • 8 Strategies for Effective Online Teaching: Lessons from the Past 2 Years

    4 persons looking at a laptop

    My biggest challenge these past couple years has been to realistically manage and readjust my expectations, as a learning designer, instructor, as well as a human being. What was planned to be a temporary solution for the teaching and learning world, our initial rush to digital has since extended well into 2022, two years later. 

    In the spirit of pause, reflect, and adjust accordingly, we decided to look back at this blog post (9 Strategies for effective online learning, March 2020) and reevaluate the tips while taking into consideration what we have learnt these past two years.  

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  • Certifications give K–12 CTE students an advantage

    by Certiport & Pearson HECW into K–12

    A girl wearing headphones is sitting at a desk, leaning her chin in her hand, gazing at a laptop screen.

    “We give students a real-life certification, in their hands that they can go and get a job after they leave the high school.” – Laura Deshazo, Utah State Office of Education

    Skills have become the global currency of 21st-century economies. In a world where competition for jobs, pay increases, and academic success continues to increase, certifications offer an advantage as a credible, third-party assessment of one’s skill and knowledge of a given subject.

    The value of certification

    According to educationdata.org, national student loan debt has skyrocketed from 3.3 billion in 2003 to over 1.75 trillion in 2021. Industry certifications offer an affordable alternative for students to demonstrate their knowledge and credentials to pursue career opportunities without accumulating large debt.

    Certification provides other significant advantages to candidates, including:

    • validation of knowledge
    • increased marketability, earning power, and confidence
    • improved reputation
    • enhanced credibility

    Certification also offers specific benefits to high school-aged students. According to the Florida CAPE Performance Report, certification provides tangible improvements in academic performance, including:

    • higher grade point average for certified high school students: 3.12 vs 2.78 (4.0 scale)
    • higher graduation rates for certified high school students: 97.5% vs 78.4%
    • increased post-secondary enrollment: 84% vs 82%
    • reduced dropout rates: 0.2% vs 1.0%

    Picking the right certification

    Now that we know how valuable certification can be, let’s discuss how we can start. There are thousands of skills that students can learn and hundreds of certifications that they can obtain. Where is the best place to start? What are some of the foundational skills that students must learn?  

    For several years, LinkedIn, along with many other thought leaders, has chosen “creativity” as the most important skill to have. They describe creativity as the ability to “creatively approach problems and tasks across all business roles, from software engineering to HR.” But are there certifications for such a skill? Fortunately, yes. 

    Showing your creativity with Adobe Certified Professional  

    Adobe® Certified Professional is a suite of seven certifications. Each certification measures the candidate’s skills and knowledge with the corresponding Adobe Creative Cloud application, such as Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Premiere Pro.  

    “By teaching and certifying students in these creative tools, we are not only teaching technical skills but also the ways to think and problem solve creatively,” says Erica Blum, Associate Professor of Arts and Design at Lindenwood University.

    “These tools are not only for professional designers or artists. In fact, most of my students are not pursuing design as their career. But by learning how to use these tools, they are learning how to visualize what they envision. They are learning how to communicate and problem solve creatively.” 

    Using effective training and certification preparation tools

    Achieving Adobe Certified Professional certification can be challenging. Using the most effective training and certification preparation tools is essential. Pearson has launched new, online programs designed specifically to meet the needs of students hoping to earn their Certified Professional certification in a variety of Adobe applications.

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  • Transformational Learner-Centered Innovation: A Leader’s View

    by Lisa Knight

    Two young ladies looking at a screen, standing beside each other, with a smiling face.

    Lisa Knight is ready to infuse learner-centered innovation in everything we do at Pearson Online Learning Services (POLS). A recent Pearson arrival, Lisa steps into a pivotal role as Vice President for Innovation & Product Strategy. Partners and friends will get to know her well in the months ahead; in the meantime, read about her journey to Pearson, her perspective on innovation, and what she aims to accomplish for learners and partners.

    Lisa, tell us a bit about who you are and what you’ve done.

    I have over 20 years of experience in strategy and innovation and have spent most of my career at IBM Consulting and PwC Consulting. Along the way, I worked with more than fifteen Fortune® 500 companies and was instrumental in creating IBM Canada's enterprise strategy practice. I’ve been focused on leading clients on their innovation journeys and finding ways to drive new growth through digital technologies.

    My own education spans three countries—the US, Canada, and France—and includes digital strategy at Harvard’s executive education program. I also competed in NCAA Division 1 Team Tennis, and that taught me a philosophy I live by: teaming to win. Successful innovation comes from collaboration and co-creation—teaming. Deepening our relationships through innovating together and successful partnering is a win-win for everyone. In NCAA tennis, every point counts whether you play the #1 spot or the #6 spot; everyone plays a role in achieving success. This is vital to innovation as well.

    At IBM, I was profoundly influenced by then-CEO and Chairman Ginni Rometty. Her own life story, and how she came up through the ranks to lead IBM, was deeply inspiring to me. And she was an exceptionally powerful advocate for learning. IBM developed its own digital learning platform that offered 300,000+ internal and external courses to its employees. The company mandated 40 hours a year of learning, and I averaged first 80, then 120, over and above work. I knew it was critical to be deeply knowledgeable about emerging technologies to inform innovation strategies for my clients. In short, learning became a fundamental part of the IBM DNA and a core part of who I am and what I value.

    How does your experience translate to your role at Pearson?

    It matters in at least three ways. The first is technology innovation: helping Pearson and its partners accelerate innovation and use it to grow. For example, I have designed accelerated innovation programs to find new business revenue streams, using an innovation framework that encompassed elements such as global trends analysis, idea generation, value case assessment, architectural design, and prototype definition. What truly creates value is a structured, disciplined approach to innovation.

    Second, strategy and leadership, with my experience spanning multiple industries. I bring a breadth of perspective that differs from someone who chose to focus deeply on one industry. To me, innovation requires broader thinking. Having seen and influenced many ways of working in my prior consulting experiences, I can bring that breadth of thinking and ideating as we consider the problems we are solving for.

    Third, and most important, I’m a strategist with extensive experience in transformational execution. Real execution experience informs better strategy creation. Effectively implementing transformational change is challenging. Being pragmatic in how to implement comes from experience managing the change from start to finish.

    Can you share some lessons about partnering to drive and sustain transformational change?

    To start, there needs to be a business or organizational need, an inflection point that makes people recognize change is necessary. Next, there needs to be a willingness to invest. And finally, there must be a commitment at all levels of leadership, because if you haven’t focused on getting people on board, and there aren’t strategies to do so, you won’t succeed.

    Sometimes the middle of the organization is forgotten. It’s crucial to put strategies in place to get everyone engaged. It is truly important to involve everyone who’s affected, and that means helping people understand: what does this change mean to me, and what’s my role going forward?

    Strategy also needs to be iterative. There’s no such thing as perfect. There’s what you plan for, and the assumptions you make, and when you execute, there are things you didn’t expect. Market factors. Challenges in your capabilities, or your partner’s. You must be prepared to make changes – and, if necessary, pivot.

    What’s your view of the role of technology and innovation in online learning?

    Learning is certainly at an inflection point. There’s more competition, with a wider set of offerings, from traditional to free, to non-traditional like micro-degrees and stackable certificates. Learners’ needs and expectations have changed. As digital technology continues to transform ways of working, people need to continually gain new skills. Meanwhile, high speed internet and 5G network capabilities enable us to incorporate powerful new technologies, such as augmented and virtual reality, to design outstanding, immersive learning experiences.

    It's critically important that innovation centers on the learner. “Technology for technology’s sake,” brings no value to learners or our partners. In my experience with technologies ranging from machine learning to blockchain, I’ve learned just how important it is to know who it’s for and what problem or friction point you’re trying to solve. To that end, I'm a strong proponent of design thinking. For us, it’s about starting with empathy for the learner, deeply understanding their challenges and constraints, and what they want to achieve.

    During Covid, my teenagers’ schools did a “lift and shift,” focusing on providing access from home. Unfortunately, teachers had to try to figure out the rest. With each student having different learning styles and motivations, it was extremely challenging. I knew there was a need to make this a better experience for both teachers and students. That said, learners, like my teenagers, have become very comfortable online, and it’s changed their expectations for everything they do—and not just for services like Amazon or Uber, but for education, too.

    What did you see at Pearson Online Learning Services that made you want to join this team?

    This wasn’t a lighthearted decision. I firmly believe there’s enormous opportunity at Pearson, and the factors have been put in place for innovation to succeed here. My conversations with my new executive peers have been phenomenal, and senior leadership has given me a clear vision of where we’re going.

    I am excited to say innovation was in flight before I came on board, and Pearson already demonstrated a strong willingness to commit the resources needed to embed innovation throughout our business. Our recent Fast Company 2022 Most Innovative Company award for Pearson+, a convenient new way for students to engage with learning, is a great example. Pearson, and specifically, Pearson Online Learning Services had already decided to invest in my VP-level role to provide the leadership experience, frameworks, and guidance to a team of strategists and innovators who are ready to drive an aggressive innovation agenda. Innovation is a top priority at Pearson. I have really been set up for success.

    I quickly came to appreciate an organization that can provide real value across the board to learners. Pearson Online Learning Services excels from course creation through design, launch, and operational execution. It will further support students throughout their learning journeys as we continue to innovate. And, Pearson brings deep insights on the future of learning, as well as emerging trends that are shaping demand for reskilling and new skills as we look ahead to the future and new ways of working.

    For me, it all ties back to what Pearson believes: learning is the world’s most powerful force for change. Since joining Pearson, I feel the passion for learning. I see it in the culture, every day. I firmly believe that an inspirational leader enables great things to happen. I am truly inspired by our CEO, Andy Bird, and his vision for Pearson. His influence is enabling innovation to thrive across our organization. Our breakthrough subscription offering, Pearson+ is game-changing. And wait until you see what is coming next!

    This is why I’m thrilled to be at Pearson and why it is such a good fit for me. It doesn't get any more exciting than this.

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  • Cézanne’s Gardanne

    by Pearson

    Gardanne oil painting on canvas by Paul Cézanne

    Featured art: Cézanne’s Gardanne

    Cézanne’s Gardanne was the featured art in the April HSS eNews.

    Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) was a French artist and post-impressionist. He painted Gardanne in 1885-1886, with oil on canvas, measuring 31 ½ x 25 ¼.

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  • MediaShare to Shared Media

    by Dr. Terri Moore

    Woman wearing headphones sitting in front of a computer and microphone, waving her hand

    I’ve been teaching public speaking for over 25 years. When I decided to teach online 15 years ago, I looked for a tool that would allow my students to upload their speeches for me to grade.

    Did I mention my predecessors teaching online speech were using snail mail and VHS tapes? Well, I came a long way, baby! I was one of the first teachers in the US to use the newest video upload tool, MediaShare, which has evolved into the multifunctioning Shared Media.

    Why Shared Media?

    This Pearson tool allowed me to accept student videos of the length required for speeches and to grade them in one stop. And as the years rolled on Shared Media got better and better. It is a tool that allows you to “share” any type of media to your students and you can ask them to share any type of media back with you; audio, documents, images, or videos.

    You have so many options when creating assignments. You can send your students an example of a bad speech and ask them to critique it and send you back the critique in a document. Or you can send instructions for preparing and delivering a recorded speech and ask the students to share with you their video along with their outline and even the PowerPoints® or images they’ll use for visual aids.

    I can now use one of the pre-created speech grading rubrics or create my own. And I’m able to require peer evaluations using a rubric I choose for students. I even have the ability to team students into groups, so they become the cheerleaders for each other’s speeches as they offer peer support and suggestions.

    Give it a try

    Since my early beginnings 14 years ago teaching online speech courses for my college, I have met many instructors who firmly believe teaching speech online is an impossibility. Nay, I say! Have you tried Shared Media? While we cannot replicate a face-to-face environment for students online, I can certainly simulate the types of activities that build the same skills needed for either a virtual or real-world speaking event.

    I’ve even been able to share my successes with neighboring colleges who’ve asked me to demonstrate my online speech classes and have used them as a model to implement their own online speech programs using Shared Media.

    Now I can teach speech from anywhere. And I have. From mountain tops in Costa Rica, to sailing ships in Indonesia. If there’s an internet connection, I can support students as they learn the skills of speaking publicly.

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  • #BreakTheBias in Biology

    by Dr. Lourdes Norman-McKay and Dr. Lisa Urry

    Female scientist working in the lab with students

    74% of women believe all types of bias and discrimination are still making it difficult to find new career opportunities, according to the findings in our Global Learner Survey. This International Women’s Day, we envision a world without bias, one that is inclusive and equal, where differences are celebrated. Drs Lourdes Norman McKay & Lisa Urry are educators, authors, and biologists working towards equality in their fields. Below they share their experiences as women in science and their hopes for the future.  

    What was it like for you in the early stages of your career as a woman in science? 

    Lourdes: I would say early on it was it was rather challenging. I wouldn't say it was academically difficult for me so much as it was an emotional challenge. I ended up constantly having to prove myself, over and over again, much more so than a lot of my male peers. It’s a recurring theme I hear from other women scientists, so it's nice that I wasn't alone, but it's also disappointing that that's still often the case for women in STEM. 

    Lisa: When I was in graduate school in the nineties, it was tough for women. I remember there was a class of graduate students a few years behind me – 30 students, eight of which were women - that came to me for help. They all occupied the same office and there were four men in particular that were harassing them badly during the entire year. 

    They felt like they should be able to handle it themselves, but they ended up coming to us and we publicly acknowledged this and let everybody know it was not OK. I followed up with those four women, and I think only one or two of them are still in biology. And those four guys are all still in biology.  

    There were a lot of subtle biases against women, and even now women's voices don't get heard as often.  

    Are you seeing the same challenges for young women entering STEM now? 

    Lourdes: A big thing that still is facing women in STEM is the career or family versus career and family, which is disappointing. So many women are having to make decisions between those things rather than being given the chance to blend them successfully.  

    I said to one of my young coworkers, you shouldn't apologize so much for being a mother. And it's not that she was really apologizing for being a mother but that was the situation she was struggling with emotionally. She didn't want to it come across as “dropping the ball” now that she had a child. 

    I remind young women in the workplace not to be so apologetic. It's OK that your child is sick, and it's OK if you get sick, and it's OK if you take a day off. We're human beings, and we should not have to feel that we have to do twice as much to prove ourselves.  

    Lisa: There still is a lot of bias and it's still something we have to be really careful about. And not only against women but transgender and non-gender binary people. 50% of the students don't identify as binary genders at my school, and it's really important to have all these voices at the table. 

    There’s a study by a group of women researchers who were studying birds and birdsong. They found something no one had ever found before – female birds have their own songs. Usually, these research teams have been all men, who had found the male bird song but hadn’t identified any female birds. None. And it just goes to show science is not objective, it's subjective. And I think it's important for the progress of biology that we include all people and have a wide variety of voices and viewpoints at the table. We need Black biologists, we need women biologists, we need people that are not as represented.  

    What are you hopeful for?  

    Lourdes: I'm hopeful for a time when your gender is not important at all to the career that you choose. And I would say this for men and women. You know, a lot of men want to go into nursing and it's a feminized area, just like teaching is, and there shouldn't be any sort of perception as to who is a nurse who is a teacher. And there should also definitely not be any perception as to who is a scientist. 

    I look forward to the day when a young woman who says she's a scientist isn't told, “Well, you don't look like a scientist.” To be accepted in the discipline she's pursuing. To avoid harassment and all the challenges that so many women in STEM report and have experienced, myself included. So, I want that for my daughter and for all the young women out there who pursue this career path. And I think hearing those voices from women encourages more women to speak out about how we want to see our workplaces change; how we want to see STEM change. And that's important because it changes the culture, and it can change behavior. 

    Lisa: I'm hopeful for institutions supporting women as they're starting their careers, making them feel included, wanted, and that their contributions are valued because they have unique contributions to make. And this includes trans people, LGBTQ+, disabled people, BIPOC, and groups of people that have been marginalized, pushed aside – not made to feel welcome in biology and other sciences. It's really important to value all biologists and not just the ones who are established white men. 

    Hear more about how we can #BreakTheBias in STEM in our webinar Intentionally Cultivating STEM Identity to Promote Diversity & Inclusion featuring Dr. Lourdes Norman-McKay. 

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  • Harnessing the power of positivity in higher ed

    by Pearson

    Two women and a man are sitting at a table that holds a laptop computer, books, and a mug. They are looking at the screen and smiling.

    There's a well-known quote from Norman Vincent Peale’s famous book, The Power of Positive Thinking, that says, “Our happiness depends on the habit of mind we cultivate.” You’ve likely heard it — or some version of it — numerous times, and the reason for that is because it’s true. And this may be especially true of higher ed environments, where helping students cultivate successful habits and mindsets is top of mind for instructors.

    No one embodies this idea more than Dr. Nora Junaid, professor at the Isenberg School of Management at University of Massachusetts Amherst. In fact, everything Nora does seems to radiate positivity, which has been the guiding force behind her success as an instructor & mentor.

    Positivity starts with yourself

    When Nora joined the Isenberg School in 2016, she was handed two Introduction to Business Information Systems classes, with 220 students each. She got through the first semester without knowing exactly how to approach it.

    “I didn’t have a structure, I wasn’t sure about the software, I wasn’t sure about the book, and I didn’t feel that I had a good connection with the students,” she says.

    It was clear something needed to change. Nora spent every day of that first holiday break poring over the course, thinking of strategies to reorganize it and coordinate her TAs. By the time break was over, she’d revamped it entirely into something she felt would work much better for everyone, faculty and students alike. When she saw her evaluations after the second semester ended, they were up by at least 30% — a huge jump.

    The course quickly became very popular, and more courses were opened to meet demand. What started as two sections with 440 students has become 5 sections with around 900 students enrolled per semester.

    Building a positive team...

    With such an in-demand course, Nora can’t handle it alone. She manages 25 TAs, each of whom teaches a section, and three PhD students, and they all must be in sync so that every student gets the same positive teaching experience.

    Nora is quick to point out that fostering camaraderie, transparency, and positivity among her TAs is important to the success of the course and helps in mentoring and coaching her team. Using weekly meetings, online message chains, and other technology helps them stay on the same page and feel supported without demanding too much of their already busy schedules.

    “Most faculty fail to realize that these students have a life, they have courses, they have dissertations. I make sure I show them that I have their backs and that they’re appreciated. It makes them feel a step above being just an undergraduate student and helps them a lot.”

    ...building a positive community

    Creating a positive and supportive environment for 25 TAs is one thing; replicating that for 1,800 students a year takes something entirely different. Nora recognizes the special considerations needed to keep them motivated and engaged.

    Going into a lecture with 219 other students can be intimidating, exhausting, and de-motivating. There’s no guarantee the instructor will notice if you’re even there or not. To help build a more connected community, Nora again turned to technology.

    She developed her own app, Nora’s Corner, that students can download for free and get insights about everything that’s going on in the course, their TA’s contact information, and an open forum in which they can ask questions anonymously. She also created an Instagram account for the course — @excel.ninja — featuring her and the TAs answering questions & uploading lighthearted but still helpful posts.

    “We’re using technology to let students know that ‘Hey, we’re a community, we’ve got you — no one’s going to slip through the cracks.’ It’s a huge motivator for both students and TAs.”

    “We are changing students' lives”

    “I knew I was onto something,” Nora says. “After that first semester with the revamped course, I realized that being a lecturer was my passion. I didn’t want to apply for assistant professor positions, I just wanted to work on improving as a lecturer."

    The thing that really fuels her is seeing learners succeed because of a piece of information she shared or a skill that she taught them. Providing that influence and focusing on how to help students stay positive by using positive teaching strategies is one of her biggest drivers.

    “We are changing students’ lives. When they come into the classroom, there’s an ‘a-ha’ moment you can see in their eyes. No amount of research and no paper or journal publication can satisfy an instructor in that way,” she says.

    Nora admits that the idea of changing the world by changing students’ mindset sounds like a bit of an exaggeration. But when you're teaching and influencing 900 students a semester, and you can positively affect one thing in their thinking, then the scope of that change becomes very real.

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  • Teaching with social media: Bring your knowledge to their platforms

    by Dr. Ai Addyson-Zhang

    female standing in front of camera on tripod, discussing content on whiteboard

    This blog series highlights educators who have embraced social media in their ongoing quest to meet students where they are, increase engagement, and improve results. Through these stories, you’ll discover how they got started, learn a few tips to make your foray into social media as seamless as possible, and hear some advice about incorporating these new technologies and platforms into your instruction or institution.

    Adding social media into your classes to engage with students and enhance teaching and learning is hard work. The key is getting started. The longer you wait, the harder it is.

    Start with a platform that you’re most comfortable with. Once you taste the benefits and you see the excitement of students, you’ll feel more motivated to study and explore more digital tools, to bring more to the classrooms.

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  • Teaching with social media: How to use tech to communicate with students

    by Dr. Wendy Tietz

    male standing in library, holding phone while taking a picture of himself

    This blog series highlights educators who have embraced social media in their ongoing quest to meet students where they are, increase engagement, and improve results. Through these stories, you’ll discover how they got started, learn a few tips to make your foray into social media as seamless as possible, and hear some advice about incorporating these new technologies and platforms into your instruction or institution.

    Social media helps my students engage with me and buy into the course a little more.

    Plus, social media allows me to share a lot of real-life examples with students. I’m always looking for authentic learning experiences that show students more than just what we see in the abstract lecture — things that impact real life. YouTube™ allows me to extend the boundaries of the classroom, because I can upload short videos about lectures from the class.

    Be willing to adapt

    Don’t be afraid to evolve with your students. For instance, I don’t use Facebook much myself anymore. But that was the first place I used to upload examples and make it a resource — I could communicate with students where they were, rather than telling them to go into the LMS.

    And ten years ago, students were certainly on Facebook more than they were on our LMS. But students have changed. They don’t use it that much anymore, so neither do I. It evolves every semester.

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  • Teaching with social media: Digital tools give students flexibility

    by Dr. Sean Nufer

    Female student sitting on window ledge reviewing content on mobile device

    This blog series highlights educators who have embraced social media in their ongoing quest to meet students where they are, increase engagement, and improve results. Through these stories, you’ll discover how they got started, learn a few tips to make your foray into social media as seamless as possible, and hear some advice about incorporating these new technologies and platforms into your instruction or institution.

    One of the great things about social media is the flexibility. That’s what students are looking for, especially nontraditional students.

    Social media can morph and accommodate your lifestyle, timeline, and schedule. You can utilize it as extensively as you’d like or minimize your utilization. But it accommodates. And that’s what online students especially are looking for.

    Incorporating social media into courses

    Traditional brick and mortar classrooms with set timelines and activities are never going to go away, but there are many students who need the flexibility that virtual learning offers.

    And social media can be worked into that in a way that is comfortable, because it’s something they’re familiar with and use. If you can utilize their understanding of the technology for course content, students really appreciate that capability.

    Today we have more digital tools and more approaches to teaching that we can leverage — that’s one of the virtues of social media. Sometimes we just have to get out of that comfort zone of how we were taught, or how tenured faculty may teach.

    We’ve seen success with those models, but you can have success in other ways, too. Don’t be afraid to take that leap and really explore something unfamiliar.

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  • Teaching with social media: Communities of practice in a digital world

    by Steven W. Anderson

    pearson online, interacting with others in a virtual meeting

    This blog series highlights educators who have embraced social media in their ongoing quest to meet students where they are, increase engagement, and improve results. Through these stories, you’ll discover how they got started, learn a few tips to make your foray into social media as seamless as possible, and hear some advice about incorporating these new technologies and platforms into your instruction or institution.

    Learning is a social activity — it very rarely happens in isolation. We live in a digital world where we have access to some of the smartest, most brilliant minds anywhere, almost at the click of a mouse or the tap of a keyboard, so being able to plug in to these networks in whatever form that is most meaningful to the user is important.

    Importance of teacher communities

    I’m a proponent of Twitter, but there are some educators who look at it and say “I could never be involved in something like that for one reason or another.” They find it overwhelming, or they can’t find what they need.

    The key is to get hooked into a community, because “alone we’re smart, but together we’re brilliant.”

    So when we work together, and share and reflect and grow together as professionals, the impact on our students can be tremendous. And it doesn’t really matter what platform you choose, the key is to become connected to one another.

    That then again shows students that learning is a very social activity. But it also shows them that these platforms can help build skills like digital citizenship and digital literacy, which are increasingly more important in understanding where our information comes from.

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  • Teaching with social media: Build a personal brand while building communities

    by Dr. Karen Freberg

    female sitting at desk in front of camera

    This blog series highlights educators who have embraced social media in their ongoing quest to meet students where they are, increase engagement, and improve results. Through these stories, you’ll discover how they got started, learn a few tips to make your foray into social media as seamless as possible, and hear some advice about incorporating these new technologies and platforms into your instruction or institution.

    I’ve always loved technology, and I’ve always wanted to integrate it into my classroom. But I remember getting pushback early in my career that social media was a fad, and distracting, and was going to go away.

    Professional benefits of social media

    I’ve been a huge advocate for not only incorporating social media platforms, but really using it to help build a strong personal brand. I’ve seen first-hand the professional opportunities that have come my way because of what I’ve done with my blog and my social media platform by making these connections. And I’ve been able to get amazing collaboration opportunities for my students, too.

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  • Teaching with social media: Expand your toolset with purpose & confidence

    by Dr. Glenn Hurst

    woman viewing content on her mobile device

    This blog series highlights educators who have embraced social media in their ongoing quest to meet students where they are, increase engagement, and improve results. Through these stories, you’ll discover how they got started, learn a few tips to make your foray into social media as seamless as possible, and hear some advice about incorporating these new technologies and platforms into your instruction or institution.

    The two key driving forces when I was starting with social media were that I could help my students to understand the content to a greater extent, keep students engaged, and help them to develop strong communication skills.

    Using social media in your course

    I was actually using a lot of these social media platforms already as part of my personal life, so that made it easier from my perspective to do something innovative with them. With Snapchat, for instance, I always felt it could enhance student engagement and course understanding, but no one seemed to be taking advantage of it.

    And there were people in my department who had used social media with students already, and it had been effective. That gave me more confidence than perhaps an educator in a school or university where there wasn’t that history.

    But it’s inherent to have an idea of what you want to do, and some clear objectives beforehand, instead of just trying a piece of social media and making it up as you go along. I think you have to have a more defined approach from the outset for it to be a big success.

    Getting started

    If you’re not familiar with a social media platform, sometimes there’s a learning curve to get over, and I think that could worry a lot of people. They don’t want to get started because they’re not adequately trained in the first place. Create a test account to get acquainted with it to start. Then once you know how to use the platform, the rest of it is easy.

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  • Digital reading strategies to improve student success

    by Dr. Rachel Hopman-Droste

    College student reading digital content on a laptop

    As a learning scientist and former instructor, I’ve been watching the topic of digital content develop for a while now. In the past, it’s been regarded as a poor substitute for the printed text when it comes to student comprehension. However, new research shows we’ve reached a turning point in digital reading. My colleagues Dr. Clint Johns, Julia Ridley, and I reviewed 40 peer-reviewed research studies from the last five years, focused mostly in higher education learners in the US1. Based on our review, most research shows that well-designed digital content can be understood as effectively as print and includes added benefits for readers.

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  • Are you experiencing teacher burnout?

    by Pearson

    Image of teacher talking with a student

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

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

    Recognize the signs

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

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

    You’re not the only one

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

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

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

    There is hope — Coping with burnout

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

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

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

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

    Watch Dr. Rachel Hopman-Droste's recorded webinar to learn more about managing burnout in the classroom

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  • Preparing for the underprepared: Leveraging education technology for equitable and inclusive education

    by Dr. Drew Berrett

    A man lies on his stomach on a bed, listening to headphones, writing on a notebook. A pile of books are on one side of him and an open laptop computer is on the other.

    Have you noticed students coming to class underprepared or unable to demonstrate proficiency in reading, writing, or mathematics at the college level? Over 60% of students who attend either a two-year or four-year university enroll in at least one remedial course to better prepare for their major courses.1

    Unfortunately, many of the academically underprepared are economically disadvantaged or come from marginalized or minority groups. For example, in California, over 90% of economically disadvantaged students require remediation in English language learning.2

    The impact of COVID-19

    The COVID-19 pandemic may have further heightened the struggles of underprepared students. With the shift to online learning, teaching quality varied substantially and transitions to remote learning were inconsistent. This enhanced the inequality for students who may not have access to the internet or a computer or don’t have the parental support they need.3

    Institutions across the country are looking for new ways to help learners succeed. How could your institution and instructors leverage education technology to improve access and utilization to support these underprepared students?

    Filling the gaps

    Learning gaps should be identified prior to enrollment or the start of a course to ensure students are as successful as possible. Technology can help identify these gaps.

    For example, Pearson Gap Finder assesses student knowledge and skills on prerequisite topics prior to enrolling in A&P courses. Students take an online diagnostic assessment and, based on the results, complete online learning modules focused on identified deficiencies so they’re more prepared for the rigorous A&P curriculum.

    Remediation

    Once learning gaps are identified, you can provide the remediation students need to be successful. Your institution likely has its own remediation courses that are prerequisites before entering into major courses. Research has found that many of these courses are unspecific, increase costs, and extend the time required to graduate, all of which can lead to increased drop outs.

    Using online instruction can compress these courses, allowing students to only receive remediation on the topics they need while co-enrolling with their major course. Plus this specification of courses increases affordability and access1 — helping you reach more students and meet your institutional goals of equity and inclusion.

    Leveraging technology for ongoing support

    There are many benefits to online instruction that level the playing field for many different social and demographic groups.

    • It allows for both asynchronous and synchronous instructional models. Asynchronous instruction (pre-recorded video, digital materials, etc.) provides for slowed and/or repeated delivery of instruction, making it ideal for English language learners.
    • Students can study anywhere at any time, which is great for students who are working while earning their degree.
    • Online tutoring provides the flexibility students need while still providing quality instruction.

    Smarthinking is an online tutoring service available for core subjects, including math, science, business, health sciences, reading, and writing. Assistance can be provided asynchronously and synchronously 24/7 by subject matter experts with graduate degrees. The writing portion of the program allows students to submit essays or similar writing pieces and receive personalized assistance.

    Watch my recorded webinar to learn more about supporting underprepared students

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  • Incorporating Diversity into CTE Instructional Materials

    Two young in scrubs on a laptop working

    Introducing The Pearson Race & Ethnicity Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Guidelines

    In February of 2021, Pearson issued additional guidance to complement our Pearson Global Editorial Policy. These guidelines serve as a resource to help content developers—including authors, reviewers, and editors—create authentic representations of the diverse communities we serve, and challenge racial and other stereotypes and associated prejudices in all Pearson courseware, digital materials, services, qualifications, and assessments. They will be used in the process of developing new educational content as well as the review of existing content across all Pearson products, including Career & Technical Education curriculum.

    The Value of Diversity in Education

    When students join the workforce, they will encounter a variety of individuals with a vast range of backgrounds and abilities. To be successful, they will need to have a mindset that accepts and adapts to people of different cultures, values, backgrounds, and experiences. Further, as the global economy accelerates, sound business decision-making requires a constant awareness of cultural differences and sensitivities. As these students advance in their careers, a fair, harmonized workplace will increasingly become their responsibility.

    Challenges Publishers Face When Addressing Bias in CTE Programs

    As a publisher we are cognizant of several challenges to ensuring diverse and equitable representation in educational programs:

    Underrepresentation - People of different identities should be represented in all program components and be portrayed as equal and active participants in education and workplace settings. We choose texts and imagery that enable as many students as possible to identify with the content and feel included in the learning process.

    Negative Associations - We are reviewing existing content for unintentional or nuanced stereotypes. For example, does a construction content provide adequate inclusion of workers including women and people with physical disabilities? Another example would be equitable representation of different ethnic races in health sciences programs. When developing new content, an additional level of conscious inclusion should be added to the traditional development process.

    Limited Positive Associations - We strive to present an authentic and diverse representation of people in roles that disrupt traditional stereotypes within instructional materials. CTE programs often include career profile features that provide an excellent opportunity to depict people of all cultures and abilities as role models or highlight their accomplishments. We commit to doing the additional research necessary to help break down stereotypes and show that career opportunities and leadership roles are not limited by race, gender, gender expression, ethnicity, or age, just to name a few, to help reinforce the understanding for today’s CTE students that people of different cultures are leaders and innovators.

    Impact of Pearson Global Editorial Policy and Guidelines on our CTE Product Development Process

    The CTE Editorial Team at Pearson uses the guide to focus on diversity principles including:

    • Ensuring all team members are aware of the potential for subtle or unconscious bias in developing student content and program outcomes.
    • Deliberately seeking reliable sources for diverse perspectives in all authoring and research done during the development process.
    • Representing people of different races, cultures, ethnicities, religious beliefs, and abilities in all student materials as equal and active participants in the learning process.
    • Choosing imagery that reflects the diversity of the classroom.
    • Presenting people in roles that disrupt traditional stereotypes.
    • Providing teachers the tools they need to understand and adapt to any classroom, regardless of student makeup. For example, many of Pearson’s programs include Teacher’s Editions with lesson plans for Advanced, Less Advanced, English Language Learner, and Special Needs students.

    Making a Difference in the CTE Community

    Beyond the considerations taken in content development, there are a number of other practices CTE publishers, including Pearson, integrate into their daily business that can make a further difference:

    • Include diversity in all initiatives and interactions with student and teacher associations.
    • Leverage diverse practices in developing marketing programs and highlight diversity, equity and inclusion as a foundation of CTE programs.

    Pearson's role is to create learning products that encourage critical thinking and help people understand the world around them. We are committed to developing products and services that represent the authentic histories and experiences of learners. Pearson is committed to creating equity and opportunity for all through education (regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, social class, geographical location, religious beliefs, and disability). We are continuously working to ensure our CTE programs reflect this.

    Learn more about K-12 CTE Pathways programs from Pearson.

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  • Boost web leads and enrollments with this tried-and-true SEO tactic

    by Jacqueline Richtman

    Hand holding a laptop computer

    Search engine optimization (SEO) may sound intimidating, but good SEO practices can increase web traffic, boosting leads, and helping you tell your story to a wider audience. And when you get your brand in front of more potential students, without adding significantly to your already stretched budget, those leads have a better chance of turning into enrollments. To do this, SEO analysts implement innovative strategies to optimize websites to rank higher than their competitors. One of these strategies is called the hub and spoke strategy.

    What is the hub and spoke strategy?

    The hub and spoke strategy, most often referred to as the silo architecture strategy, leverages site structure to increase keyword rankings to important pages on your website.

    Most sites contain a blog with highly relevant content for their target users. These blog posts tend to rank well for multiple keywords with large search volumes, leading to significant organic traffic.

    By implementing the hub and spoke strategy, high-traffic blog posts relocate to live under the specific pages desired to increase keyword rankings. The specific pages typically are where users convert, such as degree pages, product pages, etc. These main pages are considered the “hub,” and once the blog posts are moved under the “hub,” they are referred to as “spoke” pages or child pages.

    An example of the hub and spoke strategy

    For example, imagine a user searches for a new car. They would start with the brand they would like. Then, they’d decide what type of car. Their decision would then be narrowed down even further to what color, how many miles, etc. But they start at the top of the funnel with the brand. With the Hub and spoke strategy, the site structure starts with the main page or “hub” and then adds “spoke” or child pages beneath to provide even more specific information.

    Essentially, this SEO strategy alters the site structure by placing high-traffic “spoke” pages directly beneath the “hub” pages within the site map. This transition allows positive signals/domain authority to transfer from the spoke pages to the higher-converting hub pages.

    Benefits of the hub and spoke strategy

    The hub and spoke strategy provides a variety of benefits to a site.

    1. Transfers positive signals to hub pages
      This SEO strategy leverages high-traffic blog posts’ authority and sends it up to the “hub” pages which ultimately encourages Google or another search engine to rank this page higher.
    2. Surfaces relevant content with easy navigation
      Most users find content directly from the search engines. By relocating these relevant pieces of content beneath the “hub” pages, users can navigate to the information they want more quickly.
    3. Higher conversion rates on site
      Due to the nature of the hub and spoke strategy, these high-traffic blog posts are closer to the higher-converting, higher-intent pages of the site. This tends to increase lead capture through a website.

    With these benefits in mind, your university could implement the hub and spoke strategy by featuring standout alumni stories as spoke pages under the hub page for the program they graduated from. Or you could highlight innovative research stories under the related program. These examples show how spoke content drives traffic back to the main hub pages that are designed to convert leads into enrolled students.

    While this strategy requires planning and technical input from SEO and web development teams, you should see a return on your efforts in the form of more traffic and leads. At Pearson Online Learning Services, our team is always learning and attempting innovative solutions to stay up-to-date with Google. Explore enrollment solutions.

     

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  • The student as consumer, and the burden of choice

    by Joe Morgan, Vice President, University Partnership Development, Pearson

    Woman looking at a computer with a smile on her face

    If we’ve spoken or crossed paths in a webinar recently, you may recognize a recurring theme (perhaps obsession) of mine: the student as a consumer. My preoccupation is a reaction to a common assumption that higher education purchases are somehow different than other high-stakes purchases. While the benefits of education arguably outweigh those of other purchases, the learner is first a consumer, and consumer psychology is unequivocally at play.

    To more intimately understand the student-consumer’s expectations for digital or online learning, Pearson (the global learning company) partnered with Accenture (the global management consultancy). We believed Accenture’s consumer behavior insights could be applied to the student-consumer journey, to benefit learners, providers of learning, and employers. This series provides a few observations about what we learned together. This post focuses on the beginning of the student journey: the purchase.

    The burden of choice

    Accenture observed that businesses struggle to create personalized experiences that don’t drown their customers in too many options. Overwhelmed by choices, consumers are likelier to make poor decisions, be less satisfied, and abandon a website or brand altogether. To paraphrase Accenture, the endless aisle sounds great until you have to walk down it.1

    That burden of choice also applies to a student’s education decision, with profound implications. Making the best choice in higher education is methodical, often taking four months or longer. It is high stakes — particularly given its cost, and it is nearly impossible to do effectively today. Learners faced with information overload and limited processing abilities will narrow their decisions to known institutions, or those that rank on page one of search.

    As a simplistic thought experiment, I searched for “online MBA.” In .46 seconds, I received 332 million results. Valuable information… no doubt. Finding insight of value to me as a prospect… dubious. We know from our own research that nearly 3 in 10 learners are so overwhelmed by education search that they abandon the process without ever enrolling.2

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  • Promote smooth instructional delivery transitions for dual enrollment math

    by Hilary Duplantis

    Young woman on a laptop

    Promote smooth instructional delivery transitions for dual enrollment math

    High school dual enrollment teachers moving fully online from a face-to-face setting during COVID had the added challenge of remaining in sync with their college partners, but classes already using Pearson’s MyMathLab for School’s (MMLS) online platform pre-pandemic have hardly missed a beat.

    As the pandemic hit, educators asked:

    • How do we keep students engaged?
    • How do we provide ample practice opportunities?
    • How do we monitor student progress?
    • How do we administer assessments?
    • How do we make ourselves fully available to our students?
    • How do we help our students accomplish their learning goals?
    • And as a dual enrollment course, how do we maintain continuity with our post-secondary partner institution?

    Pre-COVID use of MyMathLab for School helped smooth transition to remote

    For some teachers the transition to remote learning was a smooth one because their dual enrollment courses already used Pearson’s MyMathLab for School (MMLS). David Woods, Ryan Skyta, and Lauren Morris are all high school math instructors teaching dual enrollment college algebra courses in partnership with Louisiana State University (LSU). Each of these teachers utilized MMLS prior to COVID and acknowledge the multiple benefits the program has provided them and their students during the pandemic.

    Having prior experience with MMLS benefited both students and teachers, according to Ryan Skyta, math teacher at Brother Martin High School in New Orleans:

    “I feel like since we, as an entire school, used the program before the pandemic, within every department in our school, we were probably in the best shape because the kids regularly have used the program for the past couple of years, so they are very familiar with it. We didn’t have to train them on how to use it and it was an easy transition.”

    ...And helped relieve teacher stress

    The pandemic created ever fluctuating circumstances for educators. Being equipped with a fully sustainable, comprehensive online environment like MMLS can relieve some of the tension, worry, and uncertainty. For David Woods, dual enrollment math teacher at Liberty Magnet High School in Baton Rouge, having used MMLS for years prior to the pandemic eased the considerable amount of stress he felt while transitioning to remote instruction. He believes it could have done the same for others, as he heard firsthand how other teachers struggled and it made him thankful for the multiple resources MMLS offered him and his students.

    “I can’t reiterate enough the fact that MyMathLab for School allowed us to have such a smooth transition. I know I have a lot of colleagues around the country that were struggling. How am I going to assess my students? How am I going to provide them this opportunity? Does anybody know anything that’s out there that my students could possibly be doing, or that I can be using as a teacher? MyMathLab for School was a huge component in sparing me from that because we already had a digital platform that the students could continue to use that was already equipped with videos, activities, lessons, quizzes, and assessments. We could just roll through it and since we were already using it, there was no learning curve.”

    “View an example” and “Help Me Solve This” features help students work independently

    Lauren Morris, dual enrollment math teacher and department chair at St. Joseph’s Academy in Baton Rouge, found the View an Example and Help Me Solve This features were the most impactful and heavily utilized aspects of MMLS once fully remote. Lauren noted that students relied greatly on those features because they were no longer in the classroom asking questions and receiving immediate responses from teachers. She felt it gave them resources to rely on, when needed.

    View an Example helped Ryan Skyta’s students work independently at home.

    “If we didn’t have MyMathLab for School we certainly would have had much bigger issues when it came to students trying to figure things out. They love the View an Example feature when it comes to doing their homework. That was definitely a huge advantage.”

    Whether fully remote, hybrid, or face-to-face, the Pearson MMLS online platform offers students stability and dual enrollment teachers' confidence their courses maintain rigor and remain in sync with their college partners.

    Learn more about MyMathLab for School

    Check out Pearson’s dual enrollment offerings  

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  • Terry’s story: A timely teacher-student connection

    by Terry Austin

    woman sitting on a couch with her laptop and book taking notes, a boy sat on the couch with a pad in his hands

    Understanding that your students are more than just a grade is one thing; going the extra step to show them you care about them as people is another entirely.

    Dr. Terry Austin has been an instructor at Temple College in Temple, Texas for more than 15 years, during which time he’s championed the use of digital learning platforms in his biology and A&P classes.

    Terry found out just how important these resources can be for him and students — and for a reason you might not expect.

    Warning signs

    During his Anatomy & Physiology class, Terry noticed something odd about one of his student’s Early Alerts reports within the Mastering® A&P platform.

    Crista had been doing well. Really well. Her first exam score was in the mid-90s and all her work in the course was great. His dashboard showed her solidly in the green or “low-risk” category. But that unexpectedly changed.

    “All of a sudden, kind of out of nowhere, she seemed to fall off a cliff,” said Terry. “She fell pretty quickly into the yellow (medium-risk) and even red (high-risk) category, and it felt like there must be something else going on.”

    Normally, you’d expect a noticeable drop in grade to trigger an alert, but this was something different.

    “Her Mastering grade didn’t really drop at all, but Early Alerts noticed something going on. That’s what really triggered me to want to reach out. It felt like talking to her was probably the best idea.”

    The human connection

    Crista was a little shocked to receive Terry’s call.

    “Her reaction when I first reached out was a little bit of a startle. I don’t think she was expecting to get a phone call from her professor,” said Terry. “She was almost in tears when I answered — she was really concerned.”

    After reassuring her that her grade was just fine, he explained that there was an alert in Mastering telling him that something might be amiss.

    He soon found out what that was.

    Crista and her husband had been in the hospital the previous weekend with their son, who had broken his arm. A surgery and complications had kept her there for several days. Her husband had brought her laptop to the hospital, and she tried to keep up with her coursework while sitting anxiously beside her son’s bed.

    It also became clear why the system had created an alert for Crista.

    "She was distracted,” said Terry. "Her correct on first try score dropped, the attempts it took her to get the correct answers rose, but her grade stayed solid.”

    That’s what triggered an “aha” moment for Terry.

    “If I was looking at nothing but her grade, I never would’ve known anything was going on. The ability to see the need to make an outreach really was empowering.”

    Crista’s reaction to his reaching out to make a connection with her as a person — not just a student — drove that feeling home, and also made her see Terry as something more than just a teacher. It went beyond just gratitude.

    "It really did seem like a gushing appreciation that somebody seemed to care enough to make sure she was OK.”

    With great power...

    Terry now likens his experience to a popular comic book trope.

    “For me, it did feel like that super power moment. I got that ability to see into a troubled moment in her life, I got the chance to reach out, and I guess — maybe more importantly — I took that chance.”

    Not only was he able to reassure Crista that her grade was all right, but he was able to reassure himself that she was all right.

    “Her grades were fine — I knew she was OK as a student — but I also knew looking at that shift from green to yellow — something had caused that to happen. It felt really nice being able to reach out and know that she was OK.”

    Terry says that this experience did truly change the way he looks at his students.

    “It’s a reminder for me that my students are far more than just their grades. It was an insight and really an awakening that there’s more going on with my students than just that grade in the moment. It’s a reminder that there’s a person behind that grade, it’s not just a number.”

    He finds that this technology is like having a window to peek through; to have an idea whether everything is all right, or whether he might need to reach out again.

    As for that feeling of having a super power?

    “It's one of those moments that kind of comes with great responsibility. And it would be nice to think instructors don’t ignore the opportunity being handed to them.”

    Learn more about the Early Alerts technology in this story.  

     

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  • 4 tactics to show the value of online programs vs. remote learning

    by Melissa Johnson

    Young girl on her laptop

    In the post-2020 remote learning world, how do you stand out from the crowd? With universities being forced to put many of their programs and courses online because of the pandemic — and then keeping them there because now they’re ‘online’ — how do you get prospective students to consider your online courses and your online programs over the thousands now available at the click of a mouse?

    First, the differences between “remote” learning and “online” learning stem from how each program was structured and envisioned. Remote learning is characterized by inconsistency and a lack of structure and is usually a reaction to an external force necessitating the need to go online quickly (as illustrated by the 2020 pandemic). At its best, learning materials and assessment are thought out in advance and instructors are trained in online teaching methods. At its worst, faculty is trying to figure out, week by week, how to convert their face-to-face content to an online format, which often results in synchronous video lectures and outdated text materials.

    On the other hand, online learning is characterized by planning, consistency, and an understanding of the virtual environment, which includes the intentional use of technology to meet online teaching needs (meaning it can be a truly asynchronous experience). Assignments and student assessment are tied to outcomes and objectives which are clearly stated, course materials are planned accordingly and created for online learning, and students don’t have to guess or wonder what is expected of them from week to week.

    Your programs are online and intentional. How do you tell students?

    Once you have a program filled with courses that are intentional, engaging, and authentic, you need to be able to quantify this information. What’s the data that supports the claim that your courses and programs are superior?

    Many will start by analyzing basic data from their learning management system (LMS).

    • How do students do on quizzes and exams?
    • How long are they active in their course?
    • Where are they spending their time?

    While these are definitely data points, are they the right data points? A student who aces every exam may just be a good test taker. What does it really mean when Andre was logged into the Week 1 Discussion for four hours — did he log in and then walk away after 30 minutes? These basic data points don’t tell prospective students much about the quality of your online courses. You need to provide information that goes deeper than basic LMS information.

    While there is no magic formula, there are some strategies you can implement to obtain meaningful information and data points that are worth marketing.

    1. Design assessments that matter. What type of assignments and student assessment are in your courses? It’s more impressive to share an average pass rate of 85% when assignments are mapped to objectives and based on real-world situations. An 85% pass rate in a course with nothing but quizzes and exams is less inspiring.
    2. Survey students for concrete experiences. What do students really think about your courses and programs? When creating student surveys, ask meaningful questions. While this seems obvious, it’s still surprising how many course surveys we continue to see with questions like, “Would you recommend this course to a friend?” Relevant survey questions are pointed and meaningful, such as, “What were you able to take from this course and immediately practice on the job/in the real world?”
    3. Assess student confidence before and after. A good course starts with objectives. At the beginning of the course when you are telling students what they will be able to do by the end of the course, assess their confidence level as well. “How confident are you that you will be able to do A, B, and C?” Then, at the end, assess their confidence again. “How confident are you now that you will be able to do A, B, and C?” Combining an assessment of students’ before and after confidence with other meaningful survey questions (see above), and you have a powerful marketing tool.
    4. Use basic LMS data to determine where students are struggling in your program, and then fix those issues. While not really marketable, analyzing LMS data to continually improve student performance will reap its own rewards. Using LMS data to determine students’ pain points and then adjusting assignments and content accordingly will only improve your pass rates, retention, and student satisfaction — which will result in improved student survey results and more marketing opportunities.

    From Measuring to Messaging

    Let’s look at an example. Say a prospective student is comparing two online marketing programs, each with a testimonial. Which one sounds like the better program?

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  • How to build long-term relationships that foster student success

    by Melissa Johnson

    Young girl on her laptop

    Q&A with Student Support Coach Kristina Campbell 

    Coaching students isn’t just a job, it’s a two-way bond that helps students focus on their academic goals. It also gives the student support coaches a unique understanding of what students need to complete their online degrees or programs. And it affords institutions the ability to retain students who are tracking toward their goals. Kristina Campbell tells her story as a student support coach below.

    What do you enjoy most about coaching students?

    For me, it’s being with a student from start to finish. Nothing is more satisfying than being a part of the student’s process and hearing the excitement and joy they have upon their completion of the program. To be part of their celebration of a momentous achievement.

    What's it like to have a long-term relationship with a student and watch them succeed?  

    Long term relationships are the most rewarding experience of being a coach. They give me a deeper and richer connection with the student. I even love going through those rough stages and gently pushing others when they feel that they can’t continue moving forward.

    Recently, I spoke with a student who is in their last semester. They told me that had I not given a gentle nudge the first week of class, they would’ve stopped and never reached their last semester. Students have told me they truly value the role of a coach; they’ve gone through programs before where coaching wasn’t provided and have felt the importance of having one in the programs we provide.

    What are 3 characteristics or skills that you need to be an effective coach of adult learners? 

    1. Good communication that goes beyond just talking. A coach needs to listen actively, provide helpful responses, and cultivate an atmosphere where students feel comfortable to speak.
    2. Empathy to understand that going through an educational program is not an easy feat. Students want to work with someone they believe will try to understand and show they care.
    3. Being supportive because everyone wants to be affirmed in their decisions. Coaches are part of the support system for a student.

    How do you help students overcome their concerns as they’re working toward their degrees? 

    Time management is one of the main concerns I hear from students when starting a program or when the tempo of the program changes due to course load. Students have several constants in their lives that take priority before everything else (i.e., family and work). School is a wonderful variable that they are throwing in the mix.

    I try to help students figure out how to balance school, work, home, and life. We work on finding ways to make time for learning, figuring out what needs to be adjusted or omitted in their schedule, and on making time for self-care.

    How do you help learners stay engaged with their courses and programs? 

    I try to keep learners engaged by calling them regularly, sending emails, and texting. I also send reminders, resources, and any aids or tools I can find regarding their courses.

    How do you coordinate with the university to support your students? 

    My team has a wonderful relationship with our school partner. We have been able to identify issues and bring them to the institution’s attention as needed.

    And, on multiple occasions, I’ve reached out to instructors to advocate or help a student succeed. I had one student who was diagnosed with a severe health condition. They were in the hospital and needed help to get extensions on their work. I was able to connect with the instructor to get resources to help the student complete the course.

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  • Offering personalized advice — from someone who’s been there

    by Justin Tate

    Woman on her laptop

    Q&A with Senior Student Support Specialist Justin Tate

    If you're an online learner, it's great to know you can always turn to someone who’s been in your shoes, understands how challenging it can be — and knows you can succeed. Senior Student Support Specialist Justin Tate earned his own graduate degrees online. Now, drawing on that life-changing experience, he counsels other online graduate students on how to stick with the program, balance its demands, and make the most of the experience.

    What led you to become a coach?

    I grew up in a family where college was expected. There was never any doubt whether I would be getting a degree after high school. Unfortunately, when I got to the university, I realized my study habits weren’t as good as I thought. The workload was way more intense than I expected. It took me two years, and a few dropped classes, before I understood myself: how I learned, and how I needed to balance life, work, and education.

    By junior year, I was doing great. I even started working at the university Writing Center where I tutored other students on developing their essays. That’s where I first realized I enjoyed helping learners like me — those who had what it took to succeed, but needed to find their own strategy to get there.

    What do you enjoy most about coaching students?

    College is tough, especially if you're a working adult with many competing priorities. For me, grad school was an entirely different challenge from undergrad. In the long gap between, I developed professional skills and a greater sense of purpose in my life, but I also had more commitments beyond even a full-time job. My priorities and energy levels had changed so much it was like starting over. Again, it took a while to find a strategy that worked.

    It’s rewarding to support students through their challenges in class and in life, because I know how tempting it can be to give up. If I didn’t have someone to talk to — or people in my life who understood what I was feeling — it’s very possible I would have dropped out. My goal is to be that person you can call any time, who understands what it’s like, and can guide you through the difficult times.

    What is it like to work with a student from enrollment to graduation, and to watch them succeed academically?

    The path to graduation does not always run smooth. It’s great to maintain that relationship all the way through, because you have a greater understanding of individual situations and what approaches might work best on a personal level. I tend to get emotional every time a student graduates, because I know what it took for them to get there.

    What characteristics or skills do you need to coach adult learners well?

    Start by understanding that every adult learner is different. They have a wide variety of priorities, obligations, and challenges. The only way to understand the obstacles they may face is to take time to listen to what’s going on in their world. Once you build that relationship, it’s easier to offer support that is relevant to their unique situation.

    What are some of the main concerns students share, and how do you help them overcome those concerns?

    The most common concern is fear about how to find time for higher education. Adult learners balance a lot of big priorities. At first it can seem impossible to find time for them all. Helping them process each class, shift strategies, or find their own unique study style isn’t easy, but we try to get to that space as fast as possible.

    How does your coaching help learners stay engaged, so they don’t fall by the wayside?

    I’m always personally interested in how classes are going, what big assignments are coming up next, and the general feeling each student has about their experience. By talking through what’s going on in and outside of class, we can collaborate on strategies to help them become more efficient as a student and still get the most from their education.

    How do you work with the university to support students?

    As a support coach, I’m primarily focused on talking with students, learning about their challenges, and supporting them through times of stress. This includes navigating complicated university processes, registering for the correct courses, and connecting them with the appropriate financial resources, or other departments which are part of the college experience.

    As a coach, I collaborate closely with the university to share feedback from students, smoothly implement changes, and distribute information. Since I’m usually the first person to hear about a potential obstacle, I can easily pass that information along to the appropriate parties.

    It’s also common for faculty to reach out to me if there are students who could use some extra support, are lacking engagement, or could benefit from walking through resources. All this has retained learners who don’t just go through the motions, but actually feel a part of the program.

    Have you or your colleagues ever helped a university discover a problem sooner, so they could support their students more effectively?

    My goal is to be a neutral advocate for student learners. That means many students are comfortable sharing their honest perspectives on courses and university processes. This includes identifying clear frustrations about their experience, but also the things they love most. Sharing this feedback with the university has led to more efficient processes, improved curriculum, and innovation in the classroom.

    What new issues are you beginning to see now, as more learners come online, or move through and beyond the pandemic?

    The pandemic has impacted students in very different ways. Some mention they’re more motivated than ever, with fewer competing social obligations. Others feel additional stress, as they support family and their own mental health during difficult times. Almost everyone has been touched by it in some way, and a good week can easily turn bad. Planning ahead and making contingency plans are a big part of coaching conversations, so we can expect surprises and work through them together.  

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  • Raise retention rates with student support services

    by Nisha Khan

    Student with headphones in front of laptop computer, engaging in conversation

    Q&A with Student Support Coach Nisha Khan

    Learners today are stressed. They hold down full-time jobs. They’re returning to learning as adults highly focused on careers. They worry about debt. But even with all these additional obligations, learners have big dreams of advancement through education.

    Student Support Coach Nisha Khan works with learners in MBA programs to bridge the gap between institutions and students. And both sides benefit from higher retention rates, less stress, and fewer hurdles to graduation. She shares her story of helping students below:

    Why did you become a student support services coach?

    I was with a cosmetics company for 3 years where I worked my way up to a services coordinator. I already had the customer service skills — active listening and the ability to offer quick solutions. I knew that I wanted to help people and continue to build strong relationships. When I saw the job description for the student services specialist, I knew this would be the perfect role for me!

    What do you enjoy most about coaching students?

    It is a joy to work with the same population and have the same group of students for years at a time. You really get to know a lot about each student as an individual, but also learn a lot of insights about the program that, as a coach, you might not have the opportunity to experience.

    What it’s like to have a long-term relationship with a student and watch them succeed?

    It's truly so special to be part of a student’s life during their studies. You get to watch them from the start, when they are the most passionate and excited to start their degree, through the ups and down of an MBA, and come out the other side to graduate.

    We learn a lot about students through proactive outreach. You could be calling a student to simply check in, and they will share that they are nervous to take the upcoming accounting class. You’ll then get a call from that student after the class is over to celebrate their passing grade with you.

    For them to include you in their wins is so heart-warming. We also learn about students' personal lives, and we are there to celebrate these milestones as well. Watching a student grow in all aspects really drives me to find out as much about my students as possible!

    What are 3 characteristics or skills that you need to be an effective coach of adult learners?

    You need to be compassionate, empathic, and have great attention to detail — simple as that!

    How do you help students overcome their concerns as they’re working toward their degrees?

    Students value their education and have a high expectation of the quality they will receive, especially with how high tuition can be. Even though we strive to provide the most cutting-edge and smooth experience for our students, sometimes “life happens.” It can be a technical error, a miscommunication on course materials, or grades on their homework that they disagree with. For many of our students when their expectations are not met for the price of their tuition, it can be grounds to take time off from the program, and, in the worst case, withdraw entirely.

    Many times students want to be heard, and that is exactly why I’m here. When they share feedback on the quality of the program, I can see whether it was a one-time incident, or if there is an overall trend that I can report to the partner to see if we need to implement change.

    How do you help learners stay engaged with their courses and programs?

    My school has 9 terms a year and classes are between 3–5 weeks in length. While there are benefits to this model, it means that students have registration and drop deadlines in conjunction with their class deliverables deadlines.

    My biggest role is assisting students with registration and ensuring they are reminded about upcoming registration periods. By staying in constant email and text communication, along with proactive phone calls, we help the student think in the future and keep track of the administrative and degree planning items while they focus on their studies.

    When have you worked with the university to help students more effectively?

    I am a coach to online MBA students where most students do not have a background in accounting or finance. As a result, the accounting and finance classes have the highest fail rate and the highest drop rate. Coaches also hear the most amount of feedback in these specific courses.

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  • Bridging the gap in higher ed with student support services

    by Lourdes Carvajal

    Two students talking with each other

    Q&A with Student Support Coach Lourdes Carvajal

    Learners today are stressed. They hold down full-time jobs. They’re returning to learning as adults. They’re first-generation college students. They're highly focused on careers and worry about debt. But even with all these additional obligations, learners have big dreams of advancement through education.

    Student Support Coach Lourdes Carvajal works with learners to bridge the gap between institutions and students. And both sides benefit from higher retention rates, less stress, and fewer hurdles to graduation. She shares her story of helping students below:

    Why did you become a student support services coach?

    I was an online student in my graduate program and had a lot on my plate to balance. I didn’t even know there were resources at my university to help students like me. I wanted to make the difference in a student’s experience while they’re achieving their academic dreams. It would have made my life a little easier if I had someone to go to from the university on the tough days.

    What do you enjoy most about coaching students?

    I love when a student confides in me that they’re struggling and need help. Life throws us curveballs when we least expect them and having someone to confide in makes it a little bit easier to withstand. The trust that I have earned from my students means a lot to me because I know how much they want to make it to graduation. I want to be able to help them get there.

    What is it like to have a long-term relationship with a student and watch them succeed?

    It’s an honor helping someone who has dreamt of achieving their academic goals. They share those goals with me from the very beginning, and I remind them of those goals throughout their journey. We go through ups and downs together, and we get to know each other very well. We become like family. I’m always so proud of them when they do finally achieve their academic goals.

    What are 3 characteristics or skills that you need to be an effective coach of adult learners?

    You need to be able to see the student holistically. They’re an individual who’s balancing a lot on their plate in addition to their coursework. As an effective coach you need to check in on how they’re doing, not just in the classroom but at home, too. This will greatly affect their performance academically as well.

    You also need to be supportive, in whatever decision the student makes. Our students come to rely on us, as they may not always have an effective support system at home.

    I believe another skill needed is to have good communication among your students but also the university. I believe the phrase “it takes a village” is very much applicable when working with students. Having good communication in the end will result in better support for the student.

    How have you or your colleagues helped a university better meet the needs of students?

    Some of the main concerns I hear from students are about mental health and overall wellbeing while being a full-time online student. We brought up this issue to the university and worked together to develop more mental health resources for our program. We have partnered with a resource center at the university to provide workshops on mental health for our students.

    How do you help students overcome their concerns as they’re working toward their degrees?

    My background is in social work, and mental health is very near and dear to my heart. I do mental health check-ins with my students, just to see how they’re feeling. We so often are busy taking care of everyone else, we tend to put ourselves at the bottom of that list. I remind them to prioritize themselves by doing some self-care every once in a while. We talk about activities or hobbies that they like to do to de-stress, and I remind them to do this when things are becoming too stressful.

    How do you help learners stay engaged with their courses and programs?

    My coaching style is to be very transparent with my students. If I’m transparent with them, that will make them more comfortable to come to me when they do have an issue. I remind them that they’re never on their own throughout this journey, and I’d love to help them as much as I can. I believe this has helped my students stay engaged in their courses in the program. Just knowing that someone is really looking out for them makes them feel more comfortable and motivated.

    How do you work in tandem with the university to support students?

    I like to define my role as being here to support the student. The university really likes how my role interacts with learners, as there is generally an academic adviser for the program as well.

    The academic adviser takes care of any academic issues, like course planning and grades.

    I work with the student to ensure they’re always set up for success. I allow the student to talk about their week, how their personal lives are affecting their coursework, and we also talk about their courses.

    The academic adviser and I talk almost every day so we can both brainstorm ideas on how to best support the student.

    In what ways do you partner with faculty members to help a student succeed?

    I’m very lucky to work with such amazing faculty members at the university. A faculty member will reach out to me personally to talk about a student who could use more support. I work to find the root of the issue and help find resources to best support them.

    I reach out to faculty members as well when I notice a student struggling academically and provide the context for what’s going on and how I’m working with the student. I love the collaboration between the faculty, the institution, and myself because we all want the same thing for our students, and that is to see them succeed.

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  • Empathy, skill, knowledge: How a great student coach helps adult learners succeed

    by Natasha Prospere

    Adult learner on laptop

    Q&A with Student Support Coach Natasha Prospere, M.ED

    Every online learner needs somewhere to turn when they have a problem or need someone to listen — someone whose advice is empathetic and reliable, and who can point them to resources that help them succeed. For many learners, Student Support Coach Natasha Prospere is that person. See how she approaches the crucial work of guiding learners from enrollment to graduation — so learners, institutions, and employers all get the outcomes they’re hoping for.

    What do you enjoy most about coaching students?

    I enjoy interacting with my students. And I enjoy working on new challenges every day — you never know what to expect. It's rewarding to support each student along their path, to encourage them and to provide the resources they need, from orientation to graduation.

    I let them know what to expect along the way, guide them through their upcoming courses, and help them meet their graduation requirements. I can help them access the resources they need, whether that’s mental health, tutoring, writing center, or something else. Students often thank me for being their advocate and facilitator.

    What's it’s like to have a long-term relationship with a student and watch them succeed?

    Building relationships and positive rapport with students is fundamental to their success. My students know I truly care about them, their families, and their academic success. They feel supported by me.

    In our first conversation, I learn about their academic goals — and also about their home life, what brought them to the institution, who’s part of their support system, and their ultimate goals. So, when times get tough — and they will — I can be there to remind them why they started in the first place.  

    As coaches, we provide motivation, as well as encouragement through personal struggles and life events, whether that's sick children, taking care of elderly parents, or even divorces.  We also celebrate, sharing in joyous occasions such as weddings and pregnancies!  Whatever’s happening in their lives, we’re there, with personal outreach, regular communication, and timely feedback. 

    What are three skills or characteristics you need to coach adult learners effectively?

    First, you need empathy and compassion. Second, you should be a constructive, active listener. Third, you need to be a problem solver — and to do that, you need to thoroughly understand the resources you can provide to learners, and the university policies you’re operating within.

    What are some concerns you help learners overcome?

    Time management is a main concern: feeling overwhelmed as they try to balance work, school, personal life, and raising a family. I provide tips on being a successful online learner, both during our conversations and via email. For example, I tell them to:

    • Plan your study time.
    • Print and/or download your syllabus so it’s always handy.
    • Check your school email every day — something important might be happening.
    • Log into your course(s) several times a week.

    Stepping back, I also encourage them to find their passion. What do they do for fun? Are they making sure to take time for self-care, exercise, time with family and friends? Are they eating well and getting enough sleep? That’s especially an issue for my nursing students.

    How do you help learners stay engaged with their courses and programs?

    Online graduate advising is so much more than telling students “what class comes next!”

    Students rely on their Support Coach for information to solve problems, make decisions, navigate university procedures, and overcome technology challenges. We help them register for their next class, but we also make sure they know what to expect in their upcoming courses. We help them add the concentration courses they’ll need, transfer programs, take leaves of absence if they must, and — for our Nursing suite — prepare for clinicals and campus visits.  

    We don’t just connect frequently with students. We advocate for them. We share their concerns with the university. We provide the right guidance: information they can use. It’s all about building a personal relationship that shows each student we truly care about them as individuals — and about their success. 

    How do you coordinate with the university to support your students?

    The institution’s on-campus Academic Advisors (AAs) handle grades, GPA concerns, academic standing, instructor concerns, and similar issues. With my Nursing program, Duquesne also has a clinical coordinator to help learners secure a preceptor and complete their required clinical hours. As a success coach, I send learners a program plan to follow, and remind them when it's time to register, order books, and complete financial aid.

    Students tend to reach out to me first, as their main point of contact. I can direct them to their AAs, clinical coordinators, or instructors, as needed. I often copy the AA on emails, and provide time and day when it’s best to reach the student. We follow up via email, and we meet bi-weekly with the university to discuss student affairs.

    We're a great team. Here's an example just from today. An AA called me with a heads up that a student may contact me. The AA said she knows we have a great relationship and wanted me to know what was going on with him academically. Since I know his academic situation now, I can proactively reach out to him, as he may need an updated program plan.

    What issues are rising to the forefront, as more learners come online, or as they begin moving beyond the pandemic?

    Some continuing issues are even bigger — for example, time management. We're always offering advice to help learners stay organized, set aside a dedicated study space, or use a physical or digital planner. And some students who’ve been out of school for awhile struggle with the technology. We’re there to provide resources, including a 24-hour tech support, live chat, and a writing center. So they always have what they need.

    One issue I’m anticipating: helping nursing students find a clinical rotation. With COVID-19, many sites weren’t accepting students in person. Now, I suspect, there will be an overflow that we’ll all have to carefully manage together.

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  • How mindfulness can help us start a new year amidst a pandemic

    by Ashley Lodge

    Young woman looking out at hot air balloons in the sky

    It’s only natural that our brains are in a constant state of alert due to the disruption and uncertainty caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has continued into the new year. Not only do we need to take steps to protect our bodies from the virus, we also need to take care of our minds to deal with the stress and anxiety occurring as a result. One approach that has been shown to be beneficial in dealing with this is mindfulness. 

    What exactly is mindfulness? 

    When I get asked this question, I always quote Jon Kabat Zinn, one of the leading figures in bringing mindfulness to Western audiences. He says it is “the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally.”  

    I came to mindfulness was because it was recommended to me by my doctor. I'd suffered from anxiety that, at times, could be quite debilitating. He suggested a book: Mindfulness: Finding Peace in a Frantic World, co-authored by Professor Mark Williams, the Founding Director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre. I managed to get a place on the Centre’s eight-week MBCT (Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy) course in September 2013. Following several years of daily practice and seeing the positive impact it had in my life, I later trained as a mindfulness teacher.  

    By attending the weekly group sessions and doing the practices and meditations in my original mindfulness course, I could see my anxiety calming little by little. I was more present in the moment, less reactive to difficult situations, and generally calmer and more focused. I was able to observe the working of my own mind and see thoughts as subjective mental events, rather than an objective view of the world. Understanding the two modes of mind, ‘doing’ and ‘being’, and being able to shift the gear between the two, helped me better navigate daily life. It’s not some kind of quick fix. It takes daily practice (meditation) to help rewire the brain towards calmer, wiser ways of thinking and approaching life.  

    How can mindfulness help us get going in 2021 mid-pandemic?  

    We're all concerned about Coronavirus. Questions like ‘Will I/loved ones be okay?’, ‘What impact will this have on my learning and/or work?’, and ‘When will this be over?’ are never far from our minds. 

    Right now, we don’t have all the definitive answers and while mindfulness doesn't serve to make everything better, it can help us develop ways to feel okay during times of uncertainty. Mindfulness can help offer moments to pause and step back from what's going on around us, all the information we're receiving, and our own thoughts. Rather than getting trapped in ‘doing’ mode and trying to problem solve tricky emotional situations, we learn to stand back, be present in the moment, and observe. Therefore, if we choose to respond, we do so with the calmest and wisest approach to a given situation.  

    What are some ways to embrace mindfulness, starting today?  

    The best way to learn how to be mindful is by attending a course. This will give you a deep understanding of ‘doing’ and ‘being’ modes, the characteristics of mindfulness, and the practices covered. There are many courses being offered online and many apps that can help too. To help you get started today, here are some suggestions for beginning the new year with a mindful perspective: 

    Consider intentions rather than goals. A lot of what we learn through mindfulness is training the focus of attention. In order to do this, we need to be clear about our intentions. Having clear intentions sets where the attention goes. Setting your intentions at the beginning of the year is often more favourable than using language of goals. Rather than setting specific metrics that can be used to beat yourself up, intentions allow us to have more flexible parameters that can be adapted as situations evolve and change.  

    Be gentle and kind to yourself. Self-compassion is so important. Very often we can be our own worst enemies with how we talk to ourselves. Given how much is going on in the world right now, give yourself a pat on the back for what you are able to do. Practising self-care and compassion has the added benefit that it makes us kinder and more understanding to other people too. It has a positive upward cycle effect for us and those around us. It’s a win-win.  

    Reconnect with your body and reengage the senses. Mindfulness is great at helping increase focus and reduce distraction and rumination. Simple ‘everyday’ mindfulness practices, like mindfully preparing a cup of tea or coffee, are an easy way to do this. For example, going through the steps of boiling the kettle and pouring the water into the cup, smelling it as it brews and feeling the heat through the cup, adding milk and noticing the colour change, to finally tasting the drink. This helps focus the mind and train it gently to focus on one thing at a time.  

    Although the benefits of mindfulness are well documented, it’s important to check that it’s the right approach if you’re currently experiencing any mental distress. Please always check in with your doctor or clinician before undertaking a mindfulness course. Remember that talking things through with friends, family members, or one of the many support lines out there can help if you feel things are becoming difficult.  

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  • Visualization in Precalculus and Calculus with MyLab Math

    by Aaron Warnock

    Woman looking at her computer.

    “I’d rather sing you a song than draw you a picture,” is what I’ve been telling my math classes for almost 20 years now. I’ve always enjoyed music (I was one course shy of a Music minor) and I always enjoy an opportunity to sing. Even in my math classes, I would sing the quadratic formula to the tune of “Pop! Goes the Weasel” – something which my students always enjoyed.

    When it comes to drawing however, that is a whole other matter. My stick figures are embarrassing, so you certainly don’t want me to draw complicated 3D figures in Calculus. If only I could sing about washers and cylinders for volumes of rotation in Calculus; unfortunately, a picture is better than a thousand words, or songs, in my case.

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  • How to support faculty who are teaching online

    by Pearson

    A woman working on a laptop

    Giving faculty tools to be better online instructors is essential to delivering successful courses, programs, and learner experiences.

    Develop online courses that work for students and faculty

    The best online courses are co-created with learning experts who know how to communicate the faculty member’s message most powerfully. These experts help instructors from concept to delivery and have provided these tips to help you think through your online presence.

    Create an effective online course

    Your faculty are experts in their disciplines, with strong networks in their fields, and a deep commitment to students. But they may not feel comfortable with teaching online or structuring their course content. That’s where higher ed leaders can make a positive impact. You can provide experts and training to take courses designed for an in-person classroom and adapt them for the virtual world.

    Administrators can ensure that faculty receive specialized guidance on structuring and organizing course content for online spaces and environments to make it as engaging and informative as possible. They can connect faculty with resources and tools to review courses before they go live with students. They can help standardize instructional design across courses so students are immediately comfortable when they start a new course.

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  • Optimize site conversion rates to increase inquiries and enrollments

    by Heather Clarke

    Two people are looking at a screen; one is pointing to something on the screen.

    A Q&A with Heather Clarke, Associate Director of CRO, Pearson Online Learning Services  

    Institutions are seeking more inquiries and enrollments from their online learning program websites. Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) can help them achieve this goal. To explore how, we spoke with Heather Clarke, Associate Director of CRO, Pearson Online Learning Services. 

    Q: What is CRO (sometimes called website optimization)? How does it relate to marketing online learning programs?

    A: CRO is the scientific process of testing for improvements on site elements and a user’s movement towards a purchase decision, with the goal of improving on-site conversions.

    I emphasize the word “scientific.” We use the scientific method to collect performance data and user feedback, to form hypotheses, and to test them. Based on data, we create a test variation that we hypothesize will improve performance. By testing with a control, or testing one change at a time, we can attribute any measurable shift in performance to our change.

    CRO helps mitigate risks and save time and money. By testing and evaluating (vs. blindly implementing changes), we let learners — through their actions — tell us what works for them and what doesn't.

    CRO is continuous. Sites are never 100% optimized. The digital landscape evolves every day. Learners' needs and environments evolve, too. To serve them well, we must keep a pulse on all these changes, and quickly evolve alongside them.

    Q: Who should a university leader of an online learning program talk to about CRO, and what questions should they ask?

    A: Talk to your marketing team — and first ask if they have a conversion rate optimization team monitoring day-to-day site performance. Then, you’ll want to know:

    • What does my online learning audience look like? Who are we targeting?
    • What is the data telling us? What pages get the most traffic and prospective students? Why/why not?
    • What elements on the site get the most engagement?
    • What content is the online learner looking for to decide? Do they need more or less of it? Are they finding it easily?
    • Are the pages actionable? Are the calls-to-action (the next steps you want the visitor to take) clear?
    • Does our content accurately reflect our online learning program and institution?

    Q. How do I judge the conversion rates we’re achieving?

    A: Good and bad conversion rates are relative, so there’s no definitive answer. We track baselines and trends to measure success. Our advice: establish a baseline for your site, and constantly strive to improve it.

    Once you’ve determined your site’s typical performance (which can vary seasonally), dig into your data, learner behavior, and learner feedback. That's how you identify opportunities to improve.

    Q: How can CRO improve performance?

    A: CRO’s goal is to find variations of your site that provide a statistically significant improvement in conversion. When you’re regularly making the right content available in a friendlier format, site performance should improve incrementally. More interaction with your forms = more prospective students.

    On-site performance is key, but that’s not all that matters. As you get the right decision-making content onto your pages, deliver more relevant information, and help visitors act on it, search engines notice. Your rankings improve. That helps you acquire more learners and decrease acquisition costs.

    Q: What tips would you offer to improve conversions?

    A: These 6 tips can help you improve significantly:

    1. Listen to your site's visitors. Do this by drilling down into your data, tracking chat topics and search queries, and surveying/user testing your audience. People will tell you their pain points if you listen. Which leads to...
    2. Implement the right tracking. The full story is more complicated than just clicks and conversion. To optimize your site’s layout, you need to know how people move through it. What interactive and non-interactive elements are they interacting with? Where in their journey do these interactions happen? In what order do they click on elements? How far do they scroll?
    3. Simplify, don’t clutter. Focus again on your site’s goal and what learners are telling you. What information do they need before moving forward, and what is your call-to-action? Make it easy for them to get that information. Don’t overload their senses when your page loads.
    4. Create experiences that reflect your knowledge of the learner's journey. You don’t have to do 1:1 personalization, but if you know someone has visited you before, they may need different information to move forward. If they've clicked from a specific campaign, what they see should relate to it. Mobile and desktop users are different, and may need different information. Beyond this, while it’s challenging to link on-site behavior with offsite data via a larger Customer Relationship Management (CRM) database, doing so can take your on-site targeting to the next level.
    5. Don’t make people dig! Your most important content should be higher on the page. Check out your site’s “scroll depth”: how far down the page typical visitors scroll. Anything people need to make a decision should appear above that line. Similarly:
    6. Content should be quickly digestible. What's the average time on site (or page) for site visitors? If your content takes longer than that to skim, you may lose people. They’re in a hurry — just like you.

    CRO is constantly evolving. As Heather Clarke’s team tracks the changing web environment, they continually identify new ways to improve performance. In the meantime, the lessons offered here may well help improve your web page conversions.

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  • How to use authentic assessment to engage online learners

    by Melissa Johnson

    Online student smiles as he speaks into a headset while working on a laptop at a wood table.

    Keeping learners engaged in pursuing their degrees, certifications, or development of new skills is essential to keeping them enrolled. And for adult learners, engagement and value go hand in hand. Take for example, Jan*. At the start of COVID-19, Jan’s position was eliminated, so she decided it was the perfect time to go back to school.

    Excited to continue her education — and excited to be able to do it from home — Jan jumped into her first few courses expecting the best of what 21st century online technology had to offer. What she found instead was a lot of discussion prompts asking “reflective” questions, written assignments, and a few quizzes along the way.

    After only three courses, Jan was fed up. It was not so much the money she was paying for her online program, but the lack of any learning that she could use in the real world. She was not in this for a grade — she was in this to up her skills, learn new things, and re-emerge into the job market better than when she left it.

    Communicating value through authentic assessment experiences

    Jan is not unique. She is an example of the 74% of past, present, and prospective online college students that Magda and Aslanian (2018) found are pursuing their degree program for career-focused reasons, including:

    • transitioning to a new career field
    • updating the skills required for their job
    • increasing their wages/salary

    Today's online students want learning they can immediately put into practice, so institutions will have to meet their needs with learning experiences designed with career preparation and upskilling in mind.

    Unfortunately, many online courses do not provide the opportunities students need to practice and immediately implement the skills they’re learning. So, like many online students, Jan decided that the lack of actual application of the things she was supposed to be learning was enough to make her quit.

    While quitting is an extreme swing of the pendulum, student frustration stemming from the lack of real-world application in online courses isn’t the only concern. What about the hordes of students who graduate and haven’t put their nursing, or engineering, or accountancy skills to the test in a safe learning environment? What about their patients and clients? We can solve both of these concerns using authentic assessments.

    What is authentic assessment exactly?

    Authentic assessment is a form of evaluation that asks students to perform real-world tasks that demonstrate their understanding of and ability to use the skills they’ve learned.

    Wiggins (1998) identifies a few key criteria for an assessment to be considered “authentic”:

    • It’s realistic.
    • It requires judgement and innovation.
    • It asks the student to “do” the subject.
    • It replicates or simulates the contexts in which adults are “tested” in the workplace, in civic life, and in personal life.
    • It assesses the student’s ability to efficiently and effectively use a repertoire of knowledge and skill to negotiate a complex task.
    • It allows appropriate opportunities to rehearse, practice, consult resources, and get feedback on and refine performances and products.
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  • How to keep nontraditional students enrolled and on track

    by Mandy Baldwin, Senior Student Support Specialist, Pearson

    A man with headphones on and a woman in a plaid shirt sit on a gray couch typing on laptops while a little girl in a yellow dress kneels over a coffee table drawing with colored pencils.

    When every enrollment matters to the health of an institution and, more importantly, to the dreams of every student, keeping them on track to graduate is vital. And when you have a nontraditional student body, they need a student support services team to step in to play a central role, helping students transition back to the classroom.

    As student support specialists at Pearson, my team has the privilege of connecting with online students, supporting their goals, and providing resources for their success.

    Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we worked closely with our retention managers and institutions (we call them academic partners) to alleviate some of the additional stress this pandemic has placed on students.

    Along the way, we learned three key lessons that can help your team whether your student support services are provided by a partner or from an in-house team.

    Help nontraditional learners balance school and life

    When nursing student Mary* called me in March 2020, she was in her final semester and didn’t know how she was going to earn the remaining credits she needed to graduate. With elementary-school age children and a newborn, she was already juggling a lot. And with facilities closed, she struggled with figuring out how to meet her program’s clinical requirements.

    We worked with her institution to communicate the school’s policies with Mary. But, more broadly, our student support services team became a crucial lifeline for students. We reached out proactively to:  

    • educate students on how credits for the clinical portion of the program would work
    • share the university’s plans for a virtual graduation ceremony
    • ease their fears about how colleges and universities could continue to operate seamlessly and safely

    Nontraditional students tend to be older than traditional college students. They have careers, marriages, and children to contend with on top of managing their studies. The students we support reflect this reality as well. According to the 2020 Pearson Enrollment Experience Survey, for enrollments in our graduate programs: 

    • the average age is 37, compared to a traditional graduate student at 32 years old
    • over half (53%) are married and have children 
    • students are working/experienced, with 78% of students working full-time and 50% having at least 7 years of work experience 

    Focus on student mental health and wellbeing

    Like everyone everywhere, our nontraditional learners grew weary as the months dragged on and the pressures mounted. They had jobs, kids, and life stressors on top of working toward completing their degrees. Their previously mapped out routines of school, work, and family had dissolved. Some students continued to juggle homeschooling kids with work and school. Others struggled to find work while keeping up with their education.

    While online courses remained constant, the balancing act became harder. We spoke with students, employed as front-line workers, who contracted COVID-19. We became the ear for many, helping students cope with all the changes. We realized that we needed to:

    • direct students to mental health resources
    • advise them on time management and organizing tips
    • encourage students to keep going or take time off for self-care when needed

    Serve nontraditional students in novel ways

    When nursing student Josefina* needed to find a clinical placement, she faced a roadblock that could have derailed her studies. She was living overseas with her military spouse and didn’t have many options for placement since the country where they were based was in lockdown.

    Our solution? Josefina participated in a Zoom session with her academic advisor and student support specialist to develop a plan that would help her lock in a clinical placement on the base.

    We learned to:

    • tailor solutions to the student
    • connect students with program staff
    • coach them on options to complete program requirements  
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  • The 2 biggest considerations for going online

    by Pearson

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    COVID-19 has put online learning in the spotlight. As more students need to turn to virtual settings to stay on track with their education, institutions pivoted to provide their courses online.

    So how should your institution prepare beyond the moment to launch and grow online? Ask yourself the following questions about investment money and strategic opportunities.

    How should you fund your online learning strategy?

    As you prepare to launch your college’s online offerings, you’ll need to find a source of funding. Tuition streams will only gradually grow to contribute, so where can you acquire these funds? Institutions have several options:

    1. Tap internal resources — If you have discretionary funds to use to establish online learning programs, this may be a great way to go. Much of the online program investment is needed upfront.
    2. Leverage fundraising — Some institutions have received generous donations from forward-thinking alumni to expand favored online programs.
    3. Borrow funds — Many institutions have pursued this path, but in today’s market securing financing may be more difficult than before.
    4. Use partner investments — Investments from an outside educational provider like an online program management (OPM) company may fund your launch. They can work with you in multiple ways to help you meet your online goals.

    Launching a meaningful online presence can require significant start-up capital and ongoing investments as you evolve and scale.

    How to assess the market for your online learning programs?

    Once you make the decision to launch online and find the money to do so, the next consideration becomes making sure there’s a viable market for your “product.”

    46.9% of distance students now attend 5% of institutions.

    You’ll want to be strategic in how you assess your opportunities and set up your programs. Here’s how:

    1. Conduct market research — Professional market research can objectively assess student demand and shifting labor markets.
    2. Evaluate your brand — Does your brand stand out in the market? You’ll want a solid understanding of your differentiators, strengths, reputation, culture, and ability to deliver.
    3. Name and price your program — This attention to detail will help you establish yourself in the market and leap ahead of the competition.

    To grow online you’ll want to identify niches, clarify and extend your differentiators, and invest more heavily in branding and outreach beyond traditional markets.

    Explore our resources for more insights to help build your online program.

     

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  • Game-changing startups: Astrome

    by Neha Satak, Co-Founder & CEO, Astrome

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    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.

    Using tech to bridge the socio-economic divide in rural & urban areas

    How would you describe your business to your grandmother?​

    At Astrome, we focus on connection through technology. Be it connecting farmers to the government, connecting children to teachers in cities, or connecting craftsmen to the worldwide market to sell their products—we develop internet technologies to make those connections possible.

    What problem does your business solve for society?​

    Astrome bridges the socio-economic divide between rural and urban areas, helping to create more equal opportunities for all. We develop innovative products that can deliver reliable internet services in these rural areas, allowing millions of people to access the information they need for the betterment of their lives.

    Where did you source inspiration?​

    Our inspiration has always stemmed from using technology to improve the world we live in, particularly within the emerging world. From a personal perspective, both my co-founder and I grew up in small towns in India with many of our relatives living in villages. During this time, we witnessed firsthand the changes that occurred in our own areas due to limited internet access. Even today, we still see a large gap in accessibility of the internet to villages. As technologists, innovation excites us, so we combined this with our passion for solving critical world problems, and Astrome was born.

    What’s something you know now that you wish you knew when you started your business?​

    Looking back, we wish we knew more about the maturity of the VC funding ecosystem in emerging countries for deep-tech and hardware; we also discovered that the funding available at pre-Series A and Series A stages, as well as the understanding of deep tech start-ups by investors, is much lower than required in many countries.

    What’s the best place for people to learn more about your company’s work or to follow your progress?​

    The best place for people to learn about our company’s work is on our website; the best place to follow our progress is through our LinkedIn page.

     

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  • Leading students through a changing career landscape

    by Pearson

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