• 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.

    read more
  • 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.

    read more
  • 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.

    read more
  • 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.

    read more
  • How to support faculty who are teaching online

    by Pearson

    A woman working on a laptop

    Giving faculty the tools they need to be better online instructors is essential to having a successful course, program, and learner experience.  

    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 provide guidance on structuring and organizing course content to make it as engaging and informative as possible. And they can connect faculty with resources and tools to review the courses before they go live with students and help standardize instructional design across courses so students are immediately comfortable when they start a new course.

    read more
  • 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.
    read more
  • 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  
    read more
  • The 2 biggest considerations for going online

    by Pearson

    blog image alt text

    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.

     

    read more
  • Leading students through a changing career landscape

    by Pearson

    blog image alt text

    A generation ago a career path that included playing video games was unimaginable. People didn’t own personal computers, didn’t carry connected devices wherever they went. Now the billion-dollar-a-year esports industry is no laughing matter. Some universities offer majors and courses in esports. Life has changed, and so too have the career opportunities that come with it.

    read more
  • Harnessing change in higher education

    by Pearson

    blog image alt text

    From test optional to online learning, the whole college search, application, and enrollment process has changed for applicants and schools in 2020.

    In fact, by harnessing these changes, we may open doors for new ways that:

    • colleges can assess applicants
    • applicants can evaluate their choices
    • adult learners can gain new job skills

    Learn how from Joe Morgan by watching the video below.

     

    read more
  • Yes! I am ready to start my career

    by Donna Butler

    blog image alt text

    Have you ever congratulated a graduating senior, asked about future plans, and been surprised by the answer “I have no idea”? Several years ago, this answer was common. Fortunately, today, educators and employers have identified the career readiness gap and now intentionally equip students to be ready for the “dream job.”

    While pursuing degrees, students can engage in Career Exploration courses which provide the necessary tools, resources, and experiences to promote Career Readiness. Some of these courses are offered as standalone courses, and some are paired with discipline specific courses.

    Wherever institutions offer these courses, students are given the opportunity to discover careers, develop skills, and demonstrate skills to stand out in the interview process.

    Get the big picture

    Discovering and exploring careers through research enables students to begin learning about the job market. Burning Glass Technologies’ Labor Insight is an example of a resource students can use to find data on local labor markets.

    Many people become so focused on a specific “job title” they don’t realize the vast employment opportunities available within a profession. Although it’s important to research salaries within the career, determining which employers are recruiting can also provide valuable information.

    As students mature through their educational journey, matching personal preferences with specific employers can guide graduates. Discovering where a job is located, if it is a large or small employer, and the projected salary can provide insight for career choices.

    Building skills for success

    Developing and identifying career skills are other key factors for success. As students engage in career readiness courses, they begin learning how to create an online portfolio such as a Linkedin profile, which enables communication within the profession.

    Interview techniques and resume writing build confidence for those entering the job market. Through these real-life experiences, students learn if professional certifications are required and how they may be obtained. Becoming aware of the entry level basic skills needed for a profession allows students to enter the job market prepared and with confidence.

    Once the career research has been completed and students possess the basic entry level skills needed, they are ready to demonstrate their acquired skills. Being aware of employer expectations provides students an advantage when job searching.

    Students who possess the online portfolio can showcase college projects and badges earned while relating them to the career they are pursing. Employers will immediately see the teamwork and collaboration skills. Demonstrating these valuable skills will enable the graduate to stand out during the interview process.

    Ready for the future

    Entering the job market can be an overwhelming time in anyone’s life. Knowing the jobs available and skills needed can produce confidence for the future employee. Engaging in Career Readiness courses can equip students with the necessary knowledge, skills, and confidence needed to land that dream job. Discovering careers, developing skills, and demonstrating these skills can help transition students to career ready candidates.

     

    read more
  • Social justice in the math classroom

    by Diane Hollister

    blog image alt text

    I recently spoke with a professor who, like many of us, was overwhelmed with taking his courses fully online while juggling multiple new initiatives simultaneously. The college was trying to reduce texts and materials costs, prepare entirely online courses, update materials for an impending accreditation visit, and, on top of it all, deliberately embed curricular activities regarding diversity and related topics across the curriculum. While some subjects are obviously conducive to this college initiative, it’s often hard for faculty to see the connections with things they already do.

    Thinking through the connections

    I’m teaching liberal arts this fall, so I am easily able to find such connections. I also require my students to find an article weekly about math topics in real life, so it lends itself well to this. It can, however, still be somewhat vague and not deliberate, so I’m focusing on embedding more problem solving activities that directly address these topics.

    I keep thinking of the Mathematics for Democracy and its strong arguments for quantitative literacy. While the text is almost twenty years old, its arguments are timeless. Every citizen needs to have some basic numeracy and quantitative reasoning skills; they need problem solving strategies and critical thinking tools. They need to know how to apply mathematical knowledge to real life.

    Outside of the book

    Some of my students are ‘strong’ students, easily able to rattle off formulas and do computations. And yet, when I ask them to write about math—they do two short writing projects in a semester—they struggle. It’s hard for them to see math beyond the walls of our virtual classroom, beyond the covers of our book.

    Here are ideas I share with them in addition to topics directly connected to our chapters. I often use datasets from StatCrunch, as there are over 40,000 of them available. One of my favorites for this includes data about each state and has such things as poverty rates, education rates, crime, etc. (This dataset is over ten years old now, and there are other ones to use. Any StatCrunch user can also easily upload datasets from the web, such as government census materials. StatCrunch is an amazing tool! More on that another day.)

    Diversity and Social Justice topics for my students to explore

    Prisons & mental health rates
    • Crimes & racial profiling
    • The death penalty and ethnicity
    Poverty and minimum vs. living wage; labor laws and statistics
    • Housing costs and trends; real estate data by demographics
    • Homeland defense, defense budgets, military recruiting
    • The mathematics of public health, AIDS, asthma, health insurance, etc.
    • Educational funding and equity, high stakes testing, class size, homogeneous or heterogeneous grouping of students
    Impact of tutoring & other initiatives such as mentoring and coaching on diverse populations
    Environmental racism, pollution, resource availability; the mathematics of the climate
    • The mathematics of wild weather
    • Chaos and catastrophe theory & modeling
    • Effects on neighborhoods/sorted by demographics

    And of course there are financial topics:

    Credit cards
    • Managing debt
    • Paying for college
    Saving/budgeting money
    • Consumerism
    • Salary discrepancies for women & minorities
    High-cost loans and low-income neighborhoods
    Politics & voting structure/apportionment, etc.

    I also might incorporate media like Hidden Figures. The linked website here shares a bunch of resources with commentary and ideas. I find my students seem to really enjoy using media and current event topics as a way to see ‘value’ in our course content.

    And there are many more.

    Discover the details in the data

    Certainly it’s easy to explore by subject area, too. As I noted, if I’m teaching probability and statistics, there are literally thousands of datasets at my fingertips, easily searchable. They’re useful in helping my students see what’s really going on–and we can explore just how easily we can be misled by someone manipulating graphics and interpreting data incorrectly.

    We can use probability to look at staffing of juries. We can use data to explore fairness of wages not just in the US but overseas. We can look at traffic stop data and use statistics to determine whether there is / is not racial profiling at play.

    We might explore some graph theory and use some geometry to explore things like how UPS, FedEx, and USPS are functioning during the pandemic; has there been a greater disruption in service to lower socioeconomic areas? What about the math behind LEED designed buildings or sustainable communities? Are these available in lower-income communities? How can we locate them to make them more accessible to all?

    We’ve all heard about equity in STEM education for all students. Let’s take it a step further. Social justice teaching in mathematics focuses on promoting equity within the mathematics classroom, and also on empowering students to understand and confront inequities outside the classroom.

    Some additional resources

    The Mathematicians Project by Annie Perkins
    At Twitter Math Camp’16, Annie described how she gathered information on name, birth, death, ethnicity, biography, accomplishments (including awards), and math specialty on various mathematicians. Annie’s constantly updated “List of Not White Men Mathematicians With Links” and a description of the project are here.

    A Guide for Integrating Issues of Social and Economic Justice into Mathematics Curriculum (2007)

    Teaching Tolerance Math Resources
    Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, has a wealth of teaching material, including math- and technology-related teaching resources. This organization also has a lot of tools for thinking more about the hidden curriculum of our classrooms.

    Creating Balance in an Unjust World Resources
    The Creating Balance in an Unjust World Conference on Math Education and Social Justice is a bi-annual event next occurring in 2018 (probably in California). They provide resources for educators interested in integrating issues of social and economic justice into their math classes and curriculum.

    And last but by no means least, here is a wiki site with a ton of resources.

     

    read more
  • Ungrading: What's the hype?

    by Amy Byron

    blog image alt text

    As instructors we’ve got a lot on our plate. We need to lecture, prepare digital materials and organize our online courses, provide individual feedback and check-ins, submit forms to our institution throughout the semester, and answer constant emails. On the flipside, our students also have full their plates with family obligations, work and employment to balance, and of course the global pandemic. Getting students to class and having work completed is half the battle, and the other half is justifying grades. Because of the increased educator workload and the mounting pressures on students, what can we do?

    What is ungrading?

    Many instructors are now exploring the “ungrading” model as a potential solution. Because we still need grades at the end of each semester, there’s still a need to view and evaluate student work. It’s how we evaluate the work that will be different in this model.

    In the different models of ungrading, instructors don’t grade every piece of work and award points. They decide whether the piece of work meets their standard or not. If not, the work is sent back to the student for revisions.

    This requires some rethinking of the traditional grading workflow. For example, in a chemistry class a student completes a problem set. If it’s missing work, I would give that feedback and return it to the student for revision. Are all of the answers incorrect? Same thing. I refuse to accept the problem set until the work is done to satisfactory standards.

    How can you implement ungrading in your classroom? There are a few different models to choose from as a starting point.

    Spec grading/portfolios

    One type of ungrading is called Spec (for specifications) Grading. Instructors create curricular “bundles” which, when completed, get translated into a grade. These bundles include media, notes, homework assignments and simulations, and ultimately some sort of summative assessment. Each piece of work in the bundle is graded pass/fail only and must minimally meet the teacher’s standards.

    Students need a clear understanding of what constitutes passing work prior to engaging in this model. Having exemplars or rubrics which clearly outline the required components of successful work is critical at the beginning of the semester. These don’t need to be super specific. For example, in math this could include

    1. Show all work done to arrive at your answer
    2. Simplify all answers
    3. If asked to “explain your answer,” use full sentences
    4. Include units, where needed

    At the beginning of the semester you will be spending a lot of time giving feedback to student work that isn’t meeting requirements. Flexibility around work that is deemed “failing” is important, as is the ability for students to revise their work and resubmit. Once your students have a clearer understanding of the expectations, the time devoted to giving feedback will lessen.

    Contract grading

    In contract grading, the instructor has clearly defined and outlined requirements for each letter grade (A, B, C, etc.). More or deeper work will be required for an A, standard work for a B, and less for each subsequent letter grade down. Students each write a contract which includes which assignments they will do, their due dates, penalties for late work, and a statement of the letter grade they want at the end of the term.

    The instructor will keep a log of completed work that is, again, done to the level of work defined by the instructor. If the student fails to meet the requirements of the contract, the instructor has the ability to adjust their grade based on the submitted work.

    The unique part of contract grading versus traditional grading is that the focus is on the work, not the “kind of student” in your class. All work is considered to be of equal weight, and meetings with students generally focus on improvement to work quality or opportunities for a deeper dive into the curriculum.

    Consultative grading

    Allowing the student to determine their grade can be a serious leap of faith, but that’s what consultative grading is. This does not mean that all students receive an “A”. Student have regular check-in meetings with the instructor throughout the semester. At the end of the semester, the student writes a comprehensive reflection and puts together a compilation of their best work.

    The student must have data that demonstrates that they deserve the grade they propose. An example of an end-of-the-semester reflection can be found here, as written by Dr. Susan Blum from the University of Notre Dame (Supiano, Becky).

    Thought needs to be given to how handle extenuating circumstances on the part of the student. I tend to not make concrete rules on this, as I find that each student’s circumstances are unique.

    Conclusion

    While I have been thinking about making the switch to ungrading for the last few years, I haven’t made the leap just yet. Besides choosing which model to go with, I still need to identify the following:

    • What are you willing to negotiate on with students?
    • How will you handle absences?
    • How will you be transparent with students throughout the semester, so they know they are on or off target?

    I’m looking forward to encouraging my students to improve their work, making grading more transparent, and creating a classroom that is focused on the learning process and not on numerical grades.

     
    Resources

    Butler, Ruth. “Task-Involving and Ego-Involving Properties of Evaluation: Effects of Different Feedback Conditions on Motivational Perceptions, Interest, and Performance.” American Psychological Association, American Psychological Association, 1987, psycnet.apa.org/record/1988-21628-001.

    Cordell, Ryan. “How I Contract Grade.” Ryan Cordell, 7 Dec. 2019, ryancordell.org/teaching/contract-grading/.

    Flaherty, Colleen. Professors’ Reflections on Their Experiences with ‘Ungrading’ Spark Renewed Interest in the Student-Centered Assessment Practice, Inside Higher Ed, 2 Apr. 2019, www.insidehighered.com/news/2019/04/02/professors-reflections-their-experiences-ungrading-spark-renewed-interest-student.

    Hall, Macie. “What Is Specifications Grading and Why Should You Consider Using It?” The Innovative Instructor Blog, 11 Apr. 2018, ii.library.jhu.edu/2018/04/11/what-is-specifications-grading-and-why-should-you-consider-using-it/.

    Rosenblatt, Adam. “Committing to Ungrading, in an Emergency and After.” The Chronicle, Duke University, 27 Mar. 2020, www.dukechronicle.com/article/2020/03/duke-university-gradin-coronavirus-covid-19-public-health-crisis-emergency-thinking-ungrading-pass-fail.

    Sorensen-Unruh, Clarissa. “Ungrading: What Is It and Why Should We Use It?” Chemical Education Xchange, Chemical Education Xchange, 14 Jan. 2020, www.chemedx.org/blog/ungrading-what-it-and-why-should-we-use-it.

    Stommel, Jesse. “How to Ungrade.” Jesse Stommel, 11 Mar. 2018, www.jessestommel.com/how-to-ungrade/.

    Supiano, Beckie. “Grades Can Hinder Learning. What Should Professors Use Instead?” Chronicle of Higher Ed, Chronicle of Higher Ed, 23 July 2020, www.chronicle.com/article/grades-can-hinder-learning-what-should-professors-use-instead/?bc_nonce=f3tifpo2zoqg492u3b2dg&cid=reg_wall_signup.

     

    read more
  • Lights, camera, action: Engage students with videos

    by Terri Moore

    blog image alt text

    Have you tried using videos to resolve problems or provide innovative solutions in your online classrooms? Effective video usage can foster both individual student learning and increase a sense of community in an online world.

    Teaching via video can be synchronous like a live Webinar or Zoom conference, but there are many other methods, including asynchronous video, to enhance your students’ online learning environment. In these COVID times, with so many instructors new to online teaching and attempting to provide or mimic the face- to-face learning environments, many have turned to the use of synchronous meeting tools.

    There is often the feeling students are being deprived by being forced out of the classroom and online. This phenomenal upswing in synchronous online learning has been nicknamed the Zoom Boom. However, research is indicating this synchronous surge is simply not sustainable in the long run. There are issues with different time zones, mobile connectivity, as well as teacher and student screen time burnout.

    A deeper dive into asynchronous videos

    For these reasons, I’m focusing on asynchronous methods of using video to enhance the online classroom and engage your students more fully. There are four areas or goals where using effective videos can help instructors solve some unique challenges in the online learning platform.

    1. Videos can increase student engagement in ways that enhance their understanding of the material.
    2. Videos can help you assess the formative stages of their learning. Are they making the progress needed to succeed?
    3. Videos can offer you methods of presenting difficult or demanding concepts, requiring students to demonstrate their mastery.
    4. Videos can provide feedback to your students on their submissions in timely, meaningful and personal ways.

    I have eight suggestions for video activities that enhance the digital learning environment, hitting all four of the goals stated above.

    1. Expand on the written content.
    2. Personalize the digital experience.
    3. Flip your classrooms so they become learning centered rather than teacher centered.
    4. Give clear and memorable feedback to students.
    5. Demonstrate processes or concepts difficult to convey through written content.
    6. Encourage your students’ creativity, demonstrating their mastery of the content.
    7. Be informed about students’ formative learning with populated analytics.
    8. Using the same type of analytics you can evaluate your students’ engagement.

    Introducing micro lectures and more

    Here are three suggestions for expanding on the written content through instructor-created, short videos. These activities focus on your specific course, adding to the content for added clarity and depth.

    1. Micro lectures
    2. Course overviews
    3. Chapter or concept overviews

    Micro lectures are not long, nor do they attempt to cover the entire chapter. Above all, they are not boring. They should be short and interactive. And they need to chunk content in short management increments. You should capture your students’ attention as well as meet accessibility standards, such as closed captioning.

    As a communication professor, I can offer you some production tips for making your movies of these micro lectures.

    • Think about covering the difficult single concepts you know students have struggled with in the past. Keep them short (3-5 minutes max).
    • Make good eye contact with the camera.
    • Be enthusiastic! You want to be a Tigger on film, not an Eeyore.
    • Be sure to use good light coming from the front rather than the side or behind.
    • Use a headset with microphone for optimal sound quality.
    • Make the videos interactive by asking questions, providing questions before and after.
    • Provide a transcript.
    • Keep your lectures focused with no more than four main points.
    • Be sure to use some type of attention getter in the first 15-30 seconds. It might be a question, a brief story, a startling statistic, a striking picture, a piece of music, or any other method that draws the students into the presentation.
    • Use far more images than bullet points when using a PowerPoint with your micro lecture.
    • New visual material every 10-15 seconds. It keeps listeners’/viewers’ attention.
    • Edit or re-record if needed.
    • And, be sure to use closed caption so your videos are accessible.

    You can apply these same principles when creating walk-through demonstrations for your students of the course overview or a module/chapter overview.

    Make a personal connection

    Next, let’s look at how videos might personalize both the digital presence of you and your students. These are methods that put “skin” on the computer, that let your students know more than a cyborg is monitoring their progress.

    • Provide a video introduction from you to your students on the first day of class.
    • Provide course navigation videos from you to the students that are specific to their course, walking them through how to use the online tools.
    • Have students create a self-introductory video. You might suggest they share some type of story, like the best thing they’ve ever eaten, or the vacation of their dreams. Do not let them get away with, “My name is Betty Boring. I was born in Borington, and I went to Boring High School.” Really true stories keep us interested, and they’re memorable. It’s why we all understand the phrase, “Tell me another story.”

    These introductory videos are powerful ways to create community within the course. We know that emotional connections are one of the most powerful components for student persistence. Any method that increases the connection between instructor and student, and between students increases that emotive piece of the puzzle for decreasing student attrition.

    Making class learning centered

    Using video assignments can provide information you need to flip your classroom, teaching to the most challenging concepts to that specific group of students. You might use:

    • Micro lectures
    • Video quizzes
    • Student discussion forums

    These types of activities vary the way students interact with the content before classes or before the next week. Having students view a micro lecture before class, completing a short online quiz on difficult concepts offers information to you about student engagement and student progress.

    Video quizzes can gauge engagement through data such as time on task, as well as information on questions most missed. You can then fill in the gaps with your own teaching strategies. And don’t forget your Learning Management Systems such as Canvas, Blackboard, Brightspace by D2L or Moodle provide data, informing instructors about student progress.

    Videos can also provide us with the ability to give asynchronous talking feedback in an online environment by:

    • offering students recorded individual or group feedback from you.
    • recapping the week’s progress using a video message.
    • briefly discussing the week’s challenging material and common errors.

    I began providing a video on Sunday night when COVID created massive changes in schools in March. My students, already in online classes with me, expressed such appreciation for my new weekly summaries with them about class progress with the material. And, it gave me a chance to speak with them about the challenges they were facing in their personal worlds as well, offering to help students find the support they might need.

    Give them the microphone

    Videos are the perfect environment for the demonstration of processes, skills, and course navigation. Let students demonstrate their mastery of the skill or concept by tapping into their creativity, engaging them with tools they are already familiar with such as:

    • Instagram
    • TikTok
    • Snap Chat
    • Drones
    • Video gamification

    Harness their inner director and ask them to create videos that demonstrate their proficiency with assignments such as:

    • Individual presentations such as speeches
    • Group projects presentations
    • Demonstrations of a skill or principle
    • Peer evaluations

    Using the right tools

    Once you’re comfortable with some of the tools at your disposal, you can take it to the next level with the many tools offered for video production and presentation. I’m just going to highlight some of the more recognizable tools and what they can do.

    Pre-created videos are a great way to start. They are often accessibility compliant and professionally made depending on the site you choose.

    • YouTube has the broadest range, but may not be academically sound.
    • Publishers often provide clips which adhere to academic standards and are accessibility compliant like Pearson’s Clips, or premade video quizzes.
    • TEDx often provides videos that are both compliant and academically sound.

    There are tools to help with video mixing, or combining several videos to demonstrate a concept. These can encourage student creativity and a deep understanding of the content of the course. Two of these are:

    • Nearpod (creating your own video quizzes)
    • And, MediaBreaker (Students can create a mix of videos they locate, encouraging them to find current materials that demonstrate critical thinking about course content in a current real-world application).

    Backchanneling is another way to engage your students. This is what we do when we are messaging friends during a less than engaging meeting. Phone messaging and Twitter were the original backchannels. And, while we might view these as distractions from the main event, backchanneling is engaging, community building and maximizes time if directed and focused on the lesson. Tools for this include:

    • Twitter. Students are very familiar with Twitter, but this does not provide protected space, nor is it academically designed.
    • Backchannel Chat can provide live time streaming commentary on videos students are viewing. Students can also make comments or ask questions.
    • Hotseat was designed by Purdue University based on a Twitter model and provides a free backchannel tool in an academic setting.

    If you want to create your own movies designed just for your course and your students, there are tools offering you a range of possibilities.

    • EdPuzzle allows you to create your own video quizzes with embedded questions rather than a beginning essential question.
    • Loom allows you to screen share and create short easy walkthroughs for a class or just one student.
    • Camtastia is a robust video tool with many creative possibilities, but it is not free. Snagit allows you to screen share and save computer space as your videos are housed in their cloud.
    • TEDEd is a well-used video creation tool allowing you to stand on the shoulders of educators around the world as well as to share your repository of educational video creations with others.

    Easy as pie

    So, if you’re just beginning to use video in the online environment, or if you are well into your video use, keep it simple and easy as PIE.

    Plan what you want the video assignment to solve for you or your students.
    Implement the tool that does this for you in the easiest and most effective way.
    And then Evaluate not only the students’ performance and engagement, but how well the tool worked for you.

    read more
  • Social justice in the physical science classroom

    by Amy Byron

    blog image alt text

    “Ugh, when am I ever going to use this?” As an educator, how many times have you heard that question? We are living in a time of change. Changes in education, policy, standards and culture are just a few that we’re all struggling through. I enjoy incorporating current news in my lectures and weaving in my students’ everyday life experiences with what I teach. How can we, as educators, help students make new schema and fit it together with their current world view?

    It seems now, more than in the past, these news items carry more weight. If you haven’t taken a close look at your curricular choices lately, it’s worth a revisit.

    Personally, I don’t care if my students become chemistry majors. What I do care about is creating students who have a wider world view and can approach problems with a critical mind to make the world a better place. Before tackling social justice topics in the classroom, however, I need to ensure the proper foundation is in place.

    The foundation

    I haven’t seen any state or university standards with social justice topics embedded in them, especially for the physical sciences. This means I’m going to have to pick and choose which topics are relevant to my curriculum, and which are appropriate for discussion in my classroom. Before you get started looking at topics, ask yourself these questions:

    1. Which topics do I feel comfortable serving as an impartial moderator?
    2. Do I personally have enough background information on this topic to serve as an arbiter of truth?
    3. Discussion of some topics inevitably leads to frank discussions of topics like privilege, poverty, and inequity. Am I comfortable discussing this with students?

    In addition to choosing the right topics for my students, I also need to create a safe learning environment, so my students feel free to discuss a topic from multiple angles without the fear of retribution or judgement. They need to know that their thoughts are valued. Consider the following:

    • When discussing famous scientists (or authors, or explorers, or…) is there only one narrative being presented? In science, the books seem to be dominated by old white men. I enjoy discussing why that is, and who the underrepresented are.
    • Ask students questions with no correct answer and let them discuss various viewpoints. For example, why do we learn about the history of the atom? How much radiation exposure is acceptable to the average human?

    If you think of a question organically while lecturing, pose it to the class. Let them work out the different sides of the issue and take a stand on which they feel is best. As an instructor, I see my role as asking follow-up and probing questions to challenge my students and move dialogue forward.

    Finding a topic

    We can’t cover everything, so we need to find topics which lend themselves well to subjects already covered in our curriculum. Here are a few examples I’ve used in the past with my chemistry classes:

    Flint Water Crisis

    • Solubility
    • Oxidation/reduction
    • Heavy metal toxicity
    • Remediation

    Testing for Banned Substances in Sports

    • Chemical reactions
    • False positive rates and their impact on the lives of athletes
    • Natural vs. unnatural levels of normally occurring chemicals in the body and who sets the benchmark for what is deemed “illegal”

    5G Safety

    • Electromagnetic spectrum
    • Wave characteristics
    • Energy
    • How cell phones work

    Nuclear Byproducts at Bikini Atoll, Fukushima, and Chernobyl

    • Nuclear fission
    • Decay products
    • Half-life
    • Dosage
    • Environmental concerns

    Microplastics in the Ocean

    • Decomposition
    • Remediation
    • Separation of matter

    Clean Water and Sanitation Issues

    • Separation of matter
    • Decomposition
    • Chemical testing
    • Engineering and materials design

    Your vision

    How do you envision leading your students through the analysis of a multifaceted topic? There are many ways to do this as there are topics. Here are a few I personally enjoy:

    Group Discussion or Socratic Seminar

    Having students prepare ahead of time is critical for an engaging discussion. I generally have my students write out their ideas and thoughts as a homework assignment prior to the discussion so that they have a position developed which is supported in fact.

    Mock Trial

    Have student take different roles based on their opinions and desires. Have the different sides to the argument present, and ultimately the jurors (other classmates) will make a decision on who made the most compelling case.

    Snowball Discussion

    Students will form groups in pairs and discuss the issue. After a set amount of time, the pairs will form groups of four and discuss again. After some time, the groups of four will combine into groups of eight and so on until the entire class is one big group.

    Writing Prompt

    Most Learning Management Systems have a feature that allows for a question to be asked, without students viewing other student responses until they submit. I like this type of framing because limiting student exposure to other ideas will ensure that what they write is truly their position, without the sway of other ideas.

    Laboratory Exercise

    For some of the topics I mentioned earlier, students can move their ideas into the laboratory to develop cost-efficient ways to solve real-world problems. For example, students can design a field test for water quality, creation of drainage covers that allow for efficient cleaning and reduction of pollution from run-off, or design methods to turn human waste into fertilizer.

    Wrap things up in a bow

    Once you are done exploring an issue, there should be some sort of resolution. That does not mean that a side needs to be taken, or that something needs to be called “right” or “wrong.” Students inherently always want to know the answer to a question.

    “How many covalent bonds are there in one water molecule?”

    But some questions don’t have a concrete or finite answer.

    “What does the atom look like?”

    It’s those questions that are much more difficult. We have a good approximation, but no definite answer. The same can be said of social justice issues. Encourage your students to look at issues from all sides and do their best to understand the perspectives of others. When there are no correct answers, my best hope for my students is to base their conclusions on concrete data and to take the lead in making the world a better place for all.

    read more
  • Maryville University - Now the 2nd fastest-growing university in the nation

    by James Montalto

    blog image alt text

    There is no doubt that back-to-school plans have been hotly debated as the higher-education world grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic. Institutions have whipsawed between resuming on-campus classes or opting for a virtual approach to learning. Students themselves are carefully considering where, when, and how to pursue their college degrees. There are no straightforward answers or “one size fits all” solutions. Despite all the uncertainties and hurdles that have impacted the education industry as a whole, Pearson partner Maryville University has experienced remarkable growth.

    Congratulations to Maryville University for making The Chronicle of Higher Education’s fastest-growing colleges list again after record enrollments for the 16th consecutive year. Maryville anticipates this growth trend will continue into the Fall 2020. The proof is in the numbers. Maryville projects overall enrollment increases of 10 percent across traditional on-campus undergraduate students and online undergraduate and graduate students this year. Maryville is welcoming more than 925 new students to campus, including more than 750 incoming Freshmen students enrolled in on-campus classes this fall – representing a 7 percent increase in on campus enrollment. Online class enrollment has grown by more than 17 percent, with more than 7,200 students engaging with Maryville online.

    “Students across the country choose Maryville because we offer market relevant, high quality, online programs that provide the flexibility they need to fit education into their busy lives,” said Katherine Louthan, dean of the School of Adult and Online Education. “We are one of the few universities committed to the continual innovation and evolution of the digital learning experience.”

    Maryville has long embraced digital learning as the future of higher education and understands the vital role it will play as an element of our “new normal.” Maryville’s decades-long focus on developing robust online programs and providing support for its faculty to deliver high-quality curriculum across all learning environments enabled Maryville to quickly pivot between in-person and virtual learning in response to COVID-19. This flexible and active learning model makes Maryville’s program offerings especially appealing to students eager pursue higher education in the midst of their already busy lives.

    Pearson Online Learning Services has partnered with Maryville University since 2012 and we share in their excitement! #SaintStrong

    Read the full press release.

    read more
  • Tele-empathy: The next big thing in digital soft skills

    by Ashley Peterson-DeLuca, Director, Communications, Pearson

    blog image alt text

    “Hey, sorry. I was on mute.” It should be our new national t-shirt.

    If you’ve said this recently, you’re in the club. You’re among the millions who have been working at home in the wake of the pandemic.

    According to the Physicians Foundation, nearly half of all doctors are using telemedicine appointments. Nearly every teacher in the US this year made the switch to online learning. What do they have in common? The ability to connect emotionally with patients or students is proving to be a struggle.

    “New Connections Academy teachers often learn that what makes them a great virtual teacher is their communication skills,” says Mickey Revenaugh, co-founder of Pearson’s Connections Academy, a full-time online school program for grades K-12.

    Trying to be human through the lens of webcam may be the next big skills gap, as working from home continues for the foreseeable future. Over 7,000 people in seven countries agree – in Pearson’s Global Learner Survey, 77% of people said that teleworking during the COVID-19 pandemic has taught me that working remotely requires different skills than working in an office. What are those skills? 89% say that people will need to develop more digital skills, such as virtual collaboration, virtual communication, analyzing data or managing remote team.

    Two researchers from Pearson explain.

    “Communication and collaboration are two soft skills that become even more important when working virtually,” says Elizabeth Moore, Director, Learning Research & Design. Although these skills have always been important for employees when in the office, they are even more crucial when answering the challenges posed by working solo in front of a computer screen.

    “Communication is important but different in a virtual environment,” says Jessica Yarbro, PhD, Senior Research Scientist. “Formal communication has to be more important. You can’t just pop over and have an informal chat.”

    But you can teach and learn digital communications. Mickey says that “Connections teachers are specially trained to excel in online teaching, especially how to engage students in an online classroom and use a full spectrum of communications. They understand how and when to reach out to students and their families.”

    The norms of how we operate and engage with people at work are gone and being reset by emails, phone calls, texts and video meetings. But something gets lost in these technology-mediated communications. You just can’t read people’s social cues.

    Here is what our experts suggest to build more empathy and keep your soft skills sharp while working at home:

    1. Make an effort to keep your camera on

    “The decision to have your camera on in meetings isn’t something to take lightly. It helps you pick up on someone’s facial expressions and also allows you to show with your own expressions that you are actively listening,” says Moore.

    2. Be more direct, not less

    Researchers say that while it may feel awkward, you may need to be more direct to get people to engage virtually. The researchers recommend you do more check-ins for what people are thinking and feeling. And use active listening skills – reflecting and summarizing not only what people are saying but their social cues too. Verbal cues like “let me play back what I think I hear you saying” or “I think I hear you saying” are ways to show empathy and make you sure you really understand what others are saying.

    3. Practice active collaboration

    “Collaboration is about building on each other’s ideas,” says Moore. “So think out loud, virtually, to let your teammates know what you’re thinking and what you mean, so that they can help.”

    4. Address conflicts quickly and verbally

    But of course, personal conflicts will happen. And if you can’t ask somebody to talk one-to-one over coffee to address an issue, what do you do?

    “I think it is even more important to make a space to talk person-to-person, especially if there are conflicts in a virtual environment,” says Yarbro. She says take conversations off email and do a video call.

    Some people will find themselves back in the office later in the year, but remote work isn’t going away entirely. There is no escape from needing develop your digital skills in this new world of work.

    “This change has been really hard. But, we’re learning,” says Moore. “We will come out of this with a new and more flexible digital working skillset. There’ll be a more of an expectation that you’ll be polished and skilled in doing anything virtually.”

    read more
  • KonMari your online course

    by Diane Hollister

    blog image alt text

    Have you heard of the KonMari method? If not, here’s a quick summary: it’s named after a Japanese author who encourages tidying by category — starting with clothes, then books, papers, komonos (miscellaneous items), and, finally, sentimental items. If you are “cleaning out,” you should keep only things that are useful and speak to the heart, and discard items that no longer “spark joy.” As the faculty advisors in this pandemic era, we figured out you can use the KonMari method in your classroom. 🙂

    How exactly do you KonMari a course? Why would we even think of that? Well, for starters, there are many different features in learning management systems and in our Pearson products. Frankly, we often find faculty are so overwhelmed that they don’t know where to start.

    Roughly 70% of faculty had never taught online prior to the pandemic. Even if they did, many aren’t sure what really is best for their course and students. At the heart of the KonMari program is organization, but it’s also a means to simplifying and making things less cluttered.

    Where do we start?

    Always begin with the end in mind

    The first step in developing great content is to know what and why students are learning and how you are going to assess them. Seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how many faculty who start building content without thinking about this. Ensuring that your content is aligned with your objectives and assessment is much easier if you create a plan from the beginning.

    Julie Dirksen, author of Design for How People Learn, talks about “design patterns” which document best thinking around solving different types of problems. This means there are lots of ways to tackle the design of the course, and it’s great to have a conceptual idea with best practices to help you make decisions. This is one of the places where faculty advisors play a key role!

    Clean house & declutter regularly

    By getting rid of old material, you will create space for new, better-serving material and ideas. Many of us make a standalone copy of our course, so as we find things we want to change, we do it immediately. At the end of the semester, we have a new course ready to go. It helps to constantly refine and choose what works better and eliminate what doesn’t.

    Organize your course tools

    Ask yourself, “Does a resource serve a clear need?” If not, delete it. I know my students have enough to keep track of without loading more things to my course that they may not need. If I do add new materials, I try to maintain a simplistic structure so they know where things are.

    Be an (unofficial) instructional designer

    Instructional design (ID) tips dovetail nicely here. You might argue that you were never taught or trained in these principles, and yet somehow we are all expected to “know” these things. Here are a few tips that are pretty standard across the ID field.

    Keep it simple

    First, and foremost, keep your menu easy to navigate and concise. Use 6-8 key menu items or so. A best practice in course design is to abide by this in each “module” in your course. Try to limit yourself such that you fall somewhere in this range.

    Use meaningful images

    Vision trumps all other senses. Remember that some users may have visual impairments, so make sure to include rich descriptive text as applicable. We are incredible at remembering pictures. Hear a piece of information, and three days later you’ll remember 10% of it. Add a picture and you’ll remember 65%. Pictures beat text as well, in part because reading is so inefficient for us.

    Our brain sees words as lots of tiny pictures, and we have to identify certain features in the letters to be able to read them. That takes time. So, reduce text and add images that support the text. This is why using consistent icons across instructional programs is so important. Students can process the meaning of the icon in a second. Use color wisely, and again, remember that those with visual impairments find things like tiny white or yellow font on a dark blue background virtually unreadable. So do many of the rest of us!

    Design a distraction-free template

    Again, tied to the idea of 6-8 tabs or similar, keep it simple. Sure, there are lots of cutesy graphics available, but it tends to distract and overwhelm many students. Ensure that there is enough “white space” both on course pages as well as in course work time. In other words, try to allow time for reflection.

    Break up the content in small chunks

    Don’t display all the assignments at once. Have them released by unit / dates. Instead of one weekly assignment with 90 questions, offer three smaller ones. And maintain consistency in the design. We see a lot of courses where we’d be easily confused.

    Ensure that your learners stay focused and engaged

    Check out John Medina’s website and book Brain Rules or Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning (Brown, Roediger III, McDaniel). Use tools like low-stakes quizzing, interleaving, and retrieval practice. Think about tools like Learning Catalytics or Live Response. Use the wikis and discussion boards to provide forums for students to interact, share, and reflect.

    Reduce cognitive load

    Cognitive load refers to the amount of working memory the brain can process. Working memory can typically only hold a few bits of information at a time and lasts around ten seconds. Therefore, your job as a “content developer” is to reduce and/or remove any information that a student doesn’t need to process.

    Just how do we do this? Implement simple, clear navigation, that is intuitive and requires no thinking. Use a consistent icon bank across courses — means one less thing a student has to process. Minimize scrolling and create smaller chunks of content. Share Powerpoints or PDFs with the most important points highlighted.

    Students can KonMari, too

    Here are some KonMari tips for students. Because the KonMari method is all about being organized, I usually share things like the following.

    Have a dedicated space

    As simple as it sounds, I always tell my students to identify a study space. While online education is flexible, it’s still important to designate a specific place to complete your work. Find one that’s free of distractions, where you can focus and with little to no background noise.

    For some, it’s a home office; for others it’s a desk in their bedroom, the kitchen table or a break room at work. Make sure your wireless internet connection is strong or you are hardwired. Find what works best for you and stick to it.

    Commit to a structured schedule, as much as possible

    Online courses are a significant commitment, and managing time is important. I tell my students to designate specific time frames to complete schoolwork each day or week, and block off their calendar accordingly. If they work a job during the week, consider using a day during the weekend to finish.

    Keep an eye on deadlines

    It could also help to have a calendar in the study space so course obligations are all in one place and top of mind. Keep an eye on assignment due dates. Even though online courses are often considered self-paced, set assignment deadlines still exist. Because many online students also have jobs, it may be helpful to sync work and school calendars so students can prepare for each day accordingly.

    Find and nurture a support system

    Earning a degree — especially online — is not easy. Surrounding yourself with family, friends and peers who motivate and encourage you can make a difference. Make sure those close to you understand the time you have committed to earning your degree so they remain respectful and understand when you’re unavailable. Consider providing them with an overview of your school schedule at the beginning of the term to remain transparent and help ensure you receive the support you need.

    Connect with your professors early

    Establishing a relationship with your professor early on will help you build trust and understanding throughout the term, especially since you may not be able to meet in person. It’s important to connect before the course begins or shortly after to clear up any questions you have about the syllabus or requirements. This will show you have a vested interest in the course and are committed to successfully completing it regardless of your other obligations.

    Remember, one of the basic principles of the KonMari method is that you envision the “ideal” before you start.

    I envision successful students. 🙂

    read more
  • Here we go again: Back to online learning in Fall 2020

    blog image alt text

    As many colleges and universities make the decision to offer online instruction in fall 2020 due to COVID-19, we’re quickly reminded of the Saturday Night Live (SNL) episode that aired during the spring commencement season. “Congratulations Class of 2020! You will now pay full price for your college experience at a University of Phoenix Online without the tech support,” joked Kate McKinnon. She was portraying the principal at a COVID-19 graduation at St. Mary Magdalene by the Expressway High School. Unfortunately, this skit from SNL wasn’t only humorous, it also reflected the reality for some. These people have been thrust into a version of remote teaching that, while developed with the best intentions of faculty and administrators, was more emergency triage than true online learning.

    All of education quickly pivoted “online” in March due to COVID-19. There is no doubt that there were varying levels of technical abilities and required adjustments associated with the quick move online. The pandemic may have accelerated this transition, but there are already some very distinguished online programs that are comparable to traditional face-to-face programs, and some with evidence of superior outcomes. Quality online learning is already a staple in many disciplines in higher education due to its flexibility and accessibility, and it’s here to stay.

    Duquesne University School of Nursing is one of those high quality online programs. Now in partnership with Pearson, the university is applying best practices in teaching and learning and is continually updating those practices to reflect the latest learning science research. Duquesne was the first online nursing program in the United States, offering its online PhD program in 1997, and has since made the conscious decision to offer all graduate nursing programs online.

    Online education expands access to those who would otherwise be unable to further their learning. In the case of Duquesne, many students are working nurses, often juggling shift work, family responsibilities, and caregiving. Currently, even if campuses were fully open, the demands of this virus would make it nearly impossible for nurses to access on-campus programs in many parts of the country.

    Duquesne’s PhD graduates are deans, faculty, and Chief Nursing Officers — most of whom wouldn’t have been able to follow their dreams and earn their PhD in a traditional, on-campus program. This is true for me, Mary Ellen Smith Glasgow. I graduated from Duquesne with my PhD in 2002, transferring after I broke my ankle and was unable to complete my coursework on my personal timeline.

    I found the faculty to be knowledgeable, supportive, skilled teachers with their own bodies of research and much to offer students. I attended a doctoral immersion residency and achieved all the other milestones of doctoral students. After graduation, I continued to work and succeed in academe. I achieved tenure and promotion to full professor at a university with very high research activity, always feeling well-prepared and comparable in knowledge and productivity to my faculty colleagues.

    Good online learning is more than providing technology infrastructure to enable remote teaching. Online learning requires purposefully designed, and often increased, interactions with students. Professors hold one-on-one virtual office hours and many check-ins outside of regular hours. Clinical disciplines benefit from real-time virtual patient rounds, clinical case studies, and recitations. In addition, those who are new to teaching online may need to evolve how they approach assessment, technology, and time management. Duquesne and other high-quality online programs utilize research-based strategies like these to help train faculty to effectively prepare for teaching in a virtual environment.

    The pandemic isn’t the first event to influence public perceptions that quality changes when we move from a lecture hall to a virtual classroom. The introduction of large, often free, online courses created an image of an impersonal, dehumanized experience that lacked the support students need to succeed. Also, the early surge of several for-profit universities created a negative impression that has been hard to overcome. As a result, well before COVID- 19 and the global rush online, virtual learning programs were often viewed as second class citizens.

    The negative press and the poor reviews of online programs in the media are far removed from the quality and student success we’ve seen at Duquesne. Universities with quality, successful programs consider the development of students and the discovery of knowledge as integral to their mission, and that doesn’t change if education is offered online. In many instances, due to the use of various technologies, virtual simulations, virtual proctors, and other exam security measures, online learning is no less costly than face-to-face programs, as sometimes reported. The same highly qualified faculty are in the virtual classroom.

    The abrupt transition to remote teaching in March 2020 due to COVID-19 was disruptive for many students and faculty. It’s my hope that thoughtfully planned online learning isn’t mistakenly cast out alongside it. Instead, I’m optimistic that this once-in-a-lifetime wake-up call means that quality online programs will become commonplace going forward, because online learning has much to offer our society at this time of crisis and beyond.

    read more
  • How online learning platforms facilitate NACEP accreditation

    by Julie Cavanaugh, Customer Success Specialist & Educational Consultant, Pearson

    blog image alt text

    Now more than ever schools are turning to online learning, so why not utilize online learning platforms to help your program with accreditation?

    NACEP accreditation recognizes programs that have consistently met or exceeded rigorous, peer-reviewed standards in six areas: Partnership, Curriculum, Faculty, Students, Assessment, and Program Evaluation. These program standards create a quality framework to ensure that students are taking authentic college courses for transcripted college credit while in high school. Becoming a NACEP accredited program requires the submission of a variety of evidence documenting practice, policy, and procedures that meet or exceed NACEP’s Standards. Online learning platforms, like those offered by Pearson, can be an important ally in working towards accreditation.

    Alignment via online learning platforms

    An accredited program ensures that college courses offered by high school teachers are as rigorous as courses offered on the college campus. Coordinating online platforms between the college and the high school keeps assignments aligned and curriculum tight. By having identical content, the programs are meeting equivalency standards and comparison criteria (exams, homework, lab exercises, essays, etc.). Grading policies and rubrics can be the same within digital platforms to ensure continuity (number of tries, points deducted per wrong answer, extra credit, rubrics provided within the platforms, etc.) which helps programs demonstrate alignment with NACEP’s Assessment and Curriculum Standards.

    Embedded professional development

    Providing the depth and breadth of professional development needed to keep dual enrollment faculty up-to-date can be a challenge. Pearson offers weekly, discipline-specific, live and on-demand webinars for MyLab® and Mastering® that cover registration, assignment creation, testing, best practices, and other topics that help meet training criteria. Plus, you have access to training documents like how-to videos and planning toolkits. These resources can assist with documenting faculty professional development to meet NACEP’s Faculty Standards.

    Downloadable assessment data

    Programs need fast access to accurate data reports that highlight key course performance metrics including student pass/fail rates, content mastery, assignment completion, and formative assessment scores. With online platforms, course data can easily be downloaded and exported to Microsoft® Excel files for detailed analysis, allowing programs to make data-driven decisions and laying the foundation for program evaluation.

    Viable alternative to in-person labs and hands-on experiences

    Online platforms offer alternative learning experiences for students, especially during COVID-19 when the flexibility of online learning is essential and budgets are being stretched. Pearson’s Mastering platform is one example of a versatile tool, providing virtual laboratory exercises and dissections that engage students as if they were in the physical lab space. Struggling to offer content because the high school laboratory lacks necessary equipment? Mastering can help bridge the gap so that all students have equivalent laboratory experiences.

    In addition to science offerings in Mastering, MyLab provides less expensive, virtual experiences for other “hands-on” Career and Technical Education fields, including automotive technology, culinary science, carpentry, and more. Creating real options for hands-on exercises provides your program maximum flexibility in instruction to help students continue to thrive despite COVID disruption. MyLab and Mastering present dual enrollment programs with an opportunity to document the ways they ensure equivalent content, even in the midst of a rapid shift to online coursework.

    Pearson: your accreditation ally

    Our MyLab and Mastering online learning platforms offer all these important benefits to help you document your activities in preparation for NACEP accreditation, while also improving the student and teacher experience. In addition, instructors have maximum control over their course, offering the flexibility to easily create courses to fit program needs. Courses can be shared with colleagues and adjuncts, copied for next semester, linked to an LMS, and more.

    With the uncertainty of COVID-19 weighing heavily on instructors and programs, a solid back-up plan is needed for online and remote learning that has academics integrated with realistic experiences. By partnering with Pearson for your dual enrollment program, you can get:

    • award-winning digital learning platforms that can be personalized for each student
    • online homework and tutorial services that engage students and improve results
    • preparation, intervention, and assessment diagnostics that gauge student readiness
    • technology and services to provide in-depth data and analytics for your program
    • college and career readiness tools that promote personal and social skills

    Want to know more?

    Watch this Pearson & NACEP on-demand webinar to learn more about how online platforms facilitate NACEP accreditation

    Explore MyLab & Mastering features for educators.

    Learn more about NACEP and accreditation.

    read more
  • Coping with the COVID-19 crisis

    by Sam Sommers, PhD

    blog image alt text

    We were team-teaching Intro Psychology in March when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the US and suddenly shut down everything, including our campus. As we shifted to remote instruction, we stumbled upon a format that seemed to work well for our class. We started each recorded lecture with a quick check-in, asking each other simple questions like, “Are you doing OK with all this?” and “How are you coping?”

    This wasn’t part of some grand pedagogical plan. Rather, it was invention born from necessity. It was an instinctual human reaction to unprecedented circumstances. Our students kept emailing to say they really appreciated these informal and personal moments, which humanized the lectures, normalized their own responses to the crisis, and helped bridge the newfound physical distance between them and us. It seemed to be what they needed at that point in time. And we soon came to realize that we probably needed it as much as they did.

    Elizabeth Redden’s July 13 article outlines the mental health costs and needs of college students during the crisis. Over the past several months, we’ve seen a lot of this firsthand with our classes (admittedly via email and Zoom). And, while neither of us are trained as clinicians, we do believe that the psychological science that we teach has lessons to offer our students in their daily efforts to navigate this crisis.

    That was our motivation in putting together a new course this summer (to be repeated this fall), titled The Science of Coping. In the course, we’re combining discussion, guest speakers, and mini-lectures to cover a range of topics including:

    • using critical thinking to assess new research findings and public health recommendations
    • how stress affects the body and how mindfulness can help
    • the importance of social connection
    • how sleep, nutrition, and exercise influence the immune system
    • the psychology of conspiracy theories
    • control and emotional regulation
    • how to use social norms to change health attitudes and behaviors
    • the effectiveness of telehealth and remote therapy
    • bias and prejudice during times of threat
    • strategies for remote learning and managing distractions

    The major assignment of the semester requires students to keep a coping journal. Each week they have to select one potential coping strategy, implement it, and then take a critical look back at what worked and what didn’t. Our hope is that the course provides students with academic and intellectual insight into the scientific literature on these topics, but also that it provides them with some concrete strategies that they can take for a test run and possibly incorporate into their daily lives moving forward.

    There’s a selfish component in all of this for us as well. Instructors also need something good to focus on during a crisis. Has preparing a new course this summer been stressful? Absolutely. But it has also been a welcome distraction and something productive to focus on while much of the ground we all stand on becomes increasingly unstable.

    Professors Lisa Shin and Samuel Sommers are coauthors of Invitation to Psychology, 7th Edition and Psychology, 13th Edition. They participated in the Unwritten video series regarding Covid-19 and Psychology earlier this year.

    read more
  • Mental gymnastics: Finding the balance in an online course

    by Diane Hollister

    blog image alt text

    This past spring was not something we expected. We’d all agree about that. For some, it was significantly more stressful than others. Throughout all my pandemic related research, I’ve heard several different statistics. Most recently, I read that nearly 70% of faculty in the country had never taught online before!

    From a coach’s perspective

    As you can imagine (or know personally!) those of us who support faculty have been quite busy, addressing many common themes. Faculty members ask us for insight into their course design; we notice things like excessive numbers of assignments; or, we see a long list of assignments—like showing the entire course at once.

    Maybe there’s a lack of organization in the LMS. Perhaps the instructor was unclear about the student workflow, or there’s insufficient feedback for student work. Maybe the professor was not familiar with and then underutilized communication tools. We’ve had many discussions about selecting and delivering quality subject matter content; ways to deter and eliminate cheating; and the importance of having your course materials clearly set up and easy to navigate.

    Extra points for balance and flexibility

    The topic we haven’t had as many conversations about is the emotional side of an online course. Because of the urgency, many professors hadn’t had the chance to really reflect upon course design and effective tools to support students. Just how on earth do you create an online environment with that in mind? If we want students to stay enrolled and engaged, we need to strive to find a cognitive-emotional balance in your course.

    We’ve got to be flexible.

    Perhaps this might include reflecting about things like growth mindset, embedding study tips, or sharing best practices for students for online courses. Although we might acknowledge the importance of these in theory, their significance is frequently buried under a mountain of other concerns about accessibility, the content, tracking of student progress, and data reporting…

    Let’s talk about the assignments first. There is a mind-numbing list of possibilities. What strategies do work? You can read more in The Learning Scientists, but they boil down to this:

    1. Utilize concrete examples: illustrate ideas with examples that students can easily grasp.
    2. Be a coder: a dual coder: integrate words with images.
    3. Utilize elaborative questions: ask questions that help students connect new learning with prior learning.
    4. Practice retrieval: have students practice with test questions on what they remember.
    5. Interleave the practice: mix practice test questions from a variety of lessons.
    6. Space the practice: delay interval periods between practice tests.

    Ah, you ask, what happens when we really check these out? Read a recent article about student performance. In this study, note the role of student ability and the finding that spacing particularly increased quiz performance for low ability students.

    Here’s a mental note: we should think about the amount of material we release at one time—that can be overwhelming. Instead of having the entire list of assignments show, many of us share only a unit or chapter at a time.

    We know, however, that it’s not just content we need to think about.

    Wowing the judges

    Next, let’s quickly review the importance of communication! My team has heard complaints from professors recently that online learning means dumbing-down material. That’s not the case. It does mean, however, that your course material—as well as the ways your students engage with it and learn from it—will look different.

    Many online courses become primarily asynchronous, for example, while others may preserve an element of synchronicity via video-conferencing tools. I find it helpful to have live “review” sessions and make use of tools like Live Response for engagement and practice.

    How about some other things to do? Try weaving some of these into your discussion boards, orientation assignments, etc.

    Introduce your students to mindset. Have them take a self quiz and watch a video or two, then share their reflections on the discussion board.

    Do your students think about metacognition? “Metacognition is a superpower that helps elite students separate themselves from their peers.” Check this out, too; learn more about self regulated learning in this post.

    Do students need strategies for time management?

    How about helping your students choose the best way to study?

    Need writing tips? Check these out.

    Nailing the landing

    Have you seen the “Keep Teaching” community hosted by Katie Linder, executive director for program development at Kansas State University, and her colleagues at the university’s Global Campus? You can “follow” several groups within the community, including a faculty group that is already a lively exchange of ideas and support.

    Don’t forget—if your institution has a teaching-and-learning center, that should be your first stop as you begin to transition your course.

    Obviously, the ways in which a course can be moved from an in-person to an online experience are virtually limitless. I want to encourage you to reflect and choose wisely. 🙂 Think of this as a smorgasbord—you cannot eat it all! I tell faculty—no one uses all the features. No one has every single thing in the course shell covered. You have to choose what works for you; you’ll have some combination of your own pedagogy, choices, experiences, and skillset. If we feel overloaded, imagine how our students feel.

    We all need to strive to find the balance.

    read more
  • 7 tips from research for effective hybrid teaching

    by Emily Schneider, PhD

    blog image alt text

    As painful as the decision was to close campuses and force virtual learning in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, educators must make new, perhaps more difficult, decisions about how to resume classes in the fall. Many schools are asking: can learning happen both digitally and in lecture halls?

    The hybrid model of teaching and learning uses both online and in-person options in a purposeful way. Not only does this model give you the flexibility to craft your course to reduce the risk of exposing you or your students to the virus, but it also gives students more ownership over their learning.

    Here are our top tips taken from a review of existing research on how to make it work for you.

    1. Build around what you want students to learn

    Successful hybrid courses fully integrate online and face-to-face instruction, planning interactions based on good teaching practice. That means starting off on the right foot:

    • Don’t think of your hybrid course as your normal course directly translated to be online, or your normal course with added online components. One meta-analysis cited that many blended courses were not successful because they were “a course and a half”.
    • Do build your hybrid course starting with the learning objectives listed in your syllabus. Then, as you’re building your course, select and align the delivery method, technology, and assignments that will best help students learn the objectives and content.

    Consider what is best done:

    • in person versus online
    • in real-time versus giving students flexibility
    • facilitated by the instructor versus facilitated by the learning resources

    For example, few students reported being satisfied with their institutions creating a sense of belonging during the pandemic. Since it can feel more difficult to build relationships online, take advantage of in-person opportunities.

    Online learning resources have advantages that enhance learning, such as immediate feedback and progress monitoring. In fact, across many studies, research shows that on average, blending online and in-person learning is slightly more effective than face-to-face learning.

    There are two things to consider when selecting how to approach the online parts of your hybrid course:

    • Is there educational technology that can help solve any problems you have? For example, students may focus on getting through learning activities as quickly as possible, rather than engaging deeply. Adaptive learning technology is becoming increasingly sophisticated at detecting when students are engaging productively and when they are not, and can react to keep students’ attention.
    • Are you at risk of using digital technology solely for its own sake? Purely replicating an analog experience with digital technology can add complexity without bringing any benefits.

    For more resources, this paper is designed as a starting point for thinking about how to use technology in your class.

    Generally, a hybrid course is balanced to have more online, technology-facilitated work and fewer in-person meetings. For example, one model many schools are considering to encourage social distancing is to hold a large lecture online with small, in-person discussion sections.

    Here are just a few examples of how others have blended online and face-to-face learning:

    • This course was delivered via a blended learning format in a flipped model, with online lectures followed by a two-hour face-to-face workshop tutorial each week.
    • This class met both in person and online. They used a flipped learning approach where students were expected to complete assigned activities before coming to a four-hour face-to-face class.
    • This hybrid course met once a week for three hours in a computer lab with the remainder of the course activities completed online.

    2. Plan effective interactions

    After you’ve identified your objectives, think about what interactions you’ll use to facilitate learning. Hybrid learning gives you a lot of flexibility in how to interact. These different types of interaction fall into the following three categories.

    Learner–instructor interactions

    Learner–instructor interactions, like emails, announcements, and discussions. Instructor interaction is a major driver of successful learning, but feels more difficult online. You can make a point of fostering connections by using students’ names and humor.

    Learner–learner interactions

    Learner–learner interactions, like discussions, collaborative group work, and peer review activities. These can either happen at the same time in person, or online and outside of class. Each mode has its pros and cons:

      • face-to-face, synchronous interactions are good for creating a sense of spontaneity and connection, but not as good at fostering participation or giving flexibility.
      • online, asynchronous interactions encourage participation, depth of reflection, and flexibility, but they can lack spontaneity and connection and may let students procrastinate.

    Learner–content interactions

    Learner–content interactions include activities, like reading content, watching a video, or working through a problem set.

    3. Integrate the experiences

    You can design the online and in-person interactions in such a way that they support each other, rather than feeling disjointed. For example, assign challenging and engaging online learning activities and then discuss them in person, inviting questions. If you’re encouraging online discussions, reference them in class to confirm their value.

    4. Craft a learner-centered approach to learning

    In a hybrid model, encourage your students to take control of their learning. Start by enabling students to choose how they engage with the content. Then encourage them to monitor and reflect on their learning.
    By using technology with progress monitoring functionality, you can also help them stay on track. Professor Manda Williamson has over 700 students every semester and uses the dashboard in her online course material to give students ownership over their learning. She talks more about it in this guide.

    5. Support student success

    In hybrid learning, students must be more self-driven. Set clear expectations and build in support for self-directed learning, such as encouraging students to plan, check their understanding, study more as needed, and reflect on their learning.

    To further support their success, help them use the tools by holding a technology “onboarding” session on how to use the tech and where to go for help.

    This approach can not only help keep students motivated, it also builds an important lifelong skill: self-management. If you’re interested in learning more about how to teach self-management, this paper goes into detail.

    6. Assess learning online

    Since you won’t be in the room with the students when they are taking the test, clearly communicate the rules and instructions before the exam. The rules may include how many opportunities students have to complete the exam, if they can save and come back later to finish, if they need to put away all mobile devices, and whether it is an open or closed book exam.

    Technology can help you reduce the opportunities for cheating:

        • password protect your exam and limit students to one login attempt.
        • require students to complete a statement of honesty before beginning the exam
        • open and close access to your exam session within a predetermined time period
        • shuffle items or create multiple versions of the exam to randomly assign to students
        • create a pool or item bank to pull random questions from, a function built into many learning management systems
          ask students to justify or explain their answers by adding an open response field after each selected-response question
        • if you don’t have these capabilities, use more open-ended question types instead of true/false or multiple choice questions

    This blog post gives more advice on crafting quality assessments online.

    7. Continuously improve

    Keep your approach simple at first and aim for continuous improvement, not perfection. We encourage you to try something, get feedback from your students, and keep improving your course. And you’re not alone: your colleagues may have advice too. You can build an informal or formal learning network to learn from each other.

    This fall will be a learning experience for everyone. When faced with the unknown, as researchers we first look to what others have studied and the lessons they’ve learned. These seven tips, which are based on findings from over a decade of implementing hybrid teaching, can give you direction on how to bring together the best of in-person and online learning. For even more detail and research on hybrid teaching and learning, check out this paper.

    read more
  • Teaching Titans vs. Punitive Professors

    by Terri Moore

    blog image alt text

    Partnering for solutions

    Pearson Faculty Advisors have become educational first responders during this COVID-19 crisis; diving in to help professors use online tools effectively. We are teachers partnering together to share, learn, and pave the way in this brave new world of internet instruction.

    Teaching online is nothing new to us. We’ve logged many years of working online with tools, instructional designs, and various learning management systems. But, watching every teacher in the United States move online in a matter of a few days, regardless of their comfort with distance learning, has been eye-opening. It’s challenged attitudes about online learning environments and the role of a college professor.

    So many instructors are struggling with old ways and new challenges, trying to pound traditional classrooms to fit into bits and bytes. I’ve begun to recognize a clear dichotomy in instructional methods: restorative vs punitive. Looking to the experts for ideas, I discovered abundant pedagogical literature on this, making it far from being an original idea. The research is often directed at classroom management and changing student behaviors, but the principles apply to the consequences associated with our assessments, and whether they dish out “punishment” or increase learning.

    Liberating learners vs. catching cheaters

    There is much consternation amongst “instantaneous” online higher education teachers struggling to hold on to teaching methods that may not be functional for online classes. In brick and mortar classrooms, student mastery was often assessed through paper tests distributed with time limits, monitored by the roaming instructor to reduce cheating, and collected and graded by the teacher.

    I’ve seen much hand wringing about how online environments simply cannot police students the way the classroom teacher could. And while the sudden shift to all things digital may revert to traditional classrooms, there may be lessons to be learned. These may be applicable for teaching anywhere and at any time. These atypical days are giving us time to reassess and find new ways to view classroom strategies or policies.

    I’ve listened as teachers have listed the many ways they’ve discovered students can cheat by sharing information, invalidating their final scores. I’ve watched frustrated teachers try to create duplicate online classes that were once face-to-face, missing opportunities to increase student success. They are often missing the chance to use digital methods effectively, teaching the same principles in a different manner.

    After hearing so much anxiety, I want to share some thoughts about how to be the rock star content expert, maintain your teaching rigor, and remain true to your unique personality with online learning. This may even transform that physical classroom in a return to the old normal.

    What do I want from them?

    There are so many disciplines and courses in higher education; it’s impossible to cover how every discipline should assess their student’s success. The following suggestions can be generalized and customized to meet the needs of specific courses and content.

    “What should my students know by the end of my class?” should be the first question we ask when determining how to assess student progress. Much, or most, of class energy is spent acquiring information to pass the final assessments demonstrating mastery. Whether the course is psychology, speech, statistics, advertising, marketing, biology, or nursing, the time spent acquiring content is the formative stage of learning. Instructors are responsible for providing tools during these acquisition stages to help students “learn” the material in order to critically think through how to apply the new information in real world settings.

    What do they need from me?

    We are the facilitators of formative activities that help increase our students’ metacognition; helping them to know what they don’t know, and how to acquire the unknown information so they can apply it when required (tested). While formative activities will vary widely, their purpose remains the same.

    These classroom techniques are meant for student learning, not assessing mastery by the instructor. I like to ask myself when selecting formative activities, “Is this something I can get out of the way of my students’ learning and let them be the captains of their own ship?”

    Low stakes assessment of student progress includes activities that encourage students to reflect, collaborate, teach others, review, apply, or create. Incentivizing with points is vital for full participation. However, exams designed in anxiety producing high stakes testing environments seldom produce the long-term retention that incremental low stakes self-assessments do.

    Consider formative activities such as group projects, encourage collaboration through discussion forums, offer opportunities for reflection through journaling, or ask opened ended questions on short, low-stakes quizzes.

    Get out of the way and let them learn!

    If you like auto-graded, time-saving multiple choice quizzes, leave them for student self-assessments. They can be great tools to let the student know what they don’t know yet, encouraging them to go back and review. But they tell us little about what students are retaining long-term and are rife with possibilities for easy “cheating.”

    If quizzes are low stakes, there is little reason to spend the energy to cheat. I would ask, “If the student Googles the answer in a low stakes self-assessment, who cares?” It matters little whether they learned the information from reviewing the content I provided or from Google. If they spend the energy to look up the answer, they most likely will remember the question for some time to come. My passion for teaching is to produce life-long learners who seek information from every source available.

    How do I know they got it?

    There is a time for all instructors to summarize the total progress their students have made, or are making, during the term. Again, these “summative” assessments will take many forms depending on your specific course. I encourage instructors to think about limiting the number of these high-stakes assessments.

    Keep in mind most of class time is spent in acquiring information or forming a new knowledge base. Students need enough time to get comfortable with the content before they really show you their critical thinking skills and applying their new information to unique and practical situations.

    A personal example

    Here’s a scenario that shows moving from formative to summative student assessment techniques:

    • Weeks are spent training psychology students through low stakes assignments to write in correct APA style.
    • The formative assessments are 250-word discussion forums in proper APA, encouraging students to review classmates’ work, compare their thoughts, and make comments on each other.
    • There are usually 8-10 short, shared essays.
    • By the end of the term, students demonstrate their mastery of both content and APA writing style through a summative research paper.

    All assessments, both formative and summative, provided little chance or incentive to cheat as the essays and paper are submitted for originality checks. Students are ENCOURAGED to collaborate with each other, asking classmates’ input before submitting their final research paper.

    Becoming a Titan

    We all are challenged to keep teaching fresh and alive, to stay abreast of what is changing in our world, our students’ lives, our students’ learning, and our own wants and needs. I don’t want to create a classroom made for my needs. Rather, it should be one to help the maximum number of my students achieve their goals, persisting toward their degrees. As you think through how to provide formative steps toward knowledge acquisition that summarizes student progress, ask these questions:

    In each segment/chapter/module/increment of learning, what should my students remember?

    • How can I help them submit that information to their long-term memory? See this source for some ideas on retrieval practice.

    How can my students demonstrate they have mastered the concepts I feel they need from my course?

    • What kinds of assessments can I use that limit cheating and demonstrate real learning? See this resource for ideas about summative assessments.

    Rock stars, every one

    This may seem radical, but I want my students to share questions and answers, learn from each other, and become co-intelligent. I want to teach them that life is a group, not a proctored exam. Life is about solving large problems as a community, not being checked in isolation to see if we know everything about anything on one big exam. I want to be a learning facilitator. It’s all about my students’ learning, not about my need to perform. I may not be the rock star from your past. You may not remember my name. But if the tunes I taught you long ago hum in your head when you see a problem needing a solution, I’ve earned the title “Teacher”.

    read more
  • 5 keys to excellence in online learning

    by Pearson

    blog image alt text

    This spring, thousands of institutions rushed to deliver instruction online at scale. Many were new to online learning, and no two institutions or instructors approached it exactly the same way. But most recognized that it’ll play an important role going forward, and most saw room for improvement. In this blog post, we’ll share five key considerations for your institution to deliver richer, more successful online learning experiences.

    1. Develop more compelling online courses and curricula

    Translating your faculty’s expertise online requires new techniques and mindsets. Instructional design must be integrated with user experience engineering, technology, visual design, writing, accessibility, web development, quality assurance, project management, and more.

    2. Focus on helping faculty succeed

    Support faculty all the way to success, with course development help and training that reflects their needs and respects their expertise. The right course development experts can help faculty optimize their own content and course structures for online learning environments, integrate more engaging media and learning modalities, and foreground real-world relevance. The right training ensures that technology serves faculty instead of the other way around.

    3. Improve student support to improve outcomes

    Online students require seamless support from first contact through graduation. This requires institutions to break down silos, collaborate creatively, and sometimes change culture. Consider: how do students tell you if they’re encountering serious life challenges? How do you respond? Can programs and faculty work more closely with tutors to anticipate student needs? Can each student turn to a specific individual for timely, relevant help that orchestrates all your resources?

    4. Choose resources with a track record of success

    For each online learning function, whether internal or external, expect a track record of success. Have they met their commitments? Have they built the types of programs you want? Can they do it at scale? Do they understand how technologies and students are changing? Are they agile and collaborative? Will they act as agents of change, recommend and execute on innovations, and help you deliver on your institution’s online strategy?

    5. To sustain enrollments, get the marketing right, too

    You need to get your marketing strategy right, and yesterday’s strategy may not be right anymore. Today, you’re competing with gap years and dropping out indefinitely, not just other institutions. You have to rethink how you demonstrate your value to students — and that may require objective, outside assistance.

    We can help

    Our white paper offers more insights in all five areas. And we’re available to discuss your unique online learning challenges. See how we can help you and your students succeed — no matter what comes next.

    Get the white paper

    read more
  • Quality Matters!

    by Diane Hollister

    blog image alt text

    I like a good deal. Getting something for less than what you expected to pay is rewarding. However, if that item doesn’t work like you thought, or even breaks soon after you get it, it may not be such a good deal after all. I think we’d all agree quality matters. The developers of a set of instructional guidance felt the same and even named it, “Quality Matters”. Let’s take a closer look at this tool whose namesake is what most professors and course designers strive for every day.

    What exactly is Quality Matters?

    Quality Matters (QM) is a tool used to assess the quality of a course. With increased emphasis on online courses and the need to design materials with accreditation in mind, the best way to design a course is with QM built in from the start. As a result, it’s helpful for all of us to keep these types of recommendations in mind when talking with customers and assisting them with curricular materials.

    Where did this all get started?

    Quality Matters began with a small group of colleagues in the MarylandOnline, Inc. (MOL) consortium trying to solve a common problem among institutions: how do we measure and guarantee the quality of a course? At the time, I was teaching at a university. Later, I taught at a community college, and the discussions about online courses were extensive at both places. Yes, we wanted to meet the needs of our students, provide flexible scheduling options, etc., and we wanted to offer these courses everywhere because geography would no longer be a constraint for enrollment.

    We were also, like many other institutions, simultaneously updating transfer agreements. Administrators and educators across the country needed a way to ensure course quality for their students, regardless of where the course originated. Ideally, courses would be equivalent. Otherwise, transfer agreements would be impacted. In 2003, the consortium outlined how the Quality Matters program could create a scalable process for course quality assurance, and applied for a Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The FIPSE grant enabled QM to develop a rubric of course design standards and create a replicable peer-review process that would:

    • Train and empower faculty to evaluate courses against these standards
    • Provide guidance for improving the quality of courses
    • Certify the quality of online and blended college courses across institutions

    The QM commitment

    Today Quality Matters is a nonprofit organization comprised of dedicated staff from all over the United States who work together virtually to support everyone’s quality assurance goals. To truly achieve their mission of defining and maintaining quality assurance in online learning, the QM staff rely on a much larger community of QM coordinators, workshop facilitators, peer reviewers, program reviewers, conference presenters, and all other individuals and groups who champion QM. Some of Pearson’s faculty advisors participated in QM training in the past and became reviewers with this program.

    QM’s mission

    QM’s mission is to promote and improve the quality of online education and student learning nationally and internationally through the following: development of current, research-supported, and practice-based quality standards and appropriate evaluation tools and procedures.

    • Recognition of expertise in online education quality assurance and evaluation.
    • Fostering a culture of continuous improvement by integrating QM Standards and processes into organizational plans to improve the quality of online education.
    • Providing professional development in the use of rubrics, tools and practices to improve the quality of online education.
    • Peer review and certification of quality in online education.

    A well-designed course is more likely to engage learners and positively affect their performance. Using the QM Rubric and relevant review tools as a guide, faculty and their colleagues, or a team of QM-trained, experienced online instructors can evaluate the design of an online or blended course and ensure it meets QM Standards. When professors are ready to put a course through the review process, they can receive fresh ideas from colleagues who are interested in the course. These QM-trained peers can offer specific feedback in a positive tone that will help improve the quality of the course and create a more active learning experience for students.

    So what are the QM standards?

    Chances are, if you’ve worked with a faculty advisor, you’ve heard references to these or something very similar. These are also familiar if you’ve looked at the teaching online toolkit and other resources from our Learning Design team.

    The eight General Standards of this Rubric are:

    1. Course Overview and Introduction
    2. Learning Objectives (Competencies)
    3. Assessment and Measurement
    4. Instructional Materials
    5. Learning Activities and Learner Interaction
    6. Course Technology
    7. Learner Support
    8. Accessibility and Usability

    Don’t let the short list above fool you into thinking it won’t take long to work through. In fact, there are many resources for each one of these. Here, for example, is a rubric which can be helpful for faculty to refer to as they develop a course.

    What if a faculty member is trying to “retrofit” or “overhaul” or redesign a course? QM has an article with suggestions to help you improve existing courses. Again, you’ve heard things like this from our team.

    And if you’re looking for a webinar to share in addition to the Pearson webinar offerings this summer, you can direct people here.

    If you’re still wondering whether it’s worth it or not…

    “Hinds Community College eLearning has been using Quality Matters as the basis for our instructional integrity initiatives for many years now, probably since around 2015. We want our students to feel that they are getting a quality course…when they take a Hinds Community College eLearning course. We know that begins with Course Design and alignment. We ask a LOT of our Hinds eLearning faculty. They dig deep to give us what we ask for. The QM General Standards and course alignment of the critical course components are incorporated into our Hinds eLearning courses through thorough training and course evaluation. All of our pedagogical trainings and evaluations are related to a QM general standard directly or indirectly.

    So, why QM? I like the quote by Malcolm X that says ‘If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.’ That is why we look to Quality Matters…the research-based, GOLD standard of online course evaluation for the framework of our Hinds Community College eLearning courses.”

    -Katherine Puckett, District Dean of Instructional Technology and eLearning, Hinds Community College

    Quality does matter!

    read more
  • Why students prefer digital course materials - and the impact they make

    by Pearson

    blog image alt text

    No matter their major, university, or year in school, most students can agree on one thing: buying textbooks is one of the more frustrating experiences that college has to offer. But the recent unexpected shift to online learning and digital course materials is making this less of an obstacle. Four students from across the nation shared their experiences with their textbooks and course materials — and told us why access to digital has changed the way they view studying.

    One of the most common complaints students have about their course materials is the actual process of acquiring them. Sarah F., a political science student at the University of Missouri, dreaded having to visit the bookstore at the beginning of each term.

    “The only way you can avoid the bookstore is ordering your books online, but there’s a waiting period, so sometimes you don’t even get your books in time for those first couple of homework assignments. I hate having to organize all of that — it’s probably one of the worst things I have to do in college.”

    The recent shift to online learning has already led to a shift in course materials in most cases. As faculty look forward with uncertainty, they know that comprehensive, flexible, and cost-effective solutions are key to a successful course, no matter the future of their course delivery. The College Board estimates that a year’s worth of textbooks and supplies can cost the average student a staggering $1,240.1 Zach D., a marketing student at the University of Iowa, has found that, while the cost of textbooks can be frustrating, there’s something even worse — the cost of books that go unused.

    “I spent $200 on this book and will only get $20 at the end of the semester for it, when I didn’t even need it in the first place.”

    In his experience, the digital course materials he’s been assigned have actually been utilized in class and have helped him keep up on his own time, while physical materials have often gone untouched.

    For all four students, digital course materials have been more affordable than physical materials (Zach estimates they’ve saved him several hundred dollars this year alone.) And they all agreed that digital materials were more useful to them.

    Rachel H., a business administration major at the University of Colorado Boulder, has discovered a whole host of game-changing benefits to using digital materials. “It saves time in the first place because you get your book on the very first day and can start studying right away, instead of waiting to get the book in the mail. And if you’re trying to search a textbook for something, you can literally do it with your keyboard. Also, a lot of the Inclusive Access that I have has additional online study materials in it, like flashcards and practice tests. It’s extra studying my professor doesn’t give me, but is still a part of the textbook, so I can go in and study in different ways that they provide…it’s definitely had a positive impact on my grades.”

    Digital materials also help students by allowing them to learn when, where, and how it works best for them, especially during these unprecedented times. Jesus H., a business management student at California State University Fresno, found that, because of their flexible nature, the digital materials he had access to sometimes contributed even more to his success than attending lectures did.

    “For an accounting class I took, I learned a lot through MyLab™ Accounting. It prepared me a lot for my exams, and I passed because of the digital materials. It was convenient, it allowed me to save time, and I could study anywhere. It was very beneficial, and because of that I’m now trying to stay with classes I know will be using digital materials instead of print books.”

    Through the Covid-19 lockdown and institutional shift to distance learning, technology is what has kept us together. As almost every aspect of students’ lives becomes digitized, it’s no wonder that pairing technology and education works so well for them. The benefits of digital products and course materials were clear even before the recent disruption to education, and have become even more apparent with the widespread shift to online and HyFlex learning models.

    A study by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation even found that when students take courses that engage digitally and in-person, content mastery can occur twice as quickly, and pass rates for at-risk students can increase by 33%.2 Sarah is certain that she’s enjoyed those benefits throughout her college experience, thanks to digital course materials.

    “I’m kind of able to be successful either way, but it’s about making it easier for me to be successful. It’s about putting everything in one place and keeping me organized — letting me search through and study the materials I need to, and giving me assignments that I can complete online that are more interactive than they would be otherwise. The culmination of all those things make it easier for me to succeed. Students can still succeed when they’re using paper materials, but I think having the digital materials gives us even more advantages and helps us be just that much more successful.”

    During this historic time, faculty around the country in all disciplines are adopting digital solutions to support delivery of their courses and help improve affordability and student success.

    Sources
    1Average estimated undergraduate budgets by sector, 2019-20,” College Board
    2Student Success: Digital Learning,” The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

    read more
  • Diversity & inclusion in the online classroom

    by Diane Hollister

    blog image alt text

    Your faculty meeting starts, and one of the key items on the agenda is a focused discussion about cultural diversity and inclusion in online courses. Of course, you must also consider curricular content, pedagogy, accessibility and universal design, and their impacts on education. All of these affect your students’ learning, motivation, and satisfaction in a course. Where do we even begin with this discussion?

    Why explore diversity in our courses?

    Researchers agree it can promote student growth and reflection. In our increasingly globalized world, it can help students begin to foster a sense of empathy for others and bring about open-mindedness. Supporting tolerance is critical: allowing students to feel unique while still being part of the group helps them prepare for the twenty-first century workplace.

    As professors, we are committed to ensuring an inclusive environment for all of our students. This includes people of all abilities, races, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, nationalities, religious traditions, socioeconomic classes, and ages. We could discuss these for a long time; however, most instructors are not afforded the liberty of a lot of time to consider these and design a course. How can we take current research and utilize it to deliver a course that meets these needs?

    Communication

    A profoundly critical aspect of any online course is communication; research in sociology, psychology, and cognition supports this. Consider also the importance of student viewpoints towards power structures in the classroom (for example, the role of the instructor versus the role of the student), how information is processed, and subject matter content.

    One of the most predominant differences between online and traditional courses lies in how students and faculty interact in the classroom. Not only does the online classroom remove the physical, synchronous presence from the learning community, it regularly shifts the bulk of communications to written exchanges.

    Often, the instructor is the one who facilitates the emails and discussion forums. Instructors typically provide feedback in writing, using embedded course tools for grading notes and comments. In addition to the Learning Management System (e.g., Blackboard, Canvas, Brightspace by D2L, or Moodle), the faculty and students can engage outside of the classroom via social media and other tools. Again, these environments are normally driven by text, with varying emphasis on live or verbal exchanges.

    Tools such as Zoom and Blackboard Collaborate can be useful; however, it’s frequently difficult to find times that everyone can meet virtually. More often, the meetings are recorded and shared so all can access the material. Live chats, video conferencing, Wikis, and blogs are all tools that are available to you to engage your students.

    Interpretation awareness

    Emphasis on the written word, regardless of platform, can create potential issues related to the interpretation of content, particularly for students whose first language is not English. Students, particularly English as a Second Language (ESL) students, may look for hidden messages in feedback and/or decipher feedback differently.

    Consider the potential (mis)interpretation of written forums or feedback and the impact on student performance and attitude. Be clear and thorough. We find it helpful to create samples of frequent errors with detailed notes that we can easily share with any student. Making mini lessons with apps like Educreations is useful, too. These are useful for all students.

    Keep in mind that students do not necessarily have to be English language learners for their culture to influence their interpretation or understanding of the meaning of written text within a course. Culture can impact the dynamics of the exchanges as well. Cultural norms — the common beliefs, expectations, and practices of a society — may impact how and when students respond to questions.

    For example, students from Western cultures may be more apt to view the instructor as a facilitator, rather than non-Western students. In some cultures, the instructor is viewed authoritative in nature. You’ve probably had a student or two who argued that you should just “tell them what to do” instead of asking them to “guess.”

    Tips for better communication

    Use icebreakers and “getting to know you” activities on your discussion boards. Share the expectations for student comments/behavior before the course even begins. Consider disciplinary content in a global context as you post questions and problems of the week. Think and share about your own identity.

    Some faculty create affinity groups and note that their students love knowing their peers are dealing with some of the same issues, life events, challenges, and so forth.

    Course design with diversity in mind

    First and foremost, consider universal design principles in your course design. It may be as simple as paying attention to color and size of fonts, the volume of material on any given page, the embedding of objectives and directives for the learners, etc. You already know it’s critical to use only captioned videos, images with alt text, etc, but do you know how people tend to scan/read web pages? Are you designing your course with that in mind?

    Explore more about accessibility for Pearson products by visiting the product websites. We also have more detailed training resources for many products such as MyLab (Math, Business, etc.), MyLab IT, and Mastering.

    The aesthetics of a course are important. How will your course users see and interpret images, art, photography, movies, and so on? What is the reading level of the material chosen? Is the material engaging? Does the media reflect diversity?

    Universal design principles help educators consider how to reach every learner by providing flexible instructional materials, techniques, and strategies. It promotes the engagement of each learner by making learning more accessible. A guiding principle of universal design is that we need to provide multiple means of representation, expression, and engagement for students.

    Acknowledging and understanding cultural differences

    It’s important to note that it is very difficult to identify and address every critical area in a course. Countless articles, some very extensive ones, cover the concept of inclusion and diversity. This short blog is only intended to get you thinking about key components of designing an online course with diversity in mind.

    If we acknowledge that diversity influences learning, then we may be able to create discussions that result in examples that are culturally relevant. Your work as an instructor sets the tone for a safe space in the classroom where students can share their experiences and perspectives.

    For those of us who are “accidental” instructional designers or instructional designers for real, we might want to consider learning more about things like wisdom communities that offer a framework for orienting and engaging students.

    How do we promote diversity in our classes?

    1. We strive to understand our students.
    2. We utilize different teaching strategies and materials.
    3. We structure the course to provide equal opportunities to all students.
    4. We celebrate diversity. We keep this in mind when designing discussion posts or sharing articles, for example.
    5. We encourage differing perspectives. We ask students to share their views and substantiate why they feel/think that way.
    6. We seek to include diverse learning materials.

    Conclusion

    Understanding the unique differences in traditional and online learning environments and how culture plays a role, can help shape a positive educational experience for students and their faculty. With increasing emphasis on online learning, we need to have more conversations about understanding and supporting students from diverse cultures. It’s helpful to reflect on your own experiences, because our personal cultural influences or teaching styles might guide our choices in course design.

    Listen to a short webinar about making your teaching more inclusive.

    Enjoy an article from earlier this year about culturally responsive teaching.

    Explore Cornell’s open course about diversity in the classroom.

    Affirming Diversity: The Sociopolitical Context of Multicultural Education
    This is a text by Sonia Nieto, University of Massachusetts Amherst (Emerita) and Patty Bode, Tufts University in Affiliation with The Amherst Regional Public Schools.
    Effective multicultural education must consider not just schooling, but also the larger social, economic, and political factors that affect students’ success or failure in the classroom. Affirming Diversity: The Sociopolitical Context of Multicultural Education helps readers understand these pervasive influences by presenting extensive research and data on the sociopolitical nature of schools and society, information about different sociocultural groups, and a conceptual framework for examining multicultural education. Real-life cases and teaching stories dominate in this book that offers a first-hand look into the lives of students and educators from a variety of backgrounds. Additionally, tips for classroom activities and community actions offer aspiring teachers concrete suggestions to provide high-quality, inclusive education in spite of obstacles they may face.

    read more
  • Gotta get gritty

    by Diane Hollister

    blog image alt text

    When you read the title of this blog, you might have thought of sand right away. Blue skies, fluffy clouds, ocean waves….a cooler with sandwiches, a good book… Well, beach time IS a wonderful thing, but it’s not what I’m referring to here. Nor are we going to discuss the beach towels that shake off sand the best (again, a good thing!).

    For today, we aren’t thinking of sand as our grit. Instead, our definition of grit is “courage and resolve; strength of character.” Or, it’s the ability to “stick it out” and persevere. In education, there’s a lot of current research about students’ “grittiness” and ability to succeed. There’s even a special GRIT gauge which uses the mnemonic for Growth, Resilience, Instinct, and Tenacity.

    I think we’d agree that those are attributes we’d all like to have. I like to hike and to read about those who explore the Appalachian Trail. That requires determination and stick-to-it-ness. Many of us might say there’s no way we could ever do that. And yet, we all know someone who, despite all sorts of roadblocks, setbacks, and crises, still manages to marshal unseen capacity to keep going.

    Call it “resilience” or “grit” or “perseverance” or “strong emotional intelligence skills”; even the ability to “delay gratification.” It’s through that “something” where we see tangible results when someone is able to keep going, reaching for some goal or prize.

    The stress factor

    Whether in a pandemic or just everyday life, our bodies regulate stress by using a combination of chemical signals from our pituitary and adrenal glands, hypothalamus, and so forth. We easily recognize some of these responses; our heart rate increases, we sweat, our stomach has butterflies, we can’t sleep, our brain races. Other effects are not as apparent but equally important; the “fight or flight” mode activates a rise in glucose levels, inflammatory proteins surge through the blood, and neurotransmitters are on overdrive.

    After all of this, being ‘stressed out’ becomes our norm. Modern humans don’t typically have to deal with a predator chasing them. We instead deal with mental attacks; we worry about things. The body’s reaction to stress causes wear and tear. The part of the brain most affected by early stress, the prefrontal cortex, is critical for self-management of emotions and cognition. Think about it. It’s not just little kids that have a hard time sitting still and focusing when they are stressed out. Children aren’t the only ones who get overwhelmed with negative feelings and find it hard to rebound from defeat.

    So what exactly is going on in the minds of those who manage to persevere despite that stress and impaired cognition? How do they override the “fight or flight” responses and continue to perform despite all odds? Are there some sort of super-human skills the rest of us are lacking?

    A special blend

    In her New York Times bestseller Grit, pioneering psychologist Angela Duckworth shows for anyone striving to succeed, be it parents, students, educators, athletes, or business people, that the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent, but a special blend of passion and persistence she calls “grit.” She has found that grit is the hallmark of high achievers in every domain. She’s also identified scientific evidence that grit can grow. You can learn more about her research here. In a recent blog, she wrote,

    “Do think critically about the pros and cons of any form of assessment. And if we believe, as Maslow did, that there is a basic human motive to work hard for the benefit of others, we can encourage and support young people in those endeavors.”

    What does Alia Crum, an assistant professor of psychology at Stanford University and director of the Stanford Mind & Body Lab, say about stress? She points out that we have to acknowledge, own, and use our stress to make something new. She recently wrote about her experience with COVID-19 and summarized her thoughts neatly in five words: adversity can make you stronger.

    Growing grit

    So how do you help your students redirect their attention? Like the Cookie Monster, we have to sometimes wait for our cookies. What can you share with your students to help them get gritty? Persevere? Stick-to-it? One of the insights in psychology that intrigues me is this: what we pay attention to becomes our (subjective) reality. So helping our students recognize their mindset and then begin to apply growth mindset principles can help.

    How about habits? At least half of what we do each day is habitual. Did you ever find yourself driving home and then thinking you might not have noticed a light or a turn? Research shows us with practice, even little mini-changes can become good habits. Making small changes in study skills can have a gigantic impact on student performance. For some students, just learning about other study tips and tricks is a great start.

    Often we don’t know what we don’t know until someone points it out to us. For example, quizzing yourself rather than just rereading notes produces far greater long-term learning gains. The Learning Scientists blog for students is a great site to share with students. They can learn more about good note-taking strategies and techniques such as spacing of review and methods for retrieval practice.

    Even talking about grit and providing examples can be helpful. Modeling metacognitive practices is useful, and providing opportunities for exploring vocations and career tools early in college can increase students’ perseverance toward degree completion.

    In other words, students who go through programs designed to help them shape their personal values into rewarding careers are more likely to persist; they have a measurable goal and resources to use to achieve it. Tools like the Conley Readiness Index help students begin to explore how they think and what drives them. The results give them practice applications to help work on areas they struggle with.

    Lead by example

    “Supporting Students’ College Success: The Role of Assessment of Interpersonal and Intrapersonal Competencies” was released by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine and commissioned by the National Science Foundation.

    Fred Oswald, a professor of psychology at Rice co-authored the report, which was based on a review of 49 articles targeting 61 experimental studies. The authors examined interventions to improve educational attainment.

    Across these studies, three competencies most frequently showed evidence of supporting students’ college persistence and success, as measured by grades, retention and graduation:

    • A sense of belonging, meaning that all college students feel that they belong in college and are socially integrated into college culture and life.
    • A growth mindset, referring to college students’ beliefs that their own intelligence is not a fixed entity, but rather a malleable quality that life experiences and direct instruction can help improve.
    • Personal goals and values that college students perceive to be directly linked to the achievement of their future dreams.

    And one of the most important keys to all of these?

    Caring and compassionate faculty and staff who establish strong connections with students and communicate effectively.

    So all that time you spend designing your course materials, communicating with students, establishing a presence in the digital classroom, responding to emails…The time you spend reading professional journals or listening to podcasts to support your own professional development? You actually have been giving your students the tools they need to begin to explore the concept of “grit.” For that kind of dedication, you deserve a relaxing day at the beach, but watch out for the sand; it’s a little gritty!

    read more
  • Survey: Higher Ed Presidents' ongoing response to the COVID-19 crisis

    by Pearson

    blog image alt text

    In April, Inside Higher Ed and Hanover Research surveyed 187 presidents at colleges and universities to see how their priorities have evolved after one month into their COVID-19 response. A similar survey was conducted in March.

    Top concerns

    In the survey, presidents were asked about their level of concern with potential short-term and long-term issues at their institution in regard to COVID-19. Below are the top 5 issues about which they were very or somewhat concerned.

    Top 5 short-term issues

    1. Mental health of students (91%)
    2. Disproportionate impact on students from low-income backgrounds (87%)
    3. Accelerated rates of student attrition (84%)
    4. Short-term unbudgeted financial costs (86%)
    5. Mental health of students (87%)

    Top 5 long-term issues

    1. Decline in overall future student enrollment (90%)
    2. Inequitable impact on underrepresented students (90%)
    3. Overall financial stability (88%)
    4. Ability to afford to employ staff & faculty (81%)
    5. Decline in alumni/donor giving rates (56%)

    Challenges with remote learning

    The survey found that over the course of a month, presidents were having fewer challenges at their institutions ensuring academics standards remained high, having technology support available, and training faculty less familiar with digital delivery.

    You can download a copy of the report, Responding to the COVID-19 Crisis, Part II: A New Survey of College and University Presidents, here.

    Additionally, the editors of Inside Higher Ed held a webcast discussion about the survey’s results. You can view the recording here.


    read more
  • How to talk about social responsibility in a pandemic

    by Jessica Yarbro

    blog image alt text

    To say that people are stressed during the COVID-19 pandemic would be an understatement. The accepted social norms and values, like shaking hands or visiting the elderly, have gone out the window in an effort to stop the spread of disease.

    We’re navigating according to new rules, and as a result, decisions about how we behave and the choices we make have become more complex. Understandably, other’s actions are sparking strong emotions and reactions, sometimes referred to as “cancel culture,” making it difficult to talk about at home or in the classroom.

    As researchers, we turn to research to help guide our behavior and thinking. Social responsibility helps us be thoughtful about our actions, particularly our actions in relation to other people. We published a framework for social responsibility, based on the body of existing research, that can be used as a lens to understand human behavior in a complex situation.

    The dimensions of the framework can be used to spark an emphatic, non-judgemental discussion about making choices during a pandemic. We offer a suggestion for how to initiate a discussion with learners for each of the four dimensions:

    1. Multicultural

    Multicultural: Is knowledgeable about different cultural identities and sensitive toward cultural differences.

    Example of how to engage: Present a set of different choices someone could make during the current pandemic (i.e., decisions related to social distancing). For each choice, discuss how a person’s perspective or prior experiences might influence their decision to make a specific choice.

    2. Ethical

    Ethical: Demonstrates knowledge and awareness of ethical standards and issues and applies ethical reasoning and standards to make decisions in ethically ambiguous situations.

    Example of how to engage: Present a set of different choices someone could make during the current pandemic (i.e. decisions related to social distancing). For each choice, discuss how a person’s values could have influenced their decision to make a specific choice.

    3. Civic

    Civic: Is an informed and active citizen at the local, national, and global level and understands and acts on issues of local, national, and global significance.

    Example of how to engage: Have learners explore the role that the local, state, and/or federal government is playing in managing the pandemic (it can be in their own context or a new context). Learners could also discuss strengths and weaknesses for having a certain level of government managing response to the pandemic.

    4. Environmental

    Environmental: Is knowledgeable about current issues of environmental significance and is concerned about the wellbeing of the planet and engages in sustainable behaviors.

    Example of how to engage: Have learners explore how the COVID-19 pandemic, and human responses to the pandemic, could impact environmental and sustainability endeavors.

    If you want to learn more about how to teach social responsibility, a Pearson colleague discusses it in detail in this webinar.

    By taking time to teach socially responsible thinking and decision-making, you’re also helping your students develop a life skill that will help them navigate challenging situations in the future, whether daily decisions about climate change or even what career path to take.

    It is also a skill that is considered to be important for employees to demonstrate. Regarding hiring decisions, 81 percent of employers rated “ethical judgment and decision-making” as very important, but only 30 percent thought recent college graduates were well prepared in this area (this source and more listed here).

    For these reasons listed above and more, that’s why we have listed it in our framework for what makes someone employable and are working to embed how to teach social responsibility into our products to enable classroom conversations during normal, less stressful times.

    read more
  • Helping students cope and thrive in uncertain times

    by Terri Moore

    blog image alt text

    Strolling with her toddler in the suburb of a large city impacted by the pandemic, a professor friend reminisced about ‘normal’ life for herself and her daughter. She missed her days at the college, and for her child, the nurturing day care center. For at both places, they found connections, meaning, and comfort.

    My friend longed for her office, her classroom, and the physical presence of her students. She missed the mental challenge of being asked pointed and intelligent questions where she needed to be on top of her academic game to answer. She felt nostalgic for the smell of the library, the sight of the sun shining on her desk and papers in the early morning hours as she reviewed notes for upcoming lectures.

    She missed that slight thrill she got just as she rounded the corner going into her classroom. These images were so opposite to her sad thought that the quiet and deserted streets she walked felt like the end of the world, and she was surprised that it had ended so quietly.

    If the effects of the pandemic can feel so terminal to a young, gifted academic with everything in front of her, what must our students who are suddenly forced into online learning environments feel?

    We once stood in front of them, guaranteeing the protection of freedom of expression, if respect to all was upheld in our classes. We built a sacred space, created by mutual respect, open mindedness, and acceptance. Classrooms were a safe place to be vulnerable enough to listen to new information, consider it and expand the size of our boxes.

    Students had their own sacred spaces too: at the coffee shop to share class notes and ideas, or at a study group in library meeting rooms. Our students are emotionally invested in the places they learn. This ‘new world’ of higher education during a pandemic is very unlike what they imagined college life to be.

    While their teachers work heroically to provide virtual course content, the students miss the sensual stimulation of smells, sounds, and the touch of a physical environment. Many of us are missing that emotional connection to those physical places and the people there. While we professors are experienced enough to grasp the magnitude of this event and anticipate a hopeful new normal, our students often lack the life experience to rise above feelings of permanent loss.

    Our students may be dealing with family members sharing increasingly cramped quarters, challenged with internet connectivity, stressed from reduced incomes, and isolated from friends. They’re now exclusively using mobile devices or computers to continue expensive investments in college.

    These feelings of loss and helplessness are things that we can help reduce. Here are some suggestions from college professors and online sources to decrease the distance between our students and create virtual sacred spaces to help them reconnect with us in new, potentially more intimate and meaningful ways.

    Email your students often

    Reach out about more than content instructions. Tell them you understand how stressful lives have become and that you are there for support, not to add stress.

    Your learning management system lets you send videos through email. At least once a week, I send a video message to my students, sharing my own challenges and telling them how proud I am of their persistence and grit. It doesn’t matter that I haven’t had a haircut for more than a month, or that my husband may forget and walk behind my camera.

    In fact, my students have shared how much they appreciate “being in my home with me.” Now, as if never before, it is important to find ways to emotionally connect with others through these virtual social interactions.

    And, while we can’t offer smell-a-vison, or taste TV, we can provide a more relaxed communication channel with our students to help them know we are real and very much invested in their success.

    Be flexible

    Now isn’t the time to be punitive or judgmental. While assessing performance requires that we judge the progress students are making, we need to rethink how we do it. Are we assessing progress towards mastery, or penalizing for missing deadlines, or not adhering to classroom policies, which may not even apply in a virtual classroom?

    Assignment deadlines may become low priority in a home where young children need access to the only home computer to finish their homework, and the lack of income means a lack of food in the home. While some of us complain about the “COVID 15” pounds we are gaining, many of our students are struggling to find enough to eat.

    Relaxed due dates have been received by my students with immense gratitude. They tell me know how much it has meant to them to know I really want them to succeed.

    Find balance

    Being supportive does not mean throwing rigor out the window. It does require careful evaluation, sometimes on a case-by-case basis, of the emotional and physical needs of our students in context of the crisis and realistic expectations of academic standards.

    Many are concerned about online cheating. Consider this instead: what is the desired learning outcome, and can it be assessed in a different manner other than typical high stakes exams? Can you assess your student’s mastery with an essay or open-book timed exam? Might a group project offer a final evaluation of the course content?

    Be a positive influencer

    Use language that lets your students know you are expecting a new normal. While education as we’ve known it has changed, it can be better. Remind students of their advantage of their social media proficiency. Ask for their input on ways for your classes to be virtually connected.

    I’ve learned about super useful free conferencing tools from students who’ve been group gaming with them for years. Who knew? Give them the lead and let them show you how creative they can be. You will help them focus on what they can do increasing their self-efficacy.

    Share resources

    You need to be on your game for resource referral. Where can your students find WIFI? Computers? Tutoring? Counseling? Many of your colleges already have policies and solutions to these questions.

    For example, our college is creating a parking area where students can stay in their cars and gypsy off the college wireless internet to complete assignments. Drive-in WIFI! And, Student Services offers virtual counseling sessions at no cost to our students.

    Many internet providers are offering home service at no cost during the pandemic, and some colleges are loaning laptops to students to finish their college terms online. There are many new and innovative solutions being created on the fly to help students.

    If you need ideas, just Google the need; you’ll be surprised to discover the commitment and innovation of educators and professionals nationwide.

    Some may be asking, “How can I afford a new digital tool when I already paid for a book?” Pearson is working hard to provide students with access to digital learning environments at no cost while they adjust to a new normal of distance learning.

    Please remember, you are also essential workers and first line protectors. You can create new sacred learning spaces for your students, and discover your own well of creativity and innovation. Write to them, support them, be flexible with rigor and show compassion tempered with the desire for them to learn. Be a voice of hope for their futures. Need some inspiration? Give this shout out to your students to encourage self-care. Feel free to borrow:

    Students,

    We’re all in this together. I want you to know I care about more than just your grade in this class. I care about how each of you are navigating these strange days and new ways. I want to take a minute to offer some tips for taking care of yourselves.

    According to the CDC, you may feel any or all of the following symptoms of stress during this pandemic:

    • Changes in the way you sleep (more or less than usual)
    • A hard time concentrating
    • Intense moments of fear over your health and the health of those you love
    • Changes to your existing chronic health conditions (asthma, high blood pressure, etc.)
    • Desire to escape through alcohol or other drugs

    You may have added stress by setting a few high and unrealistic goals during what may feel like an extended vacation. These might include:

    • Lose 20 pounds
    • Learn a new language
    • Make straight A’s
    • Become the model student, wife, husband, parent, child, (fill in the blank)
    • Write a novel
    • Read the top 20 books recommended by professors nation-wide (one I make every summer and break)

    You might want to lower the bar on some of these. This is not your spring break. And it is not the best time to fail to reach goals you have set. You need to feel good about yourself, not set the stage for failure and frustration.

    But you do need to have goals that are attainable and measurable to help boost your mood when things are tough. If you’re still lying on the couch after crawling out of bed at noon and eating chips and salsa for breakfast it’s time to expect a little more out of your days. Self-awareness and self-efficacy are some of the most important factors in happy, successful people.

    To develop your self-efficacy, try setting challenges for your day like:

    • Stay in school and finish the term (even if it means you are not the star student you were 6 weeks ago). Finish! It’s good for your brain.
    • Talk with me about problems you are encountering with this new online learning.
    • Tell me what you need in order to pass the course and we’ll find a solution together.
    • Set a realistic calendar that you can adhere to in order to finish the work needed.
    • Set your day with gratitude. (I know it sounds corny, but it really, really works.)
    • Eat healthy (I didn’t say diet, but you can do better than chips and salsa three times a day.)
    • Stay connected to your peers (you’re a master at this already but keep it up)!
    • Exercise (doing a Jazzercize class on YouTube with those in your home or virtually with friends may provide your laughs for the day.)
    • Laugh a lot. (Turn on any movie that makes you roll on the floor even if you watch it every day).
    • Turn off the news except for quick catchups. (There were many people who gave themselves post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following 9/11 watching news 24 hours a day.)
    • Wherever you find comfort and hope, stay in that quadrant at least once a day with purpose. (You might meditate, pray, read the writings of your religious faith, or just uplifting authors who motivate for the good).
    • Get outside of yourself. Do something every day for someone else. Do it deliberately. (You might call someone you know is alone or make some masks for friends or front line workers, do a chore for someone else in your house as a surprise. It’s amazing how much we get when we give just a little.)
    • Seek online counseling services if you feel drawn to damaging behaviors. There are so many excellent resources for this. If you need help finding a resource, please let me know and I’ll be happy to share.
    • Finally, here are a couple of resources that I think you might find useful to help you work smart and to help you relax after working smart.

    I will close as I began. You are not alone. We are in this together. I know we will get to the other side and we will have discovered so much about the depth of our strengths, creativity, persistence, and compassion.

    read more
  • 4 ways Maryville University has taken science labs into the virtual classroom

    by Dr. Kelly Lave, Assistant Professor of Physics & Dr. Stacy L. Donovan, Associate Professor of Biology and Forensic Science,Maryville University

    blog image alt text

    When the COVID-19 pandemic forced colleges and universities to move to remote learning environments, many universities lacked preexisting contingency plans or infrastructures for running not just some of their classes but all of them online. Suddenly, many professors were working on short notice to implement online course management tools and facing numerous logistical hurdles along the way.

    The challenge became even more perplexing for science professors. How do you teach a lab course which, by definition, requires students to be physically present and handle various kinds of technology and equipment?

    At Maryville University, lab work roughly constitutes 50 percent of a given undergraduate science course, and many science and lab courses have already been utilizing a hybrid system that combines both in-person and online study.

    The immediate transition of moving classes online has therefore not presented as much of a challenge as figuring out how to translate the physical lab components to a completely virtual platform, as well as make this transition a viable solution for the longer term.

    Faced with this challenge, Maryville’s science faculty have implemented creative and innovative solutions to ensure that their students could fulfill the lab components of their courses without access to physical labs.

    Dr. Kelly Lave, Assistant Professor of Physics, and Dr. Stacy L. Donovan, Associate Professor of Biology and Forensic Science, are two such members of Maryville’s science faculty. They have been able to come up with viable solutions that work for their students, providing them with an experience that is equally as beneficial as an in-person lab.

    Taking a closer look at some of the ways they’ve been able to bring the lab into students’ homes may inspire and guide instructors who are in search of innovative solutions for teaching lab classes virtually.

    1. At-home data collection for students to analyze using digital tools

    Before the coronavirus crisis hit, Professor Kelly Lave had been having her physics lab students use a suite of wireless measuring devices and software from PASCO, a provider of science education tools.

    While teaching from home, she now acts as a surrogate interface between student and equipment by using the PASCO devices to take measurements that students would normally take themselves and then sending the raw data to the students for them to analyze. This removes a step that students are already familiarized with, the measuring, and allows them to focus on building their critical thinking skills by analyzing the data and drawing conclusions from it.

    As an example, for a lab segment about pressure, Lave connected a wireless pressure sensor to a syringe, partially pulled the plunger out and then pushed it back in.

    A wireless pressure sensor connected to a syringe

    (photo: Kelly Lave)

    Lave then sent the data to her students and provided any additional data they also needed, such as images of readings from a room thermometer when the measurement was taken. Their task was then to populate the data in the software, analyze and draw conclusions using ideal gas law to determine the amount of material in the syringe.

    2. Streamlining the experience through simulation apps for a physics lab

    Another of Professor Lave’s examples involves the use of PhET (Physics Education Technology), a freely accessible online suite of simulation tools provided by the University of Colorado Boulder. Some of the PhET tools are just simulations of scientific concepts; others allow for interaction, such as the circuit builder simulator which Lave has been using with her students.

    PhET

    (source: PhET via phet.colorado.edu)

    Lave believes that PhET’s circuit simulator makes possible learning experiences that are more streamlined in certain ways than their in-person equivalents. The tool allows students to virtually experiment with all elements of a circuit like in a traditional laboratory setting.

    As students assemble the circuit, they get instant feedback through an animation showing the outcome of their circuit build. Likewise, in a lab, if students want to move one part of a circuit, they have to take most of it apart and assemble it again.

    Previously, Lave often needed to troubleshoot problems like these that students would encounter. But while using PhET for her online lab lessons, she has been spending far less time troubleshooting or helping students to put their circuits together.

    The students have been experiencing little to no problems understanding the material or doing the work, and the ease and straightforwardness of the PhET platform has allowed Lave and her students to focus on teaching and learning, respectively, and to not waste time with steep learning curves.

    3. Customized learning pathways through simulation apps for a biology lab

    What started for biology professor Stacy L. Donovan as using social media to connect with her students and the Maryville community during the COVID-19 pandemic, and to promote the “wonderful things” that they are doing, led to a discovery of some remarkable EdTech tools that have allowed her to translate her teaching objectives into a fully digital form in a short amount of time.

    One of these tools is LabXchange, a platform provided by the Amgen Foundation and Harvard University, which Donovan has been using to simulate the Western blot technique.

    LabXchange allows Donovan to visually and systematically guide students through the entire process just like she would do in person, but what she likes about it is that it allows her to tailor the learning experience for each student, via customized learning pathways, depending on their strengths and preferred styles of learning.

    For instance, she creates sequences of instructional materials that cover the same material but switch from textual learning to visual learning (and vice versa) so that students can choose the methods that match their learning styles. A system of tracking student engagement then allows Donovan to assess which components are most helpful for her students and which ones could perhaps be removed or replaced, thereby customizing it even further.

    LabXchange

    (source: LabXchange via labxchange.org)

    As with Professor Lave’s experience with PhET, Donovan also appreciates the fact that LabXchange allows her to quicken and facilitate certain lab procedures. The Western blot, for instance, would normally take two days of lab, as well as a significant amount of outside-the-lab preparation by an instructor. With LabXchange it can all be done in one session, or broken up into multiple sessions if students prefer, with no extra prep work required by the instructor.

    4. Organizing lab lessons with clear post-lab interaction for students

    For an entire semester’s worth of lab lessons, a professor may wish to utilize a variety of platforms to simulate laboratory conditions. There needs to be a framework to tie these together in a cohesive way for students to easily follow, especially in a virtual learning environment. Professor Donovan, like all Maryville professors, uses Canvas as the foundation for this purpose.

    For Donovan, she embeds simulations and lab exercises as modules within Canvas in a way that is adjustable and easily understood by students. She ensures to bookend each lab lesson with a standard set of components, such as learning objectives, assignment outline, discussion questions, and post-lab assessments.

    Canvas Lab Learning Objectives example

    (source: Canvas via instructure.com/canvas)

    As an example, Donovan often uses Thermo Fisher Scientific’s cell staining simulation tool for lab lessons where she teaches immunostaining. The tool allows students to access the staining simulation, while Canvas provides the command center from which Donovan can cover all other lab components, such as learning objectives, discussions and follow-up questions that she usually would cover during an in person lesson.

    There’s no question that lab courses involve additional logistical challenges on top of the already considerable task of bringing all classroom courses online. But what began as necessary responses to a crisis situation have led these science professors to discover and utilize tools and methods that provide opportunities for enhanced virtual experiences for both themselves and their students.

    Whether it’s the tools discussed above or other means at their disposal such as virtual field trips, video demonstrations, or using homemade materials to investigate learning outcomes from the lab, these are some of the innovative, alternative solutions for virtual labs that Maryville faculty have used with promising results. Other science professors who are looking for new or additional ideas may find them useful in their own quests to bring the laboratory into students’ homes.

    read more
  • Arming students with the tools for lifelong career success

    by Donna Butler

    blog image alt text

    Do graduating seniors and incoming college freshmen know what career path they should choose, and do they have the necessary skills to be successful? Many educators and employers agree this is an area where students could use more resources.

    Pearson Career Success (PCS), an online preparation platform, provides access to a roadmap that helps students explore and understand where they want to go, how they’re going to get there, and what they need to do to stand out from the crowd. Instruction and learning experiences are also provided to help students acquire the skills and capabilities they need to be successful.

    PCS provides the bridge between academic readiness and career readiness. Academic Success Modules such as Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Test Taking Skills give students opportunities to engage in learning and scenarios to apply the necessary skills for success. Educators can choose curriculum relevant modules for students to work on.

    Also, PCS provides Career Success Modules such as Building an Academic Plan, a Career Portfolio, and developing networking skills. Guided instruction and practice equip students with real life skills necessary to be successful in a chosen career. The modules are not just assignments, but self-discovery tools provided to students as they mature through their academic journey.

    Pearson is committed to understanding and identifying the needs of employers hiring new college graduates, and serving the needs of institutions preparing students for college or the workforce. The broad suite of assessments and instructions within the PCS platform is built upon decades of cumulative research by prominent leaders in this field.

    Finally, PCS provides state-of-the-art coaching and tools for “presenting” themselves to employers as desirable employees. Engaging students in opportunities to develop career readiness skills can assist them in career success for life.

    read more
  • Direct online tutoring help to students in need

    by Kirk Benningfield

    blog image alt text

    The recent disruption to education extends well beyond those trying to keep up with normal coursework. Senior year has also been interrupted for thousands of students whose focus has shifted toward internships, career preparation, and employment. With campuses and career centers closed across the country, online tutoring is a valuable tool to support all students as they prepare for the end of the term.

    Improving engagement with targeted help

    Once education transitioned to full-time virtual environments, many students lost the face-to-face interactions that made up the core of their classroom support. Online tutoring can provide the help students need, right when they need it, helping to avoid the possibility of them giving up when they hit a roadblock. And these one-on-one sessions can bolster a student’s confidence, giving them more freedom to ask questions and delve into discussion that they might never approach in a full-class setting.

    In addition, Smarthinking can help faculty identify at-risk students using alerts and session mapping to drill down to specific concepts where they’re seeking assistance. Instructors can see whether students are keeping pace with course requirements, and recommend supplemental help from an online tutor to get them back on track.

    Helping students prep for careers

    For this year’s seniors, going virtual is affecting much more than just classes. Many who were in the midst of completing career programs and solidifying internships when career centers and university-provided services closed down are left asking, “Now what?”

    The spring term is always a busy time for those in programs focused on preparing for the workforce. Smarthinking online tutors have emerged as a go-to resource for live interview coaching and assistance honing presentation skills. In fact, for those students who may be introverts or just plain nervous to get up in front of a classroom, an audience of one can be a much more comfortable environment in which to practice these skills than a class full of their peers.

    Resume and career writing help is also in high demand among this year’s graduates. Smarthinking supports students with 24/7 resume and cover letter help, personal branding consultation, and business writing reviews. Tutors are trained and monitored to ensure they do not proofread or edit student papers; instead, their writing review centers on leading students to a broader comprehension of the fundamentals of writing (both higher-order issues as well as lower-order skills) and key strategies for revision.

    Insider advice

    “Employers and recruiters in 2020 are looking beyond applicants who simply have the required educational experience. Employers want new hires who can think creatively and who are fluid in the use of technology and adept at writing well. Smarthinking tutors can help students develop effective career materials for this new world of work, whether that be a strategically-focused cover letter or eye-catching details to polish a LinkedIn profile.” — Michael Goodfellow, Sr. Lead Writing Tutor

    How else can online tutoring support your virtual classroom?

    Get the infographic and explore three other ways online tutoring can empower your students to succeed, no matter where they are.

    read more
  • Creating engaging distance learning experiences for students

    by Amy Byron

    blog image alt text

    As educators, we know what student engagement looks like in the classroom. Students are focused on their work in front of them, they are collaborating with their peers, they are asking good questions, creativity is flowing… But now that things have moved online, what does engagement look like? Let’s start by asking ourselves what makes something engaging, and then explore some tools we can use in a digital classroom.

    What makes something engaging?

    A lot of research has been done around student engagement. Primarily, engagement revolves around student ownership of the material being presented. I know what you’re thinking. “I have a curriculum with standards I have to follow! There’s no room for student choice!” While you may be partially right, there are places in every course that allow for more student choice and input.

    In an informal survey of my students, the feedback regarding what makes a class engaging is varied; however, there are a lot of commonalities. Students want to be able to pursue their own interests, feel heard and included, and know that they are supported when taking risks. They want teachers who are not too strict but are fair in their handling of the classroom. Even when the material doesn’t resonate with a student’s interest, teacher enthusiasm can change a mundane course into a potential major.

    Daniel Pink, the author of the book Drive1, states that three conditions need to be met to trigger engagement.

    1. Autonomy: Give students choice to work on a project that relates to the curriculum but is also interesting on a personal level for the student.
    2. Mastery: The task itself can’t be too challenging or too easy. One creates frustration and the other boredom. The task should be somewhere in what is commonly referred to as the “Goldilocks Zone,” where the difficulty is just right for the learner.
    3. Purpose: The student has to be able to link what they are doing to the wider world. Why should they know what you are teaching? Make the material relevant and you will get more student buy-in.

    Instructional methods to increase engagement

    Now that we know what student engagement looks like, let’s look at a few instructional methods that can improve our curriculum and retention. While creating your course, don’t worry about including all these options. Just choose a few to start and then ask for student feedback regarding what they liked and what they want to see changed next time.

    Real-world examples

    In each lab report I assign, I ask that students relate the concept or technique to a real-world example. The identification of an unknown salt would be helpful in cases with contaminated water and is a critical skill to master. Here is an example of a student response from a lab where they determined the density of an element by graphical interpolation.

    Example
    “Although this particular lab did not yield extremely accurate results, there are still definite real-world applications for using interpolation, such as to find the density or other measurable qualities of elements. It would be especially useful for finding properties (such as density) of the man-made elements which have too short of a half-life to be effectively examined or measured for mass and volume.”

    Project-based learning

    Project-based learning (PBL) is where students complete a long-term assignment to solve a problem or answer a question. For more information about PBL, click here.

    In my lab class, I try to make this an authentic question that students will need to make a recommendation on. As shown in the example to the left, here is the introduction to a basic percent composition of a mixture lab.

    Example
    We are Minuteman Wallboard Co. and we have a severe problem. As you know, the inside layer of wallboard is made from magnesium sulfate heptahydrate. Our feeder company inadvertently gave us an unknown amount of calcium sulfate dihydrate in one of its shipments and this was mixed in with the magnesium sulfate heptahydrate before processing it.

    Our advisory board has said that there is no reaction between the two compounds, however if the wallboard has 15% by mass or greater of calcium sulfate dihydrate in the initial mix before processing, the strength and durability of the wallboard will be compromised.

    We have already made over $450,000 worth of wallboard stock from this suspected material. We do not want to give this to any of our retailers until we know if the mix had less than 15.0% by mass of calcium sulfate dihydrate. We are supplying you with a sample of the original mix before processing and would appreciate it if your company will help us solve our problem.

    Teamwork

    Chemistry has a large problem-solving component. My students enjoy working in teams on more complex problem sets, and then presenting their strategy to the class. In a number of cases, when two groups are given the same problem, they are able to articulate how their method was different than another groups, and how both are correct. In the picture below, groups worked on particle model diagrams showing correct stoichiometric ratios, phase, and molecular orientation.

    Example of Teamwork project

    Example of a Teamwork project

    Creative projects

    I teach Chemistry, which doesn’t seem like there is much opportunity for student creativity. I gave my students a project to create an ABC book using a set of clues. Here is an example of one page, showing both creativity and complex content mastery.

    Example of Creative Project

    Example of a Creative project

    HyperDocs or learning menus

    Here are some examples of HyperDocs. These would be a great component to add to an online class. Students have choice over how they meet different assignment requirements. If the teacher has one or two mandatory skills to master, they can easily accomplish this while still allowing for choice in the rest of the activity.

    Instructional tools available from Pearson

    Creating a sense of community and collaboration is key to online teaching success. If you already have Pearson’s Mastering product with the eText, then you already have access to many great resources to increase student engagement.

    Learning Catalytics

    Learning Catalytics is what we jokingly call “clickers on steroids.” This tool was developed by a Harvard professor who wanted to engage his students. It is an interactive student response tool that encourages team-based learning by using students’ smartphones, tablets, or laptops to engage them in interactive tasks and thinking.

    As an instructor using Learning Catalytics, you can pose a variety of open-ended questions that help your students develop critical thinking skills, while simultaneously monitoring responses with real-time analytics to find out where they’re struggling. With this information, you can adjust your instructional strategy accordingly and try additional ways of engaging your students during class. Learning Catalytics also lets you manage student interactions by automatically grouping students for discussion, team-based learning, and peer-to-peer learning.

    On the instructor side, there are over eighteen different question types to choose from so that you can find the best way to probe for student understanding. In Chemistry, I like to use the numeric expression, image upload so students can show their work, and the direction type when assessing dipole moments. Learning Catalytics can also be linked to your Mastering course so that grades can sync over.

    Another platform similar to Learning Catalytics is Live Response, also by Pearson. Visit the website for more information.

    Student tools

    When it comes to studying, students often say they’re not sure where to start, what to focus on, and when they’re exam-ready. Pearson has many tools designed to keep students engaged with your course material and encourages them to take charge of their own learning.

    Pearson Prep

    Designed by learning scientists, the Pearson Prep app automatically creates online flashcards from students’ notes and other materials. It also gives students access to expert decks that align with their Pearson texts and narrow in on key concepts.

    We know from learning science, and from our work with more than 850 students, that spaced practice is key to effective studying. Pearson Prep relies on spaced practice to create personalized study routes. When students get a card wrong, that card appears again sooner. If they get it right every time, it moves to the bottom of the deck.

    Students can quickly see how much progress they’ve made and how ready they are for their exam. This feedback engages students in metacognition, which we know is essential for success.

    With Pearson Prep, students can make the best use of their study sessions and feel more confident going into exams.

    eText mobile app

    With the Pearson eText app, students can download their Pearson eText to their smartphones or tablets to keep on learning no matter where the day takes them. The app organizes all of their Pearson eTexts, including their MyLab and Mastering eTexts, in one place. Even without an Internet connection, they have access to reading and study tools that help them learn wherever and whenever they choose.

    Keep refining

    Part of developing a good course is also developing a good relationship with your students. Make sure that they understand why they are doing certain tasks, and why it will help them in the long run.

    The most integral part to student engagement is communication. Being available for your students, giving them a space where it is OK to make mistakes, and reaching out when they are struggling are definitely not a part of your curriculum, but it is human nature. Communication is a two-way street, however, and soliciting student feedback about what works for them is also critical.

    Ensure that your students can give you timely feedback on whether certain educational approaches are working for them. In my teaching, I have often found that students don’t know how to give effective feedback. Before asking, give them some basic guidelines to frame their thoughts.

    Here are some key points to share about giving good feedback2:

    • Goal-referenced
    • Tangible & transparent
    • Actionable
    • User-friendly
    • Timely
    • Ongoing
    • Consistent

    Keeping students engaged in your course will lead to better retention, better relationships, and stronger grades. It takes time, dedication, and honestly, a bit of risk-taking to put everything together, but the outcomes are clearly worth it.

    Sources
    1Pink, Daniel H. Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us. Penguin, 2011.
    2Wiggins, Grant. “Seven keys to effective feedback.” Feedback 70.1 (2012): 10-16.

    read more
  • Online tutors provide expertise when you can't

    by Allyson Fetterhoff Tearnan, PhD, Executive Director, Writing and Humanities, Smarthinking

    blog image alt text

    Many students are learning virtually for the first time, which means they’ll need to find new ways to get additional help outside of regular lessons, like online tutoring. Students often think that since a tutor isn’t the professor, they won’t be able to help with understanding course materials. And as an instructor, maybe you’ve had the same thoughts. But the truth is, many online tutors, especially Smarthinking tutors, are experts in their field. They could even be your peers from down the hall. The right online tutors work with you to make sure students are mastering the right skills.

    Our tutors are fellow experts

    We have more than 1,500 highly qualified, professional tutors and educators, 90% of whom hold a master’s degree or PhD in their discipline of expertise. Plus, our tutors average 12 years of experience working directly with students: they’re expert teachers as well as subject experts. It’s no wonder Smarthinking has served thousands of higher education institutions around the world.

    Smarthinking tutors are trained, monitored, and evaluated on their ability to employ a Socratic method to engage students by asking questions, making students show their own work, and encouraging them to demonstrate overall mastery of the concept or problem.

    Tutors are available in more than 150 subject areas, at all levels from developmental through graduate and professional school. Plus, we offer ESL-specialist tutoring, including math in Spanish. No matter the course, we’ve got you covered. And since each tutor is an expert in their field, students can get 24×7 help in the subjects they need, even if that means they need math help one day and then chemistry help the next.

    Problem-solving strategies that lead to success

    Online tutoring asks students to demonstrate mastery of skill after learning in the classroom. With Smarthinking, faculty can easily share assignment goals, writing prompts, and other course details so tutors can contextualize their instructional assistance with learner outcomes in mind.

    Online tutors don’t “hand out answers” but instead teach problem-solving strategies so that students learn to engage with content, break down problems, and build the skills to succeed on their own on future assignments. Tutors teach just the way you would.

    One-on-one instruction

    Online tutoring encourages learners to ask for help when they need it and raises their confidence to do so. In a classroom setting, some students feel shy or don’t ask questions due to peer pressure. One-on-one tutoring takes this out of the equation, making students feel comfortable enough to ask even what they may feel is a silly question.1

    “We recognize that students most in need of academic tutoring often find it difficult to ask for help out of shyness or because of a perceived stigma or simply because it’s new and unfamiliar,” Dr. Cheryl Cephus-Vickers of Gadsden State Community College explains. “We also know that students who form a habit early in their college career of accessing resources/services perform better and feel a greater sense of belonging and ownership of their learning. These outcomes lead directly to higher rates of persistence and completion.”2

    There even when students can’t take advantage of on-campus help, Smarthinking tutoring extends your resources, improving achievement, completion and graduation rates, and workplace success.

    Insider advice

    “As a tutor and a writing instructor, I encourage my students to utilize the tutoring services the college offers. I remind my students that we are all facing this tough time together, and that there is absolutely no shame in needing some help completing assignments. I am transparent with my students: I let them know I am an online tutor myself, and just one session can make a difference in their writing.” – Lauren Williams Magaw, Writing Lead Tutor

    How else can online tutoring support your virtual classroom?

    Get the infographic and explore three other ways online tutoring can empower your students to succeed, no matter where they are.

    Sources
    1White, Kimberly. “8 Reasons Why One-on-One Instruction Benefits Students,” CMASAS Blog, May 9.
    2Gill, Lauren. “Gadsden State Community College assesses the impact of Smarthinking online tutoring on student success and completion,” Pearson.

    read more
  • New ideas to grow tomorrow's critical thinkers and problem-solvers

    by Pearson

    blog image alt text

    Thick skin in junior english class

    Matthew Ventura, Ph.D., recalls a high school English teacher who taught him a hard but important lesson.

    “Mr. Davidson was really tough,” he says. “He felt no shame ripping apart our essays.”

    “Despite the criticism, he spent so much time giving us detailed feedback,” Matthew says. “It really affected me.”

    “Not only did I become a better writer,” he says, “I realized that a Mr. Davidson-like level of feedback can help improve critical thinking skills like few other things.”

    Important skills, better teaching

    Matthew went on to study and develop new ways to teach and assess 21st century skills like critical thinking.

    An early collaboration, the Physics Playground, was a digital game that walked students through complex physics concepts with outcomes and processes that mimicked real-world experiences.

    It was a breakthrough.

    “These kinds of natural, playful simulations,” Matthew says, “help students strategize their way through tough subjects—and provide an opportunity for teachers to provide feedback based on where each student is in the learning process.”

    “Imagine a class of 400 students,” he says. “How can a teacher be like Mr. Davidson and provide such granular, one-on-one feedback to everybody?”

    Innovative digital platforms, he says, provide a trifecta of benefits:

    They teach effectively. They lead to one-on-one feedback for students. And they’re scalable.

    The need for problem-solvers

    “It was an opportunity to explore some basic questions about critical thinking,” Matthew says. “What do we mean by ‘critical thinking? How can we improve it?”

    It’s part of a conversation, he says, that’s been batted around by academics for decades.

    “More and more employers want to hire good problem-solvers,” Matthew says.

    Good problem-solvers, he says, can spot opportunities for innovation thanks to critical thinking skills—”so these questions were important to try to answer,” he says.

    Critical thinking in specific disciplines

    “Skills for Today” reviews the history of definitions around critical thinking. It summarizes leading research on the various methods of teaching and assessing critical thinking.

    The paper also takes the discussion about critical thinking in a new direction.

    “There is so much talk about broad critical thinking skills,” he says. “What we want to start exploring is: How can we improve critical thinking in particular disciplines?”

    A speech class might employ new critical thinking teaching methods in debate exercises, he says.

    An IT course might show students how to find bugs in computer code.

    A business or economics class might guide students to weigh issue pros and cons in order to make tough decisions.

    “We want to provide an actionable framework for educators in this new approach,” Matthew says, “so we can reach more learners and prepare them for tomorrow’s workforce.”

    Next-generation teaching tools

    Matthew emphasizes that critical thinking skills are skills—and that they are only improved with practice.

    He hopes his paper can be a part of making this practice more effective.

    “We hope this research helps us develop new learning tools that benefit learners,” he says, “and, at the same time, guides teachers to bring new teaching approaches into their classrooms.”


    read more
  • The road to dual enrollment: After accreditation

    by Julie Cavanaugh, Customer Success Specialist & Educational Consultant, Pearson

    blog image alt text

    In The Road to Dual Enrollment (Part I), I discussed a few of the challenges experienced by dual enrollment programs, including lengthy accreditation processes and access to professional development opportunities. In this blog post, we’ll dive into the obstacles instructors face after they become accredited, including standardization, access, and the affordability of materials. See how online learning resources can help tackle these problems.

    Developing a collegiate-level course with minimal resources

    After receiving my accreditation and transitioning from high school teacher to dual enrollment instructor for Lee College in Baytown, Texas, I was given a college textbook and a sample syllabus from my department mentor. Within around two weeks I was expected to develop the learning objectives, scope, depth, breadth, and rigor for an entire course, Biology I for Science Majors. The curriculum of this course needed to match the scope and rigor of a collegiate curriculum.

    I spent days reading through an entire textbook that I hadn’t previously used in my Advanced Placement® courses and brainstorming appropriate labs for the equipment that I had. I didn’t have a single test, assignment, or lab manual to follow. While my mentor gave me some of his most successful labs, I needed to make sure they didn’t use materials my school didn’t have in stock or couldn’t afford. The scope of the task seemed almost insurmountable.

    The impact of online resources

    Finally, after making little progress, I reached out to the department chair and department secretary to see what online resources were available. I was provided with an educator account for the associated digital learning platform for my text and was overwhelmed with the quality and quantity of material available to me.

    Digital access to platforms such as MyLab™ and Mastering™ are imperative to dual enrollment teachers who are often starting from scratch. The pre-built assignments, test banks, online laboratory simulations, and study modules would have taken years of collaboration and effort to develop. Delivering course materials with such a platform provides instantaneous access to collegiate-level resources.

    They also let instructors create coordinator courses. In these instances, college professors can actually create and maintain a set of nested courses for dual enrollment classes at various high schools — pushing the same assignments, tests, and content from the college to the high schools.

    Digital learning platforms address affordability

    30% of respondents to our surveys at the national and regional NACEP conferences indicated that funding and affordability of materials is one of their greatest program pain points. An additional benefit to using online learning platforms is the affordability for the high school partners.

    During my first years as an instructor for Lee College, I would drive 50 minutes each way after school to run student samples on equipment such as PCR machines or high-speed centrifuges because my high school couldn’t afford the $10,000 investment for this equipment. But if a high school has access to the laboratory simulations found in Mastering Biology, they can provide engaging, application-based experiences that can replace thousands of dollars of equipment.

    Online learning platforms also provide additional affordability through eTexts. These platforms often contain eTexts so students can avoid the separate cost of purchasing a print textbook.

    We’ll continue to explore additional challenges faced by dual enrollment programs in subsequent blogs. Read part I of this blog series and stay tuned for future posts centered around high school student readiness and preparation tools for college courses.

    read more
  • Hundreds of college students trade textbooks for e-babies

    by Pearson

    blog image alt text

    This article was originally posted on June 26,2017

    E-babies by the hundreds

    This fall, in college classrooms across the country, hundreds of students studying psychology will say goodbye to traditional textbooks and hello to a virtual child.

    These new parents won’t raise their children in their dorm rooms, but rather on their laptops, tablets, and smartphones.

    This unique “parenting” experience is made possible by a brand-new digital learning product called The Dynamic Child.

    Students raise their child from birth to age 18 and see how their parenting choices affect the child over time.

    A big idea, and a joint effort

    “The Dynamic Child” is the invention of Dr. Frank Manis, a professor of psychology at the University of Southern California.

    After years of teaching child development courses with traditional textbooks, he began to brainstorm ways to make the material more engaging to students, most of whom had never been parents.

    It took dozens of educators and researchers more than five years to develop “The Dynamic Child.”

    Amber, an Executive Editor in Psychology, works with higher education professors to create the learning materials used to teach psychology courses nationwide.

    “Our shared goal is to create and promote materials that help educators teach child development and other subjects in the most innovative, exciting ways possible.”

    Erin is an expert in what’s called “learning design.”

    “The course material is important, but the learner’s experience is equally significant. I’m there to make sure it’s always top-of-mind.”

    A chicken-and-the-egg predicament

    One of the biggest challenges along the way, Amber says, was deciding if students should read the online course material and then raise their virtual child, or vice versa.

    “Raise first or read first? It was a true chicken-and-the-egg moment for me,” she says.

    “It may sound like a little thing, but the way you sequence learning objectives for a course can have a huge impact on how much and how deeply the students learn.”

    Thankfully, Amber says, she knew exactly who could help her answer her question: Erin.

    “I introduced Amber to the research concept of ‘anchored instruction,’” Erin says.

    “It tells us that there are cognitive benefits of having an experience first and then learning the theories and research that support it afterward.”

    “In this case, the research suggests that ‘anchoring’ the course material in the real-world experience of raising a virtual child was the way to go.”

    How it happens

    For students using “The Dynamic Child,” the parenting process starts with a personality questionnaire.

    It has 25 questions and takes about 30 minutes to complete, Amber says.

    Students are asked things like, “What were your favorite subjects in elementary school?” and “In high school, did you prefer to socialize in small or large groups?”

    All that data is used to create a unique personality profile for the student’s virtual child, Amber says.

    Students can pre-select physical characteristics for their child, but the gender is determined randomly by the program.

    After the child is “born,” students give him or her a name, Amber says.

    “That helps the student develop an emotional bond with their child,” adds Erin.

    “Research says that such an emotional investment leads to better learning outcomes.”

    Making decisions as a parent

    For the duration of the parenting experience, an avatar of the growing child takes up the right half of the student’s screen.

    On the left side, students are presented with dozens of realistic parenting scenarios related to their child’s physical, mental, and social growth.

    “Topics include sleep training, dealing with shyness, and overcoming adversity in academic, musical, and sporting endeavors.

    “Students select from four different courses of action at each decision point, so there are an infinite number of eventual personality outcomes, and no two students will have identical children,” Amber says.

    Over the course of the semester, the virtual children grow from birth to age 18.

    The effects of a student’s parenting style can be seen in the child’s behavior over time, Amber says.

    “The child is responding to the parent and vice versa.”

    “It’s bi-directional—a two-way street—just like a parent-child relationship is in real life.”

    A full launch this fall

    This fall, more than 60 college professors across the country will teach child development courses exclusively via the “The Dynamic Child” product.

    Pearson will host the learning experiences through its Revel platform.

    Students can access the “Dynamic Child” portal from any device.

    “In addition to getting to learn course material in an innovative and engaging way,” Amber says, ‘The Dynamic Child’ costs just $80—significantly less than most traditional psychology textbooks.”

    Erin and Amber say they have high hopes for The Dynamic Child.

    “We love the product,” Amber says, “and we think students and professors will, too.”

    “We spent months and months reviewing the research on anchored learning and incorporating it into the final product design,” Erin says.

    “We think it’s the type of homework students will truly be excited to do.”

    read more
  • Increase student confidence, engagement, and success with online tutoring

    by Christa Ehmann

    blog image alt text

    Today’s students are digital natives, so whether they‘re face-to-face with tutors online or in-person, they’re savvy at getting the help they need. So, support their success with online tutoring. Data shows that online tutoring can help increase student confidence, engagement, and outcomes.

    Tear down the roadblocks to engagement

    As a student, getting stuck on a concept or problem and not knowing how to move forward can feel like coming up against a brick wall — and no one likes running into a brick wall. Lend students a hand by helping them overcome their learning obstacles. With online tutoring students can get help when and where they need it, rather than giving up in frustration. Online tutoring services, like Smarthinking, let students access live and asynchronous tutoring help at the point of need, so students can get immediate support to overcome academic roadblocks and continue on their learning paths.

    A bird’s eye view for precise instruction

    Don’t guess at what your students are struggling with when you have the data to guide you. Smarthinking “Taxonomy Reports” highlight the specific concepts that students have sought help for in their classes. This information is categorized and logged by Smarthinking tutors after each tutoring session so instructors can easily pinpoint what their students are having trouble understanding. Instructors know what students are struggling with before exams and can address the issues beforehand. The data and reports can also help instructors plan their programs, curriculums, and activities better.

    Early intervention to stop problems at their roots

    It’s not always easy to see when a student needs additional academic intervention, but Smarthinking Alerts can help. These alerts were designed to flag students who may be at risk. After a tutoring session, tutors can record alerts that will then display in the reporting dashboard. Instructors and administrators can clearly see sessions that were flagged and find out the exact issues the student is struggling with. This lets instructors respond quickly to emerging issues and improve learning outcomes.

    Success and satisfaction with Smarthinking

    The vast majority of students who use Smarthinking tutoring services would recommend them to a friend. We’ve also repeatedly shown significant improvements in key student success metrics such as course completion. Here are some of our results from recent studies:

    • 83% of students indicated they had more confidence in their academic skills after working with Smarthinking tutors
    • 100% of students surveyed said they intended to keep using Smarthinking tutoring services
    • Students accessing Smarthinking tutoring services averaged a 2.82 GPA compared to a 2.26 for all students surveyed
    • Students enrolled in a pilot program with Smarthinking online writing tutors were 8x more likely to complete courses than non-users

    Insider advice

    “As each of us learns to manage our time and responsibilities in this ever-changing world, it’s important that we use all the resources available. The LMS offers a variety of tools to make virtual learning engaging and flexible, a win-win for both students and ourselves. The LMS also offers many resources for faculty by providing the tools to manage the class virtually, such as checklists, various communication options, and ease of grading.” — Kathy Adams McIntosh, Business Tutoring Coordinator

    How else can online tutoring support your virtual classroom?

    Get the infographic and explore three other ways online tutoring can empower your students to succeed, no matter where they are.

    Questions?

    Learn more about Smarthinking and how it can help deliver actionable results for you and your students.

    read more
  • Staying home doesn't mean going it alone

    by Karen Sanders

    blog image alt text

    Like many others, you’re going through the experience of having your home become your office and classroom. Your students are facing just as much — if not more — of an abrupt transition. That’s why it’s important to talk to them about getting the course support they need during this disruption to their education. In addition, learning to seek out support is a valuable skill in and of itself, and can help students succeed in both college and their careers.

    Searching for a new normal

    Since mid-March, service providers and instructors around the world have been in emergency mode, establishing workable course delivery and an educational presence online for all classes in response to the coronavirus.

    Now that we’re solidly in the midst of this large-scale transition to remote teaching and learning, we’re looking ahead in search of a new normal. Summer and fall sessions seem likely to introduce an entirely new set of considerations rather than a return to the educational practices we were recently forced to abandon. Quite apart from merely delivering courses online, schools must be ready to provide a quick transition to online courses that offer reliable course navigation, equitable access, support for learners with disabilities, and academic integrity.

    The one constant is that students will need support as education, by necessity, becomes increasingly nimble and remote. We only need to look back 15 years for a parallel of our current challenge.

    The lessons we’ve learned

    In 2005, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, approximately 100,000 students were displaced from their colleges and universities. Many never returned to their campuses. Today we’re facing the same type of disruption, albeit on a much grander scale.

    Andre Perry, fellow at the Brookings Institution, was a professor at the University of New Orleans during Katrina. He urges repeated, proactive contact with students — especially in the early stages of such a disruption to their education — and stresses the obligation of faculty to maintain the student-teacher connection.

    Research shows that a key role in students’ retention is their relationships with professors. Perry fears that if those relationships weaken or lapse during this disruption, “we may collectively lose thousands of students across the country.”

    One valuable tip for supporting students during a transition to remote learning is that educators provide an asynchronous approach to classes. While the routine of a regularly scheduled class might seem to offer consistency and a semblance of normalcy for learners, there are clear challenges. Many have work and/or family obligations, inadequate technology and internet access, and time zone considerations that put them at a disadvantage.

    For schools that require a synchronous approach, educators should accommodate students who can’t join the session as scheduled. Recorded lectures are recommended so that they have the same opportunity to listen, and then participate in discussion in the classes they can attend.

    According to Christopher Heard, director of the Center for Teaching Excellence at Pepperdine University, “The key is to keep students feeling like a class, rather than scattered individuals.”

    Insider advice

    “Although challenging, it’s important that students don’t see this period as a gap in their education or as an impossible obstacle in their studies. Pearson employees and Smarthinking tutors are familiar with using technology to support students digitally, and they’re willing and able to help students who may find the new, online-only environment challenging or intimidating.” — Michael Goodfellow, Sr. Lead Writing Tutor

    How else can online tutoring support your virtual classroom?

    Get the infographic and explore three other ways online tutoring can empower your students to succeed, no matter where they are.

    Sources
    Phil Hill, “Revised Outlook for Higher Ed’s Online Response to COVID-19,” Phil on EdTech, March 30, 2020.

    Kelly Field, “10 Tips to Support Students in a Stressful Shift to Online Learning,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, March 30, 2020.

    Beth McMurtrie, “How to Help Struggling Students Succeed Online,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, March 26, 2020.

    read more
  • Ricardo's education story: Wherever learning flourishes, so do people

    by Pearson

    blog image alt text

    “Without Access To Education, You’re Depriving People Of Freedom.”

    A NOTE FROM PEARSON CEO JOHN FALLON: President Trump is considering rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in the US. Started in 2012, this program allowed 800,000 young people, who came to the US without documentation as children, the basic opportunity to work and study without the threat of deportation. About 200,000 of these DREAMers, like Ricardo, are currently enrolled in higher education.

    read more
  • 5 tips to stay motivated when working remotely

    by Dan Belenky

    blog image alt text

    I’ve been working remotely for almost six years, so I have some sense of what it generally takes to be successful working from home. But then the social distancing orders went into place in March. Now, I’ve gone from focusing on work, alone, in my home office, to sharing my workspace with my wife (who has started working from home too), while we provide around-the-clock primary care for our two young children. Working from home has become less about working and more about home.

    Recent surveys from Pearson indicate that others are experiencing challenges as well. In March, 81% of Americans agreed that remote work is just as good as office work, but that number is down 16 percentage points in the April survey. Satisfaction levels have also gone down as the pandemic stretches on: in March 93% reported being satisfied with their work from home experience, but that dropped to 82% reporting satisfaction in April.

    In my state the shelter-in-place restrictions aren’t likely to be lifted any time soon. Since I’m a researcher, I’ve turned to the body of evidence for motivation and self-management for advice on how to get through this.

    Here are five tips for how to stay motivated when working remotely based on that research and my own experiences.

    1. Update your mindset

    Many of us are trying to juggle two full-time jobs at the same time: caring for and being a teacher to our children while also doing the job that pays the bills. But you can not physically do both at the same time. Repeat that to yourself if you need to (I know I have!).

    As such, I’ve had to reset my expectations so I’m not setting myself up for failure. My recommendation is that you try to be realistic in order to keep from getting demoralized. These are difficult times and you can not be as productive as before.

    2. Set realistic goals

    Now that you’ve updated your mindset, write down what is most important for you at home and for work. This will help you not only prioritize your work when time is limited, but also enable you to be satisfied that you’re still focusing on what matters. Then celebrate the small wins to help you stay motivated.

    For example, I’ve become less worried about how much time my kids are spending with the tablet, and been explicit to myself that my goal is for my children to be healthy, safe, and as happy as they can be right now. And, I’ve talked with my boss to prioritize projects and push out some deadlines.

    3. Create a new routine

    Working from home gives you more flexibility than ever before. However, this freedom can be a double-edged sword. Work can bleed into family time and vice versa.

    To counteract this, I’ve established some habits to help me transition from “morning with the kids” to “working day.” In particular, I’ll go and get changed, make myself a cup of coffee, bring it to my desk, and start on whatever task I told myself I’d pick up first thing the next day. In addition, my wife and I split up days so we can each make sure to carve out enough time to get our jobs done.

    I recommend keeping to a healthy routine, blocking off working hours (as much as you can), and maintaining a dedicated “work zone” in your home, even if it is temporary, to stay focused.

    4. Help yourself stay on track

    To make the most of the time you have, it can help to get specific about how you will deal with obstacles in your way. Spend some time thinking about things that might make it difficult to stick to your goals, and then come up with some concrete plans for how you will deal with those (e.g., “If I see a notification news story about COVID-19 that I want to read, instead I will turn off notifications for the next hour and go back to working.”)

    Planning these “if → then” kinds of rules ahead of time has been found to be really effective for helping people stick to their goals.

    5. Stay connected

    Working from home can often feel isolating and motivation can easily wane, so efforts to feel like part of a community at work can help. Turn your camera on during meetings. And, make an effort to recreate that watercooler talk via chat or by scheduling catch ups with your colleagues. Everyone who I’ve talked with has been in a similar challenging situation and it has made me feel better that I’m not alone.

    I also really look forward to virtual calls with family and friends. Knowing that I have a happy hour with my favorite people coming up has made getting through the day a little less painful.

    In the same surveys I mentioned earlier, in April, 65% of Americans say they intend to continue to work remotely after the pandemic subsides. If you do continue to work from home, I can tell you it will get easier when life returns to normal!

    read more
  • Kayleen's story: From building fences to building a successful career in construction - and helping others do the same

    by Pearson

    blog image alt text

    A Famous Face

    If you’ve ever watched the DIY Network on television, Kayleen McCabe’s is a face you may recognize.

    She is the host and star of “Rescue Renovation,” a show that helps homeowners who are in over their heads. Renovation projects turn from disastrous “befores” into jaw-dropping “afters.”

    When Kayleen is not in front of the camera, she’s traveling the country telling students the story of how her long-time construction hobby turned into a successful career.

    Growing up different

    “As a little girl, I was always building stuff with my hands,” Kayleen says.

    “My dad was a welder by trade, so I learned a lot of what I know from him.”

    “We did repairs around the house, built fences, and worked on cars together.”

    “I didn’t realize how unique that was until high school,” Kayleen says.

    Kayleen says most of her classmates had no idea what they wanted to do after graduation.

    Kayleen was different.

    “I knew, even then, that I wanted to work in the construction trades,” she says.

    Trusting her instincts

    Although knew she wanted a career in construction, Kayleen didn’t enroll in trade school after high school.

    “I made good grades,” she says, “and I felt pressure to do what the other ‘good students’ did: go to college.”

    One year and two schools (Red Rocks Community College and Colorado State University) later, Kayleen called her parents with some news that ultimately wasn’t a surprise to them: college wasn’t for her.

    “I could’ve saved a lot of tuition money by following that instinct earlier,” Kayleen says.

    “I am so grateful that when I eventually did, my parents were supportive.”

    The first foray into television

    Shortly after graduating from high school, Kayleen says, her cousin called her with a proposition.

    “She was a producer on the TV show ‘Trading Spaces.’”

    “She knew I liked working with my hands, and she said she could help me get a production assistant job.”

    From her very first day on the set, Kayleen says she was hooked.

    “I would bounce of out of bed at 5 am, vibrating with excitement about whatever we got to build next.”

    “It was the first time I fell in love.”

    The mentor of all mentors

    On the set of “Trading Spaces,” Kayleen met a master craftsman named Frank.

    “He was this grumpy-looking older guy with a big bushy mustache that was permanently stained from tobacco,” Kayleen says.

    “But he taught me more than I could ever explain.”

    “I could ask him anything, and he encouraged me to learn, to try, and most importantly, to fail,” Kayleen says.

    “Being in an environment where I felt so safe to do that was the best gift I ever received.”

    “Learning the way that I did—on the job—was more of an education than I could ever have gotten from going to college.”

    “Rescue Renovation”

    “Rescue Renovation” is currently in its fifth season on TV.

    Kayleen says she is immensely grateful for her continued success—especially in a field that is traditionally dominated by men.

    “When the show first started, I was one of the only female hosts on our channel—or any other one.”

    “It’s different now, and I cannot wait for that to keep changing.”

    When she travels for her show, Kayleen says, she is often able to help drive that change.

    “I like to leverage a plane ticket as much as possible.”

    “I’ll find out what schools are close to the airport and call them up. I say, ‘Hi, I’m a woman in the trades, can I come talk to your kids about career opportunities in my field?’”

    “To the best of my ability,” Kayleen says, “I will continue to leverage what fame I’ve garnered to help recruit more and more young women into the construction trades.”

    Connecting with audiences on smaller screens, too

    In her spare time, Kayleen produces short, instructional videos for her followers and fans. She hosts them on her personal web page.

    Topics range from cabinet building, to clamps and fasteners, to drill skills.

    “I want to get them into the hands of middle and high school teachers so they can show their kids what working in the trades is really like.”

    “Growing up, my teachers had nothing like that. In terms of recruitment, I think it could be game-changing.”

    Something to strive for

    Kayleen says she is constantly thinking about the future—for herself and for construction trades overall.

    “I want to double the number of students I talk to every year … until that becomes impossible.”

    Already this year, Kayleen has made incredible progress towards her goal. She has trips planned to Indiana, Ontario, Nebraska, Arizona, Kentucky, Nevada, Abu Dhabi, and Mississippi—all in the next few months.

    “Someday, I hope I am able to travel full-time, speaking to students and giving them scholarships to study the trades.”

    “I want to be the Bill Gates of power tools,” Kayleen says.

    “And my passport has a lot of room in it.”

    read more
  • Vintage websites to virtual classrooms: an expert's guide to the evolution of higher education

    by Pearson

    blog image alt text

    A big deal at the time

    In the early 1990s, Bill Clements highlighted students in his college classes at Norwich University on websites he built from scratch.

    “I’d post a ‘Student of the Week’ and the students really got a kick out of it,” he says. “They’d call home to their families and say ‘hey, Mom, my picture is on the Internet!’”

    It was a big deal at the time, Bill says.

    That was more than 20 years ago. Now, Bill is Vice President and Dean of the College of Graduate and Continuing Studies at Norwich, overseeing the learning of the approximately 1,800 students enrolled in online programs.

    A history of service

    Founded in 1819, Norwich University is the oldest private military college in the United States and is considered the birthplace of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC). With a student body of approximately two-thirds in the Corps of Cadets, the school’s online population also serves a high proportion of military students.

    “Overall, I’d say the online-only degrees are 40% military students,” Bill says.

    Several of Norwich’s online programs are designed to serve military students. The Master of Arts in Diplomacy and Master of Arts in Military History, in particular, have high enrollments of military officers.

    “We get a lot of students who are military officers preparing for promotions or additional leadership roles and are looking to our online programs to bolster their professional capabilities,” Bill says.

    The university recently conducted a Gallup survey of its alumni and the results confirm what Bill has always known to be true.

    “We’ve heard from our students and alumni—military and civilian—that our online programs made it easier to earn a degree,” he says. “They graduate and get good jobs with good salaries.”

    “There’s been a positive impact on their lives as a result of their education.”

    Higher ed 3.0

    Thirty years ago this month, Bill was teaching at Temple University and finishing his doctoral degree.

    “It was a big week for me,” he recalls. “I had just signed my contract at Norwich, had a birthday, my second daughter was born, and I was defending my dissertation.”

    Bill recalls talking to a colleague also on the verge of completing his doctorate about where they might be in 30 years.

     “We knew we wanted to be in leadership positions that would allow us to be a part of the changes we knew were coming,” he says. “We didn’t know what those changes would look like, exactly, but we were eager to begin our careers.”

    That colleague went on to have a successful career in higher education and together, Bill says, they’ve seen the evolution of “higher ed 2.0.”

    “When we went through school, higher education was still ‘version 1.0.’ It was lecture halls and slides full of notes,” he explains. “Throughout my career, I’ve seen the evolution of ‘version 2.0,’ where we took that physical classroom and moved it online with little change.”

    But now, Bill says, he’s looking forward to the next 30 years and the evolution of higher ed 3.0.

    “That next version has to move beyond just replicating lectures,” he says. “We have to ask how can we make learning more effective, how do we make it more engaged, how do we make it more affordable?”

    He also believes higher education is a lifelong process.

    “You can’t just get a degree and get a job and never go to school again in today’s economy,” he says. “How is higher education going to adapt to that?”

    read more
  • Teacher self-care: Tips for working from home

    by Terri Moore

    blog image alt text

    Online teaching has gone viral! COVID-19 is causing teachers, who never thought they’d teach this way, to dive right into unchartered territory. Learning how to use technology to deliver content and evaluate students’ mastery of course principles is happening–almost overnight—and often without much guidance for instructors.

    Faculty are often working more hours than they can count, trying to quickly ramp up so their students have little disruption in their learning.

    Creating online learning environments is daunting, even for seasoned online instructors with weeks of lead time. But now, face-to-face face teachers are under the gun to get these courses up and running pronto. Those teaching in Spring 2020 are under pressures no one ever anticipated.

    Add on to that the stress of self-isolation, homeschooling children, and sharing home office spaces with partners and children. Self-care is vital for any caretaker, and right now, it’s vital for teachers too.

    This article offers teachers self-care tips to destress and renew so they continue to offer their expertise and talents to their students in these unprecedented times.

    1. Work-time

    Use the Pomodoro method of working. Complete 25 minutes of intense work followed by a 5 minute break. Repeat 3x if needed. Then take a 30 minute break before beginning the cycle again.

    Remember, a 40-hour work week included water cooler time or meetings. Four hours of intense work per day is really an ambitious goal. Clearly, sometimes we spend more time and sometimes less, but don’t let working online dominate your entire day.

    You need designated down time. Make rules for working hours that suit your most productive times and around other people and duties in your home.

    2. Workspace

    Designate a workspace (even if you have to share). Straighten and clear your work area every day. Try to keep this space only for your online teaching. Leave it when you have completed your work and don’t return “just to check.”

    If you have to share a desk or computer with others, create a schedule and a way to remove your tools for work. Try putting your office tools on a cutting board you can take with you when you exit or find a box for your files/papers. This way, you have a portable workstation you can remove to prevent others from disturbing.

    3. Teaching support

    You are not alone. There are plenty of resources for teaching online, some at no cost. Sites like Pearson’s can provide you with online teaching tips as well as faculty experts to consult about best practices for teaching online.

    4. Take care of your students

    By now you may realize how time consuming and emotionally draining maintaining an online presence with your students can be. Take these steps to help take care of your students, and yourself!

    • Remember #1 and don’t feel you must be physically present 24-hours a day because your students may email you at 2 a.m. And while you need to find ways to create a real relationship at a distance with your students, they didn’t have access to you in the classroom beyond their class times and your office hours. The same rules also apply online.
    • Be clear with your students when you will and will not communicate with them. Defining expectations reduces misunderstandings that can occur when asynchronous communication becomes the rule rather than the exception.
    • Be cognizant of this crisis and consider bending some rules in your class that made sense before but may become less relevant now. Practice flexibility.
    • Focus more on collaborative activities between students if possible (shared Google docs or other methods of online collaboration).
    • Rethink deadlines.
    • Offer students some live time virtual meetings with you.
    • Create short video messages to your classes showing your willingness to understand how this crisis is impacting their lives.

    5. Exercise

    If you follow the Pomodoro method mentioned above, use the breaks for some type of physical exercise. Intense mental focus is relieved by short bursts of physical activity.

    • Try using an exercise ball to stretch out your back. Or you jump on that stationary bike or step machine.
    • Designate off time for physical workouts every day. Being confined in our homes doesn’t mean we can’t work out. Use YouTube for dance workouts (you can do this with anyone in your home or alone).
    • Take a walk (keeping safe distances). Getting outside, even if it means on the roof of your building, will do wonders for your attitude. Morning sun is particularly important, so try to get some of those early morning rays on the top of your uncovered head.

    6. You are what you eat

    Eat well, but not deprived. Now may not be the best time to go on that diet, but it is a time to eat well.

    • Comfort foods like chips and candy aren’t the best mindless munching snacks. Instead, try nuts, fruits, or crunchy veggies. Reserve your “treats” for designated times and make sure to really focus on the enjoyment of that special something (chocolate for many of us).
    • Eating out is not an option currently, so find ways to get fresh vegetables, fruits, and other groceries in safe ways. There are companies that will deliver fresh veggies and fruits to your door weekly, and many markets are providing curb side pickup or deliveries of preordered items.
    • This may be the time we all learn to create shopping lists and stick to them, making meal plans, maybe even cooking those recipes we’ve been saving and never trying.

    Remember as you plan and eat well, we will all emerge from our cocoons in time; while a few pounds to shed may not be something to worry about, gaining 20 or 30 pounds will decrease your sense of well-being, creating additional stress. So, refer to #5 again!

    7. Take care of your feelings

    Most of us are overwhelmed by this crisis. Be gentle with yourself if you find you are less patient with others, have times when you just want to be completely alone, feel anxious, or find yourself in a cleaning or cooking frenzy. These are just signs that you need to decompress a bit.

    • Take up that hobby you’ve been putting off; use yoga or meditation to set the tone for the day or to decompress, or relax with a book in the evening. There are many free apps that can help you with these types of activities.
    • Reach out virtually to friends and family through regular video meetings. Free resources such as Zoom, Slack, Google Hangouts, or Teams in Outlook can help you connect real time with those you love.
    • Attend virtual concerts that many orchestras and musicians are creating to provide comfort and inspiration, watch live cameras of zoos or wildlife, or start that blog you’ve been putting off.

    Externalize your feelings in healthy ways by talking with supportive people either in your home or at a distance. If these feelings result in prolonged depression, please know there are many online counseling services that provide counseling. Counselors nation-wide are mobilizing and also working from home to help decrease stress and depression.

    8. Care of others

    One of the greatest methods of self-care is to flip the focus of helplessness or irritation and think of ways you are already caring for others. Look for fresh ways to be supportive of friends, family members, and your community that you hadn’t considered before.

    There are sites and apps that offer opportunities to volunteer virtually in a number of ways beyond just donating. Often getting out of ourselves and into the needs of others lifts our spirits, increases our self-worth, and spills over to the jobs at hand; caring for the educational and sometimes emotional needs of our students.

    Know that while you may not be getting the applause and ticker tape parades you deserve, your tireless efforts to provide ongoing education are not without notice. We will come out on the other side of this, and hopefully with greater depth in our understanding of what teaching and teachers mean and can come to mean to the students today facing challenges we have never encountered.

    You are the trailblazers, teaching the leaders who will face new worlds of challenges. Take care of yourselves! The world needs you!

    read more
  • Teaching online during shortened summer terms

    by Dr. Stephanie Tacquard

    blog image alt text

    Are you having to transition teaching your traditional face-to-face summer class to an online environment? This can be a daunting task with a full 16-week semester, let alone for a super short 5-week mini-mester! Compound that with the fact that you may not have taught online previously, and this could easily intimidate even the most seasoned instructor. Have no fear! Many have traversed this path before you and come out successful—you can, too!

    Summer courses are short, rigorous, but can be very rewarding for both you and the student when taught with a few best practices in mind. For instance, they usually have smaller enrollments meaning less to grade for you (YAY!), but that means more rapid feedback for them since you can get your grading done more quickly. The smaller class size allows you to have more frequent interactions with each student thereby giving them the support they need to be more successful. Plus, most summer students are highly motivated and typically are only taking one or two classes at a time. This means they are going to be dedicated to learning your material.

    There are a few guiding principles you can utilize to help you as you work to design your summer online course. First, let’s do a brief overview on “how” you will be teaching, then we will address the “what” to teach online in more detail.

    The how

    When designing online courses, you should always start by talking to your institution, or search their website, for information about any specific requirements they have for teaching online courses. Then, by answering these few questions, you’ll be well on your way to success as you design and implement your online course.

    How to Prepare for Online Teaching

    You can read more about these in my previous blog post Tips for moving a class online quickly, or for step-by-step instructions for building an online course with your LMS (or without), you can use this handy Online Course Toolkit.

    The what

    Now, onto the teaching of online courses. Once you’ve ascertained how you are going to teach your course online, now you need to figure out the what, as in “what am I going to teach?” There are four guiding principles as you try to determine what exactly you are going to teach in your summer course.

    What to teach in an online summer course

    If you’ve only taught 16-week courses, trying to fit all of that material into a 5-week course is like trying to fit ten pounds of candy into a five-pound bag. You need to prioritize the “have to knows” from the “good to knows.” Think about this, what information do your students really need from your course to be successful in their career years down the road? Assess your required Learning Outcomes and determine the essentials that must be taught in order for you to meet those objectives.

    These essential Learning Outcomes should then be clearly communicated to your students in the very beginning of the course. The students should know what they are working towards learning, and what it is they will be assessed on throughout the length of the course. Refer back to them as you progress through the course, helping students realize that these are the foundational skills they’ll need to apply your course materials to their careers.

    Now that you’ve decided the specific topics you will be covering in your summer course, it’s time to organize it in a logical flow that teaches your objectives in a scaffolded manner. In other words, make sure the prerequisite/foundational knowledge and skills are reviewed/taught early in the course, and then build upon these as you address your Learning Objectives. You can’t teach a student to solve for “x” in the equation x + 4 = 6 if they haven’t yet learned how to add and subtract. Don’t be afraid to skip around chapters, especially in the summer, to help create a more logical flow for this shortened semester!

    While contemplating how best to design the flow of your course to meet your Learning Outcomes, keep in mind, this is a fast-paced course. Again, reiterating the importance of focusing on what you need to teach, extraneous information should be cut from your teachings. You may also want to consider relating much of what you teach to real-world situations. This will convey the importance of what you’re teaching and make it more memorable to the students at the same time.

    How do you design your assignments for this short course now that you’ve figured out what you are teaching? Easy! Take what you’ve been doing for your 16-week course, shorten the assignments, and give them more frequently. Your students are already going to be studying, rewriting notes, practicing, and reading – you don’t want to give them homework assignments that take 2 – 3 hours on top of all of that. If you can, break the assignments into bite-sized chunks that take no more than 30 – 45 minutes to complete (or less), and give them a few assignments per week. These will be easier to digest for your students and will also help them retain the importance of the material. You may even offer more flexible due dates in this summer course than you would in your 16-weeks.

    Consider using the discussion forums discussed in the How to Prepare for Online Teaching blog. These can be short but powerful assignments. If you’re having the students write papers for your course, consider shortening the length of the paper, or the number of papers they have to submit, and focus more on the content you’re having them address. Lastly, really give thought to group projects as well. Sometimes students learn more from each other than they do from us.

    These 5-week classes are not only tough to plan out and teach, but they are a heavy lift for the students as they try to learn this material in a compressed time frame. Try offering an extra level of support for these students you don’t normally give your 16-week classes. If you are doing live virtual class sessions (or even pre-recorded videos), consider providing them with copies of the slides or the notes you use while teaching. Set up extra virtual office hours for them to pop in and ask you questions. Create practice quizzes or tests for them to use as study guides, or even provide them with a more detailed study guide than you usually hand out.

    By following the guiding principles for how to teach online and what to teach in summer courses, it will set both you and your students up for success. These principles will put you on track to create an effective, efficient, and enjoyable online summer course. Bottom line, these summer students will work diligently, but they will work even harder if they know you’re really trying to help them be more successful in such a short, intensive course!

    read more
  • Moving labs out of the laboratory

    by Pearson

    blog image alt text

    When teaching a science class, we often use experiences in the lab to foster critical thinking skills and reinforce the concepts we introduce in lectures. But with campuses closed, students cannot access the lab.

    So what do you do? Is it better to forget about labs at all, or is there value in online or hands-on at home methods? This is what one study published by the Journal of Formative Design in Learning tells us.

    Don’t ditch labs

    Students who take lecture and laboratory concurrently outperform their lecture-only peers, regardless of whether that lab is face-to-face or non-traditional.

    Non-traditional labs can be as effective as face-to-face labs

    • A good non-traditional lab tool can increase test scores, improve students’ attitudes and preparedness for the hands-on lab, and strengthen conceptual knowledge.
    • In one particular study, the students said the online laboratory experience was the same as or better than their prior experiences in the traditional setting.
    • Students can access the lab whenever and wherever suits them. Flexibility will be important at the moment, particularly for those suddenly having to care for children.
    • In an online lab, students can reflect on what went right and what did not go as planned, and then can repeat the experiment as many times as they need.
    • Virtual chemistry labs can help students visualize structures and processes at the molecular level and allow types of experiments not possible in a standard undergraduate laboratory—e.g., quantum chemistry.

    Examples of online labs

    Online labs can range from simple videos and games, to graphing and 2D simulations, to interactive 3D virtual reality experiences. Simulations, as mathematical models of processes in the physical world, allow users to manipulate parameters and can be used by faculty to customize laboratories in various disciplines. Some examples include:

    Examples of hands-on at home tools

    Hands-on kits available from various vendors can provide students with practice of experiments, and manufacturers usually assume liability. One example is Chemistry LabPaqs from Hands on Labs (http://holscience.com/)

    A good tool should have

    • Software that is easy to install, user-friendly, and intuitive, yet challenging.
    • Experiences similar to the traditional laboratory.
    • Useful sequences for learners that scaffold their use of the system.
    • Some form of feedback (even if it is just immediate results of labs and simulations).
    • Help for visualizing and demonstrating concepts and constructs that might otherwise be difficult to observe (depending on exactly what domain it is).
    • Alignment with the learning objectives across all learning activities.
    • Clear instructions (even if the task is more open-ended in the lab) and criteria so students know what to focus on.
    • The ability for students to “experiment” in the environment without penalty.
    • Digital laboratory manuals that accompany hands-on lab kits must also be user-friendly and intuitive.

    Source:
    Rowe et al., Efficacy of Online Laboratory Science Courses (2017) Journal of Formative Design in Learning


    read more
  • Help! I'm testing online for the first time

    by Diane Hollister

    blog image alt text

    Technology has really changed the way we teach. It doesn’t seem that long ago that my classes brought their paperback workbooks to class; they tore out review pages and turned them in for grading. They brought notebooks to take notes in, and we gave paper/pencil tests. Now? They can use e-books on a tablet. They access assignments on their phones. Course materials can be available with one click, anytime, anywhere.

    But those changes don’t all happen overnight. They take time and preparation. And sometimes that’s not a luxury we have. We might have catastrophic weather or a pandemic or some other event that closes the school for a while. Every course needs an online presence. And it needs to happen now.

    So where do we start? Let’s assume our primary goal is to deliver some assessments online while the campus is closed. You may have existing question banks you can use. Or, you may have texts with materials like TestGen available.

    If that’s the case, you’ll need to download TestGen software if you want to make a paper/pencil test and then export it to your Learning Management System (LMS).  You then need to download the question banks at Pearson’s Higher Ed site to build your library of questions. You may already have these from your existing tests. (By the way, if you want to export a TestGen test to your LMS, be careful to export it in the correct format. You typically need to look at the Blackboard export option.)

    You may find it easier to access the TestGen question bank files from Pearson’s website and upload them directly to the Learning Management System. You will need to search by your text to see if files are available. You might need to use an older edition if the new one is not available or use a similar text if you need more variety of questions. Again, note that TestGen question banks are not necessarily available for every text.

    Once you have identified the question banks, download them, and then use the LMS to upload the question banks. Here are links you can use to learn more about the process for your specific LMS.

    After you have those loaded in your LMS, you can then create quizzes/tests. Your LMS administrator on campus has training materials for how to do this, and you can also find extensive instructor resources for each LMS online.

    As you design your quizzes/tests, keep in mind things like pooling questions to provide variety. You might also be able to scramble the question order. Allow some extra time on tests so students are able to navigate the technology and still have time for the test itself.

    In addition, you may want to have a “mini test” for students to practice with, especially if you require them to use Respondus or Proctor U or Honor Lock or a similar tool. You can learn more about the technology tools your school has by checking with your LMS administrator.

    read more
  • 5 ideas for taking active learning online

    by Tianna Tagami

    blog image alt text

    When students are actively learning, they are making connections to their own lives, questioning, and collaborating, which we know leads to more significant, durable learning outcomes. In the classroom, we deliberately plan learning activities and discussion to engage learners and keep them active. We stay alert during class to pick up on cues that learners are tuning out or struggling so we can pivot and improvise as needed.

    One of the toughest adjustments to teaching online is that we lose this immediate feedback-action loop. We can’t adjust in real time to keep learners engaged in specific activities or assignments. So, it’s important to set up learning opportunities that extend past the activity or assignment itself.

    Here are some ideas for encouraging active engagement online.

    1. Incorporate their lived experience

    We usually encourage students to bring their experiences into our classroom. But now, we have to figure out how to bring our discipline-specific content into their experiences. Now we’re all at home, students are not focused on our content at a specific time or in a specific place.

    To keep them engaged and actively learning, we have to help them experience their lives through the lens of our content. We don’t want them to only think about our content when they’re sitting in front of their device. Give them things to look for, think about, and capture as they clean the house, care for family members, walk the dog, and watch Netflix. Encourage them to find the ways your content manifests in everyday life. For example:

    • Laws of physics scavenger hunt. Ask learners to take pictures/videos of laws of physics in action around their home. Share online and ask the class to vote for the best examples.
    • Neighborhood visual ethnography project. Learners walk around their neighborhood (using safe social distancing practices) and take pictures. They use grounded research techniques to analyze images and categorize characteristics to make hypotheses about their neighborhood’s culture. They could incorporate public records searches to consider property values and census information.

    2. Make them research assistants

    In a discussion-based class, we would generally provide learners with some context and content in lecture and readings and then engage them in discussion and analysis to promote deeper understanding and durable learning. Online forums can be lively and contribute to significant learning, but they are not a straight substitute for classroom discussion. So, instead of providing them with all the relevant readings and context, ask them to find it. Imagine you now have a class full of research assistants.

    Here are two examples showing how you might transfer what you do in the classroom to an online environment:

    Example 1

    Classroom: Lecture on elements of Victorian society that influenced Jane Eyre and discussion to apply to reading and incorporate learner experiences

    Online: Learners research specific aspects of Victorian society, looking especially for contemporary sources that would help learners empathize with Victorian readers. Find examples in the reading of things that would have resonated with or be significant to Victorian readers that today’s readers might not find as significant or understand.

    Example 2

    Classroom: Assign journal readings about applying theory to curriculum design and then a practical assignment to create a lesson plan.

    Online: Provide summaries of major learning theories and then ask learners to find journal articles that apply one of the theories to curriculum design in their discipline. Post the article, a summary, and then explain two specific ways they would incorporate that theory into their own curriculum design.

    3. Ask them to write the test

    You’re right to be concerned about cheating when learners are taking assessments online from home. There are proctoring apps that can help mitigate this risk, but not everyone has access to that technology. Turn testing into an active learning experience (and reduce the risk of cheating) by asking them to write the test.

    Quantitative disciplines or introductory skills-based courses

    In quantitative disciplines or introductory skills-based courses, give learners the learning objectives and ask them to write items that assess the learning objectives and provide the correct answers with justification. Ask them to create multiple choice distractors that represent common mistakes, miscalculations, or misconceptions and explain what error each distracter represents.

    Qualitative disciplines or higher level theory-based courses

    In more qualitative disciplines or higher level theory-based courses, learners can create their own rubrics to evaluate existing works or their own projects. They can use the rubrics they created to evaluate their peers’ work, or they can use someone else’s rubric to evaluate their own or others’ work.

    4. Read together

    Asking questions while you read and talking to someone else about what you’re learning are two proven active learning strategies. Use online tools to allow learners to annotate readings together.

    • The app Hypothes.is allows people to annotate PDFs or even websites.
    • You can upload a reading to Google Docs, Microsoft OneDrive, or Adobe Cloud and share it so learners can make and reply to comments.
    • In any of these apps, learners can tag you or each other for specific questions or responses. Just remember to turn on your notifications.

    5. Solve problems together

    Often, online group projects are less collaboration and more divide-and-conquer. You can both lean into and disrupt this tendency by using a jigsaw strategy. In a jigsaw strategy, groups of learners become “experts” in one concept or topic, and then they shuffle into new groups where they become the representative of their concept in a new mixed-expertise group. The new group has to work together, sharing and leveraging their specific expertise, to solve a problem.

    Example

    Classroom: A lecture and readings introduce the concept of sustainability and provide an overview of the types of sustainability initiatives in which corporations engage. In groups, students research the sustainability initiatives of three companies and decide which has the best strategy.

    Online, option A: Each group is given one company to research. They find out everything they can about that company’s sustainability initiatives and the impacts of those initiatives on the company, consumers, and planet. They create a scorecard to represent the criteria they think is important and how that company scores. Then, in a sync session, breakout jigsaw groups are created where learners have to make the case for their company. Together, the new jigsaw group comes up with a consolidated scorecard and scores all the represented companies.

    Online, option B: Each group researches one aspect of corporate sustainability and creates a rubric to score companies on that aspect. In a sync session, breakout jigsaw groups combine their score cards and collectively evaluate a company.

    read more