• Pearson’s learning tech wins awards

    by Pearson

    Pearson’s learning tech wins awards

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

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

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

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

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

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

    What is MyLab?

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

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

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  • End of term: Tweaking your course for next term

    by Dr. Terri Moore

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

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

    Course review

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

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

    Educator Dashboard insights

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

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

    Assessment data

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Deeper course analysis

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

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

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

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

    Student engagement tactics

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

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

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

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

    4 persons looking at a laptop

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

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

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

    by Lisa Knight

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

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

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

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

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

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

    How does your experience translate to your role at Pearson?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • Cézanne’s Gardanne

    by Pearson

    Gardanne oil painting on canvas by Paul Cézanne

    Featured art: Cézanne’s Gardanne

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

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

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  • MediaShare to Shared Media

    by Dr. Terri Moore

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

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

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

    Why Shared Media?

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

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

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

    Give it a try

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

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

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

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  • #BreakTheBias in Biology

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

    Female scientist working in the lab with students

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    What are you hopeful for?  

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

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

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

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

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  • Harnessing the power of positivity in higher ed

    by Pearson

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

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

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

    Positivity starts with yourself

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

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

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

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

    Building a positive team...

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

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

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

    ...building a positive community

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

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

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

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

    “We are changing students' lives”

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

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

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

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

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

    by Dr. Ai Addyson-Zhang

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

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

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

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

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

    by Dr. Wendy Tietz

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

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

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

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

    Be willing to adapt

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

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

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  • Teaching with social media: Digital tools give students flexibility

    by Dr. Sean Nufer

    Female student sitting on window ledge reviewing content on mobile device

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

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

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

    Incorporating social media into courses

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

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

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

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

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

    by Steven W. Anderson

    pearson online, interacting with others in a virtual meeting

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

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

    Importance of teacher communities

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

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

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

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

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

    by Dr. Karen Freberg

    female sitting at desk in front of camera

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

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

    Professional benefits of social media

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

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

    by Dr. Glenn Hurst

    woman viewing content on her mobile device

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

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

    Using social media in your course

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

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

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

    Getting started

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

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  • Digital reading strategies to improve student success

    by Dr. Rachel Hopman-Droste

    College student reading digital content on a laptop

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

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  • Are you experiencing teacher burnout?

    by Pearson

    Image of teacher talking with a student

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

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

    Recognize the signs

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

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

    You’re not the only one

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

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

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

    There is hope — Coping with burnout

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

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

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

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

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

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

    by Dr. Drew Berrett

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

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

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

    The impact of COVID-19

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

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

    Filling the gaps

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

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

    Remediation

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

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

    Leveraging technology for ongoing support

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

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

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

    Watch my recorded webinar to learn more about supporting underprepared students

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

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

    A young person listening from laptop and taking notes in paper

    #2 in a series

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

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

    How consumer-learners reduce perceived risk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    by Jacqueline Richtman

    Hand holding a laptop computer

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

    What is the hub and spoke strategy?

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

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

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

    An example of the hub and spoke strategy

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

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

    Benefits of the hub and spoke strategy

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

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

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

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

     

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  • The student as consumer, and the burden of choice

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

    Woman looking at a computer with a smile on her face

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

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

    The burden of choice

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

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

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

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

    by Terry Austin

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

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

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

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

    Warning signs

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

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

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

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

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

    The human connection

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

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

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

    He soon found out what that was.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    With great power...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    As for that feeling of having a super power?

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

    Learn more about the Early Alerts technology in this story.  

     

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

    by Melissa Johnson

    Young girl on her laptop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    From Measuring to Messaging

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

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

    by Melissa Johnson

    Young girl on her laptop

    Q&A with Student Support Coach Kristina Campbell 

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

    What do you enjoy most about coaching students?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    by Justin Tate

    Woman on her laptop

    Q&A with Senior Student Support Specialist Justin Tate

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

    What led you to become a coach?

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

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

    What do you enjoy most about coaching students?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    How do you work with the university to support students?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • Reach new learners in the digital transformation of higher education

    by Matt Celano

    Adult learner on laptop, working from home

    Institutions around the world were forced to take their higher education programs online in 2020, whether they were ready to or not. And although 33% of postsecondary school administrators plan to continue offering online course options after campuses reopen, many institutions are still hesitant about adopting this new digital-only learning environment.

    It’s important to remember, however, that the global pandemic impacted nearly 1.6 billion learners and has changed the way we learn, work, and connect with each other — forever. How learners search for and engage with brands has shifted, and the type of online learning programs they’re looking for reflects that. Google recently reported an increase in the use of “online” as a modifier when people search for specific programs (e.g., online MBA instead of MBA). That’s because this type of learning environment is the new expectation for learners today.

    And as a response to COVID-19, learners are focused on programs that can help them upskill and reskill quickly, with 18% of the 162 we surveyed looking for a special skill and 23% looking for a shorter alternative to a degree. Pearson Pathways anticipated this need and it’s why we included courses as part of our portfolio strategy from the start.

    Unlike universities that now need to create and market courses individually to meet demand, Pathways has already done this and is able to provide learners with options that support their goals and are delivered in a format that’s familiar to them given the new way we learn and work.

    Online education is the future of learning

    Consider this: Enrollment increased at primarily online institutions 7% during spring 2021, compared to 5% in spring 2020, which means demand for online programs is on the rise. We all need to be ready for what this means for the future of higher education. If your institution has taken an active role in this digital transformation, there are ways you can support others as they do the same. Start by asking them the following questions:

    How are you currently engaging with learners, and what can you do differently?

    Are you doing enough to reach a diverse set of learners by looking outside your geographic areas and normal admissions territory?

    What is your online learning strategy, and are you prepared to take on-campus programs online? If not, what are your next steps to make that happen?

    Pearson Pathways was designed with today's learner in mind

    At Pearson, we work closely with our institutional partners to ensure that they have the information and resources they need to be successful as they begin to offer more online courses to learners around the world. One way we do this is through Pathways: the first global online enrollment advisor.

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  • Raise retention rates with student support services

    by Nisha Khan

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

    Q&A with Student Support Coach Nisha Khan

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

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

    Why did you become a student support services coach?

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

    What do you enjoy most about coaching students?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • Bridging the gap in higher ed with student support services

    by Lourdes Carvajal

    Two students talking with each other

    Q&A with Student Support Coach Lourdes Carvajal

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

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

    Why did you become a student support services coach?

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

    What do you enjoy most about coaching students?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    by Natasha Prospere

    Adult learner on laptop

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

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

    What do you enjoy most about coaching students?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    What are some concerns you help learners overcome?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • Visualization in Precalculus and Calculus with MyLab Math

    by Aaron Warnock

    Woman looking at her computer.

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

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

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  • How to support faculty who are teaching online

    by Pearson

    A woman working on a laptop

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

    Develop online courses that work for students and faculty

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

    Create an effective online course

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

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

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  • Optimize site conversion rates to increase inquiries and enrollments

    by Heather Clarke

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Q: How can CRO improve performance?

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

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

    Q: What tips would you offer to improve conversions?

    A: These 6 tips can help you improve significantly:

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

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

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  • How to use authentic assessment to engage online learners

    by Melissa Johnson

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

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

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

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

    Communicating value through authentic assessment experiences

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

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

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

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

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

    What is authentic assessment exactly?

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

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

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

    by Mandy Baldwin, Senior Student Support Specialist, Pearson

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

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

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

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

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

    Help nontraditional learners balance school and life

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

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

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

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

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

    Focus on student mental health and wellbeing

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

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

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

    Serve nontraditional students in novel ways

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

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

    We learned to:

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

    by Pearson

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

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

    How should you fund your online learning strategy?

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

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

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

    How to assess the market for your online learning programs?

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

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  • Leading students through a changing career landscape

    by Pearson

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  • Harnessing change in higher education

    by Pearson

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    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.

     

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  • Yes! I am ready to start my career

    by Donna Butler

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    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.

     

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  • Social justice in the math classroom

    by Diane Hollister

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    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.

     

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  • Ungrading: What's the hype?

    by Amy Byron

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    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.

     

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  • Lights, camera, action: Engage students with videos

    by Dr. Terri Moore

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    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.

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  • Social justice in the physical science classroom

    by Amy Byron

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    “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.

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

    by James Montalto

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    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.

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

    by Ashley Peterson-DeLuca, Director, Communications, Pearson

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    “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.”

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  • KonMari your online course

    by Diane Hollister

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    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. 🙂

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  • Online learning: Seeing the excellence, not just the necessity

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    Two years ago, when COVID-19 drove many colleges and universities to offer online instruction, Kate McKinnon’s Saturday Night Live (SNL) skit seemed ruefully accurate to some: “You will now pay full price for your college experience at a University of Phoenix Online without the tech support!” Some students were indeed thrust into a version of remote teaching that, while developed with the best intentions, was more emergency triage than true online learning.

    Fortunately, however, even as the pandemic accelerated the transition to online learning, a closer look revealed some very distinguished online programs that are comparable to traditional face-to-face programs, or even better. These online programs often delivered greater flexibility and accessibility, sometimes with clear evidence of superior outcomes.

    Duquesne University School of Nursing delivers several of those high quality online programs. In partnership with Pearson, the university is applying best practices in teaching and learning and is continually updating those practices to reflect the latest best practices in online learning. 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 education. At Duquesne, many students are working nurses, often juggling shift work, family responsibilities, and caregiving. COVID’s demands made it nearly impossible for students to access on-campus programs in many parts of the country, Even now, with most on-campus programs reopened, some healthcare professionals face greater challenges in managing work/life balance, and/or time associated with school related travel, that make it harder to attend classes on campus.

    Duquesne’s PhD graduates are deans, faculty, and Chief Nursing Officers — most of whom would not have been able to follow their dreams and earn their doctorates in a traditional, on-campus program. This was my own experience. 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. I became a leader of the nursing programs I studied in, and I recently assumed wider leadership responsibilities for research throughout the university.

    Along the way, I have learned that outstanding online learning involves much more than providing technology infrastructure for remote teaching. It 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 was not the first event to influence public perceptions that quality changes when we move from a lecture hall to a virtual classroom. Over a decade ago, the introduction of large, often free, online courses created an image of an impersonal, dehumanized experience that lacked the support students need to succeed. In addition, the early surge of several for-profit universities created a negative impression that was hard to overcome. However, those early impressions are far removed from the quality and student success we have 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 does not 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 but far more convenient. The same highly qualified faculty teach in our virtual classrooms.

    Now that many institutions’ abrupt, disruptive transition to remote teaching is receding into history, it is my hope that thoughtfully planned, quality online programs become even more universal. These programs offer our society much that it urgently needs, and likely can’t get any other way.

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  • How online learning platforms facilitate NACEP accreditation

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

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    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.

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  • Coping with the COVID-19 crisis

    by Sam Sommers, PhD

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    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.

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  • Mental gymnastics: Finding the balance in an online course

    by Diane Hollister

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    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.

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  • 7 tips from research for effective hybrid teaching

    by Emily Schneider, PhD

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    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.

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  • Teaching Titans vs. Punitive Professors

    by Dr. Terri Moore

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    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”.

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