More than 3.5 million nurses around the country are currently providing a variety of essential healthcare services. In doing so, they are spending more hours with patients than any other profession in the industry, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), which is why it’s essential for nurses to have a solid foundation of knowledge in the field and to develop a strong sense of confidence that can sustain them throughout their careers.
Nursing is the linchpin of the American healthcare system, but experts predict that the system could break. The Baby Boomer generation is aging and requiring more care; nursing programs are experiencing faculty shortages that restrict the number of students they can admit each year; and nurses are being pulled in so many different directions that they are burning out and leaving the profession at historic rates, according to a report from the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN).
How can nurse educators provide a foundational learning experience that helps nurses thrive?
In addition to incorporating concept-based learning into the curriculum to prepare nursing students for challenging clinical environments, another important way to facilitate critical growth in the nursing profession is to support the role that student-teacher relationships play in promoting positive learning outcomes and strong retention rates.
Nurse educators play a vital role
Regardless of the level of difficulty or the subject matter being covered, the truly effective teachers are the ones who can connect with their students in meaningful ways. The student-teacher relationship is especially influential in nursing education programs, where the information is complex and mistakes can cost lives.
Nurse educator Tammy Vant Hul, Riverside City College, PhD, MSN, RN, ACNP, CNE, says that building a sense of trust between instructor and student is crucial. “I think helping students work through the idea that the only thing that they can\, put their money on is that their patients are going to change from the time they walk in there in the morning. The environment that they work in will change almost weekly.”
The student-teacher connection in nursing education is described as “a place of possibility” by Mary Gillespie, a professor of critical care nursing at the British Columbia Institute of Technology. “The qualities inherent in the essence of connection — knowing, trust, respect, and mutuality — create a transformative space in which students are affirmed, gain insight into their potential, and grow toward fulfilling personal and professional capacities,” she writes in the Journal of Advanced Nursing.
Other research has concluded that nurse educators who provide a supportive teaching context can dramatically alter a nursing student’s approach to learning, inspiring them to engage more deeply with the material and become active, enthusiastic learners. A positive learning environment has also been shown to bolster resilience in nursing students, a key factor in achieving academic success and professional longevity in the field.
Vant Hul and her colleagues, for example, don’t conduct “high stakes testing” because doing so can damage a student’s sense of psychological safety and interfere with the learning process. When one of Vant Hul’s students makes a mistake during a simulation exercise, she helps them learn from it by asking questions that encourage them to reflect on their performance, such as: What just happened? How could you have handled this situation better? and What will you do differently next time?
Cultivating a positive relationship while maintaining professional boundaries and holding students accountable for their learning is not a straightforward task. Gillespie emphasizes that nurse educators need to be trained in how to help students grow their own relational competencies, as well as how to keep the “educator-in-relationship” role in mind when assessing students.
The importance of promoting dignity
In healthcare, the concept of dignity — a human being’s intrinsic worth and fundamental right to be treated with respect — is often discussed in relation to the patient who is being cared for, not the nurse who is caring for that patient. However, when it comes to training and retaining nurses, it is the dignity of these essential healthcare providers that needs to be of paramount importance to educators.
“It is a goal in nursing education to promote students' dignity and facilitate this core value,” write Tone Stikholmen, Dagfinn Nåden, and Herdis Alvsvåg in a study published in Nursing Ethics. The study found a meaningful link between the student-teacher relationship and a nursing students’ experience with dignity. When an educator was affirming, empathetic, and accepting, students were more likely to have confidence in their abilities and to be more present in patient situations.
In the student interviews conducted by Stikholmen and his colleagues, the following recommendations for nurse educators emerged:
At Pearson, we’re always listening to faculty and students and, recently, we kept hearing one refrain over and over — classroom engagement was at an all-time low. Fortunately, we knew just what to do. In fact, we had a solution ready.
For years, Pearson’s Learning Catalytics interactive student response tool has been helping instructors and students connect in meaningful ways. As soon as we knew classroom engagement was lagging, we knew we needed to host a Learning Catalytics Summit to help more instructors learn how to use — and make the most of — this incredible tool.
On August 1, we hosted the first-ever Learning Catalytics Summit to great acclaim. Attendees participated in four different webinar sessions hosted by Learning Catalytics experts. Each session focused on a specific advantage of Learning Catalytics, but they all spoke to the ways the student response tool can help instructors see learning as it happens.
The overall message: Learning Catalytics is a powerful student response and assessment tool. As session-leader Aaron Warnock said, “Learning Catalytics — and I cannot exaggerate — revolutionized my classroom.” Brad Mehrtens concurred in his session, adding, “Learning Catalytics makes a huge difference in student engagement at any scale.”
How Does Learning Catalytics Work?
Designed to work on laptops and all common smart devices, Learning Catalytics gives instructors a way to connect directly to students and know when everyone is following a lesson and when some are falling behind. This real-time assessment allows instructors to adjust their teaching in-the-moment and address student confusion before it becomes a problem.
Learning Catalytics empowers instructors to:
Engage students with 18 question types that include graphing, drawing, multiple choice selections, open-ended dialogues, and more
Identify misconceptions and monitor responses to find out where students are struggling
Facilitate peer-to-peer learning with automatic grouping of students so that every group has a member who understands the material
These features are available whether the class is in-person or online, making Learning Catalytics useful in every teaching environment. As Brad Mehrtens said about his experience using Learning Catalytics with even difficult-to-connect-with classrooms, “[The students] were there, they were engaged. [Learning Catalytics] works… It’s the only thing that works.”
What Did the Learning Catalytics Summit Cover?
The summit’s four unique sessions provided a wealth of information on how Learning Catalytics works and how instructors can use it in all kinds of classroom settings and situations. An hour-long each, the sessions included:
“Unleashing the Power of Learning Catalytics in a Hybrid Environment” with Aaron Warnock
Aaron Warnock’s session focused primarily on the way Learning Catalytics’ question-and-answer function helps instructors connect with students and students learn better in hybrid environments. Aaron showed audiences how students can answer questions by drawing graphs, clicking on different regions of an image, highlighting relevant information, evaluating complex problems, or simply filling in a multiple choice answer.
Aaron noted that the different question types give instructors a lot of flexibility in the ways they monitor student learning. Plus, the questions make it easier to get students to answer without them feeling uncomfortable, because everyone participates and no one feels put on the spot.
“When I saw Learning Catalytics for the first time, and the eighteen different question types that are available, I was instantly sold,” Aaron said. “It creates a fantastic, engaging learning environment for students.”
“Transforming Large-Classroom Activities with Learning Catalytics” with Brad Mehrtens
Being a professor who routinely teaches classes as large as 600 students, Brad Mehrtens understands the challenges of connecting with students. In his session, he spoke to how Learning Catalytics helps him keep students engaged in even the largest lecture halls.
After regularly watching class attendance dwindle — particularly after the COVID-19 pandemic — he started using Learning Catalytics. He immediately had a much better sense of how well his students were learning and, to his delight, attendance evened out.
“I was as deflated by the pandemic as anyone was, and Learning Catalytics has made me excited about teaching again,” Brad says. “And I don’t say that lightly. It has completely recharged my battery and made it fun to be back in the classroom”
“Connecting with Learning Catalytics for Success Throughout Your Course” with Pamela Sandstrom
A number of years ago, Pamela Sandstrom was using other types of student response tools — but that all changed. “Once I switched [to Learning Catalytics], I’ve never even thought about using any other instant response system because of how much [Learning Catalytics] can do,” she said in her summit session.
Centered on the ways Learning Catalytics can positively impact a course at multiple moments and in numerous ways, Pamela’s talk discussed how useful the real-time data on student learning is to her instruction.
“Learning Catalytics provides formative assessment,” she said. “But to me that means that I don’t have to wait till the test, or even till the end of the lecture — [I can see] how they’re doing in the class real time”
“The Tips and Tricks You Need to Know About Learning Catalytics” with Terry Austin
During his session, Terry Austin shared his screen to demonstrate exactly how Learning Catalytics works and all the ways he can customize it for the needs of a specific class. As an instructor who has been using Learning Catalytics for a decade, he had a lot of great tips and tricks, ranging from linking Learning Catalytics to a Pearson Mastering class to using it to improve seat maps to incorporating it into classroom presentations.
“Learning Catalytics is clever,” Terry said, noting how much the tool is capable of doing. As attendees to his session and the summit as a whole learned, he was right. Learning Catalytics can empower instructors to assess student learning in-the-moment, improve student engagement, and make classroom time much more successful.
As Terry noted, there’s a good reason he’s been using Learning Catalytics for a decade.
Inclusive Assessing: Are All Students Able to Demonstrate What They Know?
Inclusive teaching is at the forefront of many discussions among educators in public schools as well as higher educational institutions. And while these discussions can be challenging in some arenas, I believe that teachers would agree their highest achievement is their students’ learning, mastering the course content and applying their new knowledge to their future goals. Success as a teacher equals the highest percentage of students possible demonstrating their course competency throughout the course in formative assessments and at the end of the term with summative assessments of their mastery.
However, often overlooked in discussions of DE&I are ideas about equitable assessment types. For me, the question is: Am I offering assessments that truly give opportunities for my diverse group of students to demonstrate what they know or have learned? Or am I just relying on my older methods of testing that leave some of my students without a way to show me they really know the material? Am I just asking the wrong questions, or asking them in a way that is confusing or challenging to some groups of students?
I have become aware that there is a huge gap between asking my students to parrot back the course content on a multiple-choice test and truly assessing their mastery of that content. Can they apply that content? Are they able to reason with this new information at the highest level of learning? Have I given them the opportunity to reach the peak of Bloom’s Taxonomy?
Do you know what your go-to learning styles are? Understanding and applying different learning styles to your studying can transform the way your brain processes information. In turn, this can help you perform better on exams. Training your brain to take advantage of different styles of learning can help you retain information in new, creative ways.
When it comes to learning styles, just remember VARK
Acronyms always help me remember things, so here is an acronym to help you remember the different learning styles: VARK. It stands for visual, auditory, read/write, and kinesthetic/tactile. Let’s look at what each style has to offer with regard to study strategies.
Visual input engages sight and brings attention to the eyes. This is when you’re more encouraged through visual imagery rather than word-based information.
Drawing pictures, diagrams, or graphs in notes
Color code notes with bright colors
Come up with funny mnemonics or acronyms
Visualize notes during test-taking
Auditory input engages hearing and brings attention to the ears. This includes the use of sounds.
Read notes aloud
Teach and explain steps to a friend
Join a study group
Listen to your favorite music
Read/write input is word or text-based learning. This is for students who prefer to pair reading and writing together.
Prepare by reading the textbook before class
Write organized notes
Annotate and go over notes
Kinesthetic/tactile input engages touch and movement. This learning style is for those who enjoy activity and are connected with the sense of touch.
Incorporating models or figures
Having a stress ball or sensory toy on hand
Move around during your time studying
Stand and write on a board
Here’s what happened when I explored other learning styles
The learning style that comes most naturally to me is reading and writing. I like to take notes and read information multiple times. This helps my brain process the information in a way that will be easy for me to remember.
While I am comfortable with that learning style, I also wanted to seek out different methods to engage other parts of my brain. I found that kinesthetic/tactile learning paired well with my previous style because it allowed me to move around and use my sense of touch. Simply walking around and writing on a whiteboard helped me visualize the information on a grander scale.
In addition to those two learning styles, I also used visual inputs. Drawing diagrams on the whiteboard and using mnemonics or acronyms was very effective when it came to recalling information for my exams. Being able to clearly picture the visuals I wrote on the whiteboard engaged another part of my brain that I wouldn’t have accessed if I had only stuck with my go-to learning style. Overall, I discovered that involving different senses can make studying easier.
Try out these different learning styles and see how your studying habits transform! By changing how the brain processes information, you might find that you have an easier time studying, earn better grades, and retain knowledge more effectively.
We survived teaching through the COVID-19 pandemic, teaching in the early days post-pandemic, and this year we thought we would be returning to some new normal in our classrooms.
But wait, there are new (and not so new) mine fields I’m expected to navigate?!
Political climates influencing what and how we teach??
Continuing updates to accessibility??
Commitments to inclusive teaching??
I feel a weariness creeping in as I struggle to stay enthusiastic about this new school year. So, I sought solace from like-minded educators and sources to help renew my excitement and confidence about stepping into the limelight with a whole new, unknown group of students.
No matter what your field of study, you probably remember the excitement of the 2017 total solar eclipse, which was the first in the US in nearly four decades. Tens of millions of people traveled to the path of totality, and the rest of the country saw a partial solar eclipse. Now we are approaching an even more exciting, back-to-back pair of US eclipses (shown on the map above):
Saturday, Oct. 14, 2023: The “warm-up” event: An annular solar eclipse, in which the Moon will not quite fully block the Sun (so that the Moon will be surrounded by a ring, or annulus, of sunlight).
Monday, April 8, 2024: The big event: A total solar eclipse following a path from Mexico up through Texas and toward the northeast. More than 30 million people live within the path of totality, and nearly half the U.S. population resides within a about a 5-hour drive of the path.
Both eclipses will provide a great opportunity for educators everywhere — and in all disciplines — to take advantage of the excitement to promote education and outreach. The “all disciplines” comes about because eclipses are truly interdisciplinary events. For example, besides the obvious connection to astronomy, eclipses involve mathematics and statistics (in modeling how they occur and doing the necessary calculations to predict and understand them), social sciences and history (in considering the many impacts that eclipses have had on human civilization), the arts (prose, poetry, music, painting), and much more.
This means that it is time to start planning for how you will take advantage of this great opportunity. For those of you teaching at the college level, consider taking the following four steps:
Be sure you know where you are located relative to the eclipse paths. You can do this using the free app “Totality by Big Kid Science”, which you can download from the iOS or Android app stores. Based on your location, decide whether you will plan to stay put or travel to the eclipse paths.
Also use the app to find the local time for each of the eclipses, and critically important: Because the total eclipse is on a Monday (April 8, 2024), ask your college to ensure that all students, faculty, and employees can be outside throughout the local eclipse. (The annular eclipse on 10/14/23 is a Saturday, so it should pose less of an issue.)
Plan campus events for the eclipses. Most people find it more fun to watch the eclipse as part of a large group, plus this means you can have speakers to help explain what is happening (and how to watch safely) and to make interdisciplinary connections. You should also have your astronomy department (or anyone else with the necessary equipment) set up telescopes with solar filters for solar viewing.
Note: It is very important to emphasize safe viewing of the eclipse; it will be very helpful if your campus can provide eclipse glasses for the event, but be sure you get the glasses only from a vendor that has been approved by the American Astronomical Society (see the “approved vendor list”).
Look for outreach opportunities to ensure that the educational potential of the eclipses will be realized throughout your local community. For example, you might create a temporary “eclipse outreach club” that will give college students an opportunity to share their understanding and enthusiasm with local schools.
Want to learn more? If you are teaching astronomy, be sure to see our updated section on eclipses in Chapter 2 of the new, 10th edition of The Cosmic Perspective.
Mastering Microbiology is the online Learning Management System that accompanies the textbook Microbiology: An Introduction. Mastering Microbiology is packed full of instructor friendly resources that aid in student learning and understanding. These resources give students 24/7 access to learning opportunities, allowing them to take ownership of their learning. The Mastering Microbiology resources range from providing students with important background knowledge, to adaptive study tools, to clinical based applications of Microbiology. The resources in Mastering Microbiology are pedagogically focused to provide clear explanations of complex concepts and to engage learners in the material by providing practical applications of microbiology concepts.
The Mastering Microbiology resources available for Microbiology: An Introduction include:
In The Clinic Videos: These videos bring to life the scenarios of the “In the Clinic” features that open every chapter. The videos introduce a microbial disease and ask questions linking microbiology concepts to disease pathology. This helps students transfer their knowledge of microbiology to clinically relevant settings.
Pedagogy – The “In the Clinic” Videos are designed to take concepts found in the disease chapters towards the end of the book and move them forward in the class, introducing disease pathology in concert with the microbiology that explains the how and why behind the pathology. This connection between microbiology and disease pathology occurs in a clinical setting highlighting how microbiology understanding can be transferred to patient care. These real-world examples engage learners and help students develop critical thinking skills.
How to Assign – These assignments can be assigned after class to allow students to apply the new information they have learned. These assignments can also be used in class to provide active learning and/or peer to peer learning in class. An instructor can show the first part of the video and ask students to hypothesize answers to the questions. This will provide a scaffold for student learning while the instructor lectures over the content. Later on, the class can come back to the videos to see content application and spark classroom discussion. In an online setting, instructors can assign these after chapter reading assignments to apply and assess knowledge students have gained.
MicroBoosters: MicroBoosters are a suite of brief video tutorials that cover key background concepts students may need to review or relearn prior to diving into more complex microbiology content.
Pedagogy – Complex microbiology concepts often build from prior knowledge based in biology and chemistry. In a one semester Microbiology class, instructors are pressed for time to cover all of the microbiology concepts in detail, and they may not have time to cover all the background material as well. The MicroBooster video tutorials allow students to learn and review key background knowledge, ensuring they come to class prepared.
How to Assign – MicroBoosters can be assigned before class to give students the background knowledge they need for lecture topics. Assigning Microboosters before class allows the instructor to review student grades prior to class to determine if students know the needed background information for the lecture. In an online setting, Microboosters can be used either as a warmup before chapter content is assigned, or at the start of the class in a background introduction module.
Interactive Microbiology: Interactive Microbiology is a dynamic suite of interactive tutorials and animations that teach key microbiology concepts. Students actively engage with each topic and learn by manipulating variables, predicting outcomes, and answering assessment questions.
Pedagogy – Interactive Microbiology takes a scaffolding approach to presenting complex materials. This concept allows different microbiology concepts to build on one another, helping students to understand the answers to questions and mimic the type of thought process that would occur clinically. Each module starts with a case study to provide students with a real-world hook that increases interest and engagement. The activities use state-of-the-art animations to bring cell biology concepts to life and ask questions that allow students to own their learning and connect microbiology concepts to clinical applications. Interactive Microbiology helps to bridge the core concepts of microbiology like morphology, genetics, and metabolism, with the more advanced concepts of microbiology like pathology, immunology, and pharmacology in a realistic manner that makes the learning genuine.
How to Assign – Interactive Microbiology assignments can be assigned as post-lecture material, reinforcing and providing application for lecture content. These assignments can also be used to introduce upcoming lecture concepts, helping students connect basic knowledge with more advanced concepts.
Micro Lab Explorations: Micro Lab Explorations are branching style lab activities that use a Choose Your Own AdventureTM approach to teach lab techniques and concepts. These decision-tree style lab exercises present a clinically based scenario that walks students through the process of using microbiology lab knowledge to solve clinical problems.
Pedagogy – Decision-tree style lab exercises are designed to increase student ownership and interactivity in online environments, by allowing students to engage in the narrative of the lesson. Students are not just passively watching content, but rather directing the path of the content, answering questions, and learning from their mistakes in a low-stakes environment. These activities also help students develop critical thinking skills by linking microbiology concepts and lab techniques with clinical applications.
How to Assign – Because Micro Lab Explorations contain videos on how to perform certain lab techniques, they are perfect to assign as pre-labs prior to in-person or virtual labs. Students will not only see the proper way to perform lab techniques but will also learn about the concepts behind the lab and how these lab techniques are used to aid in clinical diagnosis.
Interactive Labs: Interactive Labs for Microbiology is a suite of online microbiology lab simulations. These interactive labs allow students to perform lab techniques virtually, while receiving guided feedback.
As college students and their instructors return to school, it’s important to remember that fostering a growth mindset in students can significantly impact their learning experience and academic success. A growth mindset emphasizes the belief that intelligence and abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. By cultivating this mindset from the beginning of the semester, instructors can empower students to embrace challenges, persevere through obstacles, and maximize their potential. Here are some valuable strategies college instructors can use to start the semester off right by nurturing a growth mindset in their students.
1: Encourage a Positive Classroom Culture
Create an environment that celebrates effort, resilience, and the value of mistakes. Encourage students to view challenges as opportunities for growth rather than setbacks. Emphasize that mistakes are an essential part of the learning process and provide specific feedback that focuses on improvement rather than solely on grades. Establish a safe and supportive atmosphere where students feel comfortable taking risks and seeking help when needed.
2: Set Growth-Focused Goals
Show students how to set meaningful goals that go beyond performance-based achievements. Guide students through regular self-reflections on progress and explain how they can adjust their goals based on their evolving needs and aspirations. This process cultivates a student’s sense of ownership and inspires them to have a proactive attitude towards their own learning journey.
3: Emphasize the Power of "Yet"
Encourage students to adopt the phrase "I haven't mastered it yet" instead of "I can't do it." Teach them to see setbacks as temporary and not indicative of their overall abilities. Foster resilience by providing examples of famous figures who faced failure before achieving success. Highlight stories of individuals who overcame obstacles through hard work, perseverance, and a growth mindset. These narratives can motivate students and reinforce the idea that effort leads to improvement.
4: Promote Effort and Process
Shift the focus from grades and outcomes to the learning process itself. Delay giving them a numerical grade on an assignment until they have reviewed your feedback, identified specific areas for improvement, and set goals that challenge them to develop new skills. Encourage students to value effort, persistence, and dedication. Praise their hard work, strategies, and the steps they take to solve problems. Highlight the significance of seeking challenges, utilizing effective study techniques, and actively engaging in class discussions. By recognizing and valuing effort, you foster intrinsic motivation and a love for learning.
5: Cultivate Collaboration and Peer Support
Create opportunities for collaborative learning and peer support. Encourage students to work together, share knowledge, and provide constructive feedback to one another. Collaborative activities allow students to gain different perspectives, learn from their peers, and develop essential teamwork and communication skills. When instructors foster a supportive learning community, students feel more comfortable taking risks and seeking help when faced with difficulties.
6: Model a Growth Mindset
Lead by example and demonstrate a growth mindset in your own teaching practices. Share personal stories of challenges you have faced and the strategies you employed to overcome them. Embrace feedback and continually seek opportunities for professional growth. By modeling a growth mindset, you inspire students to adopt the same attitude towards their own learning journies.
Nurturing a growth mindset among students is a powerful tool that college instructors can use to help students unlock their full potential. By creating a positive classroom culture, setting growth-focused goals, and emphasizing effort and the learning process, instructors can lay the foundation for a successful and transformative semester. Remember, by fostering a growth mindset, you empower students to embrace challenges, develop resilience, and ultimately achieve greater academic and personal growth.
Of the many things I have learned over the years, there are a few that I will never forget: how to identify a Loblolly Pine tree, how to visualize a tangent line to a curve, and over 1,000 vocabulary words. I remember these specific things because of how they were taught to me.
In 7th grade, my science teacher took us on a “field trip” to the wooded area just beyond the school parking lot. There I was able to see, smell, and touch an actual Loblolly Pine tree. Of the many trees we studied in class via the usual worksheets, the Loblolly is the only one I remember today. In my Calculus class, my professor would roll a yardstick around his bald head to show us how the slope of the tangent line changes as it moves over a curve. When prepping for the GRE, I made and studied from flashcards with not only words and their definitions, but also silly mnemonics and drawings for those 1000 words. I took those flashcards with me everywhere and flipped through them whenever I had a free moment.
What do these memorable examples have in common? Each learning situation involved multiple senses and multiple modes of learning. They went beyond the basics and involved sight, sound, touch, movement, smell, words, and symbols.
How can you as an educator create deep learning that “sticks” with your students for years to come? You can do that by creating lessons that engage multiple sensory systems in your students. Think VARK: Visual, Auditory, Read/Write, and Kinesthetic/Tactile. Let’s define these terms and look at some examples of teaching methods that use each.
Visual learning happens through non-word based visual information
Include pictures, diagrams, and graphics in notes and videos
Demonstrate how to annotate text (underline, highlight, circle or box important information)
Choose a text with symbols denoting different types of content
Color code notes
Provide flowcharts for multistep problems
Use graphic organizers to break down big ideas and show connections
Auditory learning involves sounds
Read directions or notes aloud.
Have students read aloud
Record and share verbal feedback on assignments
Record and post lecture videos
Ask students to explain back to you
Facilitate student-led discussions that explore complex topics
Use small group activities during class so students can talk with each other
Share rhymes or songs to remember facts, formulas, names, etc.
Encourage Office Hours to discuss topics
Read/Write is text-based learning
Assign readings before and/or after class
Model neat, organized, and thorough hand written notes
Give students time to write down their thoughts and ideas before raising their hands
Have students make flashcards for formulas, definitions, dates, etc.
Write formulas in both symbols and words
Closed caption or subtitle videos
Kinesthetic/Tactile involves learning connected to movement and/or touching
Use models, figures, or manipulatives
Have students stand and write on the board during class (this can also apply to read/write learning)
Use your hands/arms to gesture during class
Provide students with “stress ball” on test day
Take a field trip
Some of these teaching strategies could fit in more than one category, which is even better. Flashcards, for example, can involve writing, reading, speaking, and moving, and can include words, colors, and pictures. When you engage students’ brains on many levels and in many ways during the learning process, the understanding is deeper.
When designing your lessons, ask yourself the following questions:
What senses did I engage in my instruction?
What auditory inputs did I give?
What visual information did I provide?
What written directions or notes were given?
What writing was necessary?
Was the sense of touch and movement utilized?
Let’s look at a specific example: you want your students to learn how to construct a model airplane. If you merely present them with a pile of pieces and say “Go,” the chances of getting a correctly completed model plane are very low. How could you guide them to the desired result in a multi-sensory, multi-modal way?
Show them a picture of the desired final product. (visual)
Present a list of the pieces needed to complete the plane. (read)
Allow them to hold and manipulate the pieces. (kinesthetic/tactile)
Describe verbally the process to build the plane. (auditory)
Show a video of the plane being built. (visual and auditory)
Encourage students to work with a peer to build the plane. (kinesthetic/tactile, auditory)
At this point, most students would be able to complete the model. To verify the learning, give a follow up assignment in which students draw a schematic (visual), write a manual (write), and make a video describing and showing the construction process for a different model airplane (kinesthetic/tactile, visual, and auditory). If you incorporate all the senses into the learning process, your students will know how to build model airplanes for years to come, just like I can spot a Loblolly pine from 20 paces.
The landscape of higher education has changed dramatically over the past few years – a global pandemic, the push for greater equity and inclusion in education, and the advent of generative AI have all played a role in altering how, when, and where people learn. Online and hybrid degree programs have become more mainstream, enabling a larger population of people to gain access to learning opportunities.
The need for students’ perspectives to be considered by decision-makers in higher education has never been more urgent. This need is what inspired Pearson to conduct our Student Success Survey, a review of college and university students that gives voice to their experiences and paves the way for meaningful improvement in the design and development of courses and tools in higher education.
The challenges: time management and focus
The top two issues facing the group of students surveyed were: time management and staying focused.
Time management issues
The survey responses show that students need more support when balancing their coursework with their other obligations. As one student from Merced College wrote, “I am constantly updating my time management system but none of it seems to work.”
Time management is a significant sticking point, not because students do not know how to manage their time, but because their lives have become so busy that the usual methods of keeping track of their to-dos are insufficient.
Many students must juggle full-time work and family responsibilities in addition to their studies. One respondent, a mom of three kids studying at the Delta College of San Joaquin, wrote, “Between classes, assignments, and activities, it can be difficult to find enough time in the day to get everything done. I try my best to prioritize my tasks and create a schedule, but sometimes unexpected events can throw me off track.”
Once a student gets knocked off track, it can be extremely difficult to help them get back on, especially at the higher education level.
Challenges with maintaining focus while reading and studying was the other primary problem for the students who participated in the survey. Nearly 40% of students reported trouble focusing as a significant obstacle to their learning.
Another Merced Community College student cites the pandemic as the turning point for their ability to focus on schoolwork. “I feel that after the pandemic I haven't been able to focus on anything.”
That student is not alone in feeling as though the COVID-19 pandemic has had an enduring negative impact on their ability to learn, even though many aspects of daily life have returned to a pre-pandemic state of functioning. A recent study published in Psychiatry Research found a link between the increased levels of stress and fear experienced by many college students during the pandemic and ongoing issues with focus and attention.
Pearson’s solution: Make students’ learning more efficient and engaging
The best way to learn how a student wants to learn is to hear it directly from them. Listening to student voices is essential, especially now, which is why we continue to connect with students directly, through focus groups, surveys, etc.
The results of the new Student Success Survey made it obvious that we are on the right track when it comes to understanding the two most significant issues for students:
Maintaining focus and engagement
We also found that the existing resources provided by Pearson have proven useful in addressing these areas of concern.
Who are you as a person and an educator? How have the various facets of your cultural and social identities shaped your own experiences and views? Who are your students? How will their cultural backgrounds affect their learning, development, and motivation in your class?
These are vital questions in today’s classroom—a truth that Ellen Usher and I were reminded of while writing the 15th edition of Educational Psychology. Specifically, several educational psychology instructors at Michigan State University told us that the cluster in our book on cultural and diversity came too late for today’s realities. These instructors believed that a discussion of the many aspects of identity should be front and center, informing the study of all topics in educational psychology. So, Ellen wrote our new Cluster 2, “Who Are You? Who Are Your Students? Culture and Diversity.”
Grounded in the fact that we all are shaped by many forces and factors, Cluster 2 provides insight about why we must understand and appreciate our students’ identities, as well as our own. Throughout the cluster, we offer research and resources to help you and your students explore your identities and the role of culture and diversity in learning and teaching. In the overview, we explain that:
At Pearson, we are committed to helping students improve their life through learning and provide the instructors with the tools to help them be successful. We are devoted to creating effective, engaging solutions that create opportunities for students at every stage of the learning journey. By combining trusted author content with digital tools and a flexible platform, we personalize the learning experience and improve results for each student.
In 2022, we introduced the Pearson Excellence in Higher Ed awards to recognize faculty who demonstrate the essence of what it means to be an educator today. Over 200 faculty across the country were nominated by their peers and students for recognition in five categories. This year’s winners embody the values of Pearson and their outstanding achievements. The heartfelt submission stories illustrate not only their foundational values but how they translate that passion for all students.
“The Pearson Excellence in Higher Ed awards are peer nominated awards that represent and identify passionate and outstanding educators who have made significant impact on students and others. It has been a delight reading the hundreds of heartwarming nominations that we have received, and we’re honored to announce this year’s winners” said Brad Parkins, Pearson Director of Marketing, Brand and Thought Leadership.
Without further ado, it is with immense honor that we announce the winners for the inaugural 2022 Pearson Excellence in Higher Ed awards!
Outstanding Integration of DE&I: Emily Simpson, Midwestern University - “In addition to fostering a welcoming environment, Dr. Simpson is dedicated to preparing students to work with diverse populations and advocate for DE&I within their future workplaces.” – A. Kiraly-Alvarez
Outstanding Student Engagement: Professor Rachel Bailey-Wood, University of Missouri - “Professor Bailey’s instruction uniquely centers her students’ humanity while engaging them in high levels of applicable learning.” – A. Thompson
Outstanding Teaching Throughout the Pandemic: Dr. Elizabeth Dulemba, Winthrop University - "Her energies were not daunted during the pandemic. She created new course offerings... and created a new Illustration Minor.” – E. Koehler
Outstanding Use of Courseware Technology: Christine Minor, Clemson University - “Dr. Minor stays at the forefront of what is available in educational technology and often acts as a mentor in our department for others that are using technology in their classrooms.” – Dr. DeWalt
Pearson Digital Platforms: Yoelvis Rodriguez, Miami Dade College - “Yoelvis is an influencer…. He is a leader among the adjuncts, and they respect his advice and experience. In addition, college wide, Yoelvis chairs an EAP technology committee.” – C. Schuemann
In higher education, students have needs and aspirations based on the diversity of their lived experiences, and they bring their rich social and cultural backgrounds with them when they learn. To serve all students, educators need to widen their teaching methodologies and perspectives to serve varied characteristics and preferences1. They also need to consider factors such as age, learning styles, strengths, improvement areas, and more to develop inclusive and active learning strategies in their classrooms.
The ‘7 Pillars of Inclusivity’ can help educators incorporate inclusive practices that value diversity and embed equity in the classroom.
What Are the 7 Pillars of Inclusivity?
To create an inclusive classroom, educators must keep their students at the center of learning and provide an environment that enriches their learning outcomes.2 Educators can follow seven strategies to welcome all students into an inclusive classroom experience.
An accessible learning environment is one where students don’t experience any barriers to education. It’s vital that educators ensure accessibility for students with special needs, learning disabilities, and neurodivergence, and for students who come from diverse language, economic, and cultural backgrounds. If implemented well, a focus on equitable access will set up all students for successful learning outcomes.
Educators can create an accessible and accepting classroom by incorporating the following practices
Design an inclusive and high-quality curriculum targeted towards positive learning outcomes.
Provide accessible educational materials and software that meet the learning needs of students with physical and/or cognitive challenges so as to help them learn their best and feel a sense of belonging.
Make sure learning materials are representative of and relevant to all students so that those whose first language isn’t English or who come from under-resourced communities will see themselves in what they’re learning and feel like they belong.
Support all students by forming collaborative groups for projects when possible.
Build relationships with students so you understand them and learn how to differentiate instruction to meet their learning needs whenever possible.
Adopt active learning strategies that motivate students to take initiative.3 A healthy mix of reflective, movement, or discussion-based lessons and projects can be targeted toward achieving behavioral and cognitive objectives.
Providing scholarships for deserving students.
Being more approachable and responsive to students’ queries.
Making the classroom inclusive requires a growth mindset, which encourages an openness to understanding the diversity of students’ lived experiences. Implicit biases can pollute a growth mindset and cause educators to lower their expectations of students who require specific support to be successful.
According to the American Psychological Association, an implicit bias is a negative attitude toward a specific group of people of which one is not consciously aware.4 Implicit biases can include prejudices toward learners who come from low income homes, have unique cultural backgrounds, or are differently abled learners.
Educators can maintain a growth mindset by identifying their implicit biases, resolving them, and focusing on setting high expectations for all students.
Identifying implicit biases
Practicing self-reflective techniques or collecting responses/feedback from students and colleagues can be great ways for educators to identify their implicit biases.5
Self-reflection and assessment involves focusing on teaching and assessing methodologies and recognizing how those are influenced by underlying social, economic, or cultural prejudices. Educators can keep a record of their teaching methodologies, experiences, and growth through personal journals and go back to see if they have changed past behaviors or not.
Seeking responses through observation sheets filled out by students or peer reviews from trusting colleagues can provide educators with honest opinions about their behavior toward inclusion, diversity, and equity in the classroom.
Both these techniques can help educators identify areas of their teaching, curriculum, coursework, and assessing styles that are not inclusive or engaging and implement improvements.
Creating a positive and collaborative campus culture
A positive attitude6 that’s grounded in a growth mindset positions educators to express the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion in their words, actions, and classroom practices. Students who feel seen, heard, and welcome are more likely to succeed in class.
On a larger scale, institutions can support diversity by promoting a positive and collaborative campus culture with events that create opportunities for all students to connect and explore differences and commonalities with each other. Educators should encourage students to attend these events and be a part of the inclusive learning community.
3. Student Choice
Choosing to express themselves can help students be more involved in the learning process. Educators can give students a chance to voice their opinions through in-person conversations where they share feedback about the coursework, projects, and teaching style. By being more approachable and attentive, educators can better understand their students’ challenges and devise curriculums or solutions that enable strong performance and active learning.
Educators can promote partnerships in the classroom and school to instill inclusive learning structures and pedagogies. These can include:
Collaborative initiatives or group projects where students are not grouped per their perceived ability levels.7 This encourages students to engage with each other, exchange thoughts and ideas, value group members’ diverse perspectives, and work to achieve common goals instead of feeling left out or experiencing the stigma of being in a low-performing group.8
Guest speaker events where the institution/educator expands classroom or campus diversity by inviting guest speakers to share stories that are new and different. These stories can inspire students to enlarge their worldview.
Collaborations with other educators to provide a more enriched learning environment.
5. Explicit Communication
At the start of a course, educators can establish rules related to their coursework and class culture to set expectations for performance and collaborative behavior. They can encourage healthy communication practices by first being available to speak to all students and then organizing events or collaborative projects to ensure students learn to listen to and understand each other.
Engaging with students through in-person or email conversations can help monitor their academic development and struggles. Educators can connect with students to discuss their progress or performance and highlight achievements and areas of improvement.
Higher education institutions can advance inclusivity, diversity, and equity by establishing policies focused on supporting students based on their specific needs. For example, while affordability is important to all students, it is especially important to those without personal or family wealth. A policy of providing grants and scholarships to students with real financial need can be the difference between those students being able to enroll and learn and them not being able engage in higher education at all. A culture of equity depends on policies that consider real-world needs and ensure that inequitable barriers don’t prevent students from being part of the community.
Higher education institutions and educators need to ensure that all students have an opportunity to access and complete their education. Diverse classrooms adopt strategies that motivate, support, and enhance students’ strengths and academic performance.
Educators can support their students’ talents and potential by considering the various needs of their diverse student body and designing assessments and grading systems that are inclusive of and accessible by everyone. This can give all students the opportunity to succeed in their education.
In an inclusive higher education environment, educators model a positive growth mindset and provide opportunities for students to collaborate with and learn from one another. This is the key for supporting the success of all students, no matter their lived experiences.
What is more precious than freedom? What is more worth celebrating than the end of enslavement and the embrace of freedom? Since 1863, African Americans, as well as many other people, have enthusiastically marked the legal abolition of slavery in the United States.
On January 1, 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation that touched off wild rejoicing in Black communities in the North. But very few African Americans were actually freed from bondage on that remarkable day. Limited in scope, the Proclamation did not apply to enslaved people living in slave states that had not seceded from the Union such as Maryland and Kentucky, and no slave owner living in the Confederate states freed their slaves because of Lincoln’s order.
Still, many enslaved people seized the opportunity to free themselves in response to the Proclamation, and many thousands more would do so as the War dragged on into 1864 and 1865. Moreover, enslaved people had been freeing themselves long before Lincoln’s Proclamation. Since the first Africans were enslaved in the English colonies in North America in the 1600s, people gained freedom by running away and rising in rebellion. And on April 16, 1862, months before Lincoln’s Proclamation, congress had outlawed slavery in Washington, DC. Slavery did not disappear on a single day and with a single act by the U. S. President. It took time and cost thousands of lives as Black and white U. S. troops fought to win the war, preserve the Union, and end the enslavement of nearly four million people.
How then did Juneteenth come to be a day for commemorating freedom and slavery’s end? Although the Civil War essentially concluded on April 9, 1865, when Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia surrendered to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and U. S. military forces at Appomattox Court House in Virginia, a few Confederate political and military leaders continued to exercise authority in portions of the South in the vain hope that they might yet achieve victory.
On June 19, 1865, as Union armies gained control of southern Texas, Major General Gordon Granger issued Order #3 in Galveston, freeing those who remained in bondage among the nearly 250,000 people who had been enslaved in the Lone Star State. Nationwide, slavery was finally eradicated with the ratification of the 13th Amendment on December 6, 1865.
In 1866, freed people in Texas began celebrating what they came to call “Juneteenth.” For decades thereafter, Juneteenth was mostly a Texas commemoration. In 1938, Gov. James Allred declared Juneteenth “Emancipation Day.” By then, some Black Texans had joined the Great Migration, and they took Juneteenth festivities with them as they moved to other states, mainly in the North and West.
June 19 became a state holiday in Texas in 1980 thanks largely to the efforts of Houston state legislator Al Edwards. Increasing numbers of African Americans began celebrating Juneteenth as a holiday across the nation in the 1980s and 1990s. By 2006, fifteen states recognized Juneteenth as a state holiday. Opal Lee, a 95-year-old Black woman from Ft. Worth — the “Grandmother of Juneteenth” — saw her persistent efforts to make Juneteenth a national holiday rewarded when President Joe Biden declared on June 17, 2021, that henceforth June 19 would be a national holiday.
Yet long before Juneteenth became a national holiday, African Americans had observed January 1 as Emancipation Day. For decades after the Civil War, the first day of each year was greeted with exuberant gatherings that included parades, music, speeches, sermons, and bountiful portions of food. On the tenth anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1873, “throngs of colored people” adorned in “gorgeous garments” paraded through the streets of Charleston, South Carolina, accompanied by a band playing “Yankee Doodle.” Among those who participated in the festivities were Congressman Alonzo J. Ransier, the first Black member of the U. S. House of Representatives, as well as Civil War hero Robert Smalls and Major Martin R. Delany.
On January 1, 1900, Tuskegee Institute President Booker T. Washington addressed an Emancipation Day audience in Macon, Georgia, and offered — as he usually did — a message of racial uplift combined with criticism. “The Negro must have education and thrift. They must know how to apply their education. We have enough ministers and professional men for the present. We need to teach the masses how to get out of their shiftless and antiquated ways.”
Although the pageantry of the early commemorations of January 1 faded in the 20th century, Emancipation Day continued to be observed. In 1939, Mary McLeod Bethune, the President of Bethune Cookman College and a member of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “unofficial” Black Cabinet, delivered an inspirational message at Allen University in Columbia, South Carolina, as she called on Black people to unite in their quest for a better future and avoid indulging in acrimony and criticism of each other.
The centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation was widely celebrated in 1963 as the civil rights movement gained momentum across the South. Less than nine months before the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his “I have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington, there were a host of Emancipation Day observances across the nation. In Charleston, there was a “gala parade” featuring the contestants in the “Miss Emancipation” contest. The Burke High School and Laing High School marching bands took part. The Rev. Z. L. Grady, an AME minister, addressed a gathering at Jerusalem Baptist Church.
ChatGPT is game-changing technology. As a large language model tool designed to respond to prompts based on a wealth of information it already possesses, the program has taken artificial intelligence (AI) to a new level. With just a simple request, ChatGPT can write essays, poems, computer code, and more. While some of those working in higher education are concerned about ChatGPT, many see great potential in AI technology.
Recently, Pearson hosted a well-attended AI webinar featuring a panel of education experts and innovators. Part of the conversation centered on helping educators better understand what ChatGPT offers. But the overall focus of the event was to provide perspectives and glean insights on what emergent AI technology means for educators now and in the near future.
The panelists began by discussing how ChatGPT is changing education. “This is historical,” said panelist Erran Carmel of the American University’s Kogod School of Business. “This will change everything.” Carmel and the other panelists went on to provide plenty of insight on the ways faculty can best embrace AI technology and benefit from it.
ChatGPT Concerns & Alleviations
Among those in higher education, the top three concerns surrounding ChatGPT and other generative AI include:
Will it be harder to engage students in critical thinking and learning?
Will cheating be more common and more difficult to detect?
Will students leave school unprepared to contribute to the world?
While the panelists for Pearson’s webinar acknowledge the potential downsides of ChatGPT, they also recognize the many opportunities. And they have a lot of good advice on how to approach ChatGPT and related AI technologies going forward. This advice includes:
1. Adapt a growth mindset
In a recent Pearson survey, fewer than 15% of educators are ready to embrace ChatGPT. But the webinar experts agree that reticence is not the best approach. Instead, the experts recommend that educators familiarize themselves with AI technology and focus on the ways it can benefit teaching methods and student learning. Randy Boyle of Weber State University drove home the importance of embracing the technology when he said, “The organizations that are saying ‘how can we use ChatGPT to enhance our education’ are going to win.”
2. Bring AI into the classroom
“Innovative faculty find innovative ways to use disruptive technology.”
Panelist Darcy Hardy of Anthology Education and Research Center made this point early in the discussion and the other experts agreed. Instead of banning ChatGPT and similar AI technology, the panelists advocate for teaching it. They suggest designing assignments that teach students how to use AI tools like ChatGPT and how to differentiate between generative AI and human-created works. Doing so can help students understand the applications and limitations of AI. Even simple projects where students critique work done by AI can help them see where AI provides value versus where humans provide value. Such lessons can help students prepare for a future with AI while also helping educators learn more about the ways students use and interact with the technology.
3. Discuss the impact of AI on the future
As generative AI technology continues to improve, it will become capable of doing more tasks at a more complex level. However, this is not the same as replacing human critical thinking and expertise. Both faculty and students can learn how to incorporate AI to be more effective at their respective teaching and learning.
4. Normalize citing AI
When used properly, ChatGPT can be a student’s co-pilot. It can help them brainstorm, improve phrasing, and learn new concepts. The webinar’s experts recommend educators determine how they would like to incorporate ChatGPT into their classroom and set guidelines for students to follow. Panelist Anna Mills of City College of San Francisco said she teaches critical AI literacy and believes in “setting a norm of transparency and labeling of AI text.” She recommends students clearly label any portion of an assignment that was generated with ChatGPT or another AI tool—just like they would cite other sources.
5. Reinforce the value of writing
Yes, ChatGPT can write an essay. But how does that improve learner outcomes? The panelists agree that writing encourages critical thinking and students need to engage in it. To ensure they do, educators should reinforce the value of writing and set boundaries to ensure the development of critical thinking.
6. Continue to follow core teaching methodologies
Just because technology is evolving doesn’t mean the foundational best practices of teaching have changed. Building a rapport with students, assigning drafts and edits, and being active in student learning can help students understand the value of education and use ChatGPT as a tool rather than a substitute for learning.
7. Modify the curriculum
Cheating has been an issue in education for a long time. And, every time technology has changed, new methods of cheating have arisen. In other words, “innovations” in cheating is not a new problem. Educators can respond to ChatGPT in the same way they have responded to other new technologies over the years: they can adjust the curriculum to help prevent the new methods of cheating and ensure students are absorbing the material. “The academic integrity issues are important,” said panelist Erran Carmel, “but we should focus on learning… Let’s not get distracted by [the cheating aspect].”
What is the expert consensus on the future of ChatGPT in higher education?
The panelists who participated in the webinar all agree that we are in a historic moment of change—and the potential for positive change is high. To make the most of the moment, institutions of higher education should embrace ChatGPT and learn how to make use of it.
“From a global perspective on education, I could not be more excited,” said Darcy Hardy. The statement echoed the sentiments of all the panelists. There are always challenges when it comes to new technology but, with the right approach, ChatGPT and other generative AI tools can change education for the better.
As a nurse, your work entails being compassionate, ready, and strong in one of the most stressful environments. The overwhelming nature, unpredictability, and volume of your work can impact your physical and mental well-being in ways you may not realize but nevertheless feel. To avoid burnout, you have to take care of yourself while taking care of your patients.
How burnout can affect your life
Research findings published in the Journal of the American Medical Association indicate that 31.5% of nurses who left their job reported burnout as a contributing reason.1
Your well-being can be at stake if the quality and quantity of the work you’re doing surpasses the amount you can take. External stressors often lead to internal distress. Dealing with—or the inability to deal with—a high frequency of uncontrollable stressors could lead to physical weakness, depression, inadequate nutrition, and stress in your personal life.
What are the causes of burnout?
Working extra hours to cover staffing issues
Lacking helpful supervision
Not getting along with colleagues
A high volume of patients
Performance metrics that measure numbers and patient evaluations
The warning signs of burnout include:
Lack of empathy and expressing indifference toward patients, colleagues, family, and friends
Work-related exhaustion that takes a physical and mental toll
Disinterest in work
If you are beginning to experience or already experience some or all of these signs, then you need to take a step to prioritize yourself.
Why you should prioritize yourself
The American Nurses Association Health Risk appraisal revealed that 68% of nurses place their patients' health, safety, and wellness before their own.2
Showing signs of weakness or withdrawing from work shouldn’t be stigmatizing. You are human and if you neglect signs of physical, psychological, and emotional weakness, you put yourself and your patients at a greater risk. Incorporating self-care practices into your routine can improve your health, decrease stress, make your personal and professional life happier, and put you in a better position to care for others.
Practice Anatomy Lab, or PAL 4.0, is a virtual anatomy lab study and practice tool created by faculty (like me) who teach Anatomy and A&P courses to undergraduates at 2-year & 4-year institutions. It is included within Mastering A&P at no extra cost. Conveniently located in the Study Area, it provides students with 24/7 lab access to the most widely used lab specimens and is inclusive of the most common materials used to teach gross anatomy: human cadavers, anatomical models, histology, cat, and fetal pig. What makes PAL 4.0 a secret weapon in your students’ learning journey is the intentional and helpful extras that promote active learning and encourage students to practice using tools such as:
Built-in audio pronunciations. For students and faculty alike! Latin and Greek-based anatomical terms aren’t easy. Make sure you are saying them correctly.
Muscle Origin, Insertion, Action animations. These focused animations make it easier to visualize where muscles are attached to the bone, and what the action looks like.
Flashcards. Customizable and a student favorite!
Practice quizzes. Multiple-choice format. The instructor bank has hundreds of different questions if you want to create a practice or for-credit quiz.
Practice lab practicals. Fill-in-the-blank format. The instructor bank has hundreds of different questions if you want to create a practice or for-credit practical.
3D Interactive Models. Students can rotate 360°, remove structures, select to see names, and view side-by-side model/cadaver images for comparison. Each of the 30 models is a tour through a system (or part of a system) and allows students to explore and manipulate.
Instructor resources. Looking for an image from PAL that is fully labeled? Want to be able to edit those labels and move the leader lines? Show one of the animations in your lecture? Or maybe you just want an image of a single structure highlighted? Downloadable instructor resource files have all of this and more in editable PowerPoints, making it easy to incorporate into a lecture presentation, create a worksheet, or add to one of your LMS assignments.
PAL 4.0 nudges students to take control of their own learning by implementing more effective learning strategies that activate different areas of the brain. And we know that utilizing different parts of the brain is an important part of the learning process.
Intrigued by what it has to offer but overwhelmed by trying to figure out how to incorporate it into your course? Here are some suggestions. (Pro tip: pick just one to start with to see how it works for your class and your style of teaching.)
Integrate images into your lectures and assignments. Screen shots and editable labeled images are available for every image and highlighted structure by downloading the PAL 4.0 instructor resource files. You can use these images in a multitude of ways: add to your lecture presentation, create a worksheet, or include as part of a quiz or assignment in your course LMS.
Create and assign pre- or post-lab quizzes in Mastering A&P. Mastering A&P has an extensive test bank that includes hundreds of multiple-choice quiz questions, all of which feature an image from PAL. These questions can easily be selected to create a quiz within Mastering A&P. Assigning the quiz and syncing the grade is easy to do through your LMS.
Create and assign lab practicals in Mastering A&P, for practice or credit. Students love the opportunity to practice. Mastering A&P has an extensive test bank that includes hundreds of fill-in-the-blank questions, all of which feature an image from PAL. These questions can easily be selected to create a practical within Mastering A&P. This can be created as a practice assignment or assigned for a grade. Syncing graded assignments with your LMS gradebook is easy to do!
The jigsaw method: encourage students to teach each other. This is a favorite of mine. Students are broken into two or three groups, and each group is assigned a portion of the structures from the weekly lesson to learn before they come to lab. They do this using PAL 4.0. Using the test bank that already exists in Mastering, a short pre-lab quiz can be created to hold them accountable. Once they are in lab, they are paired with someone from the other group and must teach each other the material. As we all know, having to teach someone else is a powerful way to learn!
Use the interactive 3D models in class. Why show static, 2D images in lecture when you can use a 3D model? I love the way these models can be easily rotated, structures can be removed, and relationships of structures can be better demonstrated. Students can access these 3D models in PAL to review and study. Each model is a series of 3D images that can be manipulated and take you on a tour through a body system or portion of a body system. You really should check these out.
Use Muscle Origin, Insertion, and Action animations in your lecture or recitation. I will confess to occasionally accessing these animations when I have a hard time explaining an action to a student. Whether you use plastic models, human cadavers, or cats in your lab, it can be extremely hard to see where exactly the muscle originates from and/or where it inserts. These animations isolate a single muscle so all of this is easy to visualize, and then shows and narrates the movement. There are also a series of videos specific to the major synovial joints that demonstrate the muscles involved in movement at that specific joint.
Impromptu “how to pronounce” breaks during lecture or lab. I frequently use this feature to settle arguments as to the “right way” to pronounce a specific structure. Whether it is a colleague or a student that isn’t quite sure, it is easy to click on the name of a structure in PAL and hear the pronunciation. These pronunciations were all carefully vetted by my eloquent co-author Dr. Nora Hebert.
Make up assignments or provide extra credit. The last few years have taught us to expect the unexpected. PAL 4.0 can help. If a student has an excused absence or if a weather closure (or pandemic) cancels lab, assigning students to review structures in PAL combined with a quiz or lab practical created in Mastering A&P can replace the missed work.
Beef up your online course. Prior to COVID, I would have told you it wasn’t possible to successfully teach an anatomy course in an online format. Well, I proved myself wrong. We are fortunate to have resources that make it possible for students to have virtual access to resources that support their learning in an online environment. PAL 4.0 is a perfect tool for helping students learn anatomy and, paired with the assessment tools available in Mastering A&P, provides the perfect partner to your online course.
Independent & supplemental learning. A favorite feature of students is the ability to create their own flashcards. Additionally, faculty can create a customized list of structures for students to review in PAL 4.0, and then create questions in Mastering around this list.
There are so many ways PAL 4.0 can be incorporated into your course to better support students’ learning. Have you thought of other ways to use PAL 4.0? We would love to hear about it!
Our mission is simple: to help people make progress in their lives through learning. Because wherever learning flourishes, so do people. We'll only be successful when our educational materials are accessible to all users, and we’ve long been committed to providing access to learners with disabilities. That commitment is woven into the fabric of our learning materials, development processes, innovation efforts, employee culture, and partnerships.
We’re proud to have been recognized as a Benetech Global Certified Accessible™ (GCA) publisher. The first third-party EPUB certification program to verify eBook accessibility. (Learn more about this achievement, and our new partnership with Benetech.)
Accessibility in MyLab and Mastering
Pearson’s Faculty Advisors recently led best practice webinars for our two leading learning platforms, exploring accessibility features designed to help more learners succeed. (We invite you to watch the recorded webinars: MyLab or Mastering.)
We’ve all been there. We sit down to watch a movie. The storyline is a little slow in the beginning and our minds start to drift. As we try to bring our attention back to the screen, we decide we’re a little hungry. We get up and go to the kitchen to make a snack, all the while telling ourselves that we didn’t need to pause the movie because we can hear it in the kitchen. We return to the living room and settle-in to watch the movie as we munch on our pizza rolls and soda. The food rouses little Gizmo from underneath the couch and she sneaks out to investigate the enticing aroma. We offer her part of our snack and give her a little scratch behind the ears. Before we know it, we are involved in an all-out tug-of-war with a 10 pound ball of fur. The movie is long forgotten.
Now replace the movie in this scenario with the carefully constructed video lessons that you have created for your students so that they would be eager to delve into the latest lesson on solving equations or factoring polynomials. The truth is that most students endure video lectures as a means to an end but struggle to stay engaged enough to absorb the material. It would be easy to say that this is just an issue for developmental or freshmen level students. The harsh reality is that it is true at all levels in all subjects. I witnessed first-hand as my son, who was finishing a master’s degree in Biosystems Engineering, struggled to stay awake while watching online lectures for a required statistics course which was only offered in an online format. He would stop every ten minutes, literally take a lap around the house, and then sit down to try and watch a few more minutes.
While there is no universal solution to this difficulty for students, we can supply them with tools which will help to mitigate the time lost to distracted viewing. When I created full lesson videos for my online students several years ago (pre-covid), I included colorful guided notes to help them stay engaged with the material. Using PDF files deployed in our learning management system, I supply my students with word-for-word, picture-for-picture materials that match the video they are watching. I have strategically placed blanks and empty boxes on these guided pages, so that the student must fill-in-the-blank as they watch the video. If their mind begins to wander, they will miss a blank or box and will have to rewind to get the needed information. Sometimes the blanks are words that are being said in the audio. Sometimes the boxes are specific letters or numbers that are relative to the problem being shown. It is important to include three keys for creating and successfully implementing guided notes in your course: Color, Active Learning, and Grading.
I believe the end of the Spring Term for most higher education instructors is when we are on our last nerve.
We have survived Fall with all the newbies, both colleagues and students. We’ve participated in all the required, seemingly endless, often less than engaging in-services, including one more course on cyber security. We’ve attended all required faculty meetings and served on committees ranging from book selections to searches for new faculty. We’ve updated courses, copied courses, and graded all the work in those courses. As instructors we responded to students’ extra needs ranging from academic mentoring to providing referrals for students struggling with work, home, school, illness, and financial losses. We’ve done this without wavering, well almost without, for 9 months and that summer vacation is within sight.
But wait, in these last few weeks before we reach that holy grail of vacation time, we will wrap up the year with departmental reports, assessments by our accrediting bodies, and institutional reviews. On top of all of that, instructors are bombarded with end of term student pleas to give them extra credit so they can pass. And if they don’t pass, they tell us it’s all our fault their futures will be bleak.
Stress, who’s stressed???? I was, and often still am. I need something to take my frustrations and irritations down a notch, so I can make it down the home stretch without saying something to anyone I would later regret. I turn to purposeful living and the practice of staying in the moment by focusing on the tangibles of the five senses. Let me share a few suggestions you can take as a jumping off point, don’t take that literally, and then make these sensory grounding moments your own.
Classic studies have revealed how important human touch is for us to thrive. Yet, Covid and a desire to be appropriate with others in all ways may have curtailed our natural impulses to give someone a hug, a squeeze of the hand, or a pat on the back. However, there are many ways to use touch as a safe focus point if interpersonal touch is unavailable. I have found great comfort in kneading dough, digging in the dirt in my garden, or immersing myself in a pool. Skin is the organ of touch, and we all have lots of skin. So, arms, legs, fingers, and toes all count and help us focus our attention on the amazing feeling of something like wriggling our toes in the sands at the edge of a body of water.
Beyond hearing your colleagues out, take a few moments to stop the noise and really listen. Don’t just hear, listen! Wherever you are, there is life happening around you with all its remarkable cacophony. Single out each sound, identify it, and then keep singling out and identifying. Don’t judge the sounds as good or bad, just life happening outside of your head. Write each down. You’ll be surprised by the lack of the worry noise that was in your head a few minutes earlier.
If you don’t have the time to take in a museum, my personal recommendation, or you aren’t near a beach to watch the ocean waves, look around your space. What have you chosen to decorate your environment? Do those things bring joy when you look at them? If not, you might choose to redecorate a bit. Or you might add a flower in a vase to that otherwise over-populated desktop. Deliberately look at something that brings up good feelings. It might be as simple as the tree outside, or the color of the sky. Really think about what you are seeing and take the time to notice all the details. And then, write these down.
Concentrating on smell stimulates many regions of the brain. Smell is one of the most powerful and evocative of our senses. Memories flow freely when we focus on the scents around us. There’s a very good reason fortunes are being made with aromatherapy. Essential oils offer a quick fix for many symptoms of stress like headaches. A diffuser in the area where you encounter the most stress may alleviate some symptoms. And, if a diffuser won’t work where the stress lives, rub a little oil on your wrist for a little unobtrusive sniffing when you feel the tide of irritations rising. Also, just noticing the smells around you can transport you to other times and other places where you encountered similar scents.
Last, but certainly not least, this one bears some self-restraint. Once started, you need to be alert to comfort eating that may result in more of you than you wish. I really try to have a good meal with colleagues as often as possible during the final days of school. Potlucks are even better. Everyone has to eat lunch at some point, so arrange an end of the term potluck to savor and relish each other’s offerings. Talk about the flavors, seasonings, and what each reminds you of. Share your memories over a shared meal. Some of my happiest memories of teaching involve our faculty lounge, the whiteboard with signups and snarky comments. In addition, consider the community and collegiality of being on the same ship bailing for all we’re worth to get to that vacation.
So, take these suggestions and truly make them the moments of your choosing. Moments focused on good tangible sensory stimulation lead to minutes, which lead to hours and days to weeks to months to years. And voila! Your life has been populated with many moments that you counted and turned into moments that mattered. CAUTION!!! Once you start this habit of being in the moments of your life using your senses, you may never come back to the mundane world of endless invasive and worrisome thinking.
“Has difficulty paying attention, lacks attention to details, loses focus quickly when doing tasks, doesn’t follow through, has difficulty staying organized.” These are some classic signs of ADHD – and people were talking about me that way. ADHD is challenging in almost any situation, but for me, it was especially hard when it came to schoolwork and studying.
Nothing could hold my attention long enough. I felt guilty and angry with myself all the time. Why wasn’t I passing the class all my friends said was just easy memorization? Why did I waste so much time on unimportant things when I could have been studying? Why were all my study guides nonsensical? How did I lose so many important assignments?
At first, college overwhelmed me
I didn’t expect college to be as hard as it was. I had been pretty good at balancing my schedule in high school, when my routine was the same every day. All my friends were always in the same place, and my parents were there to worry I was fed or getting into trouble.
In college I felt immense pressure to balance everything. Making sure I spent enough time out with my friends and enough time studying and doing homework. Making sure my room was clean enough and that I ate at least once that day. I quickly became overwhelmed. Diving into schoolwork was harder than it had ever been. It got to the point where getting ready to study often required even more effort than actually studying.
Getting ready meant creating my own flash cards and study guides, coming up with problems to quiz myself with, going back to re-read and highlight things. My list of “to-dos” spiraled out of control. It began to feel easier to just do nothing at all.
The guilt was the worst part. I knew I was capable of studying, I knew I had the ability to read and write and form cohesive thoughts, but I just didn’t. I couldn’t. I’d never felt more like a failure. Time and time again, different professors told me the same thing: If I wasn’t putting in the work outside of the classroom, how did I expect to excel?
I had more help than I ever realized
Then, one of my teachers sat down with me and finally understood what I was dealing with. Then she pulled up the MyLab platform and walked me through all the personalized study tools Pearson offered me.
She showed me practice problems and progress checks to help me figure out exactly what I needed to work on, so it was easier to set priorities and I didn’t have to worry about everything. I realized I didn’t have to come up with my own problems to answer.
I didn’t even have to create my own study guide: MyLab built one for me, and personalized it based on all the homework, quizzes, and tests I’d already done. That way, I’d spend the most time – and get the most new practice questions – exactly where I needed the most help. Even if I wasn’t struggling with ADHD, it would have taken me a very long time to build a study guide that useful – but MyLab gave it to me practically instantly.
All the extra work I felt I needed to do to succeed, even before I started to study? Pearson had already done it for me. If I couldn’t bring myself to re-read information, there were videos I could watch. Anytime I wanted, I could search for videos. If I didn’t understand why I had gotten a practice problem wrong, there were videos with step-by-step instructions explaining what to do and why I needed to do it that way. Even before I ran into a problem I couldn’t solve, there were videos for the complicated concepts I wasn’t sure of. Any time I needed help, it was like someone at Pearson had read my mind and put together a video just for me.
Most important and useful for my studying experience? MyLab’s practice quizzes. I took them over and over and over again. I especially liked the Dynamic Study Modules. Pearson found a way to gently help you get to the right answer without penalizing you for not already knowing everything.
If you’re positive you know the right answer, you double-click that option. If you’re right, Pearson will tell you, and you can move on to other content. But if you’re not sure, you can either single-click the option that might be right, or just click “I don’t know.” It’s like answering “halfway.” Then, Pearson will show you the right answer and present a bit of text from your eTextbook explaining it. It won’t cost you any points, even if you’re wrong. Later on, you’ll get a similar question, and this time, you’ll probably be more confident of the right answer. By the time I was done working with Pearson’s quizzes, I felt confident enough to tutor some of my friends.
The help just keeps on coming – and I know it’s underutilized because I certainly hadn’t realized it was all there. There’s the Homepage Calendar that tells you exactly when everything’s due, so it’s easier to plan your week. There’s the “Show Me an Example” button that walks you through an example or a process even before you encounter it in a problem.
I’m finishing my last course right now, and I’ll be graduating in May 2023. My experience with Pearson MyLab was so positive that, after I graduate, I’ll be taking a job with Pearson. I’m thrilled that, in my new role, I’ll get to help move MyLab forward, and encourage more students to take advantage of it. I have a very personal motivation. I want struggling college students to know what I discovered: with these tools, studying with ADHD doesn’t have to feel so overwhelming anymore.
There is so much breadth and depth to what Pearson can do to help you and your students achieve the best learning outcomes. Consider the following features and benefits that eTextbooks offer. And learn why a growing audience of instructors and students are taking advantage of our remarkable Pearson+ subscription capabilities. In fact, nearly 5 million subscribers have embraced the Pearson+ subscription platform.
To begin, we will focus on eTextbooks. They are more popular than ever. Don’t just take our word for it. A great deal of research over the past five years shows that well-designed digital content can be understood as effectively as print and offers added benefits for students.*
Remember, not all of your students are fully acquainted with all the capabilities of eTextbooks. Take the time at the beginning of your next course to be sure you communicate all the features and benefits of any new eTextbook, as well as Pearson+.
In many cases digital eTextbooks are up to 80% cheaper than traditional printed textbooks. With our Pearson+ platform, students can subscribe to their course etextbooks at one low monthly rate or pay for the semester upfront. At the end of their subscription term, students have the flexibility to cancel, renew, or change titles to accommodate their learning needs. Pearson offers a range of features that appeal to a variety of learning styles. The user experience is elegant and intuitive. Naturally that means the navigation makes it easy for students to make their way through the content. Many of our etextbook titles have embedded audio and video to engage students and help them understand difficult concepts in the course. Full audiobooks are available for most titles which can help with comprehension, retention, and gives students the option to listen on the go.
In addition, no one should underestimate the value of adjusting the speed of any audio. Certain students may choose a slower speed, but many prefer to accelerate the audio for more efficiency. In addition, a student listening may strengthen comprehension further and even activate the highlighting of the text in sync with the audio.
Interactive features like charts and diagrams make it easier for students who may prefer to explore and analyze such engaging visuals.
Interactivity strengthens how students study
Markup and additional interactive features make it easier for studying than ever before. They can customize the display of content. And students are happy to know that once they return to any content, the eTextbook remembers where they left off and the learner can dive right back in.
Additional benefits for studying include:
Create your own flashcards
Adjusting the point size of the text
And the robust enhanced search engine even offers an excellent sub-menu referencing groupings of relevant videos, key terms and interactive media. In fact, Pearson+ is exploring a possible new etextbook feature regarding the way students learn, from an individual experience to a social one. Students can see who else is studying, start discussions and post links and videos. The social experience within the eTextbook is global, giving all users the ability to engage. The experience is not limited to students in a certain class at a specific university.
Encourage your students to learn in the way they learn best.
A study by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation found that when students take courses that engage digitally and in-person, content mastery can occur twice as quickly, and pass rates for at-risk students can increase by 33%.
Pearson+. Anywhere, anytime
The Pearson+ subscription platform is the ideal way students can access eTextbooks. Among other compelling features, with Pearson+ they can consolidate all their eTextbooks, videos, audio, study tools, and supportive content all in one place. Naturally, this allows your students to work more efficiently.
There’s an app for this
With the Pearson+ mobile app, students can pick up at any point where they left off and learn on the go. Learners can easily read offline right in our app. So they can have more freedom to make the most of their day. Here are some of the main reasons the platform and the app are so appealing.
Once selected, they have immediate access to the content. Students can learn on the go (with online and offline access). They can learn with their eTextbooks wherever life takes them. Pearson+ offers students instant access to their eTextbooks, videos and study tools, all in one place. With easy access through a subscription or their MyLab® or Mastering® course, our intuitive interface, enhanced search, highlights, notes, and audiobooks allow them to choose how they learn best.
Meet your students where they are
So why not meet students where they are, figuratively and literally. Everyone knows they are often on the run. The content is optimized for a learner’s phone or another mobile device. It’s a no-brainer for today’s tech-savvy generation. Your students are certainly accustomed to processing information from smart phones and other mobile devices.
We are also mindful of working learners. The convenience of Pearson+ gives them the flexibility to learn wherever and whenever best suits their needs and their busy work schedule. Any student on the go can listen to an eTextbook while cooking, cleaning, driving or while tackling whatever task happens to be in front of them.
Lastly, be sure to take full advantage of our grade-technology too. It’s a familiar feature for your class and a time-saver for you. So you can focus on additional priorities.
Go ahead. Be the best instructor you can be. Learn more about eTextbooks and Pearson+ today.
In March 2023, the Pearson Math & Stats team had the pleasure of speaking with Lone Star College–Kingwood Mathematics professor, Mari Menard. In the conversation below, hear how she came to teach math after a failed attempt at Medical Tech school, and a few other lessons regarding teaching higher education that she has learned over the years. She also talks a little about the features in MyLab Math she likes the most, and why she changes things up every semester. We hope you enjoy the conversation.
Pearson Math & Stats Team:
What made you want to become an instructor?
Mari Menard (MM)
That's the funniest thing. When I first started my career, I thought, “I’m out of high school, what now?” I was going to go into the medical field, and what I soon found out, it wasn't for me. Some of the classes I was going to have to take over again. So, I dropped out and decided to come back to college a year later. My mom was the one who told me to do math. However, I could not multiply in grade school, as I had to go to what they called Resource Math. And only there did I learn how to multiply.
So, when I went back to school, my college advisor asked me if I had taken trig or any of the other classes. I told him, “No, I don't really even know what trig is”. His feeling was, “Well, then that is where we are going to start. And if you don't do well in calculus, then I need you to really rethink your degree plan.” So, right there I thought to myself, I'm going to show you. I am going to really show you.
From there, two main things happened. First, he ended up being my calculus instructor (and there were several other classes I took with him). Then, second, when I was in my graduate degree program, I graded for his calculus students, which was was interesting. As I was working, we learned (especially in calculus), it's a good idea to get a group of people together to study. Inevitably, I would be the one that would be at the chalkboard. I was answering the questions and the students that were there to study would be the ones asking me questions. And well, I was thinking I am pretty good at this. At first I had thought I would be at a high school. But then I was like, “You know, no, I don't really think I want that.” And so I've never taught anywhere but in college. (laughs)
I like to say I've never left college since I returned in 1992. I always say people retire after they teach and they still end up teaching. I think my main thing was when I was helping other students when we were studying Cal 1, Cal 2, Cal 3...all the way through differential equations...I was the one always at the board working the questions and answering questions.
Go back to before you became an instructor. What in life led you to want to do med school?
So the degree plan was called ‘medical technology’, and I was studying to be a Medical Technologist. I'm not sure if you know what those are, but I worked in a lab at a hospital. My mother's a nurse. My brother's a nurse. My brother-in-law is a nurse. So, people in my family were in the health field and I loved working in the lab. I was a phlebotomist for several years. I drew people's blood in the hospital. So, the person in charge of the laboratory where the blood and other bodily things go is the Medical Technologist. They do lab work, microbiology, and things like that. I thought, well, that sounds like me. I would love that. So, I was working in the lab and I come to find out there's certain things I cannot handle, and one of them is mucus. Mucus and I do not get along. (laughs)
This is one thing a lot of students don't realize; you should get involved in the career path you're thinking about. I was so happy I did because I saw how the lab worked. And it wasn't just these random blood samples and people, you know, it was people's bodily fluids coming our way. Or from people that, for example, lost a leg; there would be body parts. And the smell of formaldehyde. And if you can't handle that stuff, then the lab is not the place for you. And that's how I soon learned it was not the place for me.
That's great. Thank you for indulging us.
Oh no, that's perfect, because people wonder, “how do you go from one to the next?” But it is also why I have a minor in biology. (laughs)
What courses are you currently teaching, and are there any that you've taught in the past that you don't teach now but want to teach again? Or are you kind of good with where your career is taking you and these are the ones that you enjoy the most?
I think so. I've only taught at the college level before, never at a university, and always at a 2-year college. I lead into that because most of your colleges were just on the freshman and sophomore level math anyway. So, when the developmental education thing was going on that was when I started, and am now in my 22nd plus year of teaching.
I used to love teaching pre-algebra because they (students) would follow me. So, I would teach pre-algebra, and then they would follow me to introductory and intermediate college algebra and so on. And you can see them growing and doing well.
In Texas, we now have corequisites, and it's six courses total, and they're taking two math classes. Which means, developmental math students are taking their developmental math class and their credit level class at the same time. They're trying to do math in both classes. And if they don't understand, the developmental course should be first so that it helps them with the credit level. So, I like corequisites and the credit level, provided it's a cohort of students. I could have students like I have in a credit level business math class. I have corequisite students in there, but I also have students that don't need corequisites, so it's called ‘co-mingled’.
But, currently, I teach what we call business math. I love it. It's by far one of my favorite classes to teach. It was the hardest to find corequisite content for because you want to find word problems since they encounter a lot of word problems in that class.
And I'm currently back teaching trig and precal, which I love too. We're going to do trig identities next class. I said I can do these forever. I could do every trig identity that I come across and still do more because I like them so much. And the students often say that’s not good because if you like it, then we know we're not going to like it. But, I’m thinking you don't know that.
The one (course) I wish I taught that I haven't taught in a while is the business calculus class. But I guess the best way to say the reason for that is the students. They don't appreciate what that class shows. It shows the whole purpose of business. It doesn't just get into the revenue and the cost and all that stuff, but it shows what happens as things change. Just tiny little changes and what it can do to the business. But for a lot of students, unfortunately, I don't know if it has to do with COVID or just with all the technology that’s available, they just say why can't we just use our calculator? And, well, your calculator can't tell somebody if the slope is negative, and what that means in the context of their business. If you're saying, “Oh, I'm good, but your cost is constantly going up, and if your profit is constantly going down, how are you good? And if you don't even understand the difference between revenue, cost and profit? Then how are you good?” And so, yeah, I try to get them in the finite class. By that I mean the math for business class before they get to the business calculus class so that they have the understanding of how important it is regarding all these aspects of it. And it is a word problem which they hate. But life is a word problem. (laughs)
What is one best practice that you use that you think works really well and you would want to share with others, whether it's in a classroom setting, working in groups, or working one-on-one with a new teaching technology?
It's kind of funny because every semester I change things, which I guess is one of my best practices. I'm always asking for student feedback. Not how I teach, but what I use in terms of resources or what I use to calculate their grade. So, here’s an example...
Previously, I used MyLab Math homework as a bonus option. The minute students hear bonus they think, “oh, I don't have to do it!” So, then none of them were doing anything. Of course, when they take a test they wonder [if there’s any bonus point opportunities], but by then it's kind of too late.
Last semester I used homework as a bonus, where I had discussion boards in our online learning platform as a graded assignment in the face-to-face class. And one of my students at the end of the semester said it makes no sense that we're doing a discussion board and a face-to-face class. I asked them, “what if I use it as bonus?” And she said, ‘’yes, because then it's something that's not going to hurt us. It can only help us.” So I asked her, “what about the homework?” And she replied, “that's the stuff you need to grade, because if we don't know what we're doing, then by the time we take the test or do the practice test or do quizzes and MyLab Math work, then we haven't learned anything.” She, of course, was a student that did really well. She was doing all of the things, you know. But I even had students that didn't do the homework, so the homework needs to be part of the grade.
And I thought, “Hmmm, how do I do that?” So, I made homework for some of my sections but not all. When we teach 30 sections, you can't have homework for every section. I usually base it on anywhere between two and five sections; it just depends on the course. I designated MyLab Math homework for one, and then I tell them it's over sections, let's say sections one through five. I provide the media options (which I love by the way) and then there's questions that they'll work on. What I tell them is if you can't do these and I have to help, I will turn the example off, because I think they just try to find a shortcut way to compare them and then just put the answer in there. I also tried giving them an unlimited number of times for each question, which I've determined was not a good thing.
Students love to circumnavigate me, and try to find an easy way to solve what I've done. So what they're doing, I fully believe is, they're just hitting the reiterations until they see a question they've already done and they're not really learning it. They're just trying to regurgitate it. Which isn't going to help them. And this is why I'm still getting students making hundreds on the homework but making a 20 on my test.
I think then my best practice is realizing that change is not a bad thing. I always tell people I learned that through COVID. Change is never bad, especially if it's going to improve things. Or not necessarily improve, but enhance what I already do.
Do you feel the pandemic helped students, that they think more conceptually, and that you are able to use content like the pandemic within the classroom and relates it to their day-to-day, and how? Also, was there an increased interest in that topic or were you caught up in noticing that there were a lot of students falling behind?
Unfortunately, I think that's what happened. So, I just had a test last week and I have never had what happened happen before. I think it was five students, and with three of them, the minute they saw their test, they were like so when am I going to be able to do a retest? One of them e-mailed me and said they weren't feeling well. They wanted me to send the test. I guess so he could take the test at home? I think some of that behavior has come out of COVID, in terms of what students expectations are, and I like to say what they can get away with. I think they're relearning just as we are.
Like now, for me, I am much more mellow about things like the student that wanted me to e-mail him the test so he could take it home. I laughed for a full day. I mean, I just laughed. Because, who does that? I mean, who does that?! Essentially, he wanted me to e-mail him the test so he could take it, and this was a trig student. So after I laughed about it, I referred him to the syllabus and how I offer makeups, and that you can take the makeup test at the testing center here at the college. The test was on Thursday and I gave him through yesterday to take it again. But, I haven’t heard back from him, and he didn't come to class today. Oh, and another student, he slept through the exam. So, you know... (laughs)
So, is it that the students have really changed? I don't think so. I've experienced all kinds of things in the 20 years I've been teaching. But are they a little more interesting as to what their expectations are? Definitely! Where are they getting this idea they can do retakes? Well, I fully believe that that's what happened in high school. Because they were just trying to make it through high school, you know, and I understand that. But it's now college and I've even learned some of the universities now are going back to what it was like pre-COVID. And it's taking some of the other colleges a little longer.
In your opinion, what is higher education going to look like in the next two to three years? Is it a little bit of revisiting the past moving forward, while also trying to reuse what you've learned about what their expectations are around bonus work, regular homework, test retakes, etc.?
My thing is if they want to take a test at home, then take an online class. Some instructors are allowing students to take tests at home. But for me, I have an online trade class. Their tests are all taken through MyLab Math. There's no testing center. They can take it through a date range. You have to submit your work, as there are regular expectations. So moving forward, I'm not stuck on if this is how I'm going to do it for the rest of my career scenario. But, again, I'm constantly changing, which I think is stupid on my part sometimes because then I have to work at things every semester. (laughs)
Currently, I have no videos to use, which is irritating me a little. At the moment, I am just using publisher videos, such as Pearson's videos and all the other things that students have resources for. I had planned on doing that, making videos and everything but... This semester there's been no time between fall and spring. So, am I going to make some videos over the summer? Heck yes I am!
But for me, it's always just actively asking students how things went. I think I have things set up pretty good in terms of this is one of my favorite things. I've learned to say certain things to students because students will say, “when am I ever going to use this?” And I say, “let me just tell you. In this world, we all usually will have a job, and the requirements of your job are pretty clear.”
So for me, my expectations, are that when you continue on, if you need to learn whatever it is I'm supposed to teach you in this class, you've got it. But, I also want to make sure that I teach student learning outcomes. So you may not like linear programming or probability or set theory or trigonometric in identities. But, it's my responsibility to teach you. I'm going to do that to the best of my ability. I provide you with things to help you along the way, learning from videos, lectures, and notes. I have booklets. I have PowerPoints. I have all the things, you know, homework, and quizzes, to see how things go. And if you have that learning, then I will put down a check mark and I'm doing my job. Then I can move on.
Finally, are there two or three big things you think everybody should use or the reasons you use it? Such as the videos you were talking about creating yourself and having those inserted into the lesson(s), or is that something you would like to be able to do so that it's interchangeable with the content that Pearson provides?
I love the ability to change or to do what I want to with MyLab Math.
For instance, I insert my logo, which some say who cares? The college, you know, they're making my theme, the colors, the layout and changing the names of things, integrating it with our learning management platform and all the resources. So, one of the ones that most folks, and they call it different things based on the publisher, but they'll have guided notes or something like that. I've actually taken them and made them my own. So, I still put Pearson on the bottom, and I also use the Beecher Book, and I use the precal Sullivan book.
Students don't need a whole bunch of stuff. Sometimes the problem is they get too much stuff. They'll go out and find YouTube, Khan Academy, and various other things to try and learn one thing. And so now they've seen it five or six different ways. And I wonder how is it helping you? That's just going to confuse you. So I have Pearson. Nice and sweet. I’ve got somebody's other way in which to do it, and I have my way. From there, I include a quiz within it. So, I like that idea! Then Pearson is a just a great resource scenario, such as the pooling option. Don't get rid of the pooling option! (laughs) That by far is my favorite things. I do a practice test and their test, and I believe there's a strong correlation with how I have the practice test set up to the grade they actually make on my test.
For instructors and students alike, the path to success has become far more challenging. Students are arriving with different life and learning priorities, and varying levels of preparation. Everyone’s working harder, in the face of greater obstacles and deeper uncertainty. Instructors and students both need more effective support, in an era where resources are scarce. Courseware has always been a key resource, but today it needs to deliver more than ever. This makes your courseware decisions even more crucial.
Great courseware doesn’t just happen: everything about it is intentional. In this blog post, we’ll discuss how we're delivering on three of Pearson’s core priorities for building courseware that helps instructors and learners thrive – outcomes, equity, and accessibility.
Achieve the outcomes that matter
The most important outcomes are those that learners and instructors want, to help them realize the lives they imagine. Our outcome-based design processes help us understand and identify those upfront, as a “north star” to keep all of us aligned and on track.
When we say “all of us,” we’re talking about a wide array of world-class, cross-disciplinary experts all working together, including:
Learning scientists who ensure our products reflect the latest, best evidence on what helps students learn, helps instructors teach, helps people effectively use technology, and helps promote career progress
User experience and content professionals who build and evolve engaging and personalized digital learning platforms, maximize relevance, and present material in powerfully compelling ways
Assessment experts who embed opportunities for continual student progress assessment, and identify opportunities to improve our products
6,000+ trusted authors who bring their unique voices and cutting-edge knowledge -- so students never forget they’re learning from other remarkable human beings.
Responding to a goal of reducing developmental prerequisites in college-level math and statistics, UMGC faculty assessed Pearson’s MyLab® and an OER alternative through a 2.5-year pilot encompassing 12 instructors and 6,500 students. Based on the pilot’s remarkable results, UMGC has rolled out MyLab widely. That’s translated into dramatic improvements: from 60% to 80% student success in statistics and from 50% to 80% in algebra compared with OER.
Faculty evaluations have improved, too. Freed from grading, instructors had more time to guide individual students, and they also had richer data to tailor courses around their needs.
UMGC’s experience is just one example of how Pearson’s outcome-based design is rooted in superior learning science is helping real learners. Outcomes like these thrill us – they’re why we do what we do.
Extend great learning to everyone
At Pearson, the words “diversity, equity, and inclusion” aren’t cliches or trendy buzzwords. They’re a way of life deeply grounded in beliefs we’ve held for generations: Every individual can benefit from learning, and learning is a powerful force for positive change. Everyone should be welcomed into learning. Everyone should have a fair opportunity to learn, and learning should work for all students.
What matters more than our beliefs is what we do about them. We’ve built, and we enforce, comprehensive policies for making sure we authentically, inclusively, and respectfully represent people of all kinds. We are committed to minimizing bias. Our content celebrates diverse identities and lived experiences (see some complimentary examples here). We draw on many best practices and frameworks to provide high-quality inclusive content. We offer practical ways to report and dialogue about potential bias in our products.We do all of this so that our products are more inclusive, more relevant, and more accurate. Our DE&I approach to content development results in better products that center learners and increase student engagement.
Finally, we understand that effectively embedding diversity, equity, and inclusion in our work is a journey. We honor and promote DE&I internally, to ensure that our offerings are created by teams who reflect those we serve. We’re proud to have earned the Human Rights Campaign’s “Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality” award, inclusion in Bloomberg’s Gender Equality Index, and a top grade in the Disability Equality Index, the most comprehensive benchmark for disability inclusion.
By doing all this, we’re serving learners’ demands. Our 2021 Global Learner Survey found that 80% of learners were trying to educate themselves about issues related to social justice, diversity or gender equality, rising to 84% among millennials and 85% among Gen Z.
Ensure accessibility to meet everyone’s potential
For too long, people were excluded from full access to education based on disabilities that were irrelevant to their potential. We’re determined to overcome that, one individual at a time. Our commitment is woven into our learning materials, development processes, innovation efforts, employee culture, and partnerships.
More specifically: We follow Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 guidelines and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act for products copyrighted 2022 or later. We’ve established comprehensive accessibility standards for creating products that are perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. We’ve built a roadmap for addressing accessibility issues in our existing MyLab and Mastering courses, and we’re doing extensive audits to remove barriers elsewhere. Our teams participate in rigorous, ongoing accessibility training. As of this writing, we offer nearly 900 accessible eTextbooks, and we’re working with T-Base Communications to accelerate delivery of top-selling Pearson titles in braille and reflowed large print.
Finally, to make sure we truly understand what learners need, we work closely on an ongoing basis with key members of the disability and advocacy community, and with organizations such as W3C, DIAGRAM Center, DAISY Consortium, Benetech, and the National Federation of the Blind.
Get what your learners deserve
Delivering on these commitments to outcomes, equity, and accessibility requires extensive resources, skills, and commitment. Not all of the world’s courseware reflects these values. But we think today’s learners should expect no less – and neither should you.
The University of Maryland Global Campus made a major decision several years ago. Instead of investing in curriculum from various publishers, the school opted to try Open Education Resources or OER back in 2014. It was a way to ease the financial burden for students.
Years later in 2018 the school, which today has a worldwide enrollment of 305,000, reduced and in some cases eliminated developmental math as a pre-requisite. It proved to be a disaster. Unfortunately, OER didn’t provide nearly enough critical support for students who were ill-prepared for college level courses.
A perfect fit for success!
Given the nature of the challenge, UMGC Math and Statistics Program Director John Beyers partnered with Tiffany DePriter, Statistics Coordinator/Instructor, to explore possible solutions. They decided to use an adaptive resource and elected to pilot Pearson’s MyLab and compare it to ALEKS from McGraw Hill. After extensive testing and evaluations, MyLab was selected primarily because of its continuous assessment approach to support each student’s individual pace along the way. In addition, it was an ideal way to customize the learning and fully engage with students using the remarkable array of tools that MyLab provides.
The Role of the Affective Domain and ‘Soft Skills’ in Collegiate Math
Although students are reaching college-level math classes sooner due to many of the recent acceleration projects, they often arrive without developing many of the student skills that would improve their chances for success. One way we can help our students to develop those skills is through the use of prompts and assignments that focus on the affective domain.
I like to use a series of prompts in my classes, because they are powerful and flexible. They can be used for writing assignments, discussion board prompts, or to start face-to-face classroom discussions. The in-person discussions can start with student volunteers sharing their responses, or they could use a think-pair-share format. They fit well in corequisite support classes, as well as the main credit bearing course. Finally, the instructor could devote as little as 5-10 minutes of class time to these prompts or use an entire class session.
I focus on topics that I feel are most beneficial to my students, helping them to be more successful in my class as well as becoming a better learner in general. I like to start with prompts related to developing a growth mindset, because I believe that helping students reset their mindset regarding mathematics is an important first step on the path to success.
I then follow up with prompts related to time management. Our students are over committed, yet lack skills for scheduling, organizing, or prioritizing tasks. Many students struggle with procrastination as well. These prompts lead to discussion and the discovery of strategies to improve time management.
After growth mindset and time management, I like to add prompts for goal setting using S.M.A.R.T. goals, reflection, and other study skills. You can tailor your choice of subjects to the skills you feel are most important, or to build up skills that your students need the most help with.
Lastly, I have assembled a set of 30 prompts that are included in the new third edition of Interactive Statistics, including notes for using them in class. Please reach out to me if you have any questions on using affective domain prompts in your classes, or if you are looking for feedback on strategies that you are using to help your students.
Preventing cheating is a challenge we all face today given not only students’ ingenuity, but also the available student tools on the internet that publish tests and answers from many, many courses. And now there is . . .ChatGPT!!!
Although it may be difficult to prevent cheating entirely, there are steps that can be implemented, reducing the impact of cheating for the student learning assessment process for online courses.
I’d like to share with you the practical tips I found from Northern Illinois’s Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. These tips may help reduce cheating for the two most common uses of online learning assessments, which are testing and homework assignments.
Tips for testing – using learning management systems
Purposefully select assessment methods
Use online objective tests like multiple choice, multiple answer, true/false are best implemented for lower stakes assessing student learning. In fact, these types of quizzes are often best used as student self-checks in preparation for higher stakes assessments.
When assessing student mastery of course goals and objectives, objective tests may not be the best option considered among a range of methods. While an objective test can measure a student’s ability to recall or organize information, other methods are far preferable for assessing the higher order/critical thinking skills including understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating.
Mix objective and subjective questions
Online testing using multiple choice, multiple answer, true/false, fill in the blank might be a part of a summative assessment of mastery that also includes short answer or essay questions.
These types of questions are more subjective in nature and demand a deeper understanding of the subject matter. Consider questions that allow students to demonstrate higher order thinking skills with the application of principles learned for unique situations. While mixing objective and subjective questions does not stop information sharing, it can limit the impact on the student’s final grade.
Create your own question pools
Rather than using a fixed number of items that remain unchanged for each administration of the test, consider creating a question pool using any institution’s learning management tools.
Group questions by any number of criteria including topic, subject matter, question type or difficulty of the question. I would also suggest grouping questions according to the learning outcome associated with the question.
A pool will generate an assessment with randomized questions selected by the faculty member. Pools can be created from new questions or those in existing tests or pools. Pools are most effective when there are large numbers of questions in one particular group. For example, one might have a pool of true/false questions, another of multiple choice and a third for fill in the blank.
You might create an assessment drawing a specific number of questions from each of those pool categories. Faculty can also add new questions to pools each time the course is taught to expand the variability of questions. Conversely, older questions can be removed.
When creating a test using a learning management system, you are often given the option to randomize the selection of test questions as well as the order in which they appear. The benefit is that students are unlikely to get the same questions in the same sequence when taking a test.
This strategy addresses the issue of students who take a test at the same time in order to share answers. This is also relevant if faculty allows students to repeat the test. Each time this occurs, a test will be made up of questions that are randomly selected and ordered.
When possible, you should limit what types of feedback are displayed to students upon completion of a test. Providing test scores is important feedback that indicates how well students have performed and should be made available. However, through a process of elimination, students may be able to determine the correct answer for each test question if their submitted answers are identified as incorrect. Or if the correct answer is provided.
Students could lose the incentive to both prepare for testing or to seek correct answers by reviewing lecture notes, assigned readings, or through a group discussion after completing tests. Thus, faculty might reconsider whether to include ‘Submitted Answers’ as an option to be displayed to students.
This is especially relevant if faculty have allowed students to repeat tests. Each time a test was taken, students could attempt a different answer for a test question that was previously graded as incorrect. Correct answers to all test questions could eventually be accumulated and passed on to other students, or to students of future classes. Or answers could be posted to some online site where students can access exams from a vast number of courses and subjects.
We have to recognize that students taking an unproctored exam are free to use open book/notes. So you might decide to use time limits if allowed in the learning management system. Students who adequately prepared for a test may well be less likely to rely on open book/notes compared with students unprepared for testing. By setting a test with an expected completion time, unprepared students could have the most to lose as they spend time going over material, and risk not having sufficient time to respond to all the test questions.
Display questions one-at-a-time
If a test has more than 5 questions, do not choose the ‘All at Once’ option for displaying all the questions on the same screen. It is quite easy for students to take a screen capture of the displayed questions and share them with other students. While students can still screen capture pages with single questions, or even type them into a document, it is more time consuming and unwieldy.
Tips for homework assignments: assessing student progress and mastery
Create application assignments
Create assignments that require students to apply essential course concepts to a relevant problem. This encourages students to seek relevant information beyond the assigned readings and lectures and conduct independent research by identifying credible sources to support the development of their assignments.
Students can be required to report their progress on a regular basis through email, or through the journaling assignments offered in any Revel titles. This documentation makes it easier for faculty to see the development of a student’s work from inception to completion. In addition, it may possibly identify unexplained gaps that could occur if students used the work of others and claimed it as their own.
Faculty can add input at any point in this process to provide guidance, and perhaps suggest new directions for students. Both documentation of progress through regular status reporting and occasional faculty input can add a greater level of scrutiny to students. This can make it more difficult to pass off the work of others as their own. I use this method in my psychology courses by using my learning management system’s Discussion Forums. I require responses that use proper APA and documentation as well as student to student comments.
Create group assignments
Create group assignments that require students to interact with group members regularly. Groups can be made responsible for determining the functional roles for each member, establishing a mechanism for accountability (i.e., submitting weekly progress reports), and sharing drafts of individual progress on a group project. For a project to be truly collaborative, each group member should be familiar with everyone else’s work, and be able to describe how every group members’ contribution supports the whole group assignment.
Students who are using the work of others may not be able to adequately describe the significance of their ‘own’ work, or how it contributes to the group’s overall project. Group projects for me have been improved with online students using the Revel tool, Shared Media. I’m able to group students and have them submit a shared document or recording for evaluation.
Create assignments that require presentations
Conduct asynchronous online assignments for class presentations. This is easily accomplished with the same Shared Media tool in Revel. I have been using this video upload tool for over 13 years with my public speaking students.
Students may be asked to submit a progress report or use a Journal to reflect on what they have learned in the past week that supports work toward the presentation. You might consider using a discussion forum for these progress reports where classmates can contribute to one another.
To further scrutinize work on the presentation, students may be asked to include time for questions and answers. Students who have developed the presentation should be comfortable answering a range of topic-related questions from an arranged audience. I required my speech students to have an audience of 7 adults and include a Q&A that is captured on video as well as their speech presentation.
Check for plagiarism using SafeAssign
SafeAssign is a remarkable plagiarism prevention tool that detects matches between students’ submitted assignments and existing works by others. These works are found on a number of databases including ProQuest ABI/Inform, Institutional document archives, the Global Reference Database, as well as a comprehensive index of documents available for public access on the internet.
SafeAssign can also be used to help students identify how to attribute sources properly rather than paraphrase without citing the original source. Thus, the SafeAssign feature is impressive and effective as both a deterrent and an educational tool.
Using any of the Writing Assignments in the Revel tool can have this Safe Assign evaluate any submission for plagiarism.
Use discussion assignments
Creating Discussion Board assignments require students to demonstrate critical thinking skills by responding to a relevant forum topic.
You may also design a rubric that is specific to the Discussion Board assignment and develop questions that require students to respond to every rubric category.
Having assignments that are very specific makes it more difficult for students to use portions of a previous term paper or other sources.
Include academic integrity policy statement in the course syllabus
As faculty we need to include a policy statement regarding academic integrity in the course syllabus.
In addition, reiterate academic policies for students taking an online course and clarifying guidelines for completing tests and assignments so that students are not confused about what they can and cannot do.
While this, in and of itself, may not be sufficient to change behavior, its acknowledged presence in the syllabus acknowledges a commitment to honesty in the academic arena. It also establishes the clear expectation that academic integrity is an important principle to live by.
Faculty may also choose to mention this policy using the ‘Announcements’ feature in any of your learning management systems, or while conducting a live web conference session.
Preserving academic integrity is an ongoing challenge for traditional face-to-face, blended, and courses that are entirely online. While a number of expensive technology solutions, such as retinal eye scanners and live video monitoring have been developed to prevent cheating in online courses, the practical recommendations above can reduce the impact of cheating on assessing student performance online.
Many virtual resources exist in MyLab and elsewhere to help students see concepts of calculus. For example, we have embedded almost 800 interactive figures in our Calculus eTextbook (Briggs, Cochran, Gillett, and Schulz) in MyLab. The figures available in our interactive eTextbook have been used successfully by tens of thousands of teachers and students to master calculus concepts, such as finding the volume for a solid of revolution. However, an interactive figure on a device screen is not helpful for every calculus student and is likely useless for a visually impaired calculus student.
The challenge of helping every student learn mathematics has weighed on me throughout my teaching career; that is one reason I have been passionate, obsessed perhaps, about creating interactive visualizations. However, I have had students for whom the interaction of a figure on screen has not been sufficient for them to understand the concept being visualized in the figure. For these students, a physical 3D object to feel and manipulate would have been helpful. Furthermore, 3D objects have great potential to help us teach calculus to students with significant visual impairments.
I have embarked on a new project this year to create a large number, say 100 or so, of 3D printable objects for calculus, beginning with solids of revolution and continuing through multivariable and vector calculus. For example, the following image is a 3D solid used for approximating the volume of the solid of revolution created by revolving the area in Quadrant I beneath the curve around the -axis using cylindrical shells, with .
For each 3D object, an image of the solid, an STL file, and the Mathematica source code used to create the STL file will be accessible from within any course in MyLab using our current calculus materials. The 3D objects can be sliced and printed on your own 3D printer or easily sent to an online 3D printing service.
Admit it, group projects can be a drag--not only for your students, but also for you as the instructor. So why do we do them? To quote one of my class alums, “Life is one big group project.” Working with others in an academic, professional, and personal settings is unavoidable. We as instructors know there is inherent value for students in doing group work, but too often a poorly designed project allows for the negatives to overshadow the benefits.
Let’s first acknowledge the most common complaints we hear from students about group projects.
“Why are we doing this?”
“I do all the work.”
“I don’t have time for this.”
“My partners ghosted me.”
“Why does he also get an A when I contributed more?”
“I just want to do my own thing in my own way.”
“This topic is not what I want to do nor the group I want work with.”
Frankly, given the design of many group projects, these are often valid complaints. No student wants to feel burdened by a seemingly pointless and time-consuming project that has unfair grading. How can we design group projects that will be a positive experience for students (and for us), show them the benefits of collaboration, and give them to tools needed to deal with challenges that may arise? I’ve included a data analysis group project in my Quantitative Literacy course for 20 years. Having redesigned, revised, modified tweaked, adjusted, and adapted it many times over those years, let me share with you what I’ve learned.
How To Make Group Projects More Valuable (and Less Terrible!):
Transparency. Take the time to explain the intention, purpose, and objectives of the project, specifically the benefits of collaboration as well as the potential challenges and how you will deal with them. Have a clear grading rubric for each part of the project.
Incorporate low stakes group work throughout semester. Smaller, “one off” group experiences, even just “compare your answer with your neighbor” or “think, pair, share,” prepare students for the larger project to come. Once the larger project begins, they will have built rapport with their fellow students and seen some of the benefits of collaboration.
Give students some choice in topic and/or group members. In my course, I give students a few topics to choose from. The students who choose the same topic constitute the group. By choosing the same topic, group members start with something in common.
Start with individual work. Start the project early in the term with a few building block assignments that students complete on their own first. Give a grade, feedback, and the opportunity to revise that work before the group portion begins. This guarantees each student has something to contribute to the final product.
Provide time for group work during class. Scheduling time to meet with other students outside of class can be a big challenge, especially for students with heavy class loads, jobs, and/or family responsibilities. Schedule some time during class for the group, even it is just time to assign tasks to be done by individuals between class meetings or time to check in on progress. This can keep members on task and on schedule. Also, it gives you the opportunity to monitor participation and progress among the group members. When all work is done outside of class, you have no idea who has done what and how much each member contributed.
Use technology. Utilize Google docs, messenger apps, or Groups on your learning management system. These are great ways for students to communicate, share work, give and receive feedback, and edit work between in person meetings.
Follow up with individual reflection. After submission, ask students to reflect on the experience—what went well, what was challenging, how well did they work with others, what did they contribute to the final product, what did they learn, what will they take to their next group project experience, any suggested changes to the project.
Not same grade for all group members. For example, 25% of final project grade is based on the individual assignments, 10% based on participation in group portion, 10% on individual reflection, and 55% of grade based on final product produced by the group.
A well-designed project can mitigate the common complaints about group work and enhance the benefits. By giving students a choice and a voice, opportunities to help and be helped, flexibility and agency, and support and freedom, you just might find out how to make group projects more valuable.
Share your thoughts and ideas on group projects in the comments.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. colleges and universities have faced a mounting mental health crisis impacting students of higher education. Compounding this issue, traditional counseling centers at schools can no longer mitigate the issue and keep up with the surging demand.
How bad is it? In a national survey conducted in 2021, nearly 75% of students reported moderate or severe psychological distress (National College Health Assessment, American College Health Association, 2021).
A comprehensive study by the Healthy Minds Network and Sarah Lipson, a Boston University School of Public Health assistant professor of health law, policy, and management, resulted in startling findings. Their survey of 350,000 students at over 300 campuses, showed college student mental health consistently declined nationally from 2013 to 2021 with an overall 135% increase in depression and 110% increase in anxiety.
Moreover, the study showed mental health problems on those campuses had actually doubled!
Lipson and her colleagues also discovered mental issues take a disproportionate toll on students of color. The study became the first long-term, multicampus one of its kind to outline differences in treatment and the pervasiveness of mental health issues across ethnicity and race.
What’s causing this downward trend?
Although today’s students tend to seek out mental health treatment sooner than prior generations did, collegiate life can be especially overwhelming for those suffering from the impact of COVID-19, mass violence, and social injustice — on top of financial challenges and their ongoing balancing act of school and work schedules.
Freshman year for many reveals another reality for newly enrolled undergrads: Living apart from the direct emotional support of parents and siblings. That first semester comes with many surprises, and many aren’t prepared to navigate all the challenges alone.
Also factor in that these young adults haven’t even finished developing physically yet. The brain’s prefrontal cortex does not finish developing and maturing until the mid- to late 20s. This area is responsible for skills like planning, prioritizing, and controlling impulses (National Institutes of Health, NIH Publication No. 20-MH-8078), and yet each student must absorb a slew of new information, people, and places — often all at once.
According to Lipson, “75% of lifetime mental health problems will onset by age 24.” Given that fact, it’s easy to see why they need our help. Addressing the support gap, however, takes a concerted effort including a devoted effort by faculty and staff.
Mental wellness to the rescue
Maybe as an educator, you are looking for ways you can help support your students’ mental health to navigate through this ‘new normal’ world. This article will delve into some simple ways to do that.
6 immediate steps to help improve student mental wellness —
Educators like you can learn how to start changing the course of this trend by taking the following steps. Not just for students, but for the local and global communities we share as well as society as a whole.
1. Get creative with your approach in helping students
Perhaps your colleagues and you are already helping learners to receive at least some degree of mental wellness support. Rethinking the way you do this, however, could greatly improve their future wellbeing.
Increasingly, schools have established more resources like same-day intake and single counseling sessions (versus making students in need wait months). Has your school done this? If so, encourage those needing help to connect to these services. Experts have found this new approach to be more practical than providing only traditional therapy to an entire student population.
Just remember to help manage student expectations of the system as campus clinics can’t always see them at a moment’s notice. By dialing ‘9-8-8’ on their mobile phone though anyone can reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline — any time, any day.
Thinking even a little out of the box can be what some students most welcome. For instance, if a learner is struggling in one of your courses, they may benefit from a workshop on sleep, time or stress management, and goal setting.
“This increase in demand has challenged institutions to think holistically and take a multifaceted approach to supporting students,” says Kevin Shollenberger, Johns Hopkins University’s vice provost for student health and well-being. “It really has to be everyone’s responsibility at the university to create a culture of well-being.”
2. Be more aware
It can’t hurt to become more observant both in and outside the lab, lecture hall, or classroom.
Someone right under your nose who’s enrolled in one of your classes may be experiencing a very challenging time, but perhaps you can become that vulnerable student’s first line of support at the school.
Maybe several of your students are dealing with all the woes from the pandemic and facing loneliness or roommate conflicts for the very first time. Confidential peer counseling could be a valuable resources for them.
A kind, sincere suggestion by a trusted professor to seek professional help could be more than welcomed by the learner. Far from home, you could be that authority figure who cared enough to reach out, something they may remember for the rest of their life.
Any one or combination of these signs may indicate they are facing a situational or more grave mental health issue. And, there are others of course.
Not all the signs are obvious ones though. Many go unseen and unheard. Students may find it easier to hide their sorrow, but not their happiness.
Keep in mind that students with acute matters (e.g.: sexual assault post-trauma, emotional abuse, depression, and eating disorders) will require one-on-one therapy with professional counselors. Never attempt to counsel them yourselves. Urge them to reach out to a licensed medical professional for treatment.
Sometimes, academic advisers, athletic coaches, and staff are formally trained to spot and monitor students who appear distressed. Even Penn State’s food service staff are empowered to refer students exhibiting eating disorders.
3. Help students tap into their school’s wellness resources
Just asking a student, “Is everything going okay?” can be telling. Their answer might reveal they need help getting assistance, especially if facing a type of emotional or physical communication barrier.
So prepare for this! Be sure you’re aware of all the school’s mental wellness resources on campus and online support and how you can react.
DukeReach at Duke University, for instance, allows anyone on campus to communicate concern about a student if uncertain how to proceed. Trained providers can then offer a form of support such as a welfare check.
Find out about your school’s referral and reporting systems and how to strictly abide by them. Now’s the time to know. Not after the fact.
Your referral may include calling the counseling center to make an appointment on behalf of a troubled student who may be less likely to seek help on their own. Other learners may just need a teacher to suggest a wellness workshop.
Shollenberger emphasizes, “Faculty aren’t expected to be counselors, just to show a sense of care that they notice something might be going on, and to know where to refer students.”
When students come to class after hearing about (or even witnessing/experiencing) a major traumatic event, just having a teacher encourage a class discussion about that topic can help appease them emotionally — versus a teacher ‘sweeping it under the rug.’ At Johns Hopkins, Shollenberger and his team worked with faculty on how to do this after students felt disturbed the Ukraine War wasn’t mentioned in class.
4. Encourage mindfulness
Do your students practice mindfulness? Many may not even know what it means. By explaining it, you can possibly help them to help themselves to mental wellness.
Mindfulness can help individuals to reflect and assess new information, but also manage their own thoughts. It can enable us to avoid anxious feelings when we learn to step back and focus on the moment.
Students will find it overwhelming to study and absorb details and concepts under duress. Anyone would. But, when a student can just be present in the moment, they can observe and absorb more and respond more appropriately.
Right about now, you may be thinking, “Hey, I could benefit from practicing mindfulness more myself.” After all, we’re all human. No one is immune to distress.
Ashley Lodge, Global Mindfulness Lead for Pearson says, “Understanding the two modes of mind, ‘doing’ and ‘being’, and being able to shift the gear between the two, helped me better navigate daily life. It’s not some kind of quick fix. It takes daily practice (meditation) to help rewire the brain towards calmer, wiser ways of thinking and approaching life.”
Many schools support cultural mindfulness, too. Their student counselors will at times immerse themselves within academic units, becoming cultural experts. They study how engineering learners may, for instance, differ from their liberal arts counterparts or vice versa. Meanwhile, it presents an opportunity to be more accessible to them.
At Pearson, we actively practice mindfulness by asking “What if?” and relentlessly innovating new possibilities for everyone with speed, agility, and integrity. It’s not ‘lip service.’ We truly want to leave a lasting impact on everyone we serve and hope you do, too.
5. Consider which students are most at risk
Certain learners are much more likely to require critical mental health support and treatment than others.
The Healthy Minds Network/Sarah Lipson study also found half of American Indian/Alaskan Native college students by the 2019 and 2020 semesters were screening positive for depression. Not a trivial fact at all, but a serious challenge when it comes to learning, coping skills for life, and advancing their communities.
Other groups have their own tendencies toward certain mental illnesses. Although the highest rate of non-suicidal self-injury and eating disorders are with white students, non-white groups experience the most anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, and other mental health issues, according to the data.
Much is being done though to address the issues. Somewhat informal groups called “counselor chats,” can be helpful for reaching underserved groups such as first-generation college students, international learners, and students of color who aren’t as likely to seek services at campus counseling centers.
At Johns Hopkins University, counselors often facilitate meetings through partnerships that support specific populations like LGBTQ students. Their “Chat with a Counselor” online drop-in mental health service offers informal, confidential, and one-on-one visits for students.
Low-income students are also at risk. Being mindful of this reality can go a long way in establishing trust with them and helping them succeed.
6. Stay informed and be part of the solution
Do you know how your own school is tackling its student mental health crisis? If not, it’s critical you find out right away. Educate yourself on what can be done by learning the effective ways other colleges or universities are succeeding and bring them to the attention of your administration as soon as possible. We’re all in this together!
What’s working at your school? What’s not and why? New opportunities may exist for your campus health clinic to implement soon or the near future.
Which threats can be averted or mitigated? As an educator, you may have the knowledge, experience, personality traits, or communication skills to participate in a new wellness initiative. Yes, you too, marketing, music education, and social study professors! Which lessons can we apply as learned from business, culture, sociology or history?
Many schools have been working full-time already to think out of the box and apply new methods. For instance, have you heard of “Let’s Talk” programs? Students can just drop in for an informal one-on-one session with a counselor.
More and more, colleges and universities are contracting with telehealth platforms to ensure that services are available whenever students need them while adding on-campus and virtual resources through apps. Maybe your school is, too.
Penn State offers a counselor-staffed crisis line that’s available anytime to students who are ready to talk or requesting an urgent in-person response. Meanwhile, Johns Hopkins started a behavioral health crisis support program that dispatches crisis clinicians with public safety officers to handle wellness checks.
Those are just a few examples we can all learn from.
By creating a culture of wellness with your colleagues, staff and students, you can help reverse this downward trend, one learner at a time.
Educating ourselves though is the proactive first step.
Looking for an easier, more dynamic way to inspire your students’ learning? Revel® teaching and learning platform from Pearson will feel like a joy compared to textbooks as it integrates videos and dynamic interactives into compelling digital narratives.
The platform keeps your students on pace, provides a clear view of their engagement and performance, and is easily accessed from the first day of classes. It puts them in the digital driver’s seat and on a smoother road to success.
Revel improves students' course grades and exam scores. In our numerous research studies, the data show that students who engage with Revel are more prepared for class and get better grades. In addition, instructors benefit when they use Revel performance data to identify struggling students.
Taking a moment now to learn about Revel’s top features can help improve the learning experience for your learners of today and tomorrow.
Revel’s top 5 features —
1. Educator Dashboard: offers an at-a-glance look at overall class performance. It helps instructors more easily identify and contact struggling and low-activity students, ensuring that the class stays on pace. By identifying at-risk students you can implement early intervention strategies to help them succeed in the course.
2. Embedded Assessments allow for practice and review, improving comprehension, filling learning gaps, and providing feedback. Students can practice and quiz themselves to review concepts while easily assessing their understanding to better prepare.
3. Shared Writing Assignments foster critical thinking through writing without significantly impacting your grading burden. Throughout each narrative, self-paced journaling prompts encourage students to express their thoughts without breaking stride in their reading.
Assignable shared writing activities direct students to share written responses with classmates, promoting peer discussion. Essays integrated directly within Revel allow you to assign the precise writing tasks they need.
4. Shared Media Assignments enable instructors and students to post and respond to videos and other media. Students can also record and upload their own presentations for grading, comments, or peer review.
Video quizzes engage students while checking their understanding of concepts. Instructors can share videos accompanied by time-stamped multiple-choice questions.
5. Instructor App enables instructors to easily view performance insights and contact struggling and low-activity students to help them get back on track – anytime, anywhere.
Teaching tools to love —
Inspiring active learning enables students to explore, contextualize information, and apply concepts as they read. It unlocks students’ curiosity and immerses them in subjects, reading and practicing in one continuous experience. Research shows this approach leads to higher recall of key concepts versus passive engagement alone.
Notetaking, highlighting and more make learning fully digital and highly engaging, providing students everything needed for a course — through one continuous, integrated learning experience. Highlighting, note taking, and a glossary let them read and study however they prefer. Instructors can add notes, too, including reminders or study tips.
Monitoring student progress allows educators to monitor student progress on assigned reading, which is a good indicator of how the class is doing. By tracking reading and having the option to make it a percentage of the final grade, they can hold students accountable and keep them on track.
It's a smooth ride to the future with Revel. Read how from other instructors and the impact Revel has had in their classroom and the lives of their students:
Upon mastering a course, it’s etched in our minds along with much satisfaction and pride. That’s what happens for faculty and students alike using Pearson’s Mastering® platform. It supports active, engaging, and immersive experiences while lightening the teacher’s workload.
You will see its interactive tutorials, real-time analytics, and tailored feedback become indispensable tools as you help prepare students for their academic journeys.
We’ve rounded up seven of Mastering’s best features that are sure to help the way you teach, engage, and ensure your students success.
7 Mastering features you can start leveraging today —
Dynamic Study Modules pose a series of question sets about a course topic that adapt to each student’s performance and offer personalized, targeted feedback to help them master key concepts. They can use their computer or the MyLab and Mastering app to access Dynamic Study Modules. Available for select titles.
Early Alerts help identify struggling students as early as possible — even if their assignment scores are not a cause for concern. With this insight, you can provide informed feedback and support at the very moment students need it, so they can stay — and succeed — in your course.
Gradebook records all scores for automatically graded assignments. Struggling students and challenging assignments are highlighted in red, giving you an at-a-glance view of potential hurdles students may face throughout your course.
Performance Analytics track student performance against specified learning outcomes at both the individual student and class level. Mastering problems are tagged to publisher-provided learning outcomes or added to course-specific, department-wide, or institution-wide learning outcomes.
Learning Catalytics allows you to pose a variety of questions to help students recall ideas, apply concepts, and develop critical-thinking skills. Students can respond using their smartphones, tablets, or laptops.
Pearson+ Channels feature an interactive hub of expert-curated short videos and practice materials providing best-in-class content for any student seeking more knowledge in a specific topic or subtopic. In addition to testing their knowledge with practice questions created by Pearson experts, users can visit the social community and discuss certain topics in message threads, ask for help with practice problems, and rank the videos and practice materials.
Scheduled Reading assigns a chapter or specific section to hold students accountable for their reading and help them prep for lectures, homework, and quizzes. Scheduled Readings populate to each student’s assignment page, and you can now link readings directly to Mastering assignments.
With real-time insights from Mastering’s analytics dashboard, you can personalize your lectures and labs, keeping pace with student life today while helping to boost student performance.
By putting more Mastering tools to work, you can help develop more confident, competent learners eager to embrace complex scientific challenges through mindful, meaningful ways and help them improve results.
As an instructor, shouldn’t you have the flexibility, ease, and control to customize your own courses? That’s what MyLab® from Pearson offers as a teaching and learning platform. It’s purpose-built to help advance the way you teach through a robust set of features while transforming the way students learn.
Yet, with so many available features and so little downtime, it can become quite challenging to stay apprised of lesser-known or newer features, many that help you better engage with students, improve your pedagogy, and drive academic success for all students. That’s why we’re here to help.
We've compiled a list of the top six MyLab features we suggest incorporating to level up your MyLab course, boost student success, and maximize your time in the classroom.
6 MyLab features you can start leveraging today —
Freehand Grader enables you to gain deeper insight into your students’ thinking with Freehand Grader. This new assignment type creates an authentic assessment experience for both instructors and students.
With Freehand Grader, your students can upload their hand-written assignments, illustrate their thought processes, and receive meaningful feedback on their approach. Because it's not simply about how they arrived at the answer but the process.
Dynamic Study Modules
Dynamic Study Modules help your students stay on track and achieve a higher level of subject-matter mastery. Each module poses a series of questions about a course topic that adapts to each student's performance and offers personalized, targeted feedback to help reinforce their mastery.
With real-time feedback on their performance, you can adjust your lectures to meet learners where they are and where they’re headed. In addition, students can use their computers or learn on the go with the MyLab app. Available for select titles.
Pre-built Courses and Assignments
Pre-built Courses and Assignments ease your workload, save time, and increase efficiency with MyLab’s pre-built courses and assignments. Each course has a foundation of interactive course-specific content — by authors who are experts in their field — to tailor and adapt as you see fit.
Now, whether building your course from scratch or leaning on our pre-built collection, your lessons are in your control.
Early Alerts help you identify students who may be struggling or falling behind in your course sooner with Early Alerts. This feature leverages an algorithm within MyLab that projects risk levels, and alerts you when a student may be falling behind.
With these insights, you can intervene, provide support, and help keep students on track to complete the course.
Learning Catalytics help to increase student engagement and enhance their learning in the classroom. This interactive student response tool allows you to deploy questions and surveys, and assess student comprehension. It also equips you with real-time data to help adjust your instructional strategy on the fly.
Plus, Learning Catalytics automatically groups students for discussion, team-based learning, and peer-to-peer learning.
Pearson+ Channels feature an interactive hub of expert-curated short videos and practice materials providing best-in-class content for any student seeking more knowledge in a specific topic or subtopic. In addition to testing their knowledge with practice questions created by Pearson experts, users can visit the social community and s discuss certain topics in message threads, ask for help with practice problems, and rank the videos and practice materials.
Whether a novice or a MyLab expert, you’ll find much more to benefit and learn from with this teaching and learning platform — one that advances the way you teach and transforms the way learners learn.
Most of us teaching college today have encountered the drives and initiatives to create inclusive classrooms. The pandemic and debates over social justice have challenged many of us to examine and re-examine how and what we teach. Safety protocols, strong debates over the role of diversity, equity and inclusion in higher education may have left many teachers feeling burned out with adjusting.
With the enormity of changes in education, we sometimes need to take a breath and think about small changes we can make to yield big results for student success. James Lang writes in Small Teaching; we should consider taking “an approach that seeks to spark positive change in higher education through small but powerful modifications to our course design and teaching practices.”
I needed to find descriptions of what an inclusive classroom looks like or explanations of some of the terms used in these initiatives. I discovered this from the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at the University of Central Florida, “In an inclusive college classroom, the participants work together to create and maintain a climate of openness and respect that encourages individuals to share their perspectives and thought for the purposes of mutual understanding, growth, and development. Inclusive classrooms are welcoming, secure, diverse, and interactive. In an inclusive college classroom, instructors strive to be responsive to students as individuals with many intersectionalities, as well as cognizant of students’ uniqueness and value in relationship to the broader classroom culture.”
Intersectionality is the interconnection of social constructs such as race, class, and gender. And this construct applies to both individuals and groups. Intersectionality creates overlapping and interdependent systems that may foster discrimination and disadvantage, or conversely, may create privilege and entitlement.
How can we help our students develop attitudes that accept our differences and allow each individual room at our tables to be who they are, feeling comfortable, accepted, and welcomed? How do we address the almost infinite differences intersectionality creates with all the diverse opinions, ages, backgrounds, races, religious, sexual identities, gender identities and educational backgrounds, abilities and capabilities?
This just seemed absolutely daunting to me when I considered the vast and varied intersectionality presented in each of my students’ lives. However, after reading Lang’s Small teaching I felt more empowered to make changes in my teaching and course-room designs.
Academic integrity has been of paramount concern in distance education since its inception. Arguably, the integrity of online classes received increased attention in recent years due to the pandemic when many instructors and students alike were thrust into the world of online learning by force.
During this time, upwards of 75% of all undergraduate students were enrolled in at least one distance education course. Further, 44% of undergraduate students took only online classes during this time (NCES, 2022). Some online instructors utilize measures outside of traditional tests to discourage cheating, such as projects, open-ended assessment questions, or other “internet resistant” question types (Suzuki, 2000).
However, many of these instructors also require proctored testing as part of their academic integrity toolbox. While in-person proctoring may be the gold standard, as far as control over the testing environment and the test-takers, remote proctoring may be a more cost-effective option for students who do not live near a testing center or students who need to minimize proctoring costs.
Pearson has partnered with two titans of the online proctoring industry to offer remote proctoring options directly within MyLab®: ProctorU and Respondus.
ProctorU has been a well-known provider of online test proctoring since 2008. Once an institution or instructor secures an agreement with ProctorU, instructors will receive an institutional key to enable this proctoring option in their MyLab courses. Depending on the type of license that is granted, the testing cost may be covered by the institution, or it could be passed to students with a paywall before they can access the test.
Once enabled, ProctorU can be required for selected tests or quizzes. The process for students could not be simpler; students log into their MyLab courses and access their tests or quizzes as they normally would. When students start their tests, a window pops up that walks students through the steps to start their proctored test experience.
After completing the multifaceted identity verification process that includes biometric keystroke analysis, facial recognition, and challenge questions, students are monitored virtually by their webcam, microphone, and ProctorU software.
Respondus has been part of the online testing industry for over 20 years. Respondus Monitor is their automated remote proctoring system that uses a student's webcam and industry-leading analytics to detect suspicious activity during exams and has been integrated into MyLab since 2020. To enable Respondus Monitor, instructors can choose to enter the Respondus license of their institutions, if available, or they can immediately choose the Student Payment option, which will pass the nominal test cost directly to the student.
Respondus Monitor can be required for selected tests or quizzes. Further, instructors can customize the authentication sequence that students must complete prior to starting their tests (e.g., include custom instructions, require students to show their ID, check students’ environment, etc.).
Proctored testing is one of many tools often utilized by online instructors to help ensure the academic integrity of their courses. For more information about our platform proctoring options, explore MyLab and Mastering® features or speak with your sales rep today.
The COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 revealed challenges for students and teachers worldwide. By the end of the 2021 school year, students in K-12 were months behind in math and reading. Students and teachers had faced changes in schedules, new teachers midyear, internet challenges, and Zoom exhaustion.
These changes forced a sudden change in traditional teaching and learning styles. The digital transformation in education advanced exponentially, creating new opportunities for students to learn through video rather than solely for gaming.
The value of video
Teachers learned how to use videos to keep their students engaged. Video provides the much-needed flexibility and personalization to individualize learning experiences for specific student needs. Students benefit by watching at their own pace, anywhere, anytime, allowing them to stop, rewind, and play again to meet their needs.
Video is everywhere. With more than a billion hours of video footage viewed on YouTube every day,1 it is a medium that most students are both familiar and comfortable with. The question is not whether to use videos in higher education, but how to use them to improve learner outcomes.There is plenty of research that touches on the role of video in learning, and there are even some studies that specifically examine the different ways of using video in university or college courses.
After reviewing and analyzing this research, we’re confident that most higher education courses could improve learner outcomes by supplementing instruction and other learning content with relevant educational videos.
Here are three reasons why.
1. Students want to learn from videos
Video is part of higher education even when it’s not officially part of the learning experience. Some higher education students prefer videos to written sources and many will seek out subject-related videos on YouTube, even when they’re not assigned.
In a survey of hundreds of business students:
71% said they used YouTube as part of their academic learning
70.5% believed they could learn a lot about a subject by watching related videos instead of reading a book2
In a 2020 study, a group of higher education students was given 30 minutes of online research time to learn enough about a topic to write a brief summary. On average, the students spent 8.5 of their 30 minutes watching videos. Only 15.7% of the students watched no videos at all.3
Studies also seem to show that the appeal of video is not limited to particular subjects or learning preferences.4 Whatever the course, and whatever the makeup of the student body, including videos can engage students in learning.
2. Supplemental videos improve learning
Videos clearly appeal to students, but do they actually help them learn? When combined with other learning methods, there is evidence that they can.
A 2021 study looked at different ways of using videos in higher education courses. The researchers found that pivoting the course to video — dropping existing teaching methods and having students watch videos instead — did improve learning somewhat.
But the biggest improvements came when video was added to the existing course content, rather than replacing it.5
This may be because adding video gives students more ways to understand the content. If the learning didn’t take hold from a lecture or a written text, maybe it would from a video. Whereas when video replaced other methods, if a student didn’t grasp the content from the video, they had no alternative ways in.
3. Videos can directly affect learning
Does including videos improve learning by making the course more engaging, or do the videos themselves help improve learning? Understanding this helps determine the best types of video to include in higher education courses.
A 2014 study experimented with integrating different types of videos into lectures. When the videos were mainly entertaining, students’ motivation and engagement improved. Higher motivation and engagement are associated with better learning outcomes.
But when the videos were mainly educational and directly relevant to the lecture topic, students performed better on post-lecture quizzes than those who attended a lecture without videos.6
This shows that while videos can affect learning by engaging students, they can also have a direct effect on students’ knowledge.
Improving learning for students at all experience levels
To summarize, based on a range of studies:
higher education courses should include videos
videos should supplement, not replace, existing course content and instruction
videos should be educational in nature and directly relevant to the subject
When videos are integrated into higher education courses in this way, students — whatever their previous academic history — are more likely to outperform their predicted grades.7
Once, students looking to supplement their knowledge of a topic had to rely on the limited selection of books in their college library. Today, college students have nearly unlimited information at their fingertips. But does more information always equal better learning?
A number of recent research studies suggest that in fact, providing students with a more limited set of high-quality resources chosen specifically for the course can lead to better outcomes than when students supplement their knowledge using the internet. Importantly, it may also help to level out inequities in the learning environment.
It’s true that there is a large amount of high quality information available online, on nearly every topic imaginable. It’s also true that searching, assessing, filtering, and making use of online resources are valuable 21st-century skills. So it’s understandable when higher education courses call for students to look online for sources to cite, or to supplement their knowledge of the course subject.
But that’s just the thing: finding information online and judging its reliability are skills in themselves. This complicates learning, because:
not all students in the course will have those skills to the same degree
they’re not usually the skills the course is teaching (or assessing)
Reliable, or just familiar?
As you may expect from a group of people who have largely grown up with the internet, higher education students know that not everything they find online is reliable. They do think about the origins of the information they find, and judge whether they are credible.
However, students don’t always know how to make these kinds of judgments accurately.
In one 2020 study, higher education students were provided with several items from different sources and prompted to write about the items’ perspectives. More than 2 in 5 of the students (41%) assumed that certain items were credible because they recognized the source.1 They thought they were judging the reliability of the information, but were really rating the familiarity of the sources.
Another study, also published in 2020, asked economics students to use a search engine to investigate the truth of several claims. Again, these students ended up relying heavily on sites they were familiar with, rather than truly valid or reliable sources. Perhaps unsurprisingly, one of their most cited sources was Wikipedia.2
Of course, not all students make the same mistakes. For example, a 2017 study found that students who score higher for reading comprehension are also more likely to find relevant, valid results when using search engines.3 Students with previous experience of searching for academic sources may also be more accurate judges of the information they find.
But this presents another challenge to learning. It means that in courses that ask students to supplement their subject knowledge by searching the internet, those with lower reading comprehension and less academic experience are at an unfair disadvantage.
Best use of effort
Even with sophisticated search engines, sifting the vast quantities of information on the internet for relevant sources takes time and effort. So does assessing the reliability of each source.
These activities also add to students’ cognitive load: the amount of brainpower needed to complete a task.
Students’ time, effort, and cognitive load are all finite resources. What they expend on finding and assessing sources, they aren’t using to actually increase their knowledge.
All of this means that providing students with a hand-picked suite of high quality resources, chosen specifically for the course, is better for learning than leaving them to find their own online.
Providing learning resources as part of the course levels the playing field. Students with different levels of reading comprehension and academic experience will all have equally valid, reliable materials to learn from.
And because students tend to trust material provided as part of the course, they won’t use up time, effort, or cognitive load gauging whether the material is reliable.
All in one
This isn’t a call to send students back to the college library. Even if the world wide web isn’t the best environment for learning, there are still clear benefits to digital learning.
In fact, digital platforms allow us to free up even more of students’ cognitive load for learning: by providing suites of reliable resources under the same roof as learning and assessment.
This is the thinking behind Pearson+. No switching, searching, or wondering where to look. Everything needed for the course, all in one place – leading to better, more equitable outcomes for all.
Scot Chadwick, Pearson’s Vice President of Partner Success, knows exactly why he pursued a career in higher education: to change lives, and reach non-traditional learners who couldn’t access traditional on-campus programs.
That goes back to his days at eCollege, an early pioneer in providing comprehensive technology, services, and support to help institutions move online. More recently, he put his passion to work at the University of Colorado, leading the rebuild and relaunch of CU Online’s team and operations, and set the multi-campus unit on a path to grow from 900 to 6,000 fully online students in its first five years. Here, he shares his experience and insights to help institutions excel in the fast-changing online environment, and partner successfully with Online Program Management (OPM) service providers.
What’s your ‘why’?
I really enjoy what I do, but more importantly, I enjoy the impact of the work.
I started with eCollege, an online pioneer that was a common ancestor to today's OPMs. We offered institutions and their online learners a wide set of services, technology and support, with a first-of-its-kind shared-success business model. One day early in my career at eCollege, one of our academic partners shared an email with us from one of their students, a single mom living in rural Iowa. In her note she said, ‘I just graduated, and I'm so excited. I just wanted to thank you for offering this program online, because I would have never been able to get my degree if it wasn't offered online. There’s no way I could have made it work.’
I’ll always remember that. It made a powerful impact on me because I was raised by a single mom who was never able to get her degree, and it still bothers her to this day.
When I think about the work that we do, it's about providing opportunity.
You’ve been on both sides of the table. How do you build a true collaborative partnership between a university and an OPM, and overcome the challenges?
First, it’s about having shared goals. And, as in any good relationship, it's about really good, candid communication. It's about not being afraid to talk about the things that aren’t going well and that we need to be better at together, as well as celebrating things that are going well.
Achieving sustained success is very challenging for any online program. Many partnerships go through ebbs and flows: great times where programs are growing at an extremely rapid pace, and other times when they aren’t. Situations change. The individuals involved may also change, which can influence the tenor of a partnership.
When you’re in a challenging phase it helps to take a step back, assess the program(s), the market, your shared financials, and make sure your shared goals are still valid, and you still see them the same way. Then talk openly about how you can achieve them together going forward. There’s always room to deliver a better student experience, and to address core issues that may be getting in the way.
You’ve stressed shared success. How do you and our partners define that?
Shared success means our interests are aligned, both partners are motivated to achieve our shared goals, and we both benefit from achieving them.
A shared success goal might be program growth. Or it might be extending a program’s reach to serve students the institution can’t support today, whether geographically or otherwise.
The institution may want to deliver a unique and personalized learner experience or demonstrate to employers that their graduates have the skills and competencies that prepare them for career success. These are just a few of the goals we’re working toward every day with our partners.
How can an institution make sure its online programs, and our services, align with its unique mission?
Again, it starts with clarity of goals, and the why behind the investment of funding and resources. If an institution wants to expand the population they serve via online programs, how will doing this help them achieve their mission? I’ve seen institutions move rapidly into the online space without first investing time with their faculty and staff to ensure everyone understands how it aligns with their institution’s mission.
It's critical to have clarity on why it matters. That can be at an institutional level, but it also should be at a school, college, department, or program level.
Scaling a high-quality online program in today’s market is challenging and requires genuine collaboration, communication and support institution-wide.
There will always be stakeholder questions about how and why the institution is investing significant resources in this area. Effective institutional leaders listen and can clearly articulate “Here’s why it’s important. Here’s how it connects to our mission and something that's bigger than all of us. Here’s why we’re well positioned to do it and how you can contribute to our success.”
Institutions and leaders have also become more sophisticated in how they approach expanding their online footprint. Increasingly, they know to think critically about the “why” of their programs and apply a formal process to evaluate opportunities and program readiness internally, sometimes even before they ask us what kind of support we could provide.
What might success look like five years from now? What should partners focus on to get there?
Historically, many learners thought: ‘I’ll get a degree, and then it’ll pay itself off… somehow.’ But now learners are rigorously evaluating higher education ROI upfront. As just one example, Google has reported significant growth in searches for the ROI of specific credentials – an MBA, an MS in Business Analytics, an MSN degree, a project management certificate, you name it. Earlier this year, for the first time, searches for alternative credentials outnumbered searches for degree programs.
Learners are making more consumer-based decisions in a more competitive environment. Institutions need deeper insight into who they’re serving, and into the learner’s overall experience from the first interaction forward. Traditionally, consumers tolerated less-than-stellar experiences at higher education institutions. Those days are over. You want to re-enroll both current alumni and the new alumni you’re creating every day. To develop that brand loyalty, the experience you deliver in every interaction matters, at every stage of the student journey, digital or live.
How do you build teams to deliver high-growth online learning that delivers these great experiences and outcomes?
I feel fortunate. My team’s work really matters. We get to have a generational impact on people’s lives. Not everybody gets to do that. For me as a leader, everything starts with making sure this is as meaningful to everyone on my team as it is to me. Then, I work to inspire them to continuously learn, challenge themselves, be unafraid to fail, and be collaborative. And I make sure we’re having fun!
Layered onto all that, we need a structured and formalized approach to how we engage with partners. We need to ensure we’re aligning ourselves and our leaders with theirs, reflecting what’s important to them as an institution and in their individual leadership roles.
Strategic relationship management is really challenging. The impact of our partnerships is massive. We take that very seriously. We must work every day to show value to the institution and to each of its leaders.
That involves engaging many people within our organization. Across Pearson, our team has incredible capabilities. It’s our job to bring in that specialized expertise to make sure every partner and program is as successful as possible. When it’s time to think about the partnership’s future, we want them to think: ‘of course we want to do this with Pearson, because this team understands us, and we’ve built trust in what we can accomplish together.’
When you’re not changing learners’ lives or building great partnerships, how do you recharge? Where would we find you on your perfect weekend?
I live in Colorado, and we definitely take advantage of living in this amazing state. My hope is you’d find me on a river, somewhere in the mountains, fly fishing with my wife, my kids, and my dog.
Stackable courses offer immense promise to both learners and institutions. To get started with them successfully, it helps to learn from early adopters – including expert innovators such as Maryville University.
Maryville is a nationally recognized pioneer in access and opportunity, meeting learners’ fast-changing needs, and helping people quickly gain practical value from education. Even before the university launched stackables, it partnered with leading regional businesses to offer targeted short-term certificates and badges for employee upskilling, reskilling, and career progress.
As Maryville president Mark Lombardi says, “We have entered an era of the democratization of education where access and opportunity are expanding and workforce training on a continual basis is a career imperative. Universities must be able to deliver different types of education and high skill training on a variety of platforms to meet the needs of a growing and diverse workforce and a wide array of employers.”
Stackables: A Natural Next Step
One key element of Maryville’s growth strategy involves attracting learners who’ve earned some college credit but no degree. These are typically working adults who want to earn promotions or transition into better careers. For learners like these, stackables are attractive and efficient.
According to Katherine Louthan, Dean of the School of Adult & Online Education, “We’re solving for future of work issues, focused on upskilling in areas with high industry demand. Students in our existing degree programs tell us they need to dive into the content areas more quickly, so they can showcase what they’ve learned to advance in their position or even start new careers. This is a reasonable approach and one we wanted to accelerate for learners so they can apply what they’re learning right away, and gain value whether they complete a full degree or not.”
Innovation That Builds on Strength
As Maryville moved into stackables, says Louthan, it made sense to build on existing program strengths. “Where were our signature programs? Where are we growing in the future?”
Maryville is especially strong at the intersection of business and technology. It had already launched highly successful programs in areas such as cybersecurity, data science, and software development. Its Fall 2021 stackable launch plan focused on these strengths and included five undergraduate-level certificates in computer science: the three aforementioned subjects, plus artificial intelligence and UX/UI.
All are offered for credit towards a degree, or stand-alone for immediate credentialing. Like all of Maryville’s degree-linked stackable offerings, they carry the same pricing and fees either way.
Two post-bachelor’s certificates, Big Data and Machine Learning, are offered as stand-alone and embedded within Maryville’s graduate programs in computer science, offering a shorter time commitment and a seamless onramp into a full graduate program if and when learners are ready.
In another example of programmatic innovation, Maryville is offering a new post-bachelor’s certificate in Communication Sciences and Disorders, designed for career changers planning to enroll in master’s programs in Speech Learning Pathology (SLP) or doctoral programs in audiology. These individuals often already have a bachelor’s degree but need multiple courses to “level up” before they can pursue graduate work.
Communication Sciences and Disorders bundles an essential undergraduate-level foundation in crucial areas such as voice, speech, language fluency, swallowing, and hearing disorders. Carefully crafted to prepare learners for highly competitive graduate programs -- including Maryville’s – it also connects learners to innovative “learn by doing” resources such as the Master Clinician Network. Through MCN, learners can take part in guided observation and start building clinical skills even before they enter graduate school.
Off to a Strong Start
Since the Fall 2021 launch, early signs are positive, says Louthan. “We’re getting great feedback from students who are experiencing success. We’ve had a lot of interest in areas such as AI and UX where many professionals need to upskill to stay relevant or advance. Our content is also aligned well with employer feedback. We believe we’re creating a successful starting point in addressing students’ growing demand for more flexible options. Whether they will go on to complete their degrees is yet to be seen. We are more focused on whether they are achieving their goals, and we hope they will come back to Maryville when they are ready to, or need to, upskill or reskill again.“
“Challenges always exist in times of change,” says Louthan, “and we are in a time of significant disruption in education and industry. As we work to drive down the cost of education, having a menu of options to meet both learner needs and market demands will require continuous analysis. We also recognize that while certificates are attractive in emerging areas of technology and computer science, some more traditional areas may still require a degree. Students have shared that during this transitional time many employers still require a bachelor’s degree for consideration.
“Considering the future of work and the rapid rate of change, we know the model must shift so we can offer learners what they need and want to reach their goals – whatever their goals may be. As lifelong learning evolves, we will continue listening to our learners and employers to best meet their needs. We believe milestone achievements matter to students and they should be recognized for their achievements and able to apply them along their learning journey. We are focusing our work on their success and their ability to achieve their goals.”
Placed in broader context, stackability fits well with Maryville’s key strategic goals and institutional mission: to create a global, student-centered active learning ecosystem, to drive transformational innovation around learner outcomes, to define its success by learner success, and to expand access and opportunity.
As Dean Louthan concludes, “We understand education isn’t one-size-fits-all. Different students have different circumstances and considerations, and Maryville is committed to being as inclusive and accommodating as possible. Our certificate programs underscore this mission, serving as alternative paths to meet learners where they are — and help them reach their career goals.”
Learn more, and explore Pearson's online learning offerings and OPM services
How do you deliver value to learners and employers alike? In the hot field of cyber security, the University of North Dakota has cracked the code with the design of its recently launched online program.
The University of North Dakota is a public research university in Grand Forks, N.D. It offers more than 120 online degree and certificate programs, encouraging students from around the world to explore more than 225 fields of study every year. UND is dedicated to its mission to provide transformative learning, discovery and community engagement opportunities for developing tomorrow's leaders.
In consultation with Pearson Online Learning Services, Vice Provost for Online Education and Strategic Planning Jeff Holm chose to align the cyber security curriculum with highly sought-after and industry-recognized certifications. Advancing skills in cyber security can mean better job security, higher pay and more leadership opportunities for learners — program features that align with the university’s mission.
To create a program that appealed to a broad audience while meeting UND’s high pedagogical standards, UND and Pearson established a collaborative working relationship. The teams partnered on course development, tailoring courses to 14 weeks each. Both partners agreed that this gave learners the right amount of time with the material and addressed their needs for convenient, short courses that deliver work-ready skills.
The university also relied on the partnership for market research and insights, marketing and enrollment support to widen its reach. The strategy was to give more learners valuable career preparation by including certificates in the degree program. With the addition of cyber certificates to the online program, learners can gain recognizable, industry credentials as they move toward earning a full degree — making them more valuable to employers sooner.
“UND offers a variety of options so learners can tailor their M.S. in Cyber Security to fit specific interests and career goals,” Holm says. “The cyber security master’s program offers four tracks (or) stackable academic certificate options.” One certificate is mandatory. Learners can select two of three other certificate options and graduate with a master’s and three academic certificates. The tracks and certificates include:
Cyber Security Analyst track aligned with the EC-Council Certified Threat Intelligence Analyst (CTIA) certification
Ethical Hacking track aligned with the EC-Council Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) certification
Computer Forensics track aligned with the EC-Council Computer Hacking Forensics Investigator (CHFI) certification
Secure Networks track aligned with the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certification
Since Michael Collins joined Pearson Online Learning Services as senior vice president of marketing and learner acquisition, he’s been working to harmonize and humanize everything we do to engage and enroll learners in our partners’ online programs.
Collins brings a background in journalism, marketing, public relations, corporate communications, and — not least — music. In this interview, he shares insights that reflect where he’s been, what he’s seen, and where we can make the greatest impact for partners by building lifelong relationships that keep learners coming back.
You studied music in college. What did you learn from that experience?
Sometimes you can be the lead in a musical or in a play, right? But many times, you’ll be part of the ensemble. In marketing, I’ve learned it’s much the same. Sometimes you’re still part of the ensemble, and you have to switch between supporting roles. I may be leading marketing and learner acquisition, but I’m also part of a leadership team working to achieve shared outcomes. Even where I’m the lead within my own team, sometimes another member of the team has the stage.
Beyond that, when we work with our partners, we’re also part of their team. So, knowing how to make all these teams work together well at the same time is one of the most important things I can do.
You come to Pearson from the CFA Institute, the leading global provider of investment management education. But you’ve also played key marketing roles in other industries. What lessons do you see as especially relevant for your work here — especially your work with institutions?
There’s a note that runs through my career in terms of working in-marketing, whether it’s been in retail, manufacturing, distribution, technology, or tech-enabled service companies. And that’s about creating affinity that makes customers want to keep buying from you.
I ran global marketing at Iomega, which made external storage drives: Maybe you remember the Zip drive. We went from $140 million to $2 billion in revenue in under 36 months. We sold through retail channels like Best Buy, as well as through distributors who sold to retail. And I learned the power of channels and partnering.
It’s one thing to sell your product or service, but how will you help partners be successful, so they want to keep partnering with you? That’s our challenge, too. We’ve built a business model where, when Pearson’s partners are successful, we’re successful. And our partners in turn succeed when their learners succeed.
And it’s never one-and-done. In our student success and retention work, and in everything else we do, we need to be relentlessly focused on making both learners and partners more successful continually.
When a college professor tells me that they never imagined their in-person course could be so engaging in an online format, or a student interacts with learning more online than they would have in the traditional classroom, I know that I, along with my incredibly talented team, are fulfilling our mission.
We are Pearson's Learning Design Solutions (LDS) team, and our job is to reimagine traditional higher education courses for the online environment. Last year alone, we supported over 1,400 courses across 35+ programs for over a dozen of our university partners. We developed courses in disciplines such as Law, Social Work, Public Health, Education, Nursing, and Business, among others. It's a responsibility we take very seriously—not only to deliver amazing online learning—but to help safeguard the integrity and validity of the entire online education “galaxy.” It's no secret that online learning has had its naysayers, so if we prove them wrong while delivering, time-and-again, for students and academic partners... then, we fulfill our mission.
With decades of expertise in online education and course development operations, LDS brings science and insight to ensure our college and university partners' online courses are designed and developed to meet the highest expectation of quality and efficacy. Our tenets are straightforward:
Pedagogy: LDS brings data and science into designing courses to ensure they meet the appropriate rigor, engagement levels, and measurable outcomes. All instructional designers in LDS engage in regular professional development in the industry and hold various levels of certification in Quality Matters (QM). The team is currently supporting several partners in aligning courses to QM standards, including Regis College’s Nursing programs and Health Sciences programs.
Equity: By designing through a lens of historically informed compassion and empathy, LDS consults to design courses with equity top of mind. LDS seeks ongoing team training opportunities in a commitment to raise diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) standards for online learning. LDS recently supported a university partner interested in auditing courses to identify ways to improve inclusivity in course content. All course components produced by LDS meet current WCAG 2.1 AA and Pearson’s Global Content and Editorial Policy.
Research: By participating in, and helping to conduct, ongoing research in online learning, LDS helps partners refine practices, innovate learning solutions, and keep up with generation after generation of digital learners. LDS is currently engaged in collaborative research with multiple partners, who are focused on developing learning analytics dashboards to advance data-driven learning design insight and practice.
It's especially meaningful when faculty recognize that designing together with Pearson’s Learning Design Solutions team positively influences their course beyond project boundaries and into their regular teaching practices. A recent Brookings article, Online college classes can be better than in-person ones, reaffirms that online learning is gaining recognition and thriving beyond the potential consequences of the pandemic. This is a goal for us—to use our education (super)powers for the good of all learners, no matter the model or method.
Learn more, and explore Pearson's online learning offerings and OPM services
As educators, one of the biggest issues we have recently had to tackle in our classrooms is the increase in academic misconduct. At our college, there was a 703% increase in academic misconduct reports from Winter 2020 to Winter 2021. Additionally, there has been a tremendous rise in ed tech companies that flourished during the pandemic. We feel like every time we look in the app store, a new “math solver” app appears. As educators, we can’t even keep up!
In a presentation with Pearson Senior Learning Designer Dr. Elaine W. Tan we discussed specific strategies to be proactive with students about academic integrity. One of those strategies was to introduce academic integrity at the beginning of the term. This proactive approach from day 1 has really made a difference in our classes. In this post, we will go into more specifics.
Define academic misconduct in your syllabus
It’s important to define different forms of cheating and why they’re problematic. It’s equally important to state the value of academic integrity for learning. Many students might not see a given behavior as cheating until you tell them. In fact, in a College Pulse study1, students were asked how acceptable or unacceptable it is to Google homework questions to find the answers and use study websites to find answers to test or homework questions. Over 50% of the respondents said it was acceptable to Google homework questions and 44% said it was acceptable to use study websites to find answers to test or homework questions.
A syllabus statement about academic integrity, including a link to your institution’s student code of conduct, is an important first step to making sure your students are all on the same page. See the wording that we include in our syllabus.
Discuss academic integrity early
Dr. Tan’s research2 found that most students don’t find cheating a problem, with only 15% saying they are very or extremely concerned about contract cheating. This may be because instructor’s aren’t talking about it. Only 1 in 5 students had instructors that discussed that cheating was problematic. Those are alarming statistics, and a good reason why it’s so important to begin the conversation early.
More findings from Dr. Tan’s research show that one of the reasons students turn to academic dishonesty is because they feel a lack of personal connection, or a sense that instructors don’t know or care about them. This can be especially true with online learning and the isolation brought on by disruptions to learning over the last few years. We can address this proactively by creating a connection within the first days of class.
Something we started doing this past year is having a required 10-minute one-on-one meeting with each student within the first two weeks of the term. Within that meeting, we communicate to them that we are invested in their success and how the course material can help them achieve their real-life goals. We also talk about academic integrity with them. Get the template email we send out to our classes.
Set clear, specific instructions
Have clear and specific rules and instructions for assignments and exams so students know what is ok to use and what is not. This even comes down to stating “you cannot use the solve feature on the calculator to get the answer.”
One of the things we do is use an exam policy checklist that students have to complete before they’re able to take their test. This checklist states which resources are allowed and which are not, links to the student code of conduct, and clearly lays out the consequences for an academic misconduct violation. View our exam policy checklist.
By bringing in these strategies at the beginning of the term, we have found that the number of academic misconduct issues in our courses has decreased dramatically. Although academic dishonesty may never fully go away, it is important to talk about and provide students with the education to improve their actions.
Sasha Thackaberry, Ph.D. recently joined the executive team at Pearson Online Learning Services (POLS) as Vice President of Student and Partner Services. Previously, she led Louisiana State University’s online program organization, where in just four years, her team grew from supporting 800 students in 9 programs to over 12,000 in 120+ programs, while keeping a strong focus on quality. Her online learning experience has been honed throughout a career at LSU, SNHU, and other innovators. See how her experiences shape her current work at Pearson to help learners and institutions thrive.
Sasha, tell us something we should know about you.
I get really geeked out about what’s next, and how to drive change – both in education, and in my own teams. I’m interested in building teams that get addicted to evolving, and to making the next big thing happen.
Even today, change is underrated. Disruption is going to occur continually, and I’m passionate about how we move things forward towards a more effective fusion of education and technology.
“High-tech, high-touch” isn’t a new concept, but in higher education, historically, we haven’t done it all that well. Now, though, there’s a lot of insight we can draw on to do better. For instance, we can use more of what’s been learned by behavioral economists. The techniques so often used to sell us stuff can also be used to remove barriers to learning and encourage people to continually engage in it.
You’ve said institutions can go beyond resilience to become truly “anti-fragile”: able to thrive amidst disorder and chaos. How?
It starts with creating and building a foundation that enables you to be proactive and flexible, no matter what. Then, there’s a reactive piece: when you see something coming down the pike, always getting ready, seeing what works and what doesn’t, pivoting quickly. You can build in “space” in your systems and processes, and keep things as simple as possible.
Two issues are key. First, institutions must invest heavily in their technology infrastructures. Valuable data is everywhere, but you can’t react if you don’t know what’s going on.
Second, there’s culture: committing to pivot on a dime and be super creative. One of the best ways is to be very upfront about failures because they teach us how to change. Obviously, there are exceptions, but in higher ed environments, failure is too often viewed as a lack of competence. Instead, we need to embrace smart risk, and then be ready to pivot fast if it doesn’t work. You need leaders who can approach "Black Swan” events as opportunities to do really great things, as some institutions did during the pandemic.
COVID changed things forever, but what are we learning about the new higher ed environment that’s emerging?
We now have a marketplace of many different sizes, types, and forms of learning – and our audience looks radically different. A generation ago, few expected the post-traditional audience to become the only part of higher ed that was growing. Twenty years from now, people will look back and ask each other, “Do you remember when they based everything on the degree?”
We see young people who aren’t all headed straight to college. They’re doing other things first. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I just think we must accommodate their needs as learners.
Then, there’s “education as a benefit” from employers. Our infrastructures need to accommodate that, and many other flexible options – not just paying by credit card, but also subscriptions. More of what we do needs to be time-variable. People are voting with their enrollments, and they’re saying: I want shorter, faster, more applicable.
You were a pioneer in stackables. What advice would you offer to those who worry about learner outcomes and building viable programs that don’t just cannibalize current programs?
To begin, you can’t overly focus on cannibalization of revenue. If an early automaker thought, “If I build cars, I’m gonna cannibalize my base of horse customers,” they missed the point. It’s about what people want.It’s not about what we want to create for them. If you don’t disrupt your own business, someone else will.
But it’s not just about defense. You can start a virtuous cycle of creating stackables by yourself, partnering with content providers to build them, and ingesting them from other places.
Colleges and universities have amazing resources for learning in their faculty and their content knowledge. Many times, those same faculty and that same content can be used to create short-form credentials that open the door to a wider set of learners. It’s not only about the degree or a single point-in-time credential. All of us will need to continually learn and collect new credentials throughout our careers. Stackables empower institutions to set up lifelong partnerships with their students – from a traditional experience through a fully online experience, from a degree to a single hour-long, just-in-time learning session.
Some folks worry about whether microcredentials will really have the value they promise. But institutions can develop a lot more information about what is being learned. And as we get better at intervening with post-traditional learners, we can get better at moving them to the appropriate classes or paths.
You do, however, need to remain focused on your institution’s actual mission, to avoid mission creep. Not every institution needs to be everything for every learner. Each institution has its own unique strength, lens, and approach to learning. In the online space, it’s no different.
You led LSU’s initiatives in non-degree and degree online learning. How did you bring faculty aboard?
There are always champions: people who’ve discovered ways to get innovative things done. Find them. Then support them with all the expertise and political capital you can. If you make early adopters successful, others will come on board. I’ve never been in an environment where you didn’t have innovative faculty. It’s always a question of critical mass and political will.
LSU was proud of building its own internal online learning organization without an external OPM. Now you’re at the company that pioneered the OPM model. Can you reflect on the decision to partner or go it alone?
I had a very unusual situation at LSU. I had Board support, strategic focus from the President, and the best boss I’ve ever had – a Provost who promised to block and tackle for me, and came through every time, whether it involved changing policies or getting mainframes reprogrammed. She was willing to be unpopular – and that included fighting to protect our budgets.
When you work with an OPM partner, there’s a contract in place, and dollars for things like marketing and recruitment are protected through that contract. Many institutions really don't know the true cost of learner acquisition, marketing, and recruitment. They may not know what it means to do digital campaigns, or the differences between a website and landing pages, and the implications for marketing spend. That requires specific talent, and it can be hard to get.
At LSU, I was empowered to build a team from the ground up, where we had to be super-creative, use super-modern techniques, and be super-efficient. And it worked. But when an average institution has a strategic communications budget of, say, $200,000, and you propose dropping $6,000,000 on marketing for an online program that has 5,000 students this year, that budget line tends not to get preserved. You might start out with the commitment, but it gradually turns out that you can’t afford to market the program to reach the scale needed to sustain it.
Even just the technology behind online programs can be challenging. You need a CRM, autodialers, texting, chat boxes, web development. Universities are not historically excellent at all that. If you can’t build that, you must get it externally.
Not everything is either-or, and when we build service packages for new partners at Pearson, they’re differentiated and customized to each institution’s needs. But I can 100% say that if you don’t have certain ingredients to scale, it’s better to go with a partner.
You’ve been a thought leader at institutions like LSU and SNHU, but also in organizations like Quality Matters. Based on all you’ve seen, can you share any final reflections?
I’ve had the incredibly good fortune of meeting many great people who’ve been eager to have candid conversations about online learning. It seems strange to say this, though: this is still a relatively small and new field. The opportunities are wide open. We really are still at the very beginning of online education.
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”:
Teaching students to think critically and solve problems is a widely pursued goal in higher education. Definitions of critical thinking vary but basically come down to having students examine an ill-defined or messy problem and carefully apply the knowledge and skills they have acquired during the instructional process to analyze the problem and suggest a solution.
To learn to think critically and solve problems, students must take an active role in constructing and defending their knowledge. The best way for students to demonstrate critical thinking is to attempt one or more outcomes-based assessments.
Outcomes-based learning and assessments
What will my students do “out there”—in the real world of family, work, and community—as a result of what we do “in here”—in my classroom? 1
This question presents a useful way to think of student learning outcomes and enables us to envision a broad, overall view of course content and goals. Sometimes this is termed “backward design” or “designing down,” referring to a process of defining intended outcomes first, and only then defining the content and designing the instruction.
Defining the desired outcomes first is relatively easy for information technology courses. It is not difficult to envision what IT students will do “out there,” because of the discipline’s relatedness to employability skills. We have always been comfortable with helping students bridge classroom and real-life experiences.
Once intended outcomes for a course or unit of instruction are determined, a student engages in observation, practice, and other learning activities to demonstrate mastery of the knowledge and skills associated with the course content. A student is then prepared to engage in an outcomes-based assessment, actively engaging the student in learning to think critically and solve problems by making judgments and taking appropriate actions that are observed and evaluated, simulating what occurs in real life.
Discussions and evidence of critical thinking determined from outcomes-based assessments typically include the differentiation between novice and expert work. Authors such as Willingham and Riener2 and McTighe and Ferrara3 look at the progress of the students in terms of moving from novice to expert. Think of student performance as a continuum of competency; for example, the varying belt colors one can earn while studying martial arts.
Students develop critical-thinking skills by observing excellent work and engaging in learning activities to obtain the knowledge and skills necessary to achieve the outcome. Student skills eventually become routine compared to the beginning of their learning when careful thought was required.
For example, you can relate the learning process to how individuals learn to play a video game. They watch a friend, the expert, play a game and then gradually, with practice, learn the game mechanics. Additional practice leading to mastery moves them from novice to expert to eventually being able to strategize the game play and become an expert.
Assessment of critical thinking
An outcomes-based assessment is also referred to as an authentic assessment in the sense that the assessment is realistic. An authentic assessment engages students to apply the knowledge and skills they have acquired during the instruction in ways that reflect problems they would encounter in the real world. Such an assessment has no right or wrong answer but rather reflects the thinking of an expert in the field.
The outcomes-based assessment provides the opportunity for students to apply their knowledge and skills to ill-defined problems like those in real life. Doing so requires integrating the discipline-based knowledge and skills they have acquired with completing various learning activities. Students learn to think critically by attempting an outcomes-based assessment that is representative of a current problem an expert in the discipline would encounter.
Both the student and the instructor apply an analytic rubric to the result, discuss the results, and based on the instructor’s feedback, the student may attempt the outcomes-based assessment again until the work is of professional quality as determined by the rubric. When students attempt outcomes-based assessments, they are likely to be more effective as professionals.
How to develop an assessment for critical thinking
As instructors, we know that developing and grading an assessment that has no right or wrong answers can be time-consuming. Fortunately, there is abundant research and examples of how to do this, and many Pearson textbooks include outcomes-based assessments. For example, the GO! Series for Microsoft Office 365 uses an outcomes-based framework, and each unit of instruction includes numerous critical-thinking assessments and accompanying rubrics. Each instructional project includes a critical-thinking quiz so the student can immediately review the project and identify the purpose and benefit of creating the information.
To develop an assessment for critical thinking, one useful device is the GRASPS model developed by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe and detailed in Designing Authentic Performance Tasks and Projects.4 The acronym GRASPS stands for:
G—a realistic goal
R—the role of the student
S—the real-world situation
P—the product or performance the student will demonstrate
S—the criteria for judging success
For example, in a class where you are teaching Microsoft Excel, you could use the GRASPS model to develop an assessment for critical thinking as follows:
You are an assistant in the Supply Chain and Logistics department of an online vitamin company (role). Your manager asks you to create an inventory status report (real-world situation) to present to the Chief Financial Officer (audience) of the company so the company can estimate warehouse costs for new products (goal). Based on inventory data, you develop an Excel workbook (product) that presents the inventory information in a way that makes it easy for the Chief Financial Officer to visualize warehouse needs (criteria for success).
How to grade an assessment
Students learn to think critically by attempting outcomes-based assessments that are representative of a current problem an expert in the discipline would encounter. Multiple exposures to outcomes-based assessments provide students the opportunity to apply their knowledge and skills to ill-defined problems like those in real life. To do so, students must integrate the discipline-based knowledge and skills they acquired during the instructional process.
An analytic rubric distinguishes novice work from expert work. On completion of an outcomes-based assessment, both the student and the instructor apply an analytic rubric to the result and discuss the results. Based on the instructor’s feedback, the student attempts the outcomes-based assessment again until the work is of professional quality as determined by the rubric.
An analytic rubric divides a product or performance into distinct traits or dimensions. As the instructor, you can judge and score each trait separately. The rubric is known ahead of time by both the student and the instructor. The analytic rubric gathers evidence of the student’s performance against a set of pre-determined standards. By applying the rubric, both you and the student can place the performance on a qualitative continuum.
For teaching productivity software, here is an example of an analytic rubric that can be applied to any critical-thinking assessment such as the GRASPS example above:
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.
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.
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
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.