Like many others, you’re going through the experience of having your home become your office and classroom. Your students are facing just as much — if not more — of an abrupt transition. That’s why it’s important to talk to them about getting the course support they need during this disruption to their education. In addition, learning to seek out support is a valuable skill in and of itself, and can help students succeed in both college and their careers.
Searching for a new normal
Since mid-March, service providers and instructors around the world have been in emergency mode, establishing workable course delivery and an educational presence online for all classes in response to the coronavirus.
Now that we’re solidly in the midst of this large-scale transition to remote teaching and learning, we’re looking ahead in search of a new normal. Summer and fall sessions seem likely to introduce an entirely new set of considerations rather than a return to the educational practices we were recently forced to abandon. Quite apart from merely delivering courses online, schools must be ready to provide a quick transition to online courses that offer reliable course navigation, equitable access, support for learners with disabilities, and academic integrity.
The one constant is that students will need support as education, by necessity, becomes increasingly nimble and remote. We only need to look back 15 years for a parallel of our current challenge.
The lessons we’ve learned
In 2005, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, approximately 100,000 students were displaced from their colleges and universities. Many never returned to their campuses. Today we’re facing the same type of disruption, albeit on a much grander scale.
Andre Perry, fellow at the Brookings Institution, was a professor at the University of New Orleans during Katrina. He urges repeated, proactive contact with students — especially in the early stages of such a disruption to their education — and stresses the obligation of faculty to maintain the student-teacher connection.
Research shows that a key role in students’ retention is their relationships with professors. Perry fears that if those relationships weaken or lapse during this disruption, “we may collectively lose thousands of students across the country.”
One valuable tip for supporting students during a transition to remote learning is that educators provide an asynchronous approach to classes. While the routine of a regularly scheduled class might seem to offer consistency and a semblance of normalcy for learners, there are clear challenges. Many have work and/or family obligations, inadequate technology and internet access, and time zone considerations that put them at a disadvantage.
For schools that require a synchronous approach, educators should accommodate students who can’t join the session as scheduled. Recorded lectures are recommended so that they have the same opportunity to listen, and then participate in discussion in the classes they can attend.
According to Christopher Heard, director of the Center for Teaching Excellence at Pepperdine University, “The key is to keep students feeling like a class, rather than scattered individuals.”
“Although challenging, it’s important that students don’t see this period as a gap in their education or as an impossible obstacle in their studies. Pearson employees and Smarthinking tutors are familiar with using technology to support students digitally, and they’re willing and able to help students who may find the new, online-only environment challenging or intimidating.” — Michael Goodfellow, Sr. Lead Writing Tutor
How else can online tutoring support your virtual classroom?
Get the infographic and explore three other ways online tutoring can empower your students to succeed, no matter where they are.
I’ve been working remotely for almost six years, so I have some sense of what it generally takes to be successful working from home. But then the social distancing orders went into place in March. Now, I’ve gone from focusing on work, alone, in my home office, to sharing my workspace with my wife (who has started working from home too), while we provide around-the-clock primary care for our two young children. Working from home has become less about working and more about home.
Recent surveys from Pearson indicate that others are experiencing challenges as well. In March, 81% of Americans agreed that remote work is just as good as office work, but that number is down 16 percentage points in the April survey. Satisfaction levels have also gone down as the pandemic stretches on: in March 93% reported being satisfied with their work from home experience, but that dropped to 82% reporting satisfaction in April.
In my state the shelter-in-place restrictions aren’t likely to be lifted any time soon. Since I’m a researcher, I’ve turned to the body of evidence for motivation and self-management for advice on how to get through this.
Here are five tips for how to stay motivated when working remotely based on that research and my own experiences.
1. Update your mindset
Many of us are trying to juggle two full-time jobs at the same time: caring for and being a teacher to our children while also doing the job that pays the bills. But you can not physically do both at the same time. Repeat that to yourself if you need to (I know I have!).
As such, I’ve had to reset my expectations so I’m not setting myself up for failure. My recommendation is that you try to be realistic in order to keep from getting demoralized. These are difficult times and you can not be as productive as before.
2. Set realistic goals
Now that you’ve updated your mindset, write down what is most important for you at home and for work. This will help you not only prioritize your work when time is limited, but also enable you to be satisfied that you’re still focusing on what matters. Then celebrate the small wins to help you stay motivated.
For example, I’ve become less worried about how much time my kids are spending with the tablet, and been explicit to myself that my goal is for my children to be healthy, safe, and as happy as they can be right now. And, I’ve talked with my boss to prioritize projects and push out some deadlines.
3. Create a new routine
Working from home gives you more flexibility than ever before. However, this freedom can be a double-edged sword. Work can bleed into family time and vice versa.
To counteract this, I’ve established some habits to help me transition from “morning with the kids” to “working day.” In particular, I’ll go and get changed, make myself a cup of coffee, bring it to my desk, and start on whatever task I told myself I’d pick up first thing the next day. In addition, my wife and I split up days so we can each make sure to carve out enough time to get our jobs done.
I recommend keeping to a healthy routine, blocking off working hours (as much as you can), and maintaining a dedicated “work zone” in your home, even if it is temporary, to stay focused.
4. Help yourself stay on track
To make the most of the time you have, it can help to get specific about how you will deal with obstacles in your way. Spend some time thinking about things that might make it difficult to stick to your goals, and then come up with some concrete plans for how you will deal with those (e.g., “If I see a notification news story about COVID-19 that I want to read, instead I will turn off notifications for the next hour and go back to working.”)
Planning these “if → then” kinds of rules ahead of time has been found to be really effective for helping people stick to their goals.
5. Stay connected
Working from home can often feel isolating and motivation can easily wane, so efforts to feel like part of a community at work can help. Turn your camera on during meetings. And, make an effort to recreate that watercooler talk via chat or by scheduling catch ups with your colleagues. Everyone who I’ve talked with has been in a similar challenging situation and it has made me feel better that I’m not alone.
I also really look forward to virtual calls with family and friends. Knowing that I have a happy hour with my favorite people coming up has made getting through the day a little less painful.
In the same surveys I mentioned earlier, in April, 65% of Americans say they intend to continue to work remotely after the pandemic subsides. If you do continue to work from home, I can tell you it will get easier when life returns to normal!
If you’ve ever watched the DIY Network on television, Kayleen McCabe’s is a face you may recognize.
She is the host and star of “Rescue Renovation,” a show that helps homeowners who are in over their heads. Renovation projects turn from disastrous “befores” into jaw-dropping “afters.”
When Kayleen is not in front of the camera, she’s traveling the country telling students the story of how her long-time construction hobby turned into a successful career.
Growing up different
“As a little girl, I was always building stuff with my hands,” Kayleen says.
“My dad was a welder by trade, so I learned a lot of what I know from him.”
“We did repairs around the house, built fences, and worked on cars together.”
“I didn’t realize how unique that was until high school,” Kayleen says.
Kayleen says most of her classmates had no idea what they wanted to do after graduation.
Kayleen was different.
“I knew, even then, that I wanted to work in the construction trades,” she says.
Trusting her instincts
Although knew she wanted a career in construction, Kayleen didn’t enroll in trade school after high school.
“I made good grades,” she says, “and I felt pressure to do what the other ‘good students’ did: go to college.”
One year and two schools (Red Rocks Community College and Colorado State University) later, Kayleen called her parents with some news that ultimately wasn’t a surprise to them: college wasn’t for her.
“I could’ve saved a lot of tuition money by following that instinct earlier,” Kayleen says.
“I am so grateful that when I eventually did, my parents were supportive.”
The first foray into television
Shortly after graduating from high school, Kayleen says, her cousin called her with a proposition.
“She was a producer on the TV show ‘Trading Spaces.’”
“She knew I liked working with my hands, and she said she could help me get a production assistant job.”
From her very first day on the set, Kayleen says she was hooked.
“I would bounce of out of bed at 5 am, vibrating with excitement about whatever we got to build next.”
“It was the first time I fell in love.”
The mentor of all mentors
On the set of “Trading Spaces,” Kayleen met a master craftsman named Frank.
“He was this grumpy-looking older guy with a big bushy mustache that was permanently stained from tobacco,” Kayleen says.
“But he taught me more than I could ever explain.”
“I could ask him anything, and he encouraged me to learn, to try, and most importantly, to fail,” Kayleen says.
“Being in an environment where I felt so safe to do that was the best gift I ever received.”
“Learning the way that I did—on the job—was more of an education than I could ever have gotten from going to college.”
“Rescue Renovation” is currently in its fifth season on TV.
Kayleen says she is immensely grateful for her continued success—especially in a field that is traditionally dominated by men.
“When the show first started, I was one of the only female hosts on our channel—or any other one.”
“It’s different now, and I cannot wait for that to keep changing.”
When she travels for her show, Kayleen says, she is often able to help drive that change.
“I like to leverage a plane ticket as much as possible.”
“I’ll find out what schools are close to the airport and call them up. I say, ‘Hi, I’m a woman in the trades, can I come talk to your kids about career opportunities in my field?’”
“To the best of my ability,” Kayleen says, “I will continue to leverage what fame I’ve garnered to help recruit more and more young women into the construction trades.”
Connecting with audiences on smaller screens, too
In her spare time, Kayleen produces short, instructional videos for her followers and fans. She hosts them on her personal web page.
Topics range from cabinet building, to clamps and fasteners, to drill skills.
“I want to get them into the hands of middle and high school teachers so they can show their kids what working in the trades is really like.”
“Growing up, my teachers had nothing like that. In terms of recruitment, I think it could be game-changing.”
Something to strive for
Kayleen says she is constantly thinking about the future—for herself and for construction trades overall.
“I want to double the number of students I talk to every year … until that becomes impossible.”
Already this year, Kayleen has made incredible progress towards her goal. She has trips planned to Indiana, Ontario, Nebraska, Arizona, Kentucky, Nevada, Abu Dhabi, and Mississippi—all in the next few months.
“Someday, I hope I am able to travel full-time, speaking to students and giving them scholarships to study the trades.”
“I want to be the Bill Gates of power tools,” Kayleen says.
In the early 1990s, Bill Clements highlighted students in his college classes at Norwich University on websites he built from scratch.
“I’d post a ‘Student of the Week’ and the students really got a kick out of it,” he says. “They’d call home to their families and say ‘hey, Mom, my picture is on the Internet!’”
It was a big deal at the time, Bill says.
That was more than 20 years ago. Now, Bill is Vice President and Dean of the College of Graduate and Continuing Studies at Norwich, overseeing the learning of the approximately 1,800 students enrolled in online programs.
A history of service
Founded in 1819, Norwich University is the oldest private military college in the United States and is considered the birthplace of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC). With a student body of approximately two-thirds in the Corps of Cadets, the school’s online population also serves a high proportion of military students.
“Overall, I’d say the online-only degrees are 40% military students,” Bill says.
Several of Norwich’s online programs are designed to serve military students. The Master of Arts in Diplomacy and Master of Arts in Military History, in particular, have high enrollments of military officers.
“We get a lot of students who are military officers preparing for promotions or additional leadership roles and are looking to our online programs to bolster their professional capabilities,” Bill says.
The university recently conducted a Gallup survey of its alumni and the results confirm what Bill has always known to be true.
“We’ve heard from our students and alumni—military and civilian—that our online programs made it easier to earn a degree,” he says. “They graduate and get good jobs with good salaries.”
“There’s been a positive impact on their lives as a result of their education.”
Higher ed 3.0
Thirty years ago this month, Bill was teaching at Temple University and finishing his doctoral degree.
“It was a big week for me,” he recalls. “I had just signed my contract at Norwich, had a birthday, my second daughter was born, and I was defending my dissertation.”
Bill recalls talking to a colleague also on the verge of completing his doctorate about where they might be in 30 years.
“We knew we wanted to be in leadership positions that would allow us to be a part of the changes we knew were coming,” he says. “We didn’t know what those changes would look like, exactly, but we were eager to begin our careers.”
That colleague went on to have a successful career in higher education and together, Bill says, they’ve seen the evolution of “higher ed 2.0.”
“When we went through school, higher education was still ‘version 1.0.’ It was lecture halls and slides full of notes,” he explains. “Throughout my career, I’ve seen the evolution of ‘version 2.0,’ where we took that physical classroom and moved it online with little change.”
But now, Bill says, he’s looking forward to the next 30 years and the evolution of higher ed 3.0.
“That next version has to move beyond just replicating lectures,” he says. “We have to ask how can we make learning more effective, how do we make it more engaged, how do we make it more affordable?”
He also believes higher education is a lifelong process.
“You can’t just get a degree and get a job and never go to school again in today’s economy,” he says. “How is higher education going to adapt to that?”
Are you having to transition teaching your traditional face-to-face summer class to an online environment? This can be a daunting task with a full 16-week semester, let alone for a super short 5-week mini-mester! Compound that with the fact that you may not have taught online previously, and this could easily intimidate even the most seasoned instructor. Have no fear! Many have traversed this path before you and come out successful—you can, too!
Summer courses are short, rigorous, but can be very rewarding for both you and the student when taught with a few best practices in mind. For instance, they usually have smaller enrollments meaning less to grade for you (YAY!), but that means more rapid feedback for them since you can get your grading done more quickly. The smaller class size allows you to have more frequent interactions with each student thereby giving them the support they need to be more successful. Plus, most summer students are highly motivated and typically are only taking one or two classes at a time. This means they are going to be dedicated to learning your material.
There are a few guiding principles you can utilize to help you as you work to design your summer online course. First, let’s do a brief overview on “how” you will be teaching, then we will address the “what” to teach online in more detail.
When designing online courses, you should always start by talking to your institution, or search their website, for information about any specific requirements they have for teaching online courses. Then, by answering these few questions, you’ll be well on your way to success as you design and implement your online course.
Now, onto the teaching of online courses. Once you’ve ascertained how you are going to teach your course online, now you need to figure out the what, as in “what am I going to teach?” There are four guiding principles as you try to determine what exactly you are going to teach in your summer course.
If you’ve only taught 16-week courses, trying to fit all of that material into a 5-week course is like trying to fit ten pounds of candy into a five-pound bag. You need to prioritize the “have to knows” from the “good to knows.” Think about this, what information do your students really need from your course to be successful in their career years down the road? Assess your required Learning Outcomes and determine the essentials that must be taught in order for you to meet those objectives.
These essential Learning Outcomes should then be clearly communicated to your students in the very beginning of the course. The students should know what they are working towards learning, and what it is they will be assessed on throughout the length of the course. Refer back to them as you progress through the course, helping students realize that these are the foundational skills they’ll need to apply your course materials to their careers.
Now that you’ve decided the specific topics you will be covering in your summer course, it’s time to organize it in a logical flow that teaches your objectives in a scaffolded manner. In other words, make sure the prerequisite/foundational knowledge and skills are reviewed/taught early in the course, and then build upon these as you address your Learning Objectives. You can’t teach a student to solve for “x” in the equation x + 4 = 6 if they haven’t yet learned how to add and subtract. Don’t be afraid to skip around chapters, especially in the summer, to help create a more logical flow for this shortened semester!
While contemplating how best to design the flow of your course to meet your Learning Outcomes, keep in mind, this is a fast-paced course. Again, reiterating the importance of focusing on what you need to teach, extraneous information should be cut from your teachings. You may also want to consider relating much of what you teach to real-world situations. This will convey the importance of what you’re teaching and make it more memorable to the students at the same time.
How do you design your assignments for this short course now that you’ve figured out what you are teaching? Easy! Take what you’ve been doing for your 16-week course, shorten the assignments, and give them more frequently. Your students are already going to be studying, rewriting notes, practicing, and reading – you don’t want to give them homework assignments that take 2 – 3 hours on top of all of that. If you can, break the assignments into bite-sized chunks that take no more than 30 – 45 minutes to complete (or less), and give them a few assignments per week. These will be easier to digest for your students and will also help them retain the importance of the material. You may even offer more flexible due dates in this summer course than you would in your 16-weeks.
Consider using the discussion forums discussed in the How to Prepare for Online Teaching blog. These can be short but powerful assignments. If you’re having the students write papers for your course, consider shortening the length of the paper, or the number of papers they have to submit, and focus more on the content you’re having them address. Lastly, really give thought to group projects as well. Sometimes students learn more from each other than they do from us.
These 5-week classes are not only tough to plan out and teach, but they are a heavy lift for the students as they try to learn this material in a compressed time frame. Try offering an extra level of support for these students you don’t normally give your 16-week classes. If you are doing live virtual class sessions (or even pre-recorded videos), consider providing them with copies of the slides or the notes you use while teaching. Set up extra virtual office hours for them to pop in and ask you questions. Create practice quizzes or tests for them to use as study guides, or even provide them with a more detailed study guide than you usually hand out.
By following the guiding principles for how to teach online and what to teach in summer courses, it will set both you and your students up for success. These principles will put you on track to create an effective, efficient, and enjoyable online summer course. Bottom line, these summer students will work diligently, but they will work even harder if they know you’re really trying to help them be more successful in such a short, intensive course!
Technology has really changed the way we teach. It doesn’t seem that long ago that my classes brought their paperback workbooks to class; they tore out review pages and turned them in for grading. They brought notebooks to take notes in, and we gave paper/pencil tests. Now? They can use e-books on a tablet. They access assignments on their phones. Course materials can be available with one click, anytime, anywhere.
But those changes don’t all happen overnight. They take time and preparation. And sometimes that’s not a luxury we have. We might have catastrophic weather or a pandemic or some other event that closes the school for a while. Every course needs an online presence. And it needs to happen now.
So where do we start? Let’s assume our primary goal is to deliver some assessments online while the campus is closed. You may have existing question banks you can use. Or, you may have texts with materials like TestGen available.
If that’s the case, you’ll need to download TestGen software if you want to make a paper/pencil test and then export it to your Learning Management System (LMS). You then need to download the question banks at Pearson’s Higher Ed site to build your library of questions. You may already have these from your existing tests. (By the way, if you want to export a TestGen test to your LMS, be careful to export it in the correct format. You typically need to look at the Blackboard export option.)
You may find it easier to access the TestGen question bank files from Pearson’s website and upload them directly to the Learning Management System. You will need to search by your text to see if files are available. You might need to use an older edition if the new one is not available or use a similar text if you need more variety of questions. Again, note that TestGen question banks are not necessarily available for every text.
Once you have identified the question banks, download them, and then use the LMS to upload the question banks. Here are links you can use to learn more about the process for your specific LMS.
After you have those loaded in your LMS, you can then create quizzes/tests. Your LMS administrator on campus has training materials for how to do this, and you can also find extensive instructor resources for each LMS online.
As you design your quizzes/tests, keep in mind things like pooling questions to provide variety. You might also be able to scramble the question order. Allow some extra time on tests so students are able to navigate the technology and still have time for the test itself.
In addition, you may want to have a “mini test” for students to practice with, especially if you require them to use Respondus or Proctor U or Honor Lock or a similar tool. You can learn more about the technology tools your school has by checking with your LMS administrator.
When teaching a science class, we often use experiences in the lab to foster critical thinking skills and reinforce the concepts we introduce in lectures. But with campuses closed, students cannot access the lab.
So what do you do? Is it better to forget about labs at all, or is there value in online or hands-on at home methods? This is what one study published by the Journal of Formative Design in Learning tells us.
Don’t ditch labs
Students who take lecture and laboratory concurrently outperform their lecture-only peers, regardless of whether that lab is face-to-face or non-traditional.
Non-traditional labs can be as effective as face-to-face labs
A good non-traditional lab tool can increase test scores, improve students’ attitudes and preparedness for the hands-on lab, and strengthen conceptual knowledge.
In one particular study, the students said the online laboratory experience was the same as or better than their prior experiences in the traditional setting.
Students can access the lab whenever and wherever suits them. Flexibility will be important at the moment, particularly for those suddenly having to care for children.
In an online lab, students can reflect on what went right and what did not go as planned, and then can repeat the experiment as many times as they need.
Virtual chemistry labs can help students visualize structures and processes at the molecular level and allow types of experiments not possible in a standard undergraduate laboratory—e.g., quantum chemistry.
Examples of online labs
Online labs can range from simple videos and games, to graphing and 2D simulations, to interactive 3D virtual reality experiences. Simulations, as mathematical models of processes in the physical world, allow users to manipulate parameters and can be used by faculty to customize laboratories in various disciplines. Some examples include:
Hands-on kits available from various vendors can provide students with practice of experiments, and manufacturers usually assume liability. One example is Chemistry LabPaqs from Hands on Labs (http://holscience.com/)
A good tool should have
Software that is easy to install, user-friendly, and intuitive, yet challenging.
Experiences similar to the traditional laboratory.
Useful sequences for learners that scaffold their use of the system.
Some form of feedback (even if it is just immediate results of labs and simulations).
Help for visualizing and demonstrating concepts and constructs that might otherwise be difficult to observe (depending on exactly what domain it is).
Alignment with the learning objectives across all learning activities.
Clear instructions (even if the task is more open-ended in the lab) and criteria so students know what to focus on.
The ability for students to “experiment” in the environment without penalty.
Digital laboratory manuals that accompany hands-on lab kits must also be user-friendly and intuitive.
Online teaching has gone viral! COVID-19 is causing teachers, who never thought they’d teach this way, to dive right into unchartered territory. Learning how to use technology to deliver content and evaluate students’ mastery of course principles is happening–almost overnight—and often without much guidance for instructors.
Faculty are often working more hours than they can count, trying to quickly ramp up so their students have little disruption in their learning.
Creating online learning environments is daunting, even for seasoned online instructors with weeks of lead time. But now, face-to-face face teachers are under the gun to get these courses up and running pronto. Those teaching in Spring 2020 are under pressures no one ever anticipated.
Add on to that the stress of self-isolation, homeschooling children, and sharing home office spaces with partners and children. Self-care is vital for any caretaker, and right now, it’s vital for teachers too.
This article offers teachers self-care tips to destress and renew so they continue to offer their expertise and talents to their students in these unprecedented times.
Use the Pomodoro method of working. Complete 25 minutes of intense work followed by a 5 minute break. Repeat 3x if needed. Then take a 30 minute break before beginning the cycle again.
Remember, a 40-hour work week included water cooler time or meetings. Four hours of intense work per day is really an ambitious goal. Clearly, sometimes we spend more time and sometimes less, but don’t let working online dominate your entire day.
You need designated down time. Make rules for working hours that suit your most productive times and around other people and duties in your home.
Designate a workspace (even if you have to share). Straighten and clear your work area every day. Try to keep this space only for your online teaching. Leave it when you have completed your work and don’t return “just to check.”
If you have to share a desk or computer with others, create a schedule and a way to remove your tools for work. Try putting your office tools on a cutting board you can take with you when you exit or find a box for your files/papers. This way, you have a portable workstation you can remove to prevent others from disturbing.
3. Teaching support
You are not alone. There are plenty of resources for teaching online, some at no cost. Sites like Pearson’s can provide you with online teaching tips as well as faculty experts to consult about best practices for teaching online.
4. Take care of your students
By now you may realize how time consuming and emotionally draining maintaining an online presence with your students can be. Take these steps to help take care of your students, and yourself!
Remember #1 and don’t feel you must be physically present 24-hours a day because your students may email you at 2 a.m. And while you need to find ways to create a real relationship at a distance with your students, they didn’t have access to you in the classroom beyond their class times and your office hours. The same rules also apply online.
Be clear with your students when you will and will not communicate with them. Defining expectations reduces misunderstandings that can occur when asynchronous communication becomes the rule rather than the exception.
Be cognizant of this crisis and consider bending some rules in your class that made sense before but may become less relevant now. Practice flexibility.
Focus more on collaborative activities between students if possible (shared Google docs or other methods of online collaboration).
Offer students some live time virtual meetings with you.
Create short video messages to your classes showing your willingness to understand how this crisis is impacting their lives.
If you follow the Pomodoro method mentioned above, use the breaks for some type of physical exercise. Intense mental focus is relieved by short bursts of physical activity.
Try using an exercise ball to stretch out your back. Or you jump on that stationary bike or step machine.
Designate off time for physical workouts every day. Being confined in our homes doesn’t mean we can’t work out. Use YouTube for dance workouts (you can do this with anyone in your home or alone).
Take a walk (keeping safe distances). Getting outside, even if it means on the roof of your building, will do wonders for your attitude. Morning sun is particularly important, so try to get some of those early morning rays on the top of your uncovered head.
6. You are what you eat
Eat well, but not deprived. Now may not be the best time to go on that diet, but it is a time to eat well.
Comfort foods like chips and candy aren’t the best mindless munching snacks. Instead, try nuts, fruits, or crunchy veggies. Reserve your “treats” for designated times and make sure to really focus on the enjoyment of that special something (chocolate for many of us).
Eating out is not an option currently, so find ways to get fresh vegetables, fruits, and other groceries in safe ways. There are companies that will deliver fresh veggies and fruits to your door weekly, and many markets are providing curb side pickup or deliveries of preordered items.
This may be the time we all learn to create shopping lists and stick to them, making meal plans, maybe even cooking those recipes we’ve been saving and never trying.
Remember as you plan and eat well, we will all emerge from our cocoons in time; while a few pounds to shed may not be something to worry about, gaining 20 or 30 pounds will decrease your sense of well-being, creating additional stress. So, refer to #5 again!
7. Take care of your feelings
Most of us are overwhelmed by this crisis. Be gentle with yourself if you find you are less patient with others, have times when you just want to be completely alone, feel anxious, or find yourself in a cleaning or cooking frenzy. These are just signs that you need to decompress a bit.
Take up that hobby you’ve been putting off; use yoga or meditation to set the tone for the day or to decompress, or relax with a book in the evening. There are many free apps that can help you with these types of activities.
Reach out virtually to friends and family through regular video meetings. Free resources such as Zoom, Slack, Google Hangouts, or Teams in Outlook can help you connect real time with those you love.
Attend virtual concerts that many orchestras and musicians are creating to provide comfort and inspiration, watch live cameras of zoos or wildlife, or start that blog you’ve been putting off.
Externalize your feelings in healthy ways by talking with supportive people either in your home or at a distance. If these feelings result in prolonged depression, please know there are many online counseling services that provide counseling. Counselors nation-wide are mobilizing and also working from home to help decrease stress and depression.
8. Care of others
One of the greatest methods of self-care is to flip the focus of helplessness or irritation and think of ways you are already caring for others. Look for fresh ways to be supportive of friends, family members, and your community that you hadn’t considered before.
There are sites and apps that offer opportunities to volunteer virtually in a number of ways beyond just donating. Often getting out of ourselves and into the needs of others lifts our spirits, increases our self-worth, and spills over to the jobs at hand; caring for the educational and sometimes emotional needs of our students.
Know that while you may not be getting the applause and ticker tape parades you deserve, your tireless efforts to provide ongoing education are not without notice. We will come out on the other side of this, and hopefully with greater depth in our understanding of what teaching and teachers mean and can come to mean to the students today facing challenges we have never encountered.
You are the trailblazers, teaching the leaders who will face new worlds of challenges. Take care of yourselves! The world needs you!
When students are actively learning, they are making connections to their own lives, questioning, and collaborating, which we know leads to more significant, durable learning outcomes. In the classroom, we deliberately plan learning activities and discussion to engage learners and keep them active. We stay alert during class to pick up on cues that learners are tuning out or struggling so we can pivot and improvise as needed.
One of the toughest adjustments to teaching online is that we lose this immediate feedback-action loop. We can’t adjust in real time to keep learners engaged in specific activities or assignments. So, it’s important to set up learning opportunities that extend past the activity or assignment itself.
Here are some ideas for encouraging active engagement online.
1. Incorporate their lived experience
We usually encourage students to bring their experiences into our classroom. But now, we have to figure out how to bring our discipline-specific content into their experiences. Now we’re all at home, students are not focused on our content at a specific time or in a specific place.
To keep them engaged and actively learning, we have to help them experience their lives through the lens of our content. We don’t want them to only think about our content when they’re sitting in front of their device. Give them things to look for, think about, and capture as they clean the house, care for family members, walk the dog, and watch Netflix. Encourage them to find the ways your content manifests in everyday life. For example:
Laws of physics scavenger hunt. Ask learners to take pictures/videos of laws of physics in action around their home. Share online and ask the class to vote for the best examples.
Neighborhood visual ethnography project. Learners walk around their neighborhood (using safe social distancing practices) and take pictures. They use grounded research techniques to analyze images and categorize characteristics to make hypotheses about their neighborhood’s culture. They could incorporate public records searches to consider property values and census information.
2. Make them research assistants
In a discussion-based class, we would generally provide learners with some context and content in lecture and readings and then engage them in discussion and analysis to promote deeper understanding and durable learning. Online forums can be lively and contribute to significant learning, but they are not a straight substitute for classroom discussion. So, instead of providing them with all the relevant readings and context, ask them to find it. Imagine you now have a class full of research assistants.
Here are two examples showing how you might transfer what you do in the classroom to an online environment:
Classroom: Lecture on elements of Victorian society that influenced Jane Eyre and discussion to apply to reading and incorporate learner experiences
Online: Learners research specific aspects of Victorian society, looking especially for contemporary sources that would help learners empathize with Victorian readers. Find examples in the reading of things that would have resonated with or be significant to Victorian readers that today’s readers might not find as significant or understand.
Classroom: Assign journal readings about applying theory to curriculum design and then a practical assignment to create a lesson plan.
Online: Provide summaries of major learning theories and then ask learners to find journal articles that apply one of the theories to curriculum design in their discipline. Post the article, a summary, and then explain two specific ways they would incorporate that theory into their own curriculum design.
3. Ask them to write the test
You’re right to be concerned about cheating when learners are taking assessments online from home. There are proctoring apps that can help mitigate this risk, but not everyone has access to that technology. Turn testing into an active learning experience (and reduce the risk of cheating) by asking them to write the test.
Quantitative disciplines or introductory skills-based courses
In quantitative disciplines or introductory skills-based courses, give learners the learning objectives and ask them to write items that assess the learning objectives and provide the correct answers with justification. Ask them to create multiple choice distractors that represent common mistakes, miscalculations, or misconceptions and explain what error each distracter represents.
Qualitative disciplines or higher level theory-based courses
In more qualitative disciplines or higher level theory-based courses, learners can create their own rubrics to evaluate existing works or their own projects. They can use the rubrics they created to evaluate their peers’ work, or they can use someone else’s rubric to evaluate their own or others’ work.
4. Read together
Asking questions while you read and talking to someone else about what you’re learning are two proven active learning strategies. Use online tools to allow learners to annotate readings together.
The app Hypothes.is allows people to annotate PDFs or even websites.
You can upload a reading to Google Docs, Microsoft OneDrive, or Adobe Cloud and share it so learners can make and reply to comments.
In any of these apps, learners can tag you or each other for specific questions or responses. Just remember to turn on your notifications.
5. Solve problems together
Often, online group projects are less collaboration and more divide-and-conquer. You can both lean into and disrupt this tendency by using a jigsaw strategy. In a jigsaw strategy, groups of learners become “experts” in one concept or topic, and then they shuffle into new groups where they become the representative of their concept in a new mixed-expertise group. The new group has to work together, sharing and leveraging their specific expertise, to solve a problem.
Classroom: A lecture and readings introduce the concept of sustainability and provide an overview of the types of sustainability initiatives in which corporations engage. In groups, students research the sustainability initiatives of three companies and decide which has the best strategy.
Online, option A: Each group is given one company to research. They find out everything they can about that company’s sustainability initiatives and the impacts of those initiatives on the company, consumers, and planet. They create a scorecard to represent the criteria they think is important and how that company scores. Then, in a sync session, breakout jigsaw groups are created where learners have to make the case for their company. Together, the new jigsaw group comes up with a consolidated scorecard and scores all the represented companies.
Online, option B: Each group researches one aspect of corporate sustainability and creates a rubric to score companies on that aspect. In a sync session, breakout jigsaw groups combine their score cards and collectively evaluate a company.
We’re all familiar with trends coming and going in higher education; we’re also used to seeing a lot of research too. How do we know what’s really worth it?
Throughout my years as a professor, one subject that has garnered significant research is building community in the classroom. Building community is a valuable tool for improving equity. When I began teaching online, I found it to be far more difficult to achieve.
I would assign students to groups in my Learning Management System (LMS) and encourage them to work together on a weekly Relevant Application assignment (to see how the mathematics we were doing realistically applied to the world around them). These group assignments were regularly met with resistance from students – citing, “I took an online class so I wouldn’t have to work with other people!”
This attitude is one we can’t afford to tolerate, especially as our world increasingly becomes digital, and more people are working in teams with folks from around the country and the world virtually.
What can we do about it?
A few years ago, I attended a talk at InstructureCon (Canvas developers annual conference) on creating Affinity Groups for students in online classes. I loved what I saw; implementing their strategies eliminated complaints from students about working in online groups.
How Affinity Groups work
As in many online classes, at the beginning of the quarter my students are assigned to post a short biography to a discussion board; in this post, they introduce themselves to me and the rest of the class. They are asked to discuss their educational goals, hobbies and interests, as well as something unique about them.
When I read their submissions, I make notes of hobbies and interests of all the students. As I see trends of topics being mentioned 3 or 4 times, I list them as a potential group category. I then create a group set, and name the groups based on the categories that stood out for that particular group of students.
It’s fun to belong
Almost every quarter I have “Parents”, “Binge Watchers”, “Gamers’, and “Travelers” to name a few, as recurring group themes. You can even add alliteration for more flare, like “Proud Parents” or “Great Gamers”. It is fun to keep an eye out for those unique groups that surface in a given quarter. One quarter we had “Anti-Coffee-ers” for example – a group of students who surfaced declaring their dislike for coffee, or “Foodies Forever”.
A tight knit group
I choose to cap the groups at 5 and create more groups than necessary, because I don’t know exactly what students will be drawn to. Lastly, I always create a “z. None of the Above” group, as an option for students who don’t identify with any of the other group. In Canvas, you can simply rename the groups while you’re creating them. In Blackboard, after you’ve created your Self-Enroll Group Set, you’ll have to go to each group individually and rename them by selecting Edit Group.
Freedom of choice
At this point, I ask students to self-enroll in the groups of their choice through my LMS (both Canvas and Blackboard have the option for students to self-enroll). Note: If your LMS doesn’t allow for this action, there are other ways you could use to have for your students choose their group, like a poll or survey where they choose one option.
No one is left behind
Once the given deadline has passed for choosing a group, I put those who haven’t selected a group into the newly created “Non-Responders” group and encourage them to choose a new name amongst themselves. Not surprisingly, that group of students tends to not succeed as well as the others. I also check for groups with just 1 or 2 members, and combine them, getting creative with the name – like “Binge Hikers” (combination of “Binge Watchers” and “Hikers-R-Us”). Lastly, I delete the groups that didn’t attract any students; now you have students in groups with similar interests.
A little change makes a big impact
This may seem like a small distinction from randomly assigning groups, but it is fascinating to me how the knowledge that they are all parents, or they all like to cook, helps them to engage with each other more effectively and actively. Rarely do I get any resistance from students saying they don’t want to work in groups anymore.
Your assessment plans, just like all your other learning plans, have probably been suddenly disrupted during this crisis. And, due to family responsibilities, or anxiety, your students may not have the time or ability to concentrate on full length exams like they would typically be able to in a classroom setting.
But all is not lost. As you know, the goal of giving an exam is to evaluate student learning at the end of an instructional unit. If there are other ways of doing this — for example, a culminating project, portfolio, or other open-ended assignment that a student could submit online, consider these before an online exam, particularly a multiple-choice exam.
If you decide to use a traditional summative exam, these research-based tips can make the online experience better for you and your students.
1. Create clear and specific rules and instructions so students know exactly what to do
Online assessment is new for your students. Reduce anxiety by clearly communicating the rules and instructions before the exam so there are no surprises.
For example, if you would like them to write their essays in paragraphs or to show their work for problem sets, be sure to explicitly state this.
The rules may include how many opportunities students have to complete the exam, if they can or cannot save and come back later to finish, if they need to put away all mobile devices or whether it is an open or closed book exam.
Provide other details such as the list of learning objectives the exam will address, how many questions to expect, the amount of time they will have to complete the exam, how many points each question is worth, etc. A study guide or a practice test can also help your students prepare.
2. Reduce the opportunities for cheating
Password protect your exam and limit to one attempt.
Require students to complete a statement of honesty before beginning the exam (this can be done through a digital form or added as the first item of the exam).
Open and close access to your exam session within a predetermined time period.
Shuffle items or create multiple versions of the exam to randomly assign to students.
Create a pool or item bank to pull random questions from (many platforms allow for this, including MyLab and Mastering, and most learning management systems (LMS)).
Ask students to justify or explain their answers by adding an open response field after each selected-response question.
Use more open-ended question types instead of true/false or multiple choice questions if you don’t have the capabilities listed above.
3. Make sure students can reasonably complete the exam within the time allotted
Unless you are assessing how quickly your students can complete the exam, allow them ample time to complete it. It is important to keep in mind that your students don’t know the knowledge and skills as well as you do, so be sure to cushion each item with more time than you would expect to take to complete the exam yourself. If possible, have an assistant or colleague proofread your exam before it is time to administer it.
4. Align your exam questions to learning outcomes.
Regardless of whether the exam is online or on paper, if you are creating it from scratch, make sure you use the objectives as your guide as you develop the questions.
Determine which types of questions or items best reflect the learning objectives. For example, if the objective requires a student to critique a poem, then an essay question would be a logical and efficient choice, whereas a multiple choice question would not typically be the most efficient way to gauge a student’s ability to critique.
5. Scoring and point values should be based on the complexity and difficulty of the questions
For instance, if you have a multipart question, consider assigning partial credit for each part of the question if the system allows. For math or science problem sets, allow students to show their work such as sending in a photo of their workings or describing the steps they took to solve a problem or complete a process.
Sources American Educational Research Association., American Psychological Association., National Council on Measurement in Education., & Joint Committee on Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing (U.S.). (2014). Standards for educational and psychological testing. Burton, S. J., Sudweeks, R. R., Merrill, P. F., & Wood, B. (1991). How to prepare better multiple-choice items: Guidelines for university faculty. Brigham Young Testing Center and The Department of Instructional Science. Provo, UT: Brigham Young University. Sawyer, R. K. (2006). The Cambridge handbook of the learning sciences. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
There are many reasons right now for why you may be looking to upskill – social lives are currently limited, you may unfortunately be out of work, or you just might be looking for ways to spend isolation productively. To help you be better positioned to excel in or re-enter the workforce, here are some tips on where to begin, and how to succeed as a student again, this time learning in an online world.
1. Consider your goals
You may already know what knowledge or skills you’re after, but if not, spend some time thinking about your goals. For instance, is there something that could help you improve your performance in your current role?
Or perhaps you have your eye on a new position or a career change. To get an idea of the skills you need, read through job descriptions for roles similar to the one you want. How well do the job descriptions fit you? What would you like to be able to add to your resume in order to better align with the qualifications?
2. Ask others for advice
This could be a great opportunity to discuss your professional development with your manager to see what would take your work to the next level in your current role or a desired role. You could also ask current and former co-workers.
LinkedIn is also a powerful resource for seeking information and advice in this area. For instance, you could see if anyone in your network works in a similar field or role to the one you’re interested in. If so, what credentials have they earned? What skills do they describe in their profiles? If you know them personally or through a mutual connection, see if they would be willing to answer any questions you might have.
Once you have a good idea of your learning goals, consider the following when choosing your next steps.
3. Find a learning option that aligns with your goals
Most well-designed learning experiences will come out and state their intended learning objectives – essentially the knowledge and skills you’re meant to get out of the experience. You certainly don’t want to waste your time, so make sure the experience is aimed at moving you toward your learning goals.
Next, consider the scope of the learning. Is it completely or mostly focused on what you hope to learn at the appropriate depth of detail, or is it so broad that it will only touch upon topics you’d prefer more detail on?
Finally, think about the time commitment for the learning to ensure it would be realistic for you to complete the learning on the expected timeline.
4. Decide whether you need a credential
For many learning goals, it may be important to be able to share or demonstrate that you’ve completed the learning or are proficient at a skill. For example:
Earning a professional certification to advance in your current job
Pursuing a new position that requires you to hold a certain degree
Working toward a badge or certificate to include on your resume to demonstrate that you have skills in a certain area
In these cases, it often makes more sense to pursue a more formal option like a training course, degree program, or studying for a standardized assessment that would provide you with a diploma, badge, certification, etc.
However, a credential may be less important to you. It could be instead that you simply want to acquire skills and knowledge to help you do your current job better, or that you’re pursuing a topic that’s of personal interest to you. In this case, the more formal learning options mentioned above could certainly work for you, but you also might consider whether you can meet your needs with online videos, books, webinars, or other similar (potentially free!) resources.
5. Look into free and discounted options
Many organizations provide free learning resources on a variety of topics to their employees to encourage professional development, so it is worth looking into what your organization already has, and whether it meets your learning needs.
Some organizations allow employees to expense all or a portion of learning costs (e.g. college tuition or enrollment in a single course). In some cases, organizations also partner with a university to provide relevant learning and training opportunities at a discounted rate.
You may also find that there are perfectly appropriate resources for your learning goals for free. Video sites like YouTube provide detailed tutorials on how to do just about anything. Webinars on a wide variety of topics are often available at the cost of simply providing your email address to a learning provider’s mailing list (which you can later opt out of). Even some more formal online courses are available for free from sites like FutureLearn, Harvard Online, and Coursera (until May 31) and many are currently available at a discount in response to COVID-19 on sites like Udemy and Udacity.
Not all learning goals will have free or discounted equivalents, but a little extra investigation could help you save money while meeting your learning goals.
Instructors are an integral part of teaching and learning, regardless of whether it takes place face-to-face or online. During the current crisis, many are discovering that delivering high quality teaching online requires some changes. If you are supporting instructors who are transitioning from the classroom to online, once you have a chance to come up for air we have eight strategies for effective training.
1. Work from the ground up to obtain educator buy-in
The success of any type of professional development program depends partially on the buy-in from participants. They need to believe this is being done ‘for them’ not ‘to them’.
Due to the relatively new nature of online learning, instructors might have misconceptions (e.g. about the level of rigor of online learning). To avoid this, clearly communicate important points about the transition. Using technology isn’t just an emergency response, it will be a method used in the future.
As well as referring to research when developing an online training program, ask for feedback from instructors, and make sure it’s taken into account. You could send a survey, or conduct focus groups.
2. Offer high quality professional development opportunities
Whether you are training instructors that will be teaching online or face-to-face, the same rules apply. High quality professional development is training that is:
Supports the construction of a professional learning community
Based in classroom practice
Grounded in current research
Tailored to instructors’ specific needs and embedded in their daily lives
Diverse, offering a wide range of learning activities
3. Give instructors authentic learning experiences
Run the training on the same platforms that instructors will be using in their class so they can experience roadblocks (e.g. signing onto the platform) or challenges (e.g. navigating content) that students might experience.
Use content that instructors will use in real life. For example, if an instructor will be teaching Science, learning that content during training will help the instructor become familiar with the types of resources or labs available online and how to navigate them.
4. Differentiate instruction and use a wide array of resources unique to online learning
When instructors transition to an online environment they will likely introduce new and different types of instruction, and these strategies should be modeled during the training.
For example, training should include both synchronous and asynchronous discussion, as well as the use of various resources including web-cameras, videos, instant messaging, and online whiteboards.
5. Online teaching pedagogy and content are important, but an online teacher training program should also focus on soft skills
In addition to online pedagogy and subject matter, instructors need to be competent in organization, time management, and self-direction.
A great deal of an online learning course is asynchronous and is therefore occurring at a student’s pace. Teachers need to know how to best organize this mode of learning, when to be available for student inquiry, and when they are “out of class time”. Conversely, instructors should also be self-directed so that they know when they are “in class time” and monitor discussion, or grade assignments. (Read more about developing these skills here)
6. Develop a community of online instructors
Developing a community gives instructors a support system as they are delivering their courses so they can share experiences and best practices. You can:
Pair new instructors with mentor veteran instructors.
Create the space for instructors to collaborate.
Use online environment tools, such as discussion boards with questions posed by a veteran instructor, chat rooms that are monitored by faculty who trained the instructors, and/or asynchronous discussion.
7. Expect instructors to demonstrate mastery before they teach their own course
Given that online instruction requires active, hands on learning techniques, these should be the types of activities instructors should demonstrate as an end of training assessment.
8. Train instructors to be aware of data security
When all information in the course is being transmitted online it becomes easy to leave data vulnerable for security breaches.
Teachers should ask students to reduce their transmission of personally identifiable information to times when it is necessary. When transmitting files, they should be locked and/or transmitted through a secure file transfer site.
Instructors should house student background, demographic, and identifying data in a secure file, and performance data should be transmitted privately and securely.
She was nominated by her colleagues at KBR, who submitted an essay celebrating Holley as a top welder, a generous teacher, and a leader in her field, helping to recruit women to a traditionally male-dominated industry.
“It feels so good to know that I am viewed as a positive light for my company and for the industry overall,” Holley says.
An open mind, and an attitude to live by
Holley says she owes her professional success to two things: parents who encouraged her to pursue her own path—and a positive attitude.
“The coolest thing about my parents—and especially my dad—is that they’ve always been supportive of my siblings and me, no matter what,” Holley says.
“They encourage us to follow our dreams, and are there to help pick us up if we fall or fail.”
Holley says the personal mantra she’s developed as a welder is rooted in their positivity and open-mindedness.
“I come to work every day with a great attitude, wanting to learn something new.”
“Taking the initiative to expand my skillset makes me a better employee,” Holley says.
“And it makes me a better instructor and mentor, too.”
Looking forward to the future
Holley says that in the future, she plans to become more involved in recruiting new members to her industry.
In particular, she says, she wants to offer support, advice, and encouragement to young women considering a career in construction.
“I was once in their shoes, unsure of my future,” Holley says.
“Without that encouragement, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
Ensuring that dual enrollment courses match the rigor and quality of traditional higher education courses requires thorough teacher training and accreditation, access to collegiate curricula, affordable student materials, and student readiness programs. It can be a challenge to coordinate all of these vital elements for every dual enrollment class, especially considering the myriad of dual enrollment course models available. Courses can be taken on the college campus, on the high school campus, remotely online, and even in hybrid versions comprised of online and face-to-face instructor interaction.
Overcoming obstacles to accreditation
The extensive initial accreditation process and training is an issue that I have personally experienced as the first dual enrollment science instructor for Lee College in Baytown, Texas. Previously, I had been teaching various levels of secondary science curricula from remedial to advanced placement (AP) when I received accreditation from Lee College to teach biology and related subjects at Hargrave High School in Huffman, Texas.
To receive this accreditation, I had to provide documentation of undergraduate and graduate school transcripts, proof of completion of my bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and a CV outlining my research projects and publications.
The biology department developed an internal committee to review my paper credentials before beginning a three-step interview process. I had an initial sit down interview to discuss my experience before being asked to design and teach a sample lesson at the college campus. Finally, I had to undergo a skills assessment to test my laboratory acumen.
Facing professional development challenges
While necessary to ensure instructor quality, the accreditation process often creates a bottleneck effect for dual enrollment programs. Student interest far exceeds a school’s ability to vet instructors. A focus of many dual enrollment coordinators, policy makers, and school officials is simplifying the process of identifying and accrediting qualified instructors. This resonated with the attendees of the 2019 regional and national NACEP conferences who completed the survey at our Pearson booth. In fact, 41% of respondents indicated teacher professional development and accreditation was one of their largest program pain points.
The College Board Advanced Placement program offers week-long, intensive summer institutes on college campuses nationwide where teachers receive certification to teach AP courses. Can collegiate systems work in conjunction with governing bodies such as NACEP to hold similar dual enrollment institutes?
While the process of obtaining credentials can be cumbersome, it is equally difficult to maintain a schedule of professional development opportunities for dual enrollment instructors. Hargrave High School was more than a 50 minute drive from Lee College, prohibiting me from attending most on-site training. Travel to department meetings, team meetings, and faculty-wide technology and platform training could feasibly take an entire day, when in actuality high school teachers are only granted one or two 50 minute planning periods per school day.
The need for creative solutions
The most effective dual enrollment programs will solve these problems with outside-the-box solutions. Many collegiate partners are now offering evening, weekend, and summer professional development opportunities to accommodate the traditional high school teacher’s schedule. In addition, on-demand and webinar-based professional development can help bridge the distance gap between high school and college campuses.
The University of Texas OnRamps program employs a hybrid model wherein high school dual enrollment teachers attend an intensive summer institute followed by continual web-based support from a tenured faculty member. This allows the program to be administered throughout the entire state of Texas, helping to alleviate both the accreditation and professional development distance gap. Another unique solution is the development of dual enrollment satellite campuses such as the Lee College South Liberty Education Center. This center is located an hour away from the main campus of Lee College, allowing for a different subset of area high school students to convene to take dual enrollment classes from a qualified instructor, thus also helping to alleviate the burden of teacher accreditation and training.
These issues represent a small subset of the challenges faced by dual enrollment programs. In subsequent blogs, we’ll explore additional pain points we’ve discovered, share best practices, and present ways that Pearson is here to ensure equitable access to quality dual enrollment courses. Stay tuned for future posts addressing access to collegiate curricula, affordable student materials, and student readiness programs.
Online education has been a vital part of higher education for many years, but with the current COVID-19 pandemic, many faculty and students are experiencing this for the first time. As with any method of delivery, online education has its advantages, as well as its own challenges.
Both faculty and students can save time by meeting online instead of commuting to a physical classroom. Having course materials and various learning activities posted online provides students with more flexibility on both how and when they can study.
On the other hand, heavy emphasis on technology can be foreign and intimating for some people. There may also be a perception that online education causes distance between the learner and their instructor. For faculty, there can be valid concerns that students may slip through the cracks in a virtual classroom. Fortunately, there are ways to both identify and support students who may be struggling online.
Use all available forms of communication
Communication is key when it comes to bridging the distance between the instructor and learner. Some faculty may opt to send out their course syllabus and contact information before the class even starts to help address any preliminary questions or concerns that their students may have. It is generally considered a best practice for faculty to check their email at least once a day and reply to student inquiries within 24 hours whenever possible.
If faculty find that a student is asking a lot of questions and does not appear to understand the materials, then they may want to consider scheduling a quick virtual meeting with that student to go through their questions together. Most virtual meeting software allow for the sharing of audio, video, and other application files, thus making it easier for faculty to accommodate their students’ various learning styles.
When hosting live virtual meetings, try to encourage all the participants to turn their web cameras and microphones on in order to make it a more personable and engaging experience. As most online learning classes are asynchronous in nature, it is okay if some students cannot make these live sessions, but it is a good idea for faculty to make note of who cannot attend, and try to find other ways to reach out to those students. Most virtual meeting software also allows for sessions to be recorded and shared.
Many online classes make use of discussion boards for class communication and group work. Discussion boards are usually asynchronous, meaning students can review and contribute whenever they can (within a set deadline).
Pay attention to participation
Most LMSs offer ways to track both the students’ attendance and their discussion board postings; this is very useful to help faculty identify which students are active. Not all classes are designed in such a way where students are constantly required to log in, but faculty should try to make note of any missing discussion posts or assignment submissions. If inactivity is becoming a pattern, it is a good idea to either follow up with that student, and/or notify their school’s student support services department. It is better to catch these patterns early when there is still time to offer additional support.
Watch for trends in data
Finally, it is a good practice for faculty to keep an eye on their grade book for trends. If a certain student is scoring low, it may be a good idea to reach out to that student with some additional constructive feedback and guidance. If faculty notice that many students scored low on a certain assignment, then they may want to take time out of their next virtual class meeting to discuss this.
For faculty who want to learn more about their LMS, most schools have an information technology services webpage where training resources can be found. In addition, it is always a good idea to have the school’s IT help desk contact information saved in case of any issues or urgent questions. Online education can feel ‘distant’ at times, but having a strong support system can go a long way in ensuring both faculty and students succeed.
As a former full-time community college math professor in the state of Florida, I had many dual-enrolled high school students in my classes over the years. For community college instructors, having dual enrollment students in the classroom doesn’t change much about how we teach or conduct class. Sure, I reminded my college-aged students to be mindful that there were minors in the room, and I frequently tweaked due dates at the beginning of the semester since many dual-enrolled students had to wait for the district to provide their course materials. But I had the luxury of teaching my courses using the same textbook regardless of whether I had dual-enrolled students on my roster or not.
Another advantage I had was that my department was an early adopter of MathXL and MyLab™ Math, so I felt comfortable not only creating courses and assignments in those programs, but also helping my students take advantage of the great features they contained. I didn’t realize how different the experience of teaching dual enrollment can be for high school teachers until 2018, when I joined Pearson on a new team whose goal was to make dual enrollment work better for all teachers.
Accessing dual enrollment materials
Most dual enrollment partnerships require that courses taught in a high school must use the same course materials as the equivalent college course. This means that high school dual enrollment teachers must not only get their hands on the textbook, but also gain access to any corequisite online component (such as MyLab or Mastering™).
Fortunately, Pearson has made these two tasks easy, thanks to an updated website designed with dual enrollment teachers in mind. On the Preview page, you will find a link to our Dual Enrollment Instructor Access Request Form, where you can request access to our digital platforms (which contain the eText) and also request a print textbook (if needed). Additionally, the Purchase page walks users through the options to purchase student materials, since dual enrollment can have various purchasing models not commonly found in higher education.
How-tos and support
Like myself, many college professors have been using MyLab and Mastering for years, but fewer high school teachers have experience with these platforms. Still, if the college is using MyLab Math in their precalculus courses, the high school teachers are typically expected to use MyLab Math in their dual enrollment precalculus courses as well. Pearson provides high school dual enrollment teachers with the resources they need to become comfortable using our digital products. Visit our Get Started page to learn how to register yourself and your students for MyLab or Mastering.
Once you are registered and are ready to learn more, the Training and Support page provides the opportunity to subscribe to our customer success journey emails that are loaded with helpful tips, or register for a webinar to take a deeper dive into using your MyLab or Mastering product. This page also explains how to get access to the Instructor Resource Center so you can download presentations, instructor manuals, test files, and more.
Lastly, this page offers assistance in case you need technical support. We have worked with our sales and technical support teams to better prepare them to tackle dual enrollment-related issues. We encourage you to bookmark our Dual Enrollment Customer Handbook, which contains much of the same information as our website, but in a handy PDF format.
Pearson is committed to providing solutions to the unique needs of dual enrollment teachers. See how we can help your program by reading through our Results and Success Stories.
You’re driving around in Boston at rush hour on one of the notorious old carriage roads that seemingly twist without reason. You’re searching for a particular street downtown. The kids in the back seat are singing, as loud as they can, along with The Wiggles, which is blasting through the car speakers.
I can’t handle it. What would make this better? Silence. My brain can’t process all of this at once. I’ve maxed out my cognitive load.
Cognitive load is defined as the mental resources used in working memory to perform a task. Most people can store between 5-9 items at any given time, and 2-4 of those can be processed simultaneously. If you don’t use new information within 15 seconds, it gets taken out with the trash.
How can we increase our working memory? Practice makes perfect. This is why teachers go over practice problems and, at the higher levels, assign homework that allows for practice of the new skills learned in lecture. To have students learn effectively, their working memory (ability to store information) must be greater than the total cognitive load of the task. I’m usually at my peak when driving in Boston.
Types of cognitive load
A task can contain many different types of cognitive load. There are three in particular that we as educators should be aware of:
Intrinsic cognitive load
Sometimes a task is just hard. Consider calculus vs. arithmetic. Perhaps you’re great with math and this wouldn’t be a heavy lift for you. For others, this task would require a great deal of mental concentration.
Germane cognitive load
This refers to the actual processing of information. How will we organize it in our brains? Does this information connect with anything we’ve previously learned? Making connections is part of learning, and strengthens knowledge moving forward.
Extraneous cognitive load
This is the part that teachers have the most control over. It is generated by the way the information is presented and has nothing to do with the task. Are you learning calculus in a rock concert or a library? Have you used a PowerPoint slide theme that is distracting or clean?
Strategies to reduce cognitive load
Many teachers already use strategies to reduce the total cognitive load of a task. Some of that is out of our hands (intrinsic cognitive load) and others we can revise for the better (extraneous cognitive load).
Here are some general suggestions:
Make connections. The more connections to previously learned material that you make, the less germane cognitive load there is for your students.
Use routine. Start and end class in the same way each day, perhaps with a warm-up and a time for questions. This will allow students to forecast that there will be time for questions to be answered.
Provide time. Allow students time in class to think about how this new material connects with what was previously taught.
Be clear and concise.
Pay attention to purpose. What is the goal of this assignment? If a particular question isn’t getting you there, delete it.
Don’t forget emotions. Anxiety limits learning, and excess cognitive load creates stress. Allow your students space to focus on the material, not their emotions.
Classroom materials can also have an effect on cognitive load.
How many teachers are guilty of using the same handout semester after semester until it looks like this? The media is crooked, there are streaks across the pages, and it is difficult to read.
Consider moving your media digitally to a platform of your choice so you can clean things up a bit. Cleaning them up is relatively easily done by opening up a PDF in Google Docs. As a caveat, while this works well for the humanities, Google does struggle here in my discipline (chemistry).
Ensure that your media isn’t distracting. Don’t add pictures frivolously. Be sure that the media that you do add contributes toward getting you to your overall lesson goal.
Here are some good rules of thumb to keep in mind for classroom presentations and assignments:
What is your primary goal in this assignment or presentation?
Consider suggestions for reducing extraneous cognitive load.
Organization and layout
Clarity of goal
Breaking down of steps
Clarity of expectations for student work
Wordiness and vocabulary
In short, whether you are a teacher or not, you can use the theory of cognitive load to better engage your audience. While you’re creating your next presentation, think about these considerations. Also, if you’re driving in Boston any time soon, be sure to turn down the music.
Being a leader can be challenging at the best of times, but even more so in a crisis situation like the current pandemic. Transitioning Survey findings from Pearson identified that people’s satisfaction with the work from home experience has declined: Only 82% of those in the US are currently satisfied with working remotely versus 93% in early March.
But how do you lead well when you can’t physically meet with the people you are leading? Here are our tips for effective leadership in a virtual world
1. Focus on inspiration and motivation, rather than just managing or controlling
Motivating and inspiring leadership strategies are especially important when leading virtually because we lack many social cues and tools we usually use to influence others. Be more mindful and practice this.
Examples of these types of strategies include:
Displaying ethical and inspiring behavior, taking a stand, and acting with conviction.
Supporting others and attending to their individual needs.
Motivating others by projecting a positive vision.
Supporting innovation and creativity.
2. Be optimistic, but honest
In times like these, people look to their leaders for hope, while also expecting honesty and transparency. This can be a difficult balance, when you might be experiencing personal stress and worry and often have to communicate bad news.
Delivering information in a timely manner, and in a compassionate, caring, and straightforward way. Here is a checklist from the CDC on how to communicate in a crisis.
Giving others an opportunity to process the information, and a space to share their thoughts and experiences.
Finding opportunities for realistic optimism, pointing toward the future and highlighting ways that everyone can work towards it.
3. Support trust and cohesion within virtual teams
It can be challenging for virtual teams to develop trust and cohesion.
As a leader, you can:
Set norms and processes around communication.
Encourage and schedule time for personal and social conversations as well as work discussions.
Include regular opportunities for video conferencing, which allows for much richer interaction.
Be a role model for these strategies.
4. Provide frequent and explicit opportunities for coordination
Because virtual teams have fewer opportunities to spontaneously interact and coordinate work, it is particularly important to provide clear channels and expectations for communication and coordination.
Leaders play a key role in establishing these norms and expectations, such as:
Plan regular calls so that everyone in the group can share their progress.
Use instant message or chat functions to take the place of impromptu in-person meetings.
5. Take care of your own mental health
Leaders are not immune to experiencing worries, stress, anxiety, or sadness at times of uncertainty. In fact, you may experience a unique set of stressors, making it all the more important for you to take the time to take care of yourself. For strategies to do this, read our blog on wellness.
Right now many of us are juggling working in a new environment, becoming a teacher for our kids, caring for our family full time and dealing with the anxiety that comes from living in the middle of a pandemic. We’re all feeling pretty stressed. Self-care is crucial for managing these negative emotions and being resilient.
Here are six tips based on the science of learning to help you get through this:
1. Look after your physical and mental well-being
If possible, continue your current self-care practices since it is easier to stick to existing habits. However, many of us will have to alter or discover new ones.
Here are some ideas if you are stuck at home for a few weeks:
Take care of your body by eating healthy, well-balanced meals, exercising regularly, and getting plenty of sleep.
Work up a sweat with at-home or individual exercise activities by following workout videos on YouTube, using Fitness Apps for HIIT or strength training, or by hitting the pavement for a walk or run outside.
Practice relaxation strategies such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or mindfulness meditation. If you’re new to this, here are a few options to start.
Make time for appropriate activities that bring you happiness and joy. These might include cooking, listening to music, taking a warm bath, crafting, reading, or watching TV or movies.
2. Maintain social connections
For introverts and extroverts alike, the activities that are most important for promoting our well-being are inherently social, which can make this period where we are encouraged to be physically distant from our loved ones particularly difficult. It is all the more important to maintain our social connections, using technology to help us stay psychologically close.
Use the many different modes of communication at our fingertips – voice calls, text, social media. Video especially can make us feel closer.
Since interactions will not come up as naturally during this period, be more intentional about scheduling time to speak with friends and family. They will be excited to hear from you.
These conversations will be important opportunities to relieve stress by sharing your feelings with others. In addition, try to incorporate fun, play a game virtually or watch the same movie together.
3. Create structure and a schedule
Watching the news can make us feel a lack of control, which fuels stress. Control what you can and maintain as much normalcy as possible.
Develop a schedule and try to stick to your new routine. You can start with activities that support good eating and sleep habits, and fill in with both fun and necessary activities. Scheduling in regular opportunities for self-care can help us stick to those plans.
For those who are transitioning into remote work, maintaining a schedule can help ensure dedicated time for work while also protecting individual relaxation and family time.
Particularly for families who have young children home from school, maintaining a schedule may seem daunting. Be kind to yourself as you work through new processes and routines. Much of the benefit of the schedule comes from thoughtfully making one, not perfectly following one.
4. Be a smart media consumer
It is important to find a balance regarding media consumption. With situations changing quickly in a crisis, it is useful to follow the news in order to keep up-to-date. On the other hand, repeatedly viewing (often negative) news stories can increase stress and anxiety.
Consider taking breaks from viewing the news, or schedule specific times to check the news. It can also be helpful to limit your media consumption to a few, trusted sites, which can help keep you from hearing the same information repeatedly.
5. Seek additional help if needed
During times such as these, it is completely normal to experience elevated levels of stress along with other negative emotions such as sadness, anxiety, anger, and frustration. If these persist or worsen and begin to cause significant distress or dysfunction, seek additional help.
More specific warning signs include:
Persistent anxiety, worry, insomnia, or irritability.
Withdrawing from appropriate social contact.
Persistently checking for symptoms or seeking reassurance about one’s health.
Abusing alcohol or drugs.
Experience of suicidal thoughts or actions.
Many therapists are transitioning to providing telemedicine so you get professional support without needing to meet in person. Find a therapist from a site like Psychology Today. Those with preexisting mental health conditions should continue with treatment.
6. Practice empathy
We are in many ways overwhelmed with information and recommendations and it can be easy to fall into the trap of judging others for their choices. But many are having to weigh financial concerns with public health and personal safety, and making difficult decisions.
Hanging on to judgment and anger at others can be counter productive. It can cause our personal stress levels to elevate and can break down the social bonds that are so important to weathering crises. Try to practice empathy by considering the perspectives of others. Understanding why someone has made a different decision from you can help you be more compassionate. Loving-Kindness Meditation can also support compassion and empathy. This type of meditation involves mentally sending kindness and goodwill to others. Read more here.
But also, don’t let trying to practice self-care stress you out. Do the best you can and be kind to yourself and others.
As we get further into the semester where we all quickly moved to online learning, motivation, like the style of your wardrobe, may start to wane.
In addition, learning online is just different from the classroom. It’s a bit more challenging for students to engage with you, the content, and each other. Plus they have something new to engage with – the technology. These 5 strategies can help keep them motivated and on track for success.
1. Build a sense of community
One challenge of online learning is that students often feel quite isolated. Consider how you can make direct contact, through emails, instant message and video, to as many learners as possible, helping them see how you are invested in their learning. In addition, encourage ways for learners to see each other as resources through methods like peer feedback and peer review, as well as potentially helping students find peers to study with.
2. Help students feel like they can succeed
When learners feel like they are capable of succeeding, they are more likely to persist. Consider how to structure tasks so that students can experience “quick wins” on the way to more difficult challenges. In addition, seeing how similar peers progressed can help motivate a student who might otherwise feel unlikely to succeed; see if any students with more experience navigating online learning would be willing to share some of their ideas for how to succeed in the course.
3. Establish ways to monitor progress
If students aren’t sure of how they are doing, they may not engage productively. Establish and communicate explicit goals for the course, and tie student activities and progress back to those goals. Look for tools in your online system (e.g., practice questions with instant feedback, study organizers that check off when students use different resources, etc.) that can help learners stay on top of their progress. Be explicit about how you think those tools can help and recommend students use them, so that they see the potential value in them.
4. Reward and celebrate success
While it is true that learning is its own reward, everyone can use a little help now and then to stick to their goals. Think of ways to provide students with rewards, whether those are in the form of praise, points towards their grades, or some collective goal the class works towards. Focus on rewarding good effort, progress, and the kinds of learning behaviors you want to see more of, not just achievement.
5. Relate class to students’ lives
It can be hard to stay motivated when we don’t see the value in what we are doing. One important source of value for academic learning is the connection to our everyday lives. How can I use what I’m in learning in class to advance in my career, achieve my goals, or help my friends, family, and community? Offer students some potential connections like those, and also help them try to make those connections for themselves!
Many of us are having to move teaching quickly online (tips here if you are still setting up your course). Once you have your technology in place, take a deep breath. Teaching online requires different types of interactions with students. We’ve simplified what works into nine strategies based on research that will help set you and your students up for success in your newly online course.
1. Know the technology
This is new to everyone, so be prepared to troubleshoot and let your students know you are working on it. Take an hour to familiarize yourself with the technology. Most companies are offering additional training right now.
Be very clear to students about where they should go for technical support (good digital technologies will have support services). Make the contact information readily available, and be prepared to direct students there if they come to you.
2. Expect the unexpected and remain flexible
At some point technology will fail, whether it is a video chat not connecting or assignment and/or resource links not working properly.
Have a backup plan for all assignments and assessments that rely on technology.
Be transparent in your communication to students about technology failure. For example, put a policy in place that outlines the actions students should take if they are unable to submit assignments due to technical issues.
Don’t be afraid to solve technical challenges in real time, such as during synchronous discussions or collaborative real-time activities, to save time.
3. Create and maintain a strong presence
Send a message to all students, by video if possible, to welcome them to online learning and reassure them.
Use video chat rather than basic instant message when interacting with students.
Get the students talking by beginning discussions in the discussion board, and then contributing rapid, regular, and open responses to questions.
Use non-verbal communication such as emojis.
Complete your profile with professional and personal traits.
4. Set clear expectations for the course
Online learning is new to the students as well. Make it clear to students how their grade in the course will be determined now (participation often makes up a much larger portion of the grade than in face to face classes).
Set expectations for response time. For example, make it clear that you will respond to emails within one business day, otherwise students may expect you to answer an email within a few hours, and disengage if you don’t.
5. Establish a sense of comfort and develop a community of learners
Students are looking to you to set the tone. Demonstrate enthusiasm and excitement about teaching the course to alleviate fear, anxiety, and isolation.
Humanize yourself by posting a welcome video, a biography, photos that tell stories about what you are doing to keep busy during social isolation, links to news articles or video clips.
Encourage each student to personalize their homepage and spend time going around the class asking students to share information about what they have posted.
Incorporate instant messaging, web cameras, blogs and vlogs.
Ask questions that empower participants to question each other, and elicit rich discussion.
Respond to the community as a whole rather than directing all responses to individual participants outside of the community.
6. Promote reflection and communication through quality asynchronous discussion
Return to posted topics that have not been fully discussed and promote contribution and reflection.
Monitor participation and contact students individually if they are either not participating, or are taking over conversations and not permitting contributions from other individuals.
7. Have a good balance of active leader and active observer
You will begin the course as the manager of the learning community. As the course progresses, slowly transfer the responsibility to the community of learners. The online community building steps in point 4 will help with this. You should also gradually retract further out of communal discussions.
8. Request regular feedback and be mindful of misinterpretation
Check in with your students to see how things are going. You can do formal or informal surveys to assess attitudes, workload and challenges. Make course correction as necessary — we’re all learning.
Use ad hoc quizzes to assess learner comprehension of material.
9. Regularly check content resources and applications
Regularly check all links, resources, modules, and activities. Online content can move or change, which can lead to disengagement.
Assist students who are having difficulty navigating course links or managing the material spanning across various web pages.
Model the process of navigating to websites that are not embedded in the course, and demonstrate how to appropriately manage keeping track of navigation when jumping from site to site.
Under different circumstances, creating an online course from the ground up using online learning best practices would take considerable time and effort. Given this current unprecedented situation, we understand that your immediate concern is likely simply ensuring that your face-to-face course can be converted rapidly for online delivery.
As educators, we love to see our students get engaged in class! Interaction with peers as well as with their teacher is an important part of student learning. But how do we do this when the class is offered online? A discussion board, if used well, can be a great tool in providing a platform for quality interaction.
Almost all Learning Management Systems have this capability. If you are delivering your online course with software that lacks a discussion board, check to see if the publisher of your text has a tool for this purpose or search online for some free options.
Here are some tips provided by Pearson’s Faculty Advisors to help you get the most from your discussion boards.
Post a grading rubric
Consider posting a grading rubric to set expectations and guide students to a complete response.
A good discussion begins with a good question
Avoid questions that read like exam questions. Provide students with a debate prompt. Ask students to express an opinion and back up their position by applying course concepts. Encourage them to practice being critical consumers of information by having them use primary literature to back up their statements.
Allow student-led or peer-driven discussion
We like having the students pose a question at the end of their post to prompt better discussions. Many times the original post reads more like a report and then the replies are “good job” or “I agree” because there is nowhere to go.
Throw out questions like “Can you think of an example of this you have encountered?” or “What about this article stood out to you?” or “Did this make you think about something else that is related but different from this?” If you ask your students to provide “substantive responses,” be specific about what “substantive” means.
Require that students respond to classmates
Many faculty require at least three classmate responses, and additionally, ask a question of their classmate based on the posted response. You might suggest a minimum word count for both posts and responses (students frequently ask for this).
Some discussion boards (this can depend on the Learning Management System) have the ability to hide other students’ responses until they, themselves, have responded. We like to have opinion questions in this format so that a student’s response isn’t colored by what has already been written.
Set regular deadlines
You might want to have a set day to submit a main post and another set day to submit peer responses. For example, the main post could be due on Wednesdays and the peer replies due on Fridays. This regular schedule helps students organize their time and remember their due dates.
Consider “outside the box” ways for students to deliver content
In addition to written text, you can allow students to respond to discussion prompts with PowerPoint presentations, YouTube videos, and concept maps. Show sample responses from prior semesters that “successful” students shared.
Add different forums for different purposes
A Cyber cafe
Cyber cafe gives students an opportunity to ask each other questions about the course and concepts, as well as seek support and interaction with their peers. Keep this forum separate from the content and teacher-created prompt discussions. But be sure to still check on this forum and ensure the students are following the netiquette guidelines for all written communication that you have posted.
The Water Cooler
The Water cooler allows students a safe place to discuss anything not related to the course. This allows you to get to know your students’ personalities within an online environment even though you aren’t spending time with them in a classroom.
“Ask the Instructor”
“Ask the Instructor” gives students the ability to post questions about the class or course content that you answer. This allows all students to see the same answer instead of getting the same question via email from multiple students.
Enforce rules of netiquette
Finally — don’t forget to remind students of “netiquette” right up front. For some ideas of what guidelines to set, see our blog post on Netiquette for Students.
Remember, many students dread discussion boards. It is just another thing they have to do; it might feel like busy work. They may think nobody cares about their opinion. Give good feedback, encouragement, and appreciation for contributing, even if the contributions need to be improved.
We hope these tips will help you get the most out of your discussion boards, leading to an engaging and interactive online experience.
If you enjoyed Downton Abbey as much as me, you might think of etiquette as knowing how to set a table worthy of a stately dinner. But that kind of etiquette might not be so useful in an online course, unless we’re studying the Edwardian era!
In the context of online teaching and learning, it’s more appropriate to think about the etiquette involved in engaging others in conversations and providing guidelines for smartphone use than how to handle a dinner guest’s dietary restrictions. We want to apply the best practices of etiquette to every interaction in the course.
Netiquette (net + etiquette) is the “code of conduct” applied to online spaces. Teaching students about netiquette is just as important (if not more so) as teaching them to use technology or master content.
Crafting a netiquette document or post for your class and informing your students about the importance of these rules can help you create an engaging, respectful, and meaningful learning environment.
If hosting lectures or office hours live online, you might want to include guidelines for expectations around arriving on time, reducing noise by using earphones and the mute button, and minimizing distractions the best they can.
Keep in mind that students might have their children or siblings home from school or day care and some flexibility and understanding might need to be extended during this season.
Another area for need of netiquette guidelines is in the use of discussion boards. I often share things like this with my students:
Use proper language. This means no emoticons, text message language, or swear words. The discussion board is like a workplace and is meant to be professional.
Run a spelling and grammar check before posting anything to the discussion board. This is especially important if your instructor is grading these comments.
Read through your comments at least twice before hitting submit. (Some professors use settings that allow students to edit their responses, while others don’t.)
Don’t type in ALL CAPS! If you do, it will look like you are screaming.
Recognize and respect diversity. It’s ok to ask questions to clarify things you don’t understand. If you’re not sure, email the professor privately for more information.
Avoid sarcasm and dark humor. Take your posts seriously. Never say online what you wouldn’t say in real life to another person’s face. Your posts are a permanent record, so think about the type of record you want to leave behind.
If you are frustrated and finding the course material difficult, please reach out to the professor, use the tutor resources, etc. You can ask your peers for study tips. A discussion board is not the venue to complain about why you need to take this course or how hard you have to work.
Don’t wait until the last minute to make your post. Allow time for other students to respond before the deadline. Likewise, don’t wait to post your replies until the deadline; the author deserves an opportunity to address any questions you have or respond to points you make.
Before asking a question, check the instructor’s FAQs or search your Learning Management System resources and/or the internet to see if the answer is obvious or easy to find.
Be forgiving. If your classmate makes a mistake, whether it’s a typo or grammatical error, don’t badger him or her for it. Just let it go.
The same rules apply for email. “Hey, teach, heeeelp!” is probably not the best way to ask your professor a question. You should communicate with your professor in the same way that you would speak to your boss or a potential employer. Also, any email you send your professor should always include your name and which class you are in.
While it is tempting to think we should only have to focus on content, surveys of Fortune 500 company CEOs over the years have resulted in very similar responses: they want students who can communicate clearly, collaborate well, think critically, etc.
We know those skills are being developed and enhanced in our courses everyday, so it’s worthwhile to spend some time encouraging them to be respectful, contributing members of our online course communities.
Cheating isn’t new. Many students do it, and in many different ways. As courses move to online environments, we might wonder if the lack of the instructor in the classroom makes it more likely cheating will happen. Technology certainly changes how students cheat.
A 2017 study by Kessler International reported that 76 percent of surveyed students said they had copied text from someone else’s assignments. Slightly more (79 percent) admitted to plagiarism from internet sources. Around 72 percent said they’d used mobile devices to cheat.
An astonishing 42 percent of students admit to purchasing custom papers or essays online, and 28 percent have paid someone to do their online work. Sadly, many of them thought it was ok to cheat.
Colleges and universities have implemented a variety of tactics designed to minimize cheating. They include tools such as the following.
Clearly defining cheating and setting expectations
This may seem elementary, but letting students know you are aware of cheating and will take it seriously can help curb cheating. If your assignment does not require the use of their phone for apps or resources, remind them to keep devices out of reach.
Academic integrity policies
Many colleges and universities have policies about cheating in their student code of conduct, and these are perhaps the simplest methods to deter cheating. When students break the policy, they may be dismissed from the program. It is a good idea to require students to sign an honor code statement in an initial assignment or prior to each test.
Using proctored exams
Many schools require students to report to campus or to official off-site testing centers for proctored exams. Proctors are typically required to check students’ IDs, enter passwords if needed, and watch them during tests. Tools like ProctorU support digital online proctoring and record the testing session for the instructor, flagging any concerns.
Restricting IP addresses
Some software will allow you to restrict access only to certain labs on campus. This is often done in conjunction with proctoring.
Use a Lockdown Browser
Require students to use a Lockdown Browser with online quizzes and tests. This is a custom setting that literally “locks down” the browser that displays the test or quiz, preventing students from copying or printing the questions or accessing any other websites or applications.
Utilizing keystroke verification software
Keystroke verification software, such as Keystroke DNA, is perhaps one of the most common tech-based cheater prevention methods.
The approach is simple: Students type a short phrase, which is then analyzed by a software program. The software assesses the students’ typing speed, rhythm, and other personal characteristics to create a behavioral biometric data profile for each user. Before any work is submitted, it needs to be verified.
Embedding text-matching software
These are tools like Turnitin, SafeAssign, or CopyLeaks, where software is used to read an essay or paper and assess the likelihood of plagiarism.
Students tend to share old tests, use study material sharing sites to share answers and methods, etc. To prevent cheating, professors may find it useful to use question banks and randomize the questions so that students have a more difficult time in sharing answers.
Professors should change assessments each semester or create multiple versions of tests or quizzes for a class. Include essay or explanation questions, as it makes it more obvious if an answer was copied from somewhere else. If possible, consider pooling questions so all students get similar but slightly varied test questions.
Offer low-stakes quizzing
It reduces the incentive to cheat because the value of each quiz is lower than that of an exam, but it still provides opportunities for assessment.
Assign collaborative learning activities
Use collaborative activities liberally. Consider using social media, shared documents, discussion forums, cyber cafes, video conferencing, and other types of collaborative tools to engage students with one another.
Studies indicate collaboration in online classes increases problem-solving skills more effectively than the student who is completing all classroom activities alone. There is little motivation or ability to cheat when students are working cooperatively for a common goal.
One study at MIT in the 1990’s forbade student collaboration in a programming class. The students collaborated anyway, and became more effective programmers. MIT determined that collaboration would be the new normal in programming classes. After all, the goal is student learning!
If students learn better when collaborating, and collaborating reduces the chances of cheating, then increasing the collaborative activities in an online environment will lead to increased learning and decreased cheating, which is a win/win by any standard.
Use resources already in your arsenal
You might find it helpful to use your Learning Management System to provide links to resources like Turnitin, which can often be linked directly with assignments.
Students think of cheating as a way to avoid learning the course material. But I tell my students that as hard as they work to avoid doing any actual learning, I will work harder to find ways to encourage and guide them to do what they should.
There are resources out there to help me do that. Check your Learning Management System instructor resources, explore other available technology tools, read Chronicle of Higher Education articles or Learning Scientists posts, and talk to your campus instructional designers. These are all great places to find tools you can use to deter cheating in your online courses.
As the Coronavirus continues to spread, organizations like the World Health Organization and US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are recommending strategies to reduce the spread in communities. A big part of keeping people healthy involves minimizing contact at work and during the commute.
But for many people, teleworking is new and it can be a real challenge, especially if multiple members of the same family-parents and kids-are all trying to work and study together under the same roof.
Nearly one-fifth of Pearson’s employees around the globe work from home full time and thousands more split their time between their home and an office. It’s been part of our company’s culture for years. But, not everyone is a regular in their own home office. If working from home is new to you, we’ve compiled the best tips from our own teleworking employees to help you get through this uncertain time.
Maximize the technology your company has to offer
Confirm the tools available to you while working remotely. That may mean practicing with new technology. It may also mean remembering to take home simple items from your desk or asking your employer for what you think you might need.
Things like a monitor can ease eye strain and a separate keyboard or mouse can be more comfortable while typing. Grab a headset or earbuds from the office so calls and video conferences are easier. You probably can’t take the desk chair from your office, but you are going to need to carve out some kind of dedicated space. Think about how you would manage space if multiple people in your house need to work and study together.
Set expectations now with your boss and colleagues about communication
Agree where, when, and how to best communicate with your team to create awareness and enable efficiencies. Be deliberate about scheduling meeting times and quick check-ins. Will you huddle for 15 minutes virtually first thing in the morning or have a quick wrap up in the evening?
Consider less email and more talking, especially via video conferencing. This can be an uncertain time, so it’s going to be reassuring to hear and see colleagues. Leave your video camera on during meetings – facial expressions and personal connection mean a lot right now.
Create opportunities to talk beyond work discussions
Plan virtual coffee breaks or consider extending virtual meetings to account for all of the chit-chat that you miss by not being in the office. Having extra time in a meeting makes a difference in the quality and depth of a work discussion.
But it also allows you to understand your colleagues better and what they are going through right now. You can ask about people’s work experiences, families or even the photos you now see on their walls. You can introduce your dog, share funny memes or just talk about how everyone is coping with the current situation. Mostly just be human.
Set working hours and keep to them, scheduling time for work, meals, and when to disconnect
Unplugging is just harder when your work from home. Work can bleed into every part of your day if you let it. Set consistent hours and clearly socialize your schedule with colleagues. Get up, get out of your PJs and get dressed in the morning. Follow your regular morning routine as much as you can and let colleagues know when you expect to login and start your working day.
You may not be commuting, but if you have kids out of school you may need to set aside time in the morning to help them login and get started with their online lessons. You may need to stop during the day and care for a child or sick relative.
Communicate those needs to your team. During the day, block out time for work, but also reclaim your lunch and get away from your desk. Take short breaks and don’t let working from home merge into your evening or family time.
Give your colleagues a virtual pat on the back!
Now is the time when people need that inspiration and encouragement. So build up colleagues when you can, even if it’s an email shout-out to their boss, a thank you for going the extra mile or a “You got this!”.
Are you moving your traditional class online and need to do so quickly? You might be feeling a little overwhelmed and not sure where to begin. Take solace in the fact that many have done this before you and there is a plethora of information available to assist you.
If you start by answering these few questions, it will put you on a pathway to success as you design and implement your online course. Don’t forget that you should always start by talking to your institution, or search their website, for information about any specific requirements they have for teaching online courses.
How will you teach?
You’ve got to start with this fundamental question. Will your class be an online course that will still meet via video/chat at a certain time (synchronous), or will it be a work-at-your-own-pace type course (asynchronous)? Keep in mind that students’ lives may also be disrupted by changes due to COVID-19 (kids now home from school, etc.), so you may want to consider an asynchronous course.
If you will be meeting synchronously by chat/video, make sure you have an account with, or access to, software that will facilitate this. Your institution may already have agreements with online web conferencing software that will enable your meetings. Or, there are some companies that provide free licenses online (If doing this, be sure to check the fine print! Some free offers limit the length of the conference and/or the number of attendees.)
If your students will be working at their own pace, but you will be recording videos for them to watch, make sure you have video recording software and reliable space on a school server to host the videos. Additionally, think about the length of your videos. No one really wants to sit and watch a 90-minute lecture on video. Consider breaking them into bite size chunks that are topically based and less than 15 minutes in length.
How will students engage?
It’s easy to tell if students are engaged while you’re in a classroom. You’re interacting with them face-to-face, engaging them in meaningful discussions, and posing questions on the fly. How do you get this same level of engagement in an online course? Whether or not your course is synchronous, how can you generate an interactive atmosphere in your virtual classroom? Consider using discussion forums, self-directed learning, and small group work to assist you with increasing engagement.
Self-directed learning can take many forms, all of which encourage the learner to formulate investigative questions around your learning outcomes and test their hypotheses. You could offer a variety of bite sized assignments and videos around various outcomes and allow the students to pick and choose which assignments work best for their learning modalities. Another option might be to have them develop a project incorporating several learning outcomes, or even come up with their own critical thinking questions around your course content and then providing answers.
Discussion forums are highly interactive and truly facilitate participation. You could start a discussion and ask students to post thoughtful, meaningful insights in response (and if you make it for a grade, they’ll definitely interact!) Your topic question should be open ended, meaning it can’t be answered with a simple yes or no, nor does it have a single “right” answer. You should encourage students to post questions, comments, and insight, to which you can provide feedback, and advocate for other students to provide input as well. One piece of advice here, set out guidelines for posting in the forum, such as the number of responses required as well as behavior expectations. Make sure they are clearly communicated ahead of time.
Small group work provides a more collaborative type environment that students typically enjoy. They get to work together to solve problems, share ideas, and discuss content. A truly interactive way to engage the class (and take a bit of the workload off of you), would be to give each group a different topic and have them create a short video and a few assessments around that topic tin which the other students in the course would be required to participate. Most students have ways to gather virtually in smaller settings, but you might want to make some suggestions on free tools that allow for group chats and interactions.
How will you communicate?
Communication methods are abundant in this day and age, but you need to figure out what will be your main form(s) of conveying important pieces of information like assignments and deadlines. A few ideas for communication strategies are using email, creating announcements in your learning management system (or other online learning platform), and holding virtual office hours. Just remember, whatever you choose needs to be clearly communicated to the students on your first day of teaching online (or as close to it as you can get). It’s okay to be redundant and deliver important messages via several routes to make sure it is seen.
With e-mail, it’s always best to use your school email account to bulk email the students as a class. It’s secure, quick, and gives you an easy way to archive all correspondence. Be warned, it can be a bit overwhelming if you use e-mail as your primary means of communication for an online course (imagine ALL of your students emailing you question after question). Perhaps you consider just using email for individual communication that is more private in nature (illness, grades, etc.), and encourage the students to post content questions to a discussion forum. Don’t forget, you don’t like it when people don’t respond to your questions, and students feel the same. Try to get them answers and responses in about 24 hours (or 48 on weekends), or whatever the set response times are per your institution.
Announcements in your learning management software are a fantastic way to get out important dates, new assignments, suggested readings, and anything else you feel warrants the whole class knowing. Plus, many systems will automatically email the students when an announcement gets posted, so there is already built in redundancy (no complaints of never seeing the announcement for a due date then). Try to limit these announcements to 1 – 3 per week so you don’t inundate the students with excessive emails, and keep them short, sweet, and to the point.
Virtual office hours are a great way for students to drop in and see your smiling face. You can set up 1 – 3 office hours per week or more and keep a virtual video meeting software open for the whole time you’ve allotted. Students can then drop in, like they would into your office, and ask you questions. Remind them though that this is not the place for personal or grade related questions if you hold group office hours. If you prefer a more individual approach, have the students sign up on a live document for specific 15-minute time slots.
How will you assess learning?
This is the ultimate question. You’ve had your assignments laid out for weeks, you know what they were supposed to achieve in your face-to-face course. Now, you need to really analyze if those means of assessment will work in an online environment, or if you are going to need to pull together some assessments of a different type. You also need to consider the timeframe for assignments. Are you still going to have them do the same number or are you going to increase the number? How many assignments per week should there be? Consider these options for graded assignments for your course: discussion forums, group work, and online learning assessments.
As mentioned previously, discussion forums are a great way to give out some points. One possible way for grading them would be twice a week – once midway through that looks at questions or comments they have posed, and once at the end for their replies to other posts. This method corresponds to your discussion participation guidelines that lay out the number of posts and when they should be made. One tip here would be to ask students to post on more than one day. This helps build the discussion and avoids a last minute “pile on” of posts that leave no opportunity for interaction. You can go so far as to make a rubric for how you will be grading the discussions, and maybe even consider bonus points for really insightful posts!
We discussed small group work earlier, and you may have some projects you already use for your class that you could adapt to an online course, or maybe you do a quick search of the web to gather some ideas for projects. Group work assignments truly do engage the students and stimulate them to learn from each other. We all know that the best way to really learn something is to be tasked with teaching it to someone else, and that’s what we’d like to think is going on in the groups of our class. Sometimes it is, but sometimes one person is doing all of the work while the others kick back and enjoy the grade. To mitigate situations like these, have the students assess each other at the end of a project, and take their assessments into account when providing final project grades.
Online learning assessments can include directed reading assignments followed by a quick reading quiz, watching videos (yes, there are ways to track who has watched and who hasn’t), typical homework assignments (that can even be automatically graded for you), and yes, even tests. Some learning management systems allow you to build these assessments directly into an assessment management tool, but there are also numerous online programs (or publisher provided software) that can make the creation and grading of these assignments quick, easy, and ready for launch!
Right now, it may seem like this is an impossible feat to accomplish in a short window of time, but you can do this! Seek help from colleagues, publishers, and the web. There are many more resources out there to help you weather through this change, and who knows, you may see a positive outcome in the form of higher grades, positive student feedback, and increased engagement as a result!
My colleagues and I often chaffed under the stress of needing to get ready for our classes while attending the dreaded college-required professional development sessions on “Outcomes” designed to comply with accreditation. We were offered little more than college-dictated Educationese required inclusion in our syllabi.
Most of the outcomes were far too broad and vague to be measurable, and I began to daydream about how to make these days have some merit. I started to muse about outcomes. I needed a definition beyond what’s left at the end of something.
Specifically, what is a useable learning outcome? What would meaningful outcomes look like? Linda Nilson tells us that learning outcomes are what we want our students to be able to do by the end of our course. Therefore, it makes sense to think about designing meaningful course-specific outcomes by looking at the desired end and working backwards, determining the building blocks needed to reach those goals.
Patricia Cross stated the sole purpose of teaching is learning. This does not mean the teacher is the singular path to learning. In fact, learning often occurs best when the wise teacher gets out of the way to allow it to happen organically. Conversely and sadly, there can be a great deal of teaching with little, to no, learning.
I felt myself in the later position more than I would like to admit, working so hard while my students expended little energy. I was expending the lion’s share of classroom energy. I wondered how to flip this energy grid, so the students would become the primary energy consumers.
Learning scientists tell us that deep learning is not easy, it takes effort. Effort = expenditure of energy. So, if my students spent little energy, and learning consumes lots of energy, then the ratio of teaching to learning was seriously off-balance in my classrooms. I was doing so much teaching that was not resulting in a proportional amount of learning. I realized I needed to become the classroom learning facilitator.
I daydreamed about my ideal class with students learning. Teachers often believe we are the keepers of knowledge and only from our mouths may students learn. We’re the rock stars, dancing as fast as we can in front of the class, exhausted at the end of the day. And, while rock stars often get glowing student reviews, studies have shown students often mastered less than students in classrooms with methods focusing on learning outcomes rather than what the teacher teaches.
Sound outcomes contain three statements:
how the outcome will be measured;
what the conditions will be for demonstrating the outcome;
and, the criteria for evaluating the student’s performance of the outcome.
How the outcome is measured might be stated in terms like; define or compute. The conditions for measurement might include; speeches, portfolios, or maps. Finally, the criteria for evaluating are the rubrics developed to measure progress.
There are cognitive, psychomotor, affective, social, and ethical outcomes; however, I am only examining cognitive outcomes. Bloom’s taxonomy remains an excellent framework for developing cognitive outcomes. These cognitive processes begin with knowledge. Without knowledge, students have no material with which to construct an end result.
Parroting new information in order to remember is the first rung. This might be coupled with comprehension, the second learning process, where the student is able to express the information in their own words. The third rung is application, using newly acquired information in unique situations. The fourth step analyzes the new information understanding how the components relate. Synthesis follows as students use isolated components creating new skills or products. The student reaches the top of the cognitive structure and is able to see from a new vantage, evaluating the relevancy of this learning.
It is important to note that outcomes have little merit without motivated students. Maslow’s hierarchy of need offers an excellent frame for motivation – beginning with the subfloor of meeting physiological needs and safety concerns, moving to a sense of belonging, leading to increased self-esteem, and culminating with self-actualization.
I am able to address each in my classrooms, creating environments with little effort that are physically comfortable, a safe space emotionally and physically, with collaborative activities increasing belongingness, giving constructive and meaningful feedback that increases self-esteem, and encouraging students to design their paths to uniquely defined success leading to self-actualization.
The principles of Bloom’s learning ladder coupled with the scaffolding of human/student motivations in Maslow’s research integrate learning and motivation producing my dream classroom.
The learning outcomes were supporting my course redesign. I reviewed assignments, assessments, and classroom strategies. If I found an activity or evaluative tool having little connection to the learning outcomes, I eliminated them, creating other activities better aligned with outcomes. I limited the number of outcomes so I could measure each and offer timely feedback so students had a very transparent view of what it would take to be successful.
My class gradually became far less about how much material I was able to cover than about how much progress students were making toward a final goal of mastery. This sometimes led to decreasing the amount of content I had assumed necessary simply because the textbook offered X number of chapters.
I kept in mind the BIG question, “What do I want my students to be able to do when they walk away from my course?”
Now, a warning! This outcome-based, learning-centered environment is often noisy. I have had one or two neighboring professors, request a room change due to the enthusiastic discussions and sometimes raucous laughter emanating from my students’ engagement with each other and the course principles.
I once had a provost, invited to visit student end-of-term presentations, become so engaged with the students and their learning that she remained for the entire class rather than the few minutes she had intended.
I’ll also warn that you must be prepared for changes in yourself. Motivation is infectious. The more motivated I became to create a sacred space for my students to learn, the more motivated they became to learn, which in turn reenergized me. I had found my teacher fountain of youth. The energy grid was teeming and flowing all over the place, back and forth from me, to students, to outsiders. I went home at night, not exhausted, but energized.
So, I guess I’ll express gratitude for those many tedious and painful college “Outcome” in-services for boring me into daydreaming and taking action.
I attended college in an age of lectures. You know the student lecture mode. You go to class, listen to your professor lecture for an hour or more, frantically take notes, and then hope you can make some sense of those notes while trying to do your homework.
When I became a professor, I didn’t know much else to offer. Group work was popular, so I did incorporate group work assignments, usually as a review activity before an exam. My daily routine though, continued to be mostly lecture. I would call on students to answer specific questions – I tried to move around the room so everyone had a turn. It felt “fair,” but I’m sure it didn’t help those students who had math anxiety. It didn’t seem like enough.
Some of my colleagues across campus were using “clickers” so students could answer multiple choice questions during class. But because I was teaching a math class, I didn’t want multiple choice questions – I wanted the students solving and answering questions on their own, not guessing from a list of choices or working backwards. Think – Pair – Share was another technique I tried with relative success, but inevitably I still had up to 1/3 of the classroom sitting there quietly, not talking to anyone.
Along came Learning Catalytics: my classroom would never be the same. Learning Catalytics is a classroom response system that students can log in to with their phones or other web-enabled devices. Instead of just multiple-choice questions, there are 18 different question types.
This includes mathematical expressions, multiple graphing options, direction (think vectors), short answer, and many more. It was also quite simple to create my own questions directly from my notes for class, or I could choose from a vast library of existing questions already available.
I used to walk around the room while students had a practice problem to work on, seeing a handful of their work and having a vague overall idea of how the class was doing. Now I was able to see the responses from every student in one summary at my computer.
The real game changer though, came with the seating chart. It’s not assigned seating for the students per se; it is set up that they click on the seat they’re sitting in when joining the class session. While students are working and submitting answers, I’m able to see which areas of the classroom are struggling more (due to an increased number of incorrect responses). Now I can focus my “wandering” time with the students who are struggling with this topic, right now.
The real beauty with the seating chart though, comes with the ability to assign the students into groups to re-work a problem after discussing it with each other.
Let’s assume the “correct” responses are somewhere between 30% and 70%. With the click of a button, I can assign the students into groups of 3 for discussion and resubmission. There is even an option that students are group by “different” answers. This disperses the 30% or more of correct answers throughout the groups, so you can be almost certain that every group has at least one member who answered correctly.
Students discuss with each other and demonstrate how they solved the problem, and then they resubmit their answers. I regularly see the correct response rate to a question go from something around 40% correct to 80 or 90% correct – and I haven’t said a word! The change is from students working together.
My class is busy: students are moving around, getting their blood flowing, and everyone is engaged. Each person’s device tells them the name of the others in their discussion group and where they’re sitting with respect to them. I tell the students, “If you have their name, they have yours – don’t be rude! Get up and talk to each other.” Gone are the days of 1/3 of the class sitting quietly after you’ve asked them to “discuss with a neighbor!”
If the response rate is below 30%, depending on the topic, I might step back and do some more class discussion, as obviously the topic is not clear enough to them. If the response rate is over 70 or 80% correct, it’s probably worth moving forward, rather than spending the time to redo the problem in groups.
However, even in these cases, all the aggregated responses can be shared on the screen, including the incorrect ones. As a class, we’re able to discuss some of the errors made in the room, and how to avoid them, without any individual student being singled out.
Last term in my Linear Algebra class, there was a simple definition presented – I thought it was as straightforward as could be. I threw a simple concept check in Learning Catalytics expecting overwhelming correct answers – and to my surprise, less than half the students got it right. It was clearly time to review it again. It felt so good to know quickly that we needed to spend some more time on that topic.
Gone are the days of being unsure during class how well my students are grasping the topic of the day. I can find out on the spot and give them opportunities to actively work together to learn the material. Students are engaged, excited to come to class and interact with each other.
Is it a time investment in class? Yes, it is – but it’s well worth it. And for those doing Co-Requisites, what better way to help pace your pre-requisite content being covered. Topics with high correct response rates mean you are free to move along! And those with less, you’re able to spend more time on. Thank you to Learning Catalytics for helping transform my classroom!
Here’s a very brief video overview of what Learning Catalytics can bring to your classroom. And click here for Training and Support materials if you’d like to engage your students with Learning Catalytics.
We’ve partnered with Wake Forest University for years. For example, we support its nationally respected online graduate program in counseling. It’s been a success for everyone — especially students, who are achieving strong academic and career outcomes.
So, when Wake Forest’s School of Medicine sought to deliver two new, purpose-built degree programs, it was natural for them to talk to us. However, Wake Forest’s School of Medicine has distinct capabilities and priorities.
Its entrepreneurial leaders asked us: How can we customize a partnership that reflects our internal resources and capabilities? How can we use our ability to provide funding to help launch these online programs?
We offer multiple models for delivering our best-in-class services. Together, we built an innovative, co-investment agreement that gets the risk/reward balance right for both parties.
The final contract promotes shared interests and alignment (like traditional revenue share agreements) but Wake Forest’s upfront contributions allow us to share the financial risk. That way, we created a shorter contract commitment that will allow us to make changes, if the market changes quickly.
Meanwhile, Wake Forest benefits from the same comprehensive online program management services that are already working well for the University — from our strong national marketing expertise to one-on-one student coaching and support through graduation.
Innovative curriculum to transform healthcare
Launching this fall, these online programs are a perfect example of an institution that’s found an unmet opportunity to use its strengths and positively impact the lives of students and society. Let’s look at each one:
Wake Forest’s Master of Science in Clinical Research Management will empower professionals throughout the clinical research field to move research and development forward, advance health and save lives. Through an engaging, supportive and interdisciplinary online program environment, participants will learn how to select and apply relevant scientific knowledge, critically analyze research designs, help construct/lead clinical trials and improve patient care.
Wake Forest’s Master of Science in Healthcare Leadership will prepare a new generation to transform healthcare for the better. Graduates will be exceptionally qualified to lead their organization and improve patient outcomes. They’ll be ready to address everything from strategy to culture; change management to innovation.
Online education is about helping more people thrive. That’s what Wake Forest is doing — and we’re excited to partner with them.
To learn more about our customizable models, world-class expertise, and the resources we offer, contact us.
Several national studies (Swail; American Institutes for Research; Lake) purport approximately 60% of all college students attending four-year institutions persist until graduation within 6 years. Thus, there is a 40% attrition rate nationally.
American tax dollars contribute to the grants, scholarships and financial aid used by many students. According to LendEDU a college drop-out has incurred about $14,000 dollars in student aid debt. About half of these loans are in default. There are high stakes involved at the institutional level as well.
According to a study of retention at Virginia Commonwealth University in 2016, the cost to that one university of losing almost 40% of their enrolled students during that 6 years was $86 million. Given the high financial impact to society, institutions, and students, the study of college retention and student persistence has become an important one.
Beyond financial loss
While retention has hefty financial implications, perhaps more important, college degrees prepare students to critically evaluate the needs of their society and to understand how to effect change for the better. Retention also affects the national reputations of colleges where legacies, among other advantages, are at risk in institutions with high attrition rates. Finally, and perhaps most critically, the impact on the individual student of attrition, withdrawal, or dropout goes beyond crushing college loan debt.
The impact on self- esteem and self-efficacy results in far more pervasive and damaging long-term consequences than mere financial limitations. The assault to self-worth may be the greatest danger of college attrition and the most important reason to show concern for increasing student retention. An examination of student retention can help us change the retention narrative, and help our students write brighter and more hopeful futures for themselves and our society.
What we can do
There are factors that lead to attrition beyond the control of institutions and instructors. Student abilities, skills, and preparation come with them to college. As do their personal attributes, values, and knowledge base. While we know students with the character trait of resilience are far more likely to persist against negative factors, colleges cannot control whether a person has this trait or not.
The outside influences, often leading to student dropout, such as families, jobs, or lack of support are factors beyond the scope of college control as well. While programs within colleges may ameliorate the effects of some of these influences, these influences come with the individual and vary widely between students.
The good news is there are a number of factors colleges and instructors can influence. Several of these factors are defined by Alan Seidman (2012). Seidman purports these may be the greatest contributors toward student success. These include; expectations, student support, involvement, and feedback.
Expectations clearly communicated to students from their institutions and teachers is critical for student comfort, increasing engagement. While it is common knowledge that syllabi are contracts of the class expectations between the student and the teacher, institutional expectations are equally important.
Students will most likely interact on an institutional level before having access to individual classrooms. Schools that have clear mission statements, clear and comprehensive student orientations, clear student handbooks, and information to access support services go a long way toward creating an open and transparent environment where students feel respected and valued. This atmosphere of clear expectations should flow into each classroom, reducing confusion and miscommunication, creating an atmosphere of comfort and clear outlines of how to succeed.
Student support should have a three-pronged approach providing services for academic, social and financial support.
Academic support may be provided through tutoring centers, peer, and faculty mentoring programs, computer proficiency workshops, writing centers, computer labs, and service-learning centers. Not only do academic support centers help students in their classes, but they foster social networks between peers, teachers and the student, creating learning communities.
Social support in college has been linked to positive student engagement, potentially increasing retention. Social centers designed to bond like others for common goals or common identities have shown value in creating climates of collaboration in colleges. Social groups might include clubs or centers for foreign students, service groups, ethnic identity, or spiritual unity, among any other traits that bond groups.
Financial support may take the form of required workshops on financial responsibility for any student on financial aid, or grants and student financial rewards, or student work programs. Some colleges have even offered short-term small cash loans to students struggling at the end or beginning of terms. Students who have a clear understanding of what they are getting for the amount invested are armed with information about the investment and may make better choices about wise expenditures of their energy, time, and resources.
Involvement studies (NASPA; Purdue University) indicate students who feel positive emotional connection to their educational environments, through peer or faculty connections, are more likely to persist. College student populations have evolved from primarily residential students to the majority of students commuting.
With busy, active lives beyond the borders of college campuses, involving students in campus life has become a challenge. Dissociated students are far less likely to find the support needed to weather the inevitable stresses of college. Programs such as peer and faculty mentoring also foster an atmosphere of connectedness.
Methods of student involvement in the classroom include group projects designed for students to connect through remote or social media communication. Class time can also be allocated for group work. In short; happy, connected people are more likely to want to remain connected to each other and the environment that fosters those connections.
Feedback is often overlooked as a critical factor in student retention; however, it is the one factor that is absolutely in the control of the institution and instructors. Transparency by all parties is the key ingredient for solid and satisfactory problem solving. Students need to know how they can succeed and what they need to do to get there.
Institutional feedback comes in the form of monitoring student’s academic standing. Students need accurate and timely assessments of their degree progress. They need clear communication of their GPA, college and national standing, as well as communications from financial aid concerning their current debt and estimates of debt upon graduation. Students also need early warning when they are steering off the path to successful completion.
Instructor feedback answers the common student questions of: “What is my grade? How do I measure up? Can I pass this course? Our assignment assessments are our feedback to these questions. The practice of assessing content mastery with only one or two major exams or papers gives little indication to students of where they are going off the rail before it was too late. This should not be the case in a learning-focused classroom.
Learning-centered classrooms should offer immediate feedback on formative low stakes assignments. That feedback should be clear and meaningful resulting in the students increased awareness of what they know or don’t know. This translates into better metacognition and students are less likely to overestimate their knowledge acquisition.
The learning-centered classroom
Learning-centered classrooms demand students learn first-hand, moving away from the teacher centered classroom, where learning is strained by passive listening with little interaction. After implementing new learning-centered feedback strategies in my classroom such as quick mini quizzes using clicker type answering providing immediate feedback in a low-stakes situation, I saw striking results in improved preparedness and retention.
Learning-centered classrooms are also collaborative. Building learning communities within the classroom is often the only peer association commuter students will have. Collaborative learning has been shown to produce greater levels of intellectual development. Teachers can foster this through group work in the classroom assignments.
These might be problem-solutions focused or project-based. Service-learning opportunities in the classroom allow students to work together and apply the academic principles they are learning to real world settings. Other classroom activities that have been suggested in the book, “Make it Stick,” as excellent methods for student learning include:
Spacing Retrieval Practice, based on the testing effect, where taking tests increases the ability to be a better test taker. Activities that lend themselves to this might be short quizzes, one-minute essays, self-analysis activities, or partnered homework assignments.
Interleaving is cycling back to previous learning and bringing it forward for application. Reviews, reflections, quizzes, short essays, or group presentations might lend themselves to this type of assignment.
Elaboration gives new learning meaning and commits it to longer-term memory through application. Essays, scenario creation, group projects and presentations are all able to offer opportunities to elaborate on new knowledge. One particularly successful activity has been to have groups teach a portion of the new concepts for the week.
Generation is the process of finding creative and innovative solutions to problems or assignments. Offering students opportunities to submit drafts with feedback generates deep understanding of the concepts building towards a more successful final product. Working in groups to resolve a difficult problem is also effective in generating deeper understanding through the lens of other perspectives.
Reflection reviews new learning, making applications to prior learning or novel situations in real world settings. Service-learning group projects with field notes foster reflection on how the classroom principles apply in practical settings. Essays and scenario activities also allow students to make meaning of new information.
Calibration teaches students how to judge what they know. It increases metacognitive skills and helps student more accurately assess the time and energy expenditures needed to succeed. Testing of any kind as well as self-evaluation aid in calibrating, as do peer evaluations.
Collaborative learning-centered classrooms where homework is due prior to class, where the student was provided immediate feedback on homework before coming to class, where the teacher has access to performance data from the homework, allows the instructor to focus on those concepts deemed most difficult for the entire class.
This classroom is now flipped to address this specific group of students with their unique learning needs. The flipped classroom lends itself to collaborative learning and interactive problem-solution activities that address the most difficult concepts using valuable class time effectively.
As a young teacher, my classroom was all about my teaching; how creative I could be thoroughly covering all the material. I now see my classroom is not about my teaching, it is about my students’ learning.
I am empowered to know that while retention is an enormous problem impacting our society, colleges, and students, there are things we can do at the institutional level and the classroom level to combat student attrition and student dropout rates, leading to more students meeting their goals and achieving successful and productive futures.
They’re parents, veterans, and caretakers for older family members. Unlike “traditional” students, who only make up a fraction of the population of potential learners, many start their higher education much later than the age of 18. And as a growing force in the educational space, they’re a cause to rethink how we approach teaching. To that end, we’ve spoken to non-traditional students and their professors to find out how tech can support (and fail to support) their learning.
How edtech can support non-traditional students
1. Make lessons accessible to all
Alyssa Kropp, an integrated design instructor, discovered that using programs that bridged the gap between different types of students was a foundational step toward moving her lesson plans forward.
Because all of her students use laptops or smartphones to participate, her most successful materials involve visual, auditory, and closed captioning approaches that attune to diverse learning styles.
“A lot of students are new to design, and so I always encourage online materials — they are interested in being exposed to different methodologies.”
Kropp has taught many international students, ESL students, and students who have started their college careers later than average. Accessibility within digital learning tools is incredibly important to her: “My students come from India, Vietnam, Dubai, the UK — all over. They come from a variety of economic backgrounds and social classes, which brings a different style of diversity.”
Tip for admin: Engaging work can be assigned online, giving your faculty the leeway to develop interactive lessons during the classroom hours. If the tools that you are using for non-traditional students aren’t successful, give your faculty opportunities to incorporate digital learning materials and change their approach.
2. Allow for mobility and class access on the fly
Non-traditional students tend to take different approaches toward making headway in their courses. For Ryan Glassman, a computer science student, his coursework and online class schedule require him to study at unusual times.
“More and more of my lectures are being video recorded, which is nice when you have a huge computer science class. I can catch up on those lectures online, which is a lot better than asking another student for notes.”
Digital tools allow Glassman to manage his time more efficiently while living in a hectic city landscape, “I’m cognizant of how much time I spend commuting each day, which is about an hour and a half each way. I try and relegate classes that have a ton of reading, and I restrict my reading to my commutes.”
“It’s harder for me than most to make use of physical resources like TA hours or review sessions on weekends because I don’t live on campus. So I try to make as much use of the remote stuff as I possibly can.”
Tip for admin: Hold training sessions for faculty on how to provide online course forums that allow students to ask questions remotely. Other students, TAs, or professors can respond with answers. The online forums provide an easy way for non-traditional students to speak up without feeling embarrassed.
3. Engage at your own pace
More than anything, smart tech opens up opportunities to improve a student’s higher education experience, no matter what else they’re juggling. Brianna Maldonado, a United States Marine Corp veteran and student of mental health counseling, is a visual learner who seeks out online videos in addition to her studies.
Maldonado’s unique style of learning leads her to watch educational videos online that supplement her clinical studies: “We’re learning a lot about psychology theorists right now, and online videos can condense materials that are easy to understand. I can pause on keywords that will be useful for midterms.”
Tip for admin: Visual learners thrive with supplemental video materials and in-person engagement. Remind faculty how meaningful one-on-one interactions with non-traditional students can be. Often, digital learning materials provide instructors with data and insights into student learning and study habits they can use to help provide personalized support to these students during office hours.
When you ask the right questions of your non-traditional classroom, you become a step closer toward a pathway to student achievement. For more strategies for enhancing learning for this demographic with digital tools, visit Pearson’s website on institutional leadership.
Education Dive recently explored how Maryville, Arizona State, and the University of Maine are igniting (or reigniting) growth via online education. They know the economy won’t stay strong forever — and even if it does, there will be fewer 18-22-year-olds to fill campus classrooms. Online learning is a key to their strategic response.
Ed Dive makes powerful points about the opportunity in adult learning (30 million potential students). Also: the importance of scale and infrastructure in online programs, the investments required to succeed, and the tough competition.
Based on our experience running 350 online programs with our university partners, we agree — and we’d stress that you can succeed.
One way, as our partner at Maryville told Ed Dive, is to “find the unmet need.” Right now, sizable opportunities exist if you know where to look.
Next, widen your geographical reach. You can draw students from across the country, and the right national marketing can have a “halo effect” on campus enrollments, too.
Once a student’s enrolled, retain them — by helping them progress, graduate, an achieve their career goals.
And remember, it’s easier to build a great online program with a strategic partner who can fill in the gaps wherever you need it, whether that’s in strategy, investment, marketing, recruitment, student support, or across the board.
We believe it’s worth your time to go read Ed Dive’s article. Once you do, tell us what you think. And let’s talk. This topic is critically important, and so is this conversation.
For today’s students, the college experience is about more than exploring areas of study and learning professional skills. Entering students want to know the investment they’re making in higher education will pay off. With long-term career opportunities defining student success, career centers feel the pressure to provide guidance and actionable insight to students preparing to enter the workforce—which means keeping up with the latest hiring trends.
The big trend this year? Integrating technology into the hiring process.
The rise of hiring technology
Career counselors used to base their coaching on the six-second rule, essentially the length of time a resume has to impress the hiring manager. Now, to even be seen by human eyes, candidates have to pass something much more elusive: the applicant tracking system (ATS).
Applicant tracking systems are nothing new, but they’ve become ubiquitous in the hiring process. In fact, 99% of Fortune 500 companies use them (source). As they collect and organize applicant resumes based on employer-defined keywords, ATSs streamline the tedious work of sorting through resumes for the hiring manager.
Even organizations that don’t have an ATS are often using other tools that rely heavily on search terms, like LinkedIn and Indeed.
While ATSs have been around for several years, a new player in the hiring field is AI technology, which essentially replaces a candidate’s first-round interview process with a video recorded interview. Candidates answer questions, and the AI compares their word choice, facial expressions, and enthusiasm with current employees.
With multiple technology barriers before human interactions, how can you prepare students to impress both humans and machines?
Here are three ways you can encourage student success in the hiring process.
1. Advise students to conduct keyword research
Career centers already encourage students to research the company in preparation for interviews. But students should expand this research to identify key terms used by the industry, the company, and the job description. Encourage students to think beyond technical, quantifiable abilities that many applicants will share on a resume, and include soft skills that they can expand on in the interview process.
Keyword research can benefit students in two ways: They can add it to their resume and use it in their interview responses. Using keywords from the job description will help the student’s resume rise to the top of the applicant pile and get the attention of hiring managers. Using industry and organizational language in the interview highlights their knowledge and preparedness.
2. Record student interviews
A twist on traditional mock interviews, recorded interviews help students practice a different conversation format. Video interviews can be awkward and uncomfortable, but they’re more prevalent than ever. Practicing helps students feel prepared and gives them the opportunity to see what they look like on camera.
Encourage students to review the recorded interviews to identify their weak points and adjust accordingly. Make sure they focus on getting across their measurable skills, as well as their interpersonal skills on screen. They can even sit down with a career counselor to go over the footage together for more feedback.
3. Consider AI-based software
Although there’s no substitution for a career counselor, using AI-based software to provide resume suggestions can help students avoid ATS pitfalls, like poor formatting choices or date conventions.
Having a tool that can identify the more technical resume fixes many career centers encounter will give counselors more time to work with students on more challenging aspects, such as training interpersonal skills and effective workplace interactions.
Focus on student success
Avoid favoring technology at the expense of human interactions. Remind students that despite the addition of AI-based software in the hiring process, the final decisions will always be made by a person. “Beating” or “gaming” the system will only get students so far, and nothing replaces experience and personal connections.
Career centers should continue to encourage students to focus on building hard and soft skills to stand out in the crowded job market.
The robots are coming – or have likely already arrived – to a school or university near you. Should you be worried?
It’s easy to understand why some feel that applying AI to learning will dehumanize education. But the algorithms and models that drive these technologies form the basis of an essentially human endeavor. AI can provide teachers and learners with tools so they can see not only what is being learned, but also how it is being learned. It also has the potential to help learners develop the knowledge and skills that employers are seeking.
So before you get worried, here’s five things you should know about AI and learning.
AI helps us open up the “black box of learning”.
AI involves computer software that has been programmed to interact with the world in ways normally associated with human intelligence. To do this, it relies on both knowledge about the world, and algorithms to intelligently process that knowledge. This knowledge about the world is represented in “models”.
There are three key models used in applying AI to learning:
the pedagogical model, representing the knowledge and expertise of teaching,
the domain model, representing knowledge of the subject being learned, and
the learner model, representing (of course!) the learner
These models develop – that is, they get smarter – over time as learners interact with them.
By using AI in learning, we hope to “make computationally precise and explicit forms of educational, psychological and social knowledge which are often left implicit.” In other words, AI might be our most powerful tool to open up what is sometimes called the “black box of learning.”
When a learner uses an AI-driven tool for learning, the result is a deeper, and more fine-grained record of how learning actually did or didn’t happen. For example, AI can help us see and understand the micro-steps that learners go through in learning calculus, or the common misconceptions that arise. These understandings can be used to improve learning technologies, and they can also be used to good effect by human teachers.
AI will not replace human teachers
Although AI is designed to interact with the world through capabilities and behaviors that we would think of as essentially human (for example, by recognizing and reading handwriting), it’s important to remember that AI doesn’t have a mind of its own, and that artificial intelligence is different from human intelligence. And, as we have learned from the world of competitive chess, it’s the combination of human plus machine that provides the ultimate advantage.(cite)
So rather than a future in which AI replaces teachers, we predict that the continued introduction of AI-powered learning tools will serve as a catalyst for the transformation of the role of the teacher. Drawing on the power of both human and artificial intelligence, teacher time will be used more effectively and efficiently, and their expertise will be better deployed, leveraged, and augmented.
AI will help us better understand soft skills.
We know from our past Future of Skills research, and the work of many others, that the combinations of knowledge and skills needed for success in the future will be different from what is expected today. Although technical skills will be increasingly important, equally, if not more valuable will be three categories of “soft skills” that will be at the core of human-machine synergy:
skills related to our ongoing ability to teach and to learn
skills related to understanding, navigating and adapting to complex systems, and
skills related to creativity and originality.
Going forward, AI will be able to assist educators and learners with two important tasks. First, to establish more rigorous and systematic ways of categorizing and assessing the soft skills that students acquire. (In other words, to develop hard metrics for soft skills.) And second, to understand and document the teaching and learning strategies that best help learners to develop and strengthen specific soft skills in a more structured, systematic and deliberate way.
The increasing range of data capture used by AI-powered learning tools – such as biological data, voice recognition, and eye tracking – will provide new types of evidence for currently difficult to assess skills. For example, a practice-based learning experience that incorporates elements of problem solving or collaboration might be assessed using a combination of data sources including voice recognition (to identify who is doing and saying what in a team activity) and eye tracking (to explore which learner is focusing on which learning resources at any particular moment in time).
In addition, the increasing use of AI-powered learning tools will enable the collection of mass data about the teaching and learning practices that work best, enabling us to track learner progress against different teaching approaches and, in turn, populating a dynamic catalogue of the best teaching practices suited to the development of different skills and capabilities, across a range of environments.
AI will help us bring intelligent, personal tutors to every learner.
One-to-one human tutoring has long been thought to be the most effective approach to teaching and learning (since at least Aristotle’s tutoring of Alexander the Great!). But until now, one-to-one tutoring has been an unreachable goal. Not only are there not enough human tutors; it would also never be affordable. How can we make the positive impact of one-to-one tutoring available to all learners across all subjects?
This is where Intelligent Tutoring Systems (ITS) come in. ITS use AI techniques to simulate one-to-one human tutoring, delivering learning activities best matched to a learner’s cognitive needs and providing targeted and timely feedback, all without an individual teacher needing to be present. Some ITS put the learner in control of their own learning in order to help them develop self-regulation skills; others use pedagogical strategies to scaffold learning so that the learner is appropriately challenged and supported.
One new example of an ITS is Aida, Pearson’s AI-powered mobile calculus tutor. In Aida, AI is applied to multiple tasks to help personalize the tutoring to the student’s learning path and capability. Specifically, AI is used to recognize and analyze the student’s handwriting and problem being solved; analyze each line of a written solution; provide step by step feedback on what is correct or incorrect; give intervention hints about how to solve a problem, including relevant explainers or examples; and recommend other related concepts to practice or learn in order to strengthen understanding.
AI-driven learning companions will support our lifelong learning journeys.
The early versions of Learning Companion Systems, developed in the 1980s, were collaborative computer-based learning companions. Companions used collaboration and competition to stimulate student learning. They could also act as a student for the human learner to tutor, and in so doing helped the student learn.
The next generation of learning companions are poised to become an essential part of lifelong learning. There are no technical barriers to the development of companions that can accompany and support individual learners throughout their studies – starting with school and extending through higher education, multiple careers, and retirement. These lifelong learning companions could be based in the cloud, accessible via a multiplicity of devices, and operated offline as needed.
Rather than teaching all subject areas or skills, a learning companion might access specialist AI systems or humans as needed. In addition, the companion could focus on helping learners to become better at learning, for example through prompts focused on developing a growth mindset. And because this type of system can help all learners to access learning resources that are optimal for their needs, it will be suitable for struggling learners as well as those who are high achieving.
To make lifelong learning effective and successful, we know that learners will need better navigational tools and services to map their learning path. A lifelong learning companion could also fulfill this role. Think of this as a Waze for learning. The companion could help learners identify their strengths and weaknesses, and suggest methods and resources to build skills more quickly. And, it could be combined with sophisticated labor market analytics yielding more granular insights into how jobs, skill requirements, and career opportunities are evolving. This information would help learners to identify career opportunities, acquire new knowledge and build requisite skills.
The higher ed model has traditionally been focused on delivering the final product — well-educated graduates. However, as learner demographics evolve and lifelong learning becomes, well, a way of life, institutions are recognizing the need to shift focus by turning to customer service models outside of higher ed to make it happen.
Student success is on the line, but so are increased enrollments and graduation rates — along with affinity among alumni and donors.
We understand there’s heavy debate over whether or not learners are, indeed, “customers”, and a perception that the application of customer service models in higher ed undermine the altruistic values of academe. At the end of the day, both camps can agree that student success is the ultimate goal. Let’s examine an institution that’s reinventing the student experience through corporate inspiration, and see what some of the best companies are doing.
What do a progressive healthcare system and a grocery chain have to do with student success?
Just ask American University.
When new students arrive at American, as is the case at many colleges, they confront a complex aggregation of offices and practices. Traditional university structure and advising isn’t set up to respond to today’s digital natives who expect access and resolution at the click of a button.
When leaders at American began the university’s Reinventing the Student Experience (RiSE) project in 2015, they discovered that “the comprehensive nature of what we were trying to imagine was a bit easier to spot in the corporate world,” said Jeffrey Rutenbeck, then dean of the School of Communication.
They turned to the renowned Cleveland Clinic and high-end grocery chain Wegmans for a look at their approaches to improving customer satisfaction. They found that, in both instances, the “customer” was at the center of the experience, with the overarching goals of anticipating and exceeding expectations.
This is accomplished through continued customer service training at all levels of the organization during standing monthly meetings that explore various topics and celebrate employee success. Data is also a critical component in measuring “customer” success, and it is employed throughout to measure everything from communication to employee satisfaction.
In the development of their RiSE project, students remained at the forefront of their plans. American understood that students have unique goals, needs, and challenges throughout their experience. In their meetings with students, four unique types of student themes evolved, and personas were developed from this feedback to serve as a guide in the reinvention.
Another key component to ingraining this “customer-centric” ethos throughout the culture is listening. By providing training that fosters this key skill, American gives their employees (and learners) an active role to play in improvement initiatives and the opportunity to have ownership of the experience.
“The kind of excellence you can achieve with technical proficiency is very different from the kind of excellence you can achieve if you build a culture that connects everyone to the same mission,” said Rutenbeck.
Here are some best practices from corporate customer service models that you can apply at your institution:
Understand who your “customers” are
Deliver a consistent, seamless experience throughout the learner journey
Make the experience convenient
Set and manage expectations
Align services with your overarching mission and values
Personalize the experience
Ask for feedback
Establish accountability across all services
Wondering where to start looking?
Here are 10 companies delivering outstanding customer service:
Being assigned a new course can fill a professor’s heart with joy, dread, or a bit of both. The joy can come from the excitement of being able to create something new; to put into use all the techniques and technology that you have learned about and exercising the academic freedom that you may have been denied teaching courses designed by others. Some may dread it because of the daunting amount of work necessary to design and implement a new course; often without extra time or pay to do it.
Recently, I found myself in both the camps of joy and dread. I was given the opportunity to develop the fully online version of Anatomy and Physiology at my college. I have taught the subject many times, so I knew the course, the student population, and the resources well. I had just completed courses myself about creating engaging online courses and I had lot of ideas ready to go.
Then, I was begged to revamp an old course in Human Diseases, a course I have not taught before, knew little about the student population or resources, and just had an old syllabus to go by. It also had to be changed from a 16-week semester to an 8-week term. And oh, by the way, it started in two weeks. Ugh.
So, there I was, designing two different courses and I had two vastly different attitudes about it. With the time crunch, I had to be very deliberate about how I invested the time I had. Human nature had me wanting to spend all my time on the course I was excited about. That felt good. It was fun to me. But I also had a responsibility to produce a good course for the other about which I was less excited.
For a moment, I sat there with the world of possibilities swirling before me. Syllabi, readings, PowerPoints, videos, delivery platforms, assignments, labs, quizzes, exams and more piled up inside my head, threatening to bury me under the weight of the time needed to create them while each rallied for my attention first. It was hard to know where to start!
Then I remembered the work of Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe called Understanding by Design in which they recommend that instead of starting at the beginning, I should start at the end. Their strategy called Backward Design, also called backward planning or backward mapping, is a process meant to be used to design learning experiences and instructional techniques to achieve specific learning goals.
Many of you have had this kind of email from a student:
“I am not sure why I got a 78% on the assignment. I followed the instructions correctly and yet the MyLab product graded it wrong. Why did I get these questions wrong? I think something is wrong with the MyLab or Mastering Product. I need you to look at this now and change my grade.”
Many students will blame the system or something external instead of looking at themselves as the reason for not doing well on course assignments. Trying to make students responsible for their own learning is not an easy task. Providing feedback on these assignments is essential to shifting the focus of learning to the student.
Feedback can be best described within the web article titled, The Importance of Feedback for Student Learning, as “Feedback is commentary on the student work, individualized to best accommodate for the needs of each student, personally” (Sources).
The next question that arises is how can you make students review your feedback? One way according to the Khan Academy is to, “…empower and drive students as they’re learning is to encourage them to monitor their own progress. This allows learners to track their own improvement, figure out what they need extra help on, and set their own goals” (Academy). Making students monitor their own progress can lead to better student success.
All Pearson MyLab and Mastering products have some form of feedback that students can use to help enhance their understanding why they received their grade on an assignment. It is important for you as a faculty using the product to understand the type of feedback provided and encourage your student to use it. As the faculty advisor for MyLab IT, I will highlight in depth the type of feedback provided within MyLab IT. I will also point out some of the learning science behind MyLab Math. I encourage you to contact the Faculty Advisor at Pearson to learn more about the type of feedback in each of the MyLab Products.
Type of Feedback found in MyLab IT
Within MyLab IT, there are three types of assessments, Simulations, Grader Projects, and Objective Based Quizzes. Simulations take the student into a simulated Word, Excel, Access, or PowerPoint environment. Students are asked to complete specific skills related to the MS Office products such as inserting images in Word or creating formulas in Excel. With Grader Projects, students download a set files that include an instruction document and starting file. Students then work offline within the actual MS Office application to complete the project. Students then come back into MyLab IT and upload their document for grading.
There are two types of feedback provided within the Simulations, methods to complete, and student actions. The methods to complete helps the student understand all the methods possible to complete the skill within the simulation. This type of feedback helps the student understand all the ways they could have completed the task if they got it wrong. If multiple attempts are allowed, the students can then try the task again making sure to use one of the methods to complete the task.
Student actions allows the student to view a movie of exactly what they did within the simulation task. Many students using MyLab IT will say they keep doing it right, but it kept being marked wrong. The student actions can show them that they were doing the task wrong. See more on Student Actions here
The feedback within Grader Projects helps the students know why they were marked wrong on specific instructions. One type of feedback is called the Scorecard. This feedback shows the student which instruction they wrong and by clicking on the dropdown arrow to see exactly what they did that was wrong. The other type of feedback within Grader Projects is called a Live Comment report. This report is similar to you marking up a document where the student got things wrong and providing comments as to why it was wrong. However, this markup is done by MyLab IT. See more on Grader Projects here..
Type of Feedback found in MyLab Math
Thank you to Bonnie Rosenblatt, Faculty Advisor for MyLab Math, for providing the screen shots and information about the feedback found within MyLab Math. Instructors can add comments to individual questions within an assignment. Adding these comments can encourage the student to do better on the next assignment or to understand why they got the question wrong.
Making your student responsible for their own learning will make them a better student and to a better worker when they get out into the work world. When students send you an email and says that something went wrong, it was not my fault that I got something wrong, please encourage them to research the why on their own. They can use the feedback built into the MyLab and Mastering products to help them be a better learner.
Institutional leaders are looking for the next big idea — the ability to leave behind a legacy of innovation and student success. But what does innovation mean? For some it means scaling high-tech platforms that promote personal learning approaches, for others it’s redefining traditional course materials to more modern, affordable and sustainable options.
In a recent report published by The Chronicleof Higher Education, titled, “The Innovation Imperative”, they share information and insights on the topic of innovation, including what it looks like in higher education, barriers to progress, and an in-depth look at what students really think about it.
How can you integrate online with the rest of your institution, and align everyone’s incentives for success?
It takes the ability to scale
Ranked #1 in the nation for innovation by U.S. News and World Report for five years running, ASU provides a number of opportunities for its students to get the most out of technology and creativity.
Innovation at work:
ASU Online, a fully online degree program, scaled from 8,200 to 41,000 students in six years, as its portfolio of programs has grown from 33 to 173.1.
Starbucks College Achievement Plan, an innovative partnership with a large corporation, covers tuition for students who work there 20 hours/week.
ASU Prep Digital, a college readiness program, allows high school students to start prepping now through a blend of high school and university coursework.
A centerpiece of ASU’s innovation strategy is that scaling isn’t just about the number of programs. It’s about evaluating your marketing efforts to recruit ever-larger numbers of students.
Michael M. Crow, the university’s president since 2002, believes the role of institutions like his is to “find ways to massively innovate” to ensure that growing numbers of students can have high-quality educational opportunities.
How do you set costs to optimize enrollment, serve students, and sustain your program?
It takes return on investment
Gone are the days of brick and mortar as the only model for higher ed. As the nation’s first online nonprofit university, Western Governors University’s programs are delivered solely online, meeting the needs of today’s non-traditional student body, allowing them to graduate faster and at a lower cost.
Innovation at work:
The University only offers degrees in business, IT, teacher education, and health care. Through this specialization, WGU is able to serve more students at lower costs.
A competency-based education model allows students to advance upon mastery making education accessible to more students, and better preparing America’s workforce.
A unique faculty and instructional model where different people are responsible for monitoring a student’s progress helps lower administrative costs.
Low tuition is one of WGU’s hallmarks because, as its president, Scott Pulsipher, has said, affordability “increases the access for so many to be served.”
How can you differentiate and future-proof both new and existing online programs?
It takes adaptability
The world we’re in right now requires adaptive change, particularly when it comes to lifelong learning — no matter what that looks like. To meet this demand, Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) has established one of the biggest online-education operations of any college in the country, with an enrollment of more than 120,000.
Innovation at work:
SNHU has been recognized for its pioneering work in serving refugees overseas.
Sweet chili lime pistachios. Yes, they are real; and they are addictive. One of my team members told me about them, and because I’m a pistachio lover and a chili lover, I had to try them. Yum! I’m a sucker for Tex-Mex flavors, and this one got me. Like many of you, I tend to eat lunch and snacks at my desk, so I need to be careful my laptop doesn’t end up with chili in the keyboard!
When I first heard about sweet chili pistachios — maybe you did this, too — I kind of debated whether I really wanted to try them. Sometimes we read or hear about combinations of foods that don’t sound so good, like the Scandinavian chicken / banana dish my aunt recently sent me as a joke. Ew. Sometimes we try the new combo and discover it’s really amazing. And other times … well, it may have been better to ignore it! (Kudos to the first person who put peanut butter and chocolate together … but why would anyone want that chicken / banana combo or a mayonnaise-and-peanut-butter sandwich?!)
You might justifiably wonder just how this foodie blog has anything to do with student engagement. Bear with me a moment or two while we explore some thoughts here. Like those addictive sweet chili lime pistachios, sometimes we need to spice things up to get students engaged. Sometimes we have to be willing to try something new, or look at something innovative to capture their attention. Sometimes we need to seek out new resources to share with them.
First, it can be helpful to think about how we teach and how students learn. Take a look at a book like Understanding How We Learn: A Visual Guide. Read Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning if you haven’t yet done so, or Powerful Teaching. Whet your own appetite with practical applications for the classroom based on solid cognitive research. Consider tools like retrieval practice, spacing, interleaving, and feedback and how these can be used to help your students learn better — and keep them interested. Our excitement, and our own growth mindset, can help students be more engaged.
Next, explore technology tools (or even non-techy tools like index cards) that allow you to track student responses and get real-time feedback on muddy points. Look at tools like Pearson’s Learning Catalytics.
Then, take a look at the research about emotional intelligence, grit, mindset, and related qualities. As simplistic as it may sound, many students aren’t sure how to schedule portions of their days. They don’t realize the importance of mindfulness vs. the multi-tasking that they are so familiar with. They need specific, targeted feedback and modeling to develop metacognition skills.
Don’t forget resources for the students. Maybe they are not engaged because they don’t even know how to be a student. Share www.studygs.net. Students might really appreciate the Learning Scientists blogs. A recent one explores the importance of explaining things to help cement memory and learning. Earlier this summer, another blog outlined research about note-taking. Giving such tools to students can empower them, and drive them to succeed which can engage them more deeply in the learning process both in- and outside of the classroom.
Online faculty often require their students to take proctored tests to help safeguard the academic integrity of their courses. Research has shown that students regularly cheat in courses they do not value, which are usually fact-based courses such as math and science (Anderman, 2017; Trenholm, 2008).
In a position paper published in 2012, the American Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges recommended that instructors of online math courses require students to take at least two proctored exams that constituted a minimum of 50% of students’ course averages. The idea was for at least half of students’ course grades to be based on assessments that students were observed completing. While a review of the literature on academic integrity and the propensity for cheating in online classes is beyond the scope of this article, it suffices to say that proctored testing is an important issue and a key requirement for many online faculty.
Arranging for online students to take proctored tests can be a tedious process. Students unable to take tests on campus with their instructors due to time or location must work with their instructors to identify acceptable alternative locations. Furthermore, instructors must send their test information to each approved proctor so that students can be given supervised access to their tests.
For instructors teaching multiple online classes with multiple students in each class needing testing accommodations, the logistics and the preparation of forms can be quite time consuming. However, a new and very easy option for proctoring is now available for instructors using MyLab!
Pearson recently entered into a partnership with ProctorU, a well-known provider of online test proctoring since 2008. Once an institution secures a contract with ProctorU, instructors are given an institutional key which they use to enable the ProctorU feature in their MyLab courses; this is similar to how the Lockdown Browser works.
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 press the Start Test button for a test with ProctorU enabled, 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 (www.proctoru.com), students are monitored virtually by their webcam, microphone, and ProctorU software. Both the students and their computer screens are recorded while taking the test, and any questionable activity is flagged so it can be reviewed by the instructor either in real time or after the test has been taken.
This “auto proctoring,” which uses artificial intelligence to identify and flag suspicious behavior, has a one-time cost per course that is significantly lower than what students would pay for live proctoring of a single test at a physical location. In addition to its low cost, the ProctorU integration with MyLab allows students to schedule their tests for any day and time. So instructors using MyLab can now easily incorporate proctored assessments into their courses without compromising convenience for their online students.
Here is a scenario that I am sure most of you have experienced in your teaching career:
Sam is one of your students in your course and is having some issues with one of the assignments. He sends you an email asking for help. You respond with what you think is a detailed answer. Sam responds and asks more questions. You then respond again spending more time and energy typing another detailed answer. Unfortunately, Sam emails again still not understanding what he is supposed to do for the lesson.
Now let’s look at this scenario again but add something you may not have thought of doing:
Sam is one of your students in your course and is having some issues with one of the assignments. He sends you an email asking for help. You do a short video and audio of using your computer screen detailing and showing Sam what he is supposed to for the lesson. Sam responds and tells you that he is all set and understands what to do for the assignment.
In the second scenario, by providing the video to the student, he can quickly see and understand the assignment. These short videos are called Screencasting. According Educause’s 7 things you should know about Screencasting, the definition of screencasting is “a screen capture of actions on a user’s computer screen, typically with accompanying audio.”
The above scenario where student is asking a question via email provides just one example of how screencasting can be an effective learning and communication tool. It does not matter if the course is online, face to face, or blended because students will always send you questions.
In other situations, using screencasting for reviewing students’ work can be very powerful. As a personal example, I teach a Web Design class. My students need to complete several activities each chapter where they are building a website using HTML and Cascading Style Sheets.
Each chapter builds on the previous, so it is important for my students to master each chapters’ concepts. I have a rubric that I use to grade the student’s work but, in some cases, doing a screencast to point out the issues with the student’s work is much more effective.
In following video that is 2:32 minutes long I can show and explain to the student what is wrong with their web page and show what it should correct. This is much more effective than typing up a long email.
You will need screencasting software in order to create them. In this section, I will outline a paid and free version of screencasting software.
SnagIt from TechSmith
Snagit is the best option for screencasting if you willing to pay a little bit. The education price for Snagit is $29.95 and worth every dime.
Snagit not only will do screencasting but you will also be able to capture images on your computer. Please watch the short video below about Snagit. I captured from the TechSmith site and used my computer audio to capture the sound. I highly recommend spending the money for this software.
Screen-0-Matic is a free screencasting software. There are some restrictions on the length of the videos which are limited to 15 minutes maximum. This should not be a problem when doing short screencasting videos. Plus, there is a branded logo from the company on all their free screencasts. Again, this may be an issue. Here is a quick example of a Screen-o-Matic video.
Screencasting can be a very powerful way of communicating with your students. An important benefit of screencasting for students is the ability to watch the video as many times as they wish. Students can also stop and watch portions of the video. It is very worth your time and energy to explore the world of screencasting.
What is high-quality career and technical education? For years, policymakers, business leaders, education professionals and others have referenced and called for high-quality CTE programs. But until recently, there has been no comprehensive, evidence-based definition of this term.
To bring clarity to this conversation around high-quality CTE and help CTE educators and administrators develop and improve the quality of their CTE programs of study, the Association for Career and Technical Education® has created a comprehensive, research-based program of study framework and tested that framework through a pilot study. The ACTE® Quality CTE Program of Study Framework includes a companion program self-evaluation instrument, available in print and online, that is intended to be used by CTE educators and administrators as they seek to evaluate and improve their CTE programs.
The framework defines 92 criteria across the following 12 elements, a set of evidence-based standards that address the breadth of activities that impact CTE program delivery, implementation and quality:
Standards-aligned and Integrated Curriculum
Sequencing and Articulation
Prepared and Effective Program Staff
Access and Equity
Facilities, Equipment, Technology and Materials
Business and Community Partnerships
Student Career Development
Career and Technical Student Organizations
Data and Program Improvement
This voluntary tool can be used for program self-evaluation, program improvement and to encourage secondary-postsecondary collaboration. The framework’s elements and criteria are designed to be as mutually exclusive as possible. The online program self-evaluation instrument can provide automatically calculated scores and direct users to the High-quality CTE Tools online library for areas identified as needing improvement. This library includes strategies, case studies, professional development models and toolkits to help practitioners develop and support success within each element.
The framework and self-evaluation may be especially useful related to new local needs assessment provisions required in the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V), the newly reauthorized version of the federal law supporting a system of CTE throughout the nation. State and local CTE providers are currently developing plans to implement the federal law at the local level, including the comprehensive local needs assessment.
Additionally, ACTE is incorporating the quality framework into its efforts to recognize and disseminate CTE best practices through our professional development activities and awards program. This is the first of several blogs that will explore some of the elements within the Quality CTE Program of Study Framework. You can find more details and tools online at www.acteonline.org/high-quality-CTE.
In order for an online course to be successful, one must first divorce their thinking from the traditional face-to-face classroom, and consider several key components of the online course experience. Let’s focus on the big items…
One of the most natural starting places for creating an online course is the lecture. This can of course take many forms. The lazy alternative is to simply tell students to read the chapter, but this is, as one might expect, unfair and inadequate. Our students look to us to explain, and that is, of course, one of our primary jobs.
Many instructors make their initial videos mimic what they might do in front of a class, and some even attempt to record their actual classroom lectures. For quite a few reasons this is a bad idea. Let’s address a few of these issues.
If you actually record your classroom, this will include extraneous comments and questions from the students in the room that day. This does not provide an “inclusive environment”, as some might argue. What it does provide is audio distractions for students trying to focus on critical material.
Yet another problem with this style of lecture capture is length. Ideal videos for an online course should be “small bites”. Each video should address a discrete topic (commonly a chapter section) and no more. Ideal time on a video of this sort falls between 3 – 10 minutes. This provides a few key benefits. Students don’t have to remember where they were in an hour-long lecture should they need to leave/return. Students can easily watch/rewatch a short video in available time even with a busy schedule.
How should you actually capture your lecture? There are several useful tools/techniques that can serve this purpose.
At hand for most instructors is PowerPoint narration. Both PowerPoint and Apple Keynote permit users to record narration on each slide. While you certainly can then share narrated presentations with your students, that relies on students having the original software to play the presentations. An easier option is to simply export a video. Powerpoint: File>Export>Create Video. Keynote: File>Export to>Movie.
A more robust option would entail use of screen capture (sometimes called “screencasting” software such as Camtasia (Windows or Mac) or Screenflow (Mac). These apps allow capture of the entire computer screen or a portion of the screen. More importantly, they permit robust editing of the video after the initial recording. This provides an easy remedy for an instructor who has made an error during the lecture. They can simply pause and correct the error. One would then remove the error in postproduction prior to saving the final video.
Since we have addressed the idea of editing, we should bring up the idea of closed captions. Any instructor providing lecture videos should be extremely aware of remaining ADA compliant with any materials produced. Both Camtasia and Screenflow have features that allow you to insert true closed captions. One strategy that makes this process easier is lecturing from a pre-written script. This will enable you to simply cut/paste the actual words read from the script into the captions track during editing.
One cannot have “good video” in absence of “good audio”. To that end, it is strongly recommended to not simply rely on the microphone built into your computer. Bad audio is distracting and is a disservice to your audience.
You may wish to consider either a headset mic such as the Logitech H390 Noise Canceling headset (around $25 from online retailers).
Alternatively, you may want to consider a more robust studio microphone such as the Rode Podcaster. Going with this option, you may wish to include a boom arm to mount the mic to your desk. This configuration is a bit more expensive (around $350 total for mic and arm) but provides exceptional audio quality. As a side benefit, this certainly puts the online professor into “recording mode” when you pull the microphone boom arm over in front of you. As a user of a system like this, there is a lot to be said for the level of focus that a good microphone brings to your workflow.
One hallmark of an online course is, of course, online homework. Your publisher’s platform is an ideal place to go for ready-to-go assignments. Depending on your discipline you may wish to consider Mastering, MyLab, or Revel. Your publisher also has Customer Support teams standing ready to help you learn all about designing effective assignments.
Ideally for each chapter, one should consider pre-lecture, mid-lecture (tough topics), and post-lecture (chapter quiz) assignments.Some instructors express concern as they first begin assigning online homework that they don’t want to assign “too much homework”. That approach is actually counter-productive.
Ask yourself: How many times have students come to you to ask, “What else can I do to study?” Now remind yourself, have you ever said to students: “For every hour you are in the classroom, you should spend 2-3 hours outside of class studying.” It is actually common for an online course to have more homework assignments than a similar face-to-face course.
A final consideration should be point value. Students won’t be invested in assignments that are simply busy work that don’t contribute to their overall outcome. A good target range would be 10 – 25% of total course grade. I myself set a value of my students’ online homework at 20% of their semester grade.
Securing high stakes exams
Most schools will require some form of proctoring on high stakes exams. These are the “traditional exams” we’re all familiar with. There are several options for having these exams proctored for your online course.
If you happen to be teaching a discipline that uses MyLab you’re in luck. MyLab has a partnership with ProctorU, an online proctoring service that watches both what happens on a student’s screen and watches the student and immediate environment through the computer camera. In this form, ProctorU is utilizing an artificial intelligence engine rather than an actual human proctor. At present, this option is not available in either Mastering or Revel, thus proctored testing in those platforms is not currently an option.
For schools that insist on proctored exams there are a few options.
On-campus Testing Centers are available at most campuses, and students of those campuses can usually test for free. If an online student does not live near the instructor they may still utilize a campus testing center near their home, but they may have to pay a per-exam fee. In such cases, students should provide contact information to their instructor and obtain permission to use the testing center at the alternate school. In either case, details needed to take the exam should be communicated to such a testing center by the instructor. Exams can either be paper based, run on publisher sites (Mastering, Revel, Pegasus, MyLab) under password protection, or via questions uploaded to the school LMS, again under password protection with Testing Center staff entering the password which remains unknown to students.
The second option would be a proctoring service such as ProctorU.com. These companies provide pay-by-exam services for students (free for instructors to set up) and involve a human proctor watching the student, immediate environment, and student’s computer screen. The service provides incident reports including screenshots, video, and descriptions of incidents. The cost to the student depends on the amount of time permitted by instructors. My own students typically pay about $30 per exam. It is worth noting that the pay scale is based SOLELY on the maximum time an instructor permits. In particular a student cannot rush through the exam for a cheaper session. So, there is no monetary incentive for them to finish an exam early. Most students don’t consider this their primary exam strategy, but rather use it in a pinch when they can’t come to campus.
Online Discussions Options
One critical component of an online class is providing a way for your students to feel connected to the instructor and their classmates. There are several options for this component of the class.
Publisher platforms (Mastering, Revel, MyLab, Pegasus) all include asynchronous discussion forums, as do most of the common LMS platforms such as Blackboard, Desire2Learn, Canvas, and Moodle. Many, if not most of these, require the student to be logged into the platform in order to see current and past posts, or to reply.
An interesting alternative solution can be found in app-based discussion platforms such as GroupMe. I began using GroupMe a few years ago and it has revolutionized my online class discussions. At the beginning of the semester I create a Class – GroupMe group and send the invitation link to my student email list.
GroupMe can be accessed in a browser, as well as on-device apps. Students can configure GroupMe to send them group messages as SMS texts. Students and instructors can post messages that appear in real time. The history of the discussion is available to scroll back through all the way back to the creation of the group. Participants can post text and images. The group creator can create group polls. As exam time approaches I post sample questions for students to answer and encourage them to create their own. What ensues is often an impromptu study session.
This app creates an on-device environment that most of my millennial students seem to relate to, in a communication form that speaks to them at a core level.
I have had students over the past 2-3 years tell me that they feel more connected to me and other students in my online classes than they have ever felt in any face-to-face class. So, if you are considering creating an online course, stick with these core principles:
Produce a lecture component that is easy to consume and ADA compliant.
Design and assign homework that contributes to your students’ success.
Find a way to securely deliver high-stakes exams that satisfies your administration and is accessible to your students.
Communicate! The students in your online course should not feel as if they are in a vacuum. They should feel a part of a community who are all on a learning journey together with their instructor leading the way through the course material
We teamed up with researchers from Nesta and the Oxford Martin School to understand the top skills that every student will need to flourish in their careers — learning strategies, psychology, instructing, social perceptiveness, and sociology and anthropology. See how leaders throughout history have best exemplified these skills while making an impact on our lives through their actions, ideals, and messages — whether we knew it or not.
Learning Strategies: Fred Rogers
On May 9, 1969, during an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, Fred Rogers asked black police officer, Officer Clemmons, to cool his feet in his wading pool. At first, Clemmons declined, saying he didn’t have a towel, but Rogers offered his. This small act broke the color barrier that existed at the time as racial tensions were rising. By sharing both the water and the towel, the men exposed the bigotry of not allowing black people access to pools and other establishments.
In 2018, Clemmons said, “It was a definite call to social action on Fred’s part. That was his way of speaking about race relations in America.” This small act is just one example of the messages of love, kindness, and acceptance that Rogers taught children (and adults), while at the same time sending a much larger message to the public via media. 1
Psychology: Dr. Joyce Brothers
During the 1960’s, sexual satisfaction and menopause were considered taboo subjects for television and radio, but Dr. Joyce Brothers knew they were front and center in women’s minds. As a result, she started her television show, where she gave out psychological advice on relationships, family, sexuality, and self-empowerment, while also answering audience questions.
Brothers created the “The Brothers System,” which stresses that if a woman is self-loving and takes care of her own needs, then she will be able to better care for her husband and family. She also encouraged equal relationships that allow for wives to ask their husbands for what they need to be personally satisfied in a marriage. 2
Instructing: Anne Sullivan
When Anne Sullivan was only 20 years old, she helped Helen Keller, who was blind and deaf, make associations between words and physical objects. Sullivan finger-spelled the word “water” on Keller’s hand as she ran water over her other hand. Keller made a major breakthrough, connecting the concept of sign language with the objects around her. With Sullivan’s help, Keller was able to learn almost 600 words, most of the multiplication tables, and how to read Braille in only a few months. 3
Social Perceptiveness: Nelson Mandela
During the 1950s Steve Bloom’s parents, who were anti-apartheid activists, knew Nelson Mandela. They told their son the story of the time Mandela saw a white woman stranded with her broken car in Johannesburg. He stopped and offered his help. After he was able to fix her car, she thanked him by offering a sixpence. He declined, saying he was just happy to help. She asked why a black man would help her if it wasn’t for the money. “Because you were stranded at the side of the road,” he replied. Mandela’s life as an anti-apartheid activist, politician and philanthropist was full of moments of kindness, humility, and courage like this one. 4
Sociology & Anthropology: Dr. Jane Goodall
While studying chimpanzees in Tanzania in 1960, Jane Goodall saw a large male chimpanzee take a twig, bend it, strip it of its leaves, stick it into the nest, and spoon termites into his mouth. This was the first time any creature, besides a human, was seen making and using a tool.
“It was hard for me to believe,” she recalls. “At that time, it was thought that humans, and only humans, used and made tools. I had been told from school onwards that the best definition of a human being was man the tool-maker — yet I had just watched a chimp tool-maker in action.”
As her work continued, Goodall found that chimpanzees (our nearest evolutionary cousins) also embraced, hugged, and kissed each other, as well as experienced adolescence, developed powerful mother-and-child bonds, and used political chicanery to get what they wanted. It is thanks to Goodall and her work that we now know the many similarities between humans and chimps and have much greater knowledge of chimpanzee behavior. 5
While in graduate school at West Virginia University, I was a teaching assistant for college algebra. The course coordinator gave me some of the best teaching advice I was ever given. It boils down to two magic words: seating chart. Given that most freshmen classes are held in large auditoriums, the coordinator thought it was important that the students felt like individuals in our small classes of 30. She was confident that the easiest way for us to learn their names was by using a seating chart.
My initial reaction was, “What is this – elementary school?”, but she quickly won me over by saying we would let them choose their seat for the duration of the semester. I took her advice as a graduate student, and I continued the practice for the rest of my teaching career. I taught at a community college for 15 years, where our class sizes never exceeded 36 students. Every single semester, I gave the students one week to decide where they wanted to sit, and then on a previously-announced day of Week 2, I created the seating chart.
It was always funny to see some students show up 20-30 minutes before class started that day so they could lock down their preferred seats. One semester, a very conscientious student missed class on the day I created the seating chart. When he showed up for the next class and realized that the only remaining seats were at the back of the room, he offered $100 to any student in the first two rows who would give up his or her seat for one in the back. To my utter surprise, only one person volunteered to swap seats!
Seating charts serve a myriad of purposes for both the professor and the students. First, it allows the instructor to take attendance very quickly. Instead of calling roll, you simply look for empty seats. Since you know who is supposed to be in each seat, you immediately know who is absent. “Taking attendance” takes about 10 seconds. Second, it gives students the stability of knowing who will be sitting around them for the entire semester.
After I create the seating chart, I usually say something like “OK, now it’s time to meet your new best friends! The people sitting next to you might help you study or let you copy their notes if you miss class. The least you can do is learn their names!” The classroom immediately began buzzing as students introduced themselves. They could refer to the person next to them by name instead of “that girl who sits on my left”.
Lastly, the seating chart made it very easy for me to learn my students’ names. I referred to it when returning assignments, so I was typically able to learn all my students’ names within the first 3 weeks of the semester. I can’t tell you the number of times I would return tests around the 4th week of class and the students would say “How do you know my name? None of my teachers know my name!” They were delighted to not be anonymous in my classes.
Originally, I created a “seat template” for each classroom I taught in and wrote down each student’s preferred name on his or her chosen “seat”. Eventually, my college adopted Canvas, which has an awesome feature called Roll Call Attendance. With Roll Call, you can bring up a blank, grid-like seating chart, then you drag and drop the student name from a list on the left to the appropriate “seat” on the right. It really sped things up on seating-chart-creation day!
Once the seating chart is created, you can then take attendance every day by logging into Canvas on a computer or using their phone app. I always told my students “If you see me using my phone during class, I’m not texting! I’m just taking attendance.” If you are fortunate enough to teach relatively small classes, I hope you will consider implementing a seating chart. I think you will find it to be a huge benefit to yourself and your students.
Career and Technical Education (CTE) is emerging as a platform for educational innovation in schools. CTE and academic courses are now part and parcel in preparing students for the rigors of learning, living, working, and playing in the 21st century.
On June 17, 2019, Pearson CTE Specialists Deborah Noakes and Jim Brazell presented a workshop titled Certified Futures at Certiport’s 2019 Certified Conference. Certiport,® a Pearson business, is dedicated to helping learners excel and succeed through certification.
At Certified, teachers were asked to write haiku poems where the first stanza reflects the state of learning, the second line illustrates a key change, and the third line exhibits the final state of learning after the change. A haiku is a poem of seventeen syllables, in three lines of five, seven, and five. Below are select Haiku from students and teachers:
My mom made me come My teacher cares about me Now I want to go
My phone is my life I learned how to innovate Tech is my life line
I’m not an artist Teacher, teach me Photoshop I am an artist now
Code on screens Inanimate life takes shape Building the future
Technologies Here, there, and everywhere Everyone needs to certify
The test is a bore Entertainment we implore Too stressed for high stakes tests
Certification Empowering students Embrace the future
Apathy vs Enthusiasm Daily grind of change Students seek relevance Teaching relevance is key Real world experiences Certify them all
The world is ready Education is behind Time to shift the mind
Students bored in class Active engaging lessons Transform the classroom
Graduation sparks Those that certify before They face the future
These haiku exemplify the key shift in 21st century learning: The shift from axiomatic (self-evident truth) to inductive (using observation and experience to move from specific to broader conclusions) presentation of curriculum. This strategy worked in the 1960’s as a platform for the United States to reform teaching physics as a national priority motivated by the Space Race.
The shift in pedagogy engender improvements to education by modeling the way experts work and think affording students the opportunity to approach the content knowledge in the same way that experts approach problems in the field. Today, we call this inquiry-driven, project-based learning and for many states and schools the method of assessment is industry certification. CTE is answering this call for innovation. Learn more about Pearson CTE programs.
Wonder if you are the only instructor trying to figure out what might help your students learn? Wading through emails and articles and questioning what really works? Could you use a cup of coffee right now, and a chat with another instructor? Grab a cup….and read on.
Today’s educator is bombarded with a lot of information. With the advent of the internet, information is literally at your fingertips all the time. Some might think that makes it easier to learn about the latest research and techniques, but in many ways we educators know it’s harder and more overwhelming. It’s time consuming to weed through “propaganda,” false news, misinterpreted data, ads, and more to determine what really works. We’ve all had those moments where we read something or heard someone speak and thought to ourselves, “That person has never been in the classroom with real students,” or “She has no idea about little students are engaged,” or “His students are not like mine.”
You can find many articles about Generation X, Y, Z students, or the i-Generation, or whatever you want to name them. You’ll also find common themes; today’s students have short attention spans. They are very used to technology and often have little or no interest in investing a lot of effort into learning. They are motivated by a “gaming” approach to learning. They often have poor study skills. And so on. Add that to the proven untrue theory of learning styles, and today’s educator is left wondering…what on earth am I supposed to do?! How do I find the balance, or is there no way to achieve a Goldilocks state in my classroom? Does anything work?
The answer is a resounding YES!
Want an easy-to-read resource chuck full of ideas? Try Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning. What’s really nice with this small text is each chapter is a stand-alone and you can read in small chunks about things such as interleaving, spacing, retrieval tools, and more. You can also check out the CIRCLE website, or the Center for Integrative Research in Cognition, Learning, and Education.
Did you ever wander into a room and then ask yourself why you’re there? Try to remember where you filed something in your Google Drive? Attempted to recall what someone mentioned at a meeting last week? Any time we engage in activities like that, we’re doing the same thing our students are doing when they try to recall what you taught as they complete an assignment. Retrieval practice is a learning strategy where we focus on getting information out. It’s even more powerful when combined with additional research-based strategies including spacing, interleaving, and feedback-driven metacognition. One of the most powerful tools in learning is effective retrieval, and there’s an entire website devoted to research on it. You can subscribe to get updates and new studies sent right to your inbox.
You can also get quick infographics to summarize these topics for yourself and students, as well as blogs for you and students, on a site hosted by Learning Scientists. Curious about the latest information about note-taking or wondering if naps can help you focus better? Do you think learning styles really make a difference? (Hint, we already mentioned they don’t; but how do you respond to those who think they do?) There are some great blogs about all sorts of topics…and they are supported by research not just a popular idea.
What about Bloom’s Taxonomy? How does that tie in with retrieval practice? Dr. Pooja Agarwal examined whether retrieval practice could do more than just support the acquisition of factual information. She wanted to test the assumption that students should first focus on the lower levels of the taxonomy before higher-order thinking can be accomplished. Dr. Agarwal directly compared retrieval practice with the use of lower vs. higher-order thinking to determine if that was the case. What do you think happened? You can probably guess by the fact that retrieval practice is so powerful. Read more here.
Are you also a bit of a research junkie? You might want to check out this book; I’m partway through Powerful Teaching and keep finding all sorts of gold nuggets in there. In theory, I’m using it to augment planning a training for later this year and using info from the book but must admit I find myself reading and then doing additional research just to learn more. I love learning about cognitive science and psychology. The best part is, this book shows us how to use it. We can learn how to filter what works and what doesn’t.
Hmm, I think it’s time to refill the cup and dig in….let’s talk again soon!
To better serve students who require developmental courses, many schools are considering corequisite courses (also called pathways or a similar term) to help their students be successful. So whether you are already teaching a corequisite course, planning one, or just thinking about it, you are most likely also looking for products that will help increase your students’ success. Let’s take a look at a few helpful MyLab features:
Foster student success through encouraging a growth mindset. A new Mindset module is available in recently released (2018 copyright and newer) MyLab Math courses. You can find this handy tool under the “Student Success” or “Skills for Success” area of your course, or you can assign related media questions to the students through the Assignment Manager. You can also use the Mindset website to test your students’ growth mindset.
While exploring the Skills for Success area of your course, don’t miss the College Success module. Encourage students to achieve their potential through topics such as “Time Management” and “Reading to Learn.”
Supplement your teaching with workbooks and note-taking guides. The experience varies by author, but the majority of titles from Basic Math through Applied Calculus have some form of workbook or note-taking guide available.
Fill gaps in student knowledge by using one of the many integrated review courses. These courses come with prebuilt assignments that will adapt to the individual student’s skill set. You will also have access to integrated review worksheets, many of which start with a mini-lesson. Again, this experience varies slightly by author.
Let students get just-in-time assistance while doing homework with Skill Builder. Skill Builder lives inside the homework engine and targets the prerequisite skills students may need. This means students will be offered prerequisite skill recommendations as they work through their homework.
Help your students answer the question, “Why do we need to know this?” using MathTalk videos in MyLab.
Easily manage your gradebook and assignments in co-mingled courses using assignment and student tagging.
Designing a corequisite course? Not sure where to start? The Roadmap toCorequisite Redesign will give you an in-depth look at the logistics. Visit Pearson for an overview of the corequisite course solutions for math and statistics.