Giving faculty the tools they need to be better online instructors is essential to having a successful course, program, and learner experience.
Develop online courses that work for students and faculty
The best online courses are co-created with learning experts who know how to communicate the faculty member’s message most powerfully. These experts help instructors from concept to delivery and have provided these tips to help you think through your online presence.
Create an effective online course
Your faculty are experts in their disciplines, with strong networks in their fields, and a deep commitment to students. But they may not feel comfortable with teaching online or structuring their course content. That’s where higher ed leaders can make a positive impact. You can provide experts and training to take courses designed for an in-person classroom and adapt them for the virtual world.
Administrators can provide guidance on structuring and organizing course content to make it as engaging and informative as possible. And they can connect faculty with resources and tools to review the courses before they go live with students and help standardize instructional design across courses so students are immediately comfortable when they start a new course.
COVID-19 has put online learning in the spotlight. As more students need to turn to virtual settings to stay on track with their education, institutions pivoted to provide their courses online.
So how should your institution prepare beyond the moment to launch and grow online? Ask yourself the following questions about investment money and strategic opportunities.
How should you fund your online learning strategy?
As you prepare to launch your college’s online offerings, you’ll need to find a source of funding. Tuition streams will only gradually grow to contribute, so where can you acquire these funds? Institutions have several options:
Tap internal resources — If you have discretionary funds to use to establish online learning programs, this may be a great way to go. Much of the online program investment is needed upfront.
Leverage fundraising — Some institutions have received generous donations from forward-thinking alumni to expand favored online programs.
Borrow funds — Many institutions have pursued this path, but in today’s market securing financing may be more difficult than before.
Use partner investments — Investments from an outside educational provider like an online program management (OPM) company may fund your launch. They can work with you in multiple ways to help you meet your online goals.
Launching a meaningful online presence can require significant start-up capital and ongoing investments as you evolve and scale.
How to assess the market for your online learning programs?
Once you make the decision to launch online and find the money to do so, the next consideration becomes making sure there’s a viable market for your “product.”
46.9% of distance students now attend 5% of institutions.
You’ll want to be strategic in how you assess your opportunities and set up your programs. Here’s how:
Conduct market research — Professional market research can objectively assess student demand and shifting labor markets.
Evaluate your brand — Does your brand stand out in the market? You’ll want a solid understanding of your differentiators, strengths, reputation, culture, and ability to deliver.
Name and price your program — This attention to detail will help you establish yourself in the market and leap ahead of the competition.
To grow online you’ll want to identify niches, clarify and extend your differentiators, and invest more heavily in branding and outreach beyond traditional markets.
A generation ago a career path that included playing video games was unimaginable. People didn’t own personal computers, didn’t carry connected devices wherever they went. Now the billion-dollar-a-year esports industry is no laughing matter. Some universities offer majors and courses in esports. Life has changed, and so too have the career opportunities that come with it.
This spring, thousands of institutions rushed to deliver instruction online at scale. Many were new to online learning, and no two institutions or instructors approached it exactly the same way. But most recognized that it’ll play an important role going forward, and most saw room for improvement. In this blog post, we’ll share five key considerations for your institution to deliver richer, more successful online learning experiences.
1. Develop more compelling online courses and curricula
Translating your faculty’s expertise online requires new techniques and mindsets. Instructional design must be integrated with user experience engineering, technology, visual design, writing, accessibility, web development, quality assurance, project management, and more.
2. Focus on helping faculty succeed
Support faculty all the way to success, with course development help and training that reflects their needs and respects their expertise. The right course development experts can help faculty optimize their own content and course structures for online learning environments, integrate more engaging media and learning modalities, and foreground real-world relevance. The right training ensures that technology serves faculty instead of the other way around.
3. Improve student support to improve outcomes
Online students require seamless support from first contact through graduation. This requires institutions to break down silos, collaborate creatively, and sometimes change culture. Consider: how do students tell you if they’re encountering serious life challenges? How do you respond? Can programs and faculty work more closely with tutors to anticipate student needs? Can each student turn to a specific individual for timely, relevant help that orchestrates all your resources?
4. Choose resources with a track record of success
For each online learning function, whether internal or external, expect a track record of success. Have they met their commitments? Have they built the types of programs you want? Can they do it at scale? Do they understand how technologies and students are changing? Are they agile and collaborative? Will they act as agents of change, recommend and execute on innovations, and help you deliver on your institution’s online strategy?
5. To sustain enrollments, get the marketing right, too
You need to get your marketing strategy right, and yesterday’s strategy may not be right anymore. Today, you’re competing with gap years and dropping out indefinitely, not just other institutions. You have to rethink how you demonstrate your value to students — and that may require objective, outside assistance.
We can help
Our white paper offers more insights in all five areas. And we’re available to discuss your unique online learning challenges. See how we can help you and your students succeed — no matter what comes next.
No matter their major, university, or year in school, most students can agree on one thing: buying textbooks is one of the more frustrating experiences that college has to offer. But the recent unexpected shift to online learning and digital course materials is making this less of an obstacle. Four students from across the nation shared their experiences with their textbooks and course materials — and told us why access to digital has changed the way they view studying.
One of the most common complaints students have about their course materials is the actual process of acquiring them. Sarah F., a political science student at the University of Missouri, dreaded having to visit the bookstore at the beginning of each term.
“The only way you can avoid the bookstore is ordering your books online, but there’s a waiting period, so sometimes you don’t even get your books in time for those first couple of homework assignments. I hate having to organize all of that — it’s probably one of the worst things I have to do in college.”
The recent shift to online learning has already led to a shift in course materials in most cases. As faculty look forward with uncertainty, they know that comprehensive, flexible, and cost-effective solutions are key to a successful course, no matter the future of their course delivery. The College Board estimates that a year’s worth of textbooks and supplies can cost the average student a staggering $1,240.1 Zach D., a marketing student at the University of Iowa, has found that, while the cost of textbooks can be frustrating, there’s something even worse — the cost of books that go unused.
“I spent $200 on this book and will only get $20 at the end of the semester for it, when I didn’t even need it in the first place.”
In his experience, the digital course materials he’s been assigned have actually been utilized in class and have helped him keep up on his own time, while physical materials have often gone untouched.
For all four students, digital course materials have been more affordable than physical materials (Zach estimates they’ve saved him several hundred dollars this year alone.) And they all agreed that digital materials were more useful to them.
Rachel H., a business administration major at the University of Colorado Boulder, has discovered a whole host of game-changing benefits to using digital materials. “It saves time in the first place because you get your book on the very first day and can start studying right away, instead of waiting to get the book in the mail. And if you’re trying to search a textbook for something, you can literally do it with your keyboard. Also, a lot of the Inclusive Access that I have has additional online study materials in it, like flashcards and practice tests. It’s extra studying my professor doesn’t give me, but is still a part of the textbook, so I can go in and study in different ways that they provide…it’s definitely had a positive impact on my grades.”
Digital materials also help students by allowing them to learn when, where, and how it works best for them, especially during these unprecedented times. Jesus H., a business management student at California State University Fresno, found that, because of their flexible nature, the digital materials he had access to sometimes contributed even more to his success than attending lectures did.
“For an accounting class I took, I learned a lot through MyLab™ Accounting. It prepared me a lot for my exams, and I passed because of the digital materials. It was convenient, it allowed me to save time, and I could study anywhere. It was very beneficial, and because of that I’m now trying to stay with classes I know will be using digital materials instead of print books.”
Through the Covid-19 lockdown and institutional shift to distance learning, technology is what has kept us together. As almost every aspect of students’ lives becomes digitized, it’s no wonder that pairing technology and education works so well for them. The benefits of digital products and course materials were clear even before the recent disruption to education, and have become even more apparent with the widespread shift to online and HyFlex learning models.
A study by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation even found that when students take courses that engage digitally and in-person, content mastery can occur twice as quickly, and pass rates for at-risk students can increase by 33%.2 Sarah is certain that she’s enjoyed those benefits throughout her college experience, thanks to digital course materials.
“I’m kind of able to be successful either way, but it’s about making it easier for me to be successful. It’s about putting everything in one place and keeping me organized — letting me search through and study the materials I need to, and giving me assignments that I can complete online that are more interactive than they would be otherwise. The culmination of all those things make it easier for me to succeed. Students can still succeed when they’re using paper materials, but I think having the digital materials gives us even more advantages and helps us be just that much more successful.”
During this historic time, faculty around the country in all disciplines are adopting digital solutions to support delivery of their courses and help improve affordability and student success.
In April, Inside Higher Ed and Hanover Research surveyed 187 presidents at colleges and universities to see how their priorities have evolved after one month into their COVID-19 response. A similar survey was conducted in March.
In the survey, presidents were asked about their level of concern with potential short-term and long-term issues at their institution in regard to COVID-19. Below are the top 5 issues about which they were very or somewhat concerned.
Top 5 short-term issues
Mental health of students (91%)
Disproportionate impact on students from low-income backgrounds (87%)
Accelerated rates of student attrition (84%)
Short-term unbudgeted financial costs (86%)
Mental health of students (87%)
Top 5 long-term issues
Decline in overall future student enrollment (90%)
Inequitable impact on underrepresented students (90%)
Overall financial stability (88%)
Ability to afford to employ staff & faculty (81%)
Decline in alumni/donor giving rates (56%)
Challenges with remote learning
The survey found that over the course of a month, presidents were having fewer challenges at their institutions ensuring academics standards remained high, having technology support available, and training faculty less familiar with digital delivery.
You can download a copy of the report, Responding to the COVID-19 Crisis, Part II: A New Survey of College and University Presidents, here.
Additionally, the editors of Inside Higher Ed held a webcast discussion about the survey’s results. You can view the recording here.
Download and personalize our digital postcard to express your thanks to the educator who’s inspired your love of learning. Taking the time to write a note about how they’ve helped you grow or see things differently can go a long way in making them feel appreciated.
Instructions: Step 1: Click to download the postcard Step 2: Upon opening the file, type your message in the editable fields on the back of the card Step 3: Export as a PDF under the name of your choice Step 4: Open the newly saved file to ensure your text has been embedded into the document Step 5: Attach to an email and share with your teacher
Matthew Ventura, Ph.D., recalls a high school English teacher who taught him a hard but important lesson.
“Mr. Davidson was really tough,” he says. “He felt no shame ripping apart our essays.”
“Despite the criticism, he spent so much time giving us detailed feedback,” Matthew says. “It really affected me.”
“Not only did I become a better writer,” he says, “I realized that a Mr. Davidson-like level of feedback can help improve critical thinking skills like few other things.”
Important skills, better teaching
Matthew went on to study and develop new ways to teach and assess 21st century skills like critical thinking.
An early collaboration, the Physics Playground, was a digital game that walked students through complex physics concepts with outcomes and processes that mimicked real-world experiences.
It was a breakthrough.
“These kinds of natural, playful simulations,” Matthew says, “help students strategize their way through tough subjects—and provide an opportunity for teachers to provide feedback based on where each student is in the learning process.”
“Imagine a class of 400 students,” he says. “How can a teacher be like Mr. Davidson and provide such granular, one-on-one feedback to everybody?”
Innovative digital platforms, he says, provide a trifecta of benefits:
They teach effectively. They lead to one-on-one feedback for students. And they’re scalable.
The need for problem-solvers
“It was an opportunity to explore some basic questions about critical thinking,” Matthew says. “What do we mean by ‘critical thinking? How can we improve it?”
It’s part of a conversation, he says, that’s been batted around by academics for decades.
“More and more employers want to hire good problem-solvers,” Matthew says.
Good problem-solvers, he says, can spot opportunities for innovation thanks to critical thinking skills—”so these questions were important to try to answer,” he says.
Critical thinking in specific disciplines
“Skills for Today” reviews the history of definitions around critical thinking. It summarizes leading research on the various methods of teaching and assessing critical thinking.
The paper also takes the discussion about critical thinking in a new direction.
“There is so much talk about broad critical thinking skills,” he says. “What we want to start exploring is: How can we improve critical thinking in particular disciplines?”
A speech class might employ new critical thinking teaching methods in debate exercises, he says.
An IT course might show students how to find bugs in computer code.
A business or economics class might guide students to weigh issue pros and cons in order to make tough decisions.
“We want to provide an actionable framework for educators in this new approach,” Matthew says, “so we can reach more learners and prepare them for tomorrow’s workforce.”
Next-generation teaching tools
Matthew emphasizes that critical thinking skills are skills—and that they are only improved with practice.
He hopes his paper can be a part of making this practice more effective.
“We hope this research helps us develop new learning tools that benefit learners,” he says, “and, at the same time, guides teachers to bring new teaching approaches into their classrooms.”
This article was originally posted on June 26,2017
E-babies by the hundreds
This fall, in college classrooms across the country, hundreds of students studying psychology will say goodbye to traditional textbooks and hello to a virtual child.
These new parents won’t raise their children in their dorm rooms, but rather on their laptops, tablets, and smartphones.
This unique “parenting” experience is made possible by a brand-new digital learning product called The Dynamic Child.
Students raise their child from birth to age 18 and see how their parenting choices affect the child over time.
A big idea, and a joint effort
“The Dynamic Child” is the invention of Dr. Frank Manis, a professor of psychology at the University of Southern California.
After years of teaching child development courses with traditional textbooks, he began to brainstorm ways to make the material more engaging to students, most of whom had never been parents.
It took dozens of educators and researchers more than five years to develop “The Dynamic Child.”
Amber, an Executive Editor in Psychology, works with higher education professors to create the learning materials used to teach psychology courses nationwide.
“Our shared goal is to create and promote materials that help educators teach child development and other subjects in the most innovative, exciting ways possible.”
Erin is an expert in what’s called “learning design.”
“The course material is important, but the learner’s experience is equally significant. I’m there to make sure it’s always top-of-mind.”
A chicken-and-the-egg predicament
One of the biggest challenges along the way, Amber says, was deciding if students should read the online course material and then raise their virtual child, or vice versa.
“Raise first or read first? It was a true chicken-and-the-egg moment for me,” she says.
“It may sound like a little thing, but the way you sequence learning objectives for a course can have a huge impact on how much and how deeply the students learn.”
Thankfully, Amber says, she knew exactly who could help her answer her question: Erin.
“I introduced Amber to the research concept of ‘anchored instruction,’” Erin says.
“It tells us that there are cognitive benefits of having an experience first and then learning the theories and research that support it afterward.”
“In this case, the research suggests that ‘anchoring’ the course material in the real-world experience of raising a virtual child was the way to go.”
How it happens
For students using “The Dynamic Child,” the parenting process starts with a personality questionnaire.
It has 25 questions and takes about 30 minutes to complete, Amber says.
Students are asked things like, “What were your favorite subjects in elementary school?” and “In high school, did you prefer to socialize in small or large groups?”
All that data is used to create a unique personality profile for the student’s virtual child, Amber says.
Students can pre-select physical characteristics for their child, but the gender is determined randomly by the program.
After the child is “born,” students give him or her a name, Amber says.
“That helps the student develop an emotional bond with their child,” adds Erin.
“Research says that such an emotional investment leads to better learning outcomes.”
Making decisions as a parent
For the duration of the parenting experience, an avatar of the growing child takes up the right half of the student’s screen.
On the left side, students are presented with dozens of realistic parenting scenarios related to their child’s physical, mental, and social growth.
“Topics include sleep training, dealing with shyness, and overcoming adversity in academic, musical, and sporting endeavors.
“Students select from four different courses of action at each decision point, so there are an infinite number of eventual personality outcomes, and no two students will have identical children,” Amber says.
Over the course of the semester, the virtual children grow from birth to age 18.
The effects of a student’s parenting style can be seen in the child’s behavior over time, Amber says.
“The child is responding to the parent and vice versa.”
“It’s bi-directional—a two-way street—just like a parent-child relationship is in real life.”
A full launch this fall
This fall, more than 60 college professors across the country will teach child development courses exclusively via the “The Dynamic Child” product.
Pearson will host the learning experiences through its Revel platform.
Students can access the “Dynamic Child” portal from any device.
“In addition to getting to learn course material in an innovative and engaging way,” Amber says, ‘The Dynamic Child’ costs just $80—significantly less than most traditional psychology textbooks.”
Erin and Amber say they have high hopes for The Dynamic Child.
“We love the product,” Amber says, “and we think students and professors will, too.”
“We spent months and months reviewing the research on anchored learning and incorporating it into the final product design,” Erin says.
“We think it’s the type of homework students will truly be excited to do.”
“Without Access To Education, You’re Depriving People Of Freedom.”
A NOTE FROM PEARSON CEO JOHN FALLON: President Trump is considering rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in the US. Started in 2012, this program allowed 800,000 young people, who came to the US without documentation as children, the basic opportunity to work and study without the threat of deportation. About 200,000 of these DREAMers, like Ricardo, are currently enrolled in higher education.
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?”
Debbie Goldammer remembers spending a lot of time in the hallway as a fourth-grade student.
“Every day, my teacher would tell us to copy our spelling or math from the board at the front of the room and every day I asked where it was and got sent to sit in the hall,” she recalls.
Debbie couldn’t see the board well enough to read the writing.
“For me, as a young kid, being sent to the hall made me feel like I was bad. I didn’t understand what I was doing wrong.”
Eventually, Debbie’s father noticed her poor eyesight and she got her first pair of glasses. After that, her trips to the hallway stopped.
“My teacher never took the time to see that I couldn’t see,” Debbie says.
That experience as a young child inspired Debbie to become a teacher herself.
“I became a teacher because I wanted to watch for those things,” she says. “If kids couldn’t see or couldn’t hear, I wanted to watch for that and help them.”
Debbie spent the last 40 years doing just that; she recently retired from a career teaching.
Despite getting glasses and making the decision to become a teacher, Debbie didn’t always excel at school.
“I never really tried and focused in school,” Debbie says. “It was mainly my mom going ‘get your homework done, get your homework done.’”
It wasn’t until Debbie’s seventh-grade math teacher held her to a higher standard that she realized she could do more. When she moved into eighth grade without being placed in the advanced class, the teacher demanded a reason.
“She said, ‘you were my top student last year, you…belong in the top class,’” Debbie says.
Debbie moved to the advanced math class and experienced her second learning epiphany.
“That’s when education became important to me,” she says. “I saw it could get me someplace if I worked.”
The right emphasis
Debbie always planned to teach fourth grade—the same grade she spent so much time in the hallway—and chose elementary education for her college major.
One trip to her academic advisor’s office changed those plans—she was only a few credits from earning a minor in math.
She spent her early years teaching math to sixth-eighth graders before moving back to her hometown to teach eighth-grade math in the same classroom for the next 32 years.
“I really liked junior high kids,” she says. “They’re their own little beast—they still respect you but want to try you…there’s a lot of change happening in a short time.”
Spending the majority of her career teaching in the community where she grew up was special, Debbie says, particularly when it came to teaching the children of former students.
“I have 100 percent of the support [of my former students],” she says. “Former students who are now parents know what I will do for my students.”
Including adding a new class to her teaching schedule.
Not long before her retirement, Debbie took over teaching a dual-credit college algebra class, allowing students to earn college math credit while in high school.
“My principal asked me three times to teach the class and I said no three times,” Debbie recalls, saying she didn’t feel qualified even though she was certified.
“The fourth time, he said, ‘You’re the only one certified to do this, this is for the kids,’ and I couldn’t say no to that.”
Debbie says she can’t count the hours she spent preparing and studying so she would be ready to teach the class. She even turned to YouTube for refreshers.
“I wanted to make sure I could teach the kids as best as possible,” she says.
Debbie spent the first few weeks of her retirement cleaning out her classroom, getting it ready for its next occupant. But not everything had to change: a Goldammer will still be teaching eighth-grade math at Butler High School. Her daughter, Heather, will be moving down the hall to take over her mother’s classroom and schedule.
“I spent the first few years of my career determined not to be just like my mom,” Heather says. “But along the way, I’ve found my own path and now I feel like I’m stepping into her shoes without mimicking her.”
For her mother, Heather’s choice to follow a similar path is a point of pride.
“Heather could have gone into anything she chose,” she says, “but she chose education.”
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.
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.”
You may have seen it splashed across your newsfeed – an X-ray of a human skull with tiny bones poking out above the neck. Bones that never used to be there.
The image came from a study published in Scientific Reports, which linked the bone deformities to excessive time spent hunched over looking at screens. Within a few days, headlines spread across the globe like missives from a dystopian future: ‘Teenagers Grow Horns From Smartphone Usage.’
Technology has changed the way we live, learn, work and communicate. It’s no surprise that a research paper suggesting it’s also reshaping our bodies went viral.
The ubiquity of smartphones has fueled the ongoing debate about the effects of screen time. Even major tech companies like Google and Apple – the very professionals who build and evangelize this technology – are rolling out new products aimed at helping people track and reduce their screen time.
A Pew Research Center study found that 95 percent of American teenagers have a smartphone or access to one, and about half are online on a near constant basis. That translates to about 6.5 hours a day consuming screen media, not including time spent using media for school or homework, according to a separate survey.
So, what do we know for sure? Though the next generation isn’t at risk of developing horns, here are a few things science has confirmed about the effects of screen time.
Screen time affects sleep quality
Smartphones are such an intimate part of our lives that we’re bringing them into bed with us. A new report from Common Sense Media found that 29 percent of teens sleep with their mobile devices in bed with them and an additional 39 percent sleep with their device within arm’s reach. Though it may seem harmless, notifications are hard to resist – nearly 40 percent of teens said they wake up to check their phones at least once during the night. Studies have shown that the light emitted from devices impacts the body’s circadian timing, making it more difficult to fall and stay asleep.
Screen time should be very limited for young children
Children are increasingly learning how to use technology before they can talk, walk or read. But research suggests that exposing young children to too much screen time during formative early years can impede their development. A recent study found that, on average, children ages two to five spend two to three hours a day in front of a screen—and that increased screen time is linked to behavioral, social and language delays. For reference, The American Academy of Pediatrics currently recommends one hour per day of high-quality programming alongside a parent for that age group.
Uninterrupted screen time affects vision
Ophthalmologists agree that digital eyestrain is a real problem. Kids spending too much time on screens can experience dry eye, headaches and blurry vision. These symptoms are usually temporary – and a result of not blinking enough while looking at a device. The solution? Take a break. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends taking a 20-second break for every 20 minutes of screen time.
Screen time keeps us more connected
Experts agree that one of the great benefits of our digital lives is the ability to connect with people anywhere in the world at any time. A 2018 survey of teens’ social media use found that “connecting with friends and family” was, by a long shot, the primary reason teens believe social media has had a positive effect on people their age. Teens who responded directly to the survey also emphasized how social media enables connections with new, likeminded people. As one 15-year-old girl wrote, “It has given many kids my age an outlet to express their opinions and emotions and connect with people who feel the same way.”
All screen time is not equal
It’s easy to think of screen time as all-encompassing, but the reality is much more nuanced. A University of Michigan study of children ages four to 11 found that “how children use the devices, not how much time they spend on them, is the strongest predictor of emotional or social problems connected with screen addiction.” In other words: it’s all about the content. Aimlessly scrolling through social media and watching TV are common examples of passive screen time that don’t benefit cognitive development. But active screen time that uses technology for creative, educational and engaging purposes can significantly benefit children, and should be encouraged as technology continues to play a prominent role in their lives.
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.
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.
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 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:
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.
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
Today, online programs make sense, but given growing competition, few institutions have the resources to launch or scale them alone. Take Duquesne University, for example.
When Dr. Mary Ellen Glasgow arrived as dean of Duquesne University’s School of Nursing, its online programs were already delivering world-class instruction — however, online enrollments had leveled off.
This is where Duquesne saw opportunity.
“We’d been really good at running a solid small-to-moderate-sized online program,” Glasgow said. “But today, success is about more than just a good program: institutions have to sell it, market it, and provide strong student support. Trying to do all that on their own can distract them from educating students. We needed an infusion of fiscal and human capital to attract candidates throughout the US.”
As part of its due diligence, the university’s leadership found that institutions that work with Online Program Management (OPM) partners average better performance than those that keep programs in-house, and in 2016, we formed a partnership.
If your institution is considering a deeper online commitment, Glasgow has some practical advice:
Clearly explain a potential partnership to stakeholders. Share what it will mean, what will not change, and how you’ll safeguard academic quality.
Prepare carefully. Help students and faculty prepare, and make sure students understand the workload upfront.
Identify potential “cracks” in your system. Look for places where small communication issues can become big problems as you scale.
Focus on quality improvement. Optimize assignments, improve consistency between courses, and ensure that student support is always available.
The problems are solvable and the rewards are high.
“We all know it’s a challenging time in higher education. So, being at a school that’s growing, where people are being offered good jobs and finding new opportunities, is most gratifying,” said Glasgow.
You can find out at Now/Next in learning – our new ed tech event happening April 22-24 in Scottsdale, AZ!
We are so excited to host Phil Hansen as our opening keynote. Phil is an internationally recognized multimedia artist, speaker, author and innovator. Crashing irreverently through conventional boundaries, Phil works at the intersection of traditional art, electronic media, offbeat materials, and interactive experiences.
When a tremor developed in his drawing hand, his artistic career almost came to an end. In exploring new ways to create art, Phil discovered that by embracing his shake, limitations could become the passageway to creativity.
We need to first be limited in order to become limitless. –
Join us at Now/Next in learning to participate in Phil’s keynote on The Art of Collaboration: (An Interactive Art Experience). Register now!
Data literacy skills are no longer reserved for data scientists. Organizations today look for employees who can comprehend data, generate insights, and put it to actionable use for their business. But there’s a gap. According to a recent report by the Data Literacy Project and Qlik, only 21% of 16–24-year-olds are data literate. This suggests that schools and universities aren’t providing opportunities for students to gain the skills they need to enter the working world.
Business school programs can play a pivotal role in helping their students develop the technical prowess to wrangle data. Here are the three data literacy skills that every business school graduate should have in their skill set.
Analyzing and interpreting data:
Combing through sales data—transaction systems, customer interactions, and demographic data—to uncover trends and identify gaps can give sales teams a competitive edge.
Making data-driven business decisions:
Translating data into usable insights for a business—for developing new practices and driving decision-making—can give individuals in finance and operations roles a leg up.
Communicate data insights:
Telling data stories to different audiences effectively—visually and with words—is a valuable skill that helps individuals formulate and employ successful marketing strategies.
Help your business school students advance their careers by complementing their curriculum with skills training in data literacy. To learn more about the technical and professional skills your students need to succeed, download our ebook, “Preparing career-ready students.”
At technology-driven workplaces, employers expect employees to have a working knowledge of Microsoft Office programs like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Ensuring your students are taught how to use these programs will set them up for success when they enter the workforce.
Here’s how the Microsoft Office suite can arm your students with the technical skills they need to flourish in the real world.
Organizing data and insights with Excel
Not only should students be able to organize, analyze, manipulate, and present data within Microsoft Excel, they should be able to communicate their insights in a way that helps build a business’s competitive advantage.
Creating polished business documents in Word
There’s more to Microsoft Word than word processing. Business students can harness intuitive editing features, advanced formatting options, tables, lists, and sleek design elements to create documents and proposals.
Presenting ideas to a group with PowerPoint
Business school students are no strangers to PowerPoint. But understanding the ins and outs of the software can turn a basic slideshow into a dynamic presentation that lets their professional skills shine.
Staying connected and organized with Outlook
Whichever industries your students pursue, a solid grasp of Outlook is likely to come in very handy. The ability to manage emails, calendars, and tasks will help them stay organized and productive.
Support your students by helping them sharpen their technical skills in Microsoft Office. Discover more technical and professional skills your students need to succeed after business school in our ebook, “Preparing career-ready students.”
Dr. Steven D. Hoelscher, a professor of American Studies at the University of Texas, Austin, inspired Dr. Jessica (Jessie) Swigger to become a great teacher and author.
“Steve informed everything about how I approach my job,” Jessie, an associate professor of history at Western Carolina University, said about her inspirational professor.
Jessie first met Steve when she took his Memory and Place course at the University of Texas (UT), Austin. “The point of the course is to examine how members within different cultures and societies do certain things to remember a shared past as well as to forget a shared past,” explained Steve, a professor of American Studies.
“I was really inspired by that class,” Jessie recalled. “Steve was studying the kind of things that I was interested in.” His enthusiasm for the subject was infectious, and it sparked her interest in public history, the way history is put to work in the world in fields like museum curatorship and historic preservation. Jessie eventually decided to specialize in this area of American Studies, writing her dissertation on the history of Henry Ford’s Greenfield Village and choosing Steve as her advisor.
Initially, Jessie was a silent participant in Steve’s course. “I had a lot of trouble speaking up in classes,” she confided. “But he pushed me to enter the discussion in a really kind way. He would ask me just the right question to get me talking. That’s something I have yet to master in my classroom.”
Steve informed everything about how I approach my job.
— Jessica Swigger, Associate Professor
Describing his approach to encouraging class participation, Steve said, “I think a certain degree of empathy is necessary to be a good teacher. You need to try to place yourself in the shoes of the students, and to do that, you need to know them. Once you understand their perspective, you then try to draw out things that might otherwise just be unspoken.”
Jessie also credits Steve with helping her fine-tune her research skills. She fondly recalled going to office hours and talking to him about her ideas for different research projects. “They were such intellectually fruitful conversations that expanded how I was thinking about different problems,” she recalled. “He taught me how to do research—the way to think and how to read carefully and write. He would always give me such detailed feedback on my writing.”
“If professors are doing a good job, they offer critical feedback,” Steve noted. “And sometimes that can be kind of hard to receive. But Jessie was always interested in figuring out ways to do work better, and she worked really hard.”
When it came time for Jessie to look for a job, Steve was there to help. “When you are an advisor, you do more than just read the dissertation and give feedback,” Steve explained. “You write letters of recommendation. You look for jobs that might be suitable for the candidate. You suggest avenues for publication. And you talk about the difficult job market and the sort of things that one needs to do to prepare.”
Now in her fourteenth year of teaching, Jessie praised her inspirational professor by saying, “I want to be the kind of teacher that he is.”
In response, Steve said, “One doesn’t always hear that when you are a teacher or a professor. You go about your business and do the best job you can. So when you hear that you have been important in someone’s career, that means a lot, especially when it’s from someone whom I admire like Jessie.”
Dr. Jessica Swigger is an associate professor of History and the director of Public History, at Western Carolina University. She is the author of “History is Bunk”: Assembling the Past at Henry Ford’s Greenfield Village and is working on a book about the history of children’s’ museums in the United States. Jessie earned her bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees from the University of Texas, Austin.
Dr. Steven D. Hoelscher is a professor of American Studies at the University of Texas, Austin, and the faculty curator at the Harry Ransom Center. He has published four books and over forty book chapters and articles. Steve has a doctorate of philosophy degree in geography from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
The Discovery Channel’s This is AI looks at how artificial intelligence (AI) is changing the world now, the scientists shaping it, and the lives affected by this nascent technology.
This is especially significant in the education industry with the increasing need for lifelong learning. The future of digital learning offers the potential of even greater tools and supports. Imagine lifelong learning companions powered by AI that can accompany and support individual learners throughout their studies – in and beyond school – or new forms of assessment that measure learning while it is taking place, shaping the learning experience in real time.
While the full potential of the application of AI is being discovered with each day, today there are students and educators benefitting from a new kind of personalized learning.
IBM Watson Tutor: Personalized learning on a whole new level
Existing and emergent technology should be leveraged to address some of the most intractable issues in education, including achievement gaps. And ultimately, AI and machine learning will help us respond to the changing education landscape – the need, in a jobs market re-shaped by technology, to help learners achieve at higher levels, and in a wider set of skills.
During the fifteen years that Dr. Keri Stephens has taught at the University of Texas, Austin, she has helped hundreds of students like Courtney Bagot develop communication skills that empower them to succeed in their careers. Courtney is now using those skills to fund meals for food-insecure families across North Texas.
“I did not plan on becoming a teacher, but when I was in graduate school, I had the opportunity to teach some classes,” Dr. Stephens explained. “I decided to keep teaching when I saw that my students were getting jobs based on the things that I had told them. I really felt like I could have a tremendous impact on young adults’ lives.”
One of those young adults was Courtney Bagot. Courtney now works for the North Texas Food Bank, managing partnerships with corporate donors. She uses skills that she learned during Dr. Stephens’ Organizational Communication course every day in her work.
Dr. Stephens hopes students who take her Organizational Communication courses learn questioning and listening skills. “I want to teach my students that having a communication background can help them navigate just about any organizational situation,” Dr. Stephens explained. “Things are not laid out cleanly for them, and they’re going to have to use their asking and answering skills. And it’s my hope that it empowers them to be good at no matter what they choose to do.”
In the course, Courtney developed her listening skills. “Listening is even more important than getting your message out because it enables you to really tailor and customize your message,” Courtney said. “That’s important in my current job because I’m not just selling our mission—I’m trying to help our partners understand what we are doing and apply it to their values.”
Courtney also learned how to network from Dr. Stephens. Courtney recalled, “She gave us tips on how to ask questions that helped us inspire more meaningful conversations in order to create relationships. And with my job, that’s exactly what I have to do. I have to build relationships with people so that they trust us and work with us.”
Using these skills, Courtney was able to help the North Texas Food Bank fund and distribute seventy million nutritious meals to food-insecure families across thirteen counties last year. Her efforts earned her a recent promotion to associate director of corporate engagement, a position that requires her to manage approximately seventy-five partner relationships.
Courtney attributes her success to what she learned from Dr. Stephens. “She taught me how to communicate with different types of people, and those basic principles helped me move up quickly in my job,” she explained.
She taught me how to communicate with different types of people, and those basic principles helped me move up quickly in my job.
— Courtney Bagot, Associate Director of Corporate Engagement
Learning of Courtney’s promotion, Dr. Stephens said, “I’m not surprised that she has moved ahead quickly because of how much she engaged in my class. Professors want to see their students succeed, and it makes us very happy when we hear that they’re doing great things.”
Courtney Bagot earned her bachelor’s degree in Corporate Communication from the University of Texas, Austin. She spent a year working for a for-profit organization before deciding that something was missing from her life. Wanting to make a difference in the world and help those who are less fortunate, she applied for a job at the North Texas Food Bank. She has worked there for four-and-a-half years and was promoted in September 2016 to the position of associate director of corporate engagement.
Dr. Keri Stephens earned her bachelor’s degree in biochemistry. After working in industry for a decade, she returned to school at the University of Texas, Austin, to pursue a PhD in Organizational Communication and Technology. As a graduate student, she had the opportunity to teach some classes, and fifteen years later, she is still teaching there as an associate professor. Dr. Stephens has published over fifty peer-reviewed articles, book chapters, and encyclopedia entries, and she recently received The President’s Associates Teaching Excellence Award (only seven were given to faculty at UT Austin).
Mike Holcomb, a former Dean for Technology of the Arts at the University of Arizona, has had a long and illustrious career helping thousands of students, including Tara Johnson-Medinger, find their creative approach.
Tara met Mike while studying in the University of Oregon’s film program in the early 90s. Because the film degree was theory-heavy, she added a Fine Arts minor to take advantage of more production-based courses and get a broader arts perspective.
Tara enrolled in Mike’s motion graphics course, but not without some hesitation. She didn’t consider herself a fine artist, and at first she wasn’t sure that his year-long class was the best choice. Friends who had taken courses with Mike helped convince Tara to take the plunge, and before long she discovered the class was helping her find her artistic voice.
“Because I was struggling so much with learning the animation process and not being a good illustrator, there were moments of wanting to abandon it. Mike helped me out of that, and really made me think of what I was doing in a different way.”
Mike has long believed that the pressure to get things right the first time has a damaging effect on students in the arts, so his teaching style has always focused on embracing their mistakes. He’d always gained satisfaction from guiding students to those moments when they understand their capabilities and start believing in themselves, rather than simply learning by dictation and rote.
“She was apprehensive at first because she didn’t come from a fine arts background. She felt she didn’t have the necessary drawing skills. But there are so many other techniques that can be employed. So, one of my first jobs as a teacher of animation was to acquit her of that notion.”
I felt I had an ally and a friend that supported me. Mike helped me find my voice.
— Tara Johnson-Medinger, Director and Producer
When Tara started to take the lead, he saw the light bulb go on and interesting work develop.
“I remember him being excited when I was trying to figure out my approach, because it was something quite different than what the other students were doing.”
Tara recalls the realization that Mike helped her make: “It didn’t have to be the way everyone else was doing it. Go through the process, fail, try again, succeed — he seemed excited about what I was discovering as a student. Initially, I felt very intimidated in his class, but by the end I felt I had an ally and a friend that supported me. Mike helped me find my voice.”
Tara went on to found the Portland Oregon Women’s (POW) Film Festival and the POWGirls Educational Program, and she credits Mike’s approach with enabling her to do so. She also hopes to pass that approach on to students in the POWGirls workshops.
“I want to help them to appreciate their work and honor what they create, even if it’s not perfect. It’s okay to move through imperfection. Too many people get caught up in the perfection part of it, and just want to get to the end. I want to live through the process of my creations.”
And Mike has enjoyed watching Tara’s career flourish.
“It’s wonderful. Her success doesn’t surprise me a bit. She’s strong, determined, clear-headed, and tireless. I’m just so proud of her.”
Elaine Cohen is a professor of computer science at the University of Utah. She inspired Bruce Gooch to pick up the teaching baton and pass what he learned — and more — on to a whole new generation of students.
Bruce Gooch wasn’t your typical computer student. For starters, his background was in mathematics, and he had no idea how to code.
“I used to be an actuary, and, after a wildly unsuccessful job search, was looking for something new.”
He decided to go back to school for computer science. By his own admission, he looked more like an outlaw biker than a professor. But once he began studying with Elaine, preconceptions fell away and he found the space and support he needed to excel.
Elaine showed Bruce that coding could be creative. By giving him the responsibility and ownership to explore his ideas, he found the inspiration to make new leaps in the field. As he puts it, “Elaine took away the chains from my mind.”
Elaine recalls, “Bruce was always very inventive and creative. His whole dissertation was something quite innovative that let him do stuff that nobody had done before. He created beautiful work.”
Elaine took away the chains from my mind.
— Bruce Gooch, Founder, Expressive Computer Graphics
Bruce took this encouragement and ran with it, co-authoring a paper on the fundamental shading algorithms in computer science. Prior to the paper, there were only three such algorithms. “Now there’s a fourth,” says Bruce. “It’s called Gooch Shading.”
He even wrote and published the first book in the field of non-photorealistic rendering — an area he helped discover — while he was a grad student, and he has become one of its top voices.
“Elaine let me know that I could do something that I could barely imagine doing—this thing that students just don’t do. My book was published at the same time and by the same company as her book. Students aren’t supposed to do this stuff!”
Because she developed a trust and respect with Bruce, friendship grew between them.
“I think that’s part of being a mentor, coaching people to understand that they can cope with whatever life gives you. It’s not easy, but you can do it if you’re passionate enough about what you’re doing.”
Throughout her career, Elaine has watched her students go on to enjoy all kinds of success.“I consider my students my ‘professional children.’ And when they grow into being successful professionals, it feels good.”
Bruce is one of those “children.” Now at Texas A&M, he helps students learn to create games and computer animations. He gives his students the same encouragement that Elaine gave him, with the perspective and experience to back it up.
“I’ve started some companies, and I have software that’s with millions of users. That’s what I’m pushing as ‘possible’ with my students. You can start a company. You can deploy a product. You can do these things that 20 years ago no one could.”
And Bruce is quick to point out how he got where he is: “Elaine encouraged me to do my own thing. She gave me an extreme amount of confidence, and the ability to see possibilities I hadn’t seen before.”
Higher education is moving into a new phase when it comes to the power of technology in the classroom. More sophisticated learning tools are being developed, and they promise to fundamentally change how instructors teach and students learn. Such advances are being met with a mix of resistance and acceptance. Some educators worry that new technologies may diminish their role in the education process will eventually replace them, or that digital learning tools are too costly, or not necessary. Some are concerned about the amount of work involved with incorporating technology into their courses. Despite such uneasiness, a growing number of educators are adopting the tools and using them in innovative ways to enhance student learning.
Among other products, Learning Catalytics is an interactive student response tool that educators are using in classrooms and lecture halls to pose questions and poll students’ understanding real-time with graphical visualization. We are continuing to develop even more advanced learning tools, including technologies that can assess critical thinking skills and broaden tutorial capabilities.
According to higher education experts, many educators are turning to technology to enhance the learning experience, deliver improved outcomes, and to manage increasing class sizes and varying learning styles. They are selecting course materials that are available in digital format, and they’re using interactive tools to check students’ progress and mastery on assignments when completing course assignments. Many educators are redesigning coursework to blend online activities with classroom experiences. Some are sending texts and emails to nudge students to keep up with assignments, while others are recording and streaming lectures for students to view outside the classroom at their convenience, on a variety of mobile devices. A number of educators are even setting up labs where students can use sophisticated technology to conduct research.
For example, the college of education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign two years ago unveiled its Illinois Digital Ecologies and Learning Laboratory (IDEALL) where students can set up technology–enhanced learning environments and then use technology to study the impact on learning. The lab features state-of-the-art equipment, including 360-degree audio- and video-recording systems, ceiling-mounted cameras, and 55-inch touch-screen tabletops. University researchers say the entire lab operates as a data-collection device to track learners’ interactions with technology. They use data analytics techniques to identify patterns and relationships among the learners’ movements, responses, discussions, and other actions to gain insight into their levels of engagement.
H. Chad Lane, an associate professor of educational psychology, says the high-tech lab is making a “huge difference” for student researchers, and is an energizing, popular, and much-sought-after resource.
Although students might be gravitating toward digital tools, many education technology experts say their use will not replace instructors. Digital learning, the experts say, makes educators better able to meet the students where they are technologically, better able to adapt lessons for varied learning styles, and better able to reach more students. Those benefits, the experts say, translate to stronger academic success, improved retention rates, and higher graduation rates.
“Students learn best when there is an available instructor because those personal interactions and relationships are a very essential part of the teaching and learning process,” says Barnes. “Technology is simply backing up the instructor because the instructor cannot be there at every moment for every student.”
Indeed, students can access digital coursework on their own schedule, anytime, anywhere, on their personal device of choice. Digital products also offer a flexibility and malleability that print books cannot. Electronic materials can be easily updated by publishers, and they can be integrated with other technologies to become even more adaptable. Interactive learning solutions typically present topics in small chunks, along with a video, audio, or other teaching aid. Students can highlight and take notes, and they test their knowledge before moving on to the next topic. The interactive capability helps students grasp the concepts, accounts for their different learning styles, allows them to work at their own pace, and pushes them to be more engaged in their studies—all while helping to reduce the cost of learning materials by as much as 70 percent.
The interactive capabilities also help the instructors by giving them a broader reach to connect with students, an opportunity to give feedback outside class, and the ability to adjust and optimize their instructional plans. Instructors can electronically observe what assignments have been completed, how long it takes students to do them, and how they score on the online quizzes. Educators can send notes to students, prompt them online, or modify a lecture, assignment, or coursework, if they see that students are not understanding a concept.
Professor Margaret Flemming has shared her enthusiasm for physiology with Jeramy Ware and hundreds of other students in the Austin Community College District.
“I don’t know that I’d be a nurse, much less working towards a master of science degree in nursing, without Professor Flemming,” said Jeramy, as he described his inspirational professor. Jeramy dropped out of high school over twenty years ago, but he returned to school and is now employed as a cardiac nurse at South Austin Medical Center.
He took Professor Flemming’s physiology course during his second semester at Austin Community College (ACC). “Everybody warns you that this is the hardest class you’re going to take, that this is the one they use to weed out all the people from going to nursing school,” Jeramy recalled. “I was a new back-to-school student, and I was terrified. But Professor Flemming inspires you, and the way she teaches just makes you love the subject.”
Jeramy credits Professor Flemming with helping him develop skills that enhanced his employability, in addition to teaching him how the body works. “She taught me to look for the cause, instead of just seeing the effect. And that’s how I diagnose patients.”
“She also taught me how to get through to people and how to teach them,” he said. If one approach didn’t work, Professor Flemming would try another. Jeramy uses this skill every day in his work as he trains new nurses or educates patients to prevent re-admission to the hospital.
Professor Flemming doesn’t give you answers, but she shows you how to find them, and that’s what serves you best in life.
— Jeramy Ware, RN
Professor Flemming has been teaching at ACC for fifteen years. “Most of the students that I work with at ACC are working really hard to pull themselves up by the bootstraps,” she said. “So many community college students are not your traditional four-year students. Many of them are returning after being out of school for a number of years, and many of them are first-generation college students. They just really inspire me.”
Professor Flemming strives to engage her students. “I just want to hook them,” she explained. “I want to get them excited about what they’re learning.”
She also wants to teach students how to problem-solve. “A lot of the content in our courses is readily accessible thanks to the Internet,” she explained. “But what to do with that information is the critical part: how to read a patient’s chart and determine what questions they should ask the patient or how to answer the patient’s questions. I teach my students to take their analytical skills forward into whatever they do.”
Professor Flemming remembers Jeramy as being a persistent student, and she is not surprised at how far he has progressed in his career. “If he didn’t make an A on an exam, he was in my office the next day asking questions,” she recalled. “Like so many of our students, Jeramy is remarkable. He has been working while going to school, and he and his wife have four kids. He is a self-starter and a non-quitter.”
Jeramy firmly believes that this inspirational professor improved not only his employability, but that of many other nurses. As a preceptor at the medical center, he trains many of Dr. Flemming’s former students. “Her students are the ones I love to work with when we hire new nurses,” he confided. “She inspired a generation of nurses. We’re all better because we took her class.”
Jeramy Ware earned his associate’s degree in nursing from Austin Community College and his bachelor’s degree from Western Governors University (WGU). He is a cardiac nurse at South Austin Medical Center and is working on his master of science degree in nursing at WGU. His goal is to teach nursing students.
Margaret Flemming has a master of science degree in veterinary physiology from Texas A&M University. She started teaching biology as an adjunct professor at Austin Community College in 2001 and became a full-time professor in 2006. Prior to her work at ACC, she was a horse trainer, riding instructor, and competitive rider.
Luke Reinsma recently retired from Seattle Pacific University, where he worked as Professor of Medieval Literature since 1986. His approach to teaching has inspired generations of students, including Melody Joy Fields.
It was Melody’s freshman year at Seattle Pacific University, and as she says, “I didn’t know anyone — or anything.” She was taking a class and a teaching assistant asked her if she’d met Dr. Reinsma yet. “You MUST meet Dr. Reinsma,” the TA told her.
“She walked me up to Luke’s office — completely book-lined walls, classic professor’s office—and he immediately invited me to come in, sit down, and tell him about myself.”
The traditional professor/student dynamic had always bothered Luke. From early in his career he had tried to find ways to bridge that gap. He felt that if professors and students could talk to and learn about each other as equals, the outcomes would be better for everyone.
His first approach to teaching was a simple one: by getting to know his students as individual people, he felt they’d open up to him, enabling them to learn more and understand better. He spent more than half of his time talking with his students to learn about them and their backgrounds. And more often than not, it happened outside of the classroom.
As Luke puts it, “I’m not sure the best learning happens inside a classroom, so I make sure to leave the classroom behind and change the context now and then.” Often that meant one-on-one office hours, meetings at the local coffee shop — even organized group hikes in the coastal forests.
Only after he’d gotten to know each student would he tackle the essays they’d written for his class.
Melody recalled learning a lesson from Luke the first time she met him to get feedback on an essay.
“He made me realize that you never know what’s going on in students’ lives. They don’t always come to class ready to learn — I certainly didn’t. Only after he’d really figured out who I was and what I was bringing to the classroom every day did we discuss my essay.”
His dedication would be inspiring in any person but it’s exceptional in a teacher.
— Melody Joy Fields, Adjunct Professor
With the professor/student hierarchy broken down, Luke would often write as much feedback on the papers as content Melody had written. His responses delved deeply into her opinions and ideas, which he would always value over grammar or grades. She responded well to this mutual respect.
“Luke excelled at finding something incredible rather than only seeing problems,” says Melody. “He always managed to find at least one elegant sentence so that I left his office knowing I could do it. His dedication would be inspiring in any person, but it’s exceptional in a teacher.”
That empathy and desire to find something beautiful in every essay also gave Melody the confidence to begin the revision process.
“He’d find a passage I’d written and say, ‘That’s ordinary. What’s extraordinary about this?’ And that taught me what revision is all about. It’s rethinking and revisioning what it is you really want to say, and saying it in the best way possible.”
Now a professor herself, Melody credits Luke with inspiring her to become a teacher.
“I didn’t know I was going to become a teacher. Certainly not a professor. I didn’t think I was smart enough. But I really wanted to be just like Luke. I wanted to read amazing stories, find incredible moments, and help others see that. To have someone take the time to see the world with you and give you fresh eyes — that’s what Luke did.”
Melody also credits Luke with her approach to teaching.
“Luke is why I teach the way I do. My experience as a student was so much more about a relationship, and not just about passing along information or skills. Yes, teaching is about skill building, but the best way to learn a skill is to see it modeled in front of you. And I saw the most valuable skills modeled by Luke every time we spoke.”
Dianne Young, a developmental math professor at the Austin Community College District in Austin, TX, showed Shellie Burton strategies to overcome her math anxiety. Shellie now uses those strategies with her own students.
“She believed in me and showed me what an excellent teacher looks like,” Shellie Burton, a 3rd grade teacher, said about Dianne Young, a professor who helped her reach her goals.
Shellie, a college dropout and single mother, enrolled in at Austin Community College (ACC), when her youngest child entered kindergarten. She wanted to earn a teaching degree so that she could better support her family.
But after being placed in developmental math, she wasn’t sure if she would be able to graduate. “Math was my biggest anxiety,” Shellie confided. “I hated math growing up. I really wanted to be a teacher, but I didn’t know if I had the math skills to be able to do it.”
Dianne, who has taught developmental math at ACC for a dozen years, works with many students who have math anxiety. She believes that every student can learn math. “Maybe he or she hasn’t learned how to do it yet, but I can teach anybody math if they show up and they want to learn,” she said. “Math should never be the reason why somebody can’t fulfill the career path that they want.”
… I can teach anybody math if they show up and they want to learn.
— Professor Dianne Young, Developmental Math, Austin Community College District, Austin, TX
Shellie met Dianne when she took her Elementary Algebra course. “She was so encouraging, and no question was a dumb question,” Shellie recalled. “Unlike most professors, she walked around the classroom. She got to know you, and she was really passionate about her subject.”
Dianne remembered Shellie coming to office hours with her friends and asking a lot of questions. “She made it clear she didn’t like math,” Dianne commented. “But she wanted to learn. I taught her that she can do math. And I told her that when she becomes a teacher, she will need to teach math and she can inspire her students.”
Shellie passed all her math courses at ACC and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree, magna cum laude, in elementary education at Concordia University in Austin. Since graduating, she has taught in elementary schools in Texas and California, and was nominated for Teacher of the Year by her school during her fourth year of teaching.
Shellie regularly uses Dianne’s strategies to alleviate math anxiety in her own classroom. “Dianne asked a lot of questions,” she noted. “‘Who can help me with the next step?’ and ‘What’s the next step that I would do?’ So there is a conversation that’s going on instead of a teacher telling you what to do.”
“Dianne also pulled different students into the conversation because there are different strategies you can use to solve a math problem,” she added. “Having peers teach peers is another great way to get students to learn and feel safe to share. I do that in my classroom, too.”
To help her students overcome their fear of failure, Shellie occasionally makes mistakes on the board on purpose. She said, “My students will say, ‘Ms. Burton, you added that wrong,’ and I’ll thank them for helping me out so they know that mistakes are OK and we’re on the same team. I learned that from Dianne.”
“I’m proud of Shellie,” Dianne concluded. “If I ever have grandchildren, I would want them to be in her class because she’s very, very good.”
Shellie Burton is a single mother of three. After transferring from Austin Community College to Concordia University to earn her bachelor’s degree in elementary education, she taught 4th and 5th grade in Round Rock Independent School District in Texas. She is currently a 3rd-grade teacher at Huntington Christian School in California.
Dianne Young earned her bachelor’s degree in secondary education math from the University of North Florida and her master’s degree in education from Virginia Polytechnic University. She has been teaching developmental math courses at community colleges for more than twenty years, most recently as an adjunct professor at the Austin Community College District.
Pearson study reveals Generation Z and millennials’ learning preferences
Young people are the first to admit they can easily spend hours a day on the internet—whether it’s via a desktop computer, tablet, or smartphone. While they may be tech-savvy by nature, this innate connectivity poses the question of technology’s place as it relates to how Generation Z and millennials learn.
In a recent survey of 2,558 14-40 year olds in the US, Pearson explored attitudes, preferences, and behaviors around technology in education, identifying some key similarities and differences between Gen Z and millennials.
While 39% of Gen Z prefer learning with a teacher leading the instruction, YouTube is also their #1 preferred learning method. And 47% of them spend three hours or more a day on the video platform. On the other hand, millennials need more flexibility—they are more likely to prefer self-directed learning supported by online courses with video lectures. And while they are known for being the “plugged in” generation, it’s apparent that plenty of millennials still prefer a good old-fashioned book to learn.
Regardless of their differences, the vast majority of both Gen Z and millennials are positive about the future of technology in education. 59% of Gen Z and 66% of millennials believe technology can transform the way college students learn in the future.
Being a full-time educator takes commitment, organization and time — lots and lots of time. It’s rare to find an educator at any level who finishes his or her day once class is dismissed. With limited time to focus on the many aspects of quality course instruction, educators need the best tools to maximize their time.
Ideally, leveraging said tools should focus on automating the most common tasks to which educators devote the majority of their time. Find out how leveraging the right digital learning platform can help with creating personalized lesson plans, student engagement and monitoring student progress.
Developing a lesson plan is one of the most important tasks for educators. Lesson plans set the tone for the entire course from the outset. Creating a lesson plan personalized for each course and each group of students is immensely time consuming. Educators are expected to create new and engaging plans for each day, often with very little feedback with which to work.
Engaging with students
Keeping students engaged – in class and out of class – is vital for receiving feedback on teaching materials and assessing the concepts students retain and those they struggle to understand. Traditional methods of engagement, i.e. fostering group discussions and question-and-answer periods, are particularly difficult in larger classrooms. Students get distracted more easily and educators struggle to create a rapport with each individual.
With digital learning educators can now utilize the devices students already bring into the classroom, think smartphones, tablets and laptops, to engage them in more sophisticated tasks to help develop critical thinking skills. MyLab creates a platform where students submit answers on a web-enabled device and receive immediate feedback from their instructors.
Revel assignments completed prior to class allow instructors to use classroom time more efficiently for group work and discussion Increased dialogue and feedback between students and educators can make even large classes seem more personal.
Monitoring student progress
Keeping track of student progress allows an educator to know whether students are learning on pace with the lesson plan and completing all assignments. Traditional methods used to monitor progress – homework assignments, quizzes and exams – take time to develop on the front end and time to review on the back end.
In larger classes especially, it may take several days or even weeks before students receive grades from previous assignments and exams. Delayed feedback is outdated and can be difficult for students to apply to future work.
Monitoring student achievement is easier than ever before with Revel, a platform that saves hours of time by tracking assignment completion and automating analytics. A trending column, for example, demonstrates whether students’ grades are improving or declining, making it easy to identify students who need extra attention.
Additionally, students have the opportunity to increase their own accountability by viewing real-time progress reports. With faster feedback, students can keep up with the pace of the course and address areas of difficulty as soon as they arise.
We’ve all had it happen. You spend countless hours preparing for a lecture only to watch students lose focus and disengage from class. From cellphones to that one student who manages to derail class (likely for a full 20 minutes after alerting class to the first snowfall out the window), it’s almost impossible to teach a class without some type of distraction.
As instructors, we’re tasked with a lot. Achieving maximum comprehension, information retention and improving test scores are just a few of the challenges faced in addition to maintaining student attention.
If you’re ready to take back your class time and refocus attention on course material, you’ve come to the right place. Keep reading to find out how you can leverage digital learning in your classroom to fight these distractions and foster student engagement.
Teaching your classroom in a one-size-fits-all mindset
In any classroom, there are students who learn at a different pace than the planned syllabus. Some students grasp concepts quickly, and may become bored by too much classroom time spent on a topic, while others struggle to keep up.
There are countless reasons why a student may fall behind – whether it’s an overloaded schedule or something happening in their personal life. Regardless of the reason, a student who’s struggling to keep up, is increasingly likely to disengage from class and runs the risk of falling even further behind.
When students can master basic subject level concepts away from the classroom, professors are able to refocus class time on engaging students by expanding on core concepts.
Drowning in a sea of outdated class resources
Let’s face it. No student wants an instructor who bogs them down with dozens of different paper handouts and online portals that may or may not have been constructed during the dawn of the internet.
For many students, keeping track of materials for all their classes, including textbooks and paper handouts, can be a struggle. And a student who forgets one of the 80 “essential” materials for class that day may be unable to participate.
Traditional materials like textbooks are a stark contrast to other media that students today are more familiar with. Today’s students are used to the internet, where simple keyword searches produce immediate results and relevant information on any internet-connected device.
Confining all classroom materials in an online learning management system simplifies organization by placing all class and student materials in one place. With the necessary materials easily accessible, students are free to focus on learning and staying engaged in the classroom (unless someone breaks out a fidget spinner, at which point we can’t help you).
Lecture format classes
Keeping students engaged can be particularly difficult in a large lecture setting. With dozens, or even hundreds of students in just a single class, it’s no surprise to find professors standing at the front of the room talking for the entire period and hoping that some small fraction of their wisdom is being absorbed.
Obstacles like acoustics for students in the back, or those who take advantage of class setup to escape on social media, are just a few of the challenges faced.
If this scenario sounds familiar to you, trust us when we say you’re not alone. One of the best ways to foster greater engagement in a lecture-style class is through interactive question-and-answer sessions and peer discussions supplemented by an online learning platform.
With a solution like this, professors can break a large class into groups quickly and easily, while receiving instant feedback to tailor lessons to student preferences.
Avoiding new technology
With the prevalence of social media and smartphones, it’s no surprise that today’s students expect to be constantly connected. Interacting with the world through their smartphones and tablets, it’s quite common for disconnect to occur when professors use outdated technology.
With news apps and social networking platforms enabling information to spread like wildfire, today’s students are used to information in real time. When the internet provides them the information that they need instantly, it’s common for them to lose patience with textbooks written years before their time.
Instead, professors can leverage the devices with which students are already familiar and which they bring to class, to provide a more interactive learning environment. An online learning platform makes it easy for professors to pose questions and receive immediate feedback from each student in the classroom (rather than one or two), and adjust their instructional strategies in real time.
Students today use technology more than ever — whether for research, studying or chatting every second of the day with friends. It’s no surprise that leveraging the ubiquity of digital communication can help produce countless benefits in the classroom for students and educators alike.
Online assessments have the power to give students rapid feedback, while digital tools allow instructors to provide multimedia learning experiences. Video explanations, games, online note-taking and other features all work to help keep students engaged as they read and study. With the power of digital, educators can analyze test scores and tailor instruction to suit students’ strengths and weaknesses.
Expand learning opportunities
When teaching a subject like geology or art, it’s hard to fully convey the power of a volcano or the expansiveness of a work of art with photos alone. By incorporating videos and other digital assets, course instructors can fully engage students. With digital examples in geology for example, instructors won’t just tell students how landslides happen; they can show them.
Video demonstrations allow students to take virtual field trips whenever they want, at their own pace and on their preferred devices. This video tour of the Pantheon leaves a much more lasting impression than any descriptive words ever could. Tour options take them to places they could never explore in person — at least not as part of a classroom.
In addition to learning through experiences students also need concrete skills for success. Critical thinking is an important skill that applies to almost any field, and writing can be one of the best ways to master it.
Gen Zers are the current generation to embark on their journey in higher education. They are present on your campus and in your classes, with many more enrolling every year. How well do you know them? Do you have the tools to shape these newcomers into successful and productive adults after just a few short years of schooling?
Born between 1997 and 2015, Generation Z accounts for 26% of all the total United States population, according to a Nielsen report. They’re currently the largest living generation and have the potential to reshape how we use technology and view the workplace, so you probably should.
Understanding what drives this generation can help you better tailor your coursework around tangible and transferable skills so students can better understand how it relates to their future. Barnes & Noble College conducted a survey of 1,300 Gen Zers, and more than 89% of respondents acknowledge that a college education is valuable.
For them, college is seen as the pathway to a good job. The study also states that Gen Z’s top criterion in selecting a college is how it will prepare them for their chosen careers, followed by interesting coursework and professors who care about student success.
Learning how to engage with this generation is just as important as learning what tools to use to engage them. Their comfort and trust in the online space will greatly determine how they interact with their educators. In fact, Gen Zers often prefer video content—with 85% of surveyed students reporting that they watched an online video to learn a new skill in the past week, according to The Center for Generational Kinetics.
And they have high hopes for their post-collegiate future, too. In fact, 88% of surveyed Gen Zers reported that they were optimistic about their own personal future—more than any other generation, according to a report by Vision Critical.
But that optimism is balanced by realistic expectations about their careers. When asked what matters most in their ideal jobs, in the same survey, they favored salary more and work-life balance less than their millennial counterparts.
Here’s just some of what you can expect to learn more about:
Up-to-the-minute analysis of what’s happening in higher education
Illuminating insights from multigenerational surveys about Gen Z behaviors and attitudes about education
Eye-opening interviews and surveys about the individual experiences of hundreds of Gen Z students from Jean Twenge, author of iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy—and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood
In the meantime, dive deeper into the Gen-Z psyche, and read about their learning habits in the infographic, “Engage from A to Gen Z.” Learn more about this generation’s make-up, goals, and what makes them tick.
From textbooks to laptops and white boards to smartboards, digital technologies continue to propel higher education forward. Instant access to information and various types of media and course materials create a more dynamic and collaborative learning experience.
Today’s tech-savvy learners are accustomed to instructors utilizing technology to bolster curriculum and coursework. In fact, a majority of surveyed students (84%) understand that digital materials help solve for issues facing higher education, according to “Digital appetitive vs. what’s on the table,” a recent report that surveyed student attitudes on digital course materials. And many (57%) also expect the onus to fall on the institution to shift from print to digital learning tools.
Many higher education institutions are looking for new ways to integrate technology into their coursework. Recently, Maryville University, a private institution in St. Louis, MO, developed a digital learning program that provided iPads to their students—with great results.
94% of faculty have integrated iPads into their courses, and 87% of students agree that technology has been instrumental in their success at the school. What’s more, enrollment increased by 17.7% over two years, in part due to the Digital Learning Program, reports Inside Higher Ed.