To say that people are stressed during the COVID-19 pandemic would be an understatement. The accepted social norms and values, like shaking hands or visiting the elderly, have gone out the window in an effort to stop the spread of disease.
We’re navigating according to new rules, and as a result, decisions about how we behave and the choices we make have become more complex. Understandably, other’s actions are sparking strong emotions and reactions, sometimes referred to as “cancel culture,” making it difficult to talk about at home or in the classroom.
As researchers, we turn to research to help guide our behavior and thinking. Social responsibility helps us be thoughtful about our actions, particularly our actions in relation to other people. We published a framework for social responsibility, based on the body of existing research, that can be used as a lens to understand human behavior in a complex situation.
The dimensions of the framework can be used to spark an emphatic, non-judgemental discussion about making choices during a pandemic. We offer a suggestion for how to initiate a discussion with learners for each of the four dimensions:
Multicultural: Is knowledgeable about different cultural identities and sensitive toward cultural differences.
Example of how to engage: Present a set of different choices someone could make during the current pandemic (i.e., decisions related to social distancing). For each choice, discuss how a person’s perspective or prior experiences might influence their decision to make a specific choice.
Ethical: Demonstrates knowledge and awareness of ethical standards and issues and applies ethical reasoning and standards to make decisions in ethically ambiguous situations.
Example of how to engage: Present a set of different choices someone could make during the current pandemic (i.e. decisions related to social distancing). For each choice, discuss how a person’s values could have influenced their decision to make a specific choice.
Civic: Is an informed and active citizen at the local, national, and global level and understands and acts on issues of local, national, and global significance.
Example of how to engage: Have learners explore the role that the local, state, and/or federal government is playing in managing the pandemic (it can be in their own context or a new context). Learners could also discuss strengths and weaknesses for having a certain level of government managing response to the pandemic.
Environmental: Is knowledgeable about current issues of environmental significance and is concerned about the wellbeing of the planet and engages in sustainable behaviors.
Example of how to engage: Have learners explore how the COVID-19 pandemic, and human responses to the pandemic, could impact environmental and sustainability endeavors.
If you want to learn more about how to teach social responsibility, a Pearson colleague discusses it in detail in this webinar.
By taking time to teach socially responsible thinking and decision-making, you’re also helping your students develop a life skill that will help them navigate challenging situations in the future, whether daily decisions about climate change or even what career path to take.
It is also a skill that is considered to be important for employees to demonstrate. Regarding hiring decisions, 81 percent of employers rated “ethical judgment and decision-making” as very important, but only 30 percent thought recent college graduates were well prepared in this area (this source and more listed here).
For these reasons listed above and more, that’s why we have listed it in our framework for what makes someone employable and are working to embed how to teach social responsibility into our products to enable classroom conversations during normal, less stressful times.
Strolling with her toddler in the suburb of a large city impacted by the pandemic, a professor friend reminisced about ‘normal’ life for herself and her daughter. She missed her days at the college, and for her child, the nurturing day care center. For at both places, they found connections, meaning, and comfort.
My friend longed for her office, her classroom, and the physical presence of her students. She missed the mental challenge of being asked pointed and intelligent questions where she needed to be on top of her academic game to answer. She felt nostalgic for the smell of the library, the sight of the sun shining on her desk and papers in the early morning hours as she reviewed notes for upcoming lectures.
She missed that slight thrill she got just as she rounded the corner going into her classroom. These images were so opposite to her sad thought that the quiet and deserted streets she walked felt like the end of the world, and she was surprised that it had ended so quietly.
If the effects of the pandemic can feel so terminal to a young, gifted academic with everything in front of her, what must our students who are suddenly forced into online learning environments feel?
We once stood in front of them, guaranteeing the protection of freedom of expression, if respect to all was upheld in our classes. We built a sacred space, created by mutual respect, open mindedness, and acceptance. Classrooms were a safe place to be vulnerable enough to listen to new information, consider it and expand the size of our boxes.
Students had their own sacred spaces too: at the coffee shop to share class notes and ideas, or at a study group in library meeting rooms. Our students are emotionally invested in the places they learn. This ‘new world’ of higher education during a pandemic is very unlike what they imagined college life to be.
While their teachers work heroically to provide virtual course content, the students miss the sensual stimulation of smells, sounds, and the touch of a physical environment. Many of us are missing that emotional connection to those physical places and the people there. While we professors are experienced enough to grasp the magnitude of this event and anticipate a hopeful new normal, our students often lack the life experience to rise above feelings of permanent loss.
Our students may be dealing with family members sharing increasingly cramped quarters, challenged with internet connectivity, stressed from reduced incomes, and isolated from friends. They’re now exclusively using mobile devices or computers to continue expensive investments in college.
These feelings of loss and helplessness are things that we can help reduce. Here are some suggestions from college professors and online sources to decrease the distance between our students and create virtual sacred spaces to help them reconnect with us in new, potentially more intimate and meaningful ways.
Email your students often
Reach out about more than content instructions. Tell them you understand how stressful lives have become and that you are there for support, not to add stress.
Your learning management system lets you send videos through email. At least once a week, I send a video message to my students, sharing my own challenges and telling them how proud I am of their persistence and grit. It doesn’t matter that I haven’t had a haircut for more than a month, or that my husband may forget and walk behind my camera.
In fact, my students have shared how much they appreciate “being in my home with me.” Now, as if never before, it is important to find ways to emotionally connect with others through these virtual social interactions.
And, while we can’t offer smell-a-vison, or taste TV, we can provide a more relaxed communication channel with our students to help them know we are real and very much invested in their success.
Now isn’t the time to be punitive or judgmental. While assessing performance requires that we judge the progress students are making, we need to rethink how we do it. Are we assessing progress towards mastery, or penalizing for missing deadlines, or not adhering to classroom policies, which may not even apply in a virtual classroom?
Assignment deadlines may become low priority in a home where young children need access to the only home computer to finish their homework, and the lack of income means a lack of food in the home. While some of us complain about the “COVID 15” pounds we are gaining, many of our students are struggling to find enough to eat.
Relaxed due dates have been received by my students with immense gratitude. They tell me know how much it has meant to them to know I really want them to succeed.
Being supportive does not mean throwing rigor out the window. It does require careful evaluation, sometimes on a case-by-case basis, of the emotional and physical needs of our students in context of the crisis and realistic expectations of academic standards.
Many are concerned about online cheating. Consider this instead: what is the desired learning outcome, and can it be assessed in a different manner other than typical high stakes exams? Can you assess your student’s mastery with an essay or open-book timed exam? Might a group project offer a final evaluation of the course content?
Be a positive influencer
Use language that lets your students know you are expecting a new normal. While education as we’ve known it has changed, it can be better. Remind students of their advantage of their social media proficiency. Ask for their input on ways for your classes to be virtually connected.
I’ve learned about super useful free conferencing tools from students who’ve been group gaming with them for years. Who knew? Give them the lead and let them show you how creative they can be. You will help them focus on what they can do increasing their self-efficacy.
You need to be on your game for resource referral. Where can your students find WIFI? Computers? Tutoring? Counseling? Many of your colleges already have policies and solutions to these questions.
For example, our college is creating a parking area where students can stay in their cars and gypsy off the college wireless internet to complete assignments. Drive-in WIFI! And, Student Services offers virtual counseling sessions at no cost to our students.
Many internet providers are offering home service at no cost during the pandemic, and some colleges are loaning laptops to students to finish their college terms online. There are many new and innovative solutions being created on the fly to help students.
If you need ideas, just Google the need; you’ll be surprised to discover the commitment and innovation of educators and professionals nationwide.
Some may be asking, “How can I afford a new digital tool when I already paid for a book?” Pearson is working hard to provide students with access to digital learning environments at no cost while they adjust to a new normal of distance learning.
Please remember, you are also essential workers and first line protectors. You can create new sacred learning spaces for your students, and discover your own well of creativity and innovation. Write to them, support them, be flexible with rigor and show compassion tempered with the desire for them to learn. Be a voice of hope for their futures. Need some inspiration? Give this shout out to your students to encourage self-care. Feel free to borrow:
We’re all in this together. I want you to know I care about more than just your grade in this class. I care about how each of you are navigating these strange days and new ways. I want to take a minute to offer some tips for taking care of yourselves.
According to the CDC, you may feel any or all of the following symptoms of stress during this pandemic:
Changes in the way you sleep (more or less than usual)
A hard time concentrating
Intense moments of fear over your health and the health of those you love
Changes to your existing chronic health conditions (asthma, high blood pressure, etc.)
Desire to escape through alcohol or other drugs
You may have added stress by setting a few high and unrealistic goals during what may feel like an extended vacation. These might include:
Lose 20 pounds
Learn a new language
Make straight A’s
Become the model student, wife, husband, parent, child, (fill in the blank)
Write a novel
Read the top 20 books recommended by professors nation-wide (one I make every summer and break)
You might want to lower the bar on some of these. This is not your spring break. And it is not the best time to fail to reach goals you have set. You need to feel good about yourself, not set the stage for failure and frustration.
But you do need to have goals that are attainable and measurable to help boost your mood when things are tough. If you’re still lying on the couch after crawling out of bed at noon and eating chips and salsa for breakfast it’s time to expect a little more out of your days. Self-awareness and self-efficacy are some of the most important factors in happy, successful people.
To develop your self-efficacy, try setting challenges for your day like:
Stay in school and finish the term (even if it means you are not the star student you were 6 weeks ago). Finish! It’s good for your brain.
Talk with me about problems you are encountering with this new online learning.
Tell me what you need in order to pass the course and we’ll find a solution together.
Set a realistic calendar that you can adhere to in order to finish the work needed.
Set your day with gratitude. (I know it sounds corny, but it really, really works.)
Eat healthy (I didn’t say diet, but you can do better than chips and salsa three times a day.)
Stay connected to your peers (you’re a master at this already but keep it up)!
Exercise (doing a Jazzercize class on YouTube with those in your home or virtually with friends may provide your laughs for the day.)
Laugh a lot. (Turn on any movie that makes you roll on the floor even if you watch it every day).
Turn off the news except for quick catchups. (There were many people who gave themselves post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following 9/11 watching news 24 hours a day.)
Wherever you find comfort and hope, stay in that quadrant at least once a day with purpose. (You might meditate, pray, read the writings of your religious faith, or just uplifting authors who motivate for the good).
Get outside of yourself. Do something every day for someone else. Do it deliberately. (You might call someone you know is alone or make some masks for friends or front line workers, do a chore for someone else in your house as a surprise. It’s amazing how much we get when we give just a little.)
Seek online counseling services if you feel drawn to damaging behaviors. There are so many excellent resources for this. If you need help finding a resource, please let me know and I’ll be happy to share.
I will close as I began. You are not alone. We are in this together. I know we will get to the other side and we will have discovered so much about the depth of our strengths, creativity, persistence, and compassion.
When the COVID-19 pandemic forced colleges and universities to move to remote learning environments, many universities lacked preexisting contingency plans or infrastructures for running not just some of their classes but all of them online. Suddenly, many professors were working on short notice to implement online course management tools and facing numerous logistical hurdles along the way.
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
Do graduating seniors and incoming college freshmen know what career path they should choose, and do they have the necessary skills to be successful? Many educators and employers agree this is an area where students could use more resources.
Pearson Career Success (PCS), an online preparation platform, provides access to a roadmap that helps students explore and understand where they want to go, how they’re going to get there, and what they need to do to stand out from the crowd. Instruction and learning experiences are also provided to help students acquire the skills and capabilities they need to be successful.
PCS provides the bridge between academic readiness and career readiness. Academic Success Modules such as Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Test Taking Skills give students opportunities to engage in learning and scenarios to apply the necessary skills for success. Educators can choose curriculum relevant modules for students to work on.
Also, PCS provides Career Success Modules such as Building an Academic Plan, a Career Portfolio, and developing networking skills. Guided instruction and practice equip students with real life skills necessary to be successful in a chosen career. The modules are not just assignments, but self-discovery tools provided to students as they mature through their academic journey.
Pearson is committed to understanding and identifying the needs of employers hiring new college graduates, and serving the needs of institutions preparing students for college or the workforce. The broad suite of assessments and instructions within the PCS platform is built upon decades of cumulative research by prominent leaders in this field.
Finally, PCS provides state-of-the-art coaching and tools for “presenting” themselves to employers as desirable employees. Engaging students in opportunities to develop career readiness skills can assist them in career success for life.
The recent disruption to education extends well beyond those trying to keep up with normal coursework. Senior year has also been interrupted for thousands of students whose focus has shifted toward internships, career preparation, and employment. With campuses and career centers closed across the country, online tutoring is a valuable tool to support all students as they prepare for the end of the term.
Improving engagement with targeted help
Once education transitioned to full-time virtual environments, many students lost the face-to-face interactions that made up the core of their classroom support. Online tutoring can provide the help students need, right when they need it, helping to avoid the possibility of them giving up when they hit a roadblock. And these one-on-one sessions can bolster a student’s confidence, giving them more freedom to ask questions and delve into discussion that they might never approach in a full-class setting.
In addition, Smarthinking can help faculty identify at-risk students using alerts and session mapping to drill down to specific concepts where they’re seeking assistance. Instructors can see whether students are keeping pace with course requirements, and recommend supplemental help from an online tutor to get them back on track.
Helping students prep for careers
For this year’s seniors, going virtual is affecting much more than just classes. Many who were in the midst of completing career programs and solidifying internships when career centers and university-provided services closed down are left asking, “Now what?”
The spring term is always a busy time for those in programs focused on preparing for the workforce. Smarthinking online tutors have emerged as a go-to resource for live interview coaching and assistance honing presentation skills. In fact, for those students who may be introverts or just plain nervous to get up in front of a classroom, an audience of one can be a much more comfortable environment in which to practice these skills than a class full of their peers.
Resume and career writing help is also in high demand among this year’s graduates. Smarthinking supports students with 24/7 resume and cover letter help, personal branding consultation, and business writing reviews. Tutors are trained and monitored to ensure they do not proofread or edit student papers; instead, their writing review centers on leading students to a broader comprehension of the fundamentals of writing (both higher-order issues as well as lower-order skills) and key strategies for revision.
“Employers and recruiters in 2020 are looking beyond applicants who simply have the required educational experience. Employers want new hires who can think creatively and who are fluid in the use of technology and adept at writing well. Smarthinking tutors can help students develop effective career materials for this new world of work, whether that be a strategically-focused cover letter or eye-catching details to polish a LinkedIn profile.” — Michael Goodfellow, Sr. Lead Writing Tutor
How else can online tutoring support your virtual classroom?
Get the infographic and explore three other ways online tutoring can empower your students to succeed, no matter where they are.
Why is effective practice an important part of the online learning process?
In this module, teachers explore a variety of strategies to implement meaningful and effective practice that provides students with opportunities to learn through reteaching, and opportunities to demonstrate learning without negative consequences.
Barr, Corbett. “Deliberate Practice: What It Is and Why You Need It.” Expert Enough. Expert Enough, n.d.
Block, Joshua. “Designing Learning That Matters.” Edutopia. George Lucas Educational Foundation, 20 Oct. 2015.
Block, Joshua. “Embracing Messy Learning.” Edutopia. George Lucas Educational Foundation, 07 Jan. 2014.
Everding, Gerry. “Students Learn More If They’ll Need to Teach Others.” Futurity. Washington University in St. Louis, 12 Aug. 2014.
Lenz, Bob. “Failure Is Essential to Learning.” Edutopia. George Lucas Educational Foundation, 08 Apr. 2015.
Marzano, Robert J. “Art and Science of Teaching / Reviving Reteaching.” Educational Leadership: Interventions That Work: Reviving Reteaching. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, Oct. 2010.
Thomas, Alice. “Understanding The Learning Process To Effectively Differentiate Instruction. “Center for Development and Learning. N.p., 26 Oct. 2010.
As educators, we know what student engagement looks like in the classroom. Students are focused on their work in front of them, they are collaborating with their peers, they are asking good questions, creativity is flowing… But now that things have moved online, what does engagement look like? Let’s start by asking ourselves what makes something engaging, and then explore some tools we can use in a digital classroom.
What makes something engaging?
A lot of research has been done around student engagement. Primarily, engagement revolves around student ownership of the material being presented. I know what you’re thinking. “I have a curriculum with standards I have to follow! There’s no room for student choice!” While you may be partially right, there are places in every course that allow for more student choice and input.
In an informal survey of my students, the feedback regarding what makes a class engaging is varied; however, there are a lot of commonalities. Students want to be able to pursue their own interests, feel heard and included, and know that they are supported when taking risks. They want teachers who are not too strict but are fair in their handling of the classroom. Even when the material doesn’t resonate with a student’s interest, teacher enthusiasm can change a mundane course into a potential major.
Daniel Pink, the author of the book Drive1, states that three conditions need to be met to trigger engagement.
Autonomy: Give students choice to work on a project that relates to the curriculum but is also interesting on a personal level for the student.
Mastery: The task itself can’t be too challenging or too easy. One creates frustration and the other boredom. The task should be somewhere in what is commonly referred to as the “Goldilocks Zone,” where the difficulty is just right for the learner.
Purpose: The student has to be able to link what they are doing to the wider world. Why should they know what you are teaching? Make the material relevant and you will get more student buy-in.
Instructional methods to increase engagement
Now that we know what student engagement looks like, let’s look at a few instructional methods that can improve our curriculum and retention. While creating your course, don’t worry about including all these options. Just choose a few to start and then ask for student feedback regarding what they liked and what they want to see changed next time.
In each lab report I assign, I ask that students relate the concept or technique to a real-world example. The identification of an unknown salt would be helpful in cases with contaminated water and is a critical skill to master. Here is an example of a student response from a lab where they determined the density of an element by graphical interpolation.
Example “Although this particular lab did not yield extremely accurate results, there are still definite real-world applications for using interpolation, such as to find the density or other measurable qualities of elements. It would be especially useful for finding properties (such as density) of the man-made elements which have too short of a half-life to be effectively examined or measured for mass and volume.”
Project-based learning (PBL) is where students complete a long-term assignment to solve a problem or answer a question. For more information about PBL, click here.
In my lab class, I try to make this an authentic question that students will need to make a recommendation on. As shown in the example to the left, here is the introduction to a basic percent composition of a mixture lab.
Example We are Minuteman Wallboard Co. and we have a severe problem. As you know, the inside layer of wallboard is made from magnesium sulfate heptahydrate. Our feeder company inadvertently gave us an unknown amount of calcium sulfate dihydrate in one of its shipments and this was mixed in with the magnesium sulfate heptahydrate before processing it.
Our advisory board has said that there is no reaction between the two compounds, however if the wallboard has 15% by mass or greater of calcium sulfate dihydrate in the initial mix before processing, the strength and durability of the wallboard will be compromised.
We have already made over $450,000 worth of wallboard stock from this suspected material. We do not want to give this to any of our retailers until we know if the mix had less than 15.0% by mass of calcium sulfate dihydrate. We are supplying you with a sample of the original mix before processing and would appreciate it if your company will help us solve our problem.
Many students are learning virtually for the first time, which means they’ll need to find new ways to get additional help outside of regular lessons, like online tutoring. Students often think that since a tutor isn’t the professor, they won’t be able to help with understanding course materials. And as an instructor, maybe you’ve had the same thoughts. But the truth is, many online tutors, especially Smarthinking tutors, are experts in their field. They could even be your peers from down the hall. The right online tutors work with you to make sure students are mastering the right skills.
Our tutors are fellow experts
We have more than 1,500 highly qualified, professional tutors and educators, 90% of whom hold a master’s degree or PhD in their discipline of expertise. Plus, our tutors average 12 years of experience working directly with students: they’re expert teachers as well as subject experts. It’s no wonder Smarthinking has served thousands of higher education institutions around the world.
Smarthinking tutors are trained, monitored, and evaluated on their ability to employ a Socratic method to engage students by asking questions, making students show their own work, and encouraging them to demonstrate overall mastery of the concept or problem.
Tutors are available in more than 150 subject areas, at all levels from developmental through graduate and professional school. Plus, we offer ESL-specialist tutoring, including math in Spanish. No matter the course, we’ve got you covered. And since each tutor is an expert in their field, students can get 24×7 help in the subjects they need, even if that means they need math help one day and then chemistry help the next.
Problem-solving strategies that lead to success
Online tutoring asks students to demonstrate mastery of skill after learning in the classroom. With Smarthinking, faculty can easily share assignment goals, writing prompts, and other course details so tutors can contextualize their instructional assistance with learner outcomes in mind.
Online tutors don’t “hand out answers” but instead teach problem-solving strategies so that students learn to engage with content, break down problems, and build the skills to succeed on their own on future assignments. Tutors teach just the way you would.
Online tutoring encourages learners to ask for help when they need it and raises their confidence to do so. In a classroom setting, some students feel shy or don’t ask questions due to peer pressure. One-on-one tutoring takes this out of the equation, making students feel comfortable enough to ask even what they may feel is a silly question.1
“We recognize that students most in need of academic tutoring often find it difficult to ask for help out of shyness or because of a perceived stigma or simply because it’s new and unfamiliar,” Dr. Cheryl Cephus-Vickers of Gadsden State Community College explains. “We also know that students who form a habit early in their college career of accessing resources/services perform better and feel a greater sense of belonging and ownership of their learning. These outcomes lead directly to higher rates of persistence and completion.”2
There even when students can’t take advantage of on-campus help, Smarthinking tutoring extends your resources, improving achievement, completion and graduation rates, and workplace success.
“As a tutor and a writing instructor, I encourage my students to utilize the tutoring services the college offers. I remind my students that we are all facing this tough time together, and that there is absolutely no shame in needing some help completing assignments. I am transparent with my students: I let them know I am an online tutor myself, and just one session can make a difference in their writing.” – Lauren Williams Magaw, Writing Lead Tutor
How else can online tutoring support your virtual classroom?
Get the infographic and explore three other ways online tutoring can empower your students to succeed, no matter where they are.
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.”
In The Road to Dual Enrollment (Part I), I discussed a few of the challenges experienced by dual enrollment programs, including lengthy accreditation processes and access to professional development opportunities. In this blog post, we’ll dive into the obstacles instructors face after they become accredited, including standardization, access, and the affordability of materials. See how online learning resources can help tackle these problems.
Developing a collegiate-level course with minimal resources
After receiving my accreditation and transitioning from high school teacher to dual enrollment instructor for Lee College in Baytown, Texas, I was given a college textbook and a sample syllabus from my department mentor. Within around two weeks I was expected to develop the learning objectives, scope, depth, breadth, and rigor for an entire course, Biology I for Science Majors. The curriculum of this course needed to match the scope and rigor of a collegiate curriculum.
I spent days reading through an entire textbook that I hadn’t previously used in my Advanced Placement® courses and brainstorming appropriate labs for the equipment that I had. I didn’t have a single test, assignment, or lab manual to follow. While my mentor gave me some of his most successful labs, I needed to make sure they didn’t use materials my school didn’t have in stock or couldn’t afford. The scope of the task seemed almost insurmountable.
The impact of online resources
Finally, after making little progress, I reached out to the department chair and department secretary to see what online resources were available. I was provided with an educator account for the associated digital learning platform for my text and was overwhelmed with the quality and quantity of material available to me.
Digital access to platforms such as MyLab™ and Mastering™ are imperative to dual enrollment teachers who are often starting from scratch. The pre-built assignments, test banks, online laboratory simulations, and study modules would have taken years of collaboration and effort to develop. Delivering course materials with such a platform provides instantaneous access to collegiate-level resources.
They also let instructors create coordinator courses. In these instances, college professors can actually create and maintain a set of nested courses for dual enrollment classes at various high schools — pushing the same assignments, tests, and content from the college to the high schools.
Digital learning platforms address affordability
30% of respondents to our surveys at the national and regional NACEP conferences indicated that funding and affordability of materials is one of their greatest program pain points. An additional benefit to using online learning platforms is the affordability for the high school partners.
During my first years as an instructor for Lee College, I would drive 50 minutes each way after school to run student samples on equipment such as PCR machines or high-speed centrifuges because my high school couldn’t afford the $10,000 investment for this equipment. But if a high school has access to the laboratory simulations found in Mastering Biology, they can provide engaging, application-based experiences that can replace thousands of dollars of equipment.
Online learning platforms also provide additional affordability through eTexts. These platforms often contain eTexts so students can avoid the separate cost of purchasing a print textbook.
We’ll continue to explore additional challenges faced by dual enrollment programs in subsequent blogs. Read part I of this blog series and stay tuned for future posts centered around high school student readiness and preparation tools for college courses.
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.”
Today’s students are digital natives, so whether they‘re face-to-face with tutors online or in-person, they’re savvy at getting the help they need. So, support their success with online tutoring. Data shows that online tutoring can help increase student confidence, engagement, and outcomes.
Tear down the roadblocks to engagement
As a student, getting stuck on a concept or problem and not knowing how to move forward can feel like coming up against a brick wall — and no one likes running into a brick wall. Lend students a hand by helping them overcome their learning obstacles. With online tutoring students can get help when and where they need it, rather than giving up in frustration. Online tutoring services, like Smarthinking, let students access live and asynchronous tutoring help at the point of need, so students can get immediate support to overcome academic roadblocks and continue on their learning paths.
A bird’s eye view for precise instruction
Don’t guess at what your students are struggling with when you have the data to guide you. Smarthinking “Taxonomy Reports” highlight the specific concepts that students have sought help for in their classes. This information is categorized and logged by Smarthinking tutors after each tutoring session so instructors can easily pinpoint what their students are having trouble understanding. Instructors know what students are struggling with before exams and can address the issues beforehand. The data and reports can also help instructors plan their programs, curriculums, and activities better.
Early intervention to stop problems at their roots
It’s not always easy to see when a student needs additional academic intervention, but Smarthinking Alerts can help. These alerts were designed to flag students who may be at risk. After a tutoring session, tutors can record alerts that will then display in the reporting dashboard. Instructors and administrators can clearly see sessions that were flagged and find out the exact issues the student is struggling with. This lets instructors respond quickly to emerging issues and improve learning outcomes.
Success and satisfaction with Smarthinking
The vast majority of students who use Smarthinking tutoring services would recommend them to a friend. We’ve also repeatedly shown significant improvements in key student success metrics such as course completion. Here are some of our results from recent studies:
83% of students indicated they had more confidence in their academic skills after working with Smarthinking tutors
100% of students surveyed said they intended to keep using Smarthinking tutoring services
Students enrolled in a pilot program with Smarthinking online writing tutors were 8x more likely to complete courses than non-users
“As each of us learns to manage our time and responsibilities in this ever-changing world, it’s important that we use all the resources available. The LMS offers a variety of tools to make virtual learning engaging and flexible, a win-win for both students and ourselves. The LMS also offers many resources for faculty by providing the tools to manage the class virtually, such as checklists, various communication options, and ease of grading.” — Kathy Adams McIntosh, Business Tutoring Coordinator
How else can online tutoring support your virtual classroom?
Get the infographic and explore three other ways online tutoring can empower your students to succeed, no matter where they are.
“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.
Like many others, you’re going through the experience of having your home become your office and classroom. Your students are facing just as much — if not more — of an abrupt transition. That’s why it’s important to talk to them about getting the course support they need during this disruption to their education. In addition, learning to seek out support is a valuable skill in and of itself, and can help students succeed in both college and their careers.
Searching for a new normal
Since mid-March, service providers and instructors around the world have been in emergency mode, establishing workable course delivery and an educational presence online for all classes in response to the coronavirus.
Now that we’re solidly in the midst of this large-scale transition to remote teaching and learning, we’re looking ahead in search of a new normal. Summer and fall sessions seem likely to introduce an entirely new set of considerations rather than a return to the educational practices we were recently forced to abandon. Quite apart from merely delivering courses online, schools must be ready to provide a quick transition to online courses that offer reliable course navigation, equitable access, support for learners with disabilities, and academic integrity.
The one constant is that students will need support as education, by necessity, becomes increasingly nimble and remote. We only need to look back 15 years for a parallel of our current challenge.
The lessons we’ve learned
In 2005, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, approximately 100,000 students were displaced from their colleges and universities. Many never returned to their campuses. Today we’re facing the same type of disruption, albeit on a much grander scale.
Andre Perry, fellow at the Brookings Institution, was a professor at the University of New Orleans during Katrina. He urges repeated, proactive contact with students — especially in the early stages of such a disruption to their education — and stresses the obligation of faculty to maintain the student-teacher connection.
Research shows that a key role in students’ retention is their relationships with professors. Perry fears that if those relationships weaken or lapse during this disruption, “we may collectively lose thousands of students across the country.”
One valuable tip for supporting students during a transition to remote learning is that educators provide an asynchronous approach to classes. While the routine of a regularly scheduled class might seem to offer consistency and a semblance of normalcy for learners, there are clear challenges. Many have work and/or family obligations, inadequate technology and internet access, and time zone considerations that put them at a disadvantage.
For schools that require a synchronous approach, educators should accommodate students who can’t join the session as scheduled. Recorded lectures are recommended so that they have the same opportunity to listen, and then participate in discussion in the classes they can attend.
According to Christopher Heard, director of the Center for Teaching Excellence at Pepperdine University, “The key is to keep students feeling like a class, rather than scattered individuals.”
“Although challenging, it’s important that students don’t see this period as a gap in their education or as an impossible obstacle in their studies. Pearson employees and Smarthinking tutors are familiar with using technology to support students digitally, and they’re willing and able to help students who may find the new, online-only environment challenging or intimidating.” — Michael Goodfellow, Sr. Lead Writing Tutor
How else can online tutoring support your virtual classroom?
Get the infographic and explore three other ways online tutoring can empower your students to succeed, no matter where they are.
How can teachers engage students in online learning?
In this module, teachers explore a variety of strategies to motivate and engage students in their learning. Activities include tips for fostering academic ownership, providing relevant and meaningful feedback, and other student engagement strategies, such as:
Alternative ending: Create alternate endings to literature using digital storytelling software or website tools. Share endings by sending participants to the website.
Come in character: Turn on your Webcam and talk to your students as a character. Make it humorous with a funny pair of glasses, hat, or an accent. Make it related to your content area by dressing as a particular character or historical figure.
Picture of the day: Prior to the session, students can submit a favorite photo or drawing. Choose one to share at the beginning of the session.
I’ve been working remotely for almost six years, so I have some sense of what it generally takes to be successful working from home. But then the social distancing orders went into place in March. Now, I’ve gone from focusing on work, alone, in my home office, to sharing my workspace with my wife (who has started working from home too), while we provide around-the-clock primary care for our two young children. Working from home has become less about working and more about home.
Recent surveys from Pearson indicate that others are experiencing challenges as well. In March, 81% of Americans agreed that remote work is just as good as office work, but that number is down 16 percentage points in the April survey. Satisfaction levels have also gone down as the pandemic stretches on: in March 93% reported being satisfied with their work from home experience, but that dropped to 82% reporting satisfaction in April.
In my state the shelter-in-place restrictions aren’t likely to be lifted any time soon. Since I’m a researcher, I’ve turned to the body of evidence for motivation and self-management for advice on how to get through this.
Here are five tips for how to stay motivated when working remotely based on that research and my own experiences.
1. Update your mindset
Many of us are trying to juggle two full-time jobs at the same time: caring for and being a teacher to our children while also doing the job that pays the bills. But you can not physically do both at the same time. Repeat that to yourself if you need to (I know I have!).
As such, I’ve had to reset my expectations so I’m not setting myself up for failure. My recommendation is that you try to be realistic in order to keep from getting demoralized. These are difficult times and you can not be as productive as before.
2. Set realistic goals
Now that you’ve updated your mindset, write down what is most important for you at home and for work. This will help you not only prioritize your work when time is limited, but also enable you to be satisfied that you’re still focusing on what matters. Then celebrate the small wins to help you stay motivated.
For example, I’ve become less worried about how much time my kids are spending with the tablet, and been explicit to myself that my goal is for my children to be healthy, safe, and as happy as they can be right now. And, I’ve talked with my boss to prioritize projects and push out some deadlines.
3. Create a new routine
Working from home gives you more flexibility than ever before. However, this freedom can be a double-edged sword. Work can bleed into family time and vice versa.
To counteract this, I’ve established some habits to help me transition from “morning with the kids” to “working day.” In particular, I’ll go and get changed, make myself a cup of coffee, bring it to my desk, and start on whatever task I told myself I’d pick up first thing the next day. In addition, my wife and I split up days so we can each make sure to carve out enough time to get our jobs done.
I recommend keeping to a healthy routine, blocking off working hours (as much as you can), and maintaining a dedicated “work zone” in your home, even if it is temporary, to stay focused.
4. Help yourself stay on track
To make the most of the time you have, it can help to get specific about how you will deal with obstacles in your way. Spend some time thinking about things that might make it difficult to stick to your goals, and then come up with some concrete plans for how you will deal with those (e.g., “If I see a notification news story about COVID-19 that I want to read, instead I will turn off notifications for the next hour and go back to working.”)
Planning these “if → then” kinds of rules ahead of time has been found to be really effective for helping people stick to their goals.
5. Stay connected
Working from home can often feel isolating and motivation can easily wane, so efforts to feel like part of a community at work can help. Turn your camera on during meetings. And, make an effort to recreate that watercooler talk via chat or by scheduling catch ups with your colleagues. Everyone who I’ve talked with has been in a similar challenging situation and it has made me feel better that I’m not alone.
I also really look forward to virtual calls with family and friends. Knowing that I have a happy hour with my favorite people coming up has made getting through the day a little less painful.
In the same surveys I mentioned earlier, in April, 65% of Americans say they intend to continue to work remotely after the pandemic subsides. If you do continue to work from home, I can tell you it will get easier when life returns to normal!
If you’ve ever watched the DIY Network on television, Kayleen McCabe’s is a face you may recognize.
She is the host and star of “Rescue Renovation,” a show that helps homeowners who are in over their heads. Renovation projects turn from disastrous “befores” into jaw-dropping “afters.”
When Kayleen is not in front of the camera, she’s traveling the country telling students the story of how her long-time construction hobby turned into a successful career.
Growing up different
“As a little girl, I was always building stuff with my hands,” Kayleen says.
“My dad was a welder by trade, so I learned a lot of what I know from him.”
“We did repairs around the house, built fences, and worked on cars together.”
“I didn’t realize how unique that was until high school,” Kayleen says.
Kayleen says most of her classmates had no idea what they wanted to do after graduation.
Kayleen was different.
“I knew, even then, that I wanted to work in the construction trades,” she says.
Trusting her instincts
Although knew she wanted a career in construction, Kayleen didn’t enroll in trade school after high school.
“I made good grades,” she says, “and I felt pressure to do what the other ‘good students’ did: go to college.”
One year and two schools (Red Rocks Community College and Colorado State University) later, Kayleen called her parents with some news that ultimately wasn’t a surprise to them: college wasn’t for her.
“I could’ve saved a lot of tuition money by following that instinct earlier,” Kayleen says.
“I am so grateful that when I eventually did, my parents were supportive.”
The first foray into television
Shortly after graduating from high school, Kayleen says, her cousin called her with a proposition.
“She was a producer on the TV show ‘Trading Spaces.’”
“She knew I liked working with my hands, and she said she could help me get a production assistant job.”
From her very first day on the set, Kayleen says she was hooked.
“I would bounce of out of bed at 5 am, vibrating with excitement about whatever we got to build next.”
“It was the first time I fell in love.”
The mentor of all mentors
On the set of “Trading Spaces,” Kayleen met a master craftsman named Frank.
“He was this grumpy-looking older guy with a big bushy mustache that was permanently stained from tobacco,” Kayleen says.
“But he taught me more than I could ever explain.”
“I could ask him anything, and he encouraged me to learn, to try, and most importantly, to fail,” Kayleen says.
“Being in an environment where I felt so safe to do that was the best gift I ever received.”
“Learning the way that I did—on the job—was more of an education than I could ever have gotten from going to college.”
“Rescue Renovation” is currently in its fifth season on TV.
Kayleen says she is immensely grateful for her continued success—especially in a field that is traditionally dominated by men.
“When the show first started, I was one of the only female hosts on our channel—or any other one.”
“It’s different now, and I cannot wait for that to keep changing.”
When she travels for her show, Kayleen says, she is often able to help drive that change.
“I like to leverage a plane ticket as much as possible.”
“I’ll find out what schools are close to the airport and call them up. I say, ‘Hi, I’m a woman in the trades, can I come talk to your kids about career opportunities in my field?’”
“To the best of my ability,” Kayleen says, “I will continue to leverage what fame I’ve garnered to help recruit more and more young women into the construction trades.”
Connecting with audiences on smaller screens, too
In her spare time, Kayleen produces short, instructional videos for her followers and fans. She hosts them on her personal web page.
Topics range from cabinet building, to clamps and fasteners, to drill skills.
“I want to get them into the hands of middle and high school teachers so they can show their kids what working in the trades is really like.”
“Growing up, my teachers had nothing like that. In terms of recruitment, I think it could be game-changing.”
Something to strive for
Kayleen says she is constantly thinking about the future—for herself and for construction trades overall.
“I want to double the number of students I talk to every year … until that becomes impossible.”
Already this year, Kayleen has made incredible progress towards her goal. She has trips planned to Indiana, Ontario, Nebraska, Arizona, Kentucky, Nevada, Abu Dhabi, and Mississippi—all in the next few months.
“Someday, I hope I am able to travel full-time, speaking to students and giving them scholarships to study the trades.”
“I want to be the Bill Gates of power tools,” Kayleen says.
What role does building a community of learners play in the learning process?
In this module, teachers explore how to create a welcoming online learning environment that fosters personalized learning and communication to create a sense of community.
Activities include how teachers can develop teacher-student and student-student relationships, along with strategies for building connections both synchronously and asynchronously within an online learning environment.
Bibliography “Culture of Learning.” Learning and the Adolescent Mind. The Charles A. Dana Center at the University of Texas as Austin and Agile Mind, Inc.
Garrett, Amy, Aimee Whiteside, and Somer Lewis. “Get Present: Build Community and Connectedness Online.” Learning & Leading with Technology 40.2 (2012): 22-25.
Martin, Florence, and Michele A. Parker. “Use on Synchronous Virtual Classrooms: Why, Who, and How?” MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching 10.2 (2014): 192-210.
Premuzic, Tomas. “What Your Email Style Reveals About Your Personality.” Fast Company. Fast Company, 06 June 2014.
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.”
Are you having to transition teaching your traditional face-to-face summer class to an online environment? This can be a daunting task with a full 16-week semester, let alone for a super short 5-week mini-mester! Compound that with the fact that you may not have taught online previously, and this could easily intimidate even the most seasoned instructor. Have no fear! Many have traversed this path before you and come out successful—you can, too!
Summer courses are short, rigorous, but can be very rewarding for both you and the student when taught with a few best practices in mind. For instance, they usually have smaller enrollments meaning less to grade for you (YAY!), but that means more rapid feedback for them since you can get your grading done more quickly. The smaller class size allows you to have more frequent interactions with each student thereby giving them the support they need to be more successful. Plus, most summer students are highly motivated and typically are only taking one or two classes at a time. This means they are going to be dedicated to learning your material.
There are a few guiding principles you can utilize to help you as you work to design your summer online course. First, let’s do a brief overview on “how” you will be teaching, then we will address the “what” to teach online in more detail.
When designing online courses, you should always start by talking to your institution, or search their website, for information about any specific requirements they have for teaching online courses. Then, by answering these few questions, you’ll be well on your way to success as you design and implement your online course.
Now, onto the teaching of online courses. Once you’ve ascertained how you are going to teach your course online, now you need to figure out the what, as in “what am I going to teach?” There are four guiding principles as you try to determine what exactly you are going to teach in your summer course.
If you’ve only taught 16-week courses, trying to fit all of that material into a 5-week course is like trying to fit ten pounds of candy into a five-pound bag. You need to prioritize the “have to knows” from the “good to knows.” Think about this, what information do your students really need from your course to be successful in their career years down the road? Assess your required Learning Outcomes and determine the essentials that must be taught in order for you to meet those objectives.
These essential Learning Outcomes should then be clearly communicated to your students in the very beginning of the course. The students should know what they are working towards learning, and what it is they will be assessed on throughout the length of the course. Refer back to them as you progress through the course, helping students realize that these are the foundational skills they’ll need to apply your course materials to their careers.
Now that you’ve decided the specific topics you will be covering in your summer course, it’s time to organize it in a logical flow that teaches your objectives in a scaffolded manner. In other words, make sure the prerequisite/foundational knowledge and skills are reviewed/taught early in the course, and then build upon these as you address your Learning Objectives. You can’t teach a student to solve for “x” in the equation x + 4 = 6 if they haven’t yet learned how to add and subtract. Don’t be afraid to skip around chapters, especially in the summer, to help create a more logical flow for this shortened semester!
While contemplating how best to design the flow of your course to meet your Learning Outcomes, keep in mind, this is a fast-paced course. Again, reiterating the importance of focusing on what you need to teach, extraneous information should be cut from your teachings. You may also want to consider relating much of what you teach to real-world situations. This will convey the importance of what you’re teaching and make it more memorable to the students at the same time.
How do you design your assignments for this short course now that you’ve figured out what you are teaching? Easy! Take what you’ve been doing for your 16-week course, shorten the assignments, and give them more frequently. Your students are already going to be studying, rewriting notes, practicing, and reading – you don’t want to give them homework assignments that take 2 – 3 hours on top of all of that. If you can, break the assignments into bite-sized chunks that take no more than 30 – 45 minutes to complete (or less), and give them a few assignments per week. These will be easier to digest for your students and will also help them retain the importance of the material. You may even offer more flexible due dates in this summer course than you would in your 16-weeks.
Consider using the discussion forums discussed in the How to Prepare for Online Teaching blog. These can be short but powerful assignments. If you’re having the students write papers for your course, consider shortening the length of the paper, or the number of papers they have to submit, and focus more on the content you’re having them address. Lastly, really give thought to group projects as well. Sometimes students learn more from each other than they do from us.
These 5-week classes are not only tough to plan out and teach, but they are a heavy lift for the students as they try to learn this material in a compressed time frame. Try offering an extra level of support for these students you don’t normally give your 16-week classes. If you are doing live virtual class sessions (or even pre-recorded videos), consider providing them with copies of the slides or the notes you use while teaching. Set up extra virtual office hours for them to pop in and ask you questions. Create practice quizzes or tests for them to use as study guides, or even provide them with a more detailed study guide than you usually hand out.
By following the guiding principles for how to teach online and what to teach in summer courses, it will set both you and your students up for success. These principles will put you on track to create an effective, efficient, and enjoyable online summer course. Bottom line, these summer students will work diligently, but they will work even harder if they know you’re really trying to help them be more successful in such a short, intensive course!
Technology has really changed the way we teach. It doesn’t seem that long ago that my classes brought their paperback workbooks to class; they tore out review pages and turned them in for grading. They brought notebooks to take notes in, and we gave paper/pencil tests. Now? They can use e-books on a tablet. They access assignments on their phones. Course materials can be available with one click, anytime, anywhere.
But those changes don’t all happen overnight. They take time and preparation. And sometimes that’s not a luxury we have. We might have catastrophic weather or a pandemic or some other event that closes the school for a while. Every course needs an online presence. And it needs to happen now.
So where do we start? Let’s assume our primary goal is to deliver some assessments online while the campus is closed. You may have existing question banks you can use. Or, you may have texts with materials like TestGen available.
If that’s the case, you’ll need to download TestGen software if you want to make a paper/pencil test and then export it to your Learning Management System (LMS). You then need to download the question banks at Pearson’s Higher Ed site to build your library of questions. You may already have these from your existing tests. (By the way, if you want to export a TestGen test to your LMS, be careful to export it in the correct format. You typically need to look at the Blackboard export option.)
You may find it easier to access the TestGen question bank files from Pearson’s website and upload them directly to the Learning Management System. You will need to search by your text to see if files are available. You might need to use an older edition if the new one is not available or use a similar text if you need more variety of questions. Again, note that TestGen question banks are not necessarily available for every text.
Once you have identified the question banks, download them, and then use the LMS to upload the question banks. Here are links you can use to learn more about the process for your specific LMS.
After you have those loaded in your LMS, you can then create quizzes/tests. Your LMS administrator on campus has training materials for how to do this, and you can also find extensive instructor resources for each LMS online.
As you design your quizzes/tests, keep in mind things like pooling questions to provide variety. You might also be able to scramble the question order. Allow some extra time on tests so students are able to navigate the technology and still have time for the test itself.
In addition, you may want to have a “mini test” for students to practice with, especially if you require them to use Respondus or Proctor U or Honor Lock or a similar tool. You can learn more about the technology tools your school has by checking with your LMS administrator.
When teaching a science class, we often use experiences in the lab to foster critical thinking skills and reinforce the concepts we introduce in lectures. But with campuses closed, students cannot access the lab.
So what do you do? Is it better to forget about labs at all, or is there value in online or hands-on at home methods? This is what one study published by the Journal of Formative Design in Learning tells us.
Don’t ditch labs
Students who take lecture and laboratory concurrently outperform their lecture-only peers, regardless of whether that lab is face-to-face or non-traditional.
Non-traditional labs can be as effective as face-to-face labs
A good non-traditional lab tool can increase test scores, improve students’ attitudes and preparedness for the hands-on lab, and strengthen conceptual knowledge.
In one particular study, the students said the online laboratory experience was the same as or better than their prior experiences in the traditional setting.
Students can access the lab whenever and wherever suits them. Flexibility will be important at the moment, particularly for those suddenly having to care for children.
In an online lab, students can reflect on what went right and what did not go as planned, and then can repeat the experiment as many times as they need.
Virtual chemistry labs can help students visualize structures and processes at the molecular level and allow types of experiments not possible in a standard undergraduate laboratory—e.g., quantum chemistry.
Examples of online labs
Online labs can range from simple videos and games, to graphing and 2D simulations, to interactive 3D virtual reality experiences. Simulations, as mathematical models of processes in the physical world, allow users to manipulate parameters and can be used by faculty to customize laboratories in various disciplines. Some examples include:
Hands-on kits available from various vendors can provide students with practice of experiments, and manufacturers usually assume liability. One example is Chemistry LabPaqs from Hands on Labs (http://holscience.com/)
A good tool should have
Software that is easy to install, user-friendly, and intuitive, yet challenging.
Experiences similar to the traditional laboratory.
Useful sequences for learners that scaffold their use of the system.
Some form of feedback (even if it is just immediate results of labs and simulations).
Help for visualizing and demonstrating concepts and constructs that might otherwise be difficult to observe (depending on exactly what domain it is).
Alignment with the learning objectives across all learning activities.
Clear instructions (even if the task is more open-ended in the lab) and criteria so students know what to focus on.
The ability for students to “experiment” in the environment without penalty.
Digital laboratory manuals that accompany hands-on lab kits must also be user-friendly and intuitive.
Online teaching has gone viral! COVID-19 is causing teachers, who never thought they’d teach this way, to dive right into unchartered territory. Learning how to use technology to deliver content and evaluate students’ mastery of course principles is happening–almost overnight—and often without much guidance for instructors.
Faculty are often working more hours than they can count, trying to quickly ramp up so their students have little disruption in their learning.
Creating online learning environments is daunting, even for seasoned online instructors with weeks of lead time. But now, face-to-face face teachers are under the gun to get these courses up and running pronto. Those teaching in Spring 2020 are under pressures no one ever anticipated.
Add on to that the stress of self-isolation, homeschooling children, and sharing home office spaces with partners and children. Self-care is vital for any caretaker, and right now, it’s vital for teachers too.
This article offers teachers self-care tips to destress and renew so they continue to offer their expertise and talents to their students in these unprecedented times.
Use the Pomodoro method of working. Complete 25 minutes of intense work followed by a 5 minute break. Repeat 3x if needed. Then take a 30 minute break before beginning the cycle again.
Remember, a 40-hour work week included water cooler time or meetings. Four hours of intense work per day is really an ambitious goal. Clearly, sometimes we spend more time and sometimes less, but don’t let working online dominate your entire day.
You need designated down time. Make rules for working hours that suit your most productive times and around other people and duties in your home.
Designate a workspace (even if you have to share). Straighten and clear your work area every day. Try to keep this space only for your online teaching. Leave it when you have completed your work and don’t return “just to check.”
If you have to share a desk or computer with others, create a schedule and a way to remove your tools for work. Try putting your office tools on a cutting board you can take with you when you exit or find a box for your files/papers. This way, you have a portable workstation you can remove to prevent others from disturbing.
3. Teaching support
You are not alone. There are plenty of resources for teaching online, some at no cost. Sites like Pearson’s can provide you with online teaching tips as well as faculty experts to consult about best practices for teaching online.
4. Take care of your students
By now you may realize how time consuming and emotionally draining maintaining an online presence with your students can be. Take these steps to help take care of your students, and yourself!
Remember #1 and don’t feel you must be physically present 24-hours a day because your students may email you at 2 a.m. And while you need to find ways to create a real relationship at a distance with your students, they didn’t have access to you in the classroom beyond their class times and your office hours. The same rules also apply online.
Be clear with your students when you will and will not communicate with them. Defining expectations reduces misunderstandings that can occur when asynchronous communication becomes the rule rather than the exception.
Be cognizant of this crisis and consider bending some rules in your class that made sense before but may become less relevant now. Practice flexibility.
Focus more on collaborative activities between students if possible (shared Google docs or other methods of online collaboration).
Offer students some live time virtual meetings with you.
Create short video messages to your classes showing your willingness to understand how this crisis is impacting their lives.
If you follow the Pomodoro method mentioned above, use the breaks for some type of physical exercise. Intense mental focus is relieved by short bursts of physical activity.
Try using an exercise ball to stretch out your back. Or you jump on that stationary bike or step machine.
Designate off time for physical workouts every day. Being confined in our homes doesn’t mean we can’t work out. Use YouTube for dance workouts (you can do this with anyone in your home or alone).
Take a walk (keeping safe distances). Getting outside, even if it means on the roof of your building, will do wonders for your attitude. Morning sun is particularly important, so try to get some of those early morning rays on the top of your uncovered head.
6. You are what you eat
Eat well, but not deprived. Now may not be the best time to go on that diet, but it is a time to eat well.
Comfort foods like chips and candy aren’t the best mindless munching snacks. Instead, try nuts, fruits, or crunchy veggies. Reserve your “treats” for designated times and make sure to really focus on the enjoyment of that special something (chocolate for many of us).
Eating out is not an option currently, so find ways to get fresh vegetables, fruits, and other groceries in safe ways. There are companies that will deliver fresh veggies and fruits to your door weekly, and many markets are providing curb side pickup or deliveries of preordered items.
This may be the time we all learn to create shopping lists and stick to them, making meal plans, maybe even cooking those recipes we’ve been saving and never trying.
Remember as you plan and eat well, we will all emerge from our cocoons in time; while a few pounds to shed may not be something to worry about, gaining 20 or 30 pounds will decrease your sense of well-being, creating additional stress. So, refer to #5 again!
7. Take care of your feelings
Most of us are overwhelmed by this crisis. Be gentle with yourself if you find you are less patient with others, have times when you just want to be completely alone, feel anxious, or find yourself in a cleaning or cooking frenzy. These are just signs that you need to decompress a bit.
Take up that hobby you’ve been putting off; use yoga or meditation to set the tone for the day or to decompress, or relax with a book in the evening. There are many free apps that can help you with these types of activities.
Reach out virtually to friends and family through regular video meetings. Free resources such as Zoom, Slack, Google Hangouts, or Teams in Outlook can help you connect real time with those you love.
Attend virtual concerts that many orchestras and musicians are creating to provide comfort and inspiration, watch live cameras of zoos or wildlife, or start that blog you’ve been putting off.
Externalize your feelings in healthy ways by talking with supportive people either in your home or at a distance. If these feelings result in prolonged depression, please know there are many online counseling services that provide counseling. Counselors nation-wide are mobilizing and also working from home to help decrease stress and depression.
8. Care of others
One of the greatest methods of self-care is to flip the focus of helplessness or irritation and think of ways you are already caring for others. Look for fresh ways to be supportive of friends, family members, and your community that you hadn’t considered before.
There are sites and apps that offer opportunities to volunteer virtually in a number of ways beyond just donating. Often getting out of ourselves and into the needs of others lifts our spirits, increases our self-worth, and spills over to the jobs at hand; caring for the educational and sometimes emotional needs of our students.
Know that while you may not be getting the applause and ticker tape parades you deserve, your tireless efforts to provide ongoing education are not without notice. We will come out on the other side of this, and hopefully with greater depth in our understanding of what teaching and teachers mean and can come to mean to the students today facing challenges we have never encountered.
You are the trailblazers, teaching the leaders who will face new worlds of challenges. Take care of yourselves! The world needs you!
When students are actively learning, they are making connections to their own lives, questioning, and collaborating, which we know leads to more significant, durable learning outcomes. In the classroom, we deliberately plan learning activities and discussion to engage learners and keep them active. We stay alert during class to pick up on cues that learners are tuning out or struggling so we can pivot and improvise as needed.
One of the toughest adjustments to teaching online is that we lose this immediate feedback-action loop. We can’t adjust in real time to keep learners engaged in specific activities or assignments. So, it’s important to set up learning opportunities that extend past the activity or assignment itself.
Here are some ideas for encouraging active engagement online.
1. Incorporate their lived experience
We usually encourage students to bring their experiences into our classroom. But now, we have to figure out how to bring our discipline-specific content into their experiences. Now we’re all at home, students are not focused on our content at a specific time or in a specific place.
To keep them engaged and actively learning, we have to help them experience their lives through the lens of our content. We don’t want them to only think about our content when they’re sitting in front of their device. Give them things to look for, think about, and capture as they clean the house, care for family members, walk the dog, and watch Netflix. Encourage them to find the ways your content manifests in everyday life. For example:
Laws of physics scavenger hunt. Ask learners to take pictures/videos of laws of physics in action around their home. Share online and ask the class to vote for the best examples.
Neighborhood visual ethnography project. Learners walk around their neighborhood (using safe social distancing practices) and take pictures. They use grounded research techniques to analyze images and categorize characteristics to make hypotheses about their neighborhood’s culture. They could incorporate public records searches to consider property values and census information.
2. Make them research assistants
In a discussion-based class, we would generally provide learners with some context and content in lecture and readings and then engage them in discussion and analysis to promote deeper understanding and durable learning. Online forums can be lively and contribute to significant learning, but they are not a straight substitute for classroom discussion. So, instead of providing them with all the relevant readings and context, ask them to find it. Imagine you now have a class full of research assistants.
Here are two examples showing how you might transfer what you do in the classroom to an online environment:
Classroom: Lecture on elements of Victorian society that influenced Jane Eyre and discussion to apply to reading and incorporate learner experiences
Online: Learners research specific aspects of Victorian society, looking especially for contemporary sources that would help learners empathize with Victorian readers. Find examples in the reading of things that would have resonated with or be significant to Victorian readers that today’s readers might not find as significant or understand.
Classroom: Assign journal readings about applying theory to curriculum design and then a practical assignment to create a lesson plan.
Online: Provide summaries of major learning theories and then ask learners to find journal articles that apply one of the theories to curriculum design in their discipline. Post the article, a summary, and then explain two specific ways they would incorporate that theory into their own curriculum design.
3. Ask them to write the test
You’re right to be concerned about cheating when learners are taking assessments online from home. There are proctoring apps that can help mitigate this risk, but not everyone has access to that technology. Turn testing into an active learning experience (and reduce the risk of cheating) by asking them to write the test.
Quantitative disciplines or introductory skills-based courses
In quantitative disciplines or introductory skills-based courses, give learners the learning objectives and ask them to write items that assess the learning objectives and provide the correct answers with justification. Ask them to create multiple choice distractors that represent common mistakes, miscalculations, or misconceptions and explain what error each distracter represents.
Qualitative disciplines or higher level theory-based courses
In more qualitative disciplines or higher level theory-based courses, learners can create their own rubrics to evaluate existing works or their own projects. They can use the rubrics they created to evaluate their peers’ work, or they can use someone else’s rubric to evaluate their own or others’ work.
4. Read together
Asking questions while you read and talking to someone else about what you’re learning are two proven active learning strategies. Use online tools to allow learners to annotate readings together.
The app Hypothes.is allows people to annotate PDFs or even websites.
You can upload a reading to Google Docs, Microsoft OneDrive, or Adobe Cloud and share it so learners can make and reply to comments.
In any of these apps, learners can tag you or each other for specific questions or responses. Just remember to turn on your notifications.
5. Solve problems together
Often, online group projects are less collaboration and more divide-and-conquer. You can both lean into and disrupt this tendency by using a jigsaw strategy. In a jigsaw strategy, groups of learners become “experts” in one concept or topic, and then they shuffle into new groups where they become the representative of their concept in a new mixed-expertise group. The new group has to work together, sharing and leveraging their specific expertise, to solve a problem.
Classroom: A lecture and readings introduce the concept of sustainability and provide an overview of the types of sustainability initiatives in which corporations engage. In groups, students research the sustainability initiatives of three companies and decide which has the best strategy.
Online, option A: Each group is given one company to research. They find out everything they can about that company’s sustainability initiatives and the impacts of those initiatives on the company, consumers, and planet. They create a scorecard to represent the criteria they think is important and how that company scores. Then, in a sync session, breakout jigsaw groups are created where learners have to make the case for their company. Together, the new jigsaw group comes up with a consolidated scorecard and scores all the represented companies.
Online, option B: Each group researches one aspect of corporate sustainability and creates a rubric to score companies on that aspect. In a sync session, breakout jigsaw groups combine their score cards and collectively evaluate a company.
We’re all familiar with trends coming and going in higher education; we’re also used to seeing a lot of research too. How do we know what’s really worth it?
Throughout my years as a professor, one subject that has garnered significant research is building community in the classroom. Building community is a valuable tool for improving equity. When I began teaching online, I found it to be far more difficult to achieve.
I would assign students to groups in my Learning Management System (LMS) and encourage them to work together on a weekly Relevant Application assignment (to see how the mathematics we were doing realistically applied to the world around them). These group assignments were regularly met with resistance from students – citing, “I took an online class so I wouldn’t have to work with other people!”
This attitude is one we can’t afford to tolerate, especially as our world increasingly becomes digital, and more people are working in teams with folks from around the country and the world virtually.
What can we do about it?
A few years ago, I attended a talk at InstructureCon (Canvas developers annual conference) on creating Affinity Groups for students in online classes. I loved what I saw; implementing their strategies eliminated complaints from students about working in online groups.
How Affinity Groups work
As in many online classes, at the beginning of the quarter my students are assigned to post a short biography to a discussion board; in this post, they introduce themselves to me and the rest of the class. They are asked to discuss their educational goals, hobbies and interests, as well as something unique about them.
When I read their submissions, I make notes of hobbies and interests of all the students. As I see trends of topics being mentioned 3 or 4 times, I list them as a potential group category. I then create a group set, and name the groups based on the categories that stood out for that particular group of students.
It’s fun to belong
Almost every quarter I have “Parents”, “Binge Watchers”, “Gamers’, and “Travelers” to name a few, as recurring group themes. You can even add alliteration for more flare, like “Proud Parents” or “Great Gamers”. It is fun to keep an eye out for those unique groups that surface in a given quarter. One quarter we had “Anti-Coffee-ers” for example – a group of students who surfaced declaring their dislike for coffee, or “Foodies Forever”.
A tight knit group
I choose to cap the groups at 5 and create more groups than necessary, because I don’t know exactly what students will be drawn to. Lastly, I always create a “z. None of the Above” group, as an option for students who don’t identify with any of the other group. In Canvas, you can simply rename the groups while you’re creating them. In Blackboard, after you’ve created your Self-Enroll Group Set, you’ll have to go to each group individually and rename them by selecting Edit Group.
Freedom of choice
At this point, I ask students to self-enroll in the groups of their choice through my LMS (both Canvas and Blackboard have the option for students to self-enroll). Note: If your LMS doesn’t allow for this action, there are other ways you could use to have for your students choose their group, like a poll or survey where they choose one option.
No one is left behind
Once the given deadline has passed for choosing a group, I put those who haven’t selected a group into the newly created “Non-Responders” group and encourage them to choose a new name amongst themselves. Not surprisingly, that group of students tends to not succeed as well as the others. I also check for groups with just 1 or 2 members, and combine them, getting creative with the name – like “Binge Hikers” (combination of “Binge Watchers” and “Hikers-R-Us”). Lastly, I delete the groups that didn’t attract any students; now you have students in groups with similar interests.
A little change makes a big impact
This may seem like a small distinction from randomly assigning groups, but it is fascinating to me how the knowledge that they are all parents, or they all like to cook, helps them to engage with each other more effectively and actively. Rarely do I get any resistance from students saying they don’t want to work in groups anymore.
Your assessment plans, just like all your other learning plans, have probably been suddenly disrupted during this crisis. And, due to family responsibilities, or anxiety, your students may not have the time or ability to concentrate on full length exams like they would typically be able to in a classroom setting.
But all is not lost. As you know, the goal of giving an exam is to evaluate student learning at the end of an instructional unit. If there are other ways of doing this — for example, a culminating project, portfolio, or other open-ended assignment that a student could submit online, consider these before an online exam, particularly a multiple-choice exam.
If you decide to use a traditional summative exam, these research-based tips can make the online experience better for you and your students.
1. Create clear and specific rules and instructions so students know exactly what to do
Online assessment is new for your students. Reduce anxiety by clearly communicating the rules and instructions before the exam so there are no surprises.
For example, if you would like them to write their essays in paragraphs or to show their work for problem sets, be sure to explicitly state this.
The rules may include how many opportunities students have to complete the exam, if they can or cannot save and come back later to finish, if they need to put away all mobile devices or whether it is an open or closed book exam.
Provide other details such as the list of learning objectives the exam will address, how many questions to expect, the amount of time they will have to complete the exam, how many points each question is worth, etc. A study guide or a practice test can also help your students prepare.
2. Reduce the opportunities for cheating
Password protect your exam and limit to one attempt.
Require students to complete a statement of honesty before beginning the exam (this can be done through a digital form or added as the first item of the exam).
Open and close access to your exam session within a predetermined time period.
Shuffle items or create multiple versions of the exam to randomly assign to students.
Create a pool or item bank to pull random questions from (many platforms allow for this, including MyLab and Mastering, and most learning management systems (LMS)).
Ask students to justify or explain their answers by adding an open response field after each selected-response question.
Use more open-ended question types instead of true/false or multiple choice questions if you don’t have the capabilities listed above.
3. Make sure students can reasonably complete the exam within the time allotted
Unless you are assessing how quickly your students can complete the exam, allow them ample time to complete it. It is important to keep in mind that your students don’t know the knowledge and skills as well as you do, so be sure to cushion each item with more time than you would expect to take to complete the exam yourself. If possible, have an assistant or colleague proofread your exam before it is time to administer it.
4. Align your exam questions to learning outcomes.
Regardless of whether the exam is online or on paper, if you are creating it from scratch, make sure you use the objectives as your guide as you develop the questions.
Determine which types of questions or items best reflect the learning objectives. For example, if the objective requires a student to critique a poem, then an essay question would be a logical and efficient choice, whereas a multiple choice question would not typically be the most efficient way to gauge a student’s ability to critique.
5. Scoring and point values should be based on the complexity and difficulty of the questions
For instance, if you have a multipart question, consider assigning partial credit for each part of the question if the system allows. For math or science problem sets, allow students to show their work such as sending in a photo of their workings or describing the steps they took to solve a problem or complete a process.
Sources American Educational Research Association., American Psychological Association., National Council on Measurement in Education., & Joint Committee on Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing (U.S.). (2014). Standards for educational and psychological testing. Burton, S. J., Sudweeks, R. R., Merrill, P. F., & Wood, B. (1991). How to prepare better multiple-choice items: Guidelines for university faculty. Brigham Young Testing Center and The Department of Instructional Science. Provo, UT: Brigham Young University. Sawyer, R. K. (2006). The Cambridge handbook of the learning sciences. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
There are many reasons right now for why you may be looking to upskill – social lives are currently limited, you may unfortunately be out of work, or you just might be looking for ways to spend isolation productively. To help you be better positioned to excel in or re-enter the workforce, here are some tips on where to begin, and how to succeed as a student again, this time learning in an online world.
1. Consider your goals
You may already know what knowledge or skills you’re after, but if not, spend some time thinking about your goals. For instance, is there something that could help you improve your performance in your current role?
Or perhaps you have your eye on a new position or a career change. To get an idea of the skills you need, read through job descriptions for roles similar to the one you want. How well do the job descriptions fit you? What would you like to be able to add to your resume in order to better align with the qualifications?
2. Ask others for advice
This could be a great opportunity to discuss your professional development with your manager to see what would take your work to the next level in your current role or a desired role. You could also ask current and former co-workers.
LinkedIn is also a powerful resource for seeking information and advice in this area. For instance, you could see if anyone in your network works in a similar field or role to the one you’re interested in. If so, what credentials have they earned? What skills do they describe in their profiles? If you know them personally or through a mutual connection, see if they would be willing to answer any questions you might have.
Once you have a good idea of your learning goals, consider the following when choosing your next steps.
3. Find a learning option that aligns with your goals
Most well-designed learning experiences will come out and state their intended learning objectives – essentially the knowledge and skills you’re meant to get out of the experience. You certainly don’t want to waste your time, so make sure the experience is aimed at moving you toward your learning goals.
Next, consider the scope of the learning. Is it completely or mostly focused on what you hope to learn at the appropriate depth of detail, or is it so broad that it will only touch upon topics you’d prefer more detail on?
Finally, think about the time commitment for the learning to ensure it would be realistic for you to complete the learning on the expected timeline.
4. Decide whether you need a credential
For many learning goals, it may be important to be able to share or demonstrate that you’ve completed the learning or are proficient at a skill. For example:
Earning a professional certification to advance in your current job
Pursuing a new position that requires you to hold a certain degree
Working toward a badge or certificate to include on your resume to demonstrate that you have skills in a certain area
In these cases, it often makes more sense to pursue a more formal option like a training course, degree program, or studying for a standardized assessment that would provide you with a diploma, badge, certification, etc.
However, a credential may be less important to you. It could be instead that you simply want to acquire skills and knowledge to help you do your current job better, or that you’re pursuing a topic that’s of personal interest to you. In this case, the more formal learning options mentioned above could certainly work for you, but you also might consider whether you can meet your needs with online videos, books, webinars, or other similar (potentially free!) resources.
5. Look into free and discounted options
Many organizations provide free learning resources on a variety of topics to their employees to encourage professional development, so it is worth looking into what your organization already has, and whether it meets your learning needs.
Some organizations allow employees to expense all or a portion of learning costs (e.g. college tuition or enrollment in a single course). In some cases, organizations also partner with a university to provide relevant learning and training opportunities at a discounted rate.
You may also find that there are perfectly appropriate resources for your learning goals for free. Video sites like YouTube provide detailed tutorials on how to do just about anything. Webinars on a wide variety of topics are often available at the cost of simply providing your email address to a learning provider’s mailing list (which you can later opt out of). Even some more formal online courses are available for free from sites like FutureLearn, Harvard Online, and Coursera (until May 31) and many are currently available at a discount in response to COVID-19 on sites like Udemy and Udacity.
Not all learning goals will have free or discounted equivalents, but a little extra investigation could help you save money while meeting your learning goals.
Instructors are an integral part of teaching and learning, regardless of whether it takes place face-to-face or online. During the current crisis, many are discovering that delivering high quality teaching online requires some changes. If you are supporting instructors who are transitioning from the classroom to online, once you have a chance to come up for air we have eight strategies for effective training.
1. Work from the ground up to obtain educator buy-in
The success of any type of professional development program depends partially on the buy-in from participants. They need to believe this is being done ‘for them’ not ‘to them’.
Due to the relatively new nature of online learning, instructors might have misconceptions (e.g. about the level of rigor of online learning). To avoid this, clearly communicate important points about the transition. Using technology isn’t just an emergency response, it will be a method used in the future.
As well as referring to research when developing an online training program, ask for feedback from instructors, and make sure it’s taken into account. You could send a survey, or conduct focus groups.
2. Offer high quality professional development opportunities
Whether you are training instructors that will be teaching online or face-to-face, the same rules apply. High quality professional development is training that is:
Supports the construction of a professional learning community
Based in classroom practice
Grounded in current research
Tailored to instructors’ specific needs and embedded in their daily lives
Diverse, offering a wide range of learning activities
3. Give instructors authentic learning experiences
Run the training on the same platforms that instructors will be using in their class so they can experience roadblocks (e.g. signing onto the platform) or challenges (e.g. navigating content) that students might experience.
Use content that instructors will use in real life. For example, if an instructor will be teaching Science, learning that content during training will help the instructor become familiar with the types of resources or labs available online and how to navigate them.
4. Differentiate instruction and use a wide array of resources unique to online learning
When instructors transition to an online environment they will likely introduce new and different types of instruction, and these strategies should be modeled during the training.
For example, training should include both synchronous and asynchronous discussion, as well as the use of various resources including web-cameras, videos, instant messaging, and online whiteboards.
5. Online teaching pedagogy and content are important, but an online teacher training program should also focus on soft skills
In addition to online pedagogy and subject matter, instructors need to be competent in organization, time management, and self-direction.
A great deal of an online learning course is asynchronous and is therefore occurring at a student’s pace. Teachers need to know how to best organize this mode of learning, when to be available for student inquiry, and when they are “out of class time”. Conversely, instructors should also be self-directed so that they know when they are “in class time” and monitor discussion, or grade assignments. (Read more about developing these skills here)
6. Develop a community of online instructors
Developing a community gives instructors a support system as they are delivering their courses so they can share experiences and best practices. You can:
Pair new instructors with mentor veteran instructors.
Create the space for instructors to collaborate.
Use online environment tools, such as discussion boards with questions posed by a veteran instructor, chat rooms that are monitored by faculty who trained the instructors, and/or asynchronous discussion.
7. Expect instructors to demonstrate mastery before they teach their own course
Given that online instruction requires active, hands on learning techniques, these should be the types of activities instructors should demonstrate as an end of training assessment.
8. Train instructors to be aware of data security
When all information in the course is being transmitted online it becomes easy to leave data vulnerable for security breaches.
Teachers should ask students to reduce their transmission of personally identifiable information to times when it is necessary. When transmitting files, they should be locked and/or transmitted through a secure file transfer site.
Instructors should house student background, demographic, and identifying data in a secure file, and performance data should be transmitted privately and securely.
She was nominated by her colleagues at KBR, who submitted an essay celebrating Holley as a top welder, a generous teacher, and a leader in her field, helping to recruit women to a traditionally male-dominated industry.
“It feels so good to know that I am viewed as a positive light for my company and for the industry overall,” Holley says.
An open mind, and an attitude to live by
Holley says she owes her professional success to two things: parents who encouraged her to pursue her own path—and a positive attitude.
“The coolest thing about my parents—and especially my dad—is that they’ve always been supportive of my siblings and me, no matter what,” Holley says.
“They encourage us to follow our dreams, and are there to help pick us up if we fall or fail.”
Holley says the personal mantra she’s developed as a welder is rooted in their positivity and open-mindedness.
“I come to work every day with a great attitude, wanting to learn something new.”
“Taking the initiative to expand my skillset makes me a better employee,” Holley says.
“And it makes me a better instructor and mentor, too.”
Looking forward to the future
Holley says that in the future, she plans to become more involved in recruiting new members to her industry.
In particular, she says, she wants to offer support, advice, and encouragement to young women considering a career in construction.
“I was once in their shoes, unsure of my future,” Holley says.
“Without that encouragement, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
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.
Ensuring that dual enrollment courses match the rigor and quality of traditional higher education courses requires thorough teacher training and accreditation, access to collegiate curricula, affordable student materials, and student readiness programs. It can be a challenge to coordinate all of these vital elements for every dual enrollment class, especially considering the myriad of dual enrollment course models available. Courses can be taken on the college campus, on the high school campus, remotely online, and even in hybrid versions comprised of online and face-to-face instructor interaction.
Overcoming obstacles to accreditation
The extensive initial accreditation process and training is an issue that I have personally experienced as the first dual enrollment science instructor for Lee College in Baytown, Texas. Previously, I had been teaching various levels of secondary science curricula from remedial to advanced placement (AP) when I received accreditation from Lee College to teach biology and related subjects at Hargrave High School in Huffman, Texas.
To receive this accreditation, I had to provide documentation of undergraduate and graduate school transcripts, proof of completion of my bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and a CV outlining my research projects and publications.
The biology department developed an internal committee to review my paper credentials before beginning a three-step interview process. I had an initial sit down interview to discuss my experience before being asked to design and teach a sample lesson at the college campus. Finally, I had to undergo a skills assessment to test my laboratory acumen.
Facing professional development challenges
While necessary to ensure instructor quality, the accreditation process often creates a bottleneck effect for dual enrollment programs. Student interest far exceeds a school’s ability to vet instructors. A focus of many dual enrollment coordinators, policy makers, and school officials is simplifying the process of identifying and accrediting qualified instructors. This resonated with the attendees of the 2019 regional and national NACEP conferences who completed the survey at our Pearson booth. In fact, 41% of respondents indicated teacher professional development and accreditation was one of their largest program pain points.
The College Board Advanced Placement program offers week-long, intensive summer institutes on college campuses nationwide where teachers receive certification to teach AP courses. Can collegiate systems work in conjunction with governing bodies such as NACEP to hold similar dual enrollment institutes?
While the process of obtaining credentials can be cumbersome, it is equally difficult to maintain a schedule of professional development opportunities for dual enrollment instructors. Hargrave High School was more than a 50 minute drive from Lee College, prohibiting me from attending most on-site training. Travel to department meetings, team meetings, and faculty-wide technology and platform training could feasibly take an entire day, when in actuality high school teachers are only granted one or two 50 minute planning periods per school day.
The need for creative solutions
The most effective dual enrollment programs will solve these problems with outside-the-box solutions. Many collegiate partners are now offering evening, weekend, and summer professional development opportunities to accommodate the traditional high school teacher’s schedule. In addition, on-demand and webinar-based professional development can help bridge the distance gap between high school and college campuses.
The University of Texas OnRamps program employs a hybrid model wherein high school dual enrollment teachers attend an intensive summer institute followed by continual web-based support from a tenured faculty member. This allows the program to be administered throughout the entire state of Texas, helping to alleviate both the accreditation and professional development distance gap. Another unique solution is the development of dual enrollment satellite campuses such as the Lee College South Liberty Education Center. This center is located an hour away from the main campus of Lee College, allowing for a different subset of area high school students to convene to take dual enrollment classes from a qualified instructor, thus also helping to alleviate the burden of teacher accreditation and training.
These issues represent a small subset of the challenges faced by dual enrollment programs. In subsequent blogs, we’ll explore additional pain points we’ve discovered, share best practices, and present ways that Pearson is here to ensure equitable access to quality dual enrollment courses. Stay tuned for future posts addressing access to collegiate curricula, affordable student materials, and student readiness programs.
Online education has been a vital part of higher education for many years, but with the current COVID-19 pandemic, many faculty and students are experiencing this for the first time. As with any method of delivery, online education has its advantages, as well as its own challenges.
Both faculty and students can save time by meeting online instead of commuting to a physical classroom. Having course materials and various learning activities posted online provides students with more flexibility on both how and when they can study.
On the other hand, heavy emphasis on technology can be foreign and intimating for some people. There may also be a perception that online education causes distance between the learner and their instructor. For faculty, there can be valid concerns that students may slip through the cracks in a virtual classroom. Fortunately, there are ways to both identify and support students who may be struggling online.
Use all available forms of communication
Communication is key when it comes to bridging the distance between the instructor and learner. Some faculty may opt to send out their course syllabus and contact information before the class even starts to help address any preliminary questions or concerns that their students may have. It is generally considered a best practice for faculty to check their email at least once a day and reply to student inquiries within 24 hours whenever possible.
If faculty find that a student is asking a lot of questions and does not appear to understand the materials, then they may want to consider scheduling a quick virtual meeting with that student to go through their questions together. Most virtual meeting software allow for the sharing of audio, video, and other application files, thus making it easier for faculty to accommodate their students’ various learning styles.
When hosting live virtual meetings, try to encourage all the participants to turn their web cameras and microphones on in order to make it a more personable and engaging experience. As most online learning classes are asynchronous in nature, it is okay if some students cannot make these live sessions, but it is a good idea for faculty to make note of who cannot attend, and try to find other ways to reach out to those students. Most virtual meeting software also allows for sessions to be recorded and shared.
Many online classes make use of discussion boards for class communication and group work. Discussion boards are usually asynchronous, meaning students can review and contribute whenever they can (within a set deadline).
Pay attention to participation
Most LMSs offer ways to track both the students’ attendance and their discussion board postings; this is very useful to help faculty identify which students are active. Not all classes are designed in such a way where students are constantly required to log in, but faculty should try to make note of any missing discussion posts or assignment submissions. If inactivity is becoming a pattern, it is a good idea to either follow up with that student, and/or notify their school’s student support services department. It is better to catch these patterns early when there is still time to offer additional support.
Watch for trends in data
Finally, it is a good practice for faculty to keep an eye on their grade book for trends. If a certain student is scoring low, it may be a good idea to reach out to that student with some additional constructive feedback and guidance. If faculty notice that many students scored low on a certain assignment, then they may want to take time out of their next virtual class meeting to discuss this.
For faculty who want to learn more about their LMS, most schools have an information technology services webpage where training resources can be found. In addition, it is always a good idea to have the school’s IT help desk contact information saved in case of any issues or urgent questions. Online education can feel ‘distant’ at times, but having a strong support system can go a long way in ensuring both faculty and students succeed.
As a former full-time community college math professor in the state of Florida, I had many dual-enrolled high school students in my classes over the years. For community college instructors, having dual enrollment students in the classroom doesn’t change much about how we teach or conduct class. Sure, I reminded my college-aged students to be mindful that there were minors in the room, and I frequently tweaked due dates at the beginning of the semester since many dual-enrolled students had to wait for the district to provide their course materials. But I had the luxury of teaching my courses using the same textbook regardless of whether I had dual-enrolled students on my roster or not.
Another advantage I had was that my department was an early adopter of MathXL and MyLab™ Math, so I felt comfortable not only creating courses and assignments in those programs, but also helping my students take advantage of the great features they contained. I didn’t realize how different the experience of teaching dual enrollment can be for high school teachers until 2018, when I joined Pearson on a new team whose goal was to make dual enrollment work better for all teachers.
Accessing dual enrollment materials
Most dual enrollment partnerships require that courses taught in a high school must use the same course materials as the equivalent college course. This means that high school dual enrollment teachers must not only get their hands on the textbook, but also gain access to any corequisite online component (such as MyLab or Mastering™).
Fortunately, Pearson has made these two tasks easy, thanks to an updated website designed with dual enrollment teachers in mind. On the Preview page, you will find a link to our Dual Enrollment Instructor Access Request Form, where you can request access to our digital platforms (which contain the eText) and also request a print textbook (if needed). Additionally, the Purchase page walks users through the options to purchase student materials, since dual enrollment can have various purchasing models not commonly found in higher education.
How-tos and support
Like myself, many college professors have been using MyLab and Mastering for years, but fewer high school teachers have experience with these platforms. Still, if the college is using MyLab Math in their precalculus courses, the high school teachers are typically expected to use MyLab Math in their dual enrollment precalculus courses as well. Pearson provides high school dual enrollment teachers with the resources they need to become comfortable using our digital products. Visit our Get Started page to learn how to register yourself and your students for MyLab or Mastering.
Once you are registered and are ready to learn more, the Training and Support page provides the opportunity to subscribe to our customer success journey emails that are loaded with helpful tips, or register for a webinar to take a deeper dive into using your MyLab or Mastering product. This page also explains how to get access to the Instructor Resource Center so you can download presentations, instructor manuals, test files, and more.
Lastly, this page offers assistance in case you need technical support. We have worked with our sales and technical support teams to better prepare them to tackle dual enrollment-related issues. We encourage you to bookmark our Dual Enrollment Customer Handbook, which contains much of the same information as our website, but in a handy PDF format.
Pearson is committed to providing solutions to the unique needs of dual enrollment teachers. See how we can help your program by reading through our Results and Success Stories.
You’re driving around in Boston at rush hour on one of the notorious old carriage roads that seemingly twist without reason. You’re searching for a particular street downtown. The kids in the back seat are singing, as loud as they can, along with The Wiggles, which is blasting through the car speakers.
I can’t handle it. What would make this better? Silence. My brain can’t process all of this at once. I’ve maxed out my cognitive load.
Cognitive load is defined as the mental resources used in working memory to perform a task. Most people can store between 5-9 items at any given time, and 2-4 of those can be processed simultaneously. If you don’t use new information within 15 seconds, it gets taken out with the trash.
How can we increase our working memory? Practice makes perfect. This is why teachers go over practice problems and, at the higher levels, assign homework that allows for practice of the new skills learned in lecture. To have students learn effectively, their working memory (ability to store information) must be greater than the total cognitive load of the task. I’m usually at my peak when driving in Boston.
Types of cognitive load
A task can contain many different types of cognitive load. There are three in particular that we as educators should be aware of:
Intrinsic cognitive load
Sometimes a task is just hard. Consider calculus vs. arithmetic. Perhaps you’re great with math and this wouldn’t be a heavy lift for you. For others, this task would require a great deal of mental concentration.
Germane cognitive load
This refers to the actual processing of information. How will we organize it in our brains? Does this information connect with anything we’ve previously learned? Making connections is part of learning, and strengthens knowledge moving forward.
Extraneous cognitive load
This is the part that teachers have the most control over. It is generated by the way the information is presented and has nothing to do with the task. Are you learning calculus in a rock concert or a library? Have you used a PowerPoint slide theme that is distracting or clean?
Strategies to reduce cognitive load
Many teachers already use strategies to reduce the total cognitive load of a task. Some of that is out of our hands (intrinsic cognitive load) and others we can revise for the better (extraneous cognitive load).
Here are some general suggestions:
Make connections. The more connections to previously learned material that you make, the less germane cognitive load there is for your students.
Use routine. Start and end class in the same way each day, perhaps with a warm-up and a time for questions. This will allow students to forecast that there will be time for questions to be answered.
Provide time. Allow students time in class to think about how this new material connects with what was previously taught.
Be clear and concise.
Pay attention to purpose. What is the goal of this assignment? If a particular question isn’t getting you there, delete it.
Don’t forget emotions. Anxiety limits learning, and excess cognitive load creates stress. Allow your students space to focus on the material, not their emotions.
Classroom materials can also have an effect on cognitive load.
How many teachers are guilty of using the same handout semester after semester until it looks like this? The media is crooked, there are streaks across the pages, and it is difficult to read.
Consider moving your media digitally to a platform of your choice so you can clean things up a bit. Cleaning them up is relatively easily done by opening up a PDF in Google Docs. As a caveat, while this works well for the humanities, Google does struggle here in my discipline (chemistry).
Ensure that your media isn’t distracting. Don’t add pictures frivolously. Be sure that the media that you do add contributes toward getting you to your overall lesson goal.
Here are some good rules of thumb to keep in mind for classroom presentations and assignments:
What is your primary goal in this assignment or presentation?
Consider suggestions for reducing extraneous cognitive load.
Organization and layout
Clarity of goal
Breaking down of steps
Clarity of expectations for student work
Wordiness and vocabulary
In short, whether you are a teacher or not, you can use the theory of cognitive load to better engage your audience. While you’re creating your next presentation, think about these considerations. Also, if you’re driving in Boston any time soon, be sure to turn down the music.
Right now many of us are juggling working in a new environment, becoming a teacher for our kids, caring for our family full time and dealing with the anxiety that comes from living in the middle of a pandemic. We’re all feeling pretty stressed. Self-care is crucial for managing these negative emotions and being resilient.
Here are six tips based on the science of learning to help you get through this:
1. Look after your physical and mental well-being
If possible, continue your current self-care practices since it is easier to stick to existing habits. However, many of us will have to alter or discover new ones.
Here are some ideas if you are stuck at home for a few weeks:
Take care of your body by eating healthy, well-balanced meals, exercising regularly, and getting plenty of sleep.
Work up a sweat with at-home or individual exercise activities by following workout videos on YouTube, using Fitness Apps for HIIT or strength training, or by hitting the pavement for a walk or run outside.
Practice relaxation strategies such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or mindfulness meditation. If you’re new to this, here are a few options to start.
Make time for appropriate activities that bring you happiness and joy. These might include cooking, listening to music, taking a warm bath, crafting, reading, or watching TV or movies.
2. Maintain social connections
For introverts and extroverts alike, the activities that are most important for promoting our well-being are inherently social, which can make this period where we are encouraged to be physically distant from our loved ones particularly difficult. It is all the more important to maintain our social connections, using technology to help us stay psychologically close.
Use the many different modes of communication at our fingertips – voice calls, text, social media. Video especially can make us feel closer.
Since interactions will not come up as naturally during this period, be more intentional about scheduling time to speak with friends and family. They will be excited to hear from you.
These conversations will be important opportunities to relieve stress by sharing your feelings with others. In addition, try to incorporate fun, play a game virtually or watch the same movie together.
3. Create structure and a schedule
Watching the news can make us feel a lack of control, which fuels stress. Control what you can and maintain as much normalcy as possible.
Develop a schedule and try to stick to your new routine. You can start with activities that support good eating and sleep habits, and fill in with both fun and necessary activities. Scheduling in regular opportunities for self-care can help us stick to those plans.
For those who are transitioning into remote work, maintaining a schedule can help ensure dedicated time for work while also protecting individual relaxation and family time.
Particularly for families who have young children home from school, maintaining a schedule may seem daunting. Be kind to yourself as you work through new processes and routines. Much of the benefit of the schedule comes from thoughtfully making one, not perfectly following one.
4. Be a smart media consumer
It is important to find a balance regarding media consumption. With situations changing quickly in a crisis, it is useful to follow the news in order to keep up-to-date. On the other hand, repeatedly viewing (often negative) news stories can increase stress and anxiety.
Consider taking breaks from viewing the news, or schedule specific times to check the news. It can also be helpful to limit your media consumption to a few, trusted sites, which can help keep you from hearing the same information repeatedly.
5. Seek additional help if needed
During times such as these, it is completely normal to experience elevated levels of stress along with other negative emotions such as sadness, anxiety, anger, and frustration. If these persist or worsen and begin to cause significant distress or dysfunction, seek additional help.
More specific warning signs include:
Persistent anxiety, worry, insomnia, or irritability.
Withdrawing from appropriate social contact.
Persistently checking for symptoms or seeking reassurance about one’s health.
Abusing alcohol or drugs.
Experience of suicidal thoughts or actions.
Many therapists are transitioning to providing telemedicine so you get professional support without needing to meet in person. Find a therapist from a site like Psychology Today. Those with preexisting mental health conditions should continue with treatment.
6. Practice empathy
We are in many ways overwhelmed with information and recommendations and it can be easy to fall into the trap of judging others for their choices. But many are having to weigh financial concerns with public health and personal safety, and making difficult decisions.
Hanging on to judgment and anger at others can be counter productive. It can cause our personal stress levels to elevate and can break down the social bonds that are so important to weathering crises. Try to practice empathy by considering the perspectives of others. Understanding why someone has made a different decision from you can help you be more compassionate. Loving-Kindness Meditation can also support compassion and empathy. This type of meditation involves mentally sending kindness and goodwill to others. Read more here.
But also, don’t let trying to practice self-care stress you out. Do the best you can and be kind to yourself and others.
Being a leader can be challenging at the best of times, but even more so in a crisis situation like the current pandemic. Transitioning Survey findings from Pearson identified that people’s satisfaction with the work from home experience has declined: Only 82% of those in the US are currently satisfied with working remotely versus 93% in early March.
But how do you lead well when you can’t physically meet with the people you are leading? Here are our tips for effective leadership in a virtual world
1. Focus on inspiration and motivation, rather than just managing or controlling
Motivating and inspiring leadership strategies are especially important when leading virtually because we lack many social cues and tools we usually use to influence others. Be more mindful and practice this.
Examples of these types of strategies include:
Displaying ethical and inspiring behavior, taking a stand, and acting with conviction.
Supporting others and attending to their individual needs.
Motivating others by projecting a positive vision.
Supporting innovation and creativity.
2. Be optimistic, but honest
In times like these, people look to their leaders for hope, while also expecting honesty and transparency. This can be a difficult balance, when you might be experiencing personal stress and worry and often have to communicate bad news.
Delivering information in a timely manner, and in a compassionate, caring, and straightforward way. Here is a checklist from the CDC on how to communicate in a crisis.
Giving others an opportunity to process the information, and a space to share their thoughts and experiences.
Finding opportunities for realistic optimism, pointing toward the future and highlighting ways that everyone can work towards it.
3. Support trust and cohesion within virtual teams
It can be challenging for virtual teams to develop trust and cohesion.
As a leader, you can:
Set norms and processes around communication.
Encourage and schedule time for personal and social conversations as well as work discussions.
Include regular opportunities for video conferencing, which allows for much richer interaction.
Be a role model for these strategies.
4. Provide frequent and explicit opportunities for coordination
Because virtual teams have fewer opportunities to spontaneously interact and coordinate work, it is particularly important to provide clear channels and expectations for communication and coordination.
Leaders play a key role in establishing these norms and expectations, such as:
Plan regular calls so that everyone in the group can share their progress.
Use instant message or chat functions to take the place of impromptu in-person meetings.
5. Take care of your own mental health
Leaders are not immune to experiencing worries, stress, anxiety, or sadness at times of uncertainty. In fact, you may experience a unique set of stressors, making it all the more important for you to take the time to take care of yourself. For strategies to do this, read our blog on wellness.
As we get further into the semester where we all quickly moved to online learning, motivation, like the style of your wardrobe, may start to wane.
In addition, learning online is just different from the classroom. It’s a bit more challenging for students to engage with you, the content, and each other. Plus they have something new to engage with – the technology. These 5 strategies can help keep them motivated and on track for success.
1. Build a sense of community
One challenge of online learning is that students often feel quite isolated. Consider how you can make direct contact, through emails, instant message and video, to as many learners as possible, helping them see how you are invested in their learning. In addition, encourage ways for learners to see each other as resources through methods like peer feedback and peer review, as well as potentially helping students find peers to study with.
2. Help students feel like they can succeed
When learners feel like they are capable of succeeding, they are more likely to persist. Consider how to structure tasks so that students can experience “quick wins” on the way to more difficult challenges. In addition, seeing how similar peers progressed can help motivate a student who might otherwise feel unlikely to succeed; see if any students with more experience navigating online learning would be willing to share some of their ideas for how to succeed in the course.
3. Establish ways to monitor progress
If students aren’t sure of how they are doing, they may not engage productively. Establish and communicate explicit goals for the course, and tie student activities and progress back to those goals. Look for tools in your online system (e.g., practice questions with instant feedback, study organizers that check off when students use different resources, etc.) that can help learners stay on top of their progress. Be explicit about how you think those tools can help and recommend students use them, so that they see the potential value in them.
4. Reward and celebrate success
While it is true that learning is its own reward, everyone can use a little help now and then to stick to their goals. Think of ways to provide students with rewards, whether those are in the form of praise, points towards their grades, or some collective goal the class works towards. Focus on rewarding good effort, progress, and the kinds of learning behaviors you want to see more of, not just achievement.
5. Relate class to students’ lives
It can be hard to stay motivated when we don’t see the value in what we are doing. One important source of value for academic learning is the connection to our everyday lives. How can I use what I’m in learning in class to advance in my career, achieve my goals, or help my friends, family, and community? Offer students some potential connections like those, and also help them try to make those connections for themselves!
Under different circumstances, creating an online course from the ground up using online learning best practices would take considerable time and effort. Given this current unprecedented situation, we understand that your immediate concern is likely simply ensuring that your face-to-face course can be converted rapidly for online delivery.
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.
If you enjoyed Downton Abbey as much as me, you might think of etiquette as knowing how to set a table worthy of a stately dinner. But that kind of etiquette might not be so useful in an online course, unless we’re studying the Edwardian era!
In the context of online teaching and learning, it’s more appropriate to think about the etiquette involved in engaging others in conversations and providing guidelines for smartphone use than how to handle a dinner guest’s dietary restrictions. We want to apply the best practices of etiquette to every interaction in the course.
Netiquette (net + etiquette) is the “code of conduct” applied to online spaces. Teaching students about netiquette is just as important (if not more so) as teaching them to use technology or master content.
Crafting a netiquette document or post for your class and informing your students about the importance of these rules can help you create an engaging, respectful, and meaningful learning environment.
If hosting lectures or office hours live online, you might want to include guidelines for expectations around arriving on time, reducing noise by using earphones and the mute button, and minimizing distractions the best they can.
Keep in mind that students might have their children or siblings home from school or day care and some flexibility and understanding might need to be extended during this season.
Another area for need of netiquette guidelines is in the use of discussion boards. I often share things like this with my students:
Use proper language. This means no emoticons, text message language, or swear words. The discussion board is like a workplace and is meant to be professional.
Run a spelling and grammar check before posting anything to the discussion board. This is especially important if your instructor is grading these comments.
Read through your comments at least twice before hitting submit. (Some professors use settings that allow students to edit their responses, while others don’t.)
Don’t type in ALL CAPS! If you do, it will look like you are screaming.
Recognize and respect diversity. It’s ok to ask questions to clarify things you don’t understand. If you’re not sure, email the professor privately for more information.
Avoid sarcasm and dark humor. Take your posts seriously. Never say online what you wouldn’t say in real life to another person’s face. Your posts are a permanent record, so think about the type of record you want to leave behind.
If you are frustrated and finding the course material difficult, please reach out to the professor, use the tutor resources, etc. You can ask your peers for study tips. A discussion board is not the venue to complain about why you need to take this course or how hard you have to work.
Don’t wait until the last minute to make your post. Allow time for other students to respond before the deadline. Likewise, don’t wait to post your replies until the deadline; the author deserves an opportunity to address any questions you have or respond to points you make.
Before asking a question, check the instructor’s FAQs or search your Learning Management System resources and/or the internet to see if the answer is obvious or easy to find.
Be forgiving. If your classmate makes a mistake, whether it’s a typo or grammatical error, don’t badger him or her for it. Just let it go.
The same rules apply for email. “Hey, teach, heeeelp!” is probably not the best way to ask your professor a question. You should communicate with your professor in the same way that you would speak to your boss or a potential employer. Also, any email you send your professor should always include your name and which class you are in.
While it is tempting to think we should only have to focus on content, surveys of Fortune 500 company CEOs over the years have resulted in very similar responses: they want students who can communicate clearly, collaborate well, think critically, etc.
We know those skills are being developed and enhanced in our courses everyday, so it’s worthwhile to spend some time encouraging them to be respectful, contributing members of our online course communities.
As educators, we love to see our students get engaged in class! Interaction with peers as well as with their teacher is an important part of student learning. But how do we do this when the class is offered online? A discussion board, if used well, can be a great tool in providing a platform for quality interaction.
Almost all Learning Management Systems have this capability. If you are delivering your online course with software that lacks a discussion board, check to see if the publisher of your text has a tool for this purpose or search online for some free options.
Here are some tips provided by Pearson’s Faculty Advisors to help you get the most from your discussion boards.
Post a grading rubric
Consider posting a grading rubric to set expectations and guide students to a complete response.
A good discussion begins with a good question
Avoid questions that read like exam questions. Provide students with a debate prompt. Ask students to express an opinion and back up their position by applying course concepts. Encourage them to practice being critical consumers of information by having them use primary literature to back up their statements.
Allow student-led or peer-driven discussion
We like having the students pose a question at the end of their post to prompt better discussions. Many times the original post reads more like a report and then the replies are “good job” or “I agree” because there is nowhere to go.
Throw out questions like “Can you think of an example of this you have encountered?” or “What about this article stood out to you?” or “Did this make you think about something else that is related but different from this?” If you ask your students to provide “substantive responses,” be specific about what “substantive” means.
Require that students respond to classmates
Many faculty require at least three classmate responses, and additionally, ask a question of their classmate based on the posted response. You might suggest a minimum word count for both posts and responses (students frequently ask for this).
Some discussion boards (this can depend on the Learning Management System) have the ability to hide other students’ responses until they, themselves, have responded. We like to have opinion questions in this format so that a student’s response isn’t colored by what has already been written.
Set regular deadlines
You might want to have a set day to submit a main post and another set day to submit peer responses. For example, the main post could be due on Wednesdays and the peer replies due on Fridays. This regular schedule helps students organize their time and remember their due dates.
Consider “outside the box” ways for students to deliver content
In addition to written text, you can allow students to respond to discussion prompts with PowerPoint presentations, YouTube videos, and concept maps. Show sample responses from prior semesters that “successful” students shared.
Add different forums for different purposes
A Cyber cafe
Cyber cafe gives students an opportunity to ask each other questions about the course and concepts, as well as seek support and interaction with their peers. Keep this forum separate from the content and teacher-created prompt discussions. But be sure to still check on this forum and ensure the students are following the netiquette guidelines for all written communication that you have posted.
The Water Cooler
The Water cooler allows students a safe place to discuss anything not related to the course. This allows you to get to know your students’ personalities within an online environment even though you aren’t spending time with them in a classroom.
“Ask the Instructor”
“Ask the Instructor” gives students the ability to post questions about the class or course content that you answer. This allows all students to see the same answer instead of getting the same question via email from multiple students.
Enforce rules of netiquette
Finally — don’t forget to remind students of “netiquette” right up front. For some ideas of what guidelines to set, see our blog post on Netiquette for Students.
Remember, many students dread discussion boards. It is just another thing they have to do; it might feel like busy work. They may think nobody cares about their opinion. Give good feedback, encouragement, and appreciation for contributing, even if the contributions need to be improved.
We hope these tips will help you get the most out of your discussion boards, leading to an engaging and interactive online experience.
Cheating isn’t new. Many students do it, and in many different ways. As courses move to online environments, we might wonder if the lack of the instructor in the classroom makes it more likely cheating will happen. Technology certainly changes how students cheat.
A 2017 study by Kessler International reported that 76 percent of surveyed students said they had copied text from someone else’s assignments. Slightly more (79 percent) admitted to plagiarism from internet sources. Around 72 percent said they’d used mobile devices to cheat.
An astonishing 42 percent of students admit to purchasing custom papers or essays online, and 28 percent have paid someone to do their online work. Sadly, many of them thought it was ok to cheat.
Colleges and universities have implemented a variety of tactics designed to minimize cheating. They include tools such as the following.
Clearly defining cheating and setting expectations
This may seem elementary, but letting students know you are aware of cheating and will take it seriously can help curb cheating. If your assignment does not require the use of their phone for apps or resources, remind them to keep devices out of reach.
Academic integrity policies
Many colleges and universities have policies about cheating in their student code of conduct, and these are perhaps the simplest methods to deter cheating. When students break the policy, they may be dismissed from the program. It is a good idea to require students to sign an honor code statement in an initial assignment or prior to each test.
Using proctored exams
Many schools require students to report to campus or to official off-site testing centers for proctored exams. Proctors are typically required to check students’ IDs, enter passwords if needed, and watch them during tests. Tools like ProctorU support digital online proctoring and record the testing session for the instructor, flagging any concerns.
Restricting IP addresses
Some software will allow you to restrict access only to certain labs on campus. This is often done in conjunction with proctoring.
Use a Lockdown Browser
Require students to use a Lockdown Browser with online quizzes and tests. This is a custom setting that literally “locks down” the browser that displays the test or quiz, preventing students from copying or printing the questions or accessing any other websites or applications.
Utilizing keystroke verification software
Keystroke verification software, such as Keystroke DNA, is perhaps one of the most common tech-based cheater prevention methods.
The approach is simple: Students type a short phrase, which is then analyzed by a software program. The software assesses the students’ typing speed, rhythm, and other personal characteristics to create a behavioral biometric data profile for each user. Before any work is submitted, it needs to be verified.
Embedding text-matching software
These are tools like Turnitin, SafeAssign, or CopyLeaks, where software is used to read an essay or paper and assess the likelihood of plagiarism.
Students tend to share old tests, use study material sharing sites to share answers and methods, etc. To prevent cheating, professors may find it useful to use question banks and randomize the questions so that students have a more difficult time in sharing answers.
Professors should change assessments each semester or create multiple versions of tests or quizzes for a class. Include essay or explanation questions, as it makes it more obvious if an answer was copied from somewhere else. If possible, consider pooling questions so all students get similar but slightly varied test questions.
Offer low-stakes quizzing
It reduces the incentive to cheat because the value of each quiz is lower than that of an exam, but it still provides opportunities for assessment.
Assign collaborative learning activities
Use collaborative activities liberally. Consider using social media, shared documents, discussion forums, cyber cafes, video conferencing, and other types of collaborative tools to engage students with one another.
Studies indicate collaboration in online classes increases problem-solving skills more effectively than the student who is completing all classroom activities alone. There is little motivation or ability to cheat when students are working cooperatively for a common goal.
One study at MIT in the 1990’s forbade student collaboration in a programming class. The students collaborated anyway, and became more effective programmers. MIT determined that collaboration would be the new normal in programming classes. After all, the goal is student learning!
If students learn better when collaborating, and collaborating reduces the chances of cheating, then increasing the collaborative activities in an online environment will lead to increased learning and decreased cheating, which is a win/win by any standard.
Use resources already in your arsenal
You might find it helpful to use your Learning Management System to provide links to resources like Turnitin, which can often be linked directly with assignments.
Students think of cheating as a way to avoid learning the course material. But I tell my students that as hard as they work to avoid doing any actual learning, I will work harder to find ways to encourage and guide them to do what they should.
There are resources out there to help me do that. Check your Learning Management System instructor resources, explore other available technology tools, read Chronicle of Higher Education articles or Learning Scientists posts, and talk to your campus instructional designers. These are all great places to find tools you can use to deter cheating in your online courses.
As the Coronavirus continues to spread, organizations like the World Health Organization and US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are recommending strategies to reduce the spread in communities. A big part of keeping people healthy involves minimizing contact at work and during the commute.
But for many people, teleworking is new and it can be a real challenge, especially if multiple members of the same family-parents and kids-are all trying to work and study together under the same roof.
Nearly one-fifth of Pearson’s employees around the globe work from home full time and thousands more split their time between their home and an office. It’s been part of our company’s culture for years. But, not everyone is a regular in their own home office. If working from home is new to you, we’ve compiled the best tips from our own teleworking employees to help you get through this uncertain time.
Maximize the technology your company has to offer
Confirm the tools available to you while working remotely. That may mean practicing with new technology. It may also mean remembering to take home simple items from your desk or asking your employer for what you think you might need.
Things like a monitor can ease eye strain and a separate keyboard or mouse can be more comfortable while typing. Grab a headset or earbuds from the office so calls and video conferences are easier. You probably can’t take the desk chair from your office, but you are going to need to carve out some kind of dedicated space. Think about how you would manage space if multiple people in your house need to work and study together.
Set expectations now with your boss and colleagues about communication
Agree where, when, and how to best communicate with your team to create awareness and enable efficiencies. Be deliberate about scheduling meeting times and quick check-ins. Will you huddle for 15 minutes virtually first thing in the morning or have a quick wrap up in the evening?
Consider less email and more talking, especially via video conferencing. This can be an uncertain time, so it’s going to be reassuring to hear and see colleagues. Leave your video camera on during meetings – facial expressions and personal connection mean a lot right now.
Create opportunities to talk beyond work discussions
Plan virtual coffee breaks or consider extending virtual meetings to account for all of the chit-chat that you miss by not being in the office. Having extra time in a meeting makes a difference in the quality and depth of a work discussion.
But it also allows you to understand your colleagues better and what they are going through right now. You can ask about people’s work experiences, families or even the photos you now see on their walls. You can introduce your dog, share funny memes or just talk about how everyone is coping with the current situation. Mostly just be human.
Set working hours and keep to them, scheduling time for work, meals, and when to disconnect
Unplugging is just harder when your work from home. Work can bleed into every part of your day if you let it. Set consistent hours and clearly socialize your schedule with colleagues. Get up, get out of your PJs and get dressed in the morning. Follow your regular morning routine as much as you can and let colleagues know when you expect to login and start your working day.
You may not be commuting, but if you have kids out of school you may need to set aside time in the morning to help them login and get started with their online lessons. You may need to stop during the day and care for a child or sick relative.
Communicate those needs to your team. During the day, block out time for work, but also reclaim your lunch and get away from your desk. Take short breaks and don’t let working from home merge into your evening or family time.
Give your colleagues a virtual pat on the back!
Now is the time when people need that inspiration and encouragement. So build up colleagues when you can, even if it’s an email shout-out to their boss, a thank you for going the extra mile or a “You got this!”.
Are you moving your traditional class online and need to do so quickly? You might be feeling a little overwhelmed and not sure where to begin. Take solace in the fact that many have done this before you and there is a plethora of information available to assist you.
If you start by answering these few questions, it will put you on a pathway to success as you design and implement your online course. Don’t forget that you should always start by talking to your institution, or search their website, for information about any specific requirements they have for teaching online courses.
How will you teach?
You’ve got to start with this fundamental question. Will your class be an online course that will still meet via video/chat at a certain time (synchronous), or will it be a work-at-your-own-pace type course (asynchronous)? Keep in mind that students’ lives may also be disrupted by changes due to COVID-19 (kids now home from school, etc.), so you may want to consider an asynchronous course.
If you will be meeting synchronously by chat/video, make sure you have an account with, or access to, software that will facilitate this. Your institution may already have agreements with online web conferencing software that will enable your meetings. Or, there are some companies that provide free licenses online (If doing this, be sure to check the fine print! Some free offers limit the length of the conference and/or the number of attendees.)
If your students will be working at their own pace, but you will be recording videos for them to watch, make sure you have video recording software and reliable space on a school server to host the videos. Additionally, think about the length of your videos. No one really wants to sit and watch a 90-minute lecture on video. Consider breaking them into bite size chunks that are topically based and less than 15 minutes in length.
How will students engage?
It’s easy to tell if students are engaged while you’re in a classroom. You’re interacting with them face-to-face, engaging them in meaningful discussions, and posing questions on the fly. How do you get this same level of engagement in an online course? Whether or not your course is synchronous, how can you generate an interactive atmosphere in your virtual classroom? Consider using discussion forums, self-directed learning, and small group work to assist you with increasing engagement.
Self-directed learning can take many forms, all of which encourage the learner to formulate investigative questions around your learning outcomes and test their hypotheses. You could offer a variety of bite sized assignments and videos around various outcomes and allow the students to pick and choose which assignments work best for their learning modalities. Another option might be to have them develop a project incorporating several learning outcomes, or even come up with their own critical thinking questions around your course content and then providing answers.
Discussion forums are highly interactive and truly facilitate participation. You could start a discussion and ask students to post thoughtful, meaningful insights in response (and if you make it for a grade, they’ll definitely interact!) Your topic question should be open ended, meaning it can’t be answered with a simple yes or no, nor does it have a single “right” answer. You should encourage students to post questions, comments, and insight, to which you can provide feedback, and advocate for other students to provide input as well. One piece of advice here, set out guidelines for posting in the forum, such as the number of responses required as well as behavior expectations. Make sure they are clearly communicated ahead of time.
Small group work provides a more collaborative type environment that students typically enjoy. They get to work together to solve problems, share ideas, and discuss content. A truly interactive way to engage the class (and take a bit of the workload off of you), would be to give each group a different topic and have them create a short video and a few assessments around that topic tin which the other students in the course would be required to participate. Most students have ways to gather virtually in smaller settings, but you might want to make some suggestions on free tools that allow for group chats and interactions.
How will you communicate?
Communication methods are abundant in this day and age, but you need to figure out what will be your main form(s) of conveying important pieces of information like assignments and deadlines. A few ideas for communication strategies are using email, creating announcements in your learning management system (or other online learning platform), and holding virtual office hours. Just remember, whatever you choose needs to be clearly communicated to the students on your first day of teaching online (or as close to it as you can get). It’s okay to be redundant and deliver important messages via several routes to make sure it is seen.
With e-mail, it’s always best to use your school email account to bulk email the students as a class. It’s secure, quick, and gives you an easy way to archive all correspondence. Be warned, it can be a bit overwhelming if you use e-mail as your primary means of communication for an online course (imagine ALL of your students emailing you question after question). Perhaps you consider just using email for individual communication that is more private in nature (illness, grades, etc.), and encourage the students to post content questions to a discussion forum. Don’t forget, you don’t like it when people don’t respond to your questions, and students feel the same. Try to get them answers and responses in about 24 hours (or 48 on weekends), or whatever the set response times are per your institution.
Announcements in your learning management software are a fantastic way to get out important dates, new assignments, suggested readings, and anything else you feel warrants the whole class knowing. Plus, many systems will automatically email the students when an announcement gets posted, so there is already built in redundancy (no complaints of never seeing the announcement for a due date then). Try to limit these announcements to 1 – 3 per week so you don’t inundate the students with excessive emails, and keep them short, sweet, and to the point.
Virtual office hours are a great way for students to drop in and see your smiling face. You can set up 1 – 3 office hours per week or more and keep a virtual video meeting software open for the whole time you’ve allotted. Students can then drop in, like they would into your office, and ask you questions. Remind them though that this is not the place for personal or grade related questions if you hold group office hours. If you prefer a more individual approach, have the students sign up on a live document for specific 15-minute time slots.
How will you assess learning?
This is the ultimate question. You’ve had your assignments laid out for weeks, you know what they were supposed to achieve in your face-to-face course. Now, you need to really analyze if those means of assessment will work in an online environment, or if you are going to need to pull together some assessments of a different type. You also need to consider the timeframe for assignments. Are you still going to have them do the same number or are you going to increase the number? How many assignments per week should there be? Consider these options for graded assignments for your course: discussion forums, group work, and online learning assessments.
As mentioned previously, discussion forums are a great way to give out some points. One possible way for grading them would be twice a week – once midway through that looks at questions or comments they have posed, and once at the end for their replies to other posts. This method corresponds to your discussion participation guidelines that lay out the number of posts and when they should be made. One tip here would be to ask students to post on more than one day. This helps build the discussion and avoids a last minute “pile on” of posts that leave no opportunity for interaction. You can go so far as to make a rubric for how you will be grading the discussions, and maybe even consider bonus points for really insightful posts!
We discussed small group work earlier, and you may have some projects you already use for your class that you could adapt to an online course, or maybe you do a quick search of the web to gather some ideas for projects. Group work assignments truly do engage the students and stimulate them to learn from each other. We all know that the best way to really learn something is to be tasked with teaching it to someone else, and that’s what we’d like to think is going on in the groups of our class. Sometimes it is, but sometimes one person is doing all of the work while the others kick back and enjoy the grade. To mitigate situations like these, have the students assess each other at the end of a project, and take their assessments into account when providing final project grades.
Online learning assessments can include directed reading assignments followed by a quick reading quiz, watching videos (yes, there are ways to track who has watched and who hasn’t), typical homework assignments (that can even be automatically graded for you), and yes, even tests. Some learning management systems allow you to build these assessments directly into an assessment management tool, but there are also numerous online programs (or publisher provided software) that can make the creation and grading of these assignments quick, easy, and ready for launch!
Right now, it may seem like this is an impossible feat to accomplish in a short window of time, but you can do this! Seek help from colleagues, publishers, and the web. There are many more resources out there to help you weather through this change, and who knows, you may see a positive outcome in the form of higher grades, positive student feedback, and increased engagement as a result!
My colleagues and I often chaffed under the stress of needing to get ready for our classes while attending the dreaded college-required professional development sessions on “Outcomes” designed to comply with accreditation. We were offered little more than college-dictated Educationese required inclusion in our syllabi.
Most of the outcomes were far too broad and vague to be measurable, and I began to daydream about how to make these days have some merit. I started to muse about outcomes. I needed a definition beyond what’s left at the end of something.
Specifically, what is a useable learning outcome? What would meaningful outcomes look like? Linda Nilson tells us that learning outcomes are what we want our students to be able to do by the end of our course. Therefore, it makes sense to think about designing meaningful course-specific outcomes by looking at the desired end and working backwards, determining the building blocks needed to reach those goals.
Patricia Cross stated the sole purpose of teaching is learning. This does not mean the teacher is the singular path to learning. In fact, learning often occurs best when the wise teacher gets out of the way to allow it to happen organically. Conversely and sadly, there can be a great deal of teaching with little, to no, learning.
I felt myself in the later position more than I would like to admit, working so hard while my students expended little energy. I was expending the lion’s share of classroom energy. I wondered how to flip this energy grid, so the students would become the primary energy consumers.
Learning scientists tell us that deep learning is not easy, it takes effort. Effort = expenditure of energy. So, if my students spent little energy, and learning consumes lots of energy, then the ratio of teaching to learning was seriously off-balance in my classrooms. I was doing so much teaching that was not resulting in a proportional amount of learning. I realized I needed to become the classroom learning facilitator.
I daydreamed about my ideal class with students learning. Teachers often believe we are the keepers of knowledge and only from our mouths may students learn. We’re the rock stars, dancing as fast as we can in front of the class, exhausted at the end of the day. And, while rock stars often get glowing student reviews, studies have shown students often mastered less than students in classrooms with methods focusing on learning outcomes rather than what the teacher teaches.
Sound outcomes contain three statements:
how the outcome will be measured;
what the conditions will be for demonstrating the outcome;
and, the criteria for evaluating the student’s performance of the outcome.
How the outcome is measured might be stated in terms like; define or compute. The conditions for measurement might include; speeches, portfolios, or maps. Finally, the criteria for evaluating are the rubrics developed to measure progress.
There are cognitive, psychomotor, affective, social, and ethical outcomes; however, I am only examining cognitive outcomes. Bloom’s taxonomy remains an excellent framework for developing cognitive outcomes. These cognitive processes begin with knowledge. Without knowledge, students have no material with which to construct an end result.
Parroting new information in order to remember is the first rung. This might be coupled with comprehension, the second learning process, where the student is able to express the information in their own words. The third rung is application, using newly acquired information in unique situations. The fourth step analyzes the new information understanding how the components relate. Synthesis follows as students use isolated components creating new skills or products. The student reaches the top of the cognitive structure and is able to see from a new vantage, evaluating the relevancy of this learning.
It is important to note that outcomes have little merit without motivated students. Maslow’s hierarchy of need offers an excellent frame for motivation – beginning with the subfloor of meeting physiological needs and safety concerns, moving to a sense of belonging, leading to increased self-esteem, and culminating with self-actualization.
I am able to address each in my classrooms, creating environments with little effort that are physically comfortable, a safe space emotionally and physically, with collaborative activities increasing belongingness, giving constructive and meaningful feedback that increases self-esteem, and encouraging students to design their paths to uniquely defined success leading to self-actualization.
The principles of Bloom’s learning ladder coupled with the scaffolding of human/student motivations in Maslow’s research integrate learning and motivation producing my dream classroom.
The learning outcomes were supporting my course redesign. I reviewed assignments, assessments, and classroom strategies. If I found an activity or evaluative tool having little connection to the learning outcomes, I eliminated them, creating other activities better aligned with outcomes. I limited the number of outcomes so I could measure each and offer timely feedback so students had a very transparent view of what it would take to be successful.
My class gradually became far less about how much material I was able to cover than about how much progress students were making toward a final goal of mastery. This sometimes led to decreasing the amount of content I had assumed necessary simply because the textbook offered X number of chapters.
I kept in mind the BIG question, “What do I want my students to be able to do when they walk away from my course?”
Now, a warning! This outcome-based, learning-centered environment is often noisy. I have had one or two neighboring professors, request a room change due to the enthusiastic discussions and sometimes raucous laughter emanating from my students’ engagement with each other and the course principles.
I once had a provost, invited to visit student end-of-term presentations, become so engaged with the students and their learning that she remained for the entire class rather than the few minutes she had intended.
I’ll also warn that you must be prepared for changes in yourself. Motivation is infectious. The more motivated I became to create a sacred space for my students to learn, the more motivated they became to learn, which in turn reenergized me. I had found my teacher fountain of youth. The energy grid was teeming and flowing all over the place, back and forth from me, to students, to outsiders. I went home at night, not exhausted, but energized.
So, I guess I’ll express gratitude for those many tedious and painful college “Outcome” in-services for boring me into daydreaming and taking action.
I attended college in an age of lectures. You know the student lecture mode. You go to class, listen to your professor lecture for an hour or more, frantically take notes, and then hope you can make some sense of those notes while trying to do your homework.
When I became a professor, I didn’t know much else to offer. Group work was popular, so I did incorporate group work assignments, usually as a review activity before an exam. My daily routine though, continued to be mostly lecture. I would call on students to answer specific questions – I tried to move around the room so everyone had a turn. It felt “fair,” but I’m sure it didn’t help those students who had math anxiety. It didn’t seem like enough.
Some of my colleagues across campus were using “clickers” so students could answer multiple choice questions during class. But because I was teaching a math class, I didn’t want multiple choice questions – I wanted the students solving and answering questions on their own, not guessing from a list of choices or working backwards. Think – Pair – Share was another technique I tried with relative success, but inevitably I still had up to 1/3 of the classroom sitting there quietly, not talking to anyone.
Along came Learning Catalytics: my classroom would never be the same. Learning Catalytics is a classroom response system that students can log in to with their phones or other web-enabled devices. Instead of just multiple-choice questions, there are 18 different question types.
This includes mathematical expressions, multiple graphing options, direction (think vectors), short answer, and many more. It was also quite simple to create my own questions directly from my notes for class, or I could choose from a vast library of existing questions already available.
I used to walk around the room while students had a practice problem to work on, seeing a handful of their work and having a vague overall idea of how the class was doing. Now I was able to see the responses from every student in one summary at my computer.
The real game changer though, came with the seating chart. It’s not assigned seating for the students per se; it is set up that they click on the seat they’re sitting in when joining the class session. While students are working and submitting answers, I’m able to see which areas of the classroom are struggling more (due to an increased number of incorrect responses). Now I can focus my “wandering” time with the students who are struggling with this topic, right now.
The real beauty with the seating chart though, comes with the ability to assign the students into groups to re-work a problem after discussing it with each other.
Let’s assume the “correct” responses are somewhere between 30% and 70%. With the click of a button, I can assign the students into groups of 3 for discussion and resubmission. There is even an option that students are group by “different” answers. This disperses the 30% or more of correct answers throughout the groups, so you can be almost certain that every group has at least one member who answered correctly.
Students discuss with each other and demonstrate how they solved the problem, and then they resubmit their answers. I regularly see the correct response rate to a question go from something around 40% correct to 80 or 90% correct – and I haven’t said a word! The change is from students working together.
My class is busy: students are moving around, getting their blood flowing, and everyone is engaged. Each person’s device tells them the name of the others in their discussion group and where they’re sitting with respect to them. I tell the students, “If you have their name, they have yours – don’t be rude! Get up and talk to each other.” Gone are the days of 1/3 of the class sitting quietly after you’ve asked them to “discuss with a neighbor!”
If the response rate is below 30%, depending on the topic, I might step back and do some more class discussion, as obviously the topic is not clear enough to them. If the response rate is over 70 or 80% correct, it’s probably worth moving forward, rather than spending the time to redo the problem in groups.
However, even in these cases, all the aggregated responses can be shared on the screen, including the incorrect ones. As a class, we’re able to discuss some of the errors made in the room, and how to avoid them, without any individual student being singled out.
Last term in my Linear Algebra class, there was a simple definition presented – I thought it was as straightforward as could be. I threw a simple concept check in Learning Catalytics expecting overwhelming correct answers – and to my surprise, less than half the students got it right. It was clearly time to review it again. It felt so good to know quickly that we needed to spend some more time on that topic.
Gone are the days of being unsure during class how well my students are grasping the topic of the day. I can find out on the spot and give them opportunities to actively work together to learn the material. Students are engaged, excited to come to class and interact with each other.
Is it a time investment in class? Yes, it is – but it’s well worth it. And for those doing Co-Requisites, what better way to help pace your pre-requisite content being covered. Topics with high correct response rates mean you are free to move along! And those with less, you’re able to spend more time on. Thank you to Learning Catalytics for helping transform my classroom!
Here’s a very brief video overview of what Learning Catalytics can bring to your classroom. And click here for Training and Support materials if you’d like to engage your students with Learning Catalytics.
We’ve partnered with Wake Forest University for years. For example, we support its nationally respected online graduate program in counseling. It’s been a success for everyone — especially students, who are achieving strong academic and career outcomes.
So, when Wake Forest’s School of Medicine sought to deliver two new, purpose-built degree programs, it was natural for them to talk to us. However, Wake Forest’s School of Medicine has distinct capabilities and priorities.
Its entrepreneurial leaders asked us: How can we customize a partnership that reflects our internal resources and capabilities? How can we use our ability to provide funding to help launch these online programs?
We offer multiple models for delivering our best-in-class services. Together, we built an innovative, co-investment agreement that gets the risk/reward balance right for both parties.
The final contract promotes shared interests and alignment (like traditional revenue share agreements) but Wake Forest’s upfront contributions allow us to share the financial risk. That way, we created a shorter contract commitment that will allow us to make changes, if the market changes quickly.
Meanwhile, Wake Forest benefits from the same comprehensive online program management services that are already working well for the University — from our strong national marketing expertise to one-on-one student coaching and support through graduation.
Innovative curriculum to transform healthcare
Launching this fall, these online programs are a perfect example of an institution that’s found an unmet opportunity to use its strengths and positively impact the lives of students and society. Let’s look at each one:
Wake Forest’s Master of Science in Clinical Research Management will empower professionals throughout the clinical research field to move research and development forward, advance health and save lives. Through an engaging, supportive and interdisciplinary online program environment, participants will learn how to select and apply relevant scientific knowledge, critically analyze research designs, help construct/lead clinical trials and improve patient care.
Wake Forest’s Master of Science in Healthcare Leadership will prepare a new generation to transform healthcare for the better. Graduates will be exceptionally qualified to lead their organization and improve patient outcomes. They’ll be ready to address everything from strategy to culture; change management to innovation.
Online education is about helping more people thrive. That’s what Wake Forest is doing — and we’re excited to partner with them.
To learn more about our customizable models, world-class expertise, and the resources we offer, contact us.