Academic integrity has been of paramount concern in distance education since its inception. Arguably, the integrity of online classes received increased attention in recent years due to the pandemic when many instructors and students alike were thrust into the world of online learning by force.
During this time, upwards of 75% of all undergraduate students were enrolled in at least one distance education course. Further, 44% of undergraduate students took only online classes during this time (NCES, 2022). Some online instructors utilize measures outside of traditional tests to discourage cheating, such as projects, open-ended assessment questions, or other “internet resistant” question types (Suzuki, 2000).
However, many of these instructors also require proctored testing as part of their academic integrity toolbox. While in-person proctoring may be the gold standard, as far as control over the testing environment and the test-takers, remote proctoring may be a more cost-effective option for students who do not live near a testing center or students who need to minimize proctoring costs.
Pearson has partnered with two titans of the online proctoring industry to offer remote proctoring options directly within MyLab®: ProctorU and Respondus.
ProctorU has been a well-known provider of online test proctoring since 2008. Once an institution or instructor secures an agreement with ProctorU, instructors will receive an institutional key to enable this proctoring option in their MyLab courses. Depending on the type of license that is granted, the testing cost may be covered by the institution, or it could be passed to students with a paywall before they can access the test.
Once enabled, ProctorU can be required for selected tests or quizzes. The process for students could not be simpler; students log into their MyLab courses and access their tests or quizzes as they normally would. When students start their tests, a window pops up that walks students through the steps to start their proctored test experience.
After completing the multifaceted identity verification process that includes biometric keystroke analysis, facial recognition, and challenge questions, students are monitored virtually by their webcam, microphone, and ProctorU software.
Respondus has been part of the online testing industry for over 20 years. Respondus Monitor is their automated remote proctoring system that uses a student's webcam and industry-leading analytics to detect suspicious activity during exams and has been integrated into MyLab since 2020. To enable Respondus Monitor, instructors can choose to enter the Respondus license of their institutions, if available, or they can immediately choose the Student Payment option, which will pass the nominal test cost directly to the student.
Respondus Monitor can be required for selected tests or quizzes. Further, instructors can customize the authentication sequence that students must complete prior to starting their tests (e.g., include custom instructions, require students to show their ID, check students’ environment, etc.).
Proctored testing is one of many tools often utilized by online instructors to help ensure the academic integrity of their courses. For more information about our platform proctoring options, explore MyLab and Mastering® features or speak with your sales rep today.
Video is everywhere. With more than a billion hours of video footage viewed on YouTube every day,1 it is a medium that most students are both familiar and comfortable with. The question is not whether to use videos in higher education, but how to use them to improve learner outcomes.There is plenty of research that touches on the role of video in learning, and there are even some studies that specifically examine the different ways of using video in university or college courses.
After reviewing and analyzing this research, we’re confident that most higher education courses could improve learner outcomes by supplementing instruction and other learning content with relevant educational videos.
Here are three reasons why.
1. Students want to learn from videos
Video is part of higher education even when it’s not officially part of the learning experience. Some higher education students prefer videos to written sources and many will seek out subject-related videos on YouTube, even when they’re not assigned.
In a survey of hundreds of business students:
71% said they used YouTube as part of their academic learning
70.5% believed they could learn a lot about a subject by watching related videos instead of reading a book2
In a 2020 study, a group of higher education students was given 30 minutes of online research time to learn enough about a topic to write a brief summary. On average, the students spent 8.5 of their 30 minutes watching videos. Only 15.7% of the students watched no videos at all.3
Studies also seem to show that the appeal of video is not limited to particular subjects or learning preferences.4 Whatever the course, and whatever the makeup of the student body, including videos can engage students in learning.
2. Supplemental videos improve learning
Videos clearly appeal to students, but do they actually help them learn? When combined with other learning methods, there is evidence that they can.
A 2021 study looked at different ways of using videos in higher education courses. The researchers found that pivoting the course to video — dropping existing teaching methods and having students watch videos instead — did improve learning somewhat.
But the biggest improvements came when video was added to the existing course content, rather than replacing it.5
This may be because adding video gives students more ways to understand the content. If the learning didn’t take hold from a lecture or a written text, maybe it would from a video. Whereas when video replaced other methods, if a student didn’t grasp the content from the video, they had no alternative ways in.
3. Videos can directly affect learning
Does including videos improve learning by making the course more engaging, or do the videos themselves help improve learning? Understanding this helps determine the best types of video to include in higher education courses.
A 2014 study experimented with integrating different types of videos into lectures. When the videos were mainly entertaining, students’ motivation and engagement improved. Higher motivation and engagement are associated with better learning outcomes.
But when the videos were mainly educational and directly relevant to the lecture topic, students performed better on post-lecture quizzes than those who attended a lecture without videos.6
This shows that while videos can affect learning by engaging students, they can also have a direct effect on students’ knowledge.
Improving learning for students at all experience levels
To summarize, based on a range of studies:
higher education courses should include videos
videos should supplement, not replace, existing course content and instruction
videos should be educational in nature and directly relevant to the subject
When videos are integrated into higher education courses in this way, students — whatever their previous academic history — are more likely to outperform their predicted grades.7
Scot Chadwick, Pearson’s Vice President of Partner Success, knows exactly why he pursued a career in higher education: to change lives, and reach non-traditional learners who couldn’t access traditional on-campus programs.
That goes back to his days at eCollege, an early pioneer in providing comprehensive technology, services, and support to help institutions move online. More recently, he put his passion to work at the University of Colorado, leading the rebuild and relaunch of CU Online’s team and operations, and set the multi-campus unit on a path to grow from 900 to 6,000 fully online students in its first five years. Here, he shares his experience and insights to help institutions excel in the fast-changing online environment, and partner successfully with Online Program Management (OPM) service providers.
What’s your ‘why’?
I really enjoy what I do, but more importantly, I enjoy the impact of the work.
I started with eCollege, an online pioneer that was a common ancestor to today's OPMs. We offered institutions and their online learners a wide set of services, technology and support, with a first-of-its-kind shared-success business model. One day early in my career at eCollege, one of our academic partners shared an email with us from one of their students, a single mom living in rural Iowa. In her note she said, ‘I just graduated, and I'm so excited. I just wanted to thank you for offering this program online, because I would have never been able to get my degree if it wasn't offered online. There’s no way I could have made it work.’
I’ll always remember that. It made a powerful impact on me because I was raised by a single mom who was never able to get her degree, and it still bothers her to this day.
When I think about the work that we do, it's about providing opportunity.
You’ve been on both sides of the table. How do you build a true collaborative partnership between a university and an OPM, and overcome the challenges?
First, it’s about having shared goals. And, as in any good relationship, it's about really good, candid communication. It's about not being afraid to talk about the things that aren’t going well and that we need to be better at together, as well as celebrating things that are going well.
Achieving sustained success is very challenging for any online program. Many partnerships go through ebbs and flows: great times where programs are growing at an extremely rapid pace, and other times when they aren’t. Situations change. The individuals involved may also change, which can influence the tenor of a partnership.
When you’re in a challenging phase it helps to take a step back, assess the program(s), the market, your shared financials, and make sure your shared goals are still valid, and you still see them the same way. Then talk openly about how you can achieve them together going forward. There’s always room to deliver a better student experience, and to address core issues that may be getting in the way.
You’ve stressed shared success. How do you and our partners define that?
Shared success means our interests are aligned, both partners are motivated to achieve our shared goals, and we both benefit from achieving them.
A shared success goal might be program growth. Or it might be extending a program’s reach to serve students the institution can’t support today, whether geographically or otherwise.
The institution may want to deliver a unique and personalized learner experience or demonstrate to employers that their graduates have the skills and competencies that prepare them for career success. These are just a few of the goals we’re working toward every day with our partners.
How can an institution make sure its online programs, and our services, align with its unique mission?
Again, it starts with clarity of goals, and the why behind the investment of funding and resources. If an institution wants to expand the population they serve via online programs, how will doing this help them achieve their mission? I’ve seen institutions move rapidly into the online space without first investing time with their faculty and staff to ensure everyone understands how it aligns with their institution’s mission.
It's critical to have clarity on why it matters. That can be at an institutional level, but it also should be at a school, college, department, or program level.
Scaling a high-quality online program in today’s market is challenging and requires genuine collaboration, communication and support institution-wide.
There will always be stakeholder questions about how and why the institution is investing significant resources in this area. Effective institutional leaders listen and can clearly articulate “Here’s why it’s important. Here’s how it connects to our mission and something that's bigger than all of us. Here’s why we’re well positioned to do it and how you can contribute to our success.”
Institutions and leaders have also become more sophisticated in how they approach expanding their online footprint. Increasingly, they know to think critically about the “why” of their programs and apply a formal process to evaluate opportunities and program readiness internally, sometimes even before they ask us what kind of support we could provide.
What might success look like five years from now? What should partners focus on to get there?
Historically, many learners thought: ‘I’ll get a degree, and then it’ll pay itself off… somehow.’ But now learners are rigorously evaluating higher education ROI upfront. As just one example, Google has reported significant growth in searches for the ROI of specific credentials – an MBA, an MS in Business Analytics, an MSN degree, a project management certificate, you name it. Earlier this year, for the first time, searches for alternative credentials outnumbered searches for degree programs.
Learners are making more consumer-based decisions in a more competitive environment. Institutions need deeper insight into who they’re serving, and into the learner’s overall experience from the first interaction forward. Traditionally, consumers tolerated less-than-stellar experiences at higher education institutions. Those days are over. You want to re-enroll both current alumni and the new alumni you’re creating every day. To develop that brand loyalty, the experience you deliver in every interaction matters, at every stage of the student journey, digital or live.
How do you build teams to deliver high-growth online learning that delivers these great experiences and outcomes?
I feel fortunate. My team’s work really matters. We get to have a generational impact on people’s lives. Not everybody gets to do that. For me as a leader, everything starts with making sure this is as meaningful to everyone on my team as it is to me. Then, I work to inspire them to continuously learn, challenge themselves, be unafraid to fail, and be collaborative. And I make sure we’re having fun!
Layered onto all that, we need a structured and formalized approach to how we engage with partners. We need to ensure we’re aligning ourselves and our leaders with theirs, reflecting what’s important to them as an institution and in their individual leadership roles.
Strategic relationship management is really challenging. The impact of our partnerships is massive. We take that very seriously. We must work every day to show value to the institution and to each of its leaders.
That involves engaging many people within our organization. Across Pearson, our team has incredible capabilities. It’s our job to bring in that specialized expertise to make sure every partner and program is as successful as possible. When it’s time to think about the partnership’s future, we want them to think: ‘of course we want to do this with Pearson, because this team understands us, and we’ve built trust in what we can accomplish together.’
When you’re not changing learners’ lives or building great partnerships, how do you recharge? Where would we find you on your perfect weekend?
I live in Colorado, and we definitely take advantage of living in this amazing state. My hope is you’d find me on a river, somewhere in the mountains, fly fishing with my wife, my kids, and my dog.
Stackable courses offer immense promise to both learners and institutions. To get started with them successfully, it helps to learn from early adopters – including expert innovators such as Maryville University.
Maryville is a nationally recognized pioneer in access and opportunity, meeting learners’ fast-changing needs, and helping people quickly gain practical value from education. Even before the university launched stackables, it partnered with leading regional businesses to offer targeted short-term certificates and badges for employee upskilling, reskilling, and career progress.
As Maryville president Mark Lombardi says, “We have entered an era of the democratization of education where access and opportunity are expanding and workforce training on a continual basis is a career imperative. Universities must be able to deliver different types of education and high skill training on a variety of platforms to meet the needs of a growing and diverse workforce and a wide array of employers.”
Stackables: A Natural Next Step
One key element of Maryville’s growth strategy involves attracting learners who’ve earned some college credit but no degree. These are typically working adults who want to earn promotions or transition into better careers. For learners like these, stackables are attractive and efficient.
According to Katherine Louthan, Dean of the School of Adult & Online Education, “We’re solving for future of work issues, focused on upskilling in areas with high industry demand. Students in our existing degree programs tell us they need to dive into the content areas more quickly, so they can showcase what they’ve learned to advance in their position or even start new careers. This is a reasonable approach and one we wanted to accelerate for learners so they can apply what they’re learning right away, and gain value whether they complete a full degree or not.”
Innovation That Builds on Strength
As Maryville moved into stackables, says Louthan, it made sense to build on existing program strengths. “Where were our signature programs? Where are we growing in the future?”
Maryville is especially strong at the intersection of business and technology. It had already launched highly successful programs in areas such as cybersecurity, data science, and software development. Its Fall 2021 stackable launch plan focused on these strengths and included five undergraduate-level certificates in computer science: the three aforementioned subjects, plus artificial intelligence and UX/UI.
All are offered for credit towards a degree, or stand-alone for immediate credentialing. Like all of Maryville’s degree-linked stackable offerings, they carry the same pricing and fees either way.
Two post-bachelor’s certificates, Big Data and Machine Learning, are offered as stand-alone and embedded within Maryville’s graduate programs in computer science, offering a shorter time commitment and a seamless onramp into a full graduate program if and when learners are ready.
In another example of programmatic innovation, Maryville is offering a new post-bachelor’s certificate in Communication Sciences and Disorders, designed for career changers planning to enroll in master’s programs in Speech Learning Pathology (SLP) or doctoral programs in audiology. These individuals often already have a bachelor’s degree but need multiple courses to “level up” before they can pursue graduate work.
Communication Sciences and Disorders bundles an essential undergraduate-level foundation in crucial areas such as voice, speech, language fluency, swallowing, and hearing disorders. Carefully crafted to prepare learners for highly competitive graduate programs -- including Maryville’s – it also connects learners to innovative “learn by doing” resources such as the Master Clinician Network. Through MCN, learners can take part in guided observation and start building clinical skills even before they enter graduate school.
Off to a Strong Start
Since the Fall 2021 launch, early signs are positive, says Louthan. “We’re getting great feedback from students who are experiencing success. We’ve had a lot of interest in areas such as AI and UX where many professionals need to upskill to stay relevant or advance. Our content is also aligned well with employer feedback. We believe we’re creating a successful starting point in addressing students’ growing demand for more flexible options. Whether they will go on to complete their degrees is yet to be seen. We are more focused on whether they are achieving their goals, and we hope they will come back to Maryville when they are ready to, or need to, upskill or reskill again.“
“Challenges always exist in times of change,” says Louthan, “and we are in a time of significant disruption in education and industry. As we work to drive down the cost of education, having a menu of options to meet both learner needs and market demands will require continuous analysis. We also recognize that while certificates are attractive in emerging areas of technology and computer science, some more traditional areas may still require a degree. Students have shared that during this transitional time many employers still require a bachelor’s degree for consideration.
“Considering the future of work and the rapid rate of change, we know the model must shift so we can offer learners what they need and want to reach their goals – whatever their goals may be. As lifelong learning evolves, we will continue listening to our learners and employers to best meet their needs. We believe milestone achievements matter to students and they should be recognized for their achievements and able to apply them along their learning journey. We are focusing our work on their success and their ability to achieve their goals.”
Placed in broader context, stackability fits well with Maryville’s key strategic goals and institutional mission: to create a global, student-centered active learning ecosystem, to drive transformational innovation around learner outcomes, to define its success by learner success, and to expand access and opportunity.
As Dean Louthan concludes, “We understand education isn’t one-size-fits-all. Different students have different circumstances and considerations, and Maryville is committed to being as inclusive and accommodating as possible. Our certificate programs underscore this mission, serving as alternative paths to meet learners where they are — and help them reach their career goals.”
Learn more, and explore Pearson's online learning offerings and OPM services
How do you deliver value to learners and employers alike? In the hot field of cyber security, the University of North Dakota has cracked the code with the design of its recently launched online program.
The University of North Dakota is a public research university in Grand Forks, N.D. It offers more than 120 online degree and certificate programs, encouraging students from around the world to explore more than 225 fields of study every year. UND is dedicated to its mission to provide transformative learning, discovery and community engagement opportunities for developing tomorrow's leaders.
In consultation with Pearson Online Learning Services, Vice Provost for Online Education and Strategic Planning Jeff Holm chose to align the cyber security curriculum with highly sought-after and industry-recognized certifications. Advancing skills in cyber security can mean better job security, higher pay and more leadership opportunities for learners — program features that align with the university’s mission.
To create a program that appealed to a broad audience while meeting UND’s high pedagogical standards, UND and Pearson established a collaborative working relationship. The teams partnered on course development, tailoring courses to 14 weeks each. Both partners agreed that this gave learners the right amount of time with the material and addressed their needs for convenient, short courses that deliver work-ready skills.
The university also relied on the partnership for market research and insights, marketing and enrollment support to widen its reach. The strategy was to give more learners valuable career preparation by including certificates in the degree program. With the addition of cyber certificates to the online program, learners can gain recognizable, industry credentials as they move toward earning a full degree — making them more valuable to employers sooner.
“UND offers a variety of options so learners can tailor their M.S. in Cyber Security to fit specific interests and career goals,” Holm says. “The cyber security master’s program offers four tracks (or) stackable academic certificate options.” One certificate is mandatory. Learners can select two of three other certificate options and graduate with a master’s and three academic certificates. The tracks and certificates include:
Cyber Security Analyst track aligned with the EC-Council Certified Threat Intelligence Analyst (CTIA) certification
Ethical Hacking track aligned with the EC-Council Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) certification
Computer Forensics track aligned with the EC-Council Computer Hacking Forensics Investigator (CHFI) certification
Secure Networks track aligned with the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certification
Since Michael Collins joined Pearson Online Learning Services as senior vice president of marketing and learner acquisition, he’s been working to harmonize and humanize everything we do to engage and enroll learners in our partners’ online programs.
Collins brings a background in journalism, marketing, public relations, corporate communications, and — not least — music. In this interview, he shares insights that reflect where he’s been, what he’s seen, and where we can make the greatest impact for partners by building lifelong relationships that keep learners coming back.
You studied music in college. What did you learn from that experience?
Sometimes you can be the lead in a musical or in a play, right? But many times, you’ll be part of the ensemble. In marketing, I’ve learned it’s much the same. Sometimes you’re still part of the ensemble, and you have to switch between supporting roles. I may be leading marketing and learner acquisition, but I’m also part of a leadership team working to achieve shared outcomes. Even where I’m the lead within my own team, sometimes another member of the team has the stage.
Beyond that, when we work with our partners, we’re also part of their team. So, knowing how to make all these teams work together well at the same time is one of the most important things I can do.
You come to Pearson from the CFA Institute, the leading global provider of investment management education. But you’ve also played key marketing roles in other industries. What lessons do you see as especially relevant for your work here — especially your work with institutions?
There’s a note that runs through my career in terms of working in-marketing, whether it’s been in retail, manufacturing, distribution, technology, or tech-enabled service companies. And that’s about creating affinity that makes customers want to keep buying from you.
I ran global marketing at Iomega, which made external storage drives: Maybe you remember the Zip drive. We went from $140 million to $2 billion in revenue in under 36 months. We sold through retail channels like Best Buy, as well as through distributors who sold to retail. And I learned the power of channels and partnering.
It’s one thing to sell your product or service, but how will you help partners be successful, so they want to keep partnering with you? That’s our challenge, too. We’ve built a business model where, when Pearson’s partners are successful, we’re successful. And our partners in turn succeed when their learners succeed.
And it’s never one-and-done. In our student success and retention work, and in everything else we do, we need to be relentlessly focused on making both learners and partners more successful continually.
When a college professor tells me that they never imagined their in-person course could be so engaging in an online format, or a student interacts with learning more online than they would have in the traditional classroom, I know that I, along with my incredibly talented team, are fulfilling our mission.
We are Pearson's Learning Design Solutions (LDS) team, and our job is to reimagine traditional higher education courses for the online environment. Last year alone, we supported over 1,400 courses across 35+ programs for over a dozen of our university partners. We developed courses in disciplines such as Law, Social Work, Public Health, Education, Nursing, and Business, among others. It's a responsibility we take very seriously—not only to deliver amazing online learning—but to help safeguard the integrity and validity of the entire online education “galaxy.” It's no secret that online learning has had its naysayers, so if we prove them wrong while delivering, time-and-again, for students and academic partners... then, we fulfill our mission.
With decades of expertise in online education and course development operations, LDS brings science and insight to ensure our college and university partners' online courses are designed and developed to meet the highest expectation of quality and efficacy. Our tenets are straightforward:
Pedagogy: LDS brings data and science into designing courses to ensure they meet the appropriate rigor, engagement levels, and measurable outcomes. All instructional designers in LDS engage in regular professional development in the industry and hold various levels of certification in Quality Matters (QM). The team is currently supporting several partners in aligning courses to QM standards, including Regis College’s Nursing programs and Health Sciences programs.
Equity: By designing through a lens of historically informed compassion and empathy, LDS consults to design courses with equity top of mind. LDS seeks ongoing team training opportunities in a commitment to raise diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) standards for online learning. LDS recently supported a university partner interested in auditing courses to identify ways to improve inclusivity in course content. All course components produced by LDS meet current WCAG 2.1 AA and Pearson’s Global Content and Editorial Policy.
Research: By participating in, and helping to conduct, ongoing research in online learning, LDS helps partners refine practices, innovate learning solutions, and keep up with generation after generation of digital learners. LDS is currently engaged in collaborative research with multiple partners, who are focused on developing learning analytics dashboards to advance data-driven learning design insight and practice.
It's especially meaningful when faculty recognize that designing together with Pearson’s Learning Design Solutions team positively influences their course beyond project boundaries and into their regular teaching practices. A recent Brookings article, Online college classes can be better than in-person ones, reaffirms that online learning is gaining recognition and thriving beyond the potential consequences of the pandemic. This is a goal for us—to use our education (super)powers for the good of all learners, no matter the model or method.
Learn more, and explore Pearson's online learning offerings and OPM services
Sasha Thackaberry, Ph.D. recently joined the executive team at Pearson Online Learning Services (POLS) as Vice President of Student and Partner Services. Previously, she led Louisiana State University’s online program organization, where in just four years, her team grew from supporting 800 students in 9 programs to over 12,000 in 120+ programs, while keeping a strong focus on quality. Her online learning experience has been honed throughout a career at LSU, SNHU, and other innovators. See how her experiences shape her current work at Pearson to help learners and institutions thrive.
Sasha, tell us something we should know about you.
I get really geeked out about what’s next, and how to drive change – both in education, and in my own teams. I’m interested in building teams that get addicted to evolving, and to making the next big thing happen.
Even today, change is underrated. Disruption is going to occur continually, and I’m passionate about how we move things forward towards a more effective fusion of education and technology.
“High-tech, high-touch” isn’t a new concept, but in higher education, historically, we haven’t done it all that well. Now, though, there’s a lot of insight we can draw on to do better. For instance, we can use more of what’s been learned by behavioral economists. The techniques so often used to sell us stuff can also be used to remove barriers to learning and encourage people to continually engage in it.
You’ve said institutions can go beyond resilience to become truly “anti-fragile”: able to thrive amidst disorder and chaos. How?
It starts with creating and building a foundation that enables you to be proactive and flexible, no matter what. Then, there’s a reactive piece: when you see something coming down the pike, always getting ready, seeing what works and what doesn’t, pivoting quickly. You can build in “space” in your systems and processes, and keep things as simple as possible.
Two issues are key. First, institutions must invest heavily in their technology infrastructures. Valuable data is everywhere, but you can’t react if you don’t know what’s going on.
Second, there’s culture: committing to pivot on a dime and be super creative. One of the best ways is to be very upfront about failures because they teach us how to change. Obviously, there are exceptions, but in higher ed environments, failure is too often viewed as a lack of competence. Instead, we need to embrace smart risk, and then be ready to pivot fast if it doesn’t work. You need leaders who can approach "Black Swan” events as opportunities to do really great things, as some institutions did during the pandemic.
COVID changed things forever, but what are we learning about the new higher ed environment that’s emerging?
We now have a marketplace of many different sizes, types, and forms of learning – and our audience looks radically different. A generation ago, few expected the post-traditional audience to become the only part of higher ed that was growing. Twenty years from now, people will look back and ask each other, “Do you remember when they based everything on the degree?”
We see young people who aren’t all headed straight to college. They’re doing other things first. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I just think we must accommodate their needs as learners.
Then, there’s “education as a benefit” from employers. Our infrastructures need to accommodate that, and many other flexible options – not just paying by credit card, but also subscriptions. More of what we do needs to be time-variable. People are voting with their enrollments, and they’re saying: I want shorter, faster, more applicable.
You were a pioneer in stackables. What advice would you offer to those who worry about learner outcomes and building viable programs that don’t just cannibalize current programs?
To begin, you can’t overly focus on cannibalization of revenue. If an early automaker thought, “If I build cars, I’m gonna cannibalize my base of horse customers,” they missed the point. It’s about what people want.It’s not about what we want to create for them. If you don’t disrupt your own business, someone else will.
But it’s not just about defense. You can start a virtuous cycle of creating stackables by yourself, partnering with content providers to build them, and ingesting them from other places.
Colleges and universities have amazing resources for learning in their faculty and their content knowledge. Many times, those same faculty and that same content can be used to create short-form credentials that open the door to a wider set of learners. It’s not only about the degree or a single point-in-time credential. All of us will need to continually learn and collect new credentials throughout our careers. Stackables empower institutions to set up lifelong partnerships with their students – from a traditional experience through a fully online experience, from a degree to a single hour-long, just-in-time learning session.
Some folks worry about whether microcredentials will really have the value they promise. But institutions can develop a lot more information about what is being learned. And as we get better at intervening with post-traditional learners, we can get better at moving them to the appropriate classes or paths.
You do, however, need to remain focused on your institution’s actual mission, to avoid mission creep. Not every institution needs to be everything for every learner. Each institution has its own unique strength, lens, and approach to learning. In the online space, it’s no different.
You led LSU’s initiatives in non-degree and degree online learning. How did you bring faculty aboard?
There are always champions: people who’ve discovered ways to get innovative things done. Find them. Then support them with all the expertise and political capital you can. If you make early adopters successful, others will come on board. I’ve never been in an environment where you didn’t have innovative faculty. It’s always a question of critical mass and political will.
LSU was proud of building its own internal online learning organization without an external OPM. Now you’re at the company that pioneered the OPM model. Can you reflect on the decision to partner or go it alone?
I had a very unusual situation at LSU. I had Board support, strategic focus from the President, and the best boss I’ve ever had – a Provost who promised to block and tackle for me, and came through every time, whether it involved changing policies or getting mainframes reprogrammed. She was willing to be unpopular – and that included fighting to protect our budgets.
When you work with an OPM partner, there’s a contract in place, and dollars for things like marketing and recruitment are protected through that contract. Many institutions really don't know the true cost of learner acquisition, marketing, and recruitment. They may not know what it means to do digital campaigns, or the differences between a website and landing pages, and the implications for marketing spend. That requires specific talent, and it can be hard to get.
At LSU, I was empowered to build a team from the ground up, where we had to be super-creative, use super-modern techniques, and be super-efficient. And it worked. But when an average institution has a strategic communications budget of, say, $200,000, and you propose dropping $6,000,000 on marketing for an online program that has 5,000 students this year, that budget line tends not to get preserved. You might start out with the commitment, but it gradually turns out that you can’t afford to market the program to reach the scale needed to sustain it.
Even just the technology behind online programs can be challenging. You need a CRM, autodialers, texting, chat boxes, web development. Universities are not historically excellent at all that. If you can’t build that, you must get it externally.
Not everything is either-or, and when we build service packages for new partners at Pearson, they’re differentiated and customized to each institution’s needs. But I can 100% say that if you don’t have certain ingredients to scale, it’s better to go with a partner.
You’ve been a thought leader at institutions like LSU and SNHU, but also in organizations like Quality Matters. Based on all you’ve seen, can you share any final reflections?
I’ve had the incredibly good fortune of meeting many great people who’ve been eager to have candid conversations about online learning. It seems strange to say this, though: this is still a relatively small and new field. The opportunities are wide open. We really are still at the very beginning of online education.
Revel for Political Science/History/Sociology/Psychology also won the CODiE Award for “Best Social Sciences/Studies Instructional Solution,” which recognizes the best instructional solution for social sciences/social studies curricula and content for students in the higher education or PK-12 markets.
In addition, we were a finalist for the following award.
NCCERConnect was a finalist for the CODiE Award for “Best College & Career Readiness Solution,” which recognizes the best digital product or service that develops 21st Century workforce skills and knowledge for students.
The CODiE Awards were established so that pioneers of the budding software industry could evaluate and honor each other’s work. Today, the Awards continue to honor excellence in leading technology products and services. At Pearson, we've been creating innovative learning experiences since the Awards began in 1986, and our latest award-winning instructional solutions are evidence that we’re never satisfied with the status quo. Keep reading to learn more about what makes them unique.
What is MyLab?
MyLab Math and MyLab Statistics use data-driven guidance to improve results for students, with engaging, interactive content by expert authors that better helps them absorb and understand difficult concepts from developmental math to differential equations.
MyLab gives instructors a comprehensive gradebook with enhanced reporting functionality that makes it easier for instructors to understand which students are struggling, and which topics they struggle with most.
My biggest challenge these past couple years has been to realistically manage and readjust my expectations, as a learning designer, instructor, as well as a human being. What was planned to be a temporary solution for the teaching and learning world, our initial rush to digital has since extended well into 2022, two years later.
In the spirit of pause, reflect, and adjust accordingly, we decided to look back at this blog post (9 Strategies for effective online learning, March 2020) and reevaluate the tips while taking into consideration what we have learnt these past two years.
Lisa Knight is ready to infuse learner-centered innovation in everything we do at Pearson Online Learning Services (POLS). A recent Pearson arrival, Lisa steps into a pivotal role as Vice President for Innovation & Product Strategy. Partners and friends will get to know her well in the months ahead; in the meantime, read about her journey to Pearson, her perspective on innovation, and what she aims to accomplish for learners and partners.
Lisa, tell us a bit about who you are and what you’ve done.
I have over 20 years of experience in strategy and innovation and have spent most of my career at IBM Consulting and PwC Consulting. Along the way, I worked with more than fifteen Fortune® 500 companies and was instrumental in creating IBM Canada's enterprise strategy practice. I’ve been focused on leading clients on their innovation journeys and finding ways to drive new growth through digital technologies.
My own education spans three countries—the US, Canada, and France—and includes digital strategy at Harvard’s executive education program. I also competed in NCAA Division 1 Team Tennis, and that taught me a philosophy I live by: teaming to win. Successful innovation comes from collaboration and co-creation—teaming. Deepening our relationships through innovating together and successful partnering is a win-win for everyone. In NCAA tennis, every point counts whether you play the #1 spot or the #6 spot; everyone plays a role in achieving success. This is vital to innovation as well.
At IBM, I was profoundly influenced by then-CEO and Chairman Ginni Rometty. Her own life story, and how she came up through the ranks to lead IBM, was deeply inspiring to me. And she was an exceptionally powerful advocate for learning. IBM developed its own digital learning platform that offered 300,000+ internal and external courses to its employees. The company mandated 40 hours a year of learning, and I averaged first 80, then 120, over and above work. I knew it was critical to be deeply knowledgeable about emerging technologies to inform innovation strategies for my clients. In short, learning became a fundamental part of the IBM DNA and a core part of who I am and what I value.
How does your experience translate to your role at Pearson?
It matters in at least three ways. The first is technology innovation: helping Pearson and its partners accelerate innovation and use it to grow. For example, I have designed accelerated innovation programs to find new business revenue streams, using an innovation framework that encompassed elements such as global trends analysis, idea generation, value case assessment, architectural design, and prototype definition. What truly creates value is a structured, disciplined approach to innovation.
Second, strategy and leadership, with my experience spanning multiple industries. I bring a breadth of perspective that differs from someone who chose to focus deeply on one industry. To me, innovation requires broader thinking. Having seen and influenced many ways of working in my prior consulting experiences, I can bring that breadth of thinking and ideating as we consider the problems we are solving for.
Third, and most important, I’m a strategist with extensive experience in transformational execution. Real execution experience informs better strategy creation. Effectively implementing transformational change is challenging. Being pragmatic in how to implement comes from experience managing the change from start to finish.
Can you share some lessons about partnering to drive and sustain transformational change?
To start, there needs to be a business or organizational need, an inflection point that makes people recognize change is necessary. Next, there needs to be a willingness to invest. And finally, there must be a commitment at all levels of leadership, because if you haven’t focused on getting people on board, and there aren’t strategies to do so, you won’t succeed.
Sometimes the middle of the organization is forgotten. It’s crucial to put strategies in place to get everyone engaged. It is truly important to involve everyone who’s affected, and that means helping people understand: what does this change mean to me, and what’s my role going forward?
Strategy also needs to be iterative. There’s no such thing as perfect. There’s what you plan for, and the assumptions you make, and when you execute, there are things you didn’t expect. Market factors. Challenges in your capabilities, or your partner’s. You must be prepared to make changes – and, if necessary, pivot.
What’s your view of the role of technology and innovation in online learning?
Learning is certainly at an inflection point. There’s more competition, with a wider set of offerings, from traditional to free, to non-traditional like micro-degrees and stackable certificates. Learners’ needs and expectations have changed. As digital technology continues to transform ways of working, people need to continually gain new skills. Meanwhile, high speed internet and 5G network capabilities enable us to incorporate powerful new technologies, such as augmented and virtual reality, to design outstanding, immersive learning experiences.
It's critically important that innovation centers on the learner. “Technology for technology’s sake,” brings no value to learners or our partners. In my experience with technologies ranging from machine learning to blockchain, I’ve learned just how important it is to know who it’s for and what problem or friction point you’re trying to solve. To that end, I'm a strong proponent of design thinking. For us, it’s about starting with empathy for the learner, deeply understanding their challenges and constraints, and what they want to achieve.
During Covid, my teenagers’ schools did a “lift and shift,” focusing on providing access from home. Unfortunately, teachers had to try to figure out the rest. With each student having different learning styles and motivations, it was extremely challenging. I knew there was a need to make this a better experience for both teachers and students. That said, learners, like my teenagers, have become very comfortable online, and it’s changed their expectations for everything they do—and not just for services like Amazon or Uber, but for education, too.
What did you see at Pearson Online Learning Services that made you want to join this team?
This wasn’t a lighthearted decision. I firmly believe there’s enormous opportunity at Pearson, and the factors have been put in place for innovation to succeed here. My conversations with my new executive peers have been phenomenal, and senior leadership has given me a clear vision of where we’re going.
I am excited to say innovation was in flight before I came on board, and Pearson already demonstrated a strong willingness to commit the resources needed to embed innovation throughout our business. Our recent Fast Company 2022 Most Innovative Company award for Pearson+, a convenient new way for students to engage with learning, is a great example. Pearson, and specifically, Pearson Online Learning Services had already decided to invest in my VP-level role to provide the leadership experience, frameworks, and guidance to a team of strategists and innovators who are ready to drive an aggressive innovation agenda. Innovation is a top priority at Pearson. I have really been set up for success.
I quickly came to appreciate an organization that can provide real value across the board to learners. Pearson Online Learning Services excels from course creation through design, launch, and operational execution. It will further support students throughout their learning journeys as we continue to innovate. And, Pearson brings deep insights on the future of learning, as well as emerging trends that are shaping demand for reskilling and new skills as we look ahead to the future and new ways of working.
For me, it all ties back to what Pearson believes: learning is the world’s most powerful force for change. Since joining Pearson, I feel the passion for learning. I see it in the culture, every day. I firmly believe that an inspirational leader enables great things to happen. I am truly inspired by our CEO, Andy Bird, and his vision for Pearson. His influence is enabling innovation to thrive across our organization. Our breakthrough subscription offering, Pearson+ is game-changing. And wait until you see what is coming next!
This is why I’m thrilled to be at Pearson and why it is such a good fit for me. It doesn't get any more exciting than this.
There's a well-known quote from Norman Vincent Peale’s famous book, The Power of Positive Thinking, that says, “Our happiness depends on the habit of mind we cultivate.” You’ve likely heard it — or some version of it — numerous times, and the reason for that is because it’s true. And this may be especially true of higher ed environments, where helping students cultivate successful habits and mindsets is top of mind for instructors.
No one embodies this idea more than Dr. Nora Junaid, professor at the Isenberg School of Management at University of Massachusetts Amherst. In fact, everything Nora does seems to radiate positivity, which has been the guiding force behind her success as an instructor & mentor.
Positivity starts with yourself
When Nora joined the Isenberg School in 2016, she was handed two Introduction to Business Information Systems classes, with 220 students each. She got through the first semester without knowing exactly how to approach it.
“I didn’t have a structure, I wasn’t sure about the software, I wasn’t sure about the book, and I didn’t feel that I had a good connection with the students,” she says.
It was clear something needed to change. Nora spent every day of that first holiday break poring over the course, thinking of strategies to reorganize it and coordinate her TAs. By the time break was over, she’d revamped it entirely into something she felt would work much better for everyone, faculty and students alike. When she saw her evaluations after the second semester ended, they were up by at least 30% — a huge jump.
The course quickly became very popular, and more courses were opened to meet demand. What started as two sections with 440 students has become 5 sections with around 900 students enrolled per semester.
Building a positive team...
With such an in-demand course, Nora can’t handle it alone. She manages 25 TAs, each of whom teaches a section, and three PhD students, and they all must be in sync so that every student gets the same positive teaching experience.
Nora is quick to point out that fostering camaraderie, transparency, and positivity among her TAs is important to the success of the course and helps in mentoring and coaching her team. Using weekly meetings, online message chains, and other technology helps them stay on the same page and feel supported without demanding too much of their already busy schedules.
“Most faculty fail to realize that these students have a life, they have courses, they have dissertations. I make sure I show them that I have their backs and that they’re appreciated. It makes them feel a step above being just an undergraduate student and helps them a lot.”
...building a positive community
Creating a positive and supportive environment for 25 TAs is one thing; replicating that for 1,800 students a year takes something entirely different. Nora recognizes the special considerations needed to keep them motivated and engaged.
Going into a lecture with 219 other students can be intimidating, exhausting, and de-motivating. There’s no guarantee the instructor will notice if you’re even there or not. To help build a more connected community, Nora again turned to technology.
She developed her own app, Nora’s Corner, that students can download for free and get insights about everything that’s going on in the course, their TA’s contact information, and an open forum in which they can ask questions anonymously. She also created an Instagram account for the course — @excel.ninja — featuring her and the TAs answering questions & uploading lighthearted but still helpful posts.
“We’re using technology to let students know that ‘Hey, we’re a community, we’ve got you — no one’s going to slip through the cracks.’ It’s a huge motivator for both students and TAs.”
“We are changing students' lives”
“I knew I was onto something,” Nora says. “After that first semester with the revamped course, I realized that being a lecturer was my passion. I didn’t want to apply for assistant professor positions, I just wanted to work on improving as a lecturer."
The thing that really fuels her is seeing learners succeed because of a piece of information she shared or a skill that she taught them. Providing that influence and focusing on how to help students stay positive by using positive teaching strategies is one of her biggest drivers.
“We are changing students’ lives. When they come into the classroom, there’s an ‘a-ha’ moment you can see in their eyes. No amount of research and no paper or journal publication can satisfy an instructor in that way,” she says.
Nora admits that the idea of changing the world by changing students’ mindset sounds like a bit of an exaggeration. But when you're teaching and influencing 900 students a semester, and you can positively affect one thing in their thinking, then the scope of that change becomes very real.
As a learning scientist and former instructor, I’ve been watching the topic of digital content develop for a while now. In the past, it’s been regarded as a poor substitute for the printed text when it comes to student comprehension. However, new research shows we’ve reached a turning point in digital reading. My colleagues Dr. Clint Johns, Julia Ridley, and I reviewed 40 peer-reviewed research studies from the last five years, focused mostly in higher education learners in the US1. Based on our review, most research shows that well-designed digital content can be understood as effectively as print and includes added benefits for readers.
Keeping learners engaged in pursuing their degrees, certifications, or development of new skills is essential to keeping them enrolled. And for adult learners, engagement and value go hand in hand. Take for example, Jan*. At the start of COVID-19, Jan’s position was eliminated, so she decided it was the perfect time to go back to school.
Excited to continue her education — and excited to be able to do it from home — Jan jumped into her first few courses expecting the best of what 21st century online technology had to offer. What she found instead was a lot of discussion prompts asking “reflective” questions, written assignments, and a few quizzes along the way.
After only three courses, Jan was fed up. It was not so much the money she was paying for her online program, but the lack of any learning that she could use in the real world. She was not in this for a grade — she was in this to up her skills, learn new things, and re-emerge into the job market better than when she left it.
Communicating value through authentic assessment experiences
Jan is not unique. She is an example of the 74% of past, present, and prospective online college students that Magda and Aslanian (2018) found are pursuing their degree program for career-focused reasons, including:
transitioning to a new career field
updating the skills required for their job
increasing their wages/salary
Today's online students want learning they can immediately put into practice, so institutions will have to meet their needs with learning experiences designed with career preparation and upskilling in mind.
Unfortunately, many online courses do not provide the opportunities students need to practice and immediately implement the skills they’re learning. So, like many online students, Jan decided that the lack of actual application of the things she was supposed to be learning was enough to make her quit.
While quitting is an extreme swing of the pendulum, student frustration stemming from the lack of real-world application in online courses isn’t the only concern. What about the hordes of students who graduate and haven’t put their nursing, or engineering, or accountancy skills to the test in a safe learning environment? What about their patients and clients? We can solve both of these concerns using authentic assessments.
What is authentic assessment exactly?
Authentic assessment is a form of evaluation that asks students to perform real-world tasks that demonstrate their understanding of and ability to use the skills they’ve learned.
Wiggins (1998) identifies a few key criteria for an assessment to be considered “authentic”:
It requires judgement and innovation.
It asks the student to “do” the subject.
It replicates or simulates the contexts in which adults are “tested” in the workplace, in civic life, and in personal life.
It assesses the student’s ability to efficiently and effectively use a repertoire of knowledge and skill to negotiate a complex task.
It allows appropriate opportunities to rehearse, practice, consult resources, and get feedback on and refine performances and products.
No matter their major, university, or year in school, most students can agree on one thing: buying textbooks is one of the more frustrating experiences that college has to offer. But the recent unexpected shift to online learning and digital course materials is making this less of an obstacle. Four students from across the nation shared their experiences with their textbooks and course materials — and told us why access to digital has changed the way they view studying.
One of the most common complaints students have about their course materials is the actual process of acquiring them. Sarah F., a political science student at the University of Missouri, dreaded having to visit the bookstore at the beginning of each term.
“The only way you can avoid the bookstore is ordering your books online, but there’s a waiting period, so sometimes you don’t even get your books in time for those first couple of homework assignments. I hate having to organize all of that — it’s probably one of the worst things I have to do in college.”
The recent shift to online learning has already led to a shift in course materials in most cases. As faculty look forward with uncertainty, they know that comprehensive, flexible, and cost-effective solutions are key to a successful course, no matter the future of their course delivery. The College Board estimates that a year’s worth of textbooks and supplies can cost the average student a staggering $1,240.1 Zach D., a marketing student at the University of Iowa, has found that, while the cost of textbooks can be frustrating, there’s something even worse — the cost of books that go unused.
“I spent $200 on this book and will only get $20 at the end of the semester for it, when I didn’t even need it in the first place.”
In his experience, the digital course materials he’s been assigned have actually been utilized in class and have helped him keep up on his own time, while physical materials have often gone untouched.
For all four students, digital course materials have been more affordable than physical materials (Zach estimates they’ve saved him several hundred dollars this year alone.) And they all agreed that digital materials were more useful to them.
Rachel H., a business administration major at the University of Colorado Boulder, has discovered a whole host of game-changing benefits to using digital materials. “It saves time in the first place because you get your book on the very first day and can start studying right away, instead of waiting to get the book in the mail. And if you’re trying to search a textbook for something, you can literally do it with your keyboard. Also, a lot of the Inclusive Access that I have has additional online study materials in it, like flashcards and practice tests. It’s extra studying my professor doesn’t give me, but is still a part of the textbook, so I can go in and study in different ways that they provide…it’s definitely had a positive impact on my grades.”
Digital materials also help students by allowing them to learn when, where, and how it works best for them, especially during these unprecedented times. Jesus H., a business management student at California State University Fresno, found that, because of their flexible nature, the digital materials he had access to sometimes contributed even more to his success than attending lectures did.
“For an accounting class I took, I learned a lot through MyLab™ Accounting. It prepared me a lot for my exams, and I passed because of the digital materials. It was convenient, it allowed me to save time, and I could study anywhere. It was very beneficial, and because of that I’m now trying to stay with classes I know will be using digital materials instead of print books.”
Through the Covid-19 lockdown and institutional shift to distance learning, technology is what has kept us together. As almost every aspect of students’ lives becomes digitized, it’s no wonder that pairing technology and education works so well for them. The benefits of digital products and course materials were clear even before the recent disruption to education, and have become even more apparent with the widespread shift to online and HyFlex learning models.
A study by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation even found that when students take courses that engage digitally and in-person, content mastery can occur twice as quickly, and pass rates for at-risk students can increase by 33%.2 Sarah is certain that she’s enjoyed those benefits throughout her college experience, thanks to digital course materials.
“I’m kind of able to be successful either way, but it’s about making it easier for me to be successful. It’s about putting everything in one place and keeping me organized — letting me search through and study the materials I need to, and giving me assignments that I can complete online that are more interactive than they would be otherwise. The culmination of all those things make it easier for me to succeed. Students can still succeed when they’re using paper materials, but I think having the digital materials gives us even more advantages and helps us be just that much more successful.”
During this historic time, faculty around the country in all disciplines are adopting digital solutions to support delivery of their courses and help improve affordability and student success.
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.”
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!
Many of us are having to move teaching quickly online (tips here if you are still setting up your course). Once you have your technology in place, take a deep breath. Teaching online requires different types of interactions with students. We’ve simplified what works into nine strategies based on research that will help set you and your students up for success in your newly online course.
1. Know the technology
This is new to everyone, so be prepared to troubleshoot and let your students know you are working on it. Take an hour to familiarize yourself with the technology. Most companies are offering additional training right now.
Be very clear to students about where they should go for technical support (good digital technologies will have support services). Make the contact information readily available, and be prepared to direct students there if they come to you.
2. Expect the unexpected and remain flexible
At some point technology will fail, whether it is a video chat not connecting or assignment and/or resource links not working properly.
Have a backup plan for all assignments and assessments that rely on technology.
Be transparent in your communication to students about technology failure. For example, put a policy in place that outlines the actions students should take if they are unable to submit assignments due to technical issues.
Don’t be afraid to solve technical challenges in real time, such as during synchronous discussions or collaborative real-time activities, to save time.
3. Create and maintain a strong presence
Send a message to all students, by video if possible, to welcome them to online learning and reassure them.
Use video chat rather than basic instant message when interacting with students.
Get the students talking by beginning discussions in the discussion board, and then contributing rapid, regular, and open responses to questions.
Use non-verbal communication such as emojis.
Complete your profile with professional and personal traits.
4. Set clear expectations for the course
Online learning is new to the students as well. Make it clear to students how their grade in the course will be determined now (participation often makes up a much larger portion of the grade than in face to face classes).
Set expectations for response time. For example, make it clear that you will respond to emails within one business day, otherwise students may expect you to answer an email within a few hours, and disengage if you don’t.
5. Establish a sense of comfort and develop a community of learners
Students are looking to you to set the tone. Demonstrate enthusiasm and excitement about teaching the course to alleviate fear, anxiety, and isolation.
Humanize yourself by posting a welcome video, a biography, photos that tell stories about what you are doing to keep busy during social isolation, links to news articles or video clips.
Encourage each student to personalize their homepage and spend time going around the class asking students to share information about what they have posted.
Incorporate instant messaging, web cameras, blogs and vlogs.
Ask questions that empower participants to question each other, and elicit rich discussion.
Respond to the community as a whole rather than directing all responses to individual participants outside of the community.
6. Promote reflection and communication through quality asynchronous discussion
Return to posted topics that have not been fully discussed and promote contribution and reflection.
Monitor participation and contact students individually if they are either not participating, or are taking over conversations and not permitting contributions from other individuals.
7. Have a good balance of active leader and active observer
You will begin the course as the manager of the learning community. As the course progresses, slowly transfer the responsibility to the community of learners. The online community building steps in point 4 will help with this. You should also gradually retract further out of communal discussions.
8. Request regular feedback and be mindful of misinterpretation
Check in with your students to see how things are going. You can do formal or informal surveys to assess attitudes, workload and challenges. Make course correction as necessary — we’re all learning.
Use ad hoc quizzes to assess learner comprehension of material.
9. Regularly check content resources and applications
Regularly check all links, resources, modules, and activities. Online content can move or change, which can lead to disengagement.
Assist students who are having difficulty navigating course links or managing the material spanning across various web pages.
Model the process of navigating to websites that are not embedded in the course, and demonstrate how to appropriately manage keeping track of navigation when jumping from site to site.
Under different circumstances, creating an online course from the ground up using online learning best practices would take considerable time and effort. Given this current unprecedented situation, we understand that your immediate concern is likely simply ensuring that your face-to-face course can be converted rapidly for online delivery.
As educators, we love to see our students get engaged in class! Interaction with peers as well as with their teacher is an important part of student learning. But how do we do this when the class is offered online? A discussion board, if used well, can be a great tool in providing a platform for quality interaction.
Almost all Learning Management Systems have this capability. If you are delivering your online course with software that lacks a discussion board, check to see if the publisher of your text has a tool for this purpose or search online for some free options.
Here are some tips provided by Pearson’s Faculty Advisors to help you get the most from your discussion boards.
Post a grading rubric
Consider posting a grading rubric to set expectations and guide students to a complete response.
A good discussion begins with a good question
Avoid questions that read like exam questions. Provide students with a debate prompt. Ask students to express an opinion and back up their position by applying course concepts. Encourage them to practice being critical consumers of information by having them use primary literature to back up their statements.
Allow student-led or peer-driven discussion
We like having the students pose a question at the end of their post to prompt better discussions. Many times the original post reads more like a report and then the replies are “good job” or “I agree” because there is nowhere to go.
Throw out questions like “Can you think of an example of this you have encountered?” or “What about this article stood out to you?” or “Did this make you think about something else that is related but different from this?” If you ask your students to provide “substantive responses,” be specific about what “substantive” means.
Require that students respond to classmates
Many faculty require at least three classmate responses, and additionally, ask a question of their classmate based on the posted response. You might suggest a minimum word count for both posts and responses (students frequently ask for this).
Some discussion boards (this can depend on the Learning Management System) have the ability to hide other students’ responses until they, themselves, have responded. We like to have opinion questions in this format so that a student’s response isn’t colored by what has already been written.
Set regular deadlines
You might want to have a set day to submit a main post and another set day to submit peer responses. For example, the main post could be due on Wednesdays and the peer replies due on Fridays. This regular schedule helps students organize their time and remember their due dates.
Consider “outside the box” ways for students to deliver content
In addition to written text, you can allow students to respond to discussion prompts with PowerPoint presentations, YouTube videos, and concept maps. Show sample responses from prior semesters that “successful” students shared.
Add different forums for different purposes
A Cyber cafe
Cyber cafe gives students an opportunity to ask each other questions about the course and concepts, as well as seek support and interaction with their peers. Keep this forum separate from the content and teacher-created prompt discussions. But be sure to still check on this forum and ensure the students are following the netiquette guidelines for all written communication that you have posted.
The Water Cooler
The Water cooler allows students a safe place to discuss anything not related to the course. This allows you to get to know your students’ personalities within an online environment even though you aren’t spending time with them in a classroom.
“Ask the Instructor”
“Ask the Instructor” gives students the ability to post questions about the class or course content that you answer. This allows all students to see the same answer instead of getting the same question via email from multiple students.
Enforce rules of netiquette
Finally — don’t forget to remind students of “netiquette” right up front. For some ideas of what guidelines to set, see our blog post on Netiquette for Students.
Remember, many students dread discussion boards. It is just another thing they have to do; it might feel like busy work. They may think nobody cares about their opinion. Give good feedback, encouragement, and appreciation for contributing, even if the contributions need to be improved.
We hope these tips will help you get the most out of your discussion boards, leading to an engaging and interactive online experience.
If you enjoyed Downton Abbey as much as me, you might think of etiquette as knowing how to set a table worthy of a stately dinner. But that kind of etiquette might not be so useful in an online course, unless we’re studying the Edwardian era!
In the context of online teaching and learning, it’s more appropriate to think about the etiquette involved in engaging others in conversations and providing guidelines for smartphone use than how to handle a dinner guest’s dietary restrictions. We want to apply the best practices of etiquette to every interaction in the course.
Netiquette (net + etiquette) is the “code of conduct” applied to online spaces. Teaching students about netiquette is just as important (if not more so) as teaching them to use technology or master content.
Crafting a netiquette document or post for your class and informing your students about the importance of these rules can help you create an engaging, respectful, and meaningful learning environment.
If hosting lectures or office hours live online, you might want to include guidelines for expectations around arriving on time, reducing noise by using earphones and the mute button, and minimizing distractions the best they can.
Keep in mind that students might have their children or siblings home from school or day care and some flexibility and understanding might need to be extended during this season.
Another area for need of netiquette guidelines is in the use of discussion boards. I often share things like this with my students:
Use proper language. This means no emoticons, text message language, or swear words. The discussion board is like a workplace and is meant to be professional.
Run a spelling and grammar check before posting anything to the discussion board. This is especially important if your instructor is grading these comments.
Read through your comments at least twice before hitting submit. (Some professors use settings that allow students to edit their responses, while others don’t.)
Don’t type in ALL CAPS! If you do, it will look like you are screaming.
Recognize and respect diversity. It’s ok to ask questions to clarify things you don’t understand. If you’re not sure, email the professor privately for more information.
Avoid sarcasm and dark humor. Take your posts seriously. Never say online what you wouldn’t say in real life to another person’s face. Your posts are a permanent record, so think about the type of record you want to leave behind.
If you are frustrated and finding the course material difficult, please reach out to the professor, use the tutor resources, etc. You can ask your peers for study tips. A discussion board is not the venue to complain about why you need to take this course or how hard you have to work.
Don’t wait until the last minute to make your post. Allow time for other students to respond before the deadline. Likewise, don’t wait to post your replies until the deadline; the author deserves an opportunity to address any questions you have or respond to points you make.
Before asking a question, check the instructor’s FAQs or search your Learning Management System resources and/or the internet to see if the answer is obvious or easy to find.
Be forgiving. If your classmate makes a mistake, whether it’s a typo or grammatical error, don’t badger him or her for it. Just let it go.
The same rules apply for email. “Hey, teach, heeeelp!” is probably not the best way to ask your professor a question. You should communicate with your professor in the same way that you would speak to your boss or a potential employer. Also, any email you send your professor should always include your name and which class you are in.
While it is tempting to think we should only have to focus on content, surveys of Fortune 500 company CEOs over the years have resulted in very similar responses: they want students who can communicate clearly, collaborate well, think critically, etc.
We know those skills are being developed and enhanced in our courses everyday, so it’s worthwhile to spend some time encouraging them to be respectful, contributing members of our online course communities.
Cheating isn’t new. Many students do it, and in many different ways. As courses move to online environments, we might wonder if the lack of the instructor in the classroom makes it more likely cheating will happen. Technology certainly changes how students cheat.
A 2017 study by Kessler International reported that 76 percent of surveyed students said they had copied text from someone else’s assignments. Slightly more (79 percent) admitted to plagiarism from internet sources. Around 72 percent said they’d used mobile devices to cheat.
An astonishing 42 percent of students admit to purchasing custom papers or essays online, and 28 percent have paid someone to do their online work. Sadly, many of them thought it was ok to cheat.
Colleges and universities have implemented a variety of tactics designed to minimize cheating. They include tools such as the following.
Clearly defining cheating and setting expectations
This may seem elementary, but letting students know you are aware of cheating and will take it seriously can help curb cheating. If your assignment does not require the use of their phone for apps or resources, remind them to keep devices out of reach.
Academic integrity policies
Many colleges and universities have policies about cheating in their student code of conduct, and these are perhaps the simplest methods to deter cheating. When students break the policy, they may be dismissed from the program. It is a good idea to require students to sign an honor code statement in an initial assignment or prior to each test.
Using proctored exams
Many schools require students to report to campus or to official off-site testing centers for proctored exams. Proctors are typically required to check students’ IDs, enter passwords if needed, and watch them during tests. Tools like ProctorU support digital online proctoring and record the testing session for the instructor, flagging any concerns.
Restricting IP addresses
Some software will allow you to restrict access only to certain labs on campus. This is often done in conjunction with proctoring.
Use a Lockdown Browser
Require students to use a Lockdown Browser with online quizzes and tests. This is a custom setting that literally “locks down” the browser that displays the test or quiz, preventing students from copying or printing the questions or accessing any other websites or applications.
Utilizing keystroke verification software
Keystroke verification software, such as Keystroke DNA, is perhaps one of the most common tech-based cheater prevention methods.
The approach is simple: Students type a short phrase, which is then analyzed by a software program. The software assesses the students’ typing speed, rhythm, and other personal characteristics to create a behavioral biometric data profile for each user. Before any work is submitted, it needs to be verified.
Embedding text-matching software
These are tools like Turnitin, SafeAssign, or CopyLeaks, where software is used to read an essay or paper and assess the likelihood of plagiarism.
Students tend to share old tests, use study material sharing sites to share answers and methods, etc. To prevent cheating, professors may find it useful to use question banks and randomize the questions so that students have a more difficult time in sharing answers.
Professors should change assessments each semester or create multiple versions of tests or quizzes for a class. Include essay or explanation questions, as it makes it more obvious if an answer was copied from somewhere else. If possible, consider pooling questions so all students get similar but slightly varied test questions.
Offer low-stakes quizzing
It reduces the incentive to cheat because the value of each quiz is lower than that of an exam, but it still provides opportunities for assessment.
Assign collaborative learning activities
Use collaborative activities liberally. Consider using social media, shared documents, discussion forums, cyber cafes, video conferencing, and other types of collaborative tools to engage students with one another.
Studies indicate collaboration in online classes increases problem-solving skills more effectively than the student who is completing all classroom activities alone. There is little motivation or ability to cheat when students are working cooperatively for a common goal.
One study at MIT in the 1990’s forbade student collaboration in a programming class. The students collaborated anyway, and became more effective programmers. MIT determined that collaboration would be the new normal in programming classes. After all, the goal is student learning!
If students learn better when collaborating, and collaborating reduces the chances of cheating, then increasing the collaborative activities in an online environment will lead to increased learning and decreased cheating, which is a win/win by any standard.
Use resources already in your arsenal
You might find it helpful to use your Learning Management System to provide links to resources like Turnitin, which can often be linked directly with assignments.
Students think of cheating as a way to avoid learning the course material. But I tell my students that as hard as they work to avoid doing any actual learning, I will work harder to find ways to encourage and guide them to do what they should.
There are resources out there to help me do that. Check your Learning Management System instructor resources, explore other available technology tools, read Chronicle of Higher Education articles or Learning Scientists posts, and talk to your campus instructional designers. These are all great places to find tools you can use to deter cheating in your online courses.
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!
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.
They’re parents, veterans, and caretakers for older family members. Unlike “traditional” students, who only make up a fraction of the population of potential learners, many start their higher education much later than the age of 18. And as a growing force in the educational space, they’re a cause to rethink how we approach teaching. To that end, we’ve spoken to non-traditional students and their professors to find out how tech can support (and fail to support) their learning.
How edtech can support non-traditional students
1. Make lessons accessible to all
Alyssa Kropp, an integrated design instructor, discovered that using programs that bridged the gap between different types of students was a foundational step toward moving her lesson plans forward.
Because all of her students use laptops or smartphones to participate, her most successful materials involve visual, auditory, and closed captioning approaches that attune to diverse learning styles.
“A lot of students are new to design, and so I always encourage online materials — they are interested in being exposed to different methodologies.”
Kropp has taught many international students, ESL students, and students who have started their college careers later than average. Accessibility within digital learning tools is incredibly important to her: “My students come from India, Vietnam, Dubai, the UK — all over. They come from a variety of economic backgrounds and social classes, which brings a different style of diversity.”
Tip for admin: Engaging work can be assigned online, giving your faculty the leeway to develop interactive lessons during the classroom hours. If the tools that you are using for non-traditional students aren’t successful, give your faculty opportunities to incorporate digital learning materials and change their approach.
2. Allow for mobility and class access on the fly
Non-traditional students tend to take different approaches toward making headway in their courses. For Ryan Glassman, a computer science student, his coursework and online class schedule require him to study at unusual times.
“More and more of my lectures are being video recorded, which is nice when you have a huge computer science class. I can catch up on those lectures online, which is a lot better than asking another student for notes.”
Digital tools allow Glassman to manage his time more efficiently while living in a hectic city landscape, “I’m cognizant of how much time I spend commuting each day, which is about an hour and a half each way. I try and relegate classes that have a ton of reading, and I restrict my reading to my commutes.”
“It’s harder for me than most to make use of physical resources like TA hours or review sessions on weekends because I don’t live on campus. So I try to make as much use of the remote stuff as I possibly can.”
Tip for admin: Hold training sessions for faculty on how to provide online course forums that allow students to ask questions remotely. Other students, TAs, or professors can respond with answers. The online forums provide an easy way for non-traditional students to speak up without feeling embarrassed.
3. Engage at your own pace
More than anything, smart tech opens up opportunities to improve a student’s higher education experience, no matter what else they’re juggling. Brianna Maldonado, a United States Marine Corp veteran and student of mental health counseling, is a visual learner who seeks out online videos in addition to her studies.
Maldonado’s unique style of learning leads her to watch educational videos online that supplement her clinical studies: “We’re learning a lot about psychology theorists right now, and online videos can condense materials that are easy to understand. I can pause on keywords that will be useful for midterms.”
Tip for admin: Visual learners thrive with supplemental video materials and in-person engagement. Remind faculty how meaningful one-on-one interactions with non-traditional students can be. Often, digital learning materials provide instructors with data and insights into student learning and study habits they can use to help provide personalized support to these students during office hours.
When you ask the right questions of your non-traditional classroom, you become a step closer toward a pathway to student achievement. For more strategies for enhancing learning for this demographic with digital tools, visit Pearson’s website on institutional leadership.
The higher ed model has traditionally been focused on delivering the final product — well-educated graduates. However, as learner demographics evolve and lifelong learning becomes, well, a way of life, institutions are recognizing the need to shift focus by turning to customer service models outside of higher ed to make it happen.
Student success is on the line, but so are increased enrollments and graduation rates — along with affinity among alumni and donors.
We understand there’s heavy debate over whether or not learners are, indeed, “customers”, and a perception that the application of customer service models in higher ed undermine the altruistic values of academe. At the end of the day, both camps can agree that student success is the ultimate goal. Let’s examine an institution that’s reinventing the student experience through corporate inspiration, and see what some of the best companies are doing.
What do a progressive healthcare system and a grocery chain have to do with student success?
Just ask American University.
When new students arrive at American, as is the case at many colleges, they confront a complex aggregation of offices and practices. Traditional university structure and advising isn’t set up to respond to today’s digital natives who expect access and resolution at the click of a button.
When leaders at American began the university’s Reinventing the Student Experience (RiSE) project in 2015, they discovered that “the comprehensive nature of what we were trying to imagine was a bit easier to spot in the corporate world,” said Jeffrey Rutenbeck, then dean of the School of Communication.
They turned to the renowned Cleveland Clinic and high-end grocery chain Wegmans for a look at their approaches to improving customer satisfaction. They found that, in both instances, the “customer” was at the center of the experience, with the overarching goals of anticipating and exceeding expectations.
This is accomplished through continued customer service training at all levels of the organization during standing monthly meetings that explore various topics and celebrate employee success. Data is also a critical component in measuring “customer” success, and it is employed throughout to measure everything from communication to employee satisfaction.
In the development of their RiSE project, students remained at the forefront of their plans. American understood that students have unique goals, needs, and challenges throughout their experience. In their meetings with students, four unique types of student themes evolved, and personas were developed from this feedback to serve as a guide in the reinvention.
Another key component to ingraining this “customer-centric” ethos throughout the culture is listening. By providing training that fosters this key skill, American gives their employees (and learners) an active role to play in improvement initiatives and the opportunity to have ownership of the experience.
“The kind of excellence you can achieve with technical proficiency is very different from the kind of excellence you can achieve if you build a culture that connects everyone to the same mission,” said Rutenbeck.
Here are some best practices from corporate customer service models that you can apply at your institution:
Understand who your “customers” are
Deliver a consistent, seamless experience throughout the learner journey
Make the experience convenient
Set and manage expectations
Align services with your overarching mission and values
Personalize the experience
Ask for feedback
Establish accountability across all services
Wondering where to start looking?
Here are 10 companies delivering outstanding customer service:
Being assigned a new course can fill a professor’s heart with joy, dread, or a bit of both. The joy can come from the excitement of being able to create something new; to put into use all the techniques and technology that you have learned about and exercising the academic freedom that you may have been denied teaching courses designed by others. Some may dread it because of the daunting amount of work necessary to design and implement a new course; often without extra time or pay to do it.
Recently, I found myself in both the camps of joy and dread. I was given the opportunity to develop the fully online version of Anatomy and Physiology at my college. I have taught the subject many times, so I knew the course, the student population, and the resources well. I had just completed courses myself about creating engaging online courses and I had lot of ideas ready to go.
Then, I was begged to revamp an old course in Human Diseases, a course I have not taught before, knew little about the student population or resources, and just had an old syllabus to go by. It also had to be changed from a 16-week semester to an 8-week term. And oh, by the way, it started in two weeks. Ugh.
So, there I was, designing two different courses and I had two vastly different attitudes about it. With the time crunch, I had to be very deliberate about how I invested the time I had. Human nature had me wanting to spend all my time on the course I was excited about. That felt good. It was fun to me. But I also had a responsibility to produce a good course for the other about which I was less excited.
For a moment, I sat there with the world of possibilities swirling before me. Syllabi, readings, PowerPoints, videos, delivery platforms, assignments, labs, quizzes, exams and more piled up inside my head, threatening to bury me under the weight of the time needed to create them while each rallied for my attention first. It was hard to know where to start!
Then I remembered the work of Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe called Understanding by Design in which they recommend that instead of starting at the beginning, I should start at the end. Their strategy called Backward Design, also called backward planning or backward mapping, is a process meant to be used to design learning experiences and instructional techniques to achieve specific learning goals.
Many of you have had this kind of email from a student:
“I am not sure why I got a 78% on the assignment. I followed the instructions correctly and yet the MyLab product graded it wrong. Why did I get these questions wrong? I think something is wrong with the MyLab or Mastering Product. I need you to look at this now and change my grade.”
Many students will blame the system or something external instead of looking at themselves as the reason for not doing well on course assignments. Trying to make students responsible for their own learning is not an easy task. Providing feedback on these assignments is essential to shifting the focus of learning to the student.
Feedback can be best described within the web article titled, The Importance of Feedback for Student Learning, as “Feedback is commentary on the student work, individualized to best accommodate for the needs of each student, personally” (Sources).
The next question that arises is how can you make students review your feedback? One way according to the Khan Academy is to, “…empower and drive students as they’re learning is to encourage them to monitor their own progress. This allows learners to track their own improvement, figure out what they need extra help on, and set their own goals” (Academy). Making students monitor their own progress can lead to better student success.
All Pearson MyLab and Mastering products have some form of feedback that students can use to help enhance their understanding why they received their grade on an assignment. It is important for you as a faculty using the product to understand the type of feedback provided and encourage your student to use it. As the faculty advisor for MyLab IT, I will highlight in depth the type of feedback provided within MyLab IT. I will also point out some of the learning science behind MyLab Math. I encourage you to contact the Faculty Advisor at Pearson to learn more about the type of feedback in each of the MyLab Products.
Type of Feedback found in MyLab IT
Within MyLab IT, there are three types of assessments, Simulations, Grader Projects, and Objective Based Quizzes. Simulations take the student into a simulated Word, Excel, Access, or PowerPoint environment. Students are asked to complete specific skills related to the MS Office products such as inserting images in Word or creating formulas in Excel. With Grader Projects, students download a set files that include an instruction document and starting file. Students then work offline within the actual MS Office application to complete the project. Students then come back into MyLab IT and upload their document for grading.
There are two types of feedback provided within the Simulations, methods to complete, and student actions. The methods to complete helps the student understand all the methods possible to complete the skill within the simulation. This type of feedback helps the student understand all the ways they could have completed the task if they got it wrong. If multiple attempts are allowed, the students can then try the task again making sure to use one of the methods to complete the task.
Student actions allows the student to view a movie of exactly what they did within the simulation task. Many students using MyLab IT will say they keep doing it right, but it kept being marked wrong. The student actions can show them that they were doing the task wrong. See more on Student Actions here
The feedback within Grader Projects helps the students know why they were marked wrong on specific instructions. One type of feedback is called the Scorecard. This feedback shows the student which instruction they wrong and by clicking on the dropdown arrow to see exactly what they did that was wrong. The other type of feedback within Grader Projects is called a Live Comment report. This report is similar to you marking up a document where the student got things wrong and providing comments as to why it was wrong. However, this markup is done by MyLab IT. See more on Grader Projects here..
Type of Feedback found in MyLab Math
Thank you to Bonnie Rosenblatt, Faculty Advisor for MyLab Math, for providing the screen shots and information about the feedback found within MyLab Math. Instructors can add comments to individual questions within an assignment. Adding these comments can encourage the student to do better on the next assignment or to understand why they got the question wrong.
Making your student responsible for their own learning will make them a better student and to a better worker when they get out into the work world. When students send you an email and says that something went wrong, it was not my fault that I got something wrong, please encourage them to research the why on their own. They can use the feedback built into the MyLab and Mastering products to help them be a better learner.
Institutional leaders are looking for the next big idea — the ability to leave behind a legacy of innovation and student success. But what does innovation mean? For some it means scaling high-tech platforms that promote personal learning approaches, for others it’s redefining traditional course materials to more modern, affordable and sustainable options.
In a recent report published by The Chronicleof Higher Education, titled, “The Innovation Imperative”, they share information and insights on the topic of innovation, including what it looks like in higher education, barriers to progress, and an in-depth look at what students really think about it.
How can you integrate online with the rest of your institution, and align everyone’s incentives for success?
It takes the ability to scale
Ranked #1 in the nation for innovation by U.S. News and World Report for five years running, ASU provides a number of opportunities for its students to get the most out of technology and creativity.
Innovation at work:
ASU Online, a fully online degree program, scaled from 8,200 to 41,000 students in six years, as its portfolio of programs has grown from 33 to 173.1.
Starbucks College Achievement Plan, an innovative partnership with a large corporation, covers tuition for students who work there 20 hours/week.
ASU Prep Digital, a college readiness program, allows high school students to start prepping now through a blend of high school and university coursework.
A centerpiece of ASU’s innovation strategy is that scaling isn’t just about the number of programs. It’s about evaluating your marketing efforts to recruit ever-larger numbers of students.
Michael M. Crow, the university’s president since 2002, believes the role of institutions like his is to “find ways to massively innovate” to ensure that growing numbers of students can have high-quality educational opportunities.
How do you set costs to optimize enrollment, serve students, and sustain your program?
It takes return on investment
Gone are the days of brick and mortar as the only model for higher ed. As the nation’s first online nonprofit university, Western Governors University’s programs are delivered solely online, meeting the needs of today’s non-traditional student body, allowing them to graduate faster and at a lower cost.
Innovation at work:
The University only offers degrees in business, IT, teacher education, and health care. Through this specialization, WGU is able to serve more students at lower costs.
A competency-based education model allows students to advance upon mastery making education accessible to more students, and better preparing America’s workforce.
A unique faculty and instructional model where different people are responsible for monitoring a student’s progress helps lower administrative costs.
Low tuition is one of WGU’s hallmarks because, as its president, Scott Pulsipher, has said, affordability “increases the access for so many to be served.”
How can you differentiate and future-proof both new and existing online programs?
It takes adaptability
The world we’re in right now requires adaptive change, particularly when it comes to lifelong learning — no matter what that looks like. To meet this demand, Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) has established one of the biggest online-education operations of any college in the country, with an enrollment of more than 120,000.
Innovation at work:
SNHU has been recognized for its pioneering work in serving refugees overseas.
Here is a scenario that I am sure most of you have experienced in your teaching career:
Sam is one of your students in your course and is having some issues with one of the assignments. He sends you an email asking for help. You respond with what you think is a detailed answer. Sam responds and asks more questions. You then respond again spending more time and energy typing another detailed answer. Unfortunately, Sam emails again still not understanding what he is supposed to do for the lesson.
Now let’s look at this scenario again but add something you may not have thought of doing:
Sam is one of your students in your course and is having some issues with one of the assignments. He sends you an email asking for help. You do a short video and audio of using your computer screen detailing and showing Sam what he is supposed to for the lesson. Sam responds and tells you that he is all set and understands what to do for the assignment.
In the second scenario, by providing the video to the student, he can quickly see and understand the assignment. These short videos are called Screencasting. According Educause’s 7 things you should know about Screencasting, the definition of screencasting is “a screen capture of actions on a user’s computer screen, typically with accompanying audio.”
The above scenario where student is asking a question via email provides just one example of how screencasting can be an effective learning and communication tool. It does not matter if the course is online, face to face, or blended because students will always send you questions.
In other situations, using screencasting for reviewing students’ work can be very powerful. As a personal example, I teach a Web Design class. My students need to complete several activities each chapter where they are building a website using HTML and Cascading Style Sheets.
Each chapter builds on the previous, so it is important for my students to master each chapters’ concepts. I have a rubric that I use to grade the student’s work but, in some cases, doing a screencast to point out the issues with the student’s work is much more effective.
In following video that is 2:32 minutes long I can show and explain to the student what is wrong with their web page and show what it should correct. This is much more effective than typing up a long email.
You will need screencasting software in order to create them. In this section, I will outline a paid and free version of screencasting software.
SnagIt from TechSmith
Snagit is the best option for screencasting if you willing to pay a little bit. The education price for Snagit is $29.95 and worth every dime.
Snagit not only will do screencasting but you will also be able to capture images on your computer. Please watch the short video below about Snagit. I captured from the TechSmith site and used my computer audio to capture the sound. I highly recommend spending the money for this software.
Screen-0-Matic is a free screencasting software. There are some restrictions on the length of the videos which are limited to 15 minutes maximum. This should not be a problem when doing short screencasting videos. Plus, there is a branded logo from the company on all their free screencasts. Again, this may be an issue. Here is a quick example of a Screen-o-Matic video.
Screencasting can be a very powerful way of communicating with your students. An important benefit of screencasting for students is the ability to watch the video as many times as they wish. Students can also stop and watch portions of the video. It is very worth your time and energy to explore the world of screencasting.
In order for an online course to be successful, one must first divorce their thinking from the traditional face-to-face classroom, and consider several key components of the online course experience. Let’s focus on the big items…
One of the most natural starting places for creating an online course is the lecture. This can of course take many forms. The lazy alternative is to simply tell students to read the chapter, but this is, as one might expect, unfair and inadequate. Our students look to us to explain, and that is, of course, one of our primary jobs.
Many instructors make their initial videos mimic what they might do in front of a class, and some even attempt to record their actual classroom lectures. For quite a few reasons this is a bad idea. Let’s address a few of these issues.
If you actually record your classroom, this will include extraneous comments and questions from the students in the room that day. This does not provide an “inclusive environment”, as some might argue. What it does provide is audio distractions for students trying to focus on critical material.
Yet another problem with this style of lecture capture is length. Ideal videos for an online course should be “small bites”. Each video should address a discrete topic (commonly a chapter section) and no more. Ideal time on a video of this sort falls between 3 – 10 minutes. This provides a few key benefits. Students don’t have to remember where they were in an hour-long lecture should they need to leave/return. Students can easily watch/rewatch a short video in available time even with a busy schedule.
How should you actually capture your lecture? There are several useful tools/techniques that can serve this purpose.
At hand for most instructors is PowerPoint narration. Both PowerPoint and Apple Keynote permit users to record narration on each slide. While you certainly can then share narrated presentations with your students, that relies on students having the original software to play the presentations. An easier option is to simply export a video. Powerpoint: File>Export>Create Video. Keynote: File>Export to>Movie.
A more robust option would entail use of screen capture (sometimes called “screencasting” software such as Camtasia (Windows or Mac) or Screenflow (Mac). These apps allow capture of the entire computer screen or a portion of the screen. More importantly, they permit robust editing of the video after the initial recording. This provides an easy remedy for an instructor who has made an error during the lecture. They can simply pause and correct the error. One would then remove the error in postproduction prior to saving the final video.
Since we have addressed the idea of editing, we should bring up the idea of closed captions. Any instructor providing lecture videos should be extremely aware of remaining ADA compliant with any materials produced. Both Camtasia and Screenflow have features that allow you to insert true closed captions. One strategy that makes this process easier is lecturing from a pre-written script. This will enable you to simply cut/paste the actual words read from the script into the captions track during editing.
One cannot have “good video” in absence of “good audio”. To that end, it is strongly recommended to not simply rely on the microphone built into your computer. Bad audio is distracting and is a disservice to your audience.
You may wish to consider either a headset mic such as the Logitech H390 Noise Canceling headset (around $25 from online retailers).
Alternatively, you may want to consider a more robust studio microphone such as the Rode Podcaster. Going with this option, you may wish to include a boom arm to mount the mic to your desk. This configuration is a bit more expensive (around $350 total for mic and arm) but provides exceptional audio quality. As a side benefit, this certainly puts the online professor into “recording mode” when you pull the microphone boom arm over in front of you. As a user of a system like this, there is a lot to be said for the level of focus that a good microphone brings to your workflow.
One hallmark of an online course is, of course, online homework. Your publisher’s platform is an ideal place to go for ready-to-go assignments. Depending on your discipline you may wish to consider Mastering, MyLab, or Revel. Your publisher also has Customer Support teams standing ready to help you learn all about designing effective assignments.
Ideally for each chapter, one should consider pre-lecture, mid-lecture (tough topics), and post-lecture (chapter quiz) assignments.Some instructors express concern as they first begin assigning online homework that they don’t want to assign “too much homework”. That approach is actually counter-productive.
Ask yourself: How many times have students come to you to ask, “What else can I do to study?” Now remind yourself, have you ever said to students: “For every hour you are in the classroom, you should spend 2-3 hours outside of class studying.” It is actually common for an online course to have more homework assignments than a similar face-to-face course.
A final consideration should be point value. Students won’t be invested in assignments that are simply busy work that don’t contribute to their overall outcome. A good target range would be 10 – 25% of total course grade. I myself set a value of my students’ online homework at 20% of their semester grade.
Securing high stakes exams
Most schools will require some form of proctoring on high stakes exams. These are the “traditional exams” we’re all familiar with. There are several options for having these exams proctored for your online course.
If you happen to be teaching a discipline that uses MyLab you’re in luck. MyLab has a partnership with ProctorU, an online proctoring service that watches both what happens on a student’s screen and watches the student and immediate environment through the computer camera. In this form, ProctorU is utilizing an artificial intelligence engine rather than an actual human proctor. At present, this option is not available in either Mastering or Revel, thus proctored testing in those platforms is not currently an option.
For schools that insist on proctored exams there are a few options.
On-campus Testing Centers are available at most campuses, and students of those campuses can usually test for free. If an online student does not live near the instructor they may still utilize a campus testing center near their home, but they may have to pay a per-exam fee. In such cases, students should provide contact information to their instructor and obtain permission to use the testing center at the alternate school. In either case, details needed to take the exam should be communicated to such a testing center by the instructor. Exams can either be paper based, run on publisher sites (Mastering, Revel, Pegasus, MyLab) under password protection, or via questions uploaded to the school LMS, again under password protection with Testing Center staff entering the password which remains unknown to students.
The second option would be a proctoring service such as ProctorU.com. These companies provide pay-by-exam services for students (free for instructors to set up) and involve a human proctor watching the student, immediate environment, and student’s computer screen. The service provides incident reports including screenshots, video, and descriptions of incidents. The cost to the student depends on the amount of time permitted by instructors. My own students typically pay about $30 per exam. It is worth noting that the pay scale is based SOLELY on the maximum time an instructor permits. In particular a student cannot rush through the exam for a cheaper session. So, there is no monetary incentive for them to finish an exam early. Most students don’t consider this their primary exam strategy, but rather use it in a pinch when they can’t come to campus.
Online Discussions Options
One critical component of an online class is providing a way for your students to feel connected to the instructor and their classmates. There are several options for this component of the class.
Publisher platforms (Mastering, Revel, MyLab, Pegasus) all include asynchronous discussion forums, as do most of the common LMS platforms such as Blackboard, Desire2Learn, Canvas, and Moodle. Many, if not most of these, require the student to be logged into the platform in order to see current and past posts, or to reply.
An interesting alternative solution can be found in app-based discussion platforms such as GroupMe. I began using GroupMe a few years ago and it has revolutionized my online class discussions. At the beginning of the semester I create a Class – GroupMe group and send the invitation link to my student email list.
GroupMe can be accessed in a browser, as well as on-device apps. Students can configure GroupMe to send them group messages as SMS texts. Students and instructors can post messages that appear in real time. The history of the discussion is available to scroll back through all the way back to the creation of the group. Participants can post text and images. The group creator can create group polls. As exam time approaches I post sample questions for students to answer and encourage them to create their own. What ensues is often an impromptu study session.
This app creates an on-device environment that most of my millennial students seem to relate to, in a communication form that speaks to them at a core level.
I have had students over the past 2-3 years tell me that they feel more connected to me and other students in my online classes than they have ever felt in any face-to-face class. So, if you are considering creating an online course, stick with these core principles:
Produce a lecture component that is easy to consume and ADA compliant.
Design and assign homework that contributes to your students’ success.
Find a way to securely deliver high-stakes exams that satisfies your administration and is accessible to your students.
Communicate! The students in your online course should not feel as if they are in a vacuum. They should feel a part of a community who are all on a learning journey together with their instructor leading the way through the course material
It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of everyday life, especially this time of year. We invite you to pause, and take a moment to look at the world and really see it. Focus on the present and live in that moment — tune in, calmly, and with awareness of your surroundings and sensations. Here are four tips based on content from Access to Health, 16e that are designed to help you live a more mindful life.
1: Live more compassionately
Be there. When others are down, be kind and offer support. Compassion is so much more than helping others through grief or pain — it’s the good and bad.
See the good in others. Listen to your inner critiques of others, their appearance, or actions, and block the negative and focus on the positive.
See the good in you. Practice self-compassion (cut yourself some slack).
Remember that compassion is a skill. You can consciously foster your capacity for compassion for others and yourself.
2: Live with purpose/meaning
Carve out “me” time. Start with 30 minutes of quiet time per day. Disconnect from media intrusions, meditate, play calming music, walk in nature, listen to the silence, and block any outside “chatter” in your life.
Think about what’s important to you, and ask yourself, “What makes me happy?” Jot it down and ask yourself whether you did anything today that made you happy.
Say “no” to things or events that are “downers” for you or those things you do out of guilt or a need to feel needed.
Engage in activities (like volunteering) that help others and bring you satisfaction.
3: Live with gratitude
Make a list of the things that you’re thankful for in life.
Consider the “lessons” you’ve learned through pain, loss, adversity, or challenges. Think about how something that seemed like a bad thing in life may have actually shaped who you are today, and how you have moved ahead.
Think about the people who are positive influences in your life and how you might “pay those actions forward”, and make a difference for others.
When you wake up each day, try to say to yourself, ”Today will be a good day, because…”
4: Lean in, tune in
Wake those sleeping senses. Hear more, see more, taste more, smell more. Slow down on your walks — hear the birds, smell the air. Take the time to savor your food.
Do your part to reduce your environmental footprint — live simply, waste not, and walk the talk when it comes to planet survival.
It only takes minutes each day to live a more purposeful life. Use these helpful tips to make the most of your summer, and be ready to enter the next school year refreshed.
Linda Bush is the Director of STEM, Nursing, Business Studies and Program Development for Smarthinking, Pearson’s Online Tutoring Service. In this role, she manages hundreds of subject expert tutors for college-level online academic support, provides consultative services to client institutions and faculty on optimal integration of online tutoring into their courses, and works on new programs and business opportunities for Smarthinking.
In anticipation of Educause 2018, we spoke with Linda about discovering her love of science, empowering learners, and imagining the possibilities of mixed reality.
Explain your career path to date. How did you come to work in education?
I got my undergrad degree at Bryn Mawr, and I have a PhD in organic chemistry from Yale. I was fortunate to have a mentor in graduate school who was a preeminent scholar and teacher. I learned so much from him about thinking critically, asking the right questions, and considering multiple solutions to problems.
In my work life I’ve had at least three careers so far! I was a chemistry professor, then a freelance media consultant and contributor for a textbook publisher, which sort of led to my third career as Director of Online Tutoring in STEM for Smarthinking and Pearson. All my work has been education focused. I always had such respect for my teachers, and I’m really a nerd, so education was a natural path for me. I love science and chemistry, and I’m drawn to any opportunity to share more about those subjects with anyone willing to learn.
Pearson supports Nevertheless, a podcast celebrating the women transforming teaching and learning through technology. Who or what inspired you to pursue a STEM career?
When I was growing up, our neighbor was a biology lab instructor at a local college, and she would spend hours with me looking at pond water samples under a microscope or collecting and curating bugs and snakes in our shared yards. Also, my dad had a PhD in chemistry, so although he never pressed it, that sort of thing was always on my radar. As I said earlier, I went to Bryn Mawr College, a women’s college with very strong programs in STEM, and that’s when I really found my own calling in chemistry.
I know you worked with Bryn Mawr College recently! Can you share more about the work you and your team did there?
This was really how I got involved with the Pearson Immersive team. There are features of Windows10 Skype which allow enhanced video calls between HoloLens and other devices. In 2016, the Immersive team reached out to Smarthinking to explore the potential use of this type of virtual connection for academic tutoring. I am an active alumna, so I contacted some faculty at Bryn Mawr College to see if they’d help us run some testing and focus groups with students.
Once they had HoloLens devices on campus, the instructional technology team at Bryn Mawr really made the most of them. Students jumped into the project with enthusiasm. There was tremendous interest in students learning programming and coding for mixed reality. Because of Pearson’s partnership with Microsoft, we were also able to sponsor some on-campus internship experiences. We learned a lot about app design from things the students built into their creations.
It was very empowering for those young women to have a hands-on experience with cutting-edge technology. It meant a lot to them to know that they were among a relatively small number of people worldwide who have used and developed content for HoloLens. It also meant a lot to me and the whole Pearson team to be able to share our work with them.
Explain the HoloLens to a six year old.
HoloLens is like a special set of glasses or goggles through which you can see the world around you, but with two additional features: little cameras on the front that map the contours of objects in your environment and allow you to control the device with hand gestures and transparent screens in front of your eyes on which holograms can be projected. Those holograms seem to actually take up space in your environment. While wearing the HoloLens, the holograms have presence in your world and you interact with them as though they are real physical objects.
Ksenia Sejenkova and Emily Egan want learners to see the world differently—literally. As developers on Pearson’s Immersive Technology team, Ksenia and Emily help build educational apps and experiences for virtual reality headsets (such as Microsoft’s HoloLens), mobile phones, and more. In anticipation of Educause 2018, I spoke with Ksenia and Emily about creating virtual reality and mixed reality experiences (see sidebar for definitions), being female developers, dreaming of new educational possibilities, and imagining the future of VR and MR technologies.
How did you come to work in virtual reality development and education?
Emily Egan: I worked as a multimedia content producer before, in publishing, and then I started working at a VR company creating immersive content. So I gained experience from that role and now I work at Pearson.
[Working in education] was something that just came up as an opportunity. I haven’t always wanted to work in education, but the VR Video Experience Developer role seemed really appealing because there’s a lot of interesting use cases in education. It requires you to be very creative, and I wanted to do a creative role.
Ksenia Sejenkova: My background is in video. I used to be an editor. That’s how I learned about 360 video. But then I tried VR—got really into that—did a master’s in interactive technology and started working at Pearson, so I combined my video background and technology interests.
This series, produced with The Edtech Podcast, explores the implications of and questions around future tech for education. Listen for insights from experts — including contrarians — from across industry, research, and academia. Get caught up with episodes 1-8.
With technology, teachers actually sometimes see less student work than they do with a traditional worksheet. How can resources developers best communicate about students’ work to teachers? What instructional decisions do teachers make for which it is helpful to have data to answer? Are data points useful beyond intervention alone? What do teachers actually seek from data and how it is presented, without adding to existing workload? What latest design methods of communicating information can be used to feedback student performance to teachers whilst maintaining the agency of all stakeholders? Is the “data-dashboard” here to stay? Or, is there another way?
Subscribe to the Future Tech for Education on iTunes.
Nevertheless, a series produced with Storythings, celebrates women both inside and outside of Pearson who are using technology to transform teaching and learning and improve outcomes for students.
Pearson’s Emily Lai on trust, children, and information literacy
A little-known fact about me is that I was once a librarian. Before I entered the world of educational measurement, I completed a degree in Library and Information Science and worked in an archive. This fact is ironic because there was a time in my life when I actually suffered from library anxiety.
This occurred during my sophomore year of high school, when I had an English assignment to write a research paper summarizing and critically evaluating evidence of some paranormal topic of my choice (my topic: people who claim to recover memories of “past lives” through hypnosis.) Our class made several visits to the library of a local university so we could carry out research. At that time, there were no full-text electronic databases to consult, just stacks and stacks of books, hard-cover periodical indices, and a computer-based card catalog. Even this was intimidating to me.
I remember spending way too much time trying to figure out how to search the collection and then retrieve the results — only to find that they weren’t all that relevant to my topic. I should have approached the reference librarian (the most under-utilized resource in the library!) but I was too shy. I felt this was something I should figure out on my own.
Eventually, I overcame my paralysis in the library and learned to see it as a treasure trove. The tools to support information retrieval projects like this have vastly improved, thanks in no small part to technology. But technology has also made it even more important that students develop information literacy: the ability to diagnose an information need, identify what kind of information is needed, search and retrieve information, evaluate its relevance and quality, and use it responsibly to answer a question or solve a problem. It’s more important today simply because the internet and mobile technology enable ridiculous amounts of information to be instantly accessible to us, anytime and anywhere.
Recently watching my 9-year old daughter try to research rights and responsibilities of citizens for a school assignment brought me full circle. Although she was sitting at home (not in a library) and using her computer (not bound books) to look for sources, she ended up with about the same result as my fruitless search from years before — a small collection of marginally relevant information sources of dubious credibility for the topic. She didn’t know what question she was trying to answer or how to describe what type of information would be best suited to answering it. She was simply googling her way through the assignment.
If ever there was a teachable moment for information literacy, this was it. So we talked about how to search for information and how to judge whether that information is valuable for a given question. We talked about mis-information and the need to critically interrogate information sources to figure out if they are trustable.
If you’re a parent like me who is concerned that your kids aren’t picking up these skills at school, or you’re just interested to hear more perspectives on the topic of trust and technology, make sure you check out the next episode of the Nevertheless podcast, entitled The First Click.
Technology is driving the sports industry, making it easier to gather player insights. Can it do the same for student performance?
The sports industry has changed drastically in recent years with the implementation of technologies that improve player and team performance. NFL teams now use digital playbooks to enhance training and communication, the NHL is planning to introduce smart puck technology in 2019 to track movement on the ice, and most recently at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, all 32 teams used Electronic Performance and Tracking Systems (EPTS), technologies that give coaches, analysts, and medical teams access to player statistics and video footage, such as player positioning data, speed, passing, and tackles. With high stakes competition in every game, coaches can rely on EPTS to help them make informed decisions. And sports coaches aren’t the only ones using technology to gain insights and drive results. Just ask a teacher.
Teachers and coaches embrace technology
According to a 2016 survey by Edgenuity, provider of online and blended learning services, 91% of teachers believe technology provides a greater ability for them to tailor lessons and homework assignments to the individual needs of each student.
By implementing technology in the classroom and learning how to use new apps and platforms, teachers are able to stay on top of learner progress and provide immediate feedback that will improve performance. Teachers, like sports coaches, have to learn about the latest technologies so they’re able to build the skills and the talents of others.
Technology affects everyone
In 2016, FIFA invited the soccer industry to Zurich to learn more about new technologies like EPTS that would impact the game. Johannes Holzmueller, FIFA Head of Football Technology, believes the advantage of wearable technology is the amount of data people can access. His colleague Marco van Basten, FIFA’s Chief Technical Development Officer, notes that data informs players on their performance, it gives doctors insight into player health and wellbeing, and trainers can use it to recommend player substitutes.
With innovative technology, a community of people interested in the soccer player’s abilities can work together. The collaboration and involvement look similar to the way teachers, parents, and administrators work together to do what’s best for the student. Cutting-edge technology affects an individual’s entire ecosystem.
Keller Battey, a first grade teacher in Atlanta, Georgia, relies heavily on technology to help her track progress and personalize teaching. “Technology helps all students,” Battey says. “If a student is above grade level, I can extend a skill or a lesson and if a student is struggling then I can remediate. I know exactly how my students are performing and so do their parents. The data is all there.”
Education companies, large and small, are listening to consumers and have focused on the benefits of providing data and analytics to help teachers and students achieve success. Pearson’s Intelligent Essay Assessor (IEA) is a prime example of a capability that meets the needs of teachers and students.
IEA is a suite of automated essay scoring capabilities that can analyze open-ended responses from learners and then assesses the content knowledge and understanding. It uses a range of machine learning and natural language processing technologies to evaluate the content and meaning of text and feedback is immediate, allowing teachers to monitor ongoing progress at an individual and class level.
The goal of technology here is to ensure correct evaluation and accuracy. In this year’s World Cup, the new Video Assistant Referee (VAR) technology performed in a similar capacity.
Technology as a supplement
VAR was created to ensure fairness and identify any errors on the field. Video Assistant Referees work in a team of four, and each referee undergoes extensive training to support match officials in the decision making process.
FIFA referee Mark Geiger has been a VAR since the project started in 2016 at the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan. He says, “When you have a critical decision in a game…they’re there to tell you ‘check complete.’ It’s the two best words for a referee to hear because now you know your decision was correct, and you’re able to go on with a lot of confidence.”
VAR technology proved to be a controversial topic at the World Cup, and though it may undergo improvements, the technology is here to stay. At the closing news conference in Moscow, FIFA president Gianni Infantino touched on the technology at the games. “This is progress, this is better than the past,” he said. “VAR is not changing football, it is cleaning football.”
A similar sentiment is expressed by education leaders who assure consumers and educators that technology doesn’t exist to replace teachers; it exists to support them. Tim Hudson, SVP of Learning at DreamBox, told Business Insider, “It’s important that we listen to teachers and administrators to determine the ways technology can assist them in the classroom.”
When students must choose between textbooks and food or gas money, the latter wins. But without course materials, students often find classroom success elusive.
A student entering his or her first year of college can expect course materials to cost between 5 to 10 percent of total expenses. At the same time, student populations are changing from the traditional 18 to 22-year-old to campuses that are more diverse, including older adults and returning veterans, all with unique financial challenges. But one financial concern remains consistent: course materials are expensive are often the first college expense cut when money gets tight.
The steep rise of textbooks
In 2016, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released a Consumer Price Index for college expenses. Between 2006 and 2016, tuition costs jumped 63 percent. Over that same period, textbook prices increased 88 percent. Covering that same time period, a study conducted by the Florida Virtual Campus revealed more than half of students spent more than $300 on books in a semester, while nearly a fifth shelled out more than $500.
More importantly, the Florida study showed how the high cost of materials directly impacts the student’s ability to succeed. When books are too expensive, two-thirds don’t purchase them, and of those students, 37 percent earn a poor grade, while almost one-fifth end up failing. To compensate for high book costs, students are taking fewer classes or don’t register for a class they need — but that ends up extending their time in school, which costs more money. It’s an ugly, expensive cycle.
How campuses stepped up
Students began to complain openly about the price of textbooks. Faculty became concerned that students stopped purchasing the expensive materials. Educators at Indiana University paid attention.
“We started pilots in 2009, working with some publishers, to make some electronic textbook content available, and we didn’t ask the students to pay,” said Stacey Morrone, associate vice president for learning technologies in the Office of the Vice President for Information Technology at Indiana University. The students liked the change.
Indiana University now works with 30 publishers who agree that the cost of e-texts will be at least 35 percent of a hard-copy edition. They have publishers who now offer their entire digital catalog at a flat rate. And importantly, the students will be able to access the e-text throughout their college career. While digital formats are optional, more faculty are buying in because, Morrone said, it ensures every student has their materials on the first day of classes. Indiana’s data shows that students who achieve A/B grades start coursework immediately and keep reading.
The faculty benefit
San Diego State University began its Immediate Access program in 2016 with two classes. That’s since grown to 80 classes with savings of $2 million in textbook costs, with a projection of 150 classes next year and $4 million in savings.
James Frazee, senior academic technology officer and director of instructional services, said students at SDSU are charged for digital books and materials as a course fee, and they aren’t charged the fee until after the add/drop deadline. The majority of students said they access the materials before that deadline and felt this access helped them academically.
“Students feel this is a good value,” Frazee said. Not only are the materials more affordable, but they deepen the level of engagement with faculty. Faculty can monitor the way the materials are used and can focus lessons around sections where it is clear students are struggling. Also, as students have access to materials immediately, faculty can conduct more frequent, low-stake assessments earlier in the semester. Having improved insight to how students are faring from day one, faculty can restructure the lesson plan that lead to improved student success.
Digital materials go beyond affordability, said Drew Miller, senior vice president of marketing with Pearson. Digital learning platforms, like Pearson’s Revel, combine content with immersive and engaged academic experiences. It allows both students and faculty to be interactive in the education process, creating a sustainable business model for both higher education institutions and the students they serve. Students are able to access and afford the materials they need to succeed while the institutions provide a learning environment that allows options that work best for all.
This content was sponsored by Pearson. See the original article here.
Pearson study reveals Generation Z and millennials’ learning preferences
Young people are the first to admit they can easily spend hours a day on the internet—whether it’s via a desktop computer, tablet, or smartphone. While they may be tech-savvy by nature, this innate connectivity poses the question of technology’s place as it relates to how Generation Z and millennials learn.
In a recent survey of 2,558 14-40 year olds in the US, Pearson explored attitudes, preferences, and behaviors around technology in education, identifying some key similarities and differences between Gen Z and millennials.
While 39% of Gen Z prefer learning with a teacher leading the instruction, YouTube is also their #1 preferred learning method. And 47% of them spend three hours or more a day on the video platform. On the other hand, millennials need more flexibility—they are more likely to prefer self-directed learning supported by online courses with video lectures. And while they are known for being the “plugged in” generation, it’s apparent that plenty of millennials still prefer a good old-fashioned book to learn.
Regardless of their differences, the vast majority of both Gen Z and millennials are positive about the future of technology in education. 59% of Gen Z and 66% of millennials believe technology can transform the way college students learn in the future.
When I was a college student, there were times when I skipped out on buying a required textbook for a course. Finances were always tight, so I tried to balance my checkbook with buying actual books. Even then, textbooks weren’t cheap. Today, students are paying more and more for their higher education experience. If a university can find ways to make attending college more affordable, accessible, and “high-tech/high-touch”, well, it’s not really an option, it’s a necessity.
Today’s technology makes it easy to distill course materials into digital formats and enhances them as a result. Colleges and universities are quickly shifting from books to bytes to improve the student experience and boost course outcomes.
Here are 10 reasons why your university should go digital with its course materials:
2. A better experience for students with disabilities
Unlike print books, modern eTextbooks can be accessible “out of the box.” When eTextbooks include features such alternative text descriptions of visuals and content that can be used with assistive technology, students can start reading right away, without waiting for a disability services department to create a file.
3. Learning analytics and digital integration
Can you remember when a physical book connected to a digital learning system? It’s just not possible. However, with digital course materials, integration with the campus LMS/VLE is possible. Plus, with learning analytics built in, digital materials can help support at-risk learners who may need additional assistance.
Digital course materials might not seem like they give universities a recruitment edge, but in an increasingly competitive enrollment landscape, everything helps. Students seek modern solutions for their educational experience. For bring-your-own-device (BYOD) campuses and institutions that provide technology platforms for students, digital course materials hit the sweet spot. They create more affordances for student success and showcase a university experience that is effectively using the latest technologies.
5. Multi-platform capability
The ability to view course materials on a variety of devices represents a huge advantage for digital course materials. If a student needs to read a chapter while on the go, odds are, they will be able to access it on whichever device they have with them. Also, it’s a good bet that no one misses having a backpack filled with textbooks.
6. Seamless group work
University campuses are filled with versatile seating and project workspaces. You can’t project a textbook onto a large screen, but you can with digital course content. It’s simply a matter of either plugging in or wirelessly beaming content to a screen. It makes group work and collaboration a much easier task.
7. Always current
Have you ever tried to update a textbook? Editions come and go, each one costing more than the last. With digital course materials, content is as up to date as possible and it doesn’t cost students more for this “always current” content. Who wants a used book when you can have a new digital version?
8. Instant access
No longer do students have to search for the lowest price option or wait until after term starts. Instant access to digital materials, through programs such as Pearson Inclusive Access and others, ensures all students are ready to learn on the first day of class, not the third week. It’s as easy as logging into the university system, selecting the appropriate course, and downloading the material to a compatible device.
Textbooks have been surpassed in form, function, and capability. Digital course materials allow authors the opportunity to embed audio and video into their work. This makes for a much more interactive and “real” experience for students.
Anything that a college or university can do to assist students with their academic success is a good thing. Digital course materials aid and enhance an institution’s ability to improve their overall retention rates and bolster student success with all of the supportive elements in this list.
What would you add to the list?
Digital course materials are not the future for higher education; they’re the present. It’s only a matter of time before your institution goes digital for student success.
This post was sponsored by Pearson as part of a higher education influencers collaboration.
(This is the last part of our three-part series “Goldilocks and the Three Bears of Critical Thinking.” Read part one and part two).
Empty calories or nutritious porridge?
Most students acknowledge that easy classes tend to serve the empty calories of rote memorization and regurgitation; however, when given a choice, students often pick such an option over a more rigorous course that serves the nutritious porridge of critical thinking.
We see this behavior when students “shop” for the easiest professor. In all honesty, I can’t blame them. It’s only natural that students are pathologically hung-up on grades when parents, scholarship committees, and collegiate programs are GPA obsessed.
During my 15 years of teaching introductory microbiology and anatomy and physiology to allied health students and tomorrow’s nurses, I have heard the phrase, “I have to get an A” countless times. However, a high GPA is not necessarily linked to passable work-skill competencies or even average critical thinking skills.
This is partially why standardized tests have become important screening tools for admission into colleges and graduate programs. When students say they, “have to get an A,” perhaps we should reply that an A is useless if it’s not packed with vitamins. So, how do we make a healthy porridge that students will try and perhaps even enjoy?
A recipe for porridge
Students often avoid trying the critical thinking porridge because they are afraid to fail. It’s no wonder they fear failure—society’s message is pretty clear, “We don’t have time for you to learn from your mistakes.”
The good news is we can get students to try the porridge of critical thinking and position them for success if we add pedagogical ingredients that: (1) foster a growth mindset, (2) require that students are prepared to participate in class, and (3) include context-rich assessments that provide ample opportunities to practice in the Goldilocks zone of development.
Let’s delve a little deeper into each of these ingredients.
Intelligence mindset matters
Psychologists tell us that how we perceive intelligence may affect our academic experiences. Some people have a fixed intelligence mindset, which means they see intelligence as static. In contrast, others see intelligence as cultivable, and are said to have a growth mindset. People with a fixed mindset often interpret a struggle with tough course material as proof of an inherent lack of ability.
They are therefore, more likely to give up when courses challenge them and they are prone to excusing themselves from the struggle with cop-out phrases such as, “I’m just not a math person,” (or fill in your choice of discipline).
As educators, we have an important role in shaping the intelligence mindset of our students. We should emphasize that just as students can strengthen their muscles through training and pushing their boundaries, so too can they strengthen their minds through practice.
Prepared to participate
My gym teachers never made dressing out optional. We were required to come prepared to participate, otherwise we were as good as absent. The same should hold true when it comes to academic classes. If we expect students to be prepared to participate, then we can’t make being prepared to participate optional—we must require it.
To do this I use Pearson’s MyLab and Mastering platforms, which integrate Socratic coaching and immediate wrong answer feedback so that my students are redirected before misconceptions take root; this also affords them a chance to ask about missed questions in class. I don’t delude myself into thinking that everyone will do the work, but certainly more do it than if I didn’t require it.
Requiring that students are prepared to participate through a warm-up exposure to the content facilitates more meaningful content exploration in class.
Plus, because the online platform gives me diagnostic information and specifically points out where students are confused, I can practice precision training with my students instead of making assumptions about what they do or don’t understand. That optimizes our class time and keeps boredom at bay.
The Goldilocks zone for development
The work we give students must be relevant to their careers which means it must put content in context. Case studies, word problems, and reflecting on loosely defined problems are good exercises, but only if they are in the “just right” zone for student development.
That means the work can’t be too easy, nor can it be frustratingly difficult. There’s a reason we don’t use James Joyce novels to teach 6-year-olds to read.
Goldilocks’s triumph over the bears in the forest of critical thinking doesn’t have to remain a fairy tale. We can help students navigate the forest of critical thinking by filling their prerequisite knowledge gaps, overtly teaching critical thinking, and providing context rich exercises in their zone of development.
To accomplish this, we can’t rely on teaching strategies that were designed to support the education goals of the Industrial Revolution. In this Information Age, where information is cheap and easy we must leverage technology to get students from where they are to where they need to be.
There is more than just a grade at stake. The innovators of tomorrow are in our classes, let’s not feed them to the bears.
Hear directly from Dr. Norman-McKay in her recent webinar Thinking Critically from Day ONE of Class on how to explore and apply case-based content to facilitate deeper thought and authentic learning opportunities.
(This is part two of our three-part series “Goldilocks and the Three Bears of Critical Thinking.” Read part one).
Bear-ier #2: The bear that lacks a map through the critical thinking forest
Map-less Goldilocks beat the odds when it came to escaping bears, but it’s unrealistic for us to expect that all students, or even most students, can safely navigate the forest of critical thinking without a map. However, we regularly have this expectation.
Most college faculty say they value critical thinking and most say they teach it. Indeed, I used to believe that I was overtly teaching critical thinking; but when students failed at it I realized that I had mistaken modeling critical thinking, assigning it, and expecting it for overtly teaching it.
The symptoms that I was not overtly teaching critical thinking were all there; students continuously got frustrated with higher level assignments, they complained when assigned case work, and they regularly said that they didn’t even know where to start on the critical thinking based assignments I gave them. My students were struggling to overcome bear-ier #2—the lack of a map toward critical thinking.
Time to be honest…
The truth is I wasn’t trained as a teacher—I was trained as a scientist. Many college faculty share this history with me; they too were hired for their specific discipline credentials versus their teaching credentials. Accrediting bodies evaluate institutions based in part on faculty credentials.
In general, the minimum qualification to teach college credit courses is a Master’s degree with 18 or more graduate credit hours in the discipline being taught. There’s no requirement that faculty have official training in teaching or even an iota of teaching experience. Consequently, many college faculty have very little if any training in teaching, never mind a specific course in how to teach critical thinking.
My point is that we’ve embraced a “you just do it” mindset when it comes to collegiate teaching, so it’s not entirely shocking that we’ve applied that very same mindset to critical thinking—”you just do it.”
Of course, this is garbage. You don’t “just do it” any more than you just fly a plane or you just play the piano. It takes training and it takes practice, just like learning the course content does. While we don’t expect students to learn how to read on their own without an overt curriculum, it seems we often expect self-teaching when it comes to critical thinking.
In light of this, it’s not surprising that so few students are competent at critical thinking, even after earning a college degree.
Critical thinking cartography
Unfortunately, when students fail at critical thinking faculty get frustrated and we may assume that “students just aren’t ready to think critically.” The thing is, students can think critically and they are ready to do it if we give them the tools. It’s up to us to help them overcome the barriers they face to developing their critical thinking prowess—we must give students a map to critical thinking.
This is why I developed the S.M.A.R.T. framework as map toward critical thinking. Because my courses are focused on training the healthcare team of tomorrow, I thought about how trained clinicians and scientists approach problems. I also followed the literature on the neurological aspects of how we learn and how we develop critical thinking skills.
Years of teaching and experimenting with thousands of my own students led me to distill the process into the five steps in S.M.A.R.T. These steps are easy to teach, model, and evaluate students on—and students can readily remember them. Because S.M.A.R.T. is a map for higher order problem solving, these five steps can be applied across disciplines.
Getting S.M.A.R.T. about critical thinking
The S.M.A.R.T. approach is a stepping stone style methodology that provides a cognitive scaffold for sifting through large amounts of information and applying it to solve higher order problems.
In the spirit of always learning, we have an extensive lineup of free, professional development webinars that will leave you with actionable ideas and strategies to effectively implement digital learning tools that will increase student engagement and leave you with the freedom to do what you do best: teach.
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Generation Z is the youngest of the five generations, active in today’s economy. They are already the largest generation in the U.S. and will represent 40 percent of the population in 2020. In the world of higher-education, Gen Z accounts for all of the students enrolling today. Generation Z has experienced the most change in their short time on earth. Most of those changes center around technology. Gen Z is disrupting decades-long practices in our education system, forcing colleges and universities to adapt at a rapid pace or become irrelevant.
Millennials were different and required some modifications so higher-ed has been adapting to their needs. Millennials were the first generation to come to campus, laptop in hand. Gen X may have used desktops in computer labs on campus. The Millennials forced educators to begin using technology as a teaching tool. Gen Zs were born with technology. They will never know what life was like without the internet. Gen Z learners don’t see technology as a tool, they see it as a regular part of life.
While Millennials used three screens on average, Gen Z students frequently use up to five. Most use a smartphone, TV, laptop, desktop, and a tablet. These devices occupy ten hours of Gen Z’s daily activity. The constant stimulation and access to all the world’s information at their fingertips has given them an eight-second attention span and has trained their brains to expect instant gratification. Sitting in a hall or classroom listening to a lecture is Gen Z torture. Gen Z students want a chance to be part of the learning process, not a passive bystander.
Gen Z students are much more pragmatic and skeptical than generations before. Many experienced their parents’ and friends’ families lose everything in the Great Recession. They felt intense pressure as their parents did all they could to get them into college. Because of that experience, they are very worried about college debt, and demand colleges provide a good return on their investment. A Gen Z survey from the nonprofit, College Savings Foundation showed seventy-nine percent said costs are a factor on college choice. Thirty-nine percent said high costs caused them to change their path and enroll in state schools, community colleges, or vocational and career schools.
I’ve seen this with my college sophomore son. He will wait as long as three weeks after a class starts before he decides whether to purchase an expensive textbook. He tells me that some professors won’t even use the book so he waits. He has even dropped classes after learning how much the textbook will cost.
Fortunately, many professors and their institutions are saving students money by migrating to digital textbooks and course materials. Education companies like Pearson provide Pearson Inclusive Access for students that can save them upwards of 80 percent off the price of a new print textbook. Offering digital textbooks also makes it possible for students to receive their course materials the first day of class. Professors can begin teaching immediately without concern that half their students do not have required materials because they either can’t afford it or are spending time searching or borrowing to save money.
In addition to the cost savings, digital textbooks appeal to Gen Z students because they can access course materials on the same devices they already embrace. Gen Z wants to seamlessly jump from their personal experiences to their educational experiences on-demand and do it outside the classroom anytime, anywhere. Seventy-eight percent of students prefer digital course materials. I am not surprised because they provide three Gen Z “must-haves.” Cost savings, convenience, and interactivity. Being able to scan for specific topics, or click on audio and video links keeps those eight-second attention spans engaged in the course materials.
Professors and institutions benefit as well. Digital textbooks provide data on how students are engaging in the content. This is invaluable feedback that can help educators identify struggling students and make adjustments when needed. More than 425 colleges and universities across the country have partnered with Pearson to provide digital course materials, and they are starting to see real results in student achievement.
The primary focus of my book is to help each generation become self-aware of their own generational preferences. When educators become self-aware, they can ignore common Millennial, and Gen Z stereotypes and embrace their unique strengths, preferences, and learning styles. Many Boomer and Gen X educators struggle with this, and it is understandable. Technology has caused Gen Z to see more changes in ten years than older generations will experience in their lifetimes.
Change can be hard, and it can be good, especially when it helps young people grow, learn, and become successful adults. Experienced educators should do everything they can to make learning fun, interactive, and engaging for their Gen Z students. Utilizing digital course materials and other technologies that can provide that kind of experience is a step in the right direction.
This article was originally published on Dillon Kalkhurt’s LinkedIn Pulse page and has been reposted here with permission.
This series, produced with The Edtech Podcast, explores the implications of and questions around future tech for education. Listen for insights from experts — including contrarians — from across industry, research, and academia. Get caught up with episodes 1-7.
What initiatives are supporting teachers and students to co-create games together? In this episode of our Future Tech for Education podcast series, hear from educators, gaming companies, and researchers on the evolution of games-based learning from “content” to “creation”.
Subscribe to the Future Tech for Education on iTunes.
This series, produced with The Edtech Podcast, explores the implications of and questions around future tech for education. Listen for insights from experts — including contrarians — from across industry, research, and academia. Get caught up with episodes 1-6.
In episode 7 of our Future Tech for Education podcast series, we explore: What is personalized learning? What is it not? Is there an evidence base yet for personalized learning and what does the research evidence show us about the contexts where personalized learning works best? What is the role of student, software and teacher in a personalized learning context? What questions should we be asking?
Subscribe to the Future Tech for Education on iTunes.
As a college professor, I have spent a fair amount of time trying to find the ideal working system for my own research as well as for my students. And I know that so many of my colleagues have done the same.
This series, produced with The Edtech Podcast, explores the implications of and questions around future tech for education. Listen for insights from experts — including contrarians — from across industry, research, and academia. Get caught up with episodes 1-5.
How do we get beyond the tick-box or bubble filling exercise of exams and tests, whilst also measuring ‘progress’? In episode 6, we review ideas around ‘invisible assessment’ and question who benefits from ‘traditional’ and re-imagined forms of assessment, including games-based assessment. Can ‘tests’ be fun and should they be? How do we measure collaboration?
Subscribe to the Future Tech for Education on iTunes.