• The top 6 MyLab features you should be using

    by Mike Seng

    Instructor engaging with class

    As an instructor, shouldn’t you have the flexibility, ease, and control to customize your own courses? That’s what MyLab® from Pearson offers as a teaching and learning platform. It’s purpose-built to help advance the way you teach through a robust set of features while transforming the way students learn.

    Yet, with so many available features and so little downtime, it can become quite challenging to stay apprised of lesser-known or newer features, many that help you better engage with students, improve your pedagogy, and drive academic success for all students. That’s why we’re here to help.

    We've compiled a list of the top six MyLab features we suggest incorporating to level up your MyLab course, boost student success, and maximize your time in the classroom.

    6 MyLab features you can start leveraging today —

    Freehand Grader

    Freehand Grader enables you to gain deeper insight into your students’ thinking with Freehand Grader. This new assignment type creates an authentic assessment experience for both instructors and students.

    With Freehand Grader, your students can upload their hand-written assignments, illustrate their thought processes, and receive meaningful feedback on their approach. Because it's not simply about how they arrived at the answer but the process.

    Dynamic Study Modules

    Dynamic Study Modules help your students stay on track and achieve a higher level of subject-matter mastery. Each module poses a series of questions about a course topic that adapts to each student's performance and offers personalized, targeted feedback to help reinforce their mastery.

    With real-time feedback on their performance, you can adjust your lectures to meet learners where they are and where they’re headed. In addition, students can use their computers or learn on the go with the MyLab app. Available for select titles.

    Pre-built Courses and Assignments

    Pre-built Courses and Assignments ease your workload, save time, and increase efficiency with MyLab’s pre-built courses and assignments. Each course has a foundation of interactive course-specific content — by authors who are experts in their field — to tailor and adapt as you see fit.

    Now, whether building your course from scratch or leaning on our pre-built collection, your lessons are in your control.

    Early Alerts

    Early Alerts help you identify students who may be struggling or falling behind in your course sooner with Early Alerts. This feature leverages an algorithm within MyLab that projects risk levels, and alerts you when a student may be falling behind.

    With these insights, you can intervene, provide support, and help keep students on track to complete the course.

    Learning Catalytics

    Learning Catalytics help to increase student engagement and enhance their learning in the classroom. This interactive student response tool allows you to deploy questions and surveys, and assess student comprehension. It also equips you with real-time data to help adjust your instructional strategy on the fly.

    Plus, Learning Catalytics automatically groups students for discussion, team-based learning, and peer-to-peer learning.

    Pearson+ Channels

    Pearson+ Channels feature an interactive hub of expert-curated short videos and practice materials providing best-in-class content for any student seeking more knowledge in a specific topic or subtopic. In addition to testing their knowledge with practice questions created by Pearson experts, users can visit the social community and s discuss certain topics in message threads, ask for help with practice problems, and rank the videos and practice materials.

     

    Whether a novice or a MyLab expert, you’ll find much more to benefit and learn from with this teaching and learning platform — one that advances the way you teach and transforms the way learners learn.

    See for yourself just how purpose-built MyLab truly is. Learn more about MyLab.


    read more
  • The role of remote proctoring tools in academic integrity

    by Mike Seng

    A young woman using proctoring tool on a a desktop.

    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

    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

    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.  

      

    Sources  

    United States Department of Education. N.d. Fast Facts. National Center for Education Statistics. Accessed October 26, 2022. https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=80  

    Suzuki, J. (2020, August 4.). Writing good questions for the internet era. American Mathematical Society Blog. https://blogs.ams.org/matheducation/2020/08/04/3229/

    read more
  • Improve learning by adding video

    by Pearson

    Improve learning by adding video

    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

    read more
  • How unlimited information actually limits learning

    by Pearson

    How unlimited information actually limits learning

    Once, students looking to supplement their knowledge of a topic had to rely on the limited selection of books in their college library. Today, college students have nearly unlimited information at their fingertips. But does more information always equal better learning?

    A number of recent research studies suggest that in fact, providing students with a more limited set of high-quality resources chosen specifically for the course can lead to better outcomes than when students supplement their knowledge using the internet. Importantly, it may also help to level out inequities in the learning environment.

    It’s true that there is a large amount of high quality information available online, on nearly every topic imaginable. It’s also true that searching, assessing, filtering, and making use of online resources are valuable 21st-century skills. So it’s understandable when higher education courses call for students to look online for sources to cite, or to supplement their knowledge of the course subject.

    But that’s just the thing: finding information online and judging its reliability are skills in themselves. This complicates learning, because:

    • not all students in the course will have those skills to the same degree
    • they’re not usually the skills the course is teaching (or assessing)

    Reliable, or just familiar?

    As you may expect from a group of people who have largely grown up with the internet, higher education students know that not everything they find online is reliable. They do think about the origins of the information they find, and judge whether they are credible.

    However, students don’t always know how to make these kinds of judgments accurately.

    In one 2020 study, higher education students were provided with several items from different sources and prompted to write about the items’ perspectives. More than 2 in 5 of the students (41%) assumed that certain items were credible because they recognized the source.1 They thought they were judging the reliability of the information, but were really rating the familiarity of the sources.

    Another study, also published in 2020, asked economics students to use a search engine to investigate the truth of several claims. Again, these students ended up relying heavily on sites they were familiar with, rather than truly valid or reliable sources. Perhaps unsurprisingly, one of their most cited sources was Wikipedia.2

    Of course, not all students make the same mistakes. For example, a 2017 study found that students who score higher for reading comprehension are also more likely to find relevant, valid results when using search engines.3 Students with previous experience of searching for academic sources may also be more accurate judges of the information they find.

    But this presents another challenge to learning. It means that in courses that ask students to supplement their subject knowledge by searching the internet, those with lower reading comprehension and less academic experience are at an unfair disadvantage.

    Best use of effort

    Even with sophisticated search engines, sifting the vast quantities of information on the internet for relevant sources takes time and effort. So does assessing the reliability of each source.

    These activities also add to students’ cognitive load: the amount of brainpower needed to complete a task.

    Students’ time, effort, and cognitive load are all finite resources. What they expend on finding and assessing sources, they aren’t using to actually increase their knowledge.

    All of this means that providing students with a hand-picked suite of high quality resources, chosen specifically for the course, is better for learning than leaving them to find their own online.

    Providing learning resources as part of the course levels the playing field. Students with different levels of reading comprehension and academic experience will all have equally valid, reliable materials to learn from.

    And because students tend to trust material provided as part of the course, they won’t use up time, effort, or cognitive load gauging whether the material is reliable.

    All in one

    This isn’t a call to send students back to the college library. Even if the world wide web isn’t the best environment for learning, there are still clear benefits to digital learning.

    In fact, digital platforms allow us to free up even more of students’ cognitive load for learning: by providing suites of reliable resources under the same roof as learning and assessment.

    _____________________________________

    This is the thinking behind Pearson+. No switching, searching, or wondering where to look. Everything needed for the course, all in one place – leading to better, more equitable outcomes for all.

     

    Sources

    1 Banerjee, Zlatkin-Troitschanskaia, & Roeper, 2020

    2 Nagel et al., 2020

    3 Hahnel et al., 2017

    read more
  • Find Your “Why” to Reach Shared Success in OPM Partnerships

    by Pearson

    Brought to you by Pearson’s Online Program Management team

    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.

    read more
  • Designed to Deliver Value: The University of North Dakota Introduces Certificates to its Cyber Security Program

    by Pearson

    Man looking out the window, with laptop open in front of him

    Brought to you by Pearson’s Online Program Management team

    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.

    Designing transformative online learning experiences

    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
    read more
  • Pearson’s Maestro of Marketing Brings a Human Touch to a Customer-Centric Strategy

    by Michael Collins

    Man sitting in chair, smiling, as he is reviewing content on his laptop

    Brought to you by Pearson’s Online Program Management team.

    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.

    read more
  • Guarding the Online Learning Galaxy

    by Jaime Mordue

    Brought to you by Pearson’s Online Program Management team

    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:

    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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

    Originally published by the Pearson Insights blog.

    read more
  • Taking a Proactive and Positive Approach with Students about Academic Dishonesty

    by Jessica Bernards and Wendy Fresh

    Three women are looking at a laptop computer screen. Two are seated at a desk while the third is standing.

    As educators, one of the biggest issues we have recently had to tackle in our classrooms is the increase in academic misconduct. At our college, there was a 703% increase in academic misconduct reports from Winter 2020 to Winter 2021. Additionally, there has been a tremendous rise in ed tech companies that flourished during the pandemic. We feel like every time we look in the app store, a new “math solver” app appears. As educators, we can’t even keep up!

    In a presentation with Pearson Senior Learning Designer Dr. Elaine W. Tan we discussed specific strategies to be proactive with students about academic integrity. One of those strategies was to introduce academic integrity at the beginning of the term. This proactive approach from day 1 has really made a difference in our classes. In this post, we will go into more specifics.

    Define academic misconduct in your syllabus

    It’s important to define different forms of cheating and why they’re problematic. It’s equally important to state the value of academic integrity for learning. Many students might not see a given behavior as cheating until you tell them. In fact, in a College Pulse study1, students were asked how acceptable or unacceptable it is to Google homework questions to find the answers and use study websites to find answers to test or homework questions. Over 50% of the respondents said it was acceptable to Google homework questions and 44% said it was acceptable to use study websites to find answers to test or homework questions.

    A syllabus statement about academic integrity, including a link to your institution’s student code of conduct, is an important first step to making sure your students are all on the same page. See the wording that we include in our syllabus.

    Discuss academic integrity early

    Dr. Tan’s research2 found that most students don’t find cheating a problem, with only 15% saying they are very or extremely concerned about contract cheating. This may be because instructor’s aren’t talking about it. Only 1 in 5 students had instructors that discussed that cheating was problematic. Those are alarming statistics, and a good reason why it’s so important to begin the conversation early.

    One way to begin that conversation is by setting aside time in the first two weeks of class to show them a video covering academic integrity. Presented in an engaging way, a video like this gets the students’ attention and is more effective than lecturing them. You can also find a math-specific academic integrity video in the MyLab® Math shell for our textbooks Precalculus: A Right Triangle Approach, 5th Edition & Precalculus: A Unit Circle Approach, 4th Edition.

    Build connections with students

    More findings from Dr. Tan’s research show that one of the reasons students turn to academic dishonesty is because they feel a lack of personal connection, or a sense that instructors don’t know or care about them. This can be especially true with online learning and the isolation brought on by disruptions to learning over the last few years. We can address this proactively by creating a connection within the first days of class.

    Something we started doing this past year is having a required 10-minute one-on-one meeting with each student within the first two weeks of the term. Within that meeting, we communicate to them that we are invested in their success and how the course material can help them achieve their real-life goals. We also talk about academic integrity with them. Get the template email we send out to our classes.

    Set clear, specific instructions

    Have clear and specific rules and instructions for assignments and exams so students know what is ok to use and what is not. This even comes down to stating “you cannot use the solve feature on the calculator to get the answer.”

    One of the things we do is use an exam policy checklist that students have to complete before they’re able to take their test. This checklist states which resources are allowed and which are not, links to the student code of conduct, and clearly lays out the consequences for an academic misconduct violation. View our exam policy checklist.

    By bringing in these strategies at the beginning of the term, we have found that the number of academic misconduct issues in our courses has decreased dramatically. Although academic dishonesty may never fully go away, it is important to talk about and provide students with the education to improve their actions.

    Dive deeper

    Watch the full presentation, Proactive and Positive Ways to Engage Students about Academic Integrity.

    Get sample documents for communicating with your students about academic dishonesty


    Sources

    1. Academic Integrity. (2021). College Pulse.

    2. Bakken, S., Tan, E. W. & Wood, A. (2021). A Research Review on Student Cheating. Pearson Learning & Research Design.

    read more
  • Use Online Learning to Drive Change, Create Opportunity & Thrive Amidst Disorder

    by Sasha Thackaberry

    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.

    read more
  • 8 Strategies for Effective Online Teaching: Lessons from the Past 2 Years

    4 persons looking at a laptop

    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.  

    read more
  • Transformational Learner-Centered Innovation: A Leader’s View

    by Lisa Knight

    Two young ladies looking at a screen, standing beside each other, with a smiling face.

    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.

    read more
  • MediaShare to Shared Media

    by Dr. Terri Moore

    Woman wearing headphones sitting in front of a computer and microphone, waving her hand

    I’ve been teaching public speaking for over 25 years. When I decided to teach online 15 years ago, I looked for a tool that would allow my students to upload their speeches for me to grade.

    Did I mention my predecessors teaching online speech were using snail mail and VHS tapes? Well, I came a long way, baby! I was one of the first teachers in the US to use the newest video upload tool, MediaShare, which has evolved into the multifunctioning Shared Media.

    Why Shared Media?

    This Pearson tool allowed me to accept student videos of the length required for speeches and to grade them in one stop. And as the years rolled on Shared Media got better and better. It is a tool that allows you to “share” any type of media to your students and you can ask them to share any type of media back with you; audio, documents, images, or videos.

    You have so many options when creating assignments. You can send your students an example of a bad speech and ask them to critique it and send you back the critique in a document. Or you can send instructions for preparing and delivering a recorded speech and ask the students to share with you their video along with their outline and even the PowerPoints® or images they’ll use for visual aids.

    I can now use one of the pre-created speech grading rubrics or create my own. And I’m able to require peer evaluations using a rubric I choose for students. I even have the ability to team students into groups, so they become the cheerleaders for each other’s speeches as they offer peer support and suggestions.

    Give it a try

    Since my early beginnings 14 years ago teaching online speech courses for my college, I have met many instructors who firmly believe teaching speech online is an impossibility. Nay, I say! Have you tried Shared Media? While we cannot replicate a face-to-face environment for students online, I can certainly simulate the types of activities that build the same skills needed for either a virtual or real-world speaking event.

    I’ve even been able to share my successes with neighboring colleges who’ve asked me to demonstrate my online speech classes and have used them as a model to implement their own online speech programs using Shared Media.

    Now I can teach speech from anywhere. And I have. From mountain tops in Costa Rica, to sailing ships in Indonesia. If there’s an internet connection, I can support students as they learn the skills of speaking publicly.

    read more
  • Harnessing the power of positivity in higher ed

    by Pearson

    Two women and a man are sitting at a table that holds a laptop computer, books, and a mug. They are looking at the screen and smiling.

    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.

    read more
  • Teaching with social media: Bring your knowledge to their platforms

    by Dr. Ai Addyson-Zhang

    female standing in front of camera on tripod, discussing content on whiteboard

    This blog series highlights educators who have embraced social media in their ongoing quest to meet students where they are, increase engagement, and improve results. Through these stories, you’ll discover how they got started, learn a few tips to make your foray into social media as seamless as possible, and hear some advice about incorporating these new technologies and platforms into your instruction or institution.

    Adding social media into your classes to engage with students and enhance teaching and learning is hard work. The key is getting started. The longer you wait, the harder it is.

    Start with a platform that you’re most comfortable with. Once you taste the benefits and you see the excitement of students, you’ll feel more motivated to study and explore more digital tools, to bring more to the classrooms.

    read more
  • Teaching with social media: How to use tech to communicate with students

    by Dr. Wendy Tietz

    male standing in library, holding phone while taking a picture of himself

    This blog series highlights educators who have embraced social media in their ongoing quest to meet students where they are, increase engagement, and improve results. Through these stories, you’ll discover how they got started, learn a few tips to make your foray into social media as seamless as possible, and hear some advice about incorporating these new technologies and platforms into your instruction or institution.

    Social media helps my students engage with me and buy into the course a little more.

    Plus, social media allows me to share a lot of real-life examples with students. I’m always looking for authentic learning experiences that show students more than just what we see in the abstract lecture — things that impact real life. YouTube™ allows me to extend the boundaries of the classroom, because I can upload short videos about lectures from the class.

    Be willing to adapt

    Don’t be afraid to evolve with your students. For instance, I don’t use Facebook much myself anymore. But that was the first place I used to upload examples and make it a resource — I could communicate with students where they were, rather than telling them to go into the LMS.

    And ten years ago, students were certainly on Facebook more than they were on our LMS. But students have changed. They don’t use it that much anymore, so neither do I. It evolves every semester.

    read more
  • Teaching with social media: Digital tools give students flexibility

    by Dr. Sean Nufer

    Female student sitting on window ledge reviewing content on mobile device

    This blog series highlights educators who have embraced social media in their ongoing quest to meet students where they are, increase engagement, and improve results. Through these stories, you’ll discover how they got started, learn a few tips to make your foray into social media as seamless as possible, and hear some advice about incorporating these new technologies and platforms into your instruction or institution.

    One of the great things about social media is the flexibility. That’s what students are looking for, especially nontraditional students.

    Social media can morph and accommodate your lifestyle, timeline, and schedule. You can utilize it as extensively as you’d like or minimize your utilization. But it accommodates. And that’s what online students especially are looking for.

    Incorporating social media into courses

    Traditional brick and mortar classrooms with set timelines and activities are never going to go away, but there are many students who need the flexibility that virtual learning offers.

    And social media can be worked into that in a way that is comfortable, because it’s something they’re familiar with and use. If you can utilize their understanding of the technology for course content, students really appreciate that capability.

    Today we have more digital tools and more approaches to teaching that we can leverage — that’s one of the virtues of social media. Sometimes we just have to get out of that comfort zone of how we were taught, or how tenured faculty may teach.

    We’ve seen success with those models, but you can have success in other ways, too. Don’t be afraid to take that leap and really explore something unfamiliar.

    read more
  • Teaching with social media: Communities of practice in a digital world

    by Steven W. Anderson

    pearson online, interacting with others in a virtual meeting

    This blog series highlights educators who have embraced social media in their ongoing quest to meet students where they are, increase engagement, and improve results. Through these stories, you’ll discover how they got started, learn a few tips to make your foray into social media as seamless as possible, and hear some advice about incorporating these new technologies and platforms into your instruction or institution.

    Learning is a social activity — it very rarely happens in isolation. We live in a digital world where we have access to some of the smartest, most brilliant minds anywhere, almost at the click of a mouse or the tap of a keyboard, so being able to plug in to these networks in whatever form that is most meaningful to the user is important.

    Importance of teacher communities

    I’m a proponent of Twitter, but there are some educators who look at it and say “I could never be involved in something like that for one reason or another.” They find it overwhelming, or they can’t find what they need.

    The key is to get hooked into a community, because “alone we’re smart, but together we’re brilliant.”

    So when we work together, and share and reflect and grow together as professionals, the impact on our students can be tremendous. And it doesn’t really matter what platform you choose, the key is to become connected to one another.

    That then again shows students that learning is a very social activity. But it also shows them that these platforms can help build skills like digital citizenship and digital literacy, which are increasingly more important in understanding where our information comes from.

    read more
  • Teaching with social media: Build a personal brand while building communities

    by Dr. Karen Freberg

    female sitting at desk in front of camera

    This blog series highlights educators who have embraced social media in their ongoing quest to meet students where they are, increase engagement, and improve results. Through these stories, you’ll discover how they got started, learn a few tips to make your foray into social media as seamless as possible, and hear some advice about incorporating these new technologies and platforms into your instruction or institution.

    I’ve always loved technology, and I’ve always wanted to integrate it into my classroom. But I remember getting pushback early in my career that social media was a fad, and distracting, and was going to go away.

    Professional benefits of social media

    I’ve been a huge advocate for not only incorporating social media platforms, but really using it to help build a strong personal brand. I’ve seen first-hand the professional opportunities that have come my way because of what I’ve done with my blog and my social media platform by making these connections. And I’ve been able to get amazing collaboration opportunities for my students, too.

    read more
  • Teaching with social media: Expand your toolset with purpose & confidence

    by Dr. Glenn Hurst

    woman viewing content on her mobile device

    This blog series highlights educators who have embraced social media in their ongoing quest to meet students where they are, increase engagement, and improve results. Through these stories, you’ll discover how they got started, learn a few tips to make your foray into social media as seamless as possible, and hear some advice about incorporating these new technologies and platforms into your instruction or institution.

    The two key driving forces when I was starting with social media were that I could help my students to understand the content to a greater extent, keep students engaged, and help them to develop strong communication skills.

    Using social media in your course

    I was actually using a lot of these social media platforms already as part of my personal life, so that made it easier from my perspective to do something innovative with them. With Snapchat, for instance, I always felt it could enhance student engagement and course understanding, but no one seemed to be taking advantage of it.

    And there were people in my department who had used social media with students already, and it had been effective. That gave me more confidence than perhaps an educator in a school or university where there wasn’t that history.

    But it’s inherent to have an idea of what you want to do, and some clear objectives beforehand, instead of just trying a piece of social media and making it up as you go along. I think you have to have a more defined approach from the outset for it to be a big success.

    Getting started

    If you’re not familiar with a social media platform, sometimes there’s a learning curve to get over, and I think that could worry a lot of people. They don’t want to get started because they’re not adequately trained in the first place. Create a test account to get acquainted with it to start. Then once you know how to use the platform, the rest of it is easy.

    read more
  • Digital reading strategies to improve student success

    by Dr. Rachel Hopman-Droste

    College student reading digital content on a laptop

    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.

    read more
  • Preparing for the underprepared: Leveraging education technology for equitable and inclusive education

    by Dr. Drew Berrett

    A man lies on his stomach on a bed, listening to headphones, writing on a notebook. A pile of books are on one side of him and an open laptop computer is on the other.

    Have you noticed students coming to class underprepared or unable to demonstrate proficiency in reading, writing, or mathematics at the college level? Over 60% of students who attend either a two-year or four-year university enroll in at least one remedial course to better prepare for their major courses.1

    Unfortunately, many of the academically underprepared are economically disadvantaged or come from marginalized or minority groups. For example, in California, over 90% of economically disadvantaged students require remediation in English language learning.2

    The impact of COVID-19

    The COVID-19 pandemic may have further heightened the struggles of underprepared students. With the shift to online learning, teaching quality varied substantially and transitions to remote learning were inconsistent. This enhanced the inequality for students who may not have access to the internet or a computer or don’t have the parental support they need.3

    Institutions across the country are looking for new ways to help learners succeed. How could your institution and instructors leverage education technology to improve access and utilization to support these underprepared students?

    Filling the gaps

    Learning gaps should be identified prior to enrollment or the start of a course to ensure students are as successful as possible. Technology can help identify these gaps.

    For example, Pearson Gap Finder assesses student knowledge and skills on prerequisite topics prior to enrolling in A&P courses. Students take an online diagnostic assessment and, based on the results, complete online learning modules focused on identified deficiencies so they’re more prepared for the rigorous A&P curriculum.

    Remediation

    Once learning gaps are identified, you can provide the remediation students need to be successful. Your institution likely has its own remediation courses that are prerequisites before entering into major courses. Research has found that many of these courses are unspecific, increase costs, and extend the time required to graduate, all of which can lead to increased drop outs.

    Using online instruction can compress these courses, allowing students to only receive remediation on the topics they need while co-enrolling with their major course. Plus this specification of courses increases affordability and access1 — helping you reach more students and meet your institutional goals of equity and inclusion.

    Leveraging technology for ongoing support

    There are many benefits to online instruction that level the playing field for many different social and demographic groups.

    • It allows for both asynchronous and synchronous instructional models. Asynchronous instruction (pre-recorded video, digital materials, etc.) provides for slowed and/or repeated delivery of instruction, making it ideal for English language learners.
    • Students can study anywhere at any time, which is great for students who are working while earning their degree.
    • Online tutoring provides the flexibility students need while still providing quality instruction.

    Smarthinking is an online tutoring service available for core subjects, including math, science, business, health sciences, reading, and writing. Assistance can be provided asynchronously and synchronously 24/7 by subject matter experts with graduate degrees. The writing portion of the program allows students to submit essays or similar writing pieces and receive personalized assistance.

    Watch my recorded webinar to learn more about supporting underprepared students

    read more
  • Terry’s story: A timely teacher-student connection

    by Terry Austin

    woman sitting on a couch with her laptop and book taking notes, a boy sat on the couch with a pad in his hands

    Understanding that your students are more than just a grade is one thing; going the extra step to show them you care about them as people is another entirely.

    Dr. Terry Austin has been an instructor at Temple College in Temple, Texas for more than 15 years, during which time he’s championed the use of digital learning platforms in his biology and A&P classes.

    Terry found out just how important these resources can be for him and students — and for a reason you might not expect.

    Warning signs

    During his Anatomy & Physiology class, Terry noticed something odd about one of his student’s Early Alerts reports within the Mastering® A&P platform.

    Crista had been doing well. Really well. Her first exam score was in the mid-90s and all her work in the course was great. His dashboard showed her solidly in the green or “low-risk” category. But that unexpectedly changed.

    “All of a sudden, kind of out of nowhere, she seemed to fall off a cliff,” said Terry. “She fell pretty quickly into the yellow (medium-risk) and even red (high-risk) category, and it felt like there must be something else going on.”

    Normally, you’d expect a noticeable drop in grade to trigger an alert, but this was something different.

    “Her Mastering grade didn’t really drop at all, but Early Alerts noticed something going on. That’s what really triggered me to want to reach out. It felt like talking to her was probably the best idea.”

    The human connection

    Crista was a little shocked to receive Terry’s call.

    “Her reaction when I first reached out was a little bit of a startle. I don’t think she was expecting to get a phone call from her professor,” said Terry. “She was almost in tears when I answered — she was really concerned.”

    After reassuring her that her grade was just fine, he explained that there was an alert in Mastering telling him that something might be amiss.

    He soon found out what that was.

    Crista and her husband had been in the hospital the previous weekend with their son, who had broken his arm. A surgery and complications had kept her there for several days. Her husband had brought her laptop to the hospital, and she tried to keep up with her coursework while sitting anxiously beside her son’s bed.

    It also became clear why the system had created an alert for Crista.

    "She was distracted,” said Terry. "Her correct on first try score dropped, the attempts it took her to get the correct answers rose, but her grade stayed solid.”

    That’s what triggered an “aha” moment for Terry.

    “If I was looking at nothing but her grade, I never would’ve known anything was going on. The ability to see the need to make an outreach really was empowering.”

    Crista’s reaction to his reaching out to make a connection with her as a person — not just a student — drove that feeling home, and also made her see Terry as something more than just a teacher. It went beyond just gratitude.

    "It really did seem like a gushing appreciation that somebody seemed to care enough to make sure she was OK.”

    With great power...

    Terry now likens his experience to a popular comic book trope.

    “For me, it did feel like that super power moment. I got that ability to see into a troubled moment in her life, I got the chance to reach out, and I guess — maybe more importantly — I took that chance.”

    Not only was he able to reassure Crista that her grade was all right, but he was able to reassure himself that she was all right.

    “Her grades were fine — I knew she was OK as a student — but I also knew looking at that shift from green to yellow — something had caused that to happen. It felt really nice being able to reach out and know that she was OK.”

    Terry says that this experience did truly change the way he looks at his students.

    “It’s a reminder for me that my students are far more than just their grades. It was an insight and really an awakening that there’s more going on with my students than just that grade in the moment. It’s a reminder that there’s a person behind that grade, it’s not just a number.”

    He finds that this technology is like having a window to peek through; to have an idea whether everything is all right, or whether he might need to reach out again.

    As for that feeling of having a super power?

    “It's one of those moments that kind of comes with great responsibility. And it would be nice to think instructors don’t ignore the opportunity being handed to them.”

    Learn more about the Early Alerts technology in this story.  

     

    read more
  • 4 tactics to show the value of online programs vs. remote learning

    by Melissa Johnson

    Young girl on her laptop

    In the post-2020 remote learning world, how do you stand out from the crowd? With universities being forced to put many of their programs and courses online because of the pandemic — and then keeping them there because now they’re ‘online’ — how do you get prospective students to consider your online courses and your online programs over the thousands now available at the click of a mouse?

    First, the differences between “remote” learning and “online” learning stem from how each program was structured and envisioned. Remote learning is characterized by inconsistency and a lack of structure and is usually a reaction to an external force necessitating the need to go online quickly (as illustrated by the 2020 pandemic). At its best, learning materials and assessment are thought out in advance and instructors are trained in online teaching methods. At its worst, faculty is trying to figure out, week by week, how to convert their face-to-face content to an online format, which often results in synchronous video lectures and outdated text materials.

    On the other hand, online learning is characterized by planning, consistency, and an understanding of the virtual environment, which includes the intentional use of technology to meet online teaching needs (meaning it can be a truly asynchronous experience). Assignments and student assessment are tied to outcomes and objectives which are clearly stated, course materials are planned accordingly and created for online learning, and students don’t have to guess or wonder what is expected of them from week to week.

    Your programs are online and intentional. How do you tell students?

    Once you have a program filled with courses that are intentional, engaging, and authentic, you need to be able to quantify this information. What’s the data that supports the claim that your courses and programs are superior?

    Many will start by analyzing basic data from their learning management system (LMS).

    • How do students do on quizzes and exams?
    • How long are they active in their course?
    • Where are they spending their time?

    While these are definitely data points, are they the right data points? A student who aces every exam may just be a good test taker. What does it really mean when Andre was logged into the Week 1 Discussion for four hours — did he log in and then walk away after 30 minutes? These basic data points don’t tell prospective students much about the quality of your online courses. You need to provide information that goes deeper than basic LMS information.

    While there is no magic formula, there are some strategies you can implement to obtain meaningful information and data points that are worth marketing.

    1. Design assessments that matter. What type of assignments and student assessment are in your courses? It’s more impressive to share an average pass rate of 85% when assignments are mapped to objectives and based on real-world situations. An 85% pass rate in a course with nothing but quizzes and exams is less inspiring.
    2. Survey students for concrete experiences. What do students really think about your courses and programs? When creating student surveys, ask meaningful questions. While this seems obvious, it’s still surprising how many course surveys we continue to see with questions like, “Would you recommend this course to a friend?” Relevant survey questions are pointed and meaningful, such as, “What were you able to take from this course and immediately practice on the job/in the real world?”
    3. Assess student confidence before and after. A good course starts with objectives. At the beginning of the course when you are telling students what they will be able to do by the end of the course, assess their confidence level as well. “How confident are you that you will be able to do A, B, and C?” Then, at the end, assess their confidence again. “How confident are you now that you will be able to do A, B, and C?” Combining an assessment of students’ before and after confidence with other meaningful survey questions (see above), and you have a powerful marketing tool.
    4. Use basic LMS data to determine where students are struggling in your program, and then fix those issues. While not really marketable, analyzing LMS data to continually improve student performance will reap its own rewards. Using LMS data to determine students’ pain points and then adjusting assignments and content accordingly will only improve your pass rates, retention, and student satisfaction — which will result in improved student survey results and more marketing opportunities.

    From Measuring to Messaging

    Let’s look at an example. Say a prospective student is comparing two online marketing programs, each with a testimonial. Which one sounds like the better program?

    read more
  • Social justice in the math classroom

    by Diane Hollister

    blog image alt text

    I recently spoke with a professor who, like many of us, was overwhelmed with taking his courses fully online while juggling multiple new initiatives simultaneously. The college was trying to reduce texts and materials costs, prepare entirely online courses, update materials for an impending accreditation visit, and, on top of it all, deliberately embed curricular activities regarding diversity and related topics across the curriculum. While some subjects are obviously conducive to this college initiative, it’s often hard for faculty to see the connections with things they already do.

    Thinking through the connections

    I’m teaching liberal arts this fall, so I am easily able to find such connections. I also require my students to find an article weekly about math topics in real life, so it lends itself well to this. It can, however, still be somewhat vague and not deliberate, so I’m focusing on embedding more problem solving activities that directly address these topics.

    I keep thinking of the Mathematics for Democracy and its strong arguments for quantitative literacy. While the text is almost twenty years old, its arguments are timeless. Every citizen needs to have some basic numeracy and quantitative reasoning skills; they need problem solving strategies and critical thinking tools. They need to know how to apply mathematical knowledge to real life.

    Outside of the book

    Some of my students are ‘strong’ students, easily able to rattle off formulas and do computations. And yet, when I ask them to write about math—they do two short writing projects in a semester—they struggle. It’s hard for them to see math beyond the walls of our virtual classroom, beyond the covers of our book.

    Here are ideas I share with them in addition to topics directly connected to our chapters. I often use datasets from StatCrunch, as there are over 40,000 of them available. One of my favorites for this includes data about each state and has such things as poverty rates, education rates, crime, etc. (This dataset is over ten years old now, and there are other ones to use. Any StatCrunch user can also easily upload datasets from the web, such as government census materials. StatCrunch is an amazing tool! More on that another day.)

    Diversity and Social Justice topics for my students to explore

    Prisons & mental health rates
    • Crimes & racial profiling
    • The death penalty and ethnicity
    Poverty and minimum vs. living wage; labor laws and statistics
    • Housing costs and trends; real estate data by demographics
    • Homeland defense, defense budgets, military recruiting
    • The mathematics of public health, AIDS, asthma, health insurance, etc.
    • Educational funding and equity, high stakes testing, class size, homogeneous or heterogeneous grouping of students
    Impact of tutoring & other initiatives such as mentoring and coaching on diverse populations
    Environmental racism, pollution, resource availability; the mathematics of the climate
    • The mathematics of wild weather
    • Chaos and catastrophe theory & modeling
    • Effects on neighborhoods/sorted by demographics

    And of course there are financial topics:

    Credit cards
    • Managing debt
    • Paying for college
    Saving/budgeting money
    • Consumerism
    • Salary discrepancies for women & minorities
    High-cost loans and low-income neighborhoods
    Politics & voting structure/apportionment, etc.

    I also might incorporate media like Hidden Figures. The linked website here shares a bunch of resources with commentary and ideas. I find my students seem to really enjoy using media and current event topics as a way to see ‘value’ in our course content.

    And there are many more.

    Discover the details in the data

    Certainly it’s easy to explore by subject area, too. As I noted, if I’m teaching probability and statistics, there are literally thousands of datasets at my fingertips, easily searchable. They’re useful in helping my students see what’s really going on–and we can explore just how easily we can be misled by someone manipulating graphics and interpreting data incorrectly.

    We can use probability to look at staffing of juries. We can use data to explore fairness of wages not just in the US but overseas. We can look at traffic stop data and use statistics to determine whether there is / is not racial profiling at play.

    We might explore some graph theory and use some geometry to explore things like how UPS, FedEx, and USPS are functioning during the pandemic; has there been a greater disruption in service to lower socioeconomic areas? What about the math behind LEED designed buildings or sustainable communities? Are these available in lower-income communities? How can we locate them to make them more accessible to all?

    We’ve all heard about equity in STEM education for all students. Let’s take it a step further. Social justice teaching in mathematics focuses on promoting equity within the mathematics classroom, and also on empowering students to understand and confront inequities outside the classroom.

    Some additional resources

    The Mathematicians Project by Annie Perkins
    At Twitter Math Camp’16, Annie described how she gathered information on name, birth, death, ethnicity, biography, accomplishments (including awards), and math specialty on various mathematicians. Annie’s constantly updated “List of Not White Men Mathematicians With Links” and a description of the project are here.

    A Guide for Integrating Issues of Social and Economic Justice into Mathematics Curriculum (2007)

    Teaching Tolerance Math Resources
    Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, has a wealth of teaching material, including math- and technology-related teaching resources. This organization also has a lot of tools for thinking more about the hidden curriculum of our classrooms.

    Creating Balance in an Unjust World Resources
    The Creating Balance in an Unjust World Conference on Math Education and Social Justice is a bi-annual event next occurring in 2018 (probably in California). They provide resources for educators interested in integrating issues of social and economic justice into their math classes and curriculum.

    And last but by no means least, here is a wiki site with a ton of resources.

     

    read more
  • Ungrading: What's the hype?

    by Amy Byron

    blog image alt text

    As instructors we’ve got a lot on our plate. We need to lecture, prepare digital materials and organize our online courses, provide individual feedback and check-ins, submit forms to our institution throughout the semester, and answer constant emails. On the flipside, our students also have full their plates with family obligations, work and employment to balance, and of course the global pandemic. Getting students to class and having work completed is half the battle, and the other half is justifying grades. Because of the increased educator workload and the mounting pressures on students, what can we do?

    What is ungrading?

    Many instructors are now exploring the “ungrading” model as a potential solution. Because we still need grades at the end of each semester, there’s still a need to view and evaluate student work. It’s how we evaluate the work that will be different in this model.

    In the different models of ungrading, instructors don’t grade every piece of work and award points. They decide whether the piece of work meets their standard or not. If not, the work is sent back to the student for revisions.

    This requires some rethinking of the traditional grading workflow. For example, in a chemistry class a student completes a problem set. If it’s missing work, I would give that feedback and return it to the student for revision. Are all of the answers incorrect? Same thing. I refuse to accept the problem set until the work is done to satisfactory standards.

    How can you implement ungrading in your classroom? There are a few different models to choose from as a starting point.

    Spec grading/portfolios

    One type of ungrading is called Spec (for specifications) Grading. Instructors create curricular “bundles” which, when completed, get translated into a grade. These bundles include media, notes, homework assignments and simulations, and ultimately some sort of summative assessment. Each piece of work in the bundle is graded pass/fail only and must minimally meet the teacher’s standards.

    Students need a clear understanding of what constitutes passing work prior to engaging in this model. Having exemplars or rubrics which clearly outline the required components of successful work is critical at the beginning of the semester. These don’t need to be super specific. For example, in math this could include

    1. Show all work done to arrive at your answer
    2. Simplify all answers
    3. If asked to “explain your answer,” use full sentences
    4. Include units, where needed

    At the beginning of the semester you will be spending a lot of time giving feedback to student work that isn’t meeting requirements. Flexibility around work that is deemed “failing” is important, as is the ability for students to revise their work and resubmit. Once your students have a clearer understanding of the expectations, the time devoted to giving feedback will lessen.

    Contract grading

    In contract grading, the instructor has clearly defined and outlined requirements for each letter grade (A, B, C, etc.). More or deeper work will be required for an A, standard work for a B, and less for each subsequent letter grade down. Students each write a contract which includes which assignments they will do, their due dates, penalties for late work, and a statement of the letter grade they want at the end of the term.

    The instructor will keep a log of completed work that is, again, done to the level of work defined by the instructor. If the student fails to meet the requirements of the contract, the instructor has the ability to adjust their grade based on the submitted work.

    The unique part of contract grading versus traditional grading is that the focus is on the work, not the “kind of student” in your class. All work is considered to be of equal weight, and meetings with students generally focus on improvement to work quality or opportunities for a deeper dive into the curriculum.

    Consultative grading

    Allowing the student to determine their grade can be a serious leap of faith, but that’s what consultative grading is. This does not mean that all students receive an “A”. Student have regular check-in meetings with the instructor throughout the semester. At the end of the semester, the student writes a comprehensive reflection and puts together a compilation of their best work.

    The student must have data that demonstrates that they deserve the grade they propose. An example of an end-of-the-semester reflection can be found here, as written by Dr. Susan Blum from the University of Notre Dame (Supiano, Becky).

    Thought needs to be given to how handle extenuating circumstances on the part of the student. I tend to not make concrete rules on this, as I find that each student’s circumstances are unique.

    Conclusion

    While I have been thinking about making the switch to ungrading for the last few years, I haven’t made the leap just yet. Besides choosing which model to go with, I still need to identify the following:

    • What are you willing to negotiate on with students?
    • How will you handle absences?
    • How will you be transparent with students throughout the semester, so they know they are on or off target?

    I’m looking forward to encouraging my students to improve their work, making grading more transparent, and creating a classroom that is focused on the learning process and not on numerical grades.

     
    Resources

    Butler, Ruth. “Task-Involving and Ego-Involving Properties of Evaluation: Effects of Different Feedback Conditions on Motivational Perceptions, Interest, and Performance.” American Psychological Association, American Psychological Association, 1987, psycnet.apa.org/record/1988-21628-001.

    Cordell, Ryan. “How I Contract Grade.” Ryan Cordell, 7 Dec. 2019, ryancordell.org/teaching/contract-grading/.

    Flaherty, Colleen. Professors’ Reflections on Their Experiences with ‘Ungrading’ Spark Renewed Interest in the Student-Centered Assessment Practice, Inside Higher Ed, 2 Apr. 2019, www.insidehighered.com/news/2019/04/02/professors-reflections-their-experiences-ungrading-spark-renewed-interest-student.

    Hall, Macie. “What Is Specifications Grading and Why Should You Consider Using It?” The Innovative Instructor Blog, 11 Apr. 2018, ii.library.jhu.edu/2018/04/11/what-is-specifications-grading-and-why-should-you-consider-using-it/.

    Rosenblatt, Adam. “Committing to Ungrading, in an Emergency and After.” The Chronicle, Duke University, 27 Mar. 2020, www.dukechronicle.com/article/2020/03/duke-university-gradin-coronavirus-covid-19-public-health-crisis-emergency-thinking-ungrading-pass-fail.

    Sorensen-Unruh, Clarissa. “Ungrading: What Is It and Why Should We Use It?” Chemical Education Xchange, Chemical Education Xchange, 14 Jan. 2020, www.chemedx.org/blog/ungrading-what-it-and-why-should-we-use-it.

    Stommel, Jesse. “How to Ungrade.” Jesse Stommel, 11 Mar. 2018, www.jessestommel.com/how-to-ungrade/.

    Supiano, Beckie. “Grades Can Hinder Learning. What Should Professors Use Instead?” Chronicle of Higher Ed, Chronicle of Higher Ed, 23 July 2020, www.chronicle.com/article/grades-can-hinder-learning-what-should-professors-use-instead/?bc_nonce=f3tifpo2zoqg492u3b2dg&cid=reg_wall_signup.

     

    read more
  • Lights, camera, action: Engage students with videos

    by Dr. Terri Moore

    blog image alt text

    Have you tried using videos to resolve problems or provide innovative solutions in your online classrooms? Effective video usage can foster both individual student learning and increase a sense of community in an online world.

    Teaching via video can be synchronous like a live Webinar or Zoom conference, but there are many other methods, including asynchronous video, to enhance your students’ online learning environment. In these COVID times, with so many instructors new to online teaching and attempting to provide or mimic the face- to-face learning environments, many have turned to the use of synchronous meeting tools.

    There is often the feeling students are being deprived by being forced out of the classroom and online. This phenomenal upswing in synchronous online learning has been nicknamed the Zoom Boom. However, research is indicating this synchronous surge is simply not sustainable in the long run. There are issues with different time zones, mobile connectivity, as well as teacher and student screen time burnout.

    A deeper dive into asynchronous videos

    For these reasons, I’m focusing on asynchronous methods of using video to enhance the online classroom and engage your students more fully. There are four areas or goals where using effective videos can help instructors solve some unique challenges in the online learning platform.

    1. Videos can increase student engagement in ways that enhance their understanding of the material.
    2. Videos can help you assess the formative stages of their learning. Are they making the progress needed to succeed?
    3. Videos can offer you methods of presenting difficult or demanding concepts, requiring students to demonstrate their mastery.
    4. Videos can provide feedback to your students on their submissions in timely, meaningful and personal ways.

    I have eight suggestions for video activities that enhance the digital learning environment, hitting all four of the goals stated above.

    1. Expand on the written content.
    2. Personalize the digital experience.
    3. Flip your classrooms so they become learning centered rather than teacher centered.
    4. Give clear and memorable feedback to students.
    5. Demonstrate processes or concepts difficult to convey through written content.
    6. Encourage your students’ creativity, demonstrating their mastery of the content.
    7. Be informed about students’ formative learning with populated analytics.
    8. Using the same type of analytics you can evaluate your students’ engagement.

    Introducing micro lectures and more

    Here are three suggestions for expanding on the written content through instructor-created, short videos. These activities focus on your specific course, adding to the content for added clarity and depth.

    1. Micro lectures
    2. Course overviews
    3. Chapter or concept overviews

    Micro lectures are not long, nor do they attempt to cover the entire chapter. Above all, they are not boring. They should be short and interactive. And they need to chunk content in short management increments. You should capture your students’ attention as well as meet accessibility standards, such as closed captioning.

    As a communication professor, I can offer you some production tips for making your movies of these micro lectures.

    • Think about covering the difficult single concepts you know students have struggled with in the past. Keep them short (3-5 minutes max).
    • Make good eye contact with the camera.
    • Be enthusiastic! You want to be a Tigger on film, not an Eeyore.
    • Be sure to use good light coming from the front rather than the side or behind.
    • Use a headset with microphone for optimal sound quality.
    • Make the videos interactive by asking questions, providing questions before and after.
    • Provide a transcript.
    • Keep your lectures focused with no more than four main points.
    • Be sure to use some type of attention getter in the first 15-30 seconds. It might be a question, a brief story, a startling statistic, a striking picture, a piece of music, or any other method that draws the students into the presentation.
    • Use far more images than bullet points when using a PowerPoint with your micro lecture.
    • New visual material every 10-15 seconds. It keeps listeners’/viewers’ attention.
    • Edit or re-record if needed.
    • And, be sure to use closed caption so your videos are accessible.

    You can apply these same principles when creating walk-through demonstrations for your students of the course overview or a module/chapter overview.

    Make a personal connection

    Next, let’s look at how videos might personalize both the digital presence of you and your students. These are methods that put “skin” on the computer, that let your students know more than a cyborg is monitoring their progress.

    • Provide a video introduction from you to your students on the first day of class.
    • Provide course navigation videos from you to the students that are specific to their course, walking them through how to use the online tools.
    • Have students create a self-introductory video. You might suggest they share some type of story, like the best thing they’ve ever eaten, or the vacation of their dreams. Do not let them get away with, “My name is Betty Boring. I was born in Borington, and I went to Boring High School.” Really true stories keep us interested, and they’re memorable. It’s why we all understand the phrase, “Tell me another story.”

    These introductory videos are powerful ways to create community within the course. We know that emotional connections are one of the most powerful components for student persistence. Any method that increases the connection between instructor and student, and between students increases that emotive piece of the puzzle for decreasing student attrition.

    Making class learning centered

    Using video assignments can provide information you need to flip your classroom, teaching to the most challenging concepts to that specific group of students. You might use:

    • Micro lectures
    • Video quizzes
    • Student discussion forums

    These types of activities vary the way students interact with the content before classes or before the next week. Having students view a micro lecture before class, completing a short online quiz on difficult concepts offers information to you about student engagement and student progress.

    Video quizzes can gauge engagement through data such as time on task, as well as information on questions most missed. You can then fill in the gaps with your own teaching strategies. And don’t forget your Learning Management Systems such as Canvas, Blackboard, Brightspace by D2L or Moodle provide data, informing instructors about student progress.

    Videos can also provide us with the ability to give asynchronous talking feedback in an online environment by:

    • offering students recorded individual or group feedback from you.
    • recapping the week’s progress using a video message.
    • briefly discussing the week’s challenging material and common errors.

    I began providing a video on Sunday night when COVID created massive changes in schools in March. My students, already in online classes with me, expressed such appreciation for my new weekly summaries with them about class progress with the material. And, it gave me a chance to speak with them about the challenges they were facing in their personal worlds as well, offering to help students find the support they might need.

    Give them the microphone

    Videos are the perfect environment for the demonstration of processes, skills, and course navigation. Let students demonstrate their mastery of the skill or concept by tapping into their creativity, engaging them with tools they are already familiar with such as:

    • Instagram
    • TikTok
    • Snap Chat
    • Drones
    • Video gamification

    Harness their inner director and ask them to create videos that demonstrate their proficiency with assignments such as:

    • Individual presentations such as speeches
    • Group projects presentations
    • Demonstrations of a skill or principle
    • Peer evaluations

    Using the right tools

    Once you’re comfortable with some of the tools at your disposal, you can take it to the next level with the many tools offered for video production and presentation. I’m just going to highlight some of the more recognizable tools and what they can do.

    Pre-created videos are a great way to start. They are often accessibility compliant and professionally made depending on the site you choose.

    • YouTube has the broadest range, but may not be academically sound.
    • Publishers often provide clips which adhere to academic standards and are accessibility compliant like Pearson’s Clips, or premade video quizzes.
    • TEDx often provides videos that are both compliant and academically sound.

    There are tools to help with video mixing, or combining several videos to demonstrate a concept. These can encourage student creativity and a deep understanding of the content of the course. Two of these are:

    • Nearpod (creating your own video quizzes)
    • And, MediaBreaker (Students can create a mix of videos they locate, encouraging them to find current materials that demonstrate critical thinking about course content in a current real-world application).

    Backchanneling is another way to engage your students. This is what we do when we are messaging friends during a less than engaging meeting. Phone messaging and Twitter were the original backchannels. And, while we might view these as distractions from the main event, backchanneling is engaging, community building and maximizes time if directed and focused on the lesson. Tools for this include:

    • Twitter. Students are very familiar with Twitter, but this does not provide protected space, nor is it academically designed.
    • Backchannel Chat can provide live time streaming commentary on videos students are viewing. Students can also make comments or ask questions.
    • Hotseat was designed by Purdue University based on a Twitter model and provides a free backchannel tool in an academic setting.

    If you want to create your own movies designed just for your course and your students, there are tools offering you a range of possibilities.

    • EdPuzzle allows you to create your own video quizzes with embedded questions rather than a beginning essential question.
    • Loom allows you to screen share and create short easy walkthroughs for a class or just one student.
    • Camtastia is a robust video tool with many creative possibilities, but it is not free. Snagit allows you to screen share and save computer space as your videos are housed in their cloud.
    • TEDEd is a well-used video creation tool allowing you to stand on the shoulders of educators around the world as well as to share your repository of educational video creations with others.

    Easy as pie

    So, if you’re just beginning to use video in the online environment, or if you are well into your video use, keep it simple and easy as PIE.

    Plan what you want the video assignment to solve for you or your students.
    Implement the tool that does this for you in the easiest and most effective way.
    And then Evaluate not only the students’ performance and engagement, but how well the tool worked for you.

    read more
  • Mental gymnastics: Finding the balance in an online course

    by Diane Hollister

    blog image alt text

    This past spring was not something we expected. We’d all agree about that. For some, it was significantly more stressful than others. Throughout all my pandemic related research, I’ve heard several different statistics. Most recently, I read that nearly 70% of faculty in the country had never taught online before!

    From a coach’s perspective

    As you can imagine (or know personally!) those of us who support faculty have been quite busy, addressing many common themes. Faculty members ask us for insight into their course design; we notice things like excessive numbers of assignments; or, we see a long list of assignments—like showing the entire course at once.

    Maybe there’s a lack of organization in the LMS. Perhaps the instructor was unclear about the student workflow, or there’s insufficient feedback for student work. Maybe the professor was not familiar with and then underutilized communication tools. We’ve had many discussions about selecting and delivering quality subject matter content; ways to deter and eliminate cheating; and the importance of having your course materials clearly set up and easy to navigate.

    Extra points for balance and flexibility

    The topic we haven’t had as many conversations about is the emotional side of an online course. Because of the urgency, many professors hadn’t had the chance to really reflect upon course design and effective tools to support students. Just how on earth do you create an online environment with that in mind? If we want students to stay enrolled and engaged, we need to strive to find a cognitive-emotional balance in your course.

    We’ve got to be flexible.

    Perhaps this might include reflecting about things like growth mindset, embedding study tips, or sharing best practices for students for online courses. Although we might acknowledge the importance of these in theory, their significance is frequently buried under a mountain of other concerns about accessibility, the content, tracking of student progress, and data reporting…

    Let’s talk about the assignments first. There is a mind-numbing list of possibilities. What strategies do work? You can read more in The Learning Scientists, but they boil down to this:

    1. Utilize concrete examples: illustrate ideas with examples that students can easily grasp.
    2. Be a coder: a dual coder: integrate words with images.
    3. Utilize elaborative questions: ask questions that help students connect new learning with prior learning.
    4. Practice retrieval: have students practice with test questions on what they remember.
    5. Interleave the practice: mix practice test questions from a variety of lessons.
    6. Space the practice: delay interval periods between practice tests.

    Ah, you ask, what happens when we really check these out? Read a recent article about student performance. In this study, note the role of student ability and the finding that spacing particularly increased quiz performance for low ability students.

    Here’s a mental note: we should think about the amount of material we release at one time—that can be overwhelming. Instead of having the entire list of assignments show, many of us share only a unit or chapter at a time.

    We know, however, that it’s not just content we need to think about.

    Wowing the judges

    Next, let’s quickly review the importance of communication! My team has heard complaints from professors recently that online learning means dumbing-down material. That’s not the case. It does mean, however, that your course material—as well as the ways your students engage with it and learn from it—will look different.

    Many online courses become primarily asynchronous, for example, while others may preserve an element of synchronicity via video-conferencing tools. I find it helpful to have live “review” sessions and make use of tools like Live Response for engagement and practice.

    How about some other things to do? Try weaving some of these into your discussion boards, orientation assignments, etc.

    Introduce your students to mindset. Have them take a self quiz and watch a video or two, then share their reflections on the discussion board.

    Do your students think about metacognition? “Metacognition is a superpower that helps elite students separate themselves from their peers.” Check this out, too; learn more about self regulated learning in this post.

    Do students need strategies for time management?

    How about helping your students choose the best way to study?

    Need writing tips? Check these out.

    Nailing the landing

    Have you seen the “Keep Teaching” community hosted by Katie Linder, executive director for program development at Kansas State University, and her colleagues at the university’s Global Campus? You can “follow” several groups within the community, including a faculty group that is already a lively exchange of ideas and support.

    Don’t forget—if your institution has a teaching-and-learning center, that should be your first stop as you begin to transition your course.

    Obviously, the ways in which a course can be moved from an in-person to an online experience are virtually limitless. I want to encourage you to reflect and choose wisely. 🙂 Think of this as a smorgasbord—you cannot eat it all! I tell faculty—no one uses all the features. No one has every single thing in the course shell covered. You have to choose what works for you; you’ll have some combination of your own pedagogy, choices, experiences, and skillset. If we feel overloaded, imagine how our students feel.

    We all need to strive to find the balance.

    read more
  • 7 tips from research for effective hybrid teaching

    by Emily Schneider, PhD

    blog image alt text

    As painful as the decision was to close campuses and force virtual learning in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, educators must make new, perhaps more difficult, decisions about how to resume classes in the fall. Many schools are asking: can learning happen both digitally and in lecture halls?

    The hybrid model of teaching and learning uses both online and in-person options in a purposeful way. Not only does this model give you the flexibility to craft your course to reduce the risk of exposing you or your students to the virus, but it also gives students more ownership over their learning.

    Here are our top tips taken from a review of existing research on how to make it work for you.

    1. Build around what you want students to learn

    Successful hybrid courses fully integrate online and face-to-face instruction, planning interactions based on good teaching practice. That means starting off on the right foot:

    • Don’t think of your hybrid course as your normal course directly translated to be online, or your normal course with added online components. One meta-analysis cited that many blended courses were not successful because they were “a course and a half”.
    • Do build your hybrid course starting with the learning objectives listed in your syllabus. Then, as you’re building your course, select and align the delivery method, technology, and assignments that will best help students learn the objectives and content.

    Consider what is best done:

    • in person versus online
    • in real-time versus giving students flexibility
    • facilitated by the instructor versus facilitated by the learning resources

    For example, few students reported being satisfied with their institutions creating a sense of belonging during the pandemic. Since it can feel more difficult to build relationships online, take advantage of in-person opportunities.

    Online learning resources have advantages that enhance learning, such as immediate feedback and progress monitoring. In fact, across many studies, research shows that on average, blending online and in-person learning is slightly more effective than face-to-face learning.

    There are two things to consider when selecting how to approach the online parts of your hybrid course:

    • Is there educational technology that can help solve any problems you have? For example, students may focus on getting through learning activities as quickly as possible, rather than engaging deeply. Adaptive learning technology is becoming increasingly sophisticated at detecting when students are engaging productively and when they are not, and can react to keep students’ attention.
    • Are you at risk of using digital technology solely for its own sake? Purely replicating an analog experience with digital technology can add complexity without bringing any benefits.

    For more resources, this paper is designed as a starting point for thinking about how to use technology in your class.

    Generally, a hybrid course is balanced to have more online, technology-facilitated work and fewer in-person meetings. For example, one model many schools are considering to encourage social distancing is to hold a large lecture online with small, in-person discussion sections.

    Here are just a few examples of how others have blended online and face-to-face learning:

    • This course was delivered via a blended learning format in a flipped model, with online lectures followed by a two-hour face-to-face workshop tutorial each week.
    • This class met both in person and online. They used a flipped learning approach where students were expected to complete assigned activities before coming to a four-hour face-to-face class.
    • This hybrid course met once a week for three hours in a computer lab with the remainder of the course activities completed online.

    2. Plan effective interactions

    After you’ve identified your objectives, think about what interactions you’ll use to facilitate learning. Hybrid learning gives you a lot of flexibility in how to interact. These different types of interaction fall into the following three categories.

    Learner–instructor interactions

    Learner–instructor interactions, like emails, announcements, and discussions. Instructor interaction is a major driver of successful learning, but feels more difficult online. You can make a point of fostering connections by using students’ names and humor.

    Learner–learner interactions

    Learner–learner interactions, like discussions, collaborative group work, and peer review activities. These can either happen at the same time in person, or online and outside of class. Each mode has its pros and cons:

      • face-to-face, synchronous interactions are good for creating a sense of spontaneity and connection, but not as good at fostering participation or giving flexibility.
      • online, asynchronous interactions encourage participation, depth of reflection, and flexibility, but they can lack spontaneity and connection and may let students procrastinate.

    Learner–content interactions

    Learner–content interactions include activities, like reading content, watching a video, or working through a problem set.

    3. Integrate the experiences

    You can design the online and in-person interactions in such a way that they support each other, rather than feeling disjointed. For example, assign challenging and engaging online learning activities and then discuss them in person, inviting questions. If you’re encouraging online discussions, reference them in class to confirm their value.

    4. Craft a learner-centered approach to learning

    In a hybrid model, encourage your students to take control of their learning. Start by enabling students to choose how they engage with the content. Then encourage them to monitor and reflect on their learning.
    By using technology with progress monitoring functionality, you can also help them stay on track. Professor Manda Williamson has over 700 students every semester and uses the dashboard in her online course material to give students ownership over their learning. She talks more about it in this guide.

    5. Support student success

    In hybrid learning, students must be more self-driven. Set clear expectations and build in support for self-directed learning, such as encouraging students to plan, check their understanding, study more as needed, and reflect on their learning.

    To further support their success, help them use the tools by holding a technology “onboarding” session on how to use the tech and where to go for help.

    This approach can not only help keep students motivated, it also builds an important lifelong skill: self-management. If you’re interested in learning more about how to teach self-management, this paper goes into detail.

    6. Assess learning online

    Since you won’t be in the room with the students when they are taking the test, clearly communicate the rules and instructions before the exam. The rules may include how many opportunities students have to complete the exam, if they can save and come back later to finish, if they need to put away all mobile devices, and whether it is an open or closed book exam.

    Technology can help you reduce the opportunities for cheating:

        • password protect your exam and limit students to one login attempt.
        • require students to complete a statement of honesty before beginning the exam
        • open and close access to your exam session within a predetermined time period
        • shuffle items or create multiple versions of the exam to randomly assign to students
        • create a pool or item bank to pull random questions from, a function built into many learning management systems
          ask students to justify or explain their answers by adding an open response field after each selected-response question
        • if you don’t have these capabilities, use more open-ended question types instead of true/false or multiple choice questions

    This blog post gives more advice on crafting quality assessments online.

    7. Continuously improve

    Keep your approach simple at first and aim for continuous improvement, not perfection. We encourage you to try something, get feedback from your students, and keep improving your course. And you’re not alone: your colleagues may have advice too. You can build an informal or formal learning network to learn from each other.

    This fall will be a learning experience for everyone. When faced with the unknown, as researchers we first look to what others have studied and the lessons they’ve learned. These seven tips, which are based on findings from over a decade of implementing hybrid teaching, can give you direction on how to bring together the best of in-person and online learning. For even more detail and research on hybrid teaching and learning, check out this paper.

    read more
  • Teaching Titans vs. Punitive Professors

    by Dr. Terri Moore

    blog image alt text

    Partnering for solutions

    Pearson Faculty Advisors have become educational first responders during this COVID-19 crisis; diving in to help professors use online tools effectively. We are teachers partnering together to share, learn, and pave the way in this brave new world of internet instruction.

    Teaching online is nothing new to us. We’ve logged many years of working online with tools, instructional designs, and various learning management systems. But, watching every teacher in the United States move online in a matter of a few days, regardless of their comfort with distance learning, has been eye-opening. It’s challenged attitudes about online learning environments and the role of a college professor.

    So many instructors are struggling with old ways and new challenges, trying to pound traditional classrooms to fit into bits and bytes. I’ve begun to recognize a clear dichotomy in instructional methods: restorative vs punitive. Looking to the experts for ideas, I discovered abundant pedagogical literature on this, making it far from being an original idea. The research is often directed at classroom management and changing student behaviors, but the principles apply to the consequences associated with our assessments, and whether they dish out “punishment” or increase learning.

    Liberating learners vs. catching cheaters

    There is much consternation amongst “instantaneous” online higher education teachers struggling to hold on to teaching methods that may not be functional for online classes. In brick and mortar classrooms, student mastery was often assessed through paper tests distributed with time limits, monitored by the roaming instructor to reduce cheating, and collected and graded by the teacher.

    I’ve seen much hand wringing about how online environments simply cannot police students the way the classroom teacher could. And while the sudden shift to all things digital may revert to traditional classrooms, there may be lessons to be learned. These may be applicable for teaching anywhere and at any time. These atypical days are giving us time to reassess and find new ways to view classroom strategies or policies.

    I’ve listened as teachers have listed the many ways they’ve discovered students can cheat by sharing information, invalidating their final scores. I’ve watched frustrated teachers try to create duplicate online classes that were once face-to-face, missing opportunities to increase student success. They are often missing the chance to use digital methods effectively, teaching the same principles in a different manner.

    After hearing so much anxiety, I want to share some thoughts about how to be the rock star content expert, maintain your teaching rigor, and remain true to your unique personality with online learning. This may even transform that physical classroom in a return to the old normal.

    What do I want from them?

    There are so many disciplines and courses in higher education; it’s impossible to cover how every discipline should assess their student’s success. The following suggestions can be generalized and customized to meet the needs of specific courses and content.

    “What should my students know by the end of my class?” should be the first question we ask when determining how to assess student progress. Much, or most, of class energy is spent acquiring information to pass the final assessments demonstrating mastery. Whether the course is psychology, speech, statistics, advertising, marketing, biology, or nursing, the time spent acquiring content is the formative stage of learning. Instructors are responsible for providing tools during these acquisition stages to help students “learn” the material in order to critically think through how to apply the new information in real world settings.

    What do they need from me?

    We are the facilitators of formative activities that help increase our students’ metacognition; helping them to know what they don’t know, and how to acquire the unknown information so they can apply it when required (tested). While formative activities will vary widely, their purpose remains the same.

    These classroom techniques are meant for student learning, not assessing mastery by the instructor. I like to ask myself when selecting formative activities, “Is this something I can get out of the way of my students’ learning and let them be the captains of their own ship?”

    Low stakes assessment of student progress includes activities that encourage students to reflect, collaborate, teach others, review, apply, or create. Incentivizing with points is vital for full participation. However, exams designed in anxiety producing high stakes testing environments seldom produce the long-term retention that incremental low stakes self-assessments do.

    Consider formative activities such as group projects, encourage collaboration through discussion forums, offer opportunities for reflection through journaling, or ask opened ended questions on short, low-stakes quizzes.

    Get out of the way and let them learn!

    If you like auto-graded, time-saving multiple choice quizzes, leave them for student self-assessments. They can be great tools to let the student know what they don’t know yet, encouraging them to go back and review. But they tell us little about what students are retaining long-term and are rife with possibilities for easy “cheating.”

    If quizzes are low stakes, there is little reason to spend the energy to cheat. I would ask, “If the student Googles the answer in a low stakes self-assessment, who cares?” It matters little whether they learned the information from reviewing the content I provided or from Google. If they spend the energy to look up the answer, they most likely will remember the question for some time to come. My passion for teaching is to produce life-long learners who seek information from every source available.

    How do I know they got it?

    There is a time for all instructors to summarize the total progress their students have made, or are making, during the term. Again, these “summative” assessments will take many forms depending on your specific course. I encourage instructors to think about limiting the number of these high-stakes assessments.

    Keep in mind most of class time is spent in acquiring information or forming a new knowledge base. Students need enough time to get comfortable with the content before they really show you their critical thinking skills and applying their new information to unique and practical situations.

    A personal example

    Here’s a scenario that shows moving from formative to summative student assessment techniques:

    • Weeks are spent training psychology students through low stakes assignments to write in correct APA style.
    • The formative assessments are 250-word discussion forums in proper APA, encouraging students to review classmates’ work, compare their thoughts, and make comments on each other.
    • There are usually 8-10 short, shared essays.
    • By the end of the term, students demonstrate their mastery of both content and APA writing style through a summative research paper.

    All assessments, both formative and summative, provided little chance or incentive to cheat as the essays and paper are submitted for originality checks. Students are ENCOURAGED to collaborate with each other, asking classmates’ input before submitting their final research paper.

    Becoming a Titan

    We all are challenged to keep teaching fresh and alive, to stay abreast of what is changing in our world, our students’ lives, our students’ learning, and our own wants and needs. I don’t want to create a classroom made for my needs. Rather, it should be one to help the maximum number of my students achieve their goals, persisting toward their degrees. As you think through how to provide formative steps toward knowledge acquisition that summarizes student progress, ask these questions:

    In each segment/chapter/module/increment of learning, what should my students remember?

    • How can I help them submit that information to their long-term memory? See this source for some ideas on retrieval practice.

    How can my students demonstrate they have mastered the concepts I feel they need from my course?

    • What kinds of assessments can I use that limit cheating and demonstrate real learning? See this resource for ideas about summative assessments.

    Rock stars, every one

    This may seem radical, but I want my students to share questions and answers, learn from each other, and become co-intelligent. I want to teach them that life is a group, not a proctored exam. Life is about solving large problems as a community, not being checked in isolation to see if we know everything about anything on one big exam. I want to be a learning facilitator. It’s all about my students’ learning, not about my need to perform. I may not be the rock star from your past. You may not remember my name. But if the tunes I taught you long ago hum in your head when you see a problem needing a solution, I’ve earned the title “Teacher”.

    read more
  • Quality Matters!

    by Diane Hollister

    blog image alt text

    I like a good deal. Getting something for less than what you expected to pay is rewarding. However, if that item doesn’t work like you thought, or even breaks soon after you get it, it may not be such a good deal after all. I think we’d all agree quality matters. The developers of a set of instructional guidance felt the same and even named it, “Quality Matters”. Let’s take a closer look at this tool whose namesake is what most professors and course designers strive for every day.

    What exactly is Quality Matters?

    Quality Matters (QM) is a tool used to assess the quality of a course. With increased emphasis on online courses and the need to design materials with accreditation in mind, the best way to design a course is with QM built in from the start. As a result, it’s helpful for all of us to keep these types of recommendations in mind when talking with customers and assisting them with curricular materials.

    Where did this all get started?

    Quality Matters began with a small group of colleagues in the MarylandOnline, Inc. (MOL) consortium trying to solve a common problem among institutions: how do we measure and guarantee the quality of a course? At the time, I was teaching at a university. Later, I taught at a community college, and the discussions about online courses were extensive at both places. Yes, we wanted to meet the needs of our students, provide flexible scheduling options, etc., and we wanted to offer these courses everywhere because geography would no longer be a constraint for enrollment.

    We were also, like many other institutions, simultaneously updating transfer agreements. Administrators and educators across the country needed a way to ensure course quality for their students, regardless of where the course originated. Ideally, courses would be equivalent. Otherwise, transfer agreements would be impacted. In 2003, the consortium outlined how the Quality Matters program could create a scalable process for course quality assurance, and applied for a Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The FIPSE grant enabled QM to develop a rubric of course design standards and create a replicable peer-review process that would:

    • Train and empower faculty to evaluate courses against these standards
    • Provide guidance for improving the quality of courses
    • Certify the quality of online and blended college courses across institutions

    The QM commitment

    Today Quality Matters is a nonprofit organization comprised of dedicated staff from all over the United States who work together virtually to support everyone’s quality assurance goals. To truly achieve their mission of defining and maintaining quality assurance in online learning, the QM staff rely on a much larger community of QM coordinators, workshop facilitators, peer reviewers, program reviewers, conference presenters, and all other individuals and groups who champion QM. Some of Pearson’s faculty advisors participated in QM training in the past and became reviewers with this program.

    QM’s mission

    QM’s mission is to promote and improve the quality of online education and student learning nationally and internationally through the following: development of current, research-supported, and practice-based quality standards and appropriate evaluation tools and procedures.

    • Recognition of expertise in online education quality assurance and evaluation.
    • Fostering a culture of continuous improvement by integrating QM Standards and processes into organizational plans to improve the quality of online education.
    • Providing professional development in the use of rubrics, tools and practices to improve the quality of online education.
    • Peer review and certification of quality in online education.

    A well-designed course is more likely to engage learners and positively affect their performance. Using the QM Rubric and relevant review tools as a guide, faculty and their colleagues, or a team of QM-trained, experienced online instructors can evaluate the design of an online or blended course and ensure it meets QM Standards. When professors are ready to put a course through the review process, they can receive fresh ideas from colleagues who are interested in the course. These QM-trained peers can offer specific feedback in a positive tone that will help improve the quality of the course and create a more active learning experience for students.

    So what are the QM standards?

    Chances are, if you’ve worked with a faculty advisor, you’ve heard references to these or something very similar. These are also familiar if you’ve looked at the teaching online toolkit and other resources from our Learning Design team.

    The eight General Standards of this Rubric are:

    1. Course Overview and Introduction
    2. Learning Objectives (Competencies)
    3. Assessment and Measurement
    4. Instructional Materials
    5. Learning Activities and Learner Interaction
    6. Course Technology
    7. Learner Support
    8. Accessibility and Usability

    Don’t let the short list above fool you into thinking it won’t take long to work through. In fact, there are many resources for each one of these. Here, for example, is a rubric which can be helpful for faculty to refer to as they develop a course.

    What if a faculty member is trying to “retrofit” or “overhaul” or redesign a course? QM has an article with suggestions to help you improve existing courses. Again, you’ve heard things like this from our team.

    And if you’re looking for a webinar to share in addition to the Pearson webinar offerings this summer, you can direct people here.

    If you’re still wondering whether it’s worth it or not…

    “Hinds Community College eLearning has been using Quality Matters as the basis for our instructional integrity initiatives for many years now, probably since around 2015. We want our students to feel that they are getting a quality course…when they take a Hinds Community College eLearning course. We know that begins with Course Design and alignment. We ask a LOT of our Hinds eLearning faculty. They dig deep to give us what we ask for. The QM General Standards and course alignment of the critical course components are incorporated into our Hinds eLearning courses through thorough training and course evaluation. All of our pedagogical trainings and evaluations are related to a QM general standard directly or indirectly.

    So, why QM? I like the quote by Malcolm X that says ‘If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.’ That is why we look to Quality Matters…the research-based, GOLD standard of online course evaluation for the framework of our Hinds Community College eLearning courses.”

    -Katherine Puckett, District Dean of Instructional Technology and eLearning, Hinds Community College

    Quality does matter!

    read more
  • Diversity & inclusion in the online classroom

    by Diane Hollister

    blog image alt text

    Your faculty meeting starts, and one of the key items on the agenda is a focused discussion about cultural diversity and inclusion in online courses. Of course, you must also consider curricular content, pedagogy, accessibility and universal design, and their impacts on education. All of these affect your students’ learning, motivation, and satisfaction in a course. Where do we even begin with this discussion?

    Why explore diversity in our courses?

    Researchers agree it can promote student growth and reflection. In our increasingly globalized world, it can help students begin to foster a sense of empathy for others and bring about open-mindedness. Supporting tolerance is critical: allowing students to feel unique while still being part of the group helps them prepare for the twenty-first century workplace.

    As professors, we are committed to ensuring an inclusive environment for all of our students. This includes people of all abilities, races, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, nationalities, religious traditions, socioeconomic classes, and ages. We could discuss these for a long time; however, most instructors are not afforded the liberty of a lot of time to consider these and design a course. How can we take current research and utilize it to deliver a course that meets these needs?

    Communication

    A profoundly critical aspect of any online course is communication; research in sociology, psychology, and cognition supports this. Consider also the importance of student viewpoints towards power structures in the classroom (for example, the role of the instructor versus the role of the student), how information is processed, and subject matter content.

    One of the most predominant differences between online and traditional courses lies in how students and faculty interact in the classroom. Not only does the online classroom remove the physical, synchronous presence from the learning community, it regularly shifts the bulk of communications to written exchanges.

    Often, the instructor is the one who facilitates the emails and discussion forums. Instructors typically provide feedback in writing, using embedded course tools for grading notes and comments. In addition to the Learning Management System (e.g., Blackboard, Canvas, Brightspace by D2L, or Moodle), the faculty and students can engage outside of the classroom via social media and other tools. Again, these environments are normally driven by text, with varying emphasis on live or verbal exchanges.

    Tools such as Zoom and Blackboard Collaborate can be useful; however, it’s frequently difficult to find times that everyone can meet virtually. More often, the meetings are recorded and shared so all can access the material. Live chats, video conferencing, Wikis, and blogs are all tools that are available to you to engage your students.

    Interpretation awareness

    Emphasis on the written word, regardless of platform, can create potential issues related to the interpretation of content, particularly for students whose first language is not English. Students, particularly English as a Second Language (ESL) students, may look for hidden messages in feedback and/or decipher feedback differently.

    Consider the potential (mis)interpretation of written forums or feedback and the impact on student performance and attitude. Be clear and thorough. We find it helpful to create samples of frequent errors with detailed notes that we can easily share with any student. Making mini lessons with apps like Educreations is useful, too. These are useful for all students.

    Keep in mind that students do not necessarily have to be English language learners for their culture to influence their interpretation or understanding of the meaning of written text within a course. Culture can impact the dynamics of the exchanges as well. Cultural norms — the common beliefs, expectations, and practices of a society — may impact how and when students respond to questions.

    For example, students from Western cultures may be more apt to view the instructor as a facilitator, rather than non-Western students. In some cultures, the instructor is viewed authoritative in nature. You’ve probably had a student or two who argued that you should just “tell them what to do” instead of asking them to “guess.”

    Tips for better communication

    Use icebreakers and “getting to know you” activities on your discussion boards. Share the expectations for student comments/behavior before the course even begins. Consider disciplinary content in a global context as you post questions and problems of the week. Think and share about your own identity.

    Some faculty create affinity groups and note that their students love knowing their peers are dealing with some of the same issues, life events, challenges, and so forth.

    Course design with diversity in mind

    First and foremost, consider universal design principles in your course design. It may be as simple as paying attention to color and size of fonts, the volume of material on any given page, the embedding of objectives and directives for the learners, etc. You already know it’s critical to use only captioned videos, images with alt text, etc, but do you know how people tend to scan/read web pages? Are you designing your course with that in mind?

    Explore more about accessibility for Pearson products by visiting the product websites. We also have more detailed training resources for many products such as MyLab (Math, Business, etc.), MyLab IT, and Mastering.

    The aesthetics of a course are important. How will your course users see and interpret images, art, photography, movies, and so on? What is the reading level of the material chosen? Is the material engaging? Does the media reflect diversity?

    Universal design principles help educators consider how to reach every learner by providing flexible instructional materials, techniques, and strategies. It promotes the engagement of each learner by making learning more accessible. A guiding principle of universal design is that we need to provide multiple means of representation, expression, and engagement for students.

    Acknowledging and understanding cultural differences

    It’s important to note that it is very difficult to identify and address every critical area in a course. Countless articles, some very extensive ones, cover the concept of inclusion and diversity. This short blog is only intended to get you thinking about key components of designing an online course with diversity in mind.

    If we acknowledge that diversity influences learning, then we may be able to create discussions that result in examples that are culturally relevant. Your work as an instructor sets the tone for a safe space in the classroom where students can share their experiences and perspectives.

    For those of us who are “accidental” instructional designers or instructional designers for real, we might want to consider learning more about things like wisdom communities that offer a framework for orienting and engaging students.

    How do we promote diversity in our classes?

    1. We strive to understand our students.
    2. We utilize different teaching strategies and materials.
    3. We structure the course to provide equal opportunities to all students.
    4. We celebrate diversity. We keep this in mind when designing discussion posts or sharing articles, for example.
    5. We encourage differing perspectives. We ask students to share their views and substantiate why they feel/think that way.
    6. We seek to include diverse learning materials.

    Conclusion

    Understanding the unique differences in traditional and online learning environments and how culture plays a role, can help shape a positive educational experience for students and their faculty. With increasing emphasis on online learning, we need to have more conversations about understanding and supporting students from diverse cultures. It’s helpful to reflect on your own experiences, because our personal cultural influences or teaching styles might guide our choices in course design.

    Listen to a short webinar about making your teaching more inclusive.

    Enjoy an article from earlier this year about culturally responsive teaching.

    Explore Cornell’s open course about diversity in the classroom.

    Affirming Diversity: The Sociopolitical Context of Multicultural Education
    This is a text by Sonia Nieto, University of Massachusetts Amherst (Emerita) and Patty Bode, Tufts University in Affiliation with The Amherst Regional Public Schools.
    Effective multicultural education must consider not just schooling, but also the larger social, economic, and political factors that affect students’ success or failure in the classroom. Affirming Diversity: The Sociopolitical Context of Multicultural Education helps readers understand these pervasive influences by presenting extensive research and data on the sociopolitical nature of schools and society, information about different sociocultural groups, and a conceptual framework for examining multicultural education. Real-life cases and teaching stories dominate in this book that offers a first-hand look into the lives of students and educators from a variety of backgrounds. Additionally, tips for classroom activities and community actions offer aspiring teachers concrete suggestions to provide high-quality, inclusive education in spite of obstacles they may face.

    read more
  • How to talk about social responsibility in a pandemic

    by Jessica Yarbro

    blog image alt text

    To say that people are stressed during the COVID-19 pandemic would be an understatement. The accepted social norms and values, like shaking hands or visiting the elderly, have gone out the window in an effort to stop the spread of disease.

    We’re navigating according to new rules, and as a result, decisions about how we behave and the choices we make have become more complex. Understandably, other’s actions are sparking strong emotions and reactions, sometimes referred to as “cancel culture,” making it difficult to talk about at home or in the classroom.

    As researchers, we turn to research to help guide our behavior and thinking. Social responsibility helps us be thoughtful about our actions, particularly our actions in relation to other people. We published a framework for social responsibility, based on the body of existing research, that can be used as a lens to understand human behavior in a complex situation.

    The dimensions of the framework can be used to spark an emphatic, non-judgemental discussion about making choices during a pandemic. We offer a suggestion for how to initiate a discussion with learners for each of the four dimensions:

    1. Multicultural

    Multicultural: Is knowledgeable about different cultural identities and sensitive toward cultural differences.

    Example of how to engage: Present a set of different choices someone could make during the current pandemic (i.e., decisions related to social distancing). For each choice, discuss how a person’s perspective or prior experiences might influence their decision to make a specific choice.

    2. Ethical

    Ethical: Demonstrates knowledge and awareness of ethical standards and issues and applies ethical reasoning and standards to make decisions in ethically ambiguous situations.

    Example of how to engage: Present a set of different choices someone could make during the current pandemic (i.e. decisions related to social distancing). For each choice, discuss how a person’s values could have influenced their decision to make a specific choice.

    3. Civic

    Civic: Is an informed and active citizen at the local, national, and global level and understands and acts on issues of local, national, and global significance.

    Example of how to engage: Have learners explore the role that the local, state, and/or federal government is playing in managing the pandemic (it can be in their own context or a new context). Learners could also discuss strengths and weaknesses for having a certain level of government managing response to the pandemic.

    4. Environmental

    Environmental: Is knowledgeable about current issues of environmental significance and is concerned about the wellbeing of the planet and engages in sustainable behaviors.

    Example of how to engage: Have learners explore how the COVID-19 pandemic, and human responses to the pandemic, could impact environmental and sustainability endeavors.

    If you want to learn more about how to teach social responsibility, a Pearson colleague discusses it in detail in this webinar.

    By taking time to teach socially responsible thinking and decision-making, you’re also helping your students develop a life skill that will help them navigate challenging situations in the future, whether daily decisions about climate change or even what career path to take.

    It is also a skill that is considered to be important for employees to demonstrate. Regarding hiring decisions, 81 percent of employers rated “ethical judgment and decision-making” as very important, but only 30 percent thought recent college graduates were well prepared in this area (this source and more listed here).

    For these reasons listed above and more, that’s why we have listed it in our framework for what makes someone employable and are working to embed how to teach social responsibility into our products to enable classroom conversations during normal, less stressful times.

    read more
  • 4 ways Maryville University has taken science labs into the virtual classroom

    by Dr. Kelly Lave, Assistant Professor of Physics & Dr. Stacy L. Donovan, Associate Professor of Biology and Forensic Science,Maryville University

    blog image alt text

    When the COVID-19 pandemic forced colleges and universities to move to remote learning environments, many universities lacked preexisting contingency plans or infrastructures for running not just some of their classes but all of them online. Suddenly, many professors were working on short notice to implement online course management tools and facing numerous logistical hurdles along the way.

    read more
  • Direct online tutoring help to students in need

    by Kirk Benningfield

    blog image alt text

    The recent disruption to education extends well beyond those trying to keep up with normal coursework. Senior year has also been interrupted for thousands of students whose focus has shifted toward internships, career preparation, and employment. With campuses and career centers closed across the country, online tutoring is a valuable tool to support all students as they prepare for the end of the term.

    Improving engagement with targeted help

    Once education transitioned to full-time virtual environments, many students lost the face-to-face interactions that made up the core of their classroom support. Online tutoring can provide the help students need, right when they need it, helping to avoid the possibility of them giving up when they hit a roadblock. And these one-on-one sessions can bolster a student’s confidence, giving them more freedom to ask questions and delve into discussion that they might never approach in a full-class setting.

    In addition, Smarthinking can help faculty identify at-risk students using alerts and session mapping to drill down to specific concepts where they’re seeking assistance. Instructors can see whether students are keeping pace with course requirements, and recommend supplemental help from an online tutor to get them back on track.

    Helping students prep for careers

    For this year’s seniors, going virtual is affecting much more than just classes. Many who were in the midst of completing career programs and solidifying internships when career centers and university-provided services closed down are left asking, “Now what?”

    The spring term is always a busy time for those in programs focused on preparing for the workforce. Smarthinking online tutors have emerged as a go-to resource for live interview coaching and assistance honing presentation skills. In fact, for those students who may be introverts or just plain nervous to get up in front of a classroom, an audience of one can be a much more comfortable environment in which to practice these skills than a class full of their peers.

    Resume and career writing help is also in high demand among this year’s graduates. Smarthinking supports students with 24/7 resume and cover letter help, personal branding consultation, and business writing reviews. Tutors are trained and monitored to ensure they do not proofread or edit student papers; instead, their writing review centers on leading students to a broader comprehension of the fundamentals of writing (both higher-order issues as well as lower-order skills) and key strategies for revision.

    Insider advice

    “Employers and recruiters in 2020 are looking beyond applicants who simply have the required educational experience. Employers want new hires who can think creatively and who are fluid in the use of technology and adept at writing well. Smarthinking tutors can help students develop effective career materials for this new world of work, whether that be a strategically-focused cover letter or eye-catching details to polish a LinkedIn profile.” — Michael Goodfellow, Sr. Lead Writing Tutor

    How else can online tutoring support your virtual classroom?

    Get the infographic and explore three other ways online tutoring can empower your students to succeed, no matter where they are.

    read more
  • Online tutors provide expertise when you can't

    by Allyson Fetterhoff Tearnan, PhD, Executive Director, Writing and Humanities, Smarthinking

    blog image alt text

    Many students are learning virtually for the first time, which means they’ll need to find new ways to get additional help outside of regular lessons, like online tutoring. Students often think that since a tutor isn’t the professor, they won’t be able to help with understanding course materials. And as an instructor, maybe you’ve had the same thoughts. But the truth is, many online tutors, especially Smarthinking tutors, are experts in their field. They could even be your peers from down the hall. The right online tutors work with you to make sure students are mastering the right skills.

    Our tutors are fellow experts

    We have more than 1,500 highly qualified, professional tutors and educators, 90% of whom hold a master’s degree or PhD in their discipline of expertise. Plus, our tutors average 12 years of experience working directly with students: they’re expert teachers as well as subject experts. It’s no wonder Smarthinking has served thousands of higher education institutions around the world.

    Smarthinking tutors are trained, monitored, and evaluated on their ability to employ a Socratic method to engage students by asking questions, making students show their own work, and encouraging them to demonstrate overall mastery of the concept or problem.

    Tutors are available in more than 150 subject areas, at all levels from developmental through graduate and professional school. Plus, we offer ESL-specialist tutoring, including math in Spanish. No matter the course, we’ve got you covered. And since each tutor is an expert in their field, students can get 24×7 help in the subjects they need, even if that means they need math help one day and then chemistry help the next.

    Problem-solving strategies that lead to success

    Online tutoring asks students to demonstrate mastery of skill after learning in the classroom. With Smarthinking, faculty can easily share assignment goals, writing prompts, and other course details so tutors can contextualize their instructional assistance with learner outcomes in mind.

    Online tutors don’t “hand out answers” but instead teach problem-solving strategies so that students learn to engage with content, break down problems, and build the skills to succeed on their own on future assignments. Tutors teach just the way you would.

    One-on-one instruction

    Online tutoring encourages learners to ask for help when they need it and raises their confidence to do so. In a classroom setting, some students feel shy or don’t ask questions due to peer pressure. One-on-one tutoring takes this out of the equation, making students feel comfortable enough to ask even what they may feel is a silly question.1

    “We recognize that students most in need of academic tutoring often find it difficult to ask for help out of shyness or because of a perceived stigma or simply because it’s new and unfamiliar,” Dr. Cheryl Cephus-Vickers of Gadsden State Community College explains. “We also know that students who form a habit early in their college career of accessing resources/services perform better and feel a greater sense of belonging and ownership of their learning. These outcomes lead directly to higher rates of persistence and completion.”2

    There even when students can’t take advantage of on-campus help, Smarthinking tutoring extends your resources, improving achievement, completion and graduation rates, and workplace success.

    Insider advice

    “As a tutor and a writing instructor, I encourage my students to utilize the tutoring services the college offers. I remind my students that we are all facing this tough time together, and that there is absolutely no shame in needing some help completing assignments. I am transparent with my students: I let them know I am an online tutor myself, and just one session can make a difference in their writing.” – Lauren Williams Magaw, Writing Lead Tutor

    How else can online tutoring support your virtual classroom?

    Get the infographic and explore three other ways online tutoring can empower your students to succeed, no matter where they are.

    Sources
    1White, Kimberly. “8 Reasons Why One-on-One Instruction Benefits Students,” CMASAS Blog, May 9.
    2Gill, Lauren. “Gadsden State Community College assesses the impact of Smarthinking online tutoring on student success and completion,” Pearson.

    read more
  • Increase student confidence, engagement, and success with online tutoring

    by Christa Ehmann

    blog image alt text

    Today’s students are digital natives, so whether they‘re face-to-face with tutors online or in-person, they’re savvy at getting the help they need. So, support their success with online tutoring. Data shows that online tutoring can help increase student confidence, engagement, and outcomes.

    Tear down the roadblocks to engagement

    As a student, getting stuck on a concept or problem and not knowing how to move forward can feel like coming up against a brick wall — and no one likes running into a brick wall. Lend students a hand by helping them overcome their learning obstacles. With online tutoring students can get help when and where they need it, rather than giving up in frustration. Online tutoring services, like Smarthinking, let students access live and asynchronous tutoring help at the point of need, so students can get immediate support to overcome academic roadblocks and continue on their learning paths.

    A bird’s eye view for precise instruction

    Don’t guess at what your students are struggling with when you have the data to guide you. Smarthinking “Taxonomy Reports” highlight the specific concepts that students have sought help for in their classes. This information is categorized and logged by Smarthinking tutors after each tutoring session so instructors can easily pinpoint what their students are having trouble understanding. Instructors know what students are struggling with before exams and can address the issues beforehand. The data and reports can also help instructors plan their programs, curriculums, and activities better.

    Early intervention to stop problems at their roots

    It’s not always easy to see when a student needs additional academic intervention, but Smarthinking Alerts can help. These alerts were designed to flag students who may be at risk. After a tutoring session, tutors can record alerts that will then display in the reporting dashboard. Instructors and administrators can clearly see sessions that were flagged and find out the exact issues the student is struggling with. This lets instructors respond quickly to emerging issues and improve learning outcomes.

    Success and satisfaction with Smarthinking

    The vast majority of students who use Smarthinking tutoring services would recommend them to a friend. We’ve also repeatedly shown significant improvements in key student success metrics such as course completion. Here are some of our results from recent studies:

    • 83% of students indicated they had more confidence in their academic skills after working with Smarthinking tutors
    • 100% of students surveyed said they intended to keep using Smarthinking tutoring services
    • Students accessing Smarthinking tutoring services averaged a 2.82 GPA compared to a 2.26 for all students surveyed
    • Students enrolled in a pilot program with Smarthinking online writing tutors were 8x more likely to complete courses than non-users

    Insider advice

    “As each of us learns to manage our time and responsibilities in this ever-changing world, it’s important that we use all the resources available. The LMS offers a variety of tools to make virtual learning engaging and flexible, a win-win for both students and ourselves. The LMS also offers many resources for faculty by providing the tools to manage the class virtually, such as checklists, various communication options, and ease of grading.” — Kathy Adams McIntosh, Business Tutoring Coordinator

    How else can online tutoring support your virtual classroom?

    Get the infographic and explore three other ways online tutoring can empower your students to succeed, no matter where they are.

    Questions?

    Learn more about Smarthinking and how it can help deliver actionable results for you and your students.

    read more
  • Staying home doesn't mean going it alone

    by Karen Sanders

    blog image alt text

    Like many others, you’re going through the experience of having your home become your office and classroom. Your students are facing just as much — if not more — of an abrupt transition. That’s why it’s important to talk to them about getting the course support they need during this disruption to their education. In addition, learning to seek out support is a valuable skill in and of itself, and can help students succeed in both college and their careers.

    Searching for a new normal

    Since mid-March, service providers and instructors around the world have been in emergency mode, establishing workable course delivery and an educational presence online for all classes in response to the coronavirus.

    Now that we’re solidly in the midst of this large-scale transition to remote teaching and learning, we’re looking ahead in search of a new normal. Summer and fall sessions seem likely to introduce an entirely new set of considerations rather than a return to the educational practices we were recently forced to abandon. Quite apart from merely delivering courses online, schools must be ready to provide a quick transition to online courses that offer reliable course navigation, equitable access, support for learners with disabilities, and academic integrity.

    The one constant is that students will need support as education, by necessity, becomes increasingly nimble and remote. We only need to look back 15 years for a parallel of our current challenge.

    The lessons we’ve learned

    In 2005, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, approximately 100,000 students were displaced from their colleges and universities. Many never returned to their campuses. Today we’re facing the same type of disruption, albeit on a much grander scale.

    Andre Perry, fellow at the Brookings Institution, was a professor at the University of New Orleans during Katrina. He urges repeated, proactive contact with students — especially in the early stages of such a disruption to their education — and stresses the obligation of faculty to maintain the student-teacher connection.

    Research shows that a key role in students’ retention is their relationships with professors. Perry fears that if those relationships weaken or lapse during this disruption, “we may collectively lose thousands of students across the country.”

    One valuable tip for supporting students during a transition to remote learning is that educators provide an asynchronous approach to classes. While the routine of a regularly scheduled class might seem to offer consistency and a semblance of normalcy for learners, there are clear challenges. Many have work and/or family obligations, inadequate technology and internet access, and time zone considerations that put them at a disadvantage.

    For schools that require a synchronous approach, educators should accommodate students who can’t join the session as scheduled. Recorded lectures are recommended so that they have the same opportunity to listen, and then participate in discussion in the classes they can attend.

    According to Christopher Heard, director of the Center for Teaching Excellence at Pepperdine University, “The key is to keep students feeling like a class, rather than scattered individuals.”

    Insider advice

    “Although challenging, it’s important that students don’t see this period as a gap in their education or as an impossible obstacle in their studies. Pearson employees and Smarthinking tutors are familiar with using technology to support students digitally, and they’re willing and able to help students who may find the new, online-only environment challenging or intimidating.” — Michael Goodfellow, Sr. Lead Writing Tutor

    How else can online tutoring support your virtual classroom?

    Get the infographic and explore three other ways online tutoring can empower your students to succeed, no matter where they are.

    Sources
    Phil Hill, “Revised Outlook for Higher Ed’s Online Response to COVID-19,” Phil on EdTech, March 30, 2020.

    Kelly Field, “10 Tips to Support Students in a Stressful Shift to Online Learning,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, March 30, 2020.

    Beth McMurtrie, “How to Help Struggling Students Succeed Online,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, March 26, 2020.

    read more
  • Teaching online during shortened summer terms

    by Dr. Stephanie Tacquard

    blog image alt text

    Are you having to transition teaching your traditional face-to-face summer class to an online environment? This can be a daunting task with a full 16-week semester, let alone for a super short 5-week mini-mester! Compound that with the fact that you may not have taught online previously, and this could easily intimidate even the most seasoned instructor. Have no fear! Many have traversed this path before you and come out successful—you can, too!

    Summer courses are short, rigorous, but can be very rewarding for both you and the student when taught with a few best practices in mind. For instance, they usually have smaller enrollments meaning less to grade for you (YAY!), but that means more rapid feedback for them since you can get your grading done more quickly. The smaller class size allows you to have more frequent interactions with each student thereby giving them the support they need to be more successful. Plus, most summer students are highly motivated and typically are only taking one or two classes at a time. This means they are going to be dedicated to learning your material.

    There are a few guiding principles you can utilize to help you as you work to design your summer online course. First, let’s do a brief overview on “how” you will be teaching, then we will address the “what” to teach online in more detail.

    The how

    When designing online courses, you should always start by talking to your institution, or search their website, for information about any specific requirements they have for teaching online courses. Then, by answering these few questions, you’ll be well on your way to success as you design and implement your online course.

    How to Prepare for Online Teaching

    You can read more about these in my previous blog post Tips for moving a class online quickly, or for step-by-step instructions for building an online course with your LMS (or without), you can use this handy Online Course Toolkit.

    The what

    Now, onto the teaching of online courses. Once you’ve ascertained how you are going to teach your course online, now you need to figure out the what, as in “what am I going to teach?” There are four guiding principles as you try to determine what exactly you are going to teach in your summer course.

    What to teach in an online summer course

    If you’ve only taught 16-week courses, trying to fit all of that material into a 5-week course is like trying to fit ten pounds of candy into a five-pound bag. You need to prioritize the “have to knows” from the “good to knows.” Think about this, what information do your students really need from your course to be successful in their career years down the road? Assess your required Learning Outcomes and determine the essentials that must be taught in order for you to meet those objectives.

    These essential Learning Outcomes should then be clearly communicated to your students in the very beginning of the course. The students should know what they are working towards learning, and what it is they will be assessed on throughout the length of the course. Refer back to them as you progress through the course, helping students realize that these are the foundational skills they’ll need to apply your course materials to their careers.

    Now that you’ve decided the specific topics you will be covering in your summer course, it’s time to organize it in a logical flow that teaches your objectives in a scaffolded manner. In other words, make sure the prerequisite/foundational knowledge and skills are reviewed/taught early in the course, and then build upon these as you address your Learning Objectives. You can’t teach a student to solve for “x” in the equation x + 4 = 6 if they haven’t yet learned how to add and subtract. Don’t be afraid to skip around chapters, especially in the summer, to help create a more logical flow for this shortened semester!

    While contemplating how best to design the flow of your course to meet your Learning Outcomes, keep in mind, this is a fast-paced course. Again, reiterating the importance of focusing on what you need to teach, extraneous information should be cut from your teachings. You may also want to consider relating much of what you teach to real-world situations. This will convey the importance of what you’re teaching and make it more memorable to the students at the same time.

    How do you design your assignments for this short course now that you’ve figured out what you are teaching? Easy! Take what you’ve been doing for your 16-week course, shorten the assignments, and give them more frequently. Your students are already going to be studying, rewriting notes, practicing, and reading – you don’t want to give them homework assignments that take 2 – 3 hours on top of all of that. If you can, break the assignments into bite-sized chunks that take no more than 30 – 45 minutes to complete (or less), and give them a few assignments per week. These will be easier to digest for your students and will also help them retain the importance of the material. You may even offer more flexible due dates in this summer course than you would in your 16-weeks.

    Consider using the discussion forums discussed in the How to Prepare for Online Teaching blog. These can be short but powerful assignments. If you’re having the students write papers for your course, consider shortening the length of the paper, or the number of papers they have to submit, and focus more on the content you’re having them address. Lastly, really give thought to group projects as well. Sometimes students learn more from each other than they do from us.

    These 5-week classes are not only tough to plan out and teach, but they are a heavy lift for the students as they try to learn this material in a compressed time frame. Try offering an extra level of support for these students you don’t normally give your 16-week classes. If you are doing live virtual class sessions (or even pre-recorded videos), consider providing them with copies of the slides or the notes you use while teaching. Set up extra virtual office hours for them to pop in and ask you questions. Create practice quizzes or tests for them to use as study guides, or even provide them with a more detailed study guide than you usually hand out.

    By following the guiding principles for how to teach online and what to teach in summer courses, it will set both you and your students up for success. These principles will put you on track to create an effective, efficient, and enjoyable online summer course. Bottom line, these summer students will work diligently, but they will work even harder if they know you’re really trying to help them be more successful in such a short, intensive course!

    read more
  • Help! I'm testing online for the first time

    by Diane Hollister

    blog image alt text

    Technology has really changed the way we teach. It doesn’t seem that long ago that my classes brought their paperback workbooks to class; they tore out review pages and turned them in for grading. They brought notebooks to take notes in, and we gave paper/pencil tests. Now? They can use e-books on a tablet. They access assignments on their phones. Course materials can be available with one click, anytime, anywhere.

    But those changes don’t all happen overnight. They take time and preparation. And sometimes that’s not a luxury we have. We might have catastrophic weather or a pandemic or some other event that closes the school for a while. Every course needs an online presence. And it needs to happen now.

    So where do we start? Let’s assume our primary goal is to deliver some assessments online while the campus is closed. You may have existing question banks you can use. Or, you may have texts with materials like TestGen available.

    If that’s the case, you’ll need to download TestGen software if you want to make a paper/pencil test and then export it to your Learning Management System (LMS).  You then need to download the question banks at Pearson’s Higher Ed site to build your library of questions. You may already have these from your existing tests. (By the way, if you want to export a TestGen test to your LMS, be careful to export it in the correct format. You typically need to look at the Blackboard export option.)

    You may find it easier to access the TestGen question bank files from Pearson’s website and upload them directly to the Learning Management System. You will need to search by your text to see if files are available. You might need to use an older edition if the new one is not available or use a similar text if you need more variety of questions. Again, note that TestGen question banks are not necessarily available for every text.

    Once you have identified the question banks, download them, and then use the LMS to upload the question banks. Here are links you can use to learn more about the process for your specific LMS.

    After you have those loaded in your LMS, you can then create quizzes/tests. Your LMS administrator on campus has training materials for how to do this, and you can also find extensive instructor resources for each LMS online.

    As you design your quizzes/tests, keep in mind things like pooling questions to provide variety. You might also be able to scramble the question order. Allow some extra time on tests so students are able to navigate the technology and still have time for the test itself.

    In addition, you may want to have a “mini test” for students to practice with, especially if you require them to use Respondus or Proctor U or Honor Lock or a similar tool. You can learn more about the technology tools your school has by checking with your LMS administrator.

    read more
  • Moving labs out of the laboratory

    by Pearson

    blog image alt text

    When teaching a science class, we often use experiences in the lab to foster critical thinking skills and reinforce the concepts we introduce in lectures. But with campuses closed, students cannot access the lab.

    So what do you do? Is it better to forget about labs at all, or is there value in online or hands-on at home methods? This is what one study published by the Journal of Formative Design in Learning tells us.

    Don’t ditch labs

    Students who take lecture and laboratory concurrently outperform their lecture-only peers, regardless of whether that lab is face-to-face or non-traditional.

    Non-traditional labs can be as effective as face-to-face labs

    • A good non-traditional lab tool can increase test scores, improve students’ attitudes and preparedness for the hands-on lab, and strengthen conceptual knowledge.
    • In one particular study, the students said the online laboratory experience was the same as or better than their prior experiences in the traditional setting.
    • Students can access the lab whenever and wherever suits them. Flexibility will be important at the moment, particularly for those suddenly having to care for children.
    • In an online lab, students can reflect on what went right and what did not go as planned, and then can repeat the experiment as many times as they need.
    • Virtual chemistry labs can help students visualize structures and processes at the molecular level and allow types of experiments not possible in a standard undergraduate laboratory—e.g., quantum chemistry.

    Examples of online labs

    Online labs can range from simple videos and games, to graphing and 2D simulations, to interactive 3D virtual reality experiences. Simulations, as mathematical models of processes in the physical world, allow users to manipulate parameters and can be used by faculty to customize laboratories in various disciplines. Some examples include:

    Examples of hands-on at home tools

    Hands-on kits available from various vendors can provide students with practice of experiments, and manufacturers usually assume liability. One example is Chemistry LabPaqs from Hands on Labs (http://holscience.com/)

    A good tool should have

    • Software that is easy to install, user-friendly, and intuitive, yet challenging.
    • Experiences similar to the traditional laboratory.
    • Useful sequences for learners that scaffold their use of the system.
    • Some form of feedback (even if it is just immediate results of labs and simulations).
    • Help for visualizing and demonstrating concepts and constructs that might otherwise be difficult to observe (depending on exactly what domain it is).
    • Alignment with the learning objectives across all learning activities.
    • Clear instructions (even if the task is more open-ended in the lab) and criteria so students know what to focus on.
    • The ability for students to “experiment” in the environment without penalty.
    • Digital laboratory manuals that accompany hands-on lab kits must also be user-friendly and intuitive.

    Source:
    Rowe et al., Efficacy of Online Laboratory Science Courses (2017) Journal of Formative Design in Learning


    read more
  • 5 ideas for taking active learning online

    by Tianna Tagami

    blog image alt text

    When students are actively learning, they are making connections to their own lives, questioning, and collaborating, which we know leads to more significant, durable learning outcomes. In the classroom, we deliberately plan learning activities and discussion to engage learners and keep them active. We stay alert during class to pick up on cues that learners are tuning out or struggling so we can pivot and improvise as needed.

    One of the toughest adjustments to teaching online is that we lose this immediate feedback-action loop. We can’t adjust in real time to keep learners engaged in specific activities or assignments. So, it’s important to set up learning opportunities that extend past the activity or assignment itself.

    Here are some ideas for encouraging active engagement online.

    1. Incorporate their lived experience

    We usually encourage students to bring their experiences into our classroom. But now, we have to figure out how to bring our discipline-specific content into their experiences. Now we’re all at home, students are not focused on our content at a specific time or in a specific place.

    To keep them engaged and actively learning, we have to help them experience their lives through the lens of our content. We don’t want them to only think about our content when they’re sitting in front of their device. Give them things to look for, think about, and capture as they clean the house, care for family members, walk the dog, and watch Netflix. Encourage them to find the ways your content manifests in everyday life. For example:

    • Laws of physics scavenger hunt. Ask learners to take pictures/videos of laws of physics in action around their home. Share online and ask the class to vote for the best examples.
    • Neighborhood visual ethnography project. Learners walk around their neighborhood (using safe social distancing practices) and take pictures. They use grounded research techniques to analyze images and categorize characteristics to make hypotheses about their neighborhood’s culture. They could incorporate public records searches to consider property values and census information.

    2. Make them research assistants

    In a discussion-based class, we would generally provide learners with some context and content in lecture and readings and then engage them in discussion and analysis to promote deeper understanding and durable learning. Online forums can be lively and contribute to significant learning, but they are not a straight substitute for classroom discussion. So, instead of providing them with all the relevant readings and context, ask them to find it. Imagine you now have a class full of research assistants.

    Here are two examples showing how you might transfer what you do in the classroom to an online environment:

    Example 1

    Classroom: Lecture on elements of Victorian society that influenced Jane Eyre and discussion to apply to reading and incorporate learner experiences

    Online: Learners research specific aspects of Victorian society, looking especially for contemporary sources that would help learners empathize with Victorian readers. Find examples in the reading of things that would have resonated with or be significant to Victorian readers that today’s readers might not find as significant or understand.

    Example 2

    Classroom: Assign journal readings about applying theory to curriculum design and then a practical assignment to create a lesson plan.

    Online: Provide summaries of major learning theories and then ask learners to find journal articles that apply one of the theories to curriculum design in their discipline. Post the article, a summary, and then explain two specific ways they would incorporate that theory into their own curriculum design.

    3. Ask them to write the test

    You’re right to be concerned about cheating when learners are taking assessments online from home. There are proctoring apps that can help mitigate this risk, but not everyone has access to that technology. Turn testing into an active learning experience (and reduce the risk of cheating) by asking them to write the test.

    Quantitative disciplines or introductory skills-based courses

    In quantitative disciplines or introductory skills-based courses, give learners the learning objectives and ask them to write items that assess the learning objectives and provide the correct answers with justification. Ask them to create multiple choice distractors that represent common mistakes, miscalculations, or misconceptions and explain what error each distracter represents.

    Qualitative disciplines or higher level theory-based courses

    In more qualitative disciplines or higher level theory-based courses, learners can create their own rubrics to evaluate existing works or their own projects. They can use the rubrics they created to evaluate their peers’ work, or they can use someone else’s rubric to evaluate their own or others’ work.

    4. Read together

    Asking questions while you read and talking to someone else about what you’re learning are two proven active learning strategies. Use online tools to allow learners to annotate readings together.

    • The app Hypothes.is allows people to annotate PDFs or even websites.
    • You can upload a reading to Google Docs, Microsoft OneDrive, or Adobe Cloud and share it so learners can make and reply to comments.
    • In any of these apps, learners can tag you or each other for specific questions or responses. Just remember to turn on your notifications.

    5. Solve problems together

    Often, online group projects are less collaboration and more divide-and-conquer. You can both lean into and disrupt this tendency by using a jigsaw strategy. In a jigsaw strategy, groups of learners become “experts” in one concept or topic, and then they shuffle into new groups where they become the representative of their concept in a new mixed-expertise group. The new group has to work together, sharing and leveraging their specific expertise, to solve a problem.

    Example

    Classroom: A lecture and readings introduce the concept of sustainability and provide an overview of the types of sustainability initiatives in which corporations engage. In groups, students research the sustainability initiatives of three companies and decide which has the best strategy.

    Online, option A: Each group is given one company to research. They find out everything they can about that company’s sustainability initiatives and the impacts of those initiatives on the company, consumers, and planet. They create a scorecard to represent the criteria they think is important and how that company scores. Then, in a sync session, breakout jigsaw groups are created where learners have to make the case for their company. Together, the new jigsaw group comes up with a consolidated scorecard and scores all the represented companies.

    Online, option B: Each group researches one aspect of corporate sustainability and creates a rubric to score companies on that aspect. In a sync session, breakout jigsaw groups combine their score cards and collectively evaluate a company.

    read more
  • Building community in the online classroom with Affinity Groups

    by Aaron Warnock

    blog image alt text

    We’re all familiar with trends coming and going in higher education; we’re also used to seeing a lot of research too. How do we know what’s really worth it?

    Throughout my years as a professor, one subject that has garnered significant research is building community in the classroom. Building community is a valuable tool for improving equity. When I began teaching online, I found it to be far more difficult to achieve.

    I would assign students to groups in my Learning Management System (LMS) and encourage them to work together on a weekly Relevant Application assignment (to see how the mathematics we were doing realistically applied to the world around them). These group assignments were regularly met with resistance from students – citing, “I took an online class so I wouldn’t have to work with other people!”

    This attitude is one we can’t afford to tolerate, especially as our world increasingly becomes digital, and more people are working in teams with folks from around the country and the world virtually.

    What can we do about it?

    A few years ago, I attended a talk at InstructureCon (Canvas developers annual conference) on creating Affinity Groups for students in online classes. I loved what I saw; implementing their strategies eliminated complaints from students about working in online groups.

    How Affinity Groups work

    As in many online classes, at the beginning of the quarter my students are assigned to post a short biography to a discussion board; in this post, they introduce themselves to me and the rest of the class. They are asked to discuss their educational goals, hobbies and interests, as well as something unique about them.

    When I read their submissions, I make notes of hobbies and interests of all the students. As I see trends of topics being mentioned 3 or 4 times, I list them as a potential group category. I then create a group set, and name the groups based on the categories that stood out for that particular group of students.

    It’s fun to belong

    Almost every quarter I have “Parents”, “Binge Watchers”, “Gamers’, and “Travelers” to name a few, as recurring group themes. You can even add alliteration for more flare, like “Proud Parents” or “Great Gamers”. It is fun to keep an eye out for those unique groups that surface in a given quarter. One quarter we had “Anti-Coffee-ers” for example – a group of students who surfaced declaring their dislike for coffee, or “Foodies Forever”.

    A tight knit group

    I choose to cap the groups at 5 and create more groups than necessary, because I don’t know exactly what students will be drawn to. Lastly, I always create a “z. None of the Above” group, as an option for students who don’t identify with any of the other group. In Canvas, you can simply rename the groups while you’re creating them. In Blackboard, after you’ve created your Self-Enroll Group Set, you’ll have to go to each group individually and rename them by selecting Edit Group.

    Freedom of choice

    At this point, I ask students to self-enroll in the groups of their choice through my LMS (both Canvas and Blackboard have the option for students to self-enroll). Note: If your LMS doesn’t allow for this action, there are other ways you could use to have for your students choose their group, like a poll or survey where they choose one option.

    No one is left behind

    Once the given deadline has passed for choosing a group, I put those who haven’t selected a group into the newly created “Non-Responders” group and encourage them to choose a new name amongst themselves. Not surprisingly, that group of students tends to not succeed as well as the others. I also check for groups with just 1 or 2 members, and combine them, getting creative with the name – like “Binge Hikers” (combination of “Binge Watchers” and “Hikers-R-Us”). Lastly, I delete the groups that didn’t attract any students; now you have students in groups with similar interests.

    A little change makes a big impact

    This may seem like a small distinction from randomly assigning groups, but it is fascinating to me how the knowledge that they are all parents, or they all like to cook, helps them to engage with each other more effectively and actively. Rarely do I get any resistance from students saying they don’t want to work in groups anymore.

    My focus here has been on how to design groups to help encourage students’ engagement. Two other great resources for strategies for effective group work are these Duke University and Carnegie Melon University articles. You can also learn more about the importance of student engagement in survey results from the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), as well as other research done by National Academic Advising Association (NACADA).

    read more
  • Tips for moving exams online

    by Sara Bakken

    blog image alt text

    Your assessment plans, just like all your other learning plans, have probably been suddenly disrupted during this crisis. And, due to family responsibilities, or anxiety, your students may not have the time or ability to concentrate on full length exams like they would typically be able to in a classroom setting.

    But all is not lost. As you know, the goal of giving an exam is to evaluate student learning at the end of an instructional unit. If there are other ways of doing this — for example, a culminating project, portfolio, or other open-ended assignment that a student could submit online, consider these before an online exam, particularly a multiple-choice exam.

    If you decide to use a traditional summative exam, these research-based tips can make the online experience better for you and your students.

    1. Create clear and specific rules and instructions so students know exactly what to do

    • Online assessment is new for your students. Reduce anxiety by clearly communicating the rules and instructions before the exam so there are no surprises.
    • For example, if you would like them to write their essays in paragraphs or to show their work for problem sets, be sure to explicitly state this.
    • The rules may include how many opportunities students have to complete the exam, if they can or cannot save and come back later to finish, if they need to put away all mobile devices or whether it is an open or closed book exam.
    • Provide other details such as the list of learning objectives the exam will address, how many questions to expect, the amount of time they will have to complete the exam, how many points each question is worth, etc. A study guide or a practice test can also help your students prepare.

    2. Reduce the opportunities for cheating

    • Password protect your exam and limit to one attempt.
    • Require students to complete a statement of honesty before beginning the exam (this can be done through a digital form or added as the first item of the exam).
    • Open and close access to your exam session within a predetermined time period.
    • Shuffle items or create multiple versions of the exam to randomly assign to students.
    • Create a pool or item bank to pull random questions from (many platforms allow for this, including MyLab and Mastering, and most learning management systems (LMS)).
    • Ask students to justify or explain their answers by adding an open response field after each selected-response question.
    • Use more open-ended question types instead of true/false or multiple choice questions if you don’t have the capabilities listed above.

    3. Make sure students can reasonably complete the exam within the time allotted

    Unless you are assessing how quickly your students can complete the exam, allow them ample time to complete it. It is important to keep in mind that your students don’t know the knowledge and skills as well as you do, so be sure to cushion each item with more time than you would expect to take to complete the exam yourself. If possible, have an assistant or colleague proofread your exam before it is time to administer it.

    4. Align your exam questions to learning outcomes.

    • Regardless of whether the exam is online or on paper, if you are creating it from scratch, make sure you use the objectives as your guide as you develop the questions.
    • Determine which types of questions or items best reflect the learning objectives. For example, if the objective requires a student to critique a poem, then an essay question would be a logical and efficient choice, whereas a multiple choice question would not typically be the most efficient way to gauge a student’s ability to critique.

    5. Scoring and point values should be based on the complexity and difficulty of the questions

    For instance, if you have a multipart question, consider assigning partial credit for each part of the question if the system allows. For math or science problem sets, allow students to show their work such as sending in a photo of their workings or describing the steps they took to solve a problem or complete a process.

    Sources
    American Educational Research Association., American Psychological Association., National Council on Measurement in Education., & Joint Committee on Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing (U.S.). (2014). Standards for educational and psychological testing.
    Burton, S. J., Sudweeks, R. R., Merrill, P. F., & Wood, B. (1991). How to prepare better multiple-choice items: Guidelines for university faculty. Brigham Young Testing Center and The Department of Instructional Science. Provo, UT: Brigham Young University.
    Sawyer, R. K. (2006). The Cambridge handbook of the learning sciences. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    read more
  • 8 best practices for training instructors to teach online

    by Pearson

    blog image alt text

    Instructors are an integral part of teaching and learning, regardless of whether it takes place face-to-face or online. During the current crisis, many are discovering that delivering high quality teaching online requires some changes. If you are supporting instructors who are transitioning from the classroom to online, once you have a chance to come up for air we have eight strategies for effective training.

    1. Work from the ground up to obtain educator buy-in

    The success of any type of professional development program depends partially on the buy-in from participants. They need to believe this is being done ‘for them’ not ‘to them’.

    Due to the relatively new nature of online learning, instructors might have misconceptions (e.g. about the level of rigor of online learning). To avoid this, clearly communicate important points about the transition. Using technology isn’t just an emergency response, it will be a method used in the future.

    As well as referring to research when developing an online training program, ask for feedback from instructors, and make sure it’s taken into account. You could send a survey, or conduct focus groups.

    2. Offer high quality professional development opportunities

    Whether you are training instructors that will be teaching online or face-to-face, the same rules apply. High quality professional development is training that is:

    • Ongoing
    • Reflective
    • Supports the construction of a professional learning community
    • Based in classroom practice
    • Grounded in current research
    • Tailored to instructors’ specific needs and embedded in their daily lives
    • Diverse, offering a wide range of learning activities

    3. Give instructors authentic learning experiences

    Run the training on the same platforms that instructors will be using in their class so they can experience roadblocks (e.g. signing onto the platform) or challenges (e.g. navigating content) that students might experience.

    Use content that instructors will use in real life. For example, if an instructor will be teaching Science, learning that content during training will help the instructor become familiar with the types of resources or labs available online and how to navigate them.

    4. Differentiate instruction and use a wide array of resources unique to online learning

    When instructors transition to an online environment they will likely introduce new and different types of instruction, and these strategies should be modeled during the training.

    For example, training should include both synchronous and asynchronous discussion, as well as the use of various resources including web-cameras, videos, instant messaging, and online whiteboards.

    5. Online teaching pedagogy and content are important, but an online teacher training program should also focus on soft skills

    In addition to online pedagogy and subject matter, instructors need to be competent in organization, time management, and self-direction.

    A great deal of an online learning course is asynchronous and is therefore occurring at a student’s pace. Teachers need to know how to best organize this mode of learning, when to be available for student inquiry, and when they are “out of class time”. Conversely, instructors should also be self-directed so that they know when they are “in class time” and monitor discussion, or grade assignments. (Read more about developing these skills here)

    6. Develop a community of online instructors

    Developing a community gives instructors a support system as they are delivering their courses so they can share experiences and best practices. You can:

    • Pair new instructors with mentor veteran instructors.
    • Create the space for instructors to collaborate.
    • Use online environment tools, such as discussion boards with questions posed by a veteran instructor, chat rooms that are monitored by faculty who trained the instructors, and/or asynchronous discussion.

    7. Expect instructors to demonstrate mastery before they teach their own course

    Given that online instruction requires active, hands on learning techniques, these should be the types of activities instructors should demonstrate as an end of training assessment.

    8. Train instructors to be aware of data security

    When all information in the course is being transmitted online it becomes easy to leave data vulnerable for security breaches.

    • Teachers should ask students to reduce their transmission of personally identifiable information to times when it is necessary. When transmitting files, they should be locked and/or transmitted through a secure file transfer site.
    • Instructors should house student background, demographic, and identifying data in a secure file, and performance data should be transmitted privately and securely.

    read more
  • How faculty can spot and support struggling online students

    by Nelson Hui

    blog image alt text

    Online education has been a vital part of higher education for many years, but with the current COVID-19 pandemic, many faculty and students are experiencing this for the first time. As with any method of delivery, online education has its advantages, as well as its own challenges.

    Both faculty and students can save time by meeting online instead of commuting to a physical classroom. Having course materials and various learning activities posted online provides students with more flexibility on both how and when they can study.

    On the other hand, heavy emphasis on technology can be foreign and intimating for some people. There may also be a perception that online education causes distance between the learner and their instructor. For faculty, there can be valid concerns that students may slip through the cracks in a virtual classroom. Fortunately, there are ways to both identify and support students who may be struggling online.

    Use all available forms of communication

    Communication is key when it comes to bridging the distance between the instructor and learner. Some faculty may opt to send out their course syllabus and contact information before the class even starts to help address any preliminary questions or concerns that their students may have. It is generally considered a best practice for faculty to check their email at least once a day and reply to student inquiries within 24 hours whenever possible.

    If faculty find that a student is asking a lot of questions and does not appear to understand the materials, then they may want to consider scheduling a quick virtual meeting with that student to go through their questions together. Most virtual meeting software allow for the sharing of audio, video, and other application files, thus making it easier for faculty to accommodate their students’ various learning styles.

    When hosting live virtual meetings, try to encourage all the participants to turn their web cameras and microphones on in order to make it a more personable and engaging experience. As most online learning classes are asynchronous in nature, it is okay if some students cannot make these live sessions, but it is a good idea for faculty to make note of who cannot attend, and try to find other ways to reach out to those students. Most virtual meeting software also allows for sessions to be recorded and shared.

    Many online classes make use of discussion boards for class communication and group work. Discussion boards are usually asynchronous, meaning students can review and contribute whenever they can (within a set deadline).

    Pay attention to participation

    Most LMSs offer ways to track both the students’ attendance and their discussion board postings; this is very useful to help faculty identify which students are active. Not all classes are designed in such a way where students are constantly required to log in, but faculty should try to make note of any missing discussion posts or assignment submissions. If inactivity is becoming a pattern, it is a good idea to either follow up with that student, and/or notify their school’s student support services department. It is better to catch these patterns early when there is still time to offer additional support.

    Watch for trends in data

    Finally, it is a good practice for faculty to keep an eye on their grade book for trends. If a certain student is scoring low, it may be a good idea to reach out to that student with some additional constructive feedback and guidance. If faculty notice that many students scored low on a certain assignment, then they may want to take time out of their next virtual class meeting to discuss this.

    More info

    For faculty who want to learn more about their LMS, most schools have an information technology services webpage where training resources can be found. In addition, it is always a good idea to have the school’s IT help desk contact information saved in case of any issues or urgent questions. Online education can feel ‘distant’ at times, but having a strong support system can go a long way in ensuring both faculty and students succeed.

    read more
  • Understanding cognitive load to better engage your students

    by Amy Byron

    blog image alt text

    Picture this:

    You’re driving around in Boston at rush hour on one of the notorious old carriage roads that seemingly twist without reason. You’re searching for a particular street downtown. The kids in the back seat are singing, as loud as they can, along with The Wiggles, which is blasting through the car speakers.

    I can’t handle it. What would make this better? Silence. My brain can’t process all of this at once. I’ve maxed out my cognitive load.

    Cognitive load is defined as the mental resources used in working memory to perform a task. Most people can store between 5-9 items at any given time, and 2-4 of those can be processed simultaneously. If you don’t use new information within 15 seconds, it gets taken out with the trash.

    How can we increase our working memory? Practice makes perfect. This is why teachers go over practice problems and, at the higher levels, assign homework that allows for practice of the new skills learned in lecture. To have students learn effectively, their working memory (ability to store information) must be greater than the total cognitive load of the task. I’m usually at my peak when driving in Boston.

    Types of cognitive load

    A task can contain many different types of cognitive load. There are three in particular that we as educators should be aware of:

    Intrinsic cognitive load

    Sometimes a task is just hard. Consider calculus vs. arithmetic. Perhaps you’re great with math and this wouldn’t be a heavy lift for you. For others, this task would require a great deal of mental concentration.

    Germane cognitive load

    This refers to the actual processing of information. How will we organize it in our brains? Does this information connect with anything we’ve previously learned? Making connections is part of learning, and strengthens knowledge moving forward.

    Extraneous cognitive load

    This is the part that teachers have the most control over. It is generated by the way the information is presented and has nothing to do with the task. Are you learning calculus in a rock concert or a library? Have you used a PowerPoint slide theme that is distracting or clean?

    Strategies to reduce cognitive load

    Many teachers already use strategies to reduce the total cognitive load of a task. Some of that is out of our hands (intrinsic cognitive load) and others we can revise for the better (extraneous cognitive load).

    Here are some general suggestions:

    • Make connections. The more connections to previously learned material that you make, the less germane cognitive load there is for your students.
    • Use routine. Start and end class in the same way each day, perhaps with a warm-up and a time for questions. This will allow students to forecast that there will be time for questions to be answered.
    • Provide time. Allow students time in class to think about how this new material connects with what was previously taught.
    • Be clear and concise.
    • Pay attention to purpose. What is the goal of this assignment? If a particular question isn’t getting you there, delete it.
    • Don’t forget emotions. Anxiety limits learning, and excess cognitive load creates stress. Allow your students space to focus on the material, not their emotions.

    Classroom materials can also have an effect on cognitive load.

    How many teachers are guilty of using the same handout semester after semester until it looks like this? The media is crooked, there are streaks across the pages, and it is difficult to read.

    Consider moving your media digitally to a platform of your choice so you can clean things up a bit. Cleaning them up is relatively easily done by opening up a PDF in Google Docs. As a caveat, while this works well for the humanities, Google does struggle here in my discipline (chemistry).

    Ensure that your media isn’t distracting. Don’t add pictures frivolously. Be sure that the media that you do add contributes toward getting you to your overall lesson goal.

    Here are some good rules of thumb to keep in mind for classroom presentations and assignments:

    Identify

    What is your primary goal in this assignment or presentation?

    Evaluate

    Consider suggestions for reducing extraneous cognitive load.

    Consider

    • Organization and layout
    • Clarity of goal
    • Breaking down of steps
    • Clarity of expectations for student work
    • Wordiness and vocabulary

    In short, whether you are a teacher or not, you can use the theory of cognitive load to better engage your audience. While you’re creating your next presentation, think about these considerations. Also, if you’re driving in Boston any time soon, be sure to turn down the music.

    Sources
    Cognitive Load Theory and Classroom Strategies.” Landmark School Outreach Program, The Landmark School
    Johnson, Rebecca. “Cognitive Load, Memory, and Instruction.” Innovative Learning Institute, Rochester Institute of Technology.
    Lewis, Petra J. “Brain Friendly Teaching—Reducing Learner’s Cognitive Load.” Brain Friendly Teaching , Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, 12 Jan. 2016,
    Randall Crosby, Jennifer. “Reducing Cognitive Load: Keep It Simple.” Undergrad Main Site, Stanford University , 5 Feb. 2015.
    Shibli, Dominic. “Cognitive Load Theory and Its Application in the Classroom.” chartered.college, 18 June 2018.
    Connie Malamed, “What is Cognitive Load” The eLearning Coach, http://theelearningcoach.com/learning/what-is-cognitive-load/

    read more
  • 5 tips for being a leader in the virtual world

    by Jessica Yarbro

    blog image alt text

    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.

    We recommend:

    • 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.

    read more
  • 5 tips to keep learners motivated and engaged when teaching online

    by Dan Belenky

    blog image alt text

    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!

    read more