Wednesday, January 18, 2017

As the amount of students taking an eLearning course at BRCC continues to grow, our focus on student success in courses offered online also grows. Scott James, Karen Swan and Cassandra Daston conducted some interesting research in the area of student success in face-to-face (f2f) and online classes. What they found was there really is no difference. Just as students experience success barriers in f2f classes, the same can happen in online classes. One of the more interesting findings is that older students typically have higher retention rates than younger students in the online environment. They conclude the article with the validation that online courses offer the best access to the widest number of students. You can read the entire article here.

By now we are used to hearing about issues related to student success and persistence. We also know that it is rarely one issue that causes a student to fail. Elizabeth J. Krumrei, Fred B. Newton, Eunhee Kim, and Dan Wilcox took a look at the various factors that can assist student success. Their findings are useful because they specifically sought to identify real solutions that could be implemented to help students succeed. They write, "An initial strategy is to help students increase opportunities for successful performance. Professionals can aid students in selecting courses in which success is probable. Second, finding role models in the domain where the student lacks efficacy is a helpful strategy for increasing self-efficacy. Students can be encouraged to observe peers who are performing successfully (this is where our Spring 2017 Student Success Initiative: Study Groups can play a big part). You can find more solutions in the full article here.

I find it fascinating to look at lists and I can say with confidence that most of us do. If not, why would so many of the websites we browse provide lists of things like most viewed article, top story of the day, or other articles you might be interested in? The most read article from the Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory & Practice is "Are College Faculty and First-Generation, Low-Income Students Ready for Each Other?" Now I think we can all understand why it would be popular. Doesn't the title just draw you in wanting for more? So I did take a look at the article and found it to be useful. Three major findings that emerged from the study are: (a) faculty beliefs about student readiness impact the degree to which faculty serve as cultural agents for First-Generation Low-Income (FGLI) students, (b) faculty who serve as cultural agents enact particular practices and dispositions that enable students to become more academically prepared, and (c) FGLI students arrive at college with diverse forms of readiness that require varying forms of nurturing and support. Read the entire article here.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Happy New Year to all of the BRCC family. This morning we unveiled the Student Success Initiative for the spring 2017 semester. The idea was developed by a Faculty Learning Community that included Dr. Amy Atchley, Alexandra Cavazos, Pearce Cinman, Dr. Sandra Guzman, Steven Keeton, Richard Long, Mollye Russell, and Kathleen Schexnayder. Faculty attending this morning's session also heard from current BRCC students Jennifer Burgess (who also serves as the SGA President and on the LCTCS Board of Supervisors), Taylor Cranford, and Matthew Joslyn. Both faculty and students pointed out numerous reasons that study groups improve student success. As I mentioned at the session, the support material to be shared with your students is now posted on the Teaching and Learning Faculty Development Canvas site under the Study Group Module (including the syllabus blurb). Should you have any questions, please contact me or one of the FLC members.

Looking for an opening day activity to start the semester off in a positive direction? Here is something I have used in the past that not only allowed my students to think more deeply about how they learn but also gave me a real-time snapshot of who they are as learners. Ask students to divide a sheet of paper in half. Then tell them to list the best class they had on the left side and the worst class they had on the right. Suggest that they describe why each class was good and bad. Ask them to list the things the instructor did in each class (while reminding them that names of courses and instructors are not important for this exercise). If they slow down while answering, feel free to add some of your own thoughts to the lists. You should have a pretty clear portrait of both classes in about 10 minutes. At that point, tell your students that you want this class to be the best class they have ever had. Point to the items they shared from the best side and let them know that you will be using some of the same approaches. Finish by telling them that the best class experience requires that they be totally engaged as well. You can also use the information you gather to enhance your class throughout the semester.

Have you ever used a syllabus quiz to begin your semester? If not, I would strongly encourage you to do so. It is very easy to develop a quiz using Canvas. In that way, once the student completes the quiz, they receive their score immediately. In addition I would encourage you to allow the students to take the quiz until they receive all of the available points. This is a great indicator of what kind of persistence each of your students is bringing to the class. Students who don't earn all of the points are already indicating that they may have some persistence issues and that should be a red flag for you. It is easy to take the next step and talk with those students reminding them of the academic support provided in the Academic Learning Center. The syllabus quiz is also a great indicator for students that this document is very important and should be consulted throughout the semester and not just during the first class.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Julie DuNeen has written an interesting piece about the habits of successful teachers. She writes, "If you ask a student what makes him or her successful in school, you probably won’t hear about some fantastic new book or video lecture series. Most likely you will hear something like, it was all Mr. Jones. He just never gave up on me. What students take away from a successful education usually centers on a personal connection with a teacher who instilled passion and inspiration for their subject. It’s difficult to measure success, and in the world of academia, educators are continually re-evaluating how to quantify learning. But the first and most important question to ask is: Are teachers reaching their students? Here are 25 things successful educators do differently.

At the height of the buzz around MOOCs and flipped classrooms three years ago, Bridget Ford worried that administrators might try to replace her introductory history course with a batch of videos. She agreed that something should change: Drop-outs and failures were high in the 200-person class—at about 13 percent. But the assistant professor of history at California State University at East Bay wanted something less drastic than giving up on live lectures entirely. Looking through a collection of teaching portfolios by her colleagues helped reassure her that she could redesign her course while preserving what worked about the classroom experience. Plenty of colleagues on other campuses were wrestling with the same question, she saw in the portfolios, and they were finding ways that tried new approaches without throwing out the old completely—call it turning the class on its side rather than making a full flip. For her, that meant reducing the amount of lecture time and spending part of class sessions on team-based projects. “It was helpful to me to see that my field wasn’t an outlier in arriving at a middle ground,” she says. Continue reading here.

As we approach the final exam period, reminding your students about good study habits that lead to success is important. Many students are still under the impression that cramming or "pulling an all-nighter" is the way to learn. Here is an article that focuses on how rest can actually make you perform better on assessments. It begins, "Sleep is critical for mind and body health. Without it, the effects can be severe. But what if you suffer from insomnia? Neuroscientist Claudia Aguirre provides seven healthy tips for a better night’s sleep."

Monday, November 21, 2016

Many students struggle with early college courses—whether developmental courses preparing them for college-level math and English or introductory courses in subjects like biology, psychology and business. Colleges and universities concerned with high failure rates in these courses are exploring how new learning technologies, like courseware that delivers and personalizes instructional content, can help faculty adapt the learning experience to the needs of individual students. So what do we know about these learning technologies? Find out here.

There is a lot of talk these days about student debt and the challenges that families face managing this burden. Rightfully so, particularly at a time when too many families are struggling with flat wages and rising costs. But the discussion of a debt crisis often fails to address what I would argue is the greater crisis: the fact that more than half of those who start college fail to finish. Think about it: Tens of millions of people in the US are saddled with student debt and have no degree to help pay it off. They won’t get the substantial return on their investment—graduates with a bachelor’s degree earn about $1 million more in additional income over their lifetime than those with only a high school diploma—and they typically have not developed the adaptive learning skills that will help them prosper in a rapidly changing economy. See what Michael Crow, President of Arizona State says next here.

Did you know that students are more likely to view your content pages if it includes a video? Take a look at this.

“It’s estimated most human beings only use 10% of their brains’ capacity,” said Morgan Freeman–playing a well-known neurologist in the film Lucy. See what follows here.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Canvas, our open online learning management system, recently announced the immediate availability of a new annotation feature in its mobile application. This new functionality allows students to open, annotate, and submit an assignment directly within Canvas. Historically this has been accomplished through a third-party app, which can create an additional expense for our students. Providing one platform where all of these capabilities reside eliminates the need for students to buy additional software and reduces the need for paper, both cost saving actions. The mobile annotation feature allows instructors to spend less time demonstrating procedures for moving and transitioning digital assignments and more time teaching. Digitizing assignments inside Canvas also allows instructors to grade assignments using the Canvas SpeedGrader. Read more here.

Learning is about personal relationships. Deep learning doesn’t happen through reading or rote memorization online any more than in the physical world. It is the experiences and meaningful conversations (or maybe human interactions) within a course that enable students to critically reflect, and deepen their learning. All too often, online students feel isolated, which can decrease motivation and increase attrition. When learning occurs entirely through computer-mediated instruction, professors often overlook simple steps like asking participants to introduce themselves. Details like asking your students to create a video introduction to a class can have a powerful impact. Video-based introductions can help develop a community of learners more quickly than simply posting text on a discussion board. Students who are in courses with introductory videos have been shown to actively participate in online discussions very early in the course. And research shows that learners who are more engaged and have higher levels of interaction, have higher success rates. Read more here.

The classroom is a non-stop hub of feedback: test grades, assignment scores, paper comments, peer review, individual conferences, nonverbal cues, and more. Feedback is essential for student learning. Still, students’ ability to process and use feedback varies widely. We have some students who eagerly accept feedback or carefully apply rough draft comments, while many others dread or dismiss their professors’ notes or reject exam grades as “unfair.” Although feedback is integral to our classrooms and work spaces, we often forget to teach students how to manage it. Two Harvard law professors, Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen, argue that identifying different kinds of feedback is a good place to start. Continue reading here.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Since we are about to open registration for the Spring 2017 semester, I thought you might like related to that topic. June Y. Chu has an interesting take on student majors. "As an adviser to college-age students, it could be easy for me to say major in what you love and be done. Research shows that employers often recruit for transferable skills, and there is no direct correlation between one’s major and career. In fact, Forbes magazine has presented research findings indicating that only 27 percent of college graduates are working in a job that relates to their major. Google the phrase “Does your major matter?” and you will find that most articles out there succinctly state, “Nope, doesn’t matter.” Yet, sometimes, it does. To be better advisers, we need to consider the cultural baggage a student brings to a conversation when discussing their major."

If you were not able to attend the classroom management faculty development session yesterday, we missed you. The good news is there are more sessions planned, so I encourage you to take a look at the events calendar. One of the topics we discussed was the use of humor in the classroom. Mary Bart offers her take on this teaching technique in a new post. She writes, "I am still pretty regularly criticized for my use of humor—I have been known to use too much. The long-standing objection is that education is serious business. It’s no laughing matter. Our goal is education; not entertainment. Writing about the history of humor in the classroom, Debra Korobkin notes that before the 20th century, “collectively, teachers perceived instructing with a sense of humor as unprofessional, uncontrolled, and undignified.” (p. 154) Use humor and don’t expect to be taken as a serious professional. Some of that thinking still lingers today." Continue reading here.

Scientists can now map what happens neurologically when new information influences a person to change his or her mind, a finding that offers more insight into the mechanics of learning according to a recent research paper. "At a fundamental level, it is difficult to measure what someone knows," said co-author and psychology associate professor Alison Preston. "In our new paper, we employ brain decoding techniques that allow us deeper insight into the knowledge people have available to make decisions. We were able to measure when a person's knowledge changes to reflect new goals or opinions." The process, researchers said, involves two components of the brain working together to update and "bias" conceptual knowledge with new information to form new ideas. Continue reading here.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Karin Fischer says if you want to find a model that works for low-income students, look no further than the armed services in the U.S. Was Daniel M. Piston college material? A decade ago, as a high-school student in Syracuse, N.Y., Mr. Piston didn’t think so. He lacked focus. His grades were so-so. And it wasn’t like he was surrounded by college graduates; of his family, only his mother had earned an associate degree. "The truth is," Mr. Piston says, "I didn’t think I was smart enough for college." After finishing high school, he signed up for an automotive-technology program at nearby Onondaga Community College — a similar course his senior year was the first thing he had been any good at, he says — but, still unmoored, he dropped out after two semesters. He found himself on the doorstep of the local Navy recruiter. The Navy promised excitement, and it offered something else: a life path. Continue reading here.

It all began with a simple message that I wrote on the tests or assignments of students who were struggling: “Please see me so we can discuss your performance on the test (or assignment). Let’s see what we can do to improve your grade.” Although initially I was not collecting data on the effectiveness of my “invitation,” I soon realized that most of students—about 80 percent—responded to it. Notably, those who met with me began to do better on future tests; their assignments improved as well. When students did not respond to my invitation, after about a week I reached out to them with a simple email. Some responded, some did not. Over time it became difficult to ignore the benefits of having those meetings with students who were struggling. I think the most important message of these meetings was to convey to them that they were not simply a name in my gradebook but that I really cared about their learning and their success. Continue reading here.

As we continue to broaden the innovative learning opportunities, it is always important to remember that student success is as important as providing scheduling options for our students. Rob Kelly has written an interesting article on this topic. He says, "Offering different kinds of courses is not a simple matter of taking the content and dividing it in ways to fill an unusual time slot. Imagine converting a lecture-based course that normally meets three times a week to a block format that consists of a single four-hour session. The instructor might be a great lecturer, but it’s unlikely that he or she could engage students for hours at a time. “There is a world of difference, or there should be a world of difference, between teaching a class that meets three times a week for fifty minutes, teaching that same class that meets once a week from eight until noon, teaching that class in an accelerated format that meets three or four days a week, or teaching it online,” Glenn says. “As we get better at offering these different formats, hopefully we get better at delivering the instruction in these formats.” Continuing reading here.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Here is an interesting article about the battle for attention that our reading assignments face. Stop what you’re doing. Well, keep reading. Just stop everything else that you’re doing. Mute your music. Turn off your television. Put down your sandwich and ignore that text message. While you’re at it, put your phone away entirely. (Unless you’re reading this on your phone. In which case, don’t. But the other rules still apply.) Just read. You are now monotasking. Maybe this doesn’t feel like a big deal. Doing one thing at a time isn’t a new idea. Indeed, multitasking, that bulwark of anemic résumés everywhere, has come under fire in recent years. A 2014 study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology found that interruptions as brief as two to three seconds — which is to say, less than the amount of time it would take you to toggle from this article to your email and back again — were enough to double the number of errors participants made in an assigned task.

Here is an interesting story about faculty-led solutions to student learning issues. "The long search for an answer to one of higher education’s most pressing questions led here, to the basement of a bistro outside Hartford. What do students really learn in college? To find answers, about 20 faculty members from Central Connecticut State University came to spend the waning days of summer break analyzing hundreds of samples of students’ work. Carl R. Lovitt, their provost, gave them a pep talk over bagels and coffee: "You are engaged in work of meaningful national significance." Academe has been pilloried for decades, he said, for its lack of accountability. This project could remedy that. It’s the kind of acronym-heavy, jargon-laced endeavor that’s easily overlooked. But by measuring students’ intellectual skills, it might turn out to provide telling insight into one of higher education’s central functions." Keep reading

There are a number of faculty development events coming up. The first is this Wednesday at 4:00 pm. Turnitin is offering a free webinar on how to use the Quickmarks feature to give students really useful feedback. Register here. On Tuesday, October 25 at 3:00 pm, the Teaching+Learning Center's Canvas Series continues with a session on the use of Gradebook. Register now. In response to your request, the Teaching+Learning Center will host a session on classroom management on November 3 at 3:00 pm. You can register now for that session. For those of you looking to build and keep an engaging classroom experience, the Teaching+Learning Center will host a session on November 29 at 3:00 pm. You can reserve your spot now. If you are looking for a specific faculty development topic, please let me know. If you would like to have a private consultation, please send me an email request at

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Faculty Learning Communities have proven to be a great way to deliver professional development at BRCC but the residual effect is even more impactful as colleagues share ideas discovered during the FLC sessions with office-mates and others. We are now planning for the next round of FLCs for the fall 2016 semester. If you have not yet participated in the survey to determine the best time and days to meet, I encourage you do it now. Besides being a great way to explore new pedagogy, you will inevitably make a connection with a colleague from another division that will quickly turn into a new friendship. Building community is just a lucky byproduct of FLCs. Look for more information about FLCs next week.

Dr. Lori Desautels writes, "When presented with new material, standards, and complicated topics, we need to be focused and calm as we approach our assignments. We can use brain breaks and focused-attention practices to positively impact our emotional states and learning. A brain break is a short period of time when we change up the dull routine of incoming information that arrives via predictable, tedious, well-worn roadways. A focused-attention practice is a brain exercise for quieting the thousands of thoughts that distract and frustrate us each day." Here are some strategies you can use in your classes now.

Rick Sheridan has a great article suggesting ways we can improve student attendance. He writes, "The general consensus among most faculty members is that regular class attendance helps students learn and retain the course content more effectively. According to Park & Kerr (1990), research demonstrates that the lack of attendance was statistically significant in explaining why a student received a poor grade." To see his suggestions, click here.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

We have shared research here in the past about how the brain learns. Rachel Barry explains that she spent her summer reading John Medina's Brain Rules. She writes, "This book helped me to understand how our brain works and how our societal norms tend to go against the natural inclinations of the human brain. I also never realized how much I was creating my own frustrations: in work, school, and life. This book both confirmed and contradicted some of my beliefs and practices, providing years of research and clear examples to back their opinions." Click here to learn more about her thoughts on the book.

It is about that time in the semester when some of our students discover that missing class is very detrimental to their grades and success. They often ask to meet and talk about how they can catch up. My answer is always the same. Get organized. I then help them do just that by showing them how to create a schedule on their cellphone or in their planner. I encourage them to spend some time writing down everything that they do during the week. I do this to help them discover free time that can then be used for studying. I also do this to illustrate that they are usually overestimating the time they thing they are spending preparing for classes. That is another thing. We need to remind them from time to time that the reading we require is actually a big part of their learning process and that class time should really be more about questions for clarification. Earlier this week I sent you a student success tip that I called the Weight Watcher approach to time management. I encourage you to take another look at that especially when your students come in and complain that they don't have enough time to be successful. Everything is a teachable moment.

Dale Schlundt asks us to "consider the lessons we learn without being fully aware they are taking place. Take something simple, such as walking into a new building for the first time. With everyone and everything you observe, your mind is giving you feedback based on a multitude of judgments. These impressions, while sometimes incorrect, come to us with little effort. Yet they could loosely be considered teaching and learning without calling it either. I have found this to be a fruitful concept from a pedagogical standpoint. How many of us actively question this point to ourselves, “What am I teaching students, and what are they learning?” To continue reading his post, click here.