Wednesday, April 26, 2017

This is the time of year when we can smell the fear in the air. It is the end of the semester and that means that finals are just around the corner. Our students anxiety levels are raised and some of them begin to panic. But it doesn't have to be this way. Maryellen Weimer posted a letter to students about finals back in December 2016. It is still a great piece and the relevance echoes throughout higher education. I also found it very useful in teaching College Success Skills (CSSK 1023) as we spend a good amount of time on helping students figure out how they learn best. Weimer begins where we also begin in CSSK--start with a plan. Very often students jump into finals prep with no game plan and that is surely a recipe for disaster. One of my favorite parts of the post is this gem: "Believe in yourself. Your brain is plenty big enough to handle any question I might toss at you. You’ve just got to get the information stored in a place where you can retrieve it. Build connections between the new material and what you already know. Short-term memory is like a sponge—once it gets full, it drips. If you truly understand something, it’s much less likely to leak out." I strongly encourage you to share this letter with your students. We have sent it to the student who are participating in study groups and have received some positive feedback from them as well (letting your students know it is peer-endorsed may get them to read it). You might also remind them that the Academic Learning Center provides assistance for all students and the Long Night Against Procrastination is occurring on May 2 from 4:00 until 10:00 pm in the Magnolia Building on the Mid City Campus.

Thursday, April 20, 2017


As our yearly spring break week winds to a close, there is anticipation in the air. It is always a mystery as to just how many of our students will check back in. It is the time of year when we may have seen the last of a student yet we didn't know it. Many of us, with the small taste of sprummer (spring/summer Louisiana style), can empathize with our students who check out at this point of the semester. Why does this happen? Does the break someone trigger feelings of being done or hopelessness or both? It reminded me of a recent article on NPR.org that encouraged us to not schedule early classes because our students learn better later in the day. It also said, "College classes start too early in the morning for students' brains. While most colleges have start times of around 8 a.m., Jonathan Kelley advises NPR Ed that the ideal start time would be more like 10 or 11 a.m. The reason: People fall into different 'chronotypes,'which people know as 'early birds' and 'night owls.' In this sample, night owls outnumbered early birds by far. The reasons for this are biological, says Evans. There has been evidence over time from specific studies indicating that teenagers' body clocks are set at a different time than older folks, she says. Medical research suggests that this goes on well into your 20s, so we decided to look at college students. While there is no ideal start time for everyone, up to 83 percent of students could be at their best performance if colleges allowed them to choose their own ideal starting time for a regular six-hour day, according to Kelley." Food for thought. By the way, we are strongly encouraging our study group student participants to plan some meeting time to discuss how they plan to finish the spring semester strong so please encourage your students to spend some time on this idea as well.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Whenever we enter into conversation about teaching and learning, we inevitable end up talking about how distracted our students have become. We ponder ways to pull them back in, something active learning has proved to be adept at but there is still room for improvement. Reading James M. Lang's latest post, tells me that the faculty at BRCC are joined by colleagues around the world who are facing the same situation. One of the quotes from the post that really stuck with me is, "The arrival and widespread adoption of new technologies has occurred in increasingly intense bursts. In The Distracted Mind, Gazzaley and Rosen point out that, if you assume a benchmark of 50 million worldwide users, radio arrived at that level within 38 years of its invention. The time frame shrinks with each new invention: telephone, 20 years; television, 13 years; cellphones; 12 years; the internet, four years. Social media amped up the curve: Facebook, two years; YouTube, one year. And the winner, at least at the time of their writing the book? "Angry Birds" took over our lives in 35 days." We know our brains grow and adapt. We know that we continue to learn throughout our lives. We know a lot about how technology disruption changes things for us no matter the delivery modality. What we don't know is how to effectively use the technology (usually smart phones or tablets) without causing what education scientists call the "lingering effect." I think we do what we have always done and that is to try different approaches using the new tools. But we must share our results with each other and grow the research resources so that we can improve student success and continue to add tools to our teaching toolkit. What do you think?

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Have you ever had one of your students ask you why they needed to learn something? Many of our students feel like anything they spend time learning should be relevant. Have you ever been stumped when they asked you the question? Rohit Metha found himself in just that sort of situation while teaching a wireless communication class to senior engineering majors. He writes, "Personally, wrapping my head around the concepts of probability took me several years. As a result, it has had a serious effect on my understanding of the world in general, including my position on some crucial political, medical, and spiritual issues. When my student asked me for why it was relevant, I tried to explain why I cared about it and how it connected to wireless communication. I could tell that he did not care about either of my reasons. This bothered me for weeks, perhaps, months. Well, it still kind of does. But, it led me to wonder what could I have done differently? Last year, now working as a researcher in literacies at MSU, I found my answer." Sometimes it is beneficial to look at what we are teaching and consider why we are teaching it. Maybe like Rohit, it will help you enhance your teaching skills. He didn't stop there. He decided to write down his five ways that we can make learning relevant for our students which you can access here. He closes the post with what could be his teaching philosophy saying, "Our goal is to have them on-board with the things that we have learned to value and care about, so they can be good, literate, and emotional citizens who value each other and the world they live in."

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Attending a conference is always a good thing for numerous reasons but one of the best for me is learning about new resources or getting reacquainted with old favorites. While attending the Louisiana Board of Regents annual eLearning conference last week, Dr. Curtis Bonk of Indiana University shared a number of new resources. I spent some time each day this week and last week taking a look at the many ideas he shared with us. I found Flipgrid (which can be embedded in Canvas) to be something I could easily use to encourage more participation in pre-class discussions. Using Vocaroo to give audio feedback to students was also very useful and you can even encourage them to use it for peer critiques. Finally, Polleverywhere came in handy  with the various questions I usually ask during a class session but you are limited to forty free responses. As for getting reacquainted, I spent some time on the Merlot site after being reminded by Dr. Gerry Hanley of all the wonderful (and free) resources there. If you use the Stop-Start-Keep Doing student feedback survey during the semester, you might want to look at FAST (Free Assessment Summary Tool) instead. You know that students like to do things online and the app does a lot of the work for you. Want to teach your students about information literacy? Try the University of Idaho's Merlot contribution. You can spend hours on the Merlot site alone so be careful and set some time limits for yourself. Better yet, share resources you have created that worked best for you.

Friday, April 7, 2017

We have spent the spring 2017 semester pushing the idea of students forming and/or joining study groups. It is a proven student success strategy that is supported by lots of research. If you are looking to finish the semester strong, why not try a team-based learning approach. Not only will it help students who may be struggling to put it all together but it builds on the idea that study groups are useful. Jim Sibly and Pete Ostafichuk have a newly released book on the concept of team-based learning that was reviewed by Deborah Davis. She writes, "this  book  not  only  provides all  of  the  “how-to”  steps  but  also  the  intellectual  reasoning for making a change to TBL, as many faculty were taught to teach via lecture. As a form of problem-based learning, it fits into many different classroom structures and topics by adding a structured, collaborative  element.  This book  is  especially  beneficial  for those who are interested in exploring an active-learning format for the first time because it is structured in such a way that  emphasizes  direct  applicability.  From  an overview  of  the methodology to research to specific examples and tools, the book includes basic information for implementing TBL in virtually any discipline." You can read the full review here. If you are looking for assistance with implementing TBL, please contact the Center for Teaching+Learning Enhancement. If you or your students need help with anything related to study groups, please contact Academic Support Specialist Barbara Linder.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Economist James D. Miller now thinks online education could increase demand for instructors, not destroy their jobs. He posted an op-ed in 2011 sounding the bell that online education would replace instructors with technology. He writes, "In 2011, I thought that much of online education was boring, but I expected content creators to eventually succeed in making their material interesting enough to hold the enthusiastic attention of most students. I further forgot to take into account that teachers have, for literally thousands of years, tried to make their lectures more interesting and yet, as most of us can attest, we have still not succeeded in consistently producing lectures that most students find more enjoyable." One of the benefits we are seeing at BRCC is that faculty teaching eLearning classes are using the tools and technology from their online classes and applying it to their face-to-face courses. Next week, there are two additional professional development opportunities. Join us on Monday at the N. Acadian Instructional Site to learn about some new active learning methods. On Tuesday, the session on overteaching is at the Frazier Instructional Site. You can learn more about both events and register here.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Have you ever considered teaching an online class? The eLearning Program at BRCC offers online and hybrid class delivery as options for our students. One of the next options could be a synchronous course taught live from wherever your internet, camera, headphones, and mic will allow you to broadcast. Is that something that excites or creates anxiety for you? Dr. The stereotype that online instruction is less rigorous, or that students cannot be engaged in it with appropriate rigor, isn’t borne out by my experience. Anyone who’s taught an on-the-ground class has looked out into the classroom and seen boredom or disconnection. By comparison, my online students were choosing when to log on to do their work. They seemed very tuned in when they did. It’s possible I’m just not as skilled at recognizing online students merely going through the motions, but I found them, as a group, exceptionally dedicated, motivated, and talented." If you are interested in becoming certified to teach in the BRCC eLearning Program, contact Susan Nealy. You can continue reading Dr. Looser's post here.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Does it seem like every other conversation about higher education begins with the words retention or persistence? Are there differences between students who attend community college versus a four year institution? Do we have definitive results that can be applied in every situation? We know that one of the many problems posed by the questions surrounding retention and persistence are the myriad of factors that are at play. In the latest addition of The Review of Higher Education (Spring 2017, V40, N3), Deryl K. Hatch and Crystal E. Garcia report on their research about these topics. In "Academic Advising and the Persistence Intentions of Community College Students in their First Weeks in College," the authors point out that there has been very little work that connects the factors that lead to dropping out and the student's initial goal. They acknowledge that academic advising centers and training for faculty advisors are two practices that could contribute to improving retention. The main results they report from the research include: 1) the relationship between engagement and persistence intentions heavily depends on individual goals, 2) different kinds of advising may have different effects for different students, and 3) the role of academic and social support networks matter in the near term and likely in the long term. Continue reading here.

Monday, March 27, 2017

In our most recent discussions at the Mid Day Musings sessions last week, a theme emerged about testing and assessment. It is very clear to us as instructors why we have to assess student learning. What we seem to agree on about this subject was that the testing and assessment process is less clear for our students. Sure they get a grade and are either happy, sad, or neutral. But what happens next can lead to either deeper learning or the promotion of surface learning. When students merely regurgitate facts and figures back to us, the learning process has probably not occurred. You can check this by including questions from the most recent test on the next assessment you give. If they are able to use the knowledge again (in a different context perhaps) then they really learned. If they give you a look that says "we already used that information and I purged it from my brain" then we have a problem. So getting students to understand that the assessment process is as much for them as it is for us is a great teachable moment. Jared Cooney Horvath and Jason M Lodge have posted a series of articles on the assessment process. One of the most interesting to me was their exploration of how and why the mind goes blank during testing. Their post is targeted at students and begins, "You prep for an exam and all the information seems coherent and simple. Then you sit for an exam and suddenly all the information you learned is gone. You struggle to pull something up – anything – but the harder you fight, the further away the information feels. The dreaded mind blank." Continue reading here.