Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Can you remember what it was like to be a student? Rod Starling went back to school and then wrote about his experience. He writes, "Most teachers start courses pretty much the same way—introduce the content, go over the course requirements, talk about grades, and spell out various policies. Starling was surprised by how confusing, indeed disorienting, he found this. Every course had its own set of details and requirements that students are supposed to immediately understand and follow. He and his fellow classmates (they all took the same four courses) quickly moved from learning to survival mode." Continue reading here.

Most educators acknowledge that literacy is important, but often the focus is on reading because for a long time that is what achievement tests measured. In the last few years there has been more focus on writing in classrooms and on tests, but many students still have difficulty expressing their ideas on paper. Often students struggle to begin writing, so some teachers have shifted assignments to allow students to write about something they care about, or to provide an authentic audience for written work. While these strategies are important parts of making learning relevant to students, they may not be enough on their own to improve the quality of writing. Practice is important, but how can teachers ensure students are practicing good habits? Continue reading here.

David Gooblar has posted an interesting essay. He writes, "I'll be the first to admit that I haven't been teaching at my best this semester. Oh, there have been some good classes. And I think I'm finally getting a handle on the one group of students who don't want to speak up in class. But in general it feels like I'm going through the motions a little bit, not fully reaching as many students as I have in the past, talking too much from the front of the room. I have a theory as to why this is happening." Continue reading here.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

What is the relationship between instruction and student outcomes? We know that for students to persist, complete, and achieve success in college, the learning environment matters. Students need to feel integrated into academic and social culture, but integration is not enough. They must be engaged. The more engaged students are in learning environments, the more likely they are to complete, learn, and be satisfied. Further, student beliefs about their academic ability influence their success in education, and faculty interactions sit at the intersection of reinforcing or debunking student beliefs. Yet, the evidence-based practices that we know impact student outcomes and instruction, while widely documented as effective, are not widely used in practice. Read the full report here.

Courses that educators can adapt any time based on student learning data. Hackers empowered by artificial intelligence. Augmented reality used in conjunction with campus maps. All of these technologies are on the horizon in 2017. This past year, higher education saw a boost in the use of technologies like predictive analytics, cloud, and augmented and virtual reality — and research indicates that these trends will only continue to rise. About 41 percent of higher ed IT leaders said their organizations will increase spending on tech in 2017, reports University Business in their trends and predictions report, “Outlook 2017.” You can view some of the analytics that can be used in your courses by attending the professional development session Using Analytics to Respond to Student Needs on Thursday, February 16 at 3:00 pm in the Center for Teaching+Learning Enhancement. Register now.

Many of us are using rubrics in our courses to not only help us offer transparency in our assessment but to really guide a student to success. Now you can create rubrics outside of Canvas and import them into your courses. Here is a brief video explaining how to do it.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Here is how Dr. Rob Jenkins starts his classes each semester. "These days, the term “critical thinking” has been overused to the point where it has almost ceased to mean anything in particular. It has become more of a popular educational catchphrase, so that even the people who use it often don’t know exactly what they mean by it. None of that means, however, that critical thinking is not a real thing. It is — and it’s vital for you to understand what critical thinking is and how to do it. The extent of your success in college — not to mention life — ultimately depends on it." Continue reading here.

Are you looking for ways to improve your classroom discussions. Dr. Jennifer Gonzalez has recorded a podcast and written a post about just that. She writes, "I’ve separated the strategies into three groups. The first batch contains the higher-prep strategies, formats that require teachers to do some planning or gathering of materials ahead of time. Next come the low-prep strategies, which can be used on the fly when you have a few extra minutes or just want your students to get more active. Note that these are not strict categories; it’s certainly possible to simplify or add more meat to any of these structures and still make them work. The last group is the ongoing strategies. These are smaller techniques that can be integrated with other instructional strategies and don’t really stand alone."

Read how Michigan State developed their Learning Design Strategy. Dr. Danielle DeVoss writes, "A Learning Design Strategy is crucial at this particular scholarly, public, technological, and cultural moment. We can’t rest on our digital laurels, congratulating ourselves for hosting phenomenal MOOCs; patting ourselves on the back for being a home for innovative minors and learner opportunities; or thinking we’ve done what we need to do to create an ecosystem of sustainable, robust digital learning. What we need to do now–as a university and as a community devoted to learning and learners, at all phases of their personal and professional lives–is strive to articulate the long-standing values we hold dear as an institution and make sure those align with the ways in which we engage learning on a daily basis."

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Many of us are attempting to add more writing assignments in our non-composition courses. With that comes some anxiety about the time it may take for us to properly assess the work. Zeina Hojeij and Zoe Hurley suggest you use the triple flip approach. Their paper discusses "how mobile learning and the use of a range of apps can foster peer and self-editing, aid noticing, and enhance ownership of the writing process. It is argued that flipping corrective feedback helps students to notice their errors and spend more time developing their writing."

If you have ever thought about including a project in your courses that would be best served using an eportfolio, you might want to take a look at this article. The faculty give a very detailed account of what they did and how they used various social media (like Facebook, Twitter, and blogs) to help their students complete the project. The closing remarks in the article note, "We are sharing our success story, so others might be inspired and structure similar interdisciplinary, immersive, inquire-based learning environments that bridge the classroom with life outside of it and in the process transform not only their student learning, but also the students."

Rich Lewine and Alison A. Sommers have an interesting article aimed at having students reflect on their learning more. They note, "Although the ability to evaluate one’s own knowledge and performance is critical to learning, the correlation between students’ self-evaluation and actual performance measures is modest at best. In this study we examine the effect of offering extra credit for students’ accurate prediction (self-accuracy) of their performance on four exams in two semester-long classes on Personality. Inaccurately inflated confidence was related to poorer academic performance. A small minority of students improved in accuracy and exam performance over the each of the courses, offering a potentially useful source of comparison for addressing unrealistic optimism. We discuss the findings as reflecting the powerful influence of protecting self-esteem and suggest the need for realistic self-appraisal as a factor in academic success."

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Instructors who regularly use stress-reducing strategies increase their abilities to cope with the demands of the career and are positioned to do a better job educating students, according to results from a program administered by the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education. Want to learn more? Register for the upcoming professional development session sponsored by the Center for Teaching+Learning Enhancement. You can view other professional development opportunities here.

It’s helpful to know that the brain is plastic and can adapt to challenges. And when it comes to learning new things, we can build up mental resources through intentional effort. People can get better at realizing self-regulation, executive functions, a sense of perspective or meaning, positive emotions like gratitude, a sense of strength and the feeling of being cared about. “Any kind of mental activity, including experiences, entails underlying neural activity,” said Rick Hanson, a psychologist and senior fellow at the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, at a Learning & the Brain conference. He has developed practices to help people build up their mental capacity for happiness by creating patterns of neural activity that with time and repetition become neural pathways. Read the entire article here.

“Wow. I always thought my online instructors were computers.” An online student shared this comment with his instructor after receiving an email from her that included feedback on an assignment. This story, shared with me by the student’s instructor several years ago, resonates with me on an emotional level each time I reference it. It motivates me to ensure online instructors understand how vital their authentic, human presence is to their students, and it conveys how deeply meaningful online classes can be when they are facilitated and designed with a focus on the student experience. To continue reading 's post click here.

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.