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Engaging Students with Active Learning

There are now more ways to get students active and interested in classes.

Professor Perry Samson from the University of Michigan experienced a significant increase of the amount of students in his class after he simply added the word “extreme” to the class name. Now that he had to deal with about 200 students from just 40, he decided to come up with a way to effectively teach his lectures to all of them.

Professor Samson is an entrepreneur as well and is the cofounder of a popular weather site and an active learning platform known as LectureTools. His purpose for LectureTools was to get students participating in class through their technological devices in class. This software allowed real-time feedback from the students and was able to capture notes that students were taking, how they answered questions and questions that they asked.


Co-founders of LectureTools (from left to right): Kiran Jagadeesh, Jason Aubree and Perry Samson.
Credit: AnnArbor.com

According to a report from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, students enrolled in STEM courses that used active learning techniques had exam scores that were 6 percent higher than the students who did not have active learning. In fact, it was shown that students who did not have active learning were “1.5 more likely to fail course exams”.

Samson concluded that a strong relationship exists between the students’ active learning participation and their outcomes. He says that, although the typical Learning Management System provides grading, assignments and collaboration potential, it does not provide tools that students can use to participate and be active during class time.

Ever since Samson introduced his software into his classes, 68% of his students asked questions in class; there was more of an even distribution among women and men and non-English and English speakers asking questions.

Source: http://campustechnology.com/articles/2015/04/15/engaging-students-with-active-learning.aspx?admgarea=News

Simplicity for International Teaching

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Comprehending a new language can be difficult, but luckily there is a tool that can help anyone pick it up.

The University of Washington Bothell has been building a large and diverse campus over the years and provides hundreds of types of courses to its students. English language classes are even offered to international students as well. But how are these classes being taught? Is there a more effective way?

The answer is yes! And the Voki app is the right tool to use for these situations. Voki allows the teachers and students to make avatars that can be used to help them with their education. Students are able to design their own Avatars to speak the language they are currently trying to learn. A set of instructions can also be provided to help students understand the meaning of the words and guidance on how they are pronounced. That is only the beginning of what Voki is capable of.

Voki is a great program and has multiple purposes, speaking another language is just one of them. The best thing about Voki is that it is great to use in front of a large class, when one on one with a student, or even by one’s self when alone studying. It is definitely a strong tool and can be used to help students everywhere comprehend things in a different and technical way.

To find out more about what Voki can do and how it can be used, click the link at the top of the page and find out something new and amazing you could have missed.

Differences Between Blogs and Journal Entries

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In an article on The Chronicle for Higher Education, Casey Fabris takes a look at a study done on the differences between public blogs and private journal entries.

With the current hype about blogging, Drew foster, a doctoral candidate in sociology, decided to try them in his introduction to sociology course. He immediately noticed a higher quality of work than what he had seen when students submitted private journals. He then decided to see what differences there might be between the two formats.

Initially he had expected to find that blogs resulted in more thoughtful reflections, which didn’t seem to be the case. After looking through a large collection of journal and blog entries from the University of Michigan, he discovered that one format wasn’t necessarily better than another, they were just different.

It seemed that when students were writing for a public blog, where fellow students could see and comment, they took more intellectual risks, crafting complex arguments on controversial discussions. While students who where tasked with writing a private journal took more personal risks sharing their own personal experiences.

As an example, Mr. Foster mentions that a student discussing the American dream may use her own family’s socioeconomic status or financial struggles; however, she might hesitate the share something so personal on a public blog.

Ultimately, it comes down to instructors needing to decide what is best for their courses. Mr. Foster goes on to say, “It’s to our benefit as teachers and instructors to try and maximize the type of reflection and the quality of reflection that students are engaging in.”

One Reason to Offer Free Online Courses: Alumni Engagement

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Photo Credit to Texas A&M University-Commerce Marketing Communications Photography

It is assumed that once you graduate from college you will no longer need to spend time in the classroom. A diploma from a university is a pinnacle moment of your educational career and once that has been obtained there is no use in spending any more time in a classroom. This idea is incorrect.

Casey Fabris examines the benefits of offering free online courses to college alumni in his article on The Chronicle of Higher Education website. This article examines the experiment conducted by Colgate University over the past few years in which they invited back alumni from the school to participate in MOOCs (massive open online courses). The courses offered ranged in subjects from “The Advent of the Atomic Bomb” to “Living Writers”. In a course offered last spring pertaining to atomic bombs they even invited veterans to participate in class discussions online to give the students a better perspective on their experiences with the war, since many of them weren’t even born at that time.

By offering free online courses to alumni from the school they are able to keep them connected with the community of both former and current students. During the first enrollment period Colgate University was able to enroll 380 alumni, when their original goal was only 238. The numbers grew to a whopping 800 online participants as the courses continued. The alumni participating in these courses were asked to share their feedback on the university’s experiment with online learning, and officials behind it considered it a success.

Other universities are now trying to engage their alumni using free online courses, offering former students a way to learn throughout their lives after university. The courses offer ways for alumni to engage each other if they wish and increase their knowledge even after their education has ended.

For more information on this topic visit the article above.

Preventing Plagiarism in Online Learning

Now more than ever, it is important to promote and enforce academic integrity. Online learning has opened doors for many and has changed the way people think about education. Although it has also raised the possibility of plagiarism and academic dishonesty, this should not be a deterrent from online teaching or learning. The Western Association of Schools and Colleges has put together a guide called Best Practice Strategies to Promote Academic Integrity in Online Education, which contains tips for institutions, professors and students on how to promote academic integrity in an online learning environment. These tips are categorized under Institutional Context and Commitment, Curriculum and Instruction, Faculty Support, Student Support, and Assessment and Instruction.

Here are some especially helpful tips that we have highlighted from the document:

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