I was reading an interesting article the other day regarding 1st generation college students and their access to and understanding of technology. And it prompted me to think, that while most of my academic research deals with 1st generation students I have never taken the online student into consideration. So I decided to delve into this area for my 1st blog. According to a 2010 NCES survey almost 50% of students enrolled in higher education are considered to be 1st generation students; and as more and more of these students are enrolling into online as well as on ground programs it is imperative that colleges and universities address their unique circumstances (Hirudayaraj, 2011, p.2). Even though more 1st generation students are moving on to post-secondary education, they are still persisting at a lower rate than their multi-generation peers. In the article, Supporting First Generation Online Students it was indicated that;
Adding the “distance” component to the challenges faced by first generation learners decreases their potential to succeed in an online class or program. These students face additional challenges including access to reliable internet service, skills to utilize online support services and/or software, and social/psychological skills to navigate the higher education system (Garcia, 2007).
This is further noted by a report by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board that indicates that the statewide drop rate for 1st generation online learners is 25% while it is 18% for their on-ground peers. There are measures that colleges and universities can provide to increase the efficacy with which they retain at-risk online students, such as ensuring that their resources and staff are available online, and a vast majority do so (Garcia, 2007). But one of the forgotten challenges that face 1st generation students, is their inability to navigate the system (Garcia, 2007; Walpole, 2007). These students lack the requisite cultural capital that is necessary to navigate higher education (Oldfield, 2007). In essence these students need to learn how to learn and prosper in this environment.
The importance of this is that students, whether they are 1st generation or multi-generational college students can succeed and persist in the online environment. Tinto has indicated that if a student can make a connection with at least one individual on campus they are more likely to persist, and as an online student interacts in a virtual way with the campus this becomes even more imperative. The instructor of an online course becomes not only a mentor but a guide to higher education and technology for the student. I have had the experience of working with students who have never turned a computer on, had them in their school, or had internet experience; these were traditional college students. To conclude, as we live in a digital age it is easy to assume everyone is literate and fully capable in this realm and we can lose track of a large percentage of students. It is imperative that higher education institutions use all the resources at their disposal, whether it is data, support services, or faculty and staff to intervene and promote success for all students.
Anthony Rivas | Assessment and Analytics Group | Pearson eCollege
Garcia, M. (2007). Supporting first generation online students. Retrieved from http://www.onlinestudentsupport.org/Monograph/firstgen.php
Hirudayaraj, M. (2011). First-generation students in higher education: Issues of employability in a knowledge based economy. Online Journal for Workforce Education and Development 5,(3). Retrieved from http://opensiuc.lib.siu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1098&context=ojwed
Oldfield, K. (2007). Humble and hopeful: Welcoming first generation poor and working class students to college. About Campus, 11(6), 2-12.
Tinto , V. (2004, July). Student retention and graduation: Facing the truth, living with the consequences. The Pell Institute; Occasional paper, Retrieved from http://www.pellinstitute.org/tinto/TintoOccasionalPaperRetention.pdf.
Walpole, M. B. (2007). Economically and educationally challenged students in higher education: Access to outcomes. ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report, 33(3), 1-113. doi:10.1002/aehe.3303
So I decided to write this post as a comic.
Interested in trying this out for yourself? This comic strip was created using Comic Life (the free trial version, although it is less than $30 to purchase!).
Check out this website as an amazing first (and possibly only) place you need to visit: Comics in the Classroom: 100 Tips, Tools, and Resources for Teachers.
And as more food for thought, here are two blog posts in the Chronicle of Higher Education about using comics in the classroom: Comics in the classroom and beyond, and Using a graphic illustrator in higher education: Comic Life.
– Gail E. Krovitz, Ph.D. –
Director of Academic Training & Consulting
I've just gotten back from a whirlwind tour of the world again. In the past 4 months I've been in 3 countries and presented at 9 conferences, in addition to dozens of other consulting opportunities. During that time I have met with no less than 350 educators, mostly professors or department heads and I have begun asking them a few important questions that stem from something Dr. John Medina challenged me with when he spoke at our CiTE conference last April.
Dr. Medina, a brilliant cognitive scientist who has done nothing but study how the brain works for his entire career (I hope you've already read "Brain Rules" by now...), challenged us in several ways during the conference. My personal favorite quote? "As I was writing Brain Rules, it hit me [that] if you wanted to design a learning environment that was directly opposed to what the brain is naturally good at doing, you would design something like a classroom."
However, there is another piece of information that I haven't been able to shake after reading it and then, after he said it to me personally before he went on stage... He explained, "I consistently read articles by educators who explain how the brain works in terms of learning, cognition, memory, focus, etc. And every time I wonder how I possibly missed the research that proves it! Then, after some digging, I realize that I missed nothing. You see, cognitive scientists and educators never talk. We don't have conferences together, we don't share journals, and we don't typically exist in the same buildings on campus. So, what they observe behaviorally and we observe through experimentation never meet." (This is a pretty close quote - I wrote it down immediately after he said it, although it may not be 100% accurate.)
Does this bother anyone else? I have to admit, I have read DOZENS of articles by education psychologists, seasoned veterans of the classroom, and even those from trusted educational think-tanks without really questioning the validity or science behind them. So, as I have gone around the world talking with educators lately, I have simply asked them two questions:
- Do you read information about how the brain processes information, how the brain remembers, how the brain works, etc., in regard to learning?
- Does your school give you any kind of professional development around how people learn so as to enhance your teaching?
I'm sure you already see where I'm going...
With only a single exception, the answer has been "no" every time. Typically, I hear that people are too busy keeping up with "their field" to worry about student learning. However second place has to be that while everyone wants professional development, there are too few places giving it and nobody has the funds to pay for it.
So, for the past several months I have spent some time seeking out brain research. No, I haven't gotten a subscription to Brain Science Quarterly. But I have sought out some articles and interviews with some of the worlds leading thinkers and researchers with regard to how the brain works. (It's also helped that I had 28 hours of on-demand documentaries while going to Australia. Thank you United airlines...)
To that end, I wish to give you a few resources. Why a few? If you watch "Brain Games - Pay Attention" you will know exactly why. This fantastic introduction to attention and the brain was created by National Geographic video. It's only 1 hour long, but when you view "the brain" through a filter of the STUDENT brain, it becomes an even more fascinating study regarding how we teach.
What is great about the video is that they quote outstanding research scientists like Dan Simon and Daniel T. Levin who wrote, "Change Blindness." This is a great article about just how little we can truly focus on and again, has some powerful implications for students of any age.
Then, I stumbled onto a BBC 5 show called, "Make Your Child Brilliant." And brilliant it was. Even as a person who deals mostly with college students (although also with a 5 year old...) I could not help but be overwhelmed with excitement as Bernadette Tynan illustrated how to help students be creative, focused, and successful, regardless of the environment. She shows how to take a normal, if not "weak" student and, using brain research and cognitive science applications turn them into a successful, "brilliant" student in an extremely short time. It was also exciting to see how personalization, creativity, and curriculum integration were crucial to the strategies she employed. (All things I speak about regularly...whew!)
So that's four great places to start. (You didn't forget Medina's book yet, did you? Again, the National Geographic video will help you understand why you might have.) If you are looking for more, the cool thing is that every resource I just gave you should springboard into 5-20 more resources, etc., etc.
Just remember, you might know more than anyone else about 17th century poetry, the evolution of teeth, or business statistics, but you aren't teaching lit, science, or math. You're teaching people. You are teaching brains which have propensities, wants, needs, and abilities that we understand better than we ever have before. So even if you can't afford the PD at your institution, try these. They are pretty cheap and/or free. All it will cost you is some brain power and a bit of time.
Good luck and good teaching.
Dr. Jeff D Borden
VP of Instruction & Academic Strategy
Over the last decade Higher Education has become fascinated with data. The data we collect can provide insight into student achievement, faculty effectiveness, and many other topics. We have sophisticated business intelligence tools and technology to give us more data than we could have imagined a decade ago, but why do we collect data in the first place? While there may be many perspectives about the nuances, I think we can all agree that the purpose is to improve. But if we collect all this data and fail to act upon it then where is the value-add for those involved? We must focus on completing the assessment cycle from goal to actionable results, which can be leveraged to drive change to benefit our students and positively impact their learning experience.
Hatfield (2009) in describing this common breakdown in the process:
Many of the benefits of engaging in assessment are the results of focused discussion about student achievement of the program’s learning outcomes. Yet it is not uncommon for data to be collected only to be ignored thereafter. It is not until the data has been analyzed, discussed, and used as a basis for further program improvement that assessment has taken place (p.6).
There is a process that must occur beyond the collection of data that is often forgotten. This may mean focusing data collection efforts rather than spreading resources thin to gather more data than you know what to do with. Choose one or two short term goals that you know can be successfully completed, and will have impact on your students and stakeholders. Provide immediate value for the efforts of all involved and gain their buy in for future, long-term assessment goals.
As you approach data collection, remember your goal: driving change and improvement. The tools available to us are wonderful and make collection so much easier and robust. The data will give us insight that we couldn’t have achieved previously. However, it is up to us to use this data to drive improvements, as data doesn’t act upon itself!
Hatfield, S. (2009). Assessing Your Program-Level Assessment Plan. The IDEA Center, IDEA Paper, 45. Retrieved from http://www.theideacenter.org/sites/default/files/IDEA_Paper_45.pdf
Deb Corso-Larson | Assessment and Analytics Group | Pearson eCollege