Whether you find yourself teaching in-person or online this term, the need to promote social belonging remains a high priority. I say this based on what we know from the extant literature on college student success and retention ,, – that a sense of belonging is associated with improved student well-being, academic engagement, and performance. I also say this based on my own research examining college student adjustment and barriers during COVID-19  – that students struggled with social connections and building relationships early on during COVID and continue to struggle. Moreover, research shows that social belonging is especially important for students from historically underrepresented backgrounds; those who felt more connected to their college reported greater self-worth, social acceptance, scholastic competence, and had fewer depressive symptoms. 
But what exactly is social belonging? A sense of belonging is a subjective perception of inclusion and connectedness to any or all aspects of the learning environment. This can be a connection to peers, faculty, staff, student organizations, an academic department, or the institution as a whole. Many students will question their social belonging. That questioning can be a normal part of the college transition experience as students develop an identity and explore their interests, majors, and careers. However, it should not be a normal experience for a student to feel unwelcome, unsafe, excluded, or disrespected. As faculty, we can help students build connections within and outside of the classroom. We can also keep an eye out for students who may be struggling with a sense of belonging and intervene.
Ideas for Promoting Social Belonging
Connect students with resources to meet their basic needs (so they can then fulfil social needs)
Post links to Financial Aid, Academic Advising, Counseling Services, Student Health, etc.
Provide information about your institution’s COVID policies, testing/reporting protocols, and any emergency aid (e.g., healthcare, housing, food insecurity, transportation)
Identify on-campus resources for accessing broadband and digital services
Take the “temperature” of your class and help normalize student experiences by using a word cloud generating tool (e.g., Poll Everywhere)
Share free online applications that can assist with:
Meditation (Headspace, Insight Timer)
Slow, controlled breathing (ReachOut Breathe, Serenita)
Sleep (iSleep Easy)
Happiness (Happify: For Stress & Worry)
Self-care (SuperBetter is a free video-game style app in which users create a secret identity and progress through the game by completing quests that are self-care activities)
Managing distressing thoughts and feelings (Woebot is an AI-powered chatbot that guides users through managing distressing thoughts and feelings with principles of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy)
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD Coach is for service members who may be experiencing symptoms of PTSD)
Communicate more often and more intentionally
Videotape and post brief, weekly pre-class introductions or post-class summaries
Reach out to students who don’t typically initiate contact to check-in
Find upper class student volunteers to serve as peer mentors to your class
My peer mentor meets with a small group of students twice a month via Zoom
Create a class Facebook Page to broadcast updates, alerts, and college activities
Use Twitter as a class message board to post reminders for assignment due dates or share inspirational quotes and helpful links to practice quizzes or resources
Create a YouTube channel for your class and have student students upload a YouTube “short”
Give students a virtual TikTok tour of your office
Use live and interactive polling tools to engage students (e.g., iClicker, Mentimeter, Kahoot, etc.)
Facilitate student interaction in and out of the classroom
Have students create and deliver a 3-Minute elevator pitch
Assign weekly online discussion posts (via Canvas or Blackboard)
Use Instagram for photo essays and digital storytelling (class-specific Instagram accounts)
Create a class blog and assign blog posts as essays
Initiate a class specific Pinterest board for students to curate a digital bibliography for research projects, papers, or group assignments
Require small groups to use Google Docs to record their discussions and turn in
Ask students to create brief TikTok video clips to explain a concept or theory to the rest of the class; post or watch in class and have classmates provide feedback
Prepare students for their career by having them register for LinkedIn and build professional networks and connections
Pascarella, E. T., & Terenzini, P. T. (2005). How college affects students: A third decade of research. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Harper, S. R., & Quaye, S. J. (2015). Student engagement in higher education: Theoretical perspectives and practical approaches for diverse populations (2nd Ed.). New York: Routledge.
Tinto, V. (1988). Stages of student departure: Reflections on the longitudinal character of student leaving. Journal of Higher Education, 59(4), 438-455.
Hill, K.C., & Metz, A.J. (in preparation). Academic, relational, and socio-emotional factors of adjustment and barriers faced in first-year college students during COVID-19.
Gummadam, P., Pittman, L. D., & Joffe, M. Ioffe (2016) School Belonging, Ethnic Identity, and Psychological Adjustment Among Ethnic Minority College Students, The Journal of Experimental Education, 84:2, 289-306.
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*Note: This blog was originally posted on 9/16/2020 in the Student community
A recent college grad talks to author John Gardner about the effects of COVID-19 on academia and beyond.
I was granted the unique opportunity to chat with an educator, acclaimed author, and change maker, John N. Gardner. John is a university professor and administrator, student retention specialist, and first-year students' advocate at the University of South Carolina. Our conversation was based on the changes the world has faced in the wake of COVID-19. John was able to strategize with me, as a graduating senior, on how to combat the changes in higher education and the job market. He listened to my story: I had come from a small school in south-central Kansas. I had studied exercise science, psychology, and global studies in my time at KU. I had cast a wide net as far as applying for jobs from international education, higher education, strength and conditioning, and, of course, publishing and online learning platforms like Macmillan Learning. He suggested three core things: take care of yourself, advocate for yourself, and prepare yourself as best as you possibly can.
“We need to do a better job of putting ourselves higher on our own ‘to do’ list.” - Michelle Obama
Putting yourself best foot forward starts by putting yourself first. Taking a walk, calling a friend, making a nutritious meal, limiting social media consumption, playing fetch with the dog, are just a few ways to take time for yourself. Implementing self-care techniques allow you to put the best version of yourself forward to your friends, family, and possible employers. John encouraged creating a routine with sleep, exercise, and health as priorities will allow this change of lifestyle to become second nature.
“Fortune favors the bold” - Latin proverb
Being bold means reaching out to those you have built a network with, cold calling a company you would love to join, and show people not only your certifications and degrees but your soft skills. John suggested taking inventory of those you have networked with and reaching out to them in order to move forward with your career. For me, I have a network at KU which can help me find openings in higher education and international education and I have a network of contacts at Macmillan Learning from sales to marketing to publishing to online learning. Those individuals are familiar with my ability to work in a team, to be flexible, to resolve conflict, and to problem solve in a way a resume would not accurately reflect. I can utilize this network to find openings in the fields that interest me.
“Chance favors the prepared mind” - Louis Pasteur
John references this quote multiple times in our chat. Preparing for whatever the next few months will bring is daunting and uncertain. However, it is comforting to know many others are also in a similar position. Preparing yourself with being as educated, as read, as researched as possible can allow for the best possible outcome. ‘Doing your homework’ is vital to making the most out of an interview, an email correspondence, or a call with someone in your network. You can talk about their work and how you may fit into it. Above all else, you can expand your knowledge of a subject by doing this research. So, when the hiring manager reviews two similar resumes, your exceptional knowledge of a relevant subject or the way you were able to carry the conversation in an educated way, will allow what would have been a 50/50 chance, to turn in your favor.
Chatting with John gave me a much more positive outlook on graduating as a college senior amidst COVID-19. His years of experience working with students and honing their potential allowed him to workshop three simple, attainable goals for me to work toward in the coming months. Your present circumstances don't determine your potential, they just determine your starting point. The Class of 2020 may be entering an era of uncertainty, insecurity, and anxiety. However, overcoming this chapter in history will forever change the way we navigate our lives from here forward.
WRITTEN BY Katherine McGaughey University of Kansas
Katie is a senior who is double-majoring in exercise science and psychology at the University of Kansas. Originally from Wichita, she loves exploring new cities and has traveled to eight of the top twenty most influential cities in the world so far. She loves cooking and finding the best vegan eats. You can usually find her in planning her next adventure, enjoying a concert with friends, or late-night studying at the library.
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This event is a series of short workshops designed to provide best practices in teaching the First Year experience course in a virtual or hybrid format. Topics will include Student Engagement, Fostering a Positive Mindset and Diversity & Inclusion and will feature a variety of Macmillan authors and experienced instructors. Please join us for the workshops that interest you most and for our Virtual Happy Hour afterwards with Your College Experience authors John Gardner and Betsy Barefoot.
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By Kimberly Koledoye Of the many challenges created by the Covid-19 pandemic, arguably few were as impactful as the disruption to education, particularly higher education. As many K-12 and higher education entities realized, they were ill-prepared to convert masses of students to online learning. I am confident that the literature on this topic will be available in abundance in the days to come. Undoubtedly higher education was more prepared, but not enough to go 100% online. In fact, prior to the pandemic only one-third of all U.S. college students had some type of online learning experience (Gallagher & Palmer, 2020). Therefore, most colleges and students had to figure out how to best navigate the world of online learning. An enormity of decisions were made and continue to be made as the needs of this evolving situation are addressed, including joint or isolated decisions of administrators regarding which learning modalities to offer. Regardless of modality, it became evident that there still was a lot of work to be done to help professors prepare to deliver instruction online. There was an enormous learning curve for both students and instructors that many educators underestimated. In the spring when we were abruptly pushed online, everyone was pretty understanding of the technical hiccups. However, in the fall, faculty were met with a higher degree of expectation in our abilities to effectively deliver online instruction. For those instructors who had been previously teaching online, the curve wasn’t as steep. However, for many faculty including myself, synchronous online instruction was a new challenge. Whether teaching synchronously, asynchronously, or in a blended format, a lot of preparation is required. Converting face-to-face courses to be delivered online requires more than just posting problems or exams, and I think many of us quickly realized that this approach was not going to be enough to engage students who never even wanted to take online classes. Research suggests a necessary creative balance between pedagogy and available technology that supports faculty in their efforts to design, deliver, and create course designs and content (Olapiriyakul & Scher, 2006). As such, we made some changes and the outcomes have been promising. Here’s what many practitioners, including my own institution, learned: Although there is arguably merit in lecture, it cannot be the foundation of the course (Gooblar, 2019). Students require opportunities to engage with material in an active way to learn (Gooblar, 2018). Even during face to face class lectures, professors can gauge students’ reactions and pause for questions/comments. It is much more difficult to effectively monitor these reactions online when the slide show encompasses the screen. The challenge is to offer lectures in more condensed formats. Chunking more complex topics makes them more accessible to students. Video is important. Whether delivering a class synchronously or asynchronously, recording what was said and done is helpful. Without diving into socio-economic inequities that present themselves when students are required to be online, focused, and engaged during a certain time period regardless of registering for exactly such a course, the gift of giving students the ability to engage with content at their own pace and at their own time is invaluable. Furthermore, various recording tools allow screen captures, voice overs, demonstrations, lectures with the ability to infuse questions throughout, and the ability to personalize content by incorporating a small window of the professor as they move throughout the lesson. Consider the fact that you are not only teaching students in first year courses, but you are also providing academic acculturation to college (Halonen & Dunn, 2018). Personal touches can go a long way. Preferably these videos should be under 6 minutes; the shorter the video the better (Guo, Kim, & Rubin, 2014). Active learning is still beneficial and can happen in online environments. This is where we must get creative. The good news is that most video-conferencing tools have engagement capabilities. Instructors can encourage active learning by requiring responses using polling, asking for reactions with reaction tools, gaming, assigning discovery tasks to groups and sending them to breakout rooms to engage with one another, and by using the bountiful online websites that engage students in information exchanges. Sharing is caring in online instruction. What most of us have discovered is that teaching online requires a lot of planning, pre-production, and execution. Often times, the more high impact practices (HIPs) utilized in the design, the more effort it takes to create it (Halonen & Dunn, 2018). This can be exhausting for faculty and part of the reason faculty feel they are working more now than in the past. Sharing courses, activities, ideas, problem sets, games, slide shows, and strategies are effective ways to address faculty fatigue. The reality is that educators have always done what needed to be done and this pandemic is no different. We are surviving and thriving and many are even invigorated by a new challenge. The idea that we will simply return to our old course offerings when things return to “normal” is not guaranteed. Instead, it is more likely that this surge in online course delivery will continue. Either way, we will be ready because we always rise to the occasion. References Gallagher, S & J. Palmer. (2020, January 29). The Pandemic Pushed Universities Online. The Change Was Long Overdue. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2020/09/the-pandemic-pushed-universities-online-the-change-was-long-overdue Gooblar, D. (2018, May 1). Your Students Learn by Doing, Not by Listening. Is it Ever Okay to Lecture? Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from https://www.chronicle.com/article/your-students-learn-by-doing-not-by-listening/ Gooblar, D. (2019, January 15). Is it Ever Okay to Lecture? Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from https://www.chronicle.com/article/is-it-ever-ok-to-lecture/ Guo, P. J., Kim, J., & Rubin, R. (2014). How video production affects student engagement: An empirical study of MOOC videos. In Proceedings of the first ACM conference on Learning @ scale conference: L@S ’14 (pp. 41–50). New York, NY: ACM. Halonen, J. S., & Dunn, D. S. (2018, November 27). Does ‘High-Impact’ Teaching Cause High-Impact Fatigue? Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from https://www.chronicle.com/article/does-high-impact-teaching-cause-high-impact-fatigue/ Olapiriyakul, K., & Scher, J.M. (2006). A guide to establishing hybrid learning courses: Employing information technology to create a new learning experience, and a case study. Internet and Higher Education, 9(4), 287-301. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.iheduc.2006.08.001
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NOVEMBER 4th | 3:00 PM ET
Looking for new ways to keep your students engaged in an online learning environment? Learning Solutions Specialist at Macmillan Learning, Heather Halter Kimball, will share some of the best tips and tricks for keeping students engaged and on task in your College Success course via our online platform, LaunchPad. LaunchPad is a resource designed to help students achieve better results by providing a place where they can read, study, practice, complete homework, and more.
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Dear College Success Instructor,
As we all try to adjust to the “new normal” of academic life in the age of COVID-19, we understand that your students may struggle with some of the adjustmen ts they need to make in their daily lives. To support them (and you) this Fall, Macmillan Learning has developed a “ COVID-19 Student Toolkit, ” where our authors directly address students and give them advice on how to overcome the challenges COVID-19 may throw their way. The topics covered in this toolkit are:
Summer Orientation/Bridge - Andrea Brenner and Lara Schwartz
Academic & Financial Planning - John Gardner and Betsey Barefoot
Distance Learning - Jamie Shushan
Wellness - Paul Gore, Wade Leuwerke, and A.J. Metz
Mindfulness - Elizabeth Catanese and Kate Sanchez
Please feel free to share this online resource with your students and any of your fellow instructors: www.c19toolkit.com
We will be supporting this toolkit with an additional unit in our College Success LaunchPads that contains instructor resources, quizzing and an iClicker Slide Deck. The videos can also be found on our YouTube Playlist , where you can upload them directly to your LaunchPad! (Directions for uploading videos to LaunchPad can be found here .)
If you need any additional help preparing your course(s) for fall, please reach out to your rep directly and/or visit our instructor resources page. This page contains content and tools to help you create powerful online learning experiences, schedule a demo with one of our learning solutions specialists, and more.
Stay tuned in the following months for more content directly from our COVID-19 Toolkit Authors on how to work with students to overcome the challenges they are facing this Fall!
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by Andrea Brenner and Lara Schwartz Amid COVID-19 closures and delays, college administrators and student-facing staff are turning their attention toward transitioning to virtual orientations and summer bridge programs. What can colleges do to provide a smooth transition for their incoming students? How can they help new students visualize their lives on campus and prepare for a memorable and informed home-to-college transition in these unprecedented times? To address the challenges of transitioning to college, only exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis, we wrote How to College: What to Know Before You Go (and When You’re There) —the first student-facing practical guide for incoming students to prepare for the college transition through exercises and conversations before they arrive. It is a flexible and comprehensive supplement for your online summer programs. In writing How to College, we drew on our experiences teaching and working with thousands of first-year college students over decades. The comprehensive guide offers invaluable advice from college administrators, faculty, student-facing staff, and current college students, demystifying the college transition experience and emphasizing the student’s ultimate self-reliance in the transition to college during this challenging time. How to College sets the foundation for college success with accessible information and simple online lessons and activities that address the kind of challenges students will be facing this summer and fall, including: interacting online with peers to gain a sense of belonging connecting with campus resources such as tutoring and writing centers, career services, counseling services, and disability support to have the necessary support for college success using campus technology resources such as learning management systems, library databases, and college email to be prepared for virtual learning maintaining physical and mental health, wellness, and safety, especially during this stressful time budgeting and financial literacy to cope with the uncertainty of today’s economy selecting co-curricular and civic-engagement experiences to get involved, even in a distance-learning environment understanding college-level academic standards: study skills, time management, writing, professionalism, reading, and academic integrity examining the importance of finding supportive mentors in this life transition How to College also includes exercises and tasks that orientation and summer bridge administrators can easily translate into a distance-learning curriculum: Know before you go - research tasks such as learning about the demographic makeup of the school’s incoming class, and practicing writing a professional email; Do before you go - exercises such as preparing a simple budget, downloading the college’s safety apps, and researching campus clubs and organizations of interest; Discuss before you go : conversation prompts for incoming students and their families on such topics as how to handle emergencies, responsibly using financial resources, and how families will communicate.' Finally, as part of Macmillan Learning's COVID-19 Student Toolkit, we also put together a set of free web resources with some brief videos and our best tips for students this summer. These resources, combined with How to College, can help colleges prepare students for a memorable and informal transition to college during this unprecedented time. You can view our Orientation & Summer Bridge Resources at: c19tookit.com/orientation.html. For more information, including how to order How to College for your program or to receive a free examination copy, please visit the Macmillan Academic website or contact firstname.lastname@example.org .
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