A recent student advising meeting really got me thinking. Although there is hope that we may be turning a corner with Covid (or just getting used to this new normal), there is also a Covid aftermath many are facing right now. An aftermath that is a result of the impact of two years of unexpected life changes, disruption, and anxiety. Like so many, my student started college expecting the “old,” or pre-pandemic normal, but about the time he was feeling somewhat acclimated on campus, March 2020 came along and college became defined by Zoom. It is hard to fully digest this. His college life turned into Zoom...how could that be??? And the impact of this sudden and profound change meant he was changed forever. Class engagement through Zoom was particularly challenging for him. It was harder to concentrate, harder to participate, harder to ask questions, harder to connect with classmates, harder to motivate to do work, harder to study with the ever present distractions of technology, harder, harder, harder. Two years later, this student is doing everything he can to figure out how to change his college habits, to better manage his time, improve his study strategies, pull away from distractions, and also pull up his grades so he can get off academic probation. Before saying more, I do want to acknowledge that colleges did what they could to figure out this new and unchartered territory of fully virtual learning environments. And nuggets of good news emerged, with some students thriving even better in this type of class setting. But I want to focus on the aftermath for those trying to pick up the difficult pieces of an unexpected college life. In this aftermath, there is grief. Grief in what could have been and then the shocking reality of what actually happened. Grief in an expectation of college life that was dashed in merely a few days. Grief in the extended period of disruption that meant months and years of different, not just days and weeks. In the speediness of life, many have not taken a moment to acknowledge, let alone feel, this grief. I hope anyone reading will take some time to reflect on the grief that might still be lingering, maybe with a friend, counselor, mentor, or through journal writing. It’s okay to be angry, sad, and feel frustrated. Sitting in the grief rather than ignoring it can often help us let go of those difficult feelings and truly put the past behind us, or at least provide an opportunity for some healing. Another challenge in the aftermath of Covid is lingering anxiety. College anxiety is already ever present on campuses as students manage new college expectations, challenging coursework, being away from home for the first time, balancing school, work and family life all at the same time, etc. Many of us have to manage underlying levels of anxiety to begin with. Then you add Covid to the mix and anxiety can really invade the mind and body. My anxiety escalated during this period and took me back to my sophomore year of college when anxiety took over and I almost left college. It was an incredibly difficult and lonely time, but thanks to the gentle urging of a college instructor, I found my way to a mental health counselor and a career counselor who became a lifelong mentor. These essential supports made it possible for me to share my struggles with a classmate who was going through a similar experience and felt ashamed that she too couldn’t seem to “handle” college. I found that regular river walks and rehearsals for a singing group (my personal versions of meditation) made a big difference in helping me turn the corner too. Why share this? Well, I recently realized that these very same strategies helped tame my Covid anxiety – consistent mental health support, seeking help from my mentor, honest friendships, walks outside with a new puppy, and joining a church choir. How lucky was I to have a college instructor who could really see what was going on for me? That one compassionate conversation helped me lift the mask I was wearing (that everything was fine) and find my way to essential resources I didn’t know much about and was honestly too proud to seek out. I could then face my anxiety instead of hiding it and recognize that I was suffering and getting low grades, not for lack of effort, but for lack of understanding how I could really help myself. I became open to learning new strategies for coping, which meant I was better able to handle college work. It’s not always easy to know what students need, but honest check-ins can allow them to be more vulnerable and see that they not only deserve the help, but that it is essential to figure out what works given the many resources and options out there. This could mean they too find lifelong strategies that make new challenges, like Covid, easier to manage. And improving health and wellness frees up mental space for college students to focus more fully on what is happening in the present. And so I want to bring us back to the present. By finding ways to stay more present in each moment of our lives, I think it is easier to actually manage what life hands us and remain resilient in the aftermath of difficult situations. And college life in all its excitement and all its challenge hands you so much to manage. The ability to be more present can help with critical thinking, concentration, deep learning, studying, relationships, self-care, and much more – all things that feed into college success and enjoyment. My student has fortunately found a good support system and as a result, he is staying more present to how he can make positive changes for himself. I have told him to take pride in all that he is handling in the aftermath of Covid, and I hope you all do the same.
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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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The morning after the 2016 election I found myself driving—bleary-eyed after a restless night—to the English department at Florida Atlantic University to host a book fair. Weeks earlier, when I had scheduled the event, I overlooked the fact that it was the day after the election, though I could not have predicted the dramatic turn of events and the resulting atmosphere of charged emotion. At the time, I was the Macmillan Learning sales rep for South Florida, before coming in-house as an editor, and I never felt closer to my virtue as a Macmillan rep than when hosting a book fair. I think that in all of the talk about learning and course objectives, people can forget the tremendous power that books have to simply help us understand one another. On that particular morning, instructors stumbled in, grabbed a hot cup of coffee and sat with me and the books for a long moment or two, before heading on to the rest of their day. We shared some laughs, and some cries, but above all—despite the confusion we were feeling—we felt connected to all of the humanity I had spread out across the table. The textbooks and the readers, but also the Macmillan trade titles I had brought—George Packer’s The Unwinding , Jesmyn Ward’s Salvage the Bones , the essay collection This I Believe ... While moving slowly in South Florida traffic on the way home, in my mind I began writing my own This I Believe essay. I helped Broward College select This I Believe II for their College Read program, and I had been meaning to write one. A week or so later, after sharing my essay with a few professors, I was invited by Broward to read my essay and lead a discussion on a documentary, Glen’s Village , they were showing in conjunction with College Read. After the screening of the documentary, I led an open-forum discussion about the film. In one of the most striking parts of the film, Glen and his community fight to keep his public high school from being closed and demolished due to budget cuts. When they lose the fight to keep the school open, Glen then fights to preserve at least "the culture of the school." I asked the attendees to talk about the culture of their school, Broward College. What is it, what should it be, what role does it play as a part of your community? We had some really heartfelt discussion. One student said that the school "is like a piece of you, and when you lose the school, a little piece of you dies." A professor said that so many of us as individuals come from broken places, and he saw Broward as a place of healing, and that all of us need to be part of that feeling for ourselves and each other. I then talked a little about the College Read program, and the idea that everyone reading the same book and sharing their stories can help strengthen their community. I read a selection from This I Believe II—a quote from Edward R. Murrow about why the “This I Believe” project was founded. I asked if his words resonated with them, particularly after the election—lots of nods and yesses. Then I read my This I Believe essay, and invited students to read their own essays—or to read ones from the book they wanted to share. One student picked "Living with Integrity" by Bob Barrett. In closing, one of the professors read "The Right to Be Fully American" by Yasir Billoo, from This I Believe II. It opens: "I am an American and like almost everyone here, I am also something else. I was raised to believe that America embraces all people from all faiths, but recently, that long-standing belief--along with both parts of my identity--have come under attack. And as an American Muslim of Pakistani descent, this attack is tearing me apart." Before reading the essay, she gave a very moving speech to students: "In light of the recent election, I just hope and pray that we as individuals and we as a community can still hold on to our integrity and our values and to understand that each and every single one of us, regardless of our background, of our heritage, of our religious beliefs, of our height, our weight, our color, our anything, that we all treat each other as human beings. And nobody--nobody--is better than you. Nobody. And nobody on this planet is worse than you. And please always, always remember that. Take that with you in every walk of life." As an editor, I believe my job is helping build communities. Because that’s exactly what a good book is--textbook or trade--a means for helping us understand one another, heal us from the broken places we’ve been, and reveal to us our enduring, common humanity. Allen is the Program Manager for College Success & Human Communication at Macmillan Learning. He is an advocate for College Read programs as a way to foster social belonging on campus and in our larger communities. You can read his This I Believe essay, Crying in Baseball , here.
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Since we first launched the ACES self-assessment back in 2016, we’ve seen program after program make the simple decision to give each one of their students, on their first days of college, one of the most powerful gifts--self-knowledge. It all starts with the simple, 20-minute ACES activity: a set of survey questions expertly designed by three counseling psychologists, through which students create a quantitative self-portrait of their strengths and growth areas--the ACES Initial Report . Over 30,000 students have now taken ACES in their first weeks of college, so many of them for the first time discovering the power of a growth mindset, goal setting, and how to cultivate their inner assets to overcome adversity and be their best selves. Over the past year or so, we’ve been beta-testing an ACES “post-test,” so that students could take the assessment again and reflect on their progress. An impetus for developing the post-test was that instructors could now have a powerful tool to help quantify the progress students were making in their FYE course. But the real driver behind this second instance of ACES is a pedagogical reason--its metacognitive benefits. Having a second ACES report, at the end of the term, provides students with an important opportunity to reflect on their progress, practice gratitude, and gain valuable positive reinforcement. It also gives them an updated version of their quantitative self-portrait. By seeing change in their skills, abilities, and attitudes, the end-of-term ACES report provides them with real, first-hand experience with growth-mindset, neuroplasticity, and above all, the power to change oneself for the better. To emphasize these powerful benefits, the beta post-test will be replaced in early Summer 2019 in all ACES LaunchPads with a new, permanent, second instance of ACES to be taken at the end of the semester. The report students will receive from this second instance of ACES will be called “ The ACES Progress Report .” Instructors will also have a new “ Comparison Report ” in their report dashboard so they themselves can reflect on the impact their course has had on their students. In addition, there will be a brief guide added to all ACES LaunchPads to help students compare their Progress Report with their Initial Report from the beginning of the semester. Connections, Second Edition --the new edition of the textbook program developed in conjunction with ACES by the same team of counseling psychologists--gets an even more powerful end-of-semester feature: an assignable Capstone LaunchPad activity that automatically pulls in students’ ACES results from the entire term, and leads them through a metacognitive reflection to set them up for long term success. These new features--the ACES Progress Report , the ACES Comparison Report , and the ACES Capstone Activity --are truly the product of the collaborative spirit at Macmillan Learning. I’m so inspired by how our wonderful authors, our senior editor Christina Lembo, our senior media editor Tom Kane, our technology team, and our faculty and student partners across the country, came together to bring you these new products, fostered by our spirit that together we can achieve more. With these new features, our hope is that you will now be able to give your students something as powerful as the self-knowledge you offer them when they walk into your class--self growth, as they walk out.
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It’s #TechTuesday! Here are 10 useful and free apps we love for both instructors and students to live informed, balanced, simplified, and successful lifestyles:
Some of us just aren’t morning people, but sometimes life throws us 8 a.m. classes anyway. Whether you’re waking up just to be at class or you have to teach it, attendance and punctuality are important. Alarmy is one way to ensure that you get out of bed -- your alarm will be set with tasks that must be completed to turn off the dreaded noise.
Who has time to watch or read the news everyday? Morning Brew delivers a newsletter of major updates to your email inbox every morning. Designed for millennials, the app provides quick and quality news coverage of diverse topics including a stock market recap, business news, and a short lifestyle section.
Whether you tend to procrastinate a little or a lot, physically blocking out distractions can be helpful in completing assignments in a timely manner. SelfControl lets you block your access from certain sites and apps for a predetermined period of time. Even if you restart your computer or delete the app, you won’t have access to blacklisted sites until the timer is up.
In need of a professional, direct means of communication between organization members, students, and instructors? Slack is a cloud-based messaging and collaboration app that offers organized instant communication, file sharing, screen sharing, and calling through its free and secure service. It’s the perfect real-time alternative to email.
Find yourself without your wallet and with a growing list of IOUs? Venmo makes it simple to pay back your friends for split meals, Uber rides, concert tickets, rent, and much more. The app securely connects to your bank account or credit card to send or request money to friends, family, colleagues, and now even many businesses .
If you’re a big list person like me, you’ll love Google Keep , one of the lesser known apps in the Google Suite. You can take notes, make checklists with tick boxes, create drawings, insert photos, change colors, and set reminders.
This mobile and web based app allows students to study content through flashcards, quizzing, and a variety of study games. Quizlet is extremely popular with students because it can be used on the go and study sets can easily be shared. Instructors can use it as a tool to review course information, track progress, and engage students.
While writing a halfway decent essay is a prerequisite of college admission, properly citing one is not. EasyBib makes it easy for students to correctly cite their sources and avoid plagiarism. All you have to do is plug in the link to the article you’d like to cite and the app picks out and formats the necessary information.
My Fitness Pal
Students and instructors alike can fall prey to bad eating habits under the stress and time constraints of school. My Fitness Pal is a free app by Under Armour that keeps track of daily exercise and diet habits, allowing you to set attainable personal fitness goals. Users simply enter their current and goal weight, then input their meals and daily exercise to track their progress against the recommended calorie intake suggested to achieve their goal.
College is often the first time young adults manage their own money, usually with little guidance on how to do so responsibly. Try Mint to proactively (or counter-actively) save money. It’s an all-in-one app for budgeting, investments, bills, security, and credit.
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