In anticipation of Valentine’s Day, many students all around the world will be celebrating love with their romantic partners by sending cards, giving gifts, and sharing candlelit meals. While doing this, they will be demonstrating their interpersonal communication skills which help them to competently communicate, interact, and work with individuals and groups or, in this case, a romantic partner. According to Dr. Kelly Morrison, Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and co-author of Reflect and Relate , “love is defined and created by how we interpersonally communicate.”
Much of what’s learned about interpersonal communication is derived from social and mass media, family and peers, personal experiences, and cultural norms and practices. That includes the communication that’s used throughout romantic relationships. But that’s not where the learning needs to end. From combating stereotypes about love as depicted in the movies, to understanding the various stages of falling in love, students can learn a lot about the intersection of romantic relationships and interpersonal communication in a college classroom.
From Hallmark and Disney movies to popular love advice books, misinformation about relationships is pervasive. For example, students often learn from these media that passionate love should be the ultimate relationship goal. In interpersonal communication courses, students learn that there is more than one way to demonstrate love, with passionate love being just one of them. “Our job as educators is to give our students trustworthy knowledge and help them apply it to their close relationship challenges,” said Dr. Steven McCornack, Professor at University of Alabama at Birmingham and co-author of Reflect and Relate .
There’s also an opportunity for students to learn what love is -- and what it isn’t. According to Professor McCornack, it’s not uncommon to conflate physical intimacy with love, but the two do not always correlate. “Across the globe and throughout history, people have been physically involved with those with whom they’re not intimate; and intimate with those with whom they’re not physically involved.” Professor Morrison explains that love is “created and sustained, moment by moment, day in and day out, through our communication, what we share, and how we support one another.”
Further, men aren't from Mars, women aren't from Venus, and there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all way to approach love. The different love attitudes expressed in a relationship lend themselves to vastly different communication styles. “If you possess a more practical, as opposed to a more romantic attitude about love, you likely will also see variations in what and how people communicate about love,” said Professor Morrison.
In addition to tackling misconceptions about romantic relationships, interpersonal communication classes also discuss topics critical to building and maintaining successful relationships: from how to approach conflict to the importance of emotions. This kind of knowledge helps students to make more informed choices regarding how they communicate and respond to another person's communication. “We control our own romantic relationship destinies through the choices we make regarding how we communicate. Our choices determine our communication; and our communication creates our romantic relationship outcomes,” said Professor McCornack.
Learn more about the intersection of romantic love and interpersonal communication from a webinar when the two Macmillan Learning authors and interpersonal communication professors spoke about “love attitudes and relationship maintenance.” The webinar is free for instructors and will provide a complimentary assignment for instructors to use on Valentine’s Day or when otherwise discussing romantic relationships. Access it for here.
... View more
A decade ago, I would proudly tell a stranger that I was a STEM textbook publisher. I was proud of my work supporting educators and students, especially in such a critically important field. As a publisher in this area, it was commonly understood that I produced big, fat print textbooks that a student would use in a course on campus. If someone approaches me today, however, I would say that I’m a STEM courseware publisher. What’s changed?
I explain that now I participate in creating an instructor’s entire course—content, pedagogy, assessment, interactivity, and more. The changes in my role underscore the fact that our entire industry has shifted. We haven’t simply migrated content from print to digital. We are now taking on the role of creating, from beginning to end, the entire course. We aren’t just publishing finite textbooks, but content, tools, assessment - full solutions that can be accessed anywhere. With this model, instructors are now empowered to instantly measure what their students are (and are not) learning, and then make adjustments for better outcomes.
Ten years ago, when I described my job, most people would then comment on the “expensive textbooks.” Today, a typical one-term STEM course costs (on average) approximately $70; a far cry from the infamous prices of print textbooks of years ago. We are now in a new era where students pay less for a better product. And the educational solutions companies (publishers) that have invested wisely in their people, technology, and customer outcomes are the companies that are flourishing.
What I’m describing is actually really simple math. For students, courseware costs significantly less than a print textbook. For publishing solutions companies, however, our investment in better educational tools has grown. And although we still stand by providing our customers with the tools that support their specific courses and needs, digital or print, the dominant model in STEM is now lower priced courseware. Every student pays the same amount instead of one student paying for new while the rest pay for used material. Now, every student is paying a fair price for content, and publishing solutions companies can afford to continue to invest to continuously improve the learning experience.
Learning technology is changing rapidly. We have seen the educational landscape change dramatically in the past few years. Our goal now has to be integrating learning technology seamlessly into the teaching and learning experience because who wouldn’t be excited about measuring learning in real time and adapting courseware to constantly become better? So what felt like a pipedream ten years ago is a reality that, as a publisher in STEM, I am enormously proud of, and excited about, where we go next.
... View more
While the pandemic forced many instructors to adapt their teaching style for a fully or partially virtual classroom, the use of digital learning platforms will remain a key component of both remote and in-person learning moving forward. Dr. Darcie Rives-East used Achieve during the pandemic when her teaching moved completely online, and she’ll continue to use the platform for her in-person teaching. The Achieve platform includes an interactive e-Book as well as extensive learning materials with pre-class, in-class and post-class activities. Dr. Darcie Rives-East, a Professor of English and First-Year Seminar Director at Augustana University, shared with us how she got the most out of this new platform during her time teaching remotely and which features she’ll continue using once she resumes in-person teaching. She’s used The Writer’s Reference with the Achieve platform. What have been some challenges with teaching–especially with online learning–since the pandemic started? How have you addressed them? A major challenge for me as a composition instructor was having students peer edit classmates’ papers online. I used Achieve’s peer editing function to arrange peer editing partners, as well as the function’s ability to guide students through the questions I wanted them to focus on while they were giving advice to their partners. I found the peer editing function to be a great way to have students interact and work with one another despite not being physically present in the classroom. People are hesitant to embrace change, but what would you say are the benefits of moving to Achieve vs your experience with LaunchPad? Achieve has so many more capabilities than LaunchPad (such as peer editing and instructor editing of papers, paper assignment templates, etc.), as well as more exercises than LaunchPad. I also thought it was easier to integrate Achieve with an LMS (such as Canvas), and, as a writing program director, I was able to set up and monitor accounts for program instructors. Why did you first decide to use online tools in your class? During the pandemic, prior to vaccines, I had to be completely online due to prior health considerations. Therefore, I wanted to use all tools available to me in order to replicate and even improve how I teach composition in the physical classroom. Achieve provided me with the resources I needed to teach writing online without sacrificing quality. When I return to the physical classroom, I plan to still use the resources of Achieve to allow a “flipped classroom,” where students can learn and practice certain grammar lessons online, as well as participate in the writing sequence, so that we have more time to discuss writing in the classroom. This interview is part of a series focusing on how digital learning is being used in college classrooms and, in particular, what the transition to Achieve has been like. About Achieve: Macmillan Learning built it’s new digital learning platform Achieve to help students of all abilities and backgrounds succeed. It offers the content, tools and insights about student success to do just that. Achieve was designed with active learning in mind, and can be used in traditional, online, hybrid, blended, or a fully “flipped” classroom, with options for both synchronous and asynchronous learning to support engagement. It was co-designed with more than 7,000 students and over 100 leading educators and learning scientists both at our company and on our independent review boards. Learn more about Achieve .
... View more
I grew up Black in New Jersey’s capital city, Trenton. In the early 80s, I can remember walking through downtown Trenton on a Saturday afternoon with my father and feeling that something was wrong. I remember seeing homeless men and women stopped in front of abandoned office buildings and boarded up storefronts.
I asked my father what happened to the businesses, not fully understanding why so many people walked the streets in despair. I was confused. Everything I learned about my hometown didn’t match what I was witnessing: the monuments to the battles that made Trenton the turning point of the revolutionary war, the stories we learned in school about turn of the century wealth that made Trenton prosperous, and the community pride that was said to exist in every neighborhood in town. How could a city steeped in such a rich history, with such wealth and pride, lose so much of its light and its soul?
We stopped in the middle of our walk and sat on a bench and talked. I remember my father explaining to me that Trenton, like so many other cities big and small, erupted into violence in the days and weeks following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. That Saturday, at six years old, while sitting on a bench in a desolate downtown street with my father, I learned for the first time that there were two Americas.
My father was careful to note that everything I learned in school about the rich heritage of our city was true, but that it was only one side of the story. There had always been an “other” America throughout our country’s young history, communities of people who had yet to articulate their respected place in our society.
I learned that Dr. King was a major voice in a struggle for equality and civil rights for this “other” America. He believed that his calling was to be a voice of hope for healing the American consciousness and to help create the laws and moral practices that could unite us finally as one people. My father explained that Dr. King’s assassination, in the prime of his life and at the height of his profound push for civil rights and equality, was a deep blow to those living in the “other” America, those who were looking toward him to walk them into the promised land he would preach about.
When the news of Dr. King’s demise reached the poor communities of America’s cities, it was but a matter of time before anger and violence erupted nation-wide. America’s moral compass was taken away from us. Throughout the country, anger and frustration filled the streets of American cities in a time when protestors, looters, and mourners alike clashed with the heavy hand of law enforcement for days on end. In the years that followed the riots and demonstrations, white business owners and residents fled cities for newly minted suburbs. The “other” America that existed in the shadows of our society was now left to toil with the challenges of blight and poverty that would plague cities for decades to come.
From that Saturday sitting with my father forward, I paid special attention to Dr. King’s unfinished work. I understood that his dream of a country unified by common respect and equal treatment for all would take each of us obligating ourselves to a personal journey towards growth in our humanity. We must each resist the idea of hoarding our privilege. Instead, as Dr. King did, we should use every ounce of our power, voice, and position to empower everyone around us.
My father’s description of the burning cities reminded me of the recent upheaval we’ve experienced in our cities in response to racial injustice still rooted in our society. There’s still much work to be done to heal our society and secure the equal rights outlined for all citizens in our constitution.
A great moral obligation came over me early in my life. It started for me when I walked the desolate streets of my hometown with my father and discovered the urgency that was lost when the last fire went out from the riots that broke our cities and the “other” America that was left behind. I understand that we have an obligation to see the possibilities in all people and feel compassion towards our neighbors’ stories. We can not write the great American story without the contribution, the perspective, and the dreams of all people in our society. This is the hope and dream that Dr. King lived and died for and the great work that must continue in halls of justice, board rooms and main streets throughout our country.
As we celebrate the memory and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., let’s each do our part to break down the walls that divide our country and do our part to live with compassion and care for each other.
... View more
After a mostly in-person fall semester, many instructors are now preparing to start the spring semester differently than they had anticipated. While the pandemic has presented many challenges to teaching and learning, instructors have found that the right digital learning system can make all the difference in maintaining engagement and supporting student success in the virtual classroom.
At the start of 2020, Macmillan Learning launched its new digital learning platform Achieve , and many instructors have already made the switch to it from Launchpad. The Achieve platform includes an interactive e-Book as well as expansive learning materials with pre-class, in-class, and post-class activities.We asked Dr. Michael Stroud , Professor of Psychology at Merrimack College, about digital learning and his switch to Achieve for Exploring Psychology .
What have been some challenges with teaching–especially with online learning–since the pandemic started Psychology Prof. Michael Stroud ? How have you addressed them?
I’d say the biggest challenge is with student morale and engagement. Students do not seem to be as motivated to learn as before. The way I’ve addressed this is by focusing more on hands-on tasks for more engaging learning in the classroom. Students do not seem to be interested in hearing lectures, but rather creating projects instead.
People are hesitant to embrace change, but what would you say are the benefits of moving to Achieve vs your experience with LaunchPad?
The user interface with Achieve is much more fluid. Finding activities and materials and assigning them is much easier as well. Achieve is essentially Launchpad with all the kinks worked out; it’s a cleaned up version, which makes content delivery much more seamless.
We know that student engagement–especially now–is a large issue and so important to student success. How do products like Achieve fit into that?
It keeps students on task no matter what is going on in the classroom. This is especially the case for LearningCurve since it requires students to pay attention rather than mindlessly click.
How have students responded to Achieve overall?
Students love Achieve. They enjoy reading more for a purpose and with interactive activities rather than just reading plain text.
This interview is part of a series focusing on how digital learning is being used in college classrooms and, in particular, what the transition to Achieve has been like.
About Achieve: Macmillan Learning built it’s new digital learning platform Achieve to help students of all abilities and backgrounds succeed. It offers the content, tools and insights about student success to do just that. Achieve was designed with active learning in mind, and can be used in traditional, online, hybrid, blended, or a fully “flipped” classroom, with options for both synchronous and asynchronous learning to support engagement. It was co-designed with more than 7,000 students and over 100 leading educators and learning scientists both at our company and on our independent review boards. Learn more about Achieve .
... View more
The way teachers instruct and students learn has changed significantly over the past few years. No factor has had a bigger impact than the pandemic, which emphasized just how important student engagement is and underscored the role that educational technology can play in supporting student success. As these changes were happening, Macmillan Learning launched its new digital learning platform, Achieve.
While some instructors were just starting to embrace new technologies, others -- like Central Florida Psychology Professor Amira Sims -- have been relying on it for many years. She was among the first to transition from the online learning platform LaunchPad to Achieve to better support active learning in her classes. We spoke to her about what teaching was like during the pandemic and about her transition to our new platform.
The transition to a virtual classroom was inevitable with the pandemic. What were some of the ways that edtech supported it in your class?
My college installed a camera and microphone in my office desk top so that we could teach synchronous online classes or hold office hours remotely. We also had several professional development seminars centered on using technology for education purposes.
Using Achieve really helped me to feel confident that although there was no lecture, students were exposed to the information and had an opportunity to play with concepts.
How long have you been using online tools in your class, and what helped you decide to embrace the new tech?
I have been using online tools in my classroom since 2004. When I first started teaching (as an adjunct) I taught blended classes. Over the years I have only become more and more reliant on web-enhancement in all classes I teach.
While campus life has returned to something slightly more normal, how has the pandemic changed the classroom and/or the way you teach?
I no longer take roll and I waive the late penalty for all of my classes. I began making videos on a more consistent basis to help students stay on course.
How do Achieve and LaunchPad differ?
I use Launchpad for my Human Development course and Achieve for my General Psychology course. The main differences I notice is that students in the Development course all praise Learning Curve, whereas students seem to comment more on the activities with Achieve that help them to practice concepts and think critically. In general, Achieve seems to have more activities and a few more tools on the dashboard for the instructor. Most of my students have responded favorably to Achieve.
This interview is part of a series focusing on how digital learning is being used in college classrooms and, in particular, what the transition to Achieve has been like.
About Achieve: Macmillan Learning built its new digital learning platform Achieve to help students of all abilities and backgrounds succeed. It offers the content, tools and insights about student success to do just that. Achieve was designed with active learning in mind, and can be used in traditional, online, hybrid, blended, or a fully “flipped” classroom, with options for both synchronous and asynchronous learning to support engagement. It was co-designed with more than 7,000 students and over 100 leading educators and learning scientists both at our company and on our independent review boards. Learn more about Achieve .
... View more
I was recently thinking about my life before the pandemic. I traveled for work and pleasure regularly, worked from the office full time when I wasn’t on the road, and had an active social life that included weekends packed with activities and lots of weeknight outings. Mystery science theater at midnight? Absolutely! Concert on a Tuesday night? Why not? I got it all done with a smile and no bags under my eyes.
Then, like everyone else, my life came to a complete stop with the pandemic. I adjusted to no travel, no activities, and learning how to work from home in a very solitary way. Over the past few months, I’ve begun my journey back to “normal”, working from the office part-time and starting to see family and friends again. It’s unexpected and energizing to interact with people outside of my household! Seeing a movie in a theater or music live is magical, just like the first time. But guess what? I can’t keep up with the laundry and I go to bed exhausted every night. Seriously. When did we do laundry pre-pandemic? How did we fit it in? I swear I remember wearing clean clothes...was that my imagination?
In my role, a lot of people ask me about what the future of work looks like. We talk about the hybrid work model and how we are all going to find the balance between both worlds. In theory, we want to take the best parts of working from home and working in the office and be the most productive workforce ever. That means when we are home, we will have flexible schedules and dedicated focus time. When we are in the office, we will be able to make quick, in person decisions, creatively brainstorm with our teams, and rebuild our culture by the water cooler. It sounds like what we’ve always dreamed about. But is it that easy?
I believe we have some challenges ahead figuring out how we each will really work best and how we can optimize the places we work. At Macmillan Learning, we have been assessing our existing office spaces. What elements of the office environment have we missed and are excited to have again? Conference rooms, office equipment and desk space are at the top of our lists. But, what isn’t working for us any more?
As we walk our spaces, it’s become clear that our time at home has changed what we expect from our work environment. We are adding soft-seating groupings and incorporating visual interest with art and decoration that mimic the cozier elements we have been working in at home. From a functionality standpoint, we have been testing and updating our A/V and collaboration technology in our meeting rooms. Participation equity for both at home and in-office meeting participants has taken on a whole new meaning, and we know we can make our hybrid meetings better and more productive.
More complicated is how we approach adjusting to hybrid work schedules. The “best of both worlds” work week has actually proven to be pretty complicated in the onset. Socializing in an office environment again can be daunting at first. Things that came so easily before the pandemic, like getting dressed and packing a bag for the day, seem to take an extra amount of thought and preparation. When you layer in coordinating in-office schedules with teammates, and remembering where you left your meeting notes or favorite sweater, you may find yourself wondering if the juggle is even worth it.
So my advice is this: as you begin your journey into our new hybrid world, I’d encourage you to start small. Try a day in the office, bask in the fun parts of your day, and take some time to think about how you might adjust your approach or build on the benefits that you found. Most important is to keep an open, honest line of communication about what’s working and what’s giving us anxiety about returning to in-person work. I would also encourage each of us to remember that it will take a trial-and-error partnership between our managers and us to figure out what long-term “normal” looks like, and that includes the time to get that laundry done! While it might take us some time to get there, I hope we can take some of the pressure off because just maybe, we will achieve the perfect hybrid work balance that we’ve been dreaming of.
... View more
There’s a lot of uncertainty for college instructors that remains heading into the spring semester that spans well beyond the impact of missing in-person classes. Students’ learning loss, motivation, and engagement have been flagged as factors that have greatly impacted their ability to be successful throughout the pandemic. In fact, a recent analysis by McKinsey & Company found that unless steps are taken to address unfinished learning, today’s students may earn $49,000 to $61,000 less over their lifetime owing to the impact of the pandemic on their schooling.
But there are steps that instructors can take to better understand the pandemic’s impact on both individual students and classes. To help get students back on track by better understanding the academic expectations, motivations, and behaviors of the students, the iClicker team developed a new, complimentary “Class Readiness” survey.
The 9-question survey offers both multiple choice and open-ended questions and was designed to provide actionable insights for educators and administrators. It includes questions on course preparation, resilience, and student concerns. Any questions can also be customized as needed to meet the needs of each particular class.
The survey can be issued prior to class as an iClicker assignment or used to poll students live during class. It can also be done anonymously so that students feel comfortable providing honest feedback. If instructors aren’t currently using iClicker this semester, that’s okay -- it still won’t cost any money to access and use the survey. iClicker is always free for instructors, and there’s a free two-week trial that will allow students to access and participate.
Click here to access the free survey.
Click here to create your free iClicker instructor account.
... View more
From retouching images to digital deep fakes, things aren't always what they seem online.
This October, Macmillan Learning hosted a webinar with Bettina Fabos and Christopher Martin, co-authors of Media & Culture , 13th Edition , to share what students need to help them think critically about and better understand manipulated videos and images.
Students are becoming more aware of manipulated images, in general. Images that promote impossible beauty standards and funny #Photoshopfails have brought awareness of image manipulation to the mainstream. Often, the fails help to teach students how to spot some of the more egregious manipulated images. In addition to knowing about these images, students are also using photo manipulation tools themselves, like Facetune, Canva, Instagram, Snapseed and TouchRetouch to erase imperfections.
Deep fakes are becoming more and more mainstream. It’s not just images we should be concerned about. Synthetic video (also known as a “deep fake”) is a progression of artificial intelligence, and it’s becoming more and more realistic and popular every day. Some experts even argue that deep fake-related AI developments are as important as the internet itself. Easily available apps like Deep Nostalgia make the ability to create a deep fake easily accessible to anyone with a smartphone. There are also lip synching deep fakes, which place lip movements over real video and pair it with “synthetically” generated audio. One example of this is the fake Tom Cruise TikTok that recently went viral. According to Fabos, most tech companies have been involved with AI since 2014. “We’re delegating power and creativity to machines,” she noted.
Deep fakes have come a long way in a few years. It used to be painstaking and costly to manipulate videos. For example, Carrie Fisher, known in the Star Wars movies as Princess Leia, was able to appear in The Rise of Skywalker even after her untimely death, but the technology that made that happen cost the studio a great deal of money. Now you don’t need complex graphic models of faces to make this kind of manipulation happen, because AI is doing all of that work.
If you create or use manipulated images, it’s possible to lose your job : An LA Times photojournalist was fired for combining two photos into one that changed its meaning. In that case, the photographer admitted that it was a "complete breakdown in judgment," but the offense doesn’t have to be that egregious for there to be consequences: an AP photographer was fired for photoshopping his own shadow out of an image.
There are some “harmless” uses for AI and video manipulation. . Some of these include breaking language barriers with better translations, news delivery, turning back the clock so that aging actors look young again, and the ability to have “conversations” with deceased loved ones. It can also help students with vision disabilities to learn better by using compelling audio, and it can be used to help create automated transcriptions.
If you’re thinking that there should be some laws, you’re not alone . Deep fake usage carries all kinds of risks. Some of the more common ones include: being used for extortion or coercion against women, political manipulation and deception, and the threat of society perceiving a real video as being fake. According to Martin, laws are needed for commercial uses of synthetic video, disinformation campaigns, and nonconsensual deep fakes.
What this all means is that media literacy is critical. The prominence of image and media manipulation will only increase over time as AI becomes simultaneously more sophisticated and more readily available. Students need to understand the current state and where things are headed, because these issues will impact them.
“The relationship between media and truth has always been tenuous.” Fabos said. “In light of these deep fakes, and these deep fake developments, we will need media literacy and the core work of fact checking.”
To learn more about what students need to know about media literacy, check out this free on-demand webinar from the co-authors of Media & Culture, 13th Edition by clicking here to access it.
... View more
This is a story about engagement, motivation, and curiosity. About creating environments in which students can not only learn, but belong. It is not my story. It is formed by the stories we hear from students every day, stories often telling us the same thing in their own way. Over the last two years, those stories commonly recount the individual experiences of having been disengaged from learning throughout the pandemic. The stories are from individuals, but collectively they begin to sound like a thunder that has been building for some time on the horizon and is now over your home.
My home is Macmillan Learning where I have spent the last twenty years working, thinking, and engaging with ideas that support student learning and effective teaching practices. At no time have we felt a greater responsibility to the students and educators that we serve than we do today.
This responsibility, and the weight that we bear with it, is a coalescence of factors -- many of them exacerbated by pandemic learning in the last two years. Pre-pandemic, the trends towards hybrid learning were well-substantiated and the shift of educational solutions companies towards effective practices in digital pedagogy has been proceeding at a steady pace. Educators have long been partnering with groups like Macmillan Learning to provide a fuller digital experience for their students; we are now over a decade into the common usage of learning platforms inside and outside the classroom that provide learning opportunities in the form of interactives, video activities and simulations, and animations coupled with formative assessment practices.
Today, we are exploring learning opportunities in ways that were uncommon when I first began my career: the close partnerships with instructors as we co-design products for their classrooms; the presence of more and more former educators on our full-time staff; and increasing possibilities unlocked when students inform their own learning journey. More so, we are pressed to take steps beyond our content to deliver upon a promise for a better learning experience and a better educational environment within our programs. And that’s where I come back to the stories of students -- and stories about engagement, motivation, and curiosity -- and the ways that we can improve upon an imperfect situation.
Importantly, at Macmillan Learning, we’re focusing on the student in ways that reach beyond the content they learn. We are delving deeper into the motivation and sense of belonging (or lack thereof) that is inherently linked to their success. Research from peer-reviewed journals has demonstrated that students who feel an increased sense of belonging on their campus and within their classes tend to persist through their courses and ultimately to graduation at a higher rate. We are using that research as the basis to create new opportunities for students to build their sense of belonging when interacting with and utilizing our programs. To ensure we are successful in this effort, our learning science team partners with institutions that serve students who traditionally have a lower sense of belonging so their experiences inform the programs we create to support them. .
As we continue the launch of our new learning platform, Achieve, it will be students' engagement with skill-building tools, support for self-regulated learning, and the development of their sense of belonging that pairs so importantly with their ability to see themselves in the content of their course. And we are exploring the degree in which these two factors are linked: whether a sense of belonging can create an environment that draws upon a student’s inherent sense of curiosity but perhaps only to a limited effect if they cannot see their experience in the content of the course. Or as our authors and editorial teams continue to create diverse content and pedagogical structures that are inclusive and culturally responsive, we are investigating whether the learning experience will become more equitable as each student develops a sense of belonging that will propel them to succeed.
The stories that motivate us each day are the stories we hear from students, and each of them provides us with another opportunity to take forward our mission to be a leading contributor to student success through student engagement. And we will never tire of the things we learn from working directly with students and educators, not as long as those stories are being told, being shared, and remain the source of inspiration for all of us at Macmillan Learning.
... View more
Three quarters of Dr. Edna Ross’ students started the semester vaccinated. How does she know this? iClicker.
Over the years, instructors have come up with new and interesting ways to use iClicker in their classes. Far from being just Dr. Edna Ross a polling app, iClicker can be used for attendance, asynchronous polls, and low-stakes quizzing -- or for questions you want to surface in your course, like learning whether or not students were vaccinated and why. And it all can be done anonymously.
At the start of the Fall semester, the Psychology Professor used iClickers as an 'icebreaker' on the first day of class, asking, among others questions, for students to anonymously self- identify as fully vaccinated, planning to get vaccinated/has at least one dose, or not vaccinated against COVID-19. The 75% vaccination rate in her classes was an accurate reflection of what was taking place on college campuses nationally, with the majority of college students and staff being vaccinated against the virus.
The anonymous poll offered insights into her students' thinking and demonstrated an important lesson for the psychology students about consequences.
Students’ reasons for getting the vaccination included reducing their risk of severe COVID-19 and passing the virus as well as wanting to go about their day-to-day activities with less risk. Further, many didn’t want to quarantine for two weeks if they had been exposed to someone they later found out was infected -- something that was required on campus.
Students reasons for not getting the vaccination varied from distrust of the government due to the Tuskegee Syphilis study run by the US Public Health Department (read more about that here ), mistrust of “Big Pharma”, that the vaccination was too rushed, or the belief that too many FDA approved drugs were recalled because of negative side effects. For these students, the cons had outweighed the pros of being vaccinated.
Ultimately, the anonymous iClicker poll about vaccinations wound up encouraging more students to get vaccinated. There were two reasons for this. First, they were able to see that being vaccinated was normalized and something that the majority of students had agreed to. Second, because there were consequences of their choice that impacted their learning experience.
“Quarantine meant they missed work in all their classes. My syllabus outlines the allowances I make for missed assignments for all students, but I do not give quarantined students any special considerations,” Dr. Ross noted.
While unvaccinated students had to quarantine for two weeks if exposed to anyone with COVID whether or not they had symptoms, fully vaccinated students did not have to quarantine if they weren't experiencing symptoms. Contact tracing forced almost all of the unvaccinated students out of class for quarantine at one time or another. While vaccinated students rarely had to quarantine, some unvaccinated students had to quarantine for two consecutive periods of time. This meant students missed class work in all their courses for a month! A daunting situation for any student.
This is only one of the many interesting ways that iClicker is being used during the pandemic to support student engagement and success. One instructor is also using it for contact tracing in her large enrollment class; to learn more about that, click here . To learn more about the benefits of iClicker, click here .
... View more
As I begin to see colleagues face-to-face in our offices as they slowly return to normal, I am reminded of a pre-pandemic session with an author who claimed the fidelity of learning and communicating face-to-face was billions of times higher than online. Oh, how that assertion has been both felt, and tested, in the last 18 months as educators scrambled to deal with the abrupt digitalization to connect with learners, and we quickly worked to support their efforts. The last 18 months has been a period of new stresses, new social change, and profoundly more time to ourselves. With all that time, it is clear that people have not only been reevaluating where they work, but also “ why” they work. Throughout my career I have had several different answers to the question of “why” I would enjoy working with one employer and team versus another. What I learned ultimately was -- the mission matters. Early in my career I worked in finance, but was quickly drawn into a reengineering effort that involved software technology meant to streamline and transform a number of internal processes. I was suddenly excited by how much more effective and efficient we were, and saw firsthand how software could radically change things. With my new passion for technology, my “ why ” shifted to helping others solve problems with technology and my passion evolved into supporting learning. Over time, I really gained a passion for the outcomes of improving teaching and learning, the “ why ” was less about me and positions or money and more about doing some good. When I joined Macmillan Learning I was struck by both a sense of fun, and a gentle but deep seriousness about our roles in improving the lives of others, not only in our content and products, but also in how we connect with society and care for each other internally. The company’s mission was exactly what I was passionate about, and it shows in everything we do and how we work. At Macmillan Learning, we methodically learn. There’s a humility we take on every day with our focus of “test and learn”, looking at data from the market, from impact research, from customer feedback.. We sometimes fail, but we hopefully always adapt. We’re transparent about it, we’re brave -- who else publishes product research while in Beta for the scrutiny of customers as well as competitors? Our leaders consciously and intentionally nurture a culture of trust and respect - really we demand it of ourselves and each other. Our leadership team demonstrably shows greater trust in each other than I have seen before. To me, all of that lines up against working toward our mission. Together. Doing better is an encompassing “ why ” for me now, but I believe “doing better” is only part of the mission at Macmillan Learning. Doing better means supporting our technology team members to be strong owners and customer experience advocates, supporting our customers directly, and partnering with our product and learning science teams to support the development, testing, and validation of hypotheses we have on improving teaching and learning. So for those of you who may be job seekers that are looking for your next opportunity during this time of great change, I encourage you to think about your own “ why ”. There are many reasons people work in tech, but for me, finding work in tech that supports a learning mission has been infinitely rewarding. So think about why you work, the impact you want to have on your own lives as well as the lives of others, and how you can do better. It made all the difference for me in my career. And if our mission and values align with your why’s, consider working at a mission-driven company like ours. Come ready to continue to learn!
... View more
Loneliness is on the rise and has been since the early 2000s. With ongoing concerns about students’ mental health during the pandemic, it’s more important than ever to address the root of the problem: the lack of interpersonal communication.
Why are students more lonely and unhappy than ever? Research from psychologist and Macmillan Learning author David Myers found that while some factors like religion, volunteering and fitness have a slight impact on happiness, the thing that makes the most impact is having satisfying relationships. Not just romantic relationships, but also connections with friends, family, co-workers, and fellow students. The way to develop these meaningful, and sustaining relationships is interpersonal communication.
It’s challenging to address lack of interpersonal communication when students are more dependent than ever on technology in many aspects of their lives -- from their regular access to social media to their remote classes while they were confined during the pandemic. The screen that has allowed them to connect with people is simultaneously isolating them as well as becoming a scale for self esteem (which is a concept worthy of an entire blog.)
But there are steps instructors can take to help students to establish and enhance interpersonal communication in and beyond the classroom. According to Steven McCornack, Professor at University of Alabama at Birmingham, “Sustaining relationships is a mental health imperative and interpersonal comms is a way to address it.”
Last week’s webinar about interpersonal relationships in a post-COVID world with professors and authors Steven McCornack and Kelly Morrison, Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Alabama at Birmingham hosted by Macmillan Learning introduced some steps that instructors can take both in and out of the classroom to help develop these skills in students. While some tips are specific to Communication classes, others can be used in just about any class. Here are eight tips:
Don’t start the semester with a “syllabus day.” Steven and Kelly start out class with a question: “What is the most important thing that drives your life’s happiness.” This helps develop community within the class and gets the students to start talking. And, for their class in particular, it’s helpful to lead into the content as to why their course on interpersonal communication is important.
Use name tags in class for in-person classes. While many students can identify the faces of the other students in their class, not as many are familiar with their names. Having name tags is like opening a door to say hello, and continues throughout the semester to create community.
Have music on before class . Having music creates an environment that encourages conversations. Steven consults his son on a playlist so that he has the most current music on, whereas Kelly prefers more upbeat music. No matter the kind, music is a great conversation starter.
Gently push students not to use devices. While the screen enables students to connect with each other in the digital space, it is also very isolating -- and not just because students are looking down at their devices instead of engaging with their surroundings hindering conversations. Research correlates social media consumption and social isolation; it’s possible to plot someone's feelings of isolation by monitoring the amount of time per day they spend on social media, in large part because they’re doing social comparisons and feeling worse about themselves.
Use the “introduce yourself to a stranger” assignment. This assignment asks students to introduce themselves to a specified number of people they hadn’t met before either every day or every week. The assignment aspect of it gives students a valid excuse for approaching someone they didn’t know and starting a conversation, helping to remove some of the shyness and intimidation some students may feel. This has led to many students finding common interests or even making new friends, helping them to feel less lonely.
Advise students about Self-Discrepancy Theory. The theory purports that self esteem, in large part, derives from how we compare ourselves to two standards -- who we believe we should be and what we believe the ideal is. Students’ own self concept will benefit when they are mindful of their inputs, and understand that social media should not function as a scale for self esteem because many things being posted are fictional and non-attainable. Empower students to know that they alone have the power to change the comparisons, as they reside in their own thoughts.
Help get conversations started . Students can engage with each other in discussion boards or in breakout rooms, giving them the ability to connect with and learn from each other. Instructors can use ice-breaker questions like “what would the title of your life’s story be, and why” to allow students to better get to know each other.
Use video. In addition to being more efficient than sending emails back and forth for hours on end, video conferencing with students helps to build connections with instructors and each other. Instructors can meet with students individually or in small groups. In asynchronous classes, video introductions can be used to allow students to get to know each other and discover common interests.
As an Interpersonal Communication instructor, Kelly opens her classes by underscoring the importance of having sustaining relationships, and the steps outlined above are some ways to nurture their development, but that’s just one of many options. These eight ideas are some of many designed to help support the development of interpersonal communication -- leading to happier and more successful students. The close relationships that students develop, more than money or fame, are what keep people them throughout their lives. “The way that students can get there is through interpersonal communication,” she noted. To watch the full webinar and access the slide deck, click here . To learn more about Steve and Kelly’s new edition of Reflect and Relate: An Introduction to Interpersonal
... View more
As Macmillan Learning began planning our return-to-office and travel protocols, we realized that many employees were seeking factual, unbiased, and non-politicized information about COVID-19 and the vaccines. As an education and information company, we believe we have a role to play in helping to reduce misinformation. That’s why we work in partnership with outstanding educators and researchers in their field who can provide clarity on the science behind the pandemic. Macmillan Learning President Susan Winslow united a team to create a new information site for the company’s employees and others to help explain and educate. You can reach the site here . The fully accessible resource site communicates the facts as we know them today, and includes curated content including research, reviewed articles, responses to frequently asked questions in text, art, and video. We recognize that the news is changing rapidly so we are committed to updating content as needed with new and expanded information. We are grateful to the team of Macmillan Learning employees and our first group of authors - Principles of Life author Dr. David Hillis, Kuby Immunology authors Drs. Jennifer Punt and Sharon Stranford - for their willingness to contribute to our mission to inform and educate. To learn more about COVID-19, visit the site https://covid19.macmillanlearning.com/ .
... View more
A New Way to Use iClicker: Contact Tracing in Large Enrollment Classes
Over the years, instructors have come up with new and clever ways to use iClicker in their classes. Far from being just a polling app, iClicker can be used for attendance, asynchronous polls, and low-stakes quizzing -- and now for contact tracing.
How one professor used iClicker for student contact tracing
When her university asked instructors to keep attendance to protect the students and college community, Professor Christy Bagwill, an Instructor and Coordinator for Organic Chemistry and Principles of Chemistry Laboratory Courses at Saint Louis University, came up with the idea to use iClicker. In her large-enrollment class, she came up with a creative solution that allows students flexibility to sit where they wanted, but offers a reliable way to identify and alert students if they’ve been exposed.
Essentially, Professor Bagwill decided to use iClicker’s polling functionality - specifically the short answer option - to have students respond with their table location as the first question in class every day, that way she captured their attendance and seating location in one easy step. She shares more about this new method and how it came about in the first of our series discussing how iClicker is helping to solve problems caused by the pandemic.
The university asked you to keep attendance and map where students were sitting for COVID contact tracing purposes. What made you think of using iClicker? And how did you set this up?
I have been using iClicker in my large enrollment lecture class for several years. I usually use the platform to give in-class quizzes or just a check to see where the class is on a topic. I will give some multiple choice or true/false questions, but other times I will ask the students to enter a short numerical/alphabetical response. Honestly I haven’t used iClicker in the past to take attendance, I just give unannounced quizzes and that keeps student attendance high, but I knew that the attendance option was a popular usage for other instructors. I think it was my familiarity with iClicker that helped cultivate the idea.
When the university made the announcement, the first thing that came to mind was attendance paired with a short answer question asking students to identify their seat location. I was just unsure how to retrieve individual answers to short questions so I contacted my Macmillan Learning team to see what options were available.
As we were planning how to take attendance and record seating charts, many options were floated by faculty members. Most included assigned seats, so seating charts would only have to be made one time in the semester. This freed the instructor to just take attendance, which can easily be done using a Google form. However, it was apparent to me that having students in a large enrollment lecture course complete a Google form for each class period would be a daunting task -- also, I teach freshmen and I knew that their group of friends would fluctuate throughout the semester. I wanted to be able to mirror what was happening outside the learning environment, inside the classroom. I wanted to give them the freedom inside the class to choose who they sat with at their tables, who was in their groups during active learning sessions. So to that end, I decided to use iClicker to just run a short answer question, asking students for their seating location. It allowed me to capture attendance and seat location, as well as give students the flexibility to sit where & with whom they wanted. Ultimately, I had decided to use iClicker in the classroom so the addition of one short answer question just made sense.
Have you had any COVID scares where you needed to reference your contact tracing data (attendance/seat maps)? If so, how did it go?
So far in my class we have not had any scares that I needed to provide the data but if needed it is there. We are a highly-vaccinated campus and masks are required in buildings/classrooms.
What advice would you give to others looking to do contact tracing with iClicker?
Our biggest struggle in a large enrollment lecture class was labeling seating locations. In my particular room, we labeled each table round with an element symbol so all students had to do was enter a one or two letter response. Other advice I would give would be to remember to download your attendance/short answer data and have it easily accessible, as the turn around for contact tracing is around 12 hours. Also, I would recommend having enough access points for our wifi, so students don’t have a problem connecting to the app to enter answers.
How have your students responded to this level of safety/monitoring?
Our students have responded very well to this level of safety/monitoring using the mobile app. Most seem to appreciate the flexibility to sit where they want to for the class.
How else has COVID changed teaching and learning in your classroom?
We originally had to remove most of the active learning modules in the curriculum, but we have returned that now. I teach using partial-flipped pedagogy, so it hasn’t changed significantly now that we are back in-person. I record pre-lecture videos that they watch, I lecture a little bit in class, and we work on problems together. I have always recorded my in-class lectures so students could review the information again at their own pace.
Our campus requires vaccines for faculty, staff, and students which has allowed us to return to a mostly normal classroom. We are still required to wear masks at this time just for extra precautions.
This has been a very fatiguing one and a half years, with new rules, modified curriculums, modified schedules, and the need to learn new platforms -- I see a significant amount of what I would call pandemic fatigue.
You’ve been using iClicker for some time now-- how has the way you used it changed over the years?
I have used iClicker for many years. In the past I always used the iClicker remotes for different types of quizzes: knowledge check on a topic, one quiz question at a time/move at specified pace, or print a paper quiz and they answer at their own pace. This is the first time I have had students use the iClicker student app in addition to remotes.
What advice would you give to instructors using iClicker for the first time this semester?
Practice with the software and the remotes. It is not hard but the first time students use it and the first time you administer a quiz, it can be a bit intimidating. I have been known to take a remote base and a student remote and practice. The better prepared I am, the better off the students are.
With large enrollment lecture classes, if using the iClicker student app, make sure you have enough access points for your wifi connection. If they cannot connect to wifi, they are unable to answer the questions.
... View more