Another academic year has ended -- one that was marked by changes to teaching and learning. Instructors relied more and more on edtech for their virtual classrooms, learned new best practices about student engagement and were more cognizant than ever about the numerous factors that together facilitate student success. Instructors like Solina Lindahl used digital learning systems to accompany their instruction.
Solina Lindahl is always on the cutting edge with trying new technology in her classroom, and was among the first instructors to check out Macmillan Learning’s new platform, Achieve. 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 Solina Lindahl, Senior Lecturer for Economics at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, about digital learning and her switch to Achieve for Essentials for OpenStax Principles of Economics.
Why did you first decide to use online tools in your class?
Honestly, my large class sizes and lack of TA support mean that online products have made sense; students get way more real-time feedback than they would otherwise.
People are hesitant to embrace change, but what would you say are the benefits of moving to Achieve vs your experience in Sapling?
The up-front costs of switching ANY of our class materials is no joke- I get it, especially if you teach large sections like I do. When things go wrong in a new platform it can be overwhelming plus we’ve all been through an exhausting year. But I notice that the user interface in Achieve is so clean, and I have had such good experiences with the tech support that I feel like it’s easier to switch to Achieve than most products. And let’s keep in mind the benefits: great graphing questions, algorithmic problems, well-produced and inclusive video tutorials with forced reasoning questions that students need to answer. Pair those with adaptive quizzes and you have a platform that supports many types of learners and class formats.
Also, Achieve’s user interface is cleaner and contains more resources and instructor customization options.
One benefit to digital learning is the insights you get about student performance. What kind of feedback do you get and how do you use it?
I appreciate the dashboard view of topics where students are missing the most questions, and the question discrimination helps me create better exams. When I have time, I like to look at the student responses to the ‘Bridge’ reasoning questions grouped by the wrong answer to see where the misunderstandings are coming from.
What advice would you offer on using technology in the classroom?
One piece of advice: Frame (and remind often) WHY you're using technology, especially if you're using it intensively. Also, make sure to be clear about your policies for late work, tech failures etc. up front. Make sure to walk them through the site in class; I think they know less about tech than we assume.
How have students responded to Achieve?
They tell me they really appreciate the adaptive quizzes because it helps keep them on top of the material and gives them a sense of how well they are understanding it.
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.