Required Equals Results: Craig Sisneros, University of Colorado – Denver



“I believe that if you make digital optional, most students will take that to mean it is not important. Furthermore, the students who really need the help will be the ones who think this way.”


What impact did requiring digital have on your students’ success?
When I was able to beta-test these materials, offering extra credit helped the students that didn’t really need the help. That is, the best student performers only separated themselves further from the pack. When I started requiring digital as a part of the course grade, the students on the margin (i.e., those in the middle of the pack) saw the benefits. Those who completed their assignments were able to separate themselves from the rest. Often, this meant the difference between passing or not!


Which digital tools do you use in your class?
I use Connect, LearnSmart, Guided Examples, and can’t wait to start using SmartBook!


When did you begin using digital tools in your classes and what did it replace, if anything?
I started using digital four years ago to replace some, but not all, of the hand-graded materials.


When did you decide to require them as part of the course grade?
Immediately!


What percentage of your course grade is made up by digital tools like Connect and LearnSmart?
Connect total for 11 chapters is 7.5% of the grade. LearnSmart total for 11 chapters is 2.5%


Why is it important to require digital rather than make it optional?
I believe that if you make digital optional, most students will take that to mean it is not important. Furthermore, the students who really need the help will be the ones who think this way.


What advice do you have for instructors who are incorporating digital into their courses for the first time?
Go through the exercises yourself to see if it makes sense for what you want the students to learn. This will also help you answer questions when the students are confused.


What are you able to do now that you couldn’t before you required digital?
I am really able to narrow down both what an individual student is struggling with as well as areas that are of concern to the entire class. When an individual student is working on an assignment and I see a wrong answer, I can ask them to explain how that number is calculated and pinpoint the mistake. When I start seeing the same questions missed or the same questions being asked, we can go back to those areas in class.


Check out the full Required Equals Results series to hear from other instructors about their experiences.

The Connect Team

By The Connect Team  |  October 01 2013

Required Equals Results: Cameron Harmon, Fayetteville Technical Community College



“Requiring digital tools is a must. If the tools are only optional, students won’t take advantage of them. When you assign a grade for them, the students are forced to do the work and slowly they will begin to see how helpful the digital tools really are.”


What impact did requiring digital have on your students’ success?
Initially, students were a bit hesitant because it was something totally different, but once they started using the tools they really liked them. Most of my responses from students have been on how much they love LearnSmart, and how fun and easy it is to use. And I can tell a difference in the students that do these assignments – on average, their test grades are usually 10 points higher than the others who don’t do the modules. It has also helped me during office hours. Instead of spending 15 minutes trying to figure out where their problem is, I can pull up the LearnSmart report and see exactly where they’ve been struggling. It’s fantastic to have that type of data readily at hand. Also, it has really helped with my students’ view of the class. They know that I’m checking on them and can see their progress, so they are more motivated to complete the assignments.


Which digital tools do you use in your class?
I use Connect Plus, and I have my students use the eBook, LearnSmart and Tegrity.


When did you begin using digital tools in your classes and what did it replace, if anything?
I began using digital tools in my online classes in 2011. Initially, they didn’t replace any assignments, but as I’ve become more familiar and comfortable with the digital tools, I’ve begun to use more of the Connect assignments. I now use their test banks for my exam questions, LearnSmart questions for prep and exam review, and Tegrity to post lectures and proctor exams in my online classes.


When did you decide to require them as part of the course grade?
I know that students don’t do anything for free, so from the very beginning a point value as been assigned.


What percentage of your course grade is made up by digital tools like Connect and LearnSmart?
LearnSmart makes up 10% of the students’ grades, and the other Connect portions can range anywhere from 5-15%.


Why is it important to require digital rather than make it optional?
Requiring digital tools is a must. If the digital tools are only optional, students won’t take advantage of them. Most students won’t do extra work for no credit. So by assigning a grade for the digital component, the students are now forced to do the work and slowly they will begin to see how helpful the digital tools really are for them.


What advice do you have for instructors who are incorporating digital into their courses for the first time?
The first thing I would say is don’t be overwhelmed. Connect has so many cool features that you may feel like you have to do everything and be an expert on digital. You don’t! Connect is super easy to use. I would suggest starting with one thing – LearnSmart. And make sure you make it a graded component. Then take advantage of all the help videos and tutorials so that you can assist your students with getting started.


What are you able to do now that you couldn’t before you required digital?
I think the best thing that has happened since incorporating digital tools is that I actually have more time. It does require time to get started in the beginning, but once you do, you’ll have more time to actually interact with students since so much is handled by Connect. And now I can have data on my students with the click of a button – data that can be broken down by any measure I would like. It is fantastic!


Check out the full Required Equals Results series to hear from other instructors about their experiences.

The Connect Team

By The Connect Team  |  September 06 2013

Required Equals Results: Christine Poythress, Middle Tennessee State University


“Requiring the digital resources in Connect has been a key factor in my students’ success. The overall scores in my courses have improved since I began using Connect.”


What impact did requiring digital have on your students’ success?
Requiring the digital resources in Connect has been a key factor in my student’s success. By requiring the listening guides, critical listening and other activities, students have become more articulate about music. The use of Connect has improved the quality of the discussions, which are a key component of the online classes I teach. I allow students to do the homework items in Connect as many times as they would like thus ensuring they will listen to the music and, by listening, they will be better equipped to write intelligently. The overall scores in my courses have improved since I began using Connect.


Which digital tools do you use in your class?
I teach solely online and use Connect. I also have several Tegrity lectures that I incorporate in my class. I began using these tools as soon as they were available.


When did you begin using digital tools in your classes and what did it replace, if anything?
I was still teaching traditional face-to-face classes when I began using Tegrity. Some of the other faculty said, “Oh, students won’t bother coming to class.” Even though we are a commuter school, I did not find this to be the case. Attendance rates stayed virtually the same. I found that students liked having the lectures available for review and study. The lectures were also a great resource for students if they had to miss a class.


When I started using Connect, I replaced some of my academic tests with online exercises, freeing up the class time for more active listening sessions and in-class activities.


When did you decide to require them as part of the course grade?
One of my favorite innovations in Connect is the ability to assign points to the listening guides, which gives the students an added incentive to actually listen to an entire selection of music. I decided to require digital tools as part of the course grade within the first year of using the resources. Currently, Connect makes up 35% of the semester grade.


What advice do you have for instructors who are incorporating digital into their courses for the first time?
For those instructors new to technology, I would say start small. Choose one or two items to incorporate into a course. I would recommend giving some credit for any activity—either points or a portion of a homework grade. Add resources as you become comfortable with the platform and the products.


What are you able to do now that you couldn’t before you required digital?
I am very happy to have these products to use. When I first created the online version of our Music Appreciation class, I spent countless hours saving music files, then converting them, and finally uploading them to our server. We had lots of music, but we didn’t have any listening guides to go with the music. Having the music and listening guides at your fingertips is a wonderful resource. I don’t think I could teach a very engaging online Music Appreciation class without digital tools. I think the students would have a very bland experience indeed.


Check out the full Required Equals Results series to hear from other instructors about their experiences.

The Connect Team

By The Connect Team  |  August 26 2013

Required Equals Results: Kimberly Hurns, Washtenaw Community College


“Students who actively and consistently used LearnSmart had an average final grade 21 points greater than the average.”


What impact did requiring digital have on your students’ success?
The digital tools allow my online courses to be much more interactive and they engage the students much better than simply reading/writing and testing activities. Since the implementation of LearnSmart in the Introduction to Business course, there has been increased engagement and retention. Students who actively and consistently used LearnSmart had an average final grade 21 points greater than the average.


Which digital tools do you use in your class?
I use Connect as well as LearnSmart.


When did you begin using digital tools in your classes and what did it replace, if anything?
I have been using Connect for about four years and LearnSmart for two. Initially, Connect was implemented in my online Introduction to Business course to replace the classroom interaction. I have added Connect to my online Management Skills course as it provides video assignments that replace the role-play we would do in class.


In my face-to-face courses, I had been requiring a pre-test for each chapter to be taken online prior to class lectures. I implemented LearnSmart to replace the pre-tests as the LearnSmart activities modeled good studying behaviors for the students.


When did you decide to require them as part of the course grade?
Because the technology was integrated into the course as part of the defined pedagogy, I always made them part of a grade.


What percentage of your course grade is made up by digital tools like Connect and LearnSmart?
The assignments count for 15-40% of the course grade, depending on the course. In my online Introduction to Business Course, which includes a LearnSmart for every chapter and a Connect assignment for every topic/unit, the total percentage is 40%. In my face-to-face Introduction to Business Course, the LearnSmart assignments count as 15% of the course (participation grade). In the Management Course, the Connect Assignments count for 20% of the course grade.


Why is it important to require digital rather than make it optional?
Most faculty are aware that students do not study or choose to engage in class material on their own. It is important to integrate the digital tools into the course, not simply add the tools as extra points or make them optional. The digital products provide value to the learning process, and instructors must define the value of the tools in their courses and include them accordingly.


What advice do you have for instructors who are incorporating digital into their courses for the first time?
When you plan to add digital to your course, analyze your current course layout and approach and use digital to solve problems in how students are learning. Don’t consider digital an addition, but a complement to the course to aid in engaging students. And don’t structure the digital in a way that makes the technology overshadow the purpose and content.


What are you able to do now that you couldn’t before you required digital?
Digital allows me to spend more time building relationships with students and identifying areas where I need to focus more time to help students learn and understand concepts.


Check out the full Required Equals Results series to hear from other instructors about their experiences.

The Connect Team

By The Connect Team  |  August 23 2013

Required Equals Results: Marika Lamoreaux, Georgia State University


“Students are busy people, and have a lot of demands on their time. If I didn’t require the digital content, they simply wouldn’t do it. Students frequently comment about how valuable they find the online content.”


What impact did requiring digital have on your students’ success?
Students frequently comment about how valuable they find the online content.


When did you begin using digital tools in your classes?
I used these tools and made them required the very first time I started teaching the class. A colleague had been using them and recommended them.


What percentage of your course grade is made up by digital tools like Connect and LearnSmart?
35%


Why is it important to require digital rather than make it optional?
Students are busy people, and have a lot of demands on their time. If I didn’t require the digital content, students simply wouldn’t do it.


What advice do you have for instructors who are incorporating digital into their courses for the first time?
The online content is a tool, just like lecture and the text. Even the best tools don’t work if you don’t use them appropriately. Consider the best way for you to use the tool given your course goals and students’ needs. The more you align what, and how, you assign online content with what you want students to learn, the easier your job will be, because you’re providing a valuable resource that requires little of your time. Further, the more alignment you have, the more your students will be able to see online material’s value, and will be more likely to embrace it.


What are you able to do now that you couldn’t before you required digital?
I’ve turned my class in to a hybrid class, so we only meet once a week. Although there is some set up time before the semester begins, teaching a hybrid class frees up a substantial amount of my time.


Check out the full Required Equals Results series to hear from other instructors about their experiences.

The Connect Team

By The Connect Team  |  August 21 2013

Required Equals Results – Teri Zuccaro, Clarke University


“My students now come to class more prepared from using the LearnSmart and familiarizing themselves with the chapter content. They find it more fun and interactive than the in-class quiz.”


What impact did requiring digital have on your students’ success?
I have had an increase in grades and more engagement & class discussion by using digital. In the past, I gave my students a short in-class quiz before I lectured on a chapter to try to force them to read the chapter. Now, instead of an in-class quiz, I assign LearnSmart for them to complete before class. I have received positive feedback from my students on using LearnSmart. They find it more fun and interactive than the in-class quiz. My students now come to class more prepared from using the LearnSmart and familiarizing themselves with the chapter content.


Which digital tools do you use in your class?
I use Connect, LearnSmart, the ConnectPlus eBook (now SmartBook), PowerPoints, and interactive presentations.


When did you begin using digital tools in your classes and what did it replace, if anything?
I began using digital tools approximately five years ago. It replaced lots of paper and manual grading.


When did you decide to require them as part of the course grade?
I required them as part of the course grade from the beginning.


What percentage of your course grade is made up by digital tools like Connect and LearnSmart?
I currently teach both face-to-face and hybrid courses. For my face-to-face courses, Connect & LearnSmart comprise 55% of the grade. For my hybrid courses, Connect & LearnSmart comprise 100% of my course grade.


Why is it important to require digital rather than make it optional?
I have come to learn that students will only do the work if it is a part of the grade. Connect & LearnSmart are not optional in my classes.


What advice do you have for instructors who are incorporating digital into their courses for the first time?
Talk to peers who are currently using digital products in their class and ask what has worked best for them in their courses. Don’t overwhelm your students by assigning too much initially. Ask for constructive feedback from your students when you try something new.


What are you able to do now that you couldn’t do before you required digital?
The reporting tab in Connect allows me to assess my students more effectively and efficiently than before. Based on my reports, I can view which content my students are having difficultly understanding, and tailor my future lectures/assignments/exams to assist in that particular area. I can also have multiple due dates & time requirements for assignments, exams, and students if needed. In addition, the gradebook allows my students to have access to all their grades at any time.


Check out the full Required Equals Results series to hear from other instructors about their experiences.

The Connect Team

By The Connect Team  |  August 14 2013

THE CREW
The Connect Team

The Connect Team
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Eileen
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