Always ON™ Higher Education
The official blog of Omega Notes
Ask most students and they’ll probably tell how group work may be one of the least satisfying experiences they’ve ever had in school. Yet research suggests that group work, such as case-based teaching, can provide significant benefits. Students who participate in group-based active learning methods improve critical thinking, decision-making, and analytical skills, as well as the interpersonal skills necessary for discussion, collaboration, and consensus; all skills which are transferable outside the classroom (Bruner, 1991). Despite this fact, there remains an area of need within group work: a reliable method of evaluating student performance objectively and efficiently.
The Problem with Measuring Student Involvement in Group Work
Instructors always have the option of soliciting self and peer-assessments after group work, but those may not be the most reliable indicators of who’s engaged and who’s struggling. And direct faculty observation is time-consuming and can be disruptive; the very nature of faculty observation can prompt students to behave in ways they wouldn’t ordinarily. There have been efforts to develop evaluation tools and rubrics, but these can be time and labor intensive.
The EdTech Solution
Education technology can provide not only tools for use in group work, but also the kind of data that allows faculty to assess student performance during these activities.
A specialized EdTech platform can provide group work activities directly to students. Students can interact with each other by asking questions or taking notes that are shared among group members. As a collaborative tool, the platform can reduce barriers to participation by providing another avenues of communication (e.g., written over verbal) for students who may not all have the same learning and communication styles.
When students use an EdTech platform as a collaboration tool for group work, they may be more engaged. Many of today’s learners are already exceedingly adept at navigating digital spaces, and these tools give students the opportunity to interact with the course material and their peers in a way that feels natural to them and yet still focused on academics. Shared notes, comments, and questions can illuminate connections and facilitate understanding of complex ideas for students. On the faculty side, having access to data regarding student use of the materials on an individual and class basis allows for earlier intervention where needed so that students are less likely to fall through the cracks.
Objective and Usable Measurements
The data generated by EdTech analytics allows instructors to measure a student’s engagement and performance in group work settings like case-based learning at an individual level. Data includes analysis of collaboration and comprehension metrics, too. With real-time insight into group dynamics, instructors can better develop interventions tailored to student success. EdTech analytics can be trusted to provide faculty with reliable and objective analysis of group work that’s easily accessible and readily usable. And students can have confidence that their work and participation are being evaluated objectively.
Collaborative EdTech Platforms: The Solution For Group Work
As much as some students may lament it, group work is here to stay because studies show it gets results. Shifting group work, like case studies, to an online collaborative platform may encourage greater participation among students with diverse communication styles in an environment that’s already comfortable for them. And the EdTech analytics available to instructors through faculty access to the same platform can provide teachers with an effective way to measure and evaluate individual and group participation, a win for teachers and their students.
by Andrew Lang
According to Pew Research Center, nearly 90% of adults between the ages of 18 to 29 use social media. The student population reaching college age now, Gen Z, grew up with the internet and social media as an everyday part of their life. Research has already shown that this digital native generation learns through a completely different pedagogy, and a large majority of universities are not accustomed to accommodating this way of teaching. If university administrators and educators want to keep students engaged, they need to adapt to the needs of an increasingly digitized generation of students.
Facts About the Digital Natives
A large majority educators are not digital natives, and most are continuously surprised by how much social media and digital technology influences the lives of younger generations.
91 percent of Gen Z have their digital devices in bed
71 percent use Snapchat more than six times per day
59 percent say screen time makes them happy (more than time with their family, which is 40 percent)
44 percent use social media hourly
Gen Z uses up to five different social channels per day
Gen Z spends 2 hours 55 minutes per day on social media
Don’t Judge Digital Natives, Adapt to Them
If you research Gen Z extensively, you’re certain to walk away with an interesting perspective which challenges many Gen Z stereotypes. Gen Z is acutely aware of global issues, and they value diversity. In many cases, social media platforms are powering this extensive exposure to global narratives.
82 percent of Gen Z think carefully about what they put on social media
77 percent are extremely interested in volunteering
63 percent prefer to connect to peers and everyday people, not celebrities
32 percent donate their own money
26 percent volunteer on a regular basis
13 percent already have their own business
It’s easy to dismiss social media and this digital generation’s plea for a change in pedagogy as a misguided youthful request. In reality, we’re faced with a major cultural shift and it’s up to our educational system to respond in kind. It’s clear that Gen Z-ers want to better themselves and their communities as a whole. Will our educational institutions provide them with the tools they need to succeed?
The Solution: Collaborative Learning Environments
If a university is looking to adapt to modern learning pedagogy, look no further than digital collaborative learning environments. Collaborative learning systems, offered by companies like Omega Notes, are backed by research principles such as online collaborative learning theory (OCL). OCL theory offers a structure to learning in which students are encouraged and supported to work collaboratively. Through collaboration, students are empowered to invent, explore ways to innovate, and to seek the conceptual knowledge needed to solve problems rather than just merely memorizing the correct answer.
Collaborative learning environments offer a social experience powered by the interconnected technology that modern learners yearn for. When institutions successfully leverage collaborative learning technology, they can expect to see engaged students who are more passionate about the learning experience their professors are able to offer. When educators play to the strengths of Gen Z, they’ll find a generation or youth eager to learn and work as an active participant in their education.
By Matthew Compton-Clark
Technology just for technology’s sake serves no one and is generally in direct conflict with the aim of higher education– to assist students in meeting their career goals through the acquisition of knowledge and skills necessary for the workforce. But higher education has become increasingly expensive over the years, and it’s hard to blame students who want to be sure they’re getting as much as they can out of their financial investment. There are several reasons why ed tech, in particular, is one way schools can help students achieve a better return on the time and money they commit to an academic program.
Higher Quality Learning
Course materials and the myriad ways to access them via ed tech fits seamlessly into how young adults already interact with their world electronically. These digital natives are already navigating Internet resources and social media; ed tech tools can harness the comfort and familiarity of that environment by making interactions with course materials more engaging. Studies suggest that higher rates of engagement have the potential to improve outcomes, not just in the retention of information but of student persistence in completing an academic program.
The traditional lecture-based teaching style doesn’t always fit a student’s learning profile. Ed tech facilitates differentiated learning in the classroom to ensure that all students have the opportunity to not only get the education they’re paying for but to excel academically. Students can acquire knowledge according to a variety of learning styles while working collaboratively with peers to benefit from each other’s strengths in tangible ways.
A Higher Ed Experience Aligned with Student Values
Many of today’s college students are mindful of not only how much money they may be spending for an education but also how much of an environmental footprint their education might have. Instead of pricey printed textbooks, ed tech tools like Omega Notes supports responsible stewardship of natural paper resources, with the added benefit of saving students money; by accessing course materials online instead of buying printed textbooks, students could save some of the more than $1,100 in textbook costs they spend each year.
Greater Accountability for Students
Faculty can establish ed tech parameters that enforce student accountability in completing work on-time, ensuring everyone progresses in keeping with the syllabus. And in cases where students aren’t able to keep pace, an educator can use ed tech tools and data analytics made possible by them to get a better understanding of how students are doing overall and revise curriculum accordingly or deploy early intervention strategies to reduce students falling behind and failing.
Virtually all students understand that earning a postsecondary education requires a significant investment of resources, and they’re ready and willing to make that commitment. But as the ones who are ultimately responsible for the time and money it takes to complete an academic program, it’s understandable that students would be aware of and concerned with maximizing the return on that time and money. With that goal in mind, colleges and universities can use ed tech as an effective tool to support students’ academic performance in a cost-conscious environment.
By Andrew Lang
Differentiated learning in a post-secondary environment can improve not just student engagement and retention of material but instructor responsiveness to student needs. Ed tech is a tool that can provide faculty with student analytics and insight on how students engage with material, from acquisition to expression. Instructors may then be better able to identify areas of concern with student learning, leading to a roadmap for appropriate intervention.
What is Differentiated Learning?
Differentiated learning, or DI, is often confused with individual instruction which, naturally, is nearly impossible for a college instructor with 50 students or more in a section. Rather, differentiated instruction is a way of expanding instruction methods to better meet student needs. Students gain knowledge in a way that enables them to retain it better and use it more effectively for problem-solving and critical thinking. Differentiated learning also challenges the instructor to discover new approaches to the material, and by doing so can re-energize and engage faculty, resulting in a better learning experience for students.
Using Ed Tech to Improve DI
Ed tech enables student-oriented and evidence-based development and implementation of strategic intervention strategies in the classroom. By measuring and tabulating student use, including frequency and type of engagement, ed tech can provide instructors with useful data that shows teachers how well students grasp classroom instruction. Faculty can design better differentiated learning strategies with less guesswork and greater efficiency.
Beyond the initial roll-out of differentiated learning practices, an instructor’s continued use of these analytics enables ongoing assessment and adaptive, flexible differentiation as student skills and knowledge change over the course of the term. It makes possible differentiation based on an array of criteria, and solutions based on actual student skills, interests, readiness, and needs.
Better DI Solutions Built on Ed Tech
Ed tech, like Omega Notes Collaborative Learning System, facilitates differentiated learning through task-driven, collaborative projects, and activities. When faculty use data-driven DI techniques such as these, the result is students’ more in-depth understanding of key concepts, a reduction of the forgetting curve, and more practice with real-world competencies that will benefit students post-college.
Not every learner performs best in a traditional lecture setting; by establishing several access points for engagement, an instructor makes it possible for students to “choose their own engagement” and pick up the material in the way that they naturally learn best. What’s more, students get reinforcement of concepts and skills through hands-on work and peer interaction that can boost their ability to communicate and problem-solve. As each student’s learning style can vary, working in groups can provide the right setting for students to learn from each other, too, strengthening conceptual and interpersonal connections in new and exciting ways.
The nature of higher ed gathers together what in come cases is unlikely cohort as students bring diverse learning styles as well as educational and life experiences into the classroom with them. Differentiated learning that’s supported by ed tech analytics gives college instructors the tools that make it possible to develop effective differentiated learning strategies for classroom use. When students enjoy stronger engagement with what they’re learning, studies show it can lead to better student engagement and retention.
By Andrew Lang
The changing nature of higher ed coupled with the widespread availability of content through myriad providers can lead to greater emphasis on pedagogy and student-centered learning, according to Dr. Beena Giridharan. But learning new ways of teaching and preparing new materials in response can be overwhelming, given a faculty member’s overall responsibilities (Loch & Reushle, 2008; Price & Oliver, 2007). Ed tech analytics allows educators to evaluate the ‘breadcrumbs’ left by student access and interaction with online course materials, improving efficiency and access to usable data. Use these analytics as an assessment tool not just to measure your students’ success but to improve your own critical thinking and professional skills.
Measure Student Engagement in Real-Time
Just a few years ago, most instructors had to take it mostly on faith that students did the assigned readings as outlined in the syllabus and fully understood the content; by the time final projects and exams came in, it was too late to intervene. But today, ed tech makes it possible for schools to better serve instructors and students by issuing student engagement analytics in real-time.
See where your students are connecting with the material and where those connections are weak. Ed tech analytics can reveal any need for differentiation. Drill down into ed tech analytic reports to identify the specifics of student needs, giving you the ability to provide differentiated learning where and when appropriate. Use this information to assess your selection and application of course material toward learning goals. Improve your teaching skills by modifying course content and format for acquisition of knowledge aligned with the digital learning styles of today’s students, like shorter attention spans and visual learning (Menon, 2016).
Harness Students’ Digital Skills for Learning
Shift your reliance from paper to digital content to assess students’ learning. The ubiquity of devices and online resources like ed tech gives students an expanded ability to create and produce original content that reflect what they’re learning in class. Drive competency through project-based learning and collaboration using devices and digital resources. To avoid doing so is like limiting your students to 15 miles per hour because you have a 10-speed bike when they can go 75 miles per hour on a motorbike; why hold them back?
Evaluate and Improve Your Own Digital Fluency
As ed tech becomes a greater part of your instruction, you may discover a need to increase your own familiarity and competence in technology to better meet students at their level of interest, access, and engagement. It’s easier to use ed tech as a teaching tool when you’re adept at using it. You may also discover an added benefit by connecting with peers who have similar interests or research specialties, improved efficiency in your own course preparation and delivery, or enhanced connections with your students which enriches classroom experiences for everyone.
Use ed tech and analytics as a tool to build your knowledge and skills specific to teaching while improving your engagement with your students. Ed tech offers unique insights on your students’ learning style and your teaching style. Reflect on these benchmarks and then take action based on data-driven hypotheses, with the benefit of ongoing ed tech analytics to compare term over term and year over year metrics for self-assessment.
By Andrew Lang
Recent years have seen a considerable uptick in online learning as well as the availability of online course materials for student access; but access doesn’t equal engagement. So how can schools measure students’ academic interaction with available resources outside traditional classroom metrics? Ed tech analytics. They can provide actionable insight through customized reports measuring access, frequency, duration, and more.
The Role of Engagement in Education Success
Studies suggest that strong student engagement positively correlates with student performance, as well as student retention and program completion. But engagement is often a subjective metric, and even regular tests and quizzes may only reflect a student’s ability to recite information.
The kind of understanding and critical thinking required by final projects and exams provides evaluative data too late in the term to be useful for outreach to the struggling student. But by utilizing analytic tools offered by ed tech solutions, schools and instructors can evaluate students’ real-time experience through engagement analytics instead of waiting for delayed warning signals like final grades.
And while discussions about student engagement and performance frequently focus on first-year students and their adjustment to a postsecondary learning environment, improved engagement can also benefit students who’ve advanced farther on their education path and are now mastering competency skills. Even in fields where competency is critical, like health sciences, ed tech can contribute to improved student engagement (Donkin, Askew & Stevenson, 2019).
Use of Ed Tech Analytics in Real-Time
Ed tech platforms make collecting, aggregating, and analyzing student activity easy and accessible. Instructors can use analytics to explore student behaviors and identify areas of student needs, facilitating something close to real-time interventions for students at risk of falling behind or missing academic benchmarks. Instructors can better see how students engage with course material and tailor revisions to curriculum, lesson plans, and student activities accordingly. By delivering more time-sensitive and tailored interventions to meet the needs of individual students and their cohorts, faculty may help students avoid reaching a level of frustration that contributes to withdrawing from the course or school.
Long-Range Planning with Ed Tech Analytics
But it’s not enough to see that engagement is high or low. Analytics can also provide instructors with clues as to what’s working and what isn’t, showing them a path toward improvement. Going forward, instructors can use ed tech analytics for student engagement to revise curriculum, content, and course materials in future terms. Predictive analytics can better anticipate student behavior as well as learning challenges and opportunities. Ongoing data collection and analysis in the long term makes it possible to evaluate the influence of course changes in a meaningful and impartial way, seeing what’s working well and what isn’t, term over term and year over year.
With more colleges and universities considering the implementation of ed tech platforms, questions also arise as to how much and how well students will actually use these resources. Choosing the right platform is important not only because of the quality of the resource itself but the quality of its analytic tools, too. Reliable and useful data enables instructors’ responsible and effective decision-making, from curriculum changes to early interventions based on student engagement, an important predictor of student success.
By: Andrew Lang