Always ON™ Higher Education
The official blog of Omega Notes
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
In recent years, there has been a shift in higher education through the use of blended learning technologies. Some institutions in the industry have embraced this shift, but most colleges and universities have struggled to find a solution. This reality is largely lead by the fact that educators are finding it challenging to implement a comprehensive content solution which permits effective design of blended learning courses.
Instructional designers and instructors have difficulty transitioning and connecting between in-person lectures and online activities. This creates confusion with students, ultimately leading to students struggling to understand expectations in the courses. The lack of cohesion in these courses create an environment where students lose confidence in themselves as they’re trying to understand content.
Designers also struggle with the technological side of hybrid course design. Many systems that are used in higher education lack integration options due to the lack of Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) and Application Program Interface (API) features.
Fortunately, there’s a solution to address these challenges. Omega Notes is an online collaborative learning system that may be integrated with any LTI or API. Omega Notes is also designed to simplify or surpass these common difficulties when preparing a hybrid course. With Omega Notes Insights, course designers can actively change their content approach at any level due to the availability of comprehensive learning analytics. This dramatically improves individual student level course design.
Omega Notes also allows all educators to create personalized eBooks and Course Packs for their students. Instructors can pick and choose from publications to create condensed eBooks that only contain content that is relevant to the course. This creates a more affordable and organized structure for the students to follow. Furthermore, it permits an organized course structure educators appreciation as it allows them to keep their finger on the pulse of their student’s successes and struggles. Keeping the instructors and students on the same page reduces the insecurities that students have with hybrid courses and improves learning outcomes.
By Brenden Thomas
Finding a solution to foster collaboration inside and outside of the classroom has always been a challenge in higher learning. Research has proven that academic experiences that are active, social, contextual, engaging, and student-owned foster a deeper learning experience. While learning management systems (LMS) offer collaborative features, most students and faculty find the implementation to be shallow at best. Discussion boards and LMS group management tools can be a chore for everyone. These digital systems don’t bring students together in a meaningful capacity, and the system’s limitations force professors to design their curriculum entirely around the LMS.
Many educators have started implementing collaborative learning solutions via blended-learning environments into the classroom to overcome the limitations of an LMS. But that begs the question, with all of these solutions on the market, how do you choose the right one?
Ease Of Access
Many solutions are feature rich, but those features are useless if they’re not intuitive to use for both students or professors. Surprisingly, there can be a lack of focus in the design language of many digital learning solutions that end up creating a frustrating user experience. Make sure to ask for a demo account or a demonstration of both the student AND educator’s interface.
A digital system’s cost effectiveness can be easy to measure on the surface, but make sure to dig a little deeper. The ‘Freemium’ business model can be deceptive. The solution may offer a limited set of collaboration features at a decent price, but those features may be a more significant compromise than initially realized. In these situations, leveraging the full platform advertised eventually becomes prohibitively expensive. Make sure that the provider has a clear per student or flat rate pricing model that doesn’t require extra packages or service add ons.
All collaborative learning systems will advertise that they work well in theory, but not all systems offer a metric to monitor success. A platform with actionable insights offers a level of accountability to ensure that the service lives up to bold marketing claims. Be on the lookout to avoid systems with limited, shallow, or cumbersome analytics.
This is a fundamental component when building a successful network of EdTech solutions. Interoperability is a characteristic that allows for the sharing of resources between different systems. A collaborative learning solution that doesn’t interface with an LMS makes for an extremely difficult implementation process to say the least.
Technology is an essential component of the classroom and that trend is only going to move upwards. At times, this fast pace of innovation has left students and educators frustrated and grumbling, “Wait… you mean I have to learn how to use another system.” Often times service providers will offer a solution that consolidates multiple systems together into one cohesive system. Eliminating these content silos is a great way to get buy in from faculty and students.
Collaborative Learning Done The Right Way
When participating in collaborative learning, students work on assignments together while developing social skills that improve their relationships with others in the class. Instituting a collaborative learning solution allows students to engage and involve themselves more actively in the learning process rather than be passive students. Collaborative learning is great, but not all collaborative learning tools are created equally.
The Omega Notes Collaborative Learning System is a perfect example of a product that checks all of these boxes. The Omega platform engages students in a web app built for digital natives while working with publishers to obtain faculty selected content. As students are engaging, the Insights app explains student comprehension and behavior to preemptively identify unfavorable outcomes. Insights was designed specifically for educators in higher learning making for an easy learning curve. It’s rare to find an intuitive, cost effective solution that delivers actionable results while simplifying existing EdTech solutions. Make sure to consider looking at Omega Notes to maximize learning outcomes.
By Matthew Compton-Clark