Resources for effective learning strategies
Pedagogy in Practice
Welcome to Fall 2021! Take a deep breath – you got this! I hope that you were able to take some moments over the summer and step away to practice self-care (see November 2020 Ed Digest). As you and many of your staff and faculty colleagues look to this fall start it might be still be filled with feelings of anxiety and uncertainty about what the next several months might bring. Many of us looked to this fall as evidence of moving out of this pandemic and not as another hill to climb. It is important to recognize these feelings and the potential impacts in your online & face to face classrooms and on and virtually in campus environments.
Recognizing that you may feel already close to maximized capacity or that your bandwidth is almost full, I want to offer a few different resources that can minimize the research and application of effective learning strategies. Perhaps you want to do something instructionally different, but you’re not sure what and you don’t have the time and energy to explore the endless possibilities. If any of this is (or is not) true for you, I’d encourage you to take advantage of these resources.
The Patricia K. Cross Academy is video based and easily searchable with quick application of strategies. These can be searched by teaching environment, activity type, teaching problem addressed, and learning taxonomic dimension. For example, consider using Teaching Technique 5: Group Grid (complete with downloadable Instructor’s Guide for implementation) to move beyond surface learning and support integration and synthesis dimensions.
Consider spending a few moments at Retrievalpractice.org featured Teaching Tips for quick to implement strategies. For suggested strategies that include minimal prep, the website provides templates. The related Powerful Teaching’s website includes templates and downloads for quick and easy implementation too. The Brain Dump activity requires no advance preparation and can take only 5 minutes.
Cult of Pedagogy’s YouTube playlist of instructional strategies can be used right away. These twelve videos range between two to seven minutes long and many can be applied both online and face to face.
Get to know your students (they are likely close to capacity too), build community, and support equity by humanizing your class. Check out Michelle Brocanky’s How and Why to Humanize Your Online Class infographic to learn more about humanizing and strategies (with tutorials) for implementation.
Check out Active Learning in Your Course from University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center for Teaching, Learning, & Mentoring for many quick to apply strategies. Strategies are identified by activity type (analysis and critical thinking, discussions, prior knowledge, etc.) and then arranged in table format with attention to Approach, Description, and Outcome.
Looking for more or a deeper dive? Take a look at the Fall 2021 NED short course offerings.
Level Up Your Speed Reading Ability with Rapid Serial Visual Presentation
Academic Technology Tips
Variable speed playback in videos is a highly used feature that has become expected on standard players. Kaltura MediaSpace offers the ability to slow down or speed up recorded content being presented for enhanced attentiveness and personalized control. A similar concept can also be used to adapt text based content. There are many tools available to help customize the visual display of digital content. Some are designed specifically to improve reading speed with guided tutorials and lessons on how to use fundamental techniques like improving vocabulary and practice to improve your skills.
One free application to help adjust text display and therefore potentially enhance reading speed is called Sprint Reader. This application has an easy to use browser extension and web interface that can be used to display the words in the same location, one after the other. This serial display can be helpful for individuals who struggle with keeping their place in text and has been recommended to some individuals with specific learning difficulties (SpLD) like dyslexia.
There is mixed research about the efficacy surrounding this technique, some studies show a 50 percent increase in reading speed with similar accuracy but more often there is a trade-off between speed and accuracy or comprehension especially if it is new or complex content. The chart below shows no difference in reading speed based on font size but there was a 50 percent increase in speed with the Rapid Serial Visual Presentation (RSVP) technique as opposed to paragraph display for individuals in 3rd grade through the adults tested in the study.
However, some other studies have shown lower comprehension from the RSVP display. The research methods of the original studies appeared to use relatively short blocks of common texts. Critics have suggested further studies with greater volume of words being delivered in the various formats to help explain true comprehension value and any issues associated with eye fatigue that may be associated with the lack of blinking associated with the directed focus from the RSVP method.
This method isn’t going to pour knowledge into your cybernetic brain implant like if you were Johnny Mnemonic, but as traditional page layouts are being accessed on smaller mobile device screens, it may be a nice option to avoid scrolling and flipping digital pages.
For one more 1995 nostalgic example, let’s consider that you double the common reading speed of 250 words per minute with the RSVP technique. You could complete a classic book like the Scarlett Letter in about the same amount of time as the 2 hour and 15 minute movie featuring Demi Moore and avoid exposure to the movie’s 13% rotten tomato reviews.
Here is an example text being displayed at the 500 word per minute pace, see if you can keep up and decide if this technique may be helpful for you or others that you know.
How campuses use academic technology tools
Did You Know?
Although Minnesota State is a network of colleges and universities, we don’t all use the same academic technologies. Some campuses chose to allocate their human and financial resource to provide academic technology tools and services like VoiceThread, TurnItIn, Respondus, etc. to the members of their campus community. Tools and services like these are funded by an individual campus and, as such, your access to such tools is dependent on your affiliation to that campus.
For other tools, like Kaltura MediaSpace and Zoom, all campuses provide direct and indirect dollars to fund the human and financial resources needed to make these services available centrally, managed under one account. For instance, regardless of the campus to which you are affiliated, we all go to http://mediaspace.minnstate.edu or http://minnstate.zoom.us to access Kaltura and Zoom, respectively. There is team of system office staff who manage these services in consultation with and on behalf of campuses.
Complicating things a bit more are services like D2L’s Brightspace service. Yes, all campuses use D2L Brightspace, but for the most part each campus has the autonomy to manage Brightspace as they wish. Although all campuses contribute indirect and direct dollars to access this service, each campus has their very own instance of Brightspace with supporting staff who manage how many tools within Brightspace are presented to those using the service.
As you can probably tell, identifying which academic technologies should be funded collectively and how these should be managed can be complicated. Fortunately, there is an established, transparent process by which these recommendations are made. For issues and topics that have an impact on all campuses, the Senior Vice Chancellor of Academic and Student Affairs charges four systemwide councils with the task to providing recommendations on a whole host of topics. When it comes to academic technologies, there is the Technology Council and its contributing committees that are consulted.
Just as your campus utilizes some form of shared governance to consult with and make recommendations on policies and decisions that affect your institution. The Technology Council and its related committees are made up of appointees from collective bargaining unions and student organizations and meet throughout the academic year.
If you want to have a direct impact on these discussions, connect with the leadership of your respective groups and let them know you’d like to be appointed to one of these groups. You are always welcome to join the systemwide Campus Academic Technology Team monthly meeting where we attempt to share the salient topics that are discussed at these councils and committees.