Category Archives: Academic Support

Harnessing the Power of Mindset


By Amy Sexton, Writing Center Tutor

Flash back to April 4, 2016:  It is the championship game of the National College Athletic Association (NCAA) Men’s Basketball tournament, and North Carolina and Villanova are tied at 74.  It’s Villanova’s ball, and with only 4.7 seconds left in the game, it is almost certain the two teams will go into overtime play. Then Villanova player Kris Jenkins throws up a three-point shot from just past the center line of the court, a shot that was so far away that it seemed very likely that it would not even reach the goal.  Miraculously, the shot lands in the basket with barely a nanosecond to spare, and Villanova joyously becomes the 2016 NCAA National Champions.

After the game, a reporter interviews Jenkins and asks him if he could believe that he had made the shot (Murray, 2016).  Jenkins responds, “I believe every shot’s going in, so” (Murray, 2016).  The reporter interrupts with a credulous follow-up, “Every one?” “Every one,” continues Jenkins, “so I thought that one was going in too” (Murray, 2016,)   I watched the game-winning shot and the post-interview live, and I was impressed by Jenkins’ mindset.  In fact, his declarations reflect a mindset that all college students, not just college athletes, ought to have.

Mindset is defined as  the “ability of the brain to form points of view in order to adopt behavior, formulate lifestyles, rethink priorities, make choices, and pursue goals” (Poplan, 2016).  As a tutor, I often hear students approach their studies with a mindset that inhibits learning and undermines their efforts.  They say things like “I’m a bad writer.”, “I’ve always been horrible at math.”, or ask “How horrible is this paper?”.    While they may have experiences that make these feelings seem valid, and some subjects may come more easily to them than others, approaching any learning task with a mindset of “I can do this.” will generally lead to improved learning and success.

As a personal example, math and science are subjects that I generally find difficult to understand.  I especially struggle with comprehending topics like algebra, chemistry, and physics, and I worked very hard in high school and college to earn reasonably good grades in the math and science courses that I was required to take.  One summer when I was in college, I worked as an in-home tutor, and one of my students was in high school and needed a jump-start for her upcoming algebra class.  “How can I possibly tutor algebra when I barely understood it myself?,” I wondered.  Regardless, my job was to tutor my assigned students in all subjects, so I borrowed a high school algebra text from a friend and began working through the problems with the mindset that I could learn the material and help my student learn it, too.  Before each of our sessions, I worked out problems in the text, and then I taught her what I had learned.  Together, we learned a lot of algebra that summer.

This experience taught me that I could do things that I did not think I was capable of doing. It was my first time realizing the power of mindset, and it served me well a few years later when I  had to complete tough graduate courses like research methods and statistics in order to earn my master’s degree.

The next time you find yourself thinking, “I can’t do that.”; think instead, “Okay, I can do this. This shot will go in!”  Whether it is a difficult course, a tough assignment, or a challenging exam, a positive mindset can help you power through and realize success.  Granted, you may not win a championship basketball game or be drafted into the NBA, but a positive, can-do attitude and mindset can definitely help improve your GPA!

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References

Murray, S. (2016, April 4).  Kris Jenkins- Villanova national championship post game interview [Video file].  Available from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p8DcKfEtQjk

Poplan, E.  (2016).  Mindset.   Salem Press Encyclopedia.  Retrieved from http://www.salempress.com/

 

 

 

 

The Academic Support Video Series: A Resource Initiative and Collaboration


By Chrissine Rios, MA, Kaplan University Writing Center


A tutor’s work is highly collaborative.  Tutors collaborate with students by nature, but tutors also collaborate with one another, with academic center specialists, and with faculty to develop and deliver workshops and to create and curate resources: the print and multimedia tutorials available on the university website and via the classroom portal.   Academic support resources benefit students in ways that are at once personal and far-reaching, immediate and long-lasting, and that are germane to learning—how students learn and what they need to be able to learn.

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Research shows, for instance, that interactive video resources are especially beneficial for students with “deficient prerequisite knowledge, . . . non-standard learning paths, and multiple entry points into a degree” as these students will commonly need to learn how to read a data sheet, for example, before being able to use one (Nikolic, 2015, p. 1).  Study skills videos specific to online learning are particularly essential to adult, online students.

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At the Kaplan University Writing Center, online students new to academic writing have available a variety of media-rich resources designed for new and developing writers.   However, like most discipline-based tutoring centers, Writing Center resources are contextualized in writing situations.

To meet the need for resources in study skills and student engagement, the tutors of all five centers at the Kaplan Academic Support Center did what they do best: collaborate.  In collaboration with the KU School of General Education too, the ASC has produced a new category of video resources that target diverse entry-level competencies such as time management, computer system requirements, college reading strategies, APA formatting basics, and test-taking tips.  The videos are short, interactive, and meant to help students accomplish day-to-day tasks as well as long term goals.  Faculty and tutors can also rely on immediate access to these pertinent resources when assisting students.

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You can access the first wave of the new Academic Support Videos on our public-facing Writing Center page: http://library.kaplan.edu/kuwc.  Please share this page and/or any of the individual video links with your students and colleagues, and keep coming back.  As our cross-center collaborations continue, we’ve expanded the boundaries and reach of our academic support resources, so there’s more to come!

References

Nikolic, S. (2015). Understanding how students use and appreciate online resources in the teaching laboratory. International Journal of Online Engineering, 11 (4), 8-13. http://dx.doi.org/10.3991/ijoe.v11i4.4562

 

Extra Email Checks Go a Long Way


Sara Wink, Kaplan University Composition Faculty

 

“Mommy!”

I let out a mangled “Whamb?” through the apple pulp in my mouth as I wash dishes.

“Mommy mommy M-O-O-O-O-M-M-Y!”

I walk into the boys’ bedroom, still chewing, and raise my arms in a “WHAT?” gesture, sending suds and water all over the doorway. My twin toddlers are sitting around a little Chinook helicopter. One of the rotors has come off. Peter’s about to shriek another “MOMMY!” but Philip holds up the helicopter in time. “Fix it? Fix it, please?”

I do so. They squeal a stereo “YAY!” until Phil notices a smidgen of suds dripping down the side. “Mommy, can you clean it? Clean it?” He thrusts it at my soapy self. Peter adds with a sharp crescendo “Clean IT?”

When someone wants help, they want it now. Not later that week, or “when you can.” NOW.

Many of us teach people with lives already loaded with Needs In the Now: elderly relatives who need care; a job with wonky hours; babies with colic or tyrannical toddlers who no longer nap; shots just fired outside the perimeter and they need to bug out, NOW. Despite all this, they commit to school, for with the right education, their Needs in the Now will alter for the better, or at the very least lessen. So they take on more, while we teachers teach a course we (hopefully) know pretty well and can balance decently with our Needs In The Now.

We need to remember that the students’ balancing act is ever-changing in dramatic ways. They have to move to a new military base. They have a loved one in the hospital. They are working more hours but have no child care. Sure, we remind them it’s important to dedicate time every day to school. I ask for thirty minutes minimum. But when they put that time in could be at 2am, or 1:30pm, maybe just a few minutes at a time when they’re on break at work or the baby’s finally asleep in their lap. Their ability to get online is limited, so when they need help, they need it NOW.

Waiting 24 hours for a response from a teacher is not horrible, but honestly, I feel like we owe it to our students to get online more often to at least check for questions or concerns. We all know how many students don’t get work turned in until Tuesday evening. “Gah, they’re just procrastinating.” Yeah, I know that’s the case for some, but for others, life just hasn’t let them get to the work beforehand. Many of our students have a very limited control over their daily life’s schedule. We, who do have some more control over our schedules, owe it to them to be more available.

I make it a point to check my email two to four times a day: early morning, midday, late afternoon, and early evening. Now granted, I work from home with my three children scampering about (see the aforementioned helicopter repair). I can’t just go on my computer whenever I want, or this happens:

https://kuwcnews.wordpress.com/ email

So I plan my access around times I know they’ll be a) asleep, or b) occupied with well-timed educational programming. This way, I’m at least checking if a student has a question; if a question is sent to me at 10am, they hear back from me in just two hours rather than eighteen.

Of course, I appreciate that some teachers cannot check school email at their job. Then,  establishing a “Check-In Schedule” at the beginning of term can be helpful. I’ve done this, too. By telling students you always check your email during Hours A, B, and C, they at least know when help will come, and won’t start the bombardment of “I didn’t get my work done because you didn’t get back to me” messages.

A few extra minutes on our part can make a LOAD of difference to our students. All they want is a little guidance to help them complete that which we want them to do in order to complete the academic journey. We can do better than plop the map at their feet and jog away with a “Good luck!” We must keep pace with them, so that when they struggle with all those dots and lines on the page we can provide a helpful word and hand. Believe me: they will remember how fantastically helpful you are when they tell their friends about their Kaplan experience.

And they won’t give a toss about your soapy hands.

 

SOAR Symposium: The Value of Research and Presentation


Dr. Tamara Fudge, Kaplan University Professor in the School of Business and Information Technology

 

Kaplan University’s second Student Online Annual Research Symposium (SOAR Symposium) is slated for this September 13 and offers our students and our alumni a great opportunity.

Imagine the chance to delve into meaningful career concepts outside of the classroom,  hone research, analytical, and organizational skills, create meaningful visual elements, exercise verbal communication, and take a leadership role within a webinar atmosphere.  It will take time management and communication skills to get it all done, too!  What is even better is that the SOAR Symposium offers both professional experience and a way to enhance the participant’s resume.

There are a few different ways students can  participate in the SOAR Symposium.  They can present with a PowerPoint presentation in an Adobe Connect room live session or develop a “poster” (an infographic).  Optionally, the participant can prepare a paper to go with his or her topic that may be suitable for professional publication.

These methods of information sharing have significant value. They require research, which in itself is good critical thinking practice for the workplace.  As Lipowski (2008) notes, “continuous assessment of policies, procedures, and programs [in the workplace] is necessary because science and technology can render them obsolete.”

Additionally, visual representations such as infographics and PowerPoint charts, graphs, and images aid attendees in understanding, processing, and remembering information (Parsons & Sedig, 2014). We can see that it is not just the participants, but the attendees who benefit from the Symposium.

It is also a leadership experience: presentations are a demonstration of assertiveness. This professional competency is also validated in participants’ preparedness to answer questions (Berjano  Sales-Nebot, & Lozano-Nieto, 2013). This public speaking experience is powerful on a resume.

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References

Berjano, E., Sales-Nebot, L., & Lozano-Nieto, A. (2013). Improving professionalism in the engineering curriculum through a novel use of oral presentations. European Journal Of Engineering Education, 38(2), 121-130.

Lipowski, E. (2008). Developing great research questions. American Journal Of Health-System Pharmacy, 65(17), 1667-1670 4p. doi:10.2146/ajhp070276

Parsons, P., & Sedig, K. (2014). Adjustable properties of visual representations: Improving the quality of human-information interaction. Journal Of The Association For Information Science & Technology, 65(3), 455-482. doi:10.1002/asi.23002

 

KUWC Resource Spotlight: 3 NEW Effective Writing Podcasts


By Chrissine Rios, MA, Kaplan University Writing Center, Tutor

Until this week, Kaplan Composition students have had exclusive access to three new Effective Writing Podcasts from podcaster Kurtis Clements who offers some of the best writing advice around for students who need a deeper understanding of important concepts and processes quickly.   Kurtis was a writing tutor in the KUWC when he began producing the extremely popular Effective Writing Podcast Series in 2011.  However, when he became the Assistant Chair of Composition at the start of 2012, the series seemed concluded at episode 36.  Happily, this is not so!

Kurtis produced three podcasts specifically for Composition that he recently offered to the Writing Center for publication with the original series, and they are excellent!  (Thank you, Kurtis!)  I had the honor of branding the transcripts and publishing them on the Writing Center’s server, so all students could access them internally in KU Campus and externally on our webpage in the KU Online Library, and here I provide you the direct links to these pertinent podcasts for college writers.   Share them with your students!

 APA Reference Page Checklist

Argument and the Toulmin Model of Argument

Using Signal Phrases and Interacting with Texts

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Effective Writing Podcast Series

Using Video Feedback to Help Students Learn about Plagiarism


By Amy Sexton, Kaplan University Writing Center Tutor

As part of our paper review service in the writing center, we routinely provide personalized video feedback along with written comments.  I have found that video review works especially well when I review assignments that have recognizable issues with plagiarism.  We often see possible plagiarism in student’s papers, especially when students are just beginning to learn and use citation.   While our paper review service is not a plagiarism detection service, we are often able to discern problematic areas in students’ papers. Since any issue with plagiarism (intentional or unintentional) can mean serious consequences for students, I usually point out any areas in their papers that may be indicative of plagiarism.   Writing centers are, as Buranen (2009) points out, uniquely positioned to be a “safe place” for students to learn about plagiarism and avoiding it in their writing (p. 8).  Addressing plagiarism concerns can be tricky, though.  Students sometimes equate plagiarism with cheating, and they may react defensively if they feel someone is accusing them of doing something wrong.    Fortunately, a video review provides an excellent vehicle for addressing plagiarism issues in students’ writing through relevant and supportive feedback. For an example, please view the partial  review below (3:53) in which I discuss possible plagiarism in a sample paper:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxxtQh-CefarMFhjQmFWZFRQb1k/view?usp=sharing

One reason that video feedback works well for addressing plagiarism concerns is that the student hears the voice of the person providing the feedback.  If tutors and instructors approach instances of plagiarism with tact and kindness, students will hear these positive elements in our voices, which may dissuade them from immediately reacting in a defensive manner.  If students only read our written comments about possible plagiarism, they may not detect either tact or kindness and instead focus on negative emotions, including anger, defensiveness, or indignity – all emotions that are  decidedly not conducive to learning.

Video feedback also gives educators the ability to show rather than just tell, as I illustrate in the example.  We can show students which words appear to be appropriated verbatim without correct quotation.  Often times, we can easily find sentences that students may have copied from an internet source and included in their own papers, and we can show students these original sources during the screencast.  We can also add missing quotation marks to demonstrate changes students need to make.  If the issue is with lack on in-text citation, we can actually add example in-text citations, again giving students a clear picture of what they need to do to correct any issues.  We can also show students how to use the “Find” function in Microsoft Word in order to ensure that they have matching in-text citations and references.

By using screencasts to provide feedback when students present with possible plagiarism issues in their writing, both tutors and instructors can enhance students’ understanding of what constitutes plagiarism.  In the process, we help create those “safe places” (Buranen, 2009, p. 8) where students can then begin to transform into scholars and researchers who engage in academic discourse and research with integrity and confidence.

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Student watching a video review

References

Buranen, L. (2009, Jan.-Feb.).  A safe place: The role of librarians and writing centers in addressing citation practices and plagiarism.  Knowledge Quest, 37(3), 24-33.  Retrieved from http://knowledgequest.aasl.org/

 

Left Out Online: Students in Need of More


Kyle Harley, Kaplan University Writing Center Tutor

kuwcnews.wordpress.comUnderstanding those who feel ostracized within the classroom can be a bit tricky in an online setting. Because instructors and tutors alike work with so many students, a few do fall through the cracks from time to time.  I have worked with so many students in the Writing Fundamentals program and learned that  many share a variety of experiences that certainly impact their writing ability. Some feel they are not heard in the classroom; some feel the professor does not understand them personally; and some just flat out give up due to feeling too far behind or just not good enough. More often than not, the student writes fantastically, but anyone can see the piling amount of anxiety these feelings can potentially create, not only in a writing setting, but across multiple disciplines as well.

As we already do a fantastic amount of great work as is, what else can we do to better the online experience for these students who feel left out or misunderstood? Due to the variety of unique experiences and firsthand student examples, I have combined a list of best practices that I personally employ and could potentially be applied if one of your students falls into one of the categories listed above. By increasing their confidence in the classroom, even if they feel their voice is heard, we will certainly better assist these students in their academic pursuit.

Get to know your students—every single one.

This seems a bit like no-brainer, but at an increasing rate students persistently mention how a tutor or instructor just breezes through the material and rarely gets to know the person on the other end of the screen. Now, this comes with reservation of course, because there is no need to know each and every detail about our students, but making an extended effort to reach out in some way makes all the difference. When students feel some form of connectivity with their tutor or instructor, even if it is as simple as asking about their career or where they live, students calm down considerably and approach their work in a completely different manner. I always employ this method prior to workshops, for instance, to help acclimate the student to the session while at the same time establishing rapport to assist with the conversation. In a classroom setting, this may become a bit more difficult, but try progressively doing this over the course of the term. Some students cannot believe that their professor wants to get to know them personally, so the additional touch could help to improve retention. One of the simplest and tried and true methods for creating this atmosphere directly stems, of course, from common ground.

Common ground breaks the ice and allows for growth.

Finding a few commonalities with students absolutely makes the difference. Thinking back to college, all of my favorite professors shared something personal about their life that I could relate to and, consequently, we created a stronger bond. An example of this first reared its head when I found out one of my professors was and still is just as obsessed with horror film as I am. This opened up an amazing door of opportunity to not only have a place to talk movies, but also produce work that circulated around that very interest—not to mention get some fantastic film recommendations. By sharing where you live, in a general sense, you may discover that you reside in the same state that your student is from. This could potentially lead to a great dialogue on current issues within the area that the student could write about as it affects their lives, as well. I know from experience here at the university that a good number of our instructors and tutors already utilize this technique, but it is easy to forget about this simple trick when we get tied up in all of our work. Popping into class fifteen minutes earlier than expected can act, in a way, as a mini-office hour you house with your students. Since tutoring is a much faster process,  tutors can welcome the student back after the session. Establishing these lasting relationships encourages continued visits, which is all we can really ask of our students. But what of the students who seemingly have problems with every instructor and/or tutor? Certainly they exist, and maybe it is in part because, as educators, we misidentify the problem.

Take the extra time to identify the student’s issue correctly.

Much like when students misidentify what they need assistance with, so, too, do educators sometimes misidentify students’ issues and what they need assistance with. Many of my Fundamentals students come to their first meeting with the excuse “I’m just not good at writing.” As we all know, this excuse typically stems from a lack of confidence in their writing instead of a lack in ability. Once they come to this realization, often after we have broken the ice and established some common ground, their writing nearly instantly improves as was the case with one student whom I worked with. Instead of  allowing this student to feel that he simply could not write well, we re-identified the issue and appropriated their focus elsewhere—on his confidence. Now, still to this day I see this particular student in Live Tutoring and in Paper Review, confident as ever. In a classroom setting, some students may find that the assignment instructions are impossible and that they will never be able to accomplish the task. To combat this, why not ask if there is any confusion and have a different way of explaining the material to better reach your students? The issue is usually not that the material is too difficult for the students; instead, they may just be a bit confused over the phrasing of the assignment. In fact, I think we all have had that anxiety with an assignment at some point, yet we still accomplished completing assignments.

For students, having a sense of comfort in an online setting  brings down a pre-constructed barrier that impedes their development in a scholastic setting.  In the classroom and in tutoring, this should be where our practice begins.