I went to a small liberal arts college in Northern Ontario, Canada. In high school, I was a straight A student, and although I probably could have gone to any school I wanted, what I craved was something small where I wouldn’t be just another number.
It was a shock when I arrived to find that my first year classes still had a couple hundred students in them. The lectures were still as boring as my friends at larger school’s described theirs to be. It was difficult to make friends in a silent lecture hall, and not a single professor knew my name personally.
With little accountability, I stopped going to class, and when I did go, I had not prepared. I never did the readings and in some classes I don’t remember even cracking the textbook open. Who would notice if I wasn’t there for class? Who would know if I hadn’t done the readings? Regardless, my grades began to slip, and through my first year and second year I became a B (and sometimes C) student.
I was undoubtedly unengaged. Without the promise of discussion, I felt no reason to do the readings. Without the professor to call on me, I could skirt by doing the bare minimum.
It wasn’t until my final year that everything changed for me. I had small classes, some with only five or six students. Professors knew my name, knew when I was absent, and knew how capable I was of achieving academically. In some classes we had weekly quizzes, and the answers were straight from that week’s reading or from previous classes discussions. To be prepared and be present meant success.
I had to become accountable for my own learning. If I didn’t do the readings, I would look unprepared when called upon in class. And what I discovered when I started doing the readings, was that they were usually pretty interesting. And with opportunities to speak with other students in class, I began to make more friends. When it came time to apply to Master’s programs, I had glowing recommendations from all my professors. When grades rolled in I managed to score an almost perfect GPA.
Having to become accountable to my fellow classmates and professors gave me the push I needed to pull up my socks and get to work. Not only did it improve my critical thinking and knowledge of complex theory, it also gave me an amazing opportunity to make connections at the university.
Without the aspects of a classroom that provide engaging lectures (quizzes, group work, activities, discussions) most students find little reason to work, and ultimately their grades suffer. With the degree completion gap growing larger at North American universities and colleges, it is imperative that students take responsibility for their own learning, and also that professors provide students with the motivation they need to succeed. Gone are the days of the traditional lecture. Students want to ask questions and debate one another. They want the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and skills in the classroom, not just in essays and through written exams.
Software-as-a service programs, like Acrobatiq, allow professors to seamlessly integrate these kinds of engaging learning activities into their coursework, not only with small classes in upper years, but beginning in fundamental introductory classes in first and second years. Acrobatiq gives instructors the opportunity to flip their classroom, having students prepare for class online with readings, quizzes and online discussions, and then using time in class to go over more difficult concepts and to have class discussions about what students are learning.
Ensuring students are engaged with material, meeting learning objectives and progressing towards course completion early on is essential in closing the degree attainment gap. Both students and instructors are able to see real-time measurable insights indicating where and when students are struggling, allowing for targeted interventions to improve student success and prompting students to ask for help with concepts they don’t understand.
Acrobatiq holds students accountable for their own learning from the get-go. By continuing to implement ed tech solutions like Acrobatiq, students, like I once was, won’t have to wait until their upper years to start learning to their fullest potential, and professors can be certain that they are teaching effectively to safeguard student success.