Category Archives: Teaching Tips & Strategies

Let Your Students Have a Do-Over

By Alec Fehl, author of Labyrinth Learning’s Microsoft® PowerPoint® 2016 Essentials and Your Digital Foundation

Learning to Walk

Do you remember learning to walk? Neither do I. Perhaps it went something like this:

Tried to stand up. Fell down. Tried to stand up. Fell down again. Did this for several days. Was finally able to stand. Tried to take a step. Fell down. Tried another step. Fell down. Bumped my head. Cried a little. Tried another step. Woo-hoo! Did it! Tried a second step. Fell down. Repeated process until I walked.

That may not be the exact sequence, but I bet it’s close. I learned by getting a lot of do-overs, and I know this didn’t happen:

Tried to stand up. Fell down and said, “Oh well…I’ll just try to move on to running.”

Why a Do-Over?

Do your students get one chance at an assignment, receive a grade, and then move on to the next assignment? Most of my students worked that way. Get a C and never look back. My students would fail to master concepts if their end goal was simply a grade.

How do educators address this?

With the current education system, we must find a way to balance facilitating learning with the administrative requirement of assessing, tracking, and rating progress.

I’ve had success in my classes by offering “virtually unlimited do-overs.”

How to Do a Do-Over

To begin, I give assignments with an initial due date. I assess these initial submissions and give detailed feedback, commenting on what’s good and what needs improvement or completion. Here’s the kicker: If I leave feedback, the initial grade is zero. Rather than give a letter grade or percentage, I label the assignment “complete” or “not complete.” My feedback indicates exactly what’s needed for me to consider the work complete.

And my feedback comes with a 48-hour deadline extension. They resubmit within the timeframe and the process repeats: They get more feedback, a “not complete” rating, and another 48 hours to work. This continues until the student either completes the assignment (100%) or misses a deadline and the incomplete rating (0%) sticks.

Benefits of Giving Do-Overs

  • I focus less on determining a grade and more on giving relevant feedback.
  • Students learn revision skills, how to accept critique, and other soft skills.
  • Students work, to some degree, at their own pace.
  • Students are motivated to improve from their mistakes, creating a mindset of lifelong learning.
  • Students benefit from formative assessment as they work through mistakes and are more likely to achieve concept/skill mastery.

While this may not be the perfect system for every discipline, I have used a more detailed version with great success in my classes for almost 30 years.

Teaching Microsoft Applications: Encourage Individuality, Encourage Experimentation

By Alex Scott, triOS College; Author of Labyrinth Learning’s Microsoft® Excel 2016 Comprehensive

Over years of using and teaching Microsoft Office programs, I’ve often wondered why there are so many ways to do the same thing. Many users are familiar with at least two methods of executing a common task like copy and paste using keyboard shortcuts or the context menu. But for new users, alternatives methods can be intimidating and difficult to remember.

Students with tablet

In my class I tell my students there are usually at least three ways to do the same thing! For example, say I want to copy the word “Microsoft” and use it in another location. I have four options:

  • Ribbon commands
  • Right-click to open the menu of commands
  • Keyboard shortcuts
  • Drag and drop

How do students know which method to choose?

Start Where You Are Comfortable

New Way and Old Way

New users can feel overwhelmed by these options, so focusing on one approach is a great way to start.  I tell them to focus on the method that makes most sense for them, whatever they are comfortable with. Everyone learns differently, and each student can decide what is right for them.

Experiment!

As their confidence increases, I encourage them to try different ways, to see how the task might be done easier or faster using a different method. More experienced users sometimes get into the habit of using the same method to do all tasks, so even students who are familiar with Office programs can benefit from trying new techniques.

Implement Methods That Increase Productivity

In the work world it isn’t just about getting the work done, it’s also about getting things done quickly and efficiently, using the best method possible.

I’ve noticed patterns when I use certain methods. When I was writing my Excel textbook, a big part of the work was using Word to format and edit the content I drafted. I found that when I made a simple change – using shortcuts for copying and formatting – my time was drastically decreased!

Even as an advanced user, I find myself going back to the Ribbon—even for tasks that would be accomplished more quickly using the mouse or keyboard. The key is to know as many different methods as possible, and to remind yourself to look for an alternative approach to complete a task instead of always doing things the same way.

The best way to do something isn’t necessarily the way you’ve done it in the past, and methods that work for some situations aren’t always the best for others.

Be willing to experiment and you will gain productivity!

Multimedia Learning Tools: Cater Your Classroom to Every Learning Style

As any good teacher knows, no two learners are alike. Fortunately, professors and community college instructors have more tools than ever to help reach all types of students. Online learning comes with interactive modules and engaging video components that take learning far beyond what traditional textbooks can offer. In particular, video can offer “visual clues” that stimulate memory and problem solving, accelerating the learning process and helping students to deepen their understanding of the topics you teach. Researchers have also found that video’s unique blend of audio and visual cues can help students absorb new information most efficiently.

Using Video and Web Tools in the Interactive Classroom

Your students have grown up with screens and phones that deliver quick hits of information and entertainment at the touch of a button, so relying on ordinary textbooks and 60 minutes of lecture isn’t going to capture their interest. Instead, consider adding short videos and interactive components that let students practice what they’ve learned in a hands-on way. Here are some suggestions to get started:

  • Spark Discussion: Break up your lecture with a short video and use it as a jumping off point for discussion. Have pairs tell each other what they think, and then have those pairs combine into groups of four to six to work through post-video questions. You can be a “guide on the side” instead of the leader for a change of pace.
  • Hands-on Practice: Interactive modules are especially useful in computer classes, where navigating through drop-down menus on Word or Excel will help your students learn the program far more quickly than just reading about it. Have students pull up practice modules on their laptops to try a skill while you’re still there to clear up misconceptions to accelerate their understanding on the spot.
  • Flipped Classrooms: Video and other online learning modules make it easier than ever “flip” the learning model. Instead of using classroom time to explain a new concept and send students home to practice it, try having them watch a video at home first. When they get to class, you can use your time to answer questions and practice the new skill, which is often a much more efficient use of everyone’s time.

Online Learning Addresses All Learning Styles

Researchers have spent years trying to figure out what makes students tick, and the result is the theory of learning styles that describe sensory modes for absorbing new information. By offering video and web learning, you can help reach students who prefer to learn in different ways. For example, visual learners reap the benefits of videos and web graphics when they shift to online textbooks. They can efficiently scan the page to click on the diagram or chart that supports the text and even pull it up into a popup window for continual reference as they read. Videos with demonstrations that show people using a computer program or solving a problem serve as a high-speed highway of information absorption for these learners.

Online learning also addresses auditory and kinesthetic learners’ needs. Video helps auditory learners absorb material, especially if it’s a recorded lecture with a professor’s voice explaining material. These learners can listen to in-depth discussions and take notes without ever looking up — or they can simply pause or rewind when they need to review a detail. Kinesthetic learners master new concepts by touch and manipulation, so they love to interact with computer programs like Microsoft Office and QuickBooks. An interactive web module allows students to try their hands at using the software as they learn, making it the ultimate hands-on approach.

Multiple Modes for All

Accessing material in a range of ways helps the brain create additional neural pathways, which reinforces learning and allows the brain to retrieve long-term memories more easily. Using a judicious combination of text, video, interactive resources and the teacher’s human touch is the best way to enhance learning and reach students of all types.

Want to learn more about interactive online textbooks that will enhance your teaching of business and computer courses? Contact Labyrinth Learning to see the latest programs for Microsoft Office applications, Payroll Accounting, QuickBooks and more.

 

Payroll Accounting – Teaching Today’s Students

Are you looking for new ideas on keeping students engaged in your Payroll Accounting class?

We’ve got some tips and techniques to help you change up your typical routine.  There is no right (or wrong!) way to teach payroll, but we hope to help you optimize the results you can get this year.

Finding the time to research new ideas and solutions can be overwhelming, so we have created a series of webinars that we’re sure instructors will find valuable this time of the year.

Whether or not you are using a Labyrinth Learning Solution, tune in to a webinar to learn ideas, tips, and techniques for adding elements to your class, and improving student outcomes.

Join our webinar: 8 steps you can take to improve student outcomes in your payroll course to learn:

payroll classroom

  • Methods for implementing a practical approach
  • Tips on maintaining student interest
  • Techniques to help prevent students from feeling overwhelmed
  • Issues associated with teaching payroll-related federal forms, various calculations, and state payroll nuances
  • There will also be a live question-and-answer period at the end

Presenter Eric Weinstein, an instructor at Suffolk County Community College (NY), will share best practices for both in-class and online courses.

Two sessions:

Friday, Sept 9, 2016
Time: 10am Pacific / 12noon Central / 1pm Eastern

Wednesday, Sept 14, 2016
Time: 1pm Pacific / 3pm Central / 4pm Eastern

 

Are you SURE you have the best materials for your course?

Our fourth edition textbook comes with eLab for automated assessment. Who doesn’t like to have automatically graded practice sets – and lots of them!

We think you’ll find that using our materials will provide your students with a significant advantage over their peers upon entering the workforce with the skills they need to be successful!

Our product manager, Jason Favro,Payroll-fourth-edition will present our text: Payroll Accounting: A Practical, Real-World Approach, and all of the solution elements that are complimentary for both instructors and students.

Rick Street, Professor at Spokane Community College (WA) will join us to share his experience switching to Labyrinth, as well as the success he has had with his students using the this payroll accounting solution.

Join our webinar to hear about the:

  • Table of Contents, and how our approach follows the payroll cycle
  • Structure of the Labyrinth approach, including practice set and problem methodology
  • Solution components and the ease of switching to Labyrinth
  • Practical approach elements of the textbook that can help your students be more successful in the course
  • eLab Homework Grader featuring automated grading of practice sets

Two sessions:

Tuesday, Sept 20, 2016 1:30pm PST / 3:30pm CST / 4:30pm EST

Friday, Sept 23, 2016 12noon PST / 2pm CST / 3pm EST

 

Check out eLab – for automated assessment and grading!

If you think that the Labyrinth solution might be just what you need to kick-start your Payroll class into gear – then join us for our webinar: eLab Homework Grader.

In this webinar, we will:LabLearning-eLab-joint-logo

  • Set up eLab and the “ready to go” course for Payroll Accounting
  • Demonstrate eLab Homework Grader (one eLab license comes free with every textbook)
  • Explain customization features – set up the Practice Sets to best meet your class needs
  • Create assignments and tests for student practice, for homework, and for testing.

We will have plenty of time to answer questions, and walk you through how easy it would be to switch to our Payroll Solution in time for January.

One session:

Wed, Sept 28, 2016 1pm Pacific / 3pm Central / 4pm Eastern

Four Ways to Motivate Students

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The fall semester is beginning, and students are preparing to return to the routine of homework, all-nighters, and cramming for exams. The feeling of a fresh start that a new semester brings increases the motivation many students feel to apply themselves to their studies and succeed in their education.

There are two types of motivation: intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is an internal motivation driven by a desire to learn a subject or master a skill out of inherent interest and enjoyment. Extrinsic motivation is motivation to master a skill for the sake of achieving a specific result or goal. While extrinsic motivation can be effective in driving students to learn material and earn good grades in the short term, studies have shown that extrinsic motivators for success can reduce students’ intrinsic interests in the subject or skill. Following are four tips to help students develop intrinsic motivation to retain the knowledge and skills they gain in your class for the long-term.

Show how the lessons are relevant to their lives and future careers. Students are much more likely to want to study and retain the material once they understand how the information will be useful to them. Show them examples of how concepts can by utilized in their personal and professional lives.

Have students set performance goals. At the beginning of the semester, have students write down what goals they would like to achieve in your class by the end of the semester. Tailor assignments to these interests, and periodically check in with students to have them evaluate their progress and adjust their goals to the appropriate level of challenge if necessary.

Give students options and control over their education. Give students options in their homework assignments and projects when possible. Let them choose topics for essays and research papers, and types of presentations for projects, whether it be PowerPoint presentation, oral presentation, video, or written report. Also use a variety of test types, such as multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, and short essay. This gives students more control over how they demonstrate their understanding of the subject matter to you.

Foster a sense of belonging in the classroom. Students are more likely to be engaged and intrinsically motivated in the course if they feel a connection with their instructor and peers. Be warm and welcoming towards your students and make an effort to get to know them individually. Also, encourage class participation and create some group activities in order to prompt students to learn from and get to know each other.

Labyrinth Learning’s full solutions provide a variety of materials to engage students and motivate them in their studies. Contact us today to learn more.

Tips for Teaching Older Learners in ESL Classes

Image courtesy of Witthaya Phonsawat at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Witthaya Phonsawat at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A small but significant number of immigrants who arrive to this country are elderly. Older learners can be defined chronologically, as between the ages 40-65, or by status, as midlife career changers, retirees returning to the labor force, displaced workers, and homemakers. While, contrary to popular belief, adults can learn language in the early stages more quickly than children due to more highly developed cognitive strategies for processing information, many older learners still have different learning needs from younger adult learners that should be addressed in ESL programs. Below are some factors that can affect their English language learning in the classroom, as well as strategies for working with these factors.

  • Visual and hearing disabilities: Aging tends to affect sight and hearing, which can make it difficult for older learners to hear the language as it’s spoken or read their lessons. Create a more comfortable classroom environment for older learners by keeping the room well-lit, using textbooks and other reading materials with large print, and reducing any background noises as much as possible.
  • Learning styles: Older learners have often become set in their ways with regard to the different learning styles they have developed over the years, so it would be beneficial to use a more flexible teaching approach. Observe how your students learn best, draw on their life experiences, and use these tools to further engage them in learning English language and literacy.
  • Personal and professional needs: Many older learners are not learning English as part of the goal of earning a degree or certification. Instead they’re learning it to gain access to information and services, for work, to interact more fully with other English speakers, or to communicate with family members who do not speak the learner’s native language. Focus the lessons around practical everyday tasks like making a doctor’s appointment, or on interactions with family, friends, and their communities.

Our full solutions for Welcome to Computers for ESL Students, 4th Edition, coming August 12, includes large print, picture dictionaries, and a variety of activities and assignments to engage many different learning styles. Contact Labyrinth Learning to learn more.

Increasing Retention in ESL Programs

Retaining Adult ESL Learners in Class

Image courtesy of nuchylee at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of nuchylee at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

One challenge many ESL instructors face is retaining students in their classes. Throughout the semester, you may see your class size dwindle as students attend class irregularly, or disappear altogether. Some factors for this are beyond the instructor’s control; changing work schedules, family responsibilities, and transportation issues are some of the issues that can affect students’ attendance and ability to continue the course. Other barriers to success are more internal. Low self-esteem and embarrassment from the possibility of making mistakes can prevent students from participating in class and improving their oral language skills. Frustration at the slow progress of acquiring language skills may discourage students from continuing with the course. Also, some students may not feel supported by their instructors, peers, or even their families in their pursuit of English education.

However, there are steps instructors can take to help students combat each of these obstacles and persevere in their studies. Following are some common barriers to regular class attendance, and some strategies for encouraging students to continue with their studies, thereby increasing class retention.

Students feel uncomfortable and unsupported in the classroom.

Create a welcoming environment in your classroom. Make time to speak to each of your students individually at the beginning of the semester and get to know them. Make yourself available shortly before or after class to answer questions and arrange times to meet with any students who need extra guidance. Also, have students get to know each other by learning everyone’s names and assigning group activities during class to give them opportunities to work together.

To alleviate any anxiety students may feel at the prospect of making mistakes in front of the class, reassure them that failure is normal and a part of the learning experience that will lead them to success. Share your own mistakes and failures in learning a second language, and how you learned from them and improved your language skills. Recognize and praise students’ efforts to participate in class whether their answers are right or wrong.

Students feel frustrated and discouraged that their progress is slower than they anticipated.

Learning a second language is hard work and takes a long time, and the difference between a student’s expectation of how long it will take them to learn English and the reality of how long it can really take, especially when juggled with all of their other responsibilities, can lead to frustration. To give students a barometer by which to measure their success, work with students to establish realistic goals and timelines to accomplish them throughout the semester. Goals can include ordering a meal, making a doctor’s appointment, or asking for directions and understanding the responses. Then meet with them regularly to discuss their progress. You may even create competency checklists at the beginning of the semester so students have a tangible source by which to measure their progress.

Personal responsibilities interfere with the student’s ability to attend class.

Many adult students balance their studies with jobs and families, and some often miss class to attend to these responsibilities, leading to irregular attendance or dropping out altogether. Financial issues are another factor that can interfere with a student’s ability to attend class. To find out what the barrier may be, contact the student about their attendance, then depending on the issue, lead them to resources and organizations that can help with their needs, like for employment, transportation, childcare, or tuition. If the issue has more to do with scheduling, let them know that there are other sections of the course and they can switch to another class at a time that is better for them. Some students drop out of the program because they think that once they have stopped attending a course, they can no longer return. Let them know that they will always be welcome to return to the program at a later date.

Our full solutions for Welcome to Computers for ESL Students, 4th Edition include a variety of assignments and activities to engage students in learning English and basic computer skills. To learn more, contact Labyrinth Learning today.

 

Tips for Teaching Computer Skills to ESL Students

Image courtesy of adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

One of the best ways to teach skills and information and ensure that students retain it is to connect the teachings to their lives. This can be especially beneficial for adult ESL students, who are often juggling work and families in addition to school. Teaching various computer skills that are useful for performing personal and professional tasks, in conjunction with English language skills, can expedite the process of being able to perform these skills outside of the classroom and becoming more competitive candidates for employment. Following are a few tips for effectively teaching computer skills to ESL students.

  • Discuss computer use at the beginning of class. Get an idea of your students’ knowledge of and experiences with computers. Ask who has used a computer before, who has a computer at home, which computer programs they use, what kinds of tasks can be done, and which websites they visit. This will help you tailor your lessons and let you know the level of assistance each of your students may need.
  • Incorporate students’ interests into lessons. You can also ask for students’ input on what skills they would like to learn in the course, whether that be typing, searching for directions to a chosen location, or shopping online, then structure lessons around learning these skills.
  • Tie lessons to real-life activities. Some ideas include teaching typing by having students type a resume, using the internet to research prices for things that they currently need, or email use by emailing someone for information.

Our solutions for ESL students tie in valuable life and English language skills while teaching basic computer skills. To learn more about our Welcome to Computers for ESL Students, 4th Edition textbook and workbook, coming August 12, contact Labyrinth Learning today.

Improving the Study Skills of ESL Students

From morguefile.com
From morguefile.com

Adult ESL students have unique needs and challenges in learning the English language. Many work and support families which may make it difficult to find time to study, and some may have not gotten much formal education in their home countries, thus not developing good study habits. Following are a few tips for improving ESL students’ study habits and retention of lessons.
At the beginning of the semester, get students input on what they would like to cover in the course. For a basic computer course, for instance, examples of topics students might request to cover include typing and using the internet. This will increase students’ engagement and investment in the course.
Set expectations and goals to motivate students to study. Assign homework and give specific study requirements to students that they can easily fit into their schedules, like dedicating a certain amount of time each night to studying English. Also, when returning graded homework, speak with students about any difficulties they encountered in the assignments.
Encourage students to read text aloud slowly, preferably after listening to a recording, to help learn the pronunciation of words and develop a sense of the natural flow of the language.
Encourage students to keep an English diary. Keeping a diary where they write exclusively in English everyday reinforces learning of vocabulary and grammatical structures, and in time will help students to think directly in English, which will help them write faster and more naturally.
Labyrinth Learning’s solutions for ESL basic computer courses come with a variety of exercises and activities to assist students in strengthening their language skills while learning computer skills. To learn more about our Welcome to Computers for ESL Students, 4th Edition textbook and workbook, coming in August, contact us today.

Using PowerPoint in the Classroom

Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

One method of classroom instruction that has become widespread in recent years is the use of PowerPoint presentations. Using PowerPoint presentations as a tool to enhance your lectures can be beneficial to students because it can improve audience focus by breaking down and highlighting important information through a combination of text, graphics, and multimedia. Here are a few simple ways to utilize PowerPoint effectively in your class.

Use a mixture of text and images. A combination of short sentences, bullet points, graphics, and multimedia all work together to engage a variety of learning styles and effectively illustrate the concepts being taught. As a bonus, your presentation can also double as student notes. If you’d like to use this option, you can post the presentation online to be downloaded and reviewed by students anywhere, anytime, before or after class. To further engage students in the presentation, you may even include questions in the slide for them to review, either for discussion in class or as a study question for a test.

Be careful with the amount of graphics and multimedia you use in your slides. You only want to use graphics to enhance your notes, not for aesthetic purposes. Too many graphics are overwhelming will distract students from the information you are trying to teach.

Also overwhelming are slides that are too text-heavy. Use your slides as speaking notes with which to guide your lecture rather than reading directly from the slides word-for-word. Slides should not contain all of the information for the concepts you are teaching, only short talking points that introduce the concepts.

We provide ready-made PowerPoint presentations to instructors in the instructor support materials associated with our textbooks, in addition to making them accessible to students for free. Contact Labyrinth Learning today for more information about our full solutions.