Recommendation 2.5: Academic & Learning Support
Foster skills and practices for effective learning, and integrate academic support and services throughout your course.
Synopsis from Self-Review
All students come to our university with an expectation of what it means to be a student that is grounded in their past experiences. This means that our classroom is filled with students carrying widely varying understanding of the expectations and practices that will lead to success. By supporting students to “learn how to learn” you can help them build the skills and contextual knowledge they need to thrive.
How to Put Into Practice
Students’ past experience of learning influences their perspectives of what it means to succeed in an academic environment. For example, there can be wide differences in perceptions between students who start directly from an American high school, students who are returning to full time education after a long gap in their studies, or students whose previous studies were in a different country. Without addressing this variance, this diversity of experience can lead to some students carrying invisible advantages, while others face invisible barriers. The online or hybrid environment adds challenges which are experienced unequally by different students, making this practice even more vital.
Sharing advice and building skills can be done early through a course orientation, and also provided throughout the semester as the course develops. Helping students “learn how to learn” is an important practice in all course environments.
Support Time Management
Learning is more effective when students engage regularly with course material, rather than cramming intensely before a test or major assignment. Encourage students to schedule time every day to complete their work on your course. You can support this by being transparent about how many hours of work are expected in and outside of class in relation to the credit load. For ideas about calculating student workload, see Recommendation 1.3: Workload
Think about how you structure and pace the assessments on your course. If you only set large, summative assignments, then you may be inadvertently encouraging less effective approaches to studying. For ideas about planning the frequency and variety of assessment, see Recommendation 6.3: Frequency & Variety
Assign a Study Calendar
Encourage students to plan their study time by asking them to create and submit a Study (or Learning) Calendar. A Study Calendar addresses the question: “Where will you find the time you need for this course?” By providing a template, you can encourage a practice that will help them plan their time for all their courses. This is not typically a graded assignment (though extra credit may be given), and it is usually not necessary to review or offer feedback on how they complete the calendar.
Sample Learning Calendar Assignment
Where will you find the time you need for this course?
Before you begin this course, you should create a learning calendar for one week.
Identify and reserve time for reading and reviewing course notes, completing problem sets, completing group work and studying for exams. To help you do this you should think about how you use your time during the week overall, including coursework, job commitments, and study time. Make sure you are also realistic about when you will need social and personal time!
- How does your role as a learner fits with your other roles?
- What are the time requirements for your multiple roles (such as learning, work, leisure, health)?
- How will your role as a learner affect the time you have available for other activities and interests?
- To fulfill your learning role, do you need to alter your other roles? If so, in what ways?
- What additional challenges do you anticipate as you reflect on your role as a learner?
Task: Create Your Calendar
To help you complete your calendar we have provided an example and a template which you can use. If you have already completed a Learning Calendar by yourself or for another class, you can add your information for this course and submit that instead.
Note that other instructors may also set this assignment, so be open to accepting a calendar that they have prepared for another class, which may not follow your template.
Encourage Study Groups
The beginning of the semester is a good time to encourage students to team up with their classmates for group study. Having a written Study Calendar can help them to find someone to study with. You can help to facilitate forming study groups by providing an open space (such as a discussion board) on your Canvas site where they can post their calendar and connect with classmates. This not only encourages a good study practice, it can provide study support to students without access to formal tutors.
Share Advice from Past Students
Advice that comes in the voice of past students can be very effective in building students’ confidence and sense of belonging. Many courses may include a success video recorded by students in which they talk about their experience of the course and what helped to do well. While this kind of video requires planning, expertise and resources, a simpler approach is to invite comments from past students through an informal course evaluation, which can be edited and shared directly with incoming students. If you are just getting started, consider what sources are available to you (e.g. past evaluations, reflective feedback). Keep comments anonymous and paraphrase as needed. Student advice can be shared as part of a course orientation, or provided with specific assignments.
Sample informal evaluation question to invite feedback:
- What is something your instructors are doing that helps you to learn in this course?
- What is something you are doing that helps you to learn?
- What advice would you give a future student taking this course?
For more ideas about how to collect and manage student feedback, see Recommendation 1.5: Collecting Feedback.
Highlight Academic Support Services
There is a wide range of support services available on campus. While students will have been introduced to these during events like SOAR, by calling attention to these in specific places in your Canvas course you provide a timely and contextualized reminder, and emphasize the connection between the support available and the specific challenges students may be facing as they work through your course.
Some academic services you may want to highlight include:
Library Services: UW’s Libraries can support students in many ways, including equipment check out, help with interlibrary loan, reserving study space, help with finding articles and conducting research. Check them out!
Undergraduate Advising: This website has many tools and resources, from a GPA calculator to finding an advisor.
GUTS Study Skills Sessions: The study skill sessions are offered as individual advising sessions and group workshops. The sessions focus on helping students develop learning strategies.
For further advice about managing a college schedule, see Planning A College Schedule.
For detailed advice about writing a Study Calendar, see How to Create a Study Schedule.
Share 5 tips for learning online.
Using time management to improve study skills provides useful tips and approaches for students, including those listed above and others.
What is this?
In addition to learning content students also need to learn skills and practices that can make them more effective learners overall. Help students connect to campus services and support.
Why is this important?
Explaining how to be successful in your course and integrating support for “learning how to learn” information in your course can help students to be better learners overall; to learn, retain and apply course content more effectively within the course; and to become more autonomous learners.
Where is this?
Academic services and support can be introduced in the Course Orientation module, and repeated in each major assignment. Some skills and practices (e.g. creating a learning calendar, connecting with a study group) can be made into low or no-stakes assignments on their own.
Success Factor 2: Supporting Students
An inclusive learning environment is established when all students are supported in adapting to the structure, schedule, expectations, and technologies used in the course. Supporting students requires thorough communication about how their course is set up, what they have to do, how the course is run administratively, and what resources and services are available to help them succeed.