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20 Jan 2014

By Michelle E. Dunn

When undergraduate marketing student Nancy Wilder enrolled at SNHU last term after years of being out of school, she was surprised and reassured by the advances in learning she experienced in her online classes.

Wilder took SNHU 107 and MKT 113; both use one of several digital learning resources COCE has incorporated into online courses.

“I was so relieved to discover that I would have more than just text, meaning the words, to learn from,” Wilder says. “It was like having a tutor with me. It’s way more sophisticated than I ever expected. Without that, I would just be floundering in the 20th century, doing something that I would consider ‘old school.’”

The push to incorporate digital learning resources as part of our student success framework began in fall 2012. In the January 2014 term, about 17,000 students are enrolled in 55 courses that use them.

Learning resources provide interactive content for a more engaging student learning experience, promote student success, enable more faculty and advisor collaboration, and, with some products, supply concrete data about student performance — all at a cost to students that is often less than half that of a traditional textbook. For example, students using learning resources in their courses in the current term saved $59,000 in textbook costs.

“Going forward, we want to assist stakeholders in selecting books that have electronic versions,” Learning Resources Director Jill Batistick said. “It’s a paradigm shift. The hard-copy-only books of yesteryear are no longer in favor.”

Stimulating Student Success

Learning resources provide such enhancements as videos, interactive activities, quizzes that can be retaken until a student masters a concept, problem walk-throughs, automated grading and more, all designed to improve learning.

“Learning resources do not fatigue, they’re always available, and they give immediate feedback so the student can work with a concept until he or she is comfortable,” Batistick said.

Matt Belanger, First Year Experience director and assistant dean of Education, said student success in SNHU 107 has jumped nearly 20 percent year over year, which can be at least partially attributed to the introduction of a digital learning resource in the course last September.

“A lot more students are engaged with the course than previously,” Belanger said.

Melissa Crowley, New Student Advising director at the Portsmouth Center, said learning resources provide advisors with information about course expectations as well as student performance.

“There’s more focus on quality, the abilities of a student, as opposed to just completing an assignment,” she said.

Learning resources have been incorporated into only a handful of graduate courses and don’t yet provide the granular data of those in many undergraduate courses, but already students using them are seeing higher success rates, said Chelsea Croteau, senior director of Graduate Academic Advising.

A View into the Classroom

The data available via some learning resources provides Academics and Advising with previously unknowable details about student engagement and performance.

Unlike a textbook that instructors and advisors have no way of knowing if a student even orders, learning resources provide data about when a student accesses them and when and how long they engage with them.

“For example, one student reads for one hour, another for five hours; we can see if there’s a difference in performance,” NSA Director Nitya Dhakar said.

They also enable COCE to improve course quality and identify issues. Say a course has 10 assignments and most students stumble on assignment No. 4; Academics can review the assignment, go back to the vendor for tweaking or offer extra support to students at that point in the course, Batistick said.

Fostering Collaboration

Learning resources also enable deans, instructors, academic team leads and advisors to work more closely to promote student success.

“It’s another way for us to be on the same page,” Croteau said. “We know where to focus our attention.”

Academics and Advising use shared reports and work together on outreach strategies, Belanger said.

“We’re all working from the same information with the same students. We’re able to support them much better,” he said.

Without learning resources, advisors don’t get much insight into a student’s performance, Dhakar said.

“Now we have access to the same information as the instructor and know exactly how students are doing,” Dhakar said of courses with learning resources. “We can react a lot faster.”

Next Steps

The eLearning group continues to look for new, innovative vendors and increase the number of courses with learning resources.

“We are going on the road looking for the latest in gaming and related technology,” Batistick said. “Yesterday’s simulations and products won’t necessarily make the cut in the new paradigm. We need to constantly look for the next best thing.”