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2018
Sara Jo Lee

OER in the News

Posted by Sara Jo Lee Aug 17, 2018

It’s an exciting time to be exploring Open Educational Resources (OER), and we wanted to share some great articles that recently caught our eye:

 

We update and augment our Intellus Learning content library every month to make it the most current and comprehensive OER catalog possible. Here are some of the most recent additions to our platform:

 

  • 2012 Book Archive - A project by Andy Schmitz that archives some of the open books.
  • The American Yawp - A Free and Online, Collaboratively Built American History Textbook.
  • Galileo Open Learning Materials - brings together open educational resources throughout the University System of Georgia, including open textbooks and ancillary materials.
  • iBiology Videos - Open-access free videos that convey the excitement of modern biology and the process by which scientific discoveries are made.
  • National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science - award-winning collection of peer-reviewed case studies.
  • REBUS Community - OER covering various topics created by faculty, students, and staff from schools, colleges, and universities around the world, along with regular people who believe that educational materials for every subject should be a free and open public resource.
  • ScholarWorks@GVSU - Open-access repository maintained by the GVSU Libraries that showcases and maintains works by GVSU scholars.
  • Smarthistory - A free resource for the study of art history created by art historians Beth Harris and Steven Zucker. Smarthistory is an independent not-for-profit organization and the official partner to Khan Academy for art history.
  • The Society Pages - The Society Pages (TSP) is an open-access social science project headquartered in the Department of Sociology at the University of Minnesota and supported by individual donors.TSP consists of in-house “TSP HQ” articles, blogs, podcasts, “Community Pages” and content produced by their partners.
  • UCI Open - A web-based repository of various UC Irvine courses and video lectures from UC Irvine faculty, seminar participants, and instructional staff.
  • YouTube Channels

Nearly 1/3 of all undergraduate students leave college after their first year. From the cost of education to personal constraints at home, students face additional pressures that weigh on their ability to complete college. The most surprising factor that leads to a student leaving college before graduation is a failure to live up to the self-imposed expectations of success while at school.

 

Getting through college is about finding balance between academic success and developing additional skills that can be utilized regardless area of study. There are a variety of soft skills a student should possess, such as time management, attention to detail, and the ability to effectively communicate both verbally and in writing, in addition to others in this vein. For students to truly succeed in college and leave school with applicable skills regardless of their career path, it’s important to recognize there is more to higher education than coursework. It’s crucial all students are given opportunities to hone these soft skills as they learn.

 

The will to succeed - Grit

 

Sherry Woosley, Director of Analytics and Research at Skyfactor, believes the “true essence” of grit, a popular topic in today’s academic circles, hones in on three essential concepts for students: focus, effort, and recovery. Students should be able to ask themselves whether they have the focus to accomplish what needs to get done, the ability to put forth the effort required to be successful, and the recovery strategy necessary to bounce back when things get rough. Instilling in students the tenants of grit gives them a coping mechanism to hunt for success in college and life, leading them toward the successes they will need to remain motivated to stay in college.

 

What you teach in the classroom beyond academics - the soft skills

 

Equally important to grit are the basic soft skills that one needs to progress in college, especially within that first year as students are adjusting to living a completely different lifestyle. Going from high school to college can be a jarring experience for some, but crafting the right combination of soft skills can enable students to cope with the changes they’re facing. Matthew Venaas, a Research Manager on the Analytics and Research Team at Skyfactor highlights a few key skills which can help students meet their expectations of success within their first year of college.

  • Interpersonal skills - according to Venaas, first-year student who are able to build relationships with their peers to build a fulfilling social life and connect with faculty in their major or program are far more likely to have a high first-term GPA. Building a strong network can then can help lead a student to academic success. This skillset also plays out positively within the classroom for students who don’t shy away from collaboration. The willingness to work with other students, actively contributing to the conversation in the classroom, can also positively impact a student’s GPA, giving them a chance to grasp information they may have struggled with on their own.
  • Persistence - this relates back to grit in not giving up when things get hard, but rather seeing a challenge as an opportunity to work even harder. Being resilient and self-motivated to do the absolute best you can, bouncing back when things are tough, is an important trait of successful students.
  • Productivity - there are quite a few skills that could be placed into this category, most of which must be learned and practiced often. Staying organized and effectively managing time are two big areas students can struggle with as they transition into college.

 

While students won’t see the fruits of their labor until final grades come out each semester, it’s important to encourage them to build the right skillset throughout their college career that compliments academic achievement, so that no matter what they’re learning, or working on once they leave college, they’ll have the tools they need to find success.

It’s in the data: How to pinpoint attrition risk factors

 

Only 59% of students who begin a college career as an undergraduate earn their bachelor’s degree within six years from the same institution where they start their study, according to a recent survey. That means 41% of the students in this pool leave college for one reason or another. In order to combat this statistic and improve retention rates, it’s important to be able to pinpoint attrition risks and face them early on with students, within their freshman year if possible, in order to provide students with the motivation and skills to complete their college degree.

 

Predicting attrition risks

 

While there may be some universal risk factors for attrition that come up regularly in conversations on this topic, it’s important to be able to know for sure what your particular students are confronting that may lead to them leaving college. Are they lacking particular skills needed for success, or are they simply not fitting into college life?

 

Surveying students can be a great option, but it shouldn’t be the sole choice for collecting information, according to Sherry Woosley, Director of Analytics and Research at Skyfactor. “While surveys can be crucial to identifying at-risk students, I would not recommend using only surveys to predict risk.” Other possible options can include tracking data you, as faculty already have access to, such as:

  • Pre-college experiences
  • Enrollment patterns
  • Academic performance
  • Course or campus engagement
  • Financial Aid
  • Utilization of student services

Including these types of additional data can help create the right combination of proven sources instead of relying on just one.

 

How surveys can help

 

Surveys have the potential to highlight areas where students are consistently struggling whether it’s academically or something else. Non-academic issues can be just as debilitating for student success as those connected to coursework and should be addressed by faculty. Things like homesickness, poor study behaviors, and a lack of integration into college life are all possible areas of struggle for students away at college, but how would you know what they’re going through without asking them?

 

Figuring out the best way to utilize survey data to discover risks for attrition may mean relying on outside sources that have better access to a broader data set. Skyfactor has done some of the research for you in this regard, releasing reports related to issues affecting a large section of the student population such as homesickness or overall usage of student services.

 

To see how your specific group of students are doing, Mapworks helps predict risk while looking at the whole student. It provides an early-term snapshot to show who might be most at risk along with the contributing factors. Used each day, you can track the progress of your students and monitor their success closely enough to to institute intervention strategies when necessary, at the earliest stage.

 

Where else to track data

 

Even students not experiencing the issues mentioned above can be at risk for leaving college, which is why it’s important to find data outside of that collected in surveys to evaluate attrition risks. A few other data sources which can help highlight risk factors include:

  • Enrollment patterns
  • Academic performance over time
  • Course engagement
  • Campus engagement
  • Utilization of student services

 

Tracking data from these sources can not only highlight specific areas of risk, but can also tell you at what time of the year these risks occur. Does utilization of student services drop off after the first month or two? Do fewer students enroll in second semester courses? Noting these trends can allow faculty to combat these issues at the right time of year to have a positive effect in decreasing attrition.

 

Attacking the problem head on during orientation

 

Another strategy faculty may want to adopt to mitigate attrition risk is addressing common issues within the first week of the start of class. Ensuring students know what services are available to them for support, fully explaining your expectations for the course, and providing students with the right tools to help them develop the skills they’ll need to succeed are all ways you can support students’ efforts to succeed in college.

 

Teaching your students to have grit is another way to help them begin their college experience on the right foot. Among the tenants of grit is resilience. Instilling in students the ability to recover from whatever challenges they face through focus and effort is perhaps the best coping mechanism you can give them to fight those factors that could lead to leaving college. Prepare students for disappointment, because college doesn’t always live up to expectations, and then show them how to overcome and press forward.


Nearly 1/3 of undergraduate students leave college after their first year, but this statistic can get smaller with the right attention to thoughtfully collected data on attrition risk. This can be achieved by varying the sources for data and then working with students early to address risks and ensure they have the right skillset to succeed.