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   Fostering collegial student relationships in an online environment can be one of the most challenging tasks facing an instructor. I am often asked: How can we get students to interact with each other as frequently as they do in a traditional brick-and-mortar classroom? What are some best practices by which online instructors have facilitated student-to-student engagement? And, more practically, what can we do right now to implement these techniques in the classroom? Fortunately for those of us using LaunchPad, there are many ways to encourage this kind of dialogue, features like the discussion board, that are already built into the platform.

   Perhaps the most important, the discussion board tool allows students the ability to post original contributions while also letting them provide feedback to their peers. Indeed, as Krentler and Willis-Flurry (2005) discovered, the implementation of this kind of technology in the classroom does actually empirically increase student learning. While not assigned by default, an instructor can easily implement the discussion board feature into any or all of the chapters and modules. By clicking on “Add to this Unit” the instructor can select the discussion board function and post an appropriate content prompt revolving around the material covered in that specific chapter.

   It is often helpful for the instructor to construct a prompt that not merely asks the students their opinion on a certain matter - say, do you believe that nature or nurture is the cause of psychological abnormality and suffering? Rather, by including a video clip or a link to a research article, the instructor can help the students more critically and conceptually engage with the material (Harman & Koohang, 2005). That is, by encouraging students to analyze a specific pedagogical object or artifact, they, by extension, are able better to construct a communal narrative that revolves around that very task. Taking a step further, the instructor can also provide ongoing and dynamic feedback while the discussion board has not passed the due date set in LaunchPad. This has the benefit of helping to steer the dialogue in a certain way, acting as an opportunity for student learning, while also fostering class cohesion and identity.

   The importance of student collaboration and building collegiality becomes all the more pressing in a digital classroom. As a result, instructors will find the discussion board option in LaunchPad to be a very welcomed feature. In fact, I have suggested some ways in which educators can implement this into their curricula. However, what I have found after teaching online for the last 8 years is that the more creative we can get with using functions like the discussion board, the more seamless the online experience and the more efficacious the actual learning.




Harma, K. & Koohand, A. (2005). Discussion board: A learning object. Interdisciplinary Journal of E-Learning and Learning Objects, 1(1), 67-77. Informing Science Institute. Retrieved September 13, 2019 from


Krentler, K. A. & Willis-Flurry, L. A. (2005). Does technology enhance actual student learning? The case of online discussion boards. Journal of Education for Business, 20(6), 316-321.




Jacob W. Glazier, PhD, LPC, NCC is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Positive Human Development and Social Change at Life University and an online Adjunct Professor in the Department of Applied Psychology at New York University – Steinhardt. He provides therapy services online for BetterHelp and its associated sites as a licensed professional counselor. 

This week, we are making some improvements to the Assessments in Sapling that we wanted to tell you about (since we’re so excited). 


  • The Item Analysis & Student Analysis tabs will be combined to a single tab called “Responses”. Under “Responses”, you will see “Question Overview” which has the information formerly shown in the “Item Analysis” and “Performance Overview” that covers the old “Student Analysis” information.
  • There will be a counter bubble to let you know when responses have been submitted from students on an assignment.
  • There’s a new graphical comparison of all the questions in the assignment in the navigation dropdown of the Question Overview card.
  • The Performance Overview card will now only show a subset of students, so it will now load more quickly for larger courses.


Sapling Assessment New Functionality Fall 2019


You should see all these changes by the end of this week--and we hope you’re as excited as we are! 


(We are also working to update the help documentation to help answer any questions you might have.


Good luck with the rest of the semester!

Did you know that you can drag and drop items in the Launchpad calendar? Or batch update your settings in Sapling? Do you have the 411 on Achieve Read and Practice?


Whether you know the tips and tricks or not, receiving training from your Learning Solutions Specialist (or LSS for short) will help get you “in the know” on the digital platform you’ll be using this semester and how to best utilize it for your own course goals.


So, who are the Learning Solutions Specialists?

The Learning Solutions Specialists (LSS) are part of the Customer Experience group. Each Learning Solution Specialist is a discipline expert that is responsible for helping instructors have a better experience with Macmillan Products. When speaking to instructors, that LSS can demo the product and give you a preview or give you a full blown training, from content familiarity to functionality and best practices.


Why Should I Meet With An LSS?

45 minutes can change your entire semester. While you may explore your Macmillan product on your own once you have been given access, our LSS team can highlight key functionality that you may have missed and share best practices on how to implement the many learning resources.


There are many benefits to meeting with an LSS:

-1-on-1 Meetings focused on your needs and questions

-Understand the best practices used by many other instructors

-Learn with a guide

-Discover Tips and Tricks

-Start getting your class setup while on the meeting


What Happens After my meeting?

Traditionally, after meeting with the LSS in your discipline, you will be sent a follow-up email that will recap what you spoke about, include technical support info and knowledge article links, as well as an extension of help offered for any further questions you may have about your educational digital platform.


As you can see, there are many benefits for taking time to meet with a Learning Solutions Specialist. This time will be well spent and save you time throughout the semester.


Schedule a demo or training.



Bill Heslop at Learning Science on Smart Worksheets

Monday, October 14th at 1:00 PM EST

Bill is going to show how student-entered data worksheets could be the answer in your lab, providing students with immediate feedback on their own lab results and saving TAs a ton of time grading--that they can use helping students in lab instead.



Lab Simulations - for online learning and to enhance all classes

Wednesday, October 16th at 1:00 PM EST

Starting some online labs? Want to do more to prepare your students for lab? Learn more about Hayden McNeil's Lab Simulations and how they can benefit your lab and your students.