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Although it may be summer and a slower time for many colleges and universities, for our technology team, it is the busy season. I have posted about most of these elsewhere, but here’s what you can expect for changes for the Fall 2016 semester (all in one post).


  • Faster, more reliable user experience and faster page load times
  • Updated LearningCurve (with a new look, new functionality, mobility, and meeting WCAG 2.0 accessibility standards)
  • Small changes to the onboarding process for students (as part of a larger project to make getting into our products easier)
  • New diagnostics (for some English products)
  • New quiz creation flow and question filters (for some products, as we migrate this to ALL products as they release over the coming years)

Once the summer is over, the teams are going to continue to work on all of these projects (as the work is never done) and more (to come). We hope you like what’s happening at Macmillan Learning. Now enjoy the summer while we return to the salt mines...

So I will confess that I didn't watch the Tony Awards when they were telecast, but there was so much discussion afterwards that I decided to watch some of the snippets. You can see them at Watch Online - - The American Theatre Wing's Tony Awards® - Official Website by IBM  . So what was inspiring about these? First off, I'm always amazed a people who can sing and dance and act--all at once! (I can barely do the pat your head / rub your belly thing.)  I had no idea that James Corden was talented enough to do that opening number. The fact that Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote Hamilton (story, score, songs) and it is such a unique musical, with a hugely diverse cast--and he wrote a sonnet to his wife as a thank you when he won a Tony! Steve Martin worked on Bright Star, after a career as a comedian, novelist, actor, and more. The kids singing, dancing, and playing musical instructors in School of Rock were fabulous. The stories behind The Waitress and Shuffle Along are fascinating (and a bit sad as well). I'm sure there are more stories, but I don't know that I can take more inspiration today.

As you have read about previously, we are making a number of changes to LaunchPad for the fall. All courses are getting an updated LearningCurve and a number of English courses are getting new diagnostics and new reports on those diagnostics. In addition, I have more to announce! For twenty-three titles now across the disciplines (and more courses, going forward), we are updating and improving the way quizzes are created. There will be soon be five tabs (Basic Info, Search Questions, Review & Modify, Settings, and Assign Due Date) when you go to create a new quiz. The Search Questions tab will have new filters, so you can search by chapter, question type, level of difficulty, and Bloom's level. The Review & Modify tab is designed to make editing your quiz easier, and the order of the tabs was re-done to be more intuitive. For more info on how this will look, check out this short video or the online user guide. In addition to making the quiz creation process easier, this will also allow us to make real-time updates to quiz questions, instead of having to wait until the end of the semester. Talk to your rep to find out if your LaunchPad course is getting this update for Fall 2016.

One of my colleagues sent out this today today (Differentiated Instruction in the College Classroom | Higher Ed Beta ) with the idea that this is a way that technology can help in the classroom--with students working on different projects online, or doing peer review, or even using LearningCurve adaptive quizzing. It's something to think about as you begin to contemplate ways to tweak your course for fall semester.

Recently, a young man, Josh Titus, passed away after battling cancer and all the articles referenced his inspirational story. You should check it out (assuming you have tissues nearby) to see how sports and humanity can make a difference for all people involved. It is well worth your time, I promise.


Part 1:  J-Mac, Josh Titus & Patrick Thibodeau Story - Part 1 - YouTube

Part 2: J-Mac, Josh Titus & Patrick Thibodeau Story - Part 2 - YouTube

I just finished the book The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman. You wouldn't think that a non-fiction book that takes place in Warsaw, Poland during the peak of Nazism and World War II would be inspiring, but I found the book (for the most part) to be very positive. What I took away from it was, despite all the atrocities that were happening around them, when people banded together, they could accomplish the most amazing things. One person trying to subvert the power structure struggles to accomplish much; however, thousands of people in defiance make for an unstoppable force. (And, as a backdrop, there was a fair amount about the importance of music and art to allow people to escape and recall beauty during a period of terrible ugliness.) Check it out and let me know what you think.

When we first released LaunchPad, one thing we would always talk about are the 'curated units'. For Macmillan, this means that within each chapter of the book (and ebook), we select or create high quality resources that go with that chapter and appear within the unit structure. Those resources might be LearningCurve quizzes or videos or multi-media activities, depending on the book or LaunchPad in question. With just a few clicks, you can assign all of these resources for the chapter at once, trusting that the curator has done just what you would do in your class.


Now that LaunchPad has been out for a while, we know that not everyone wants to use these units. We survey students and instructors at the end of every semester and at the end of the Fall 2015 semester, 35% of instructors told us that they don't use the pre-built units, but rather create their course from scratch. Depending on how your course is organized and which assets you want to use, this makes a lot of sense for some people.


So how would you do this? It's very easy! First go to the Instructor Console and then click on General, Navigation, and LaunchPad Settings. Then select LaunchPad from the menu on the left and you will see the option to "Remove these units from your course?"


Remove Units.png


Once the units have been removed, you can then go and create your own units (maybe you organize by week or module or topic, instead of chapter) and then you can go to the resources and add in just the items you want (maybe you just want the ebook and LearningCurve or maybe you just want the video assignments you've created). In this way, you can completely customize the course the way you want to. And don't worry, if you remove those units, you can always add them back in by going back to the same spot and select "Add these units to your course." For more detailed instructions, check out the online user guide or talk to one of our Digital Solutions Specialists to find out which approach makes sense for your course.

My husband and I have this long-standing discussion where we talk about famous people that we'd like to have over for dinner. There are some great athletes that I think would be terrible dinner companions, even if I do like and support them in their profession. Steph Curry, however, seems like a great guy to have over for dinner. There was a little article about him in Sports Illustrated that mentioned, among other things, how he responded to a teenage fan who was just diagnosed with bone cancer. I don't think there is any way to teach someone how to talk to strangers with kindness and compassion; it's just something you either can or cannot do and it appears that Steph Curry has that skill in spades. For that reason alone, it is worth supporting Steph Curry this year.

So in an effort to find more topics that inspire me, a friend suggested that I check out some TED Talks. (Thanks, Jen!) She had one in particular, but I decided to start by reviewing talks on education. As the parent of a 9-year-old girl, I found this one by Reshma Saujani on Teach Girls Bravery Not Perfection to be particularly interesting. And I found some of her stories resonated with me, especially after my daughter was the only girl in her session of robotics camp last year. Let's hope we can recruit some more in 2016--and we'll get work on that coding next.


I was trying to consistently write about something inspiring, but I hit a wall in February. None of the books I read were particularly inspiring (even though I liked some of them quite a bit). The news and political coverage are not inspiring to me. Even the weather (and winter) where I live have been depressing. But just this week, things took at turn for the better--and the word is new.


I have a fun new project that I'm working on, where I have to learn a lot of new stuff and use my brain to assess it all. I am learning a new technology, which is inspiring me to re-think the way I work. And, best of all, I decided to try a new approach to some marketing emails that I sent out and, despite the fact that they aren't particularly well written haikus, I'm getting lots of good feedback for trying something fun and new. So that's what's inspiring me today: trying something new.


And even if that means trying a new flavor of ice cream or wearing a new outfit that you think isn't "you", I recommend you do it anyhow. What's the worst that could happen? (Okay, don't go there, but it really probably isn't that big of a risk in the whole scheme of things.) Go new!

Becky Anderson

Looking at Usage

Posted by Becky Anderson Employee Feb 25, 2016

Just because we've been talking about it recently, I wanted to give you a little insight into what our team can tell about peak and non-peak usage. We know that Thursday nights and Sunday nights are popular nights for students to do work in LaunchPad. Friday nights and Saturday mornings--not so much. Because we have this information, we can gauge the time when maintenance to LaunchPad will cause the least disruption. As you know, there is never a time where we can cause no disruption; someone is always working in LaunchPad. But by looking at our data, like the graph below which shows two consecutive Saturdays (in blue and orange), we do our best to find the time that is least annoying to do maintenance, for students and instructors, from four U.S. time zones, working in and teaching with LaunchPad.



For Fall 2016, we are going to have some new diagnostic reports coming to Writer's Help 2.0 and some LaunchPad courses that will allow you to see in one screen a comparison of pre-test and post-test results by class, by student, and by topic. This feature isn't available yet, but ask your representative to show you a sample in their trial course so you can see what to expect--or check out a sample below. And let us know what you think!



When my daughter earns screen time, her favorite thing to watch (lately) is clips from The Ellen Show. I monitor them to make sure they are appropriate, and she watched this excellent one this morning about a young man named Ezra Frech that I really liked and thought I should share. Enjoy! Incredible Young Man Ezra Frech - YouTube 

This week I was talking to Brenda Leady, a lovely professor of biology at the University of Toledo. She mentioned that when she first started using LaunchPad, she didn't use LearningCurve. She found the fact that she, a self-admitted control freak, couldn't control the precise topics or number of questions in each LearningCurve assignment to be a negative, so she didn't assign it. She changed her mind, however, when her students told her that they were using and really liking LearningCurve, even though she hadn't assigned it. So now she assigns it, and is very happy with how it is working to prepare students for class. If you use LearningCurve, there is a lovely new (short) video to help your students learn how to use it to help them succeed. Or, to learn more about how Brenda Leady, and others, use LaunchPad, sign up for our Peer-Led Webinars.

Just a reminder as classes get started and students familiarize themselves with Achieve and Sapling and LaunchPad (and LaunchPad Solo and Writer's Help) that you ARE NOT tech support for your students. Macmillan has a lovely tech support team in Orlando, FL waiting to help your students. The agents are good, nice, and fast--and they have quick answers to lots of the typical problems that students encounter at the beginning of the semester. So encourage your students to use Macmillan Tech Support and they won't use you. They can be contacted via email and phone, once you fill out the support form. (And don't forget that they can help instructors too!)