Saturday, March 21, 2020

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Basic Tips for a Quick Transition to Online Teaching

Tips for Online Learners
Dr. Marsha Fralick

There are many advantages to online learning but knowing good online study strategies is essential for success.
Advantages of Online Learning
Thinking about the advantages of online learning can help to increase motivation. With online learning, you don’t have to travel to class or spend time in a classroom. You can learn at your own pace and in the privacy of your own home. Online courses are convenient, and save time and money.

New advances in technology have provided powerful tools for online learning. Students from the New Millennial Generation and Generation Z already understand, use, and enjoy the social media and technology used for online education.

Challenges of Online Learning
Learning in a classroom provides opportunities for interaction with the instructor and other students. Some students may miss the opportunities for social interaction and asking questions. Remember to take advantage of online opportunities for interaction and ask questions if needed. 
Discussion boards and chats are the most frequently used tools for interaction. These tools are often required, and points are awarded for participation.

Face to face courses have a definite schedule of meetings. Online courses are more flexible. Getting assignments done with a flexible schedule can be challenging for some students.

Balance Freedom with Responsibility
Online courses generally have weekly learning objectives and modules. This gives students the freedom to choose when they are going to complete course work. There are generally no set days and times for learning. This freedom can lead to procrastination. Students who wait until just before an assignment is due have increased stress and lower performance. Procrastination is the leading reason for lack of success in an online course. One way to avoid procrastination is to think about how online learning is important to accomplish your lifetime goals. Spend your time on what is most important and then reward yourself for getting the work done.

Establish a Personal Schedule
Log into your online course at the beginning of the week to see what is expected. Some professors may expect you to log in more frequently. Then make a plan or schedule for completing the work before it is due. List due dates on a calendar and check them off as they are completed.

Minimize Distractions
We have more distractions in our personal spaces than in a classroom. The most common distractions are related to the technology we are using to learn. While learning online, we are distracted by phones, messages, notifications, and the myriad of connections through social media. Minimize these distractions by putting your phone in another room or turning it off. Avoid browsing the Internet, checking your email or responding to social media while studying. Use these potential distractions as a reward for completing your work. Work first and then reward yourself by checking your phone or browsing the Internet.
Read the Syllabus
Begin your online course by reading the syllabus. It contains important information and explains what is required in the course and how you can earn a good grade.

Online Learning and Memory
The brain learns best with distributed practice and frequent review. This means that it is important to break learning tasks into small parts and review them frequently. It is stressful and ineffective to study or complete projects for large amounts at a time right before an assignment is due.

Review Tools
Review is important to store information in long term memory. Here are some review tools you can use online.
  • Take notes on any videos or presentations. Write down the most important ideas. Review these ideas immediately and then periodically to store the information in long term memory. The physical act of writing notes reinforces memory.
  • Some students find it helpful to read the material out loud, especially if it is complex or difficult to understand.
  • If you are reading online text, see if there is an option for highlighting. Some programs allow you to highlight important points and then print out the highlights. Review what you have highlighted immediately after reading and then review again periodically.
  •  If there is no option for highlighting, print the material and highlight it.
  • Another option is to copy and paste important points into a separate document for review.
  • When reading online, it is helpful to read a small amount at a time rather than marathon reading sessions. Reading a small amount helps with motivation and retention of the material.
  • If you are required to learn detailed information, make flash cards and review them frequently.
Online Assessment
Online assessments generally de-emphasize objective exams and rely on creative projects. For example, in the place of a final exam, a final creative project may be required. Spend the time needed to complete these creative projects and showcase your best work. Ask your professor if you can use creative media or video to complete your project.

Expect More Writing
A classroom involves more speaking in contrast to an online course that requires more writing. If you dislike writing or find it difficult, try these ideas:
  • Understand what is required. Is there a grading rubric that details how points are earned and what is expected? Is there a requirement for a certain number of words or pages in your paper? Are you required to write a formal paper or is it more informal writing such as a response to a discussion that requires your personal thoughts?
  • Begin with free writing. Free writing is just writing down whatever comes to mind without worrying about perfection. This technique can be helpful to get started and come up with ideas for writing. Free writing is not the finished product. It is a way to begin.
  • Organize your thoughts into paragraphs with the main idea and supporting detail.
  • If you are writing a paper, put your first draft away and look at it another day. This will help you to review and edit your work. 
  • Begin early. 

These tips can help you to enjoy the advantages of online learning and to be successful in your online courses.

Additional Resources

Student Blog

Here are some useful videos on how to learn online:

Tips for Online Learning

Contact if you would like a .pdf of this blog to share with your students. 

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Basic Tips for a Quick Transition to Online Teaching

Many colleges and universities are quickly transitioning to online teaching as a result of our current health emergency. These tips are designed for those who are new to online teaching. It is important to “keep it simple” and realize that you will improve with online teaching experience.

Think Positively
We are all teachers because of the satisfaction of seeing the light bulb go on for students as we interact with them on a personal level. For this reason, some faculty have been hesitant to teach online. However with current developments in online teaching, we can experience similar personal satisfaction and student success. It helpful to remember that our students are probably more accepting of online teaching than faculty who have been teaching for many years.

Stay in Contact and Reassure
Use your campus resources to stay in contact with students. Reassure students that things are under control and that you will work with them to be successful.

You can use to send text messages to students in your course without using your own personal phone number.

Get Familiar with Your Campus Course Management System
Most colleges have course management systems such as Canvas or Blackboard that have all the tools you need to teach your course online. Many are offering workshops and faculty mentors to help you get started right away.

Here are the directions for logging into a sample Canvas account I use in teaching my online College and Career Success course:

Use this email:
Use this password: facultydemo

Begin by clicking on Modules on the course menu on the left. This will show you how I organize my course.

Once you are inside Canvas, you can also click on the photo of the textbook to access a demo of the text. 

If you want to see a new copy of the text, here is an access code: RB32DKN

Get Organized
I recommend setting up your course using weekly modules. Each module would contain all the files, videos, assignments, and directions for the week. This is especially important if you are new to course management systems and are expected to begin quickly. In am emergency, you can stay one module ahead of your students. See examples of modules in my Canvas account above.

Be Especially Sensitive to Student Needs
We are all experiencing overwhelming change and disruptions to our daily lives.  Some of these issues include changes in daily routines, increased fear and anxiety, loss of employment and childcare, illness, homelessness, food insecurity, financial stress, isolation, and many unforeseen circumstances. Include a weekly discussion about the challenges students are facing and how they are dealing with them.

Consider more flexibility on due dates for assignments. As an example, I give students 10 participation points for completing all the items in the weekly module on time. Students can get full credit for late work. I personally follow up with students who do not complete work on time. I offer friendly assistance, reminders, and ask if students are having difficulties. In the Canvas gradebook, there is a great feature called “Message Students Who Have Not Submitted.” I use this weekly to follow up with students who have not turned in assignments on time. This policy has resulted in high retention and success rates in my course.

Explore Online Content
Resist the temptation to merely post your lecture notes online. Save time and increase personal interaction by posting a brief video of yourself giving directions and previewing the content.  
One of my favorite ways of creating these short videos is using my cell phone with the Tellegami App. It is creative, quick, and easy and I don’t have to stress about my personal appearance and acting skills in a video.

Here is a link to Tellegami:
With this app, it is easy to create an avatar and read a script that is then automatically animated. You can choose personal characteristics that match your own.  Here is a link to one of my Tellegami videos:

Look at the topics you plan to present in upcoming courses and search for them on YouTube. Post these videos on the discussion board or in your weekly modules. It is best to post short videos.  My favorites are less than five minutes long.  Here is a link to some of the videos I use in my college and career success course.

Keep it Interactive

The best quick tool for interacting with students is the Discussion Board. As you are constructing your discussion questions, keep in mind Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives and move beyond knowledge to comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.

Helpful discussion questions:
How can you apply ____?
What is the best _____?
How do these ideas fit with what you already know about ____?
What is your evaluation of ___?
What do you think about ___?
What would you do in this situation?
What would you recommend to a new student?
What are the pros and cons of ___?
You can also post a video for discussion.

Remember to ask students to make a posting and then reply to one or more other students so that they actually read other student comments and interact with others in the classroom. See my discussion questions in my Canvas container above.  I specify that students write at least 200 words in the discussion including replies to other students.

Although you may not be able to interact with all students, I at least reply to students who have no replies from others.

Reconsider Evaluations
For an online course, the traditional quizzes and exams may not work as well as in a traditional course.  Consider projects that involve personal involvement and creativity. I use short journals and writing projects in my course to help students understand the material and apply it to their personal lives.

Here is a link to the Word files and grading rubric I use for short journal entries:
Course management systems offer tools for creating self-scored quizzes to help students focus on the material. I view these quizzes as reading comprehension tools and allow students to repeat the quizzes to improve scores.  These quizzes have less value in my point system than the writing and individual projects that students complete.  
 I like to give students options for completing an assignment beyond Word documents,  including videos, PowerPoint, Powtoon ( and other new media. Students are already familiar with new media and use it to interact with friends.
Looking Toward the Future
My personal philosophy is that life is a dangerous opportunity. The present situation involves danger, but also opportunity. I predict that higher education will be changed by our current emergency in that faculty will become more familiar with technology and include more online elements in their courses in the future.

Contact me at if you would like a Word copy of this blog.

Note that I am the author of several interactive online textbooks on the topics of college and career success that can be customized to match your student learning outcomes. Textbooks are listed in the column to the right with links to the table of contents. Contact me at if you have questions or would like to receive an online demo for future adoption consideration. 

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

TED Talk by Paul Hernandez, Helping at Risk Students

Paul Hernandez is the author of  the Pedagogy of Real Talk featured in my last blog.  He now has a TED talk that would be useful for faculty professional development.  In this TED talk, he illustrates his teaching technique of using real talk to connect with challenging students and improve teaching for all students.  He uses universal themes to connect with his students.  Examples of universal themes include fear, love, and dealing with challenges. He uses these themes to remind students what we have in common, our shared humanity. He shares his story of growing up in poverty, belonging to a gang, and how a few caring faculty changed his life so that he was able to complete his doctorate and change the lives of other students.  You can view this TED talk at:  I highly recommend this video for your upcoming professional development sessions this fall.  

Paul Hernandez, The Pedagogy of Real Talk: Engaging, Teaching and Connecting with Students at Risk (Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin, 2016). 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Working with at Risk Students, The Pedagogy of Real Talk by Paul Hernandez: A Book Review by Dr. Marsha Fralick

Paul Hernandez in his book, The Pedagogy of Real Talk, Engaging, Teaching, and Connecting with Students at Risk, proposes an alternative pedagogy for working with at risk students to increase success and retention.  His pedagogy facilitates meaningful connections between students and faculty by sharing real life experiences and connecting them to the curriculum. 

Real talk pedagogy is based on a case study investigation with migrant seasonal farm workers enrolled in the Michigan State University High School Equivalency Program designed to help high school dropouts pass the test of General Educational Development (GED).   Results of the investigation showed increased passing rates on the reading and writing portions of the GED as well as improved faculty and student relationships, reduced behavioral issues, and an increased interest in education.   Over 5 semesters, students had a 97% passing rate on the reading,and 95% on the writing portion of the GED. 

Real talk discussions are powerful tools to help students.  These discussions are used at the beginning, middle, and end of the semester, although they can be used at key teachable moments during the semester.  At the beginning of the semester, real talk discussions are used to help the students get to know the instructor as a real person who is genuinely interested in student success.  Key to the success of real talk discussions is the willingness of the instructors to share their personal experiences, so that students can feel that the classroom is a safe place to share their own experiences.  During these discussions, the instructor helps students understand how to overcome the struggles and celebrate the successes.   Real talk discussions are based on universal themes such as sadness, anger, frustration, happiness, excitement, fear, hate, and love.  These universal themes can easily be connected to the content of first-year experience courses. 

Hernandez has many suggestions for working with at risk students that can also be successfully used with all students.

  • Find ways to connect the curriculum with the life experience of students.
  • Make sure that students understand clearly the expectations you have for them in your course.
  • Arrive to class every day with an enthusiastic attitude.
  • Have students do a brief writing assignment each week on how the class is progressing, and whether the pace is too fast or too slow.
  • Be willing to share you experiences so that students will feel free to share their own experiences.
  • Move from lecture to individualized instruction, working in groups, and having students teach each other.
  • Vary the structure of the class by using different activities such as games, group exercises, and different lessons.
  • Maintain a positive attitude toward the work that students do in class since many have not received positive reinforcement in the past.
  • Spend time with individual students to answer questions about the class and to learn about personal issues affecting classroom success.
  • Although it is important to approach students with the attitude that every student can be successful, it is not possible to help every student.  We can feel good about any benefit students obtain from being in our class.  Some students are not ready to make a change, but positive experiences in education may help them to be ready for change in the future.  

Hernandez reminds us that our own life stories are powerful tools in relating to students.  All of us have been successful in graduating from college as we faced struggles along the way.  As an example, I know of one instructor who works with Latino students.  On the first day, he tells the story of how his father was a migrant farm worker who managed to send his four sons to college. This instructor was part of a Mexican gang who ended up with an advanced college degree and has helped many at risk students to be successful. 

Not all of us have such powerful stories.  Some of my best experiences in sharing stories has been from inviting guest speakers who have faced great struggles and become successful.  In one of my most memorable classes, I invited a speaker who was a holocaust survivor to share her experiences.  Students were listening intently and were more motivated to overcome their own struggles after hearing this speaker.    

If you are working with at risk students or just want to find new tools for relating to students, take a look at The Pedagogy of Real Talk


Paul Hernandez, The Pedagogy of Real Talk: Engaging, Teaching and Connecting with Students at Risk (Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin, 2016).   

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Student Success: Best Practices Book Review

Best Practices
Book Review: Student Success in College, Creating Conditions that Matter by George D. Kuh et al.

Colleges and universities are struggling to improve graduation rates and help students achieve their educational goals.  Four year colleges graduate only about 50% of students within 6 years while community colleges have a 39% completion rate.    This book is a summary of recommendations based on the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) and the Documenting Effective Educational Practice project (DEEP).  This project examined the practices of 20 colleges and universities that performed well on measures of student engagement on the NSSE as well as had better than predicted graduation rates (over 50%).  The findings can provide some guidance for colleges seeking to implement best practices for student success. 

Student Engagement
The best predictors of graduation are academic preparation and motivation (p. 7).  However, many of our students are lacking in these areas.  It was noted that student engagement is a key to student success, especially for students lacking preparation and motivation.  Student engagement has two important components, including the amount of time and effort students invest in their studies and learning opportunities and services designed to engage students in learning. 

Summary of Best Practices
Based on the DEEP study and other current research on educational effectiveness, the following conditions are important best practices: (p. xi)

·         Adequate student time on task
·         Balancing academic challenge with support for students
·         Emphasis on early months and first year of study
·         Respect for diverse talents and cultural differences
·         Integration of prior learning and experience
·         Ongoing practice of learned skills
·         Active learning
·         Assessment and feedback
·         Collaboration among students
·         Out-of-class contact with faculty

Effective Practices at DEEP Colleges and Universities
Student Success in College focuses and these key areas for institutional effectiveness and student success:

Effective institutions have a clear, focused institutional mission.
The mission is a statement of philosophy, aspirations, values, purposes, and traditions that is a guide for action.  It is important that this mission include a commitment to student success.

It is important to focus on student learning as opposed to teaching.
There has been a shift from an emphasis on teaching to an emphasis on learning.  This new emphasis on learning includes active and collaborative learning, using new electronic technologies, problem solving, group projects, peer tutoring, service learning, and internships.  These new pedagogies help students practice what they are learning, develop leadership skills, prepare for the future world of work, and learn to work with diverse people.

Effective institutions place a high value on quality teaching and professional development.  People within the institution have a passion for helping students develop their potential and are knowledgeable about student engagement. 

Effective colleges and universities make time for students and provide prompt feedback.  Students participate in activities, ask questions, and use faculty office hours.  Faculty provide feedback about strengths and areas that need improvement. 

Colleges can provide environments that are adapted for student enrichment and engagement such as spaces for discussion and group work. 

It is helpful to create clear pathways to student success.
Creating a clear pathway to success is especially important for underrepresented students and those whose parents have not attended college.  Students need to know what to expect and how to be successful.  Clear pathways include a welcome to the college, orientation programs, how to find student services and other resources, programs for first-year students, and formal groups for supporting underrepresented students.  Summer transition programs are especially helpful for underrepresented students.  It is important to provide activities to help students meet their peers and connect to the institution. 

One of the most important services is advising which is especially important for student success and improves completion rates. 

Other important components are early warning systems that provide early assistance for students experiencing problems. 

High performing institutions are improvement-oriented.
These college monitor present performance and set goals for improvement.  They constantly work toward positive change and value innovation. The goal is to be the best they can be. 

There is a shared responsibility for educational quality and student success.
No single office, individual, or college division is responsible for student success; it is a shared responsibility.  Effective institutions have effective leaders and diverse faculty and staff.  Student services work in partnership with academic affairs to assure student success.
Faculty help students to assume responsibility for their own learning.  Students do classroom presentations and tutor or assist other students outside the classroom.  Students participate in campus governance. 

Here are some important components of educational quality leading to student success:

                Level of Academic Challenge
Successful practices include academic rigor including the requirement to spend time preparing for classes, reading assignments, and writing reports.  It includes critical thinking which involves analyzing, synthesizing, applying theories, and making judgements.  The key to success is both academic challenge and appropriate support to achieve the desired outcomes.  Support can include required study groups, meetings with faculty and advisers, workshops, tutoring, and assistance with writing. 
When faculty have high expectations of students, students generally meet the challenge.  Most first-year experience programs help students adapt to these higher levels of expectations, especially the increased emphasis on reading and writing. 

                Active and Collaborative Learning 
Students practice what they are learning by working in groups, solving problems, asking questions in class, group projects, peer evaluation, learning communities, tutoring other students, participating in service learning, and active discussion of classroom materials. 
Faculty are encouraged to present material in multiple ways.  For example,  project or portfolio based learning helps students utilize many diverse ways of learning.  In this way, students are required to learn and then demonstrate what they have learned.  Students learn that they are active rather than passive learners. 

                Student and Faculty Interaction
Effective institutions foster many kinds of student and faculty interactions including discussing career plans with an adviser, faculty mentors, classroom interaction, feedback from faculty on student performance, participating in student activities, involvement in committees, and engaging is campus governance.  Appropriate space needs to be provided for these activities. 
Technology is providing newer ways to enhance interaction through the use of course management systems such as Blackboard or Canvas. 

                Enriching Educational Experiences
College campuses provide the opportunity to interact with people of different races, ethnicities, religions, socio-economic level, and political beliefs.  These experiences help students to work in a diverse environment after graduation.  Community service and service learning projects provide students with valuable experience and leadership opportunities that can enhance employment prospects after graduation.  Internships provide additional experiences that can lead to employment after graduation. 

                Supportive Classroom Environment
Students are more successful when they have adequate support to achieve their goals.  Support can include the traditional student services, accessible faculty and staff, transition programs, first-year experience seminars, peer mentors, and early warning systems.

The ideas in this book provide a roadmap or checklist of ideas that colleges and universities can implement to improve institutional effectiveness and student success.  Some of these ideas are familiar and common on most college campuses, but they are a comprehensive roadmap for improvement. 

George D. Kuh et al., Student Success in College, Creating Conditions that Matter, (San Francisco:  Jossey Bass, 2010).

Monday, August 8, 2016

Making the Most of the First Week of Your Course

As you begin planning for your fall classes, you may find this posting useful.  It is a repeat, but timely.  

The first week of the course can be the most important week of the semester because it is an opportunity to set the stage for all that follows.  Here are some suggestions for the first week:

1.       Do an engaging and enjoyable activity so that students leave the first class with enthusiasm for the course.
First impressions are important in many areas of life, including the impression you make on the first day of the course.  Be sure to include an enjoyable activity that engages students and gives them an opportunity to participate in discussion.  There are many engaging activities for the first day or week of class in my Instructor Manual, Chapter 1 1:

2.       Pace your class to maintain student interest. 
As a general rule, plan to spend no more than 10-15 minutes on any activity.  Plan some activities that require student interaction. 

3.       Establish a supportive environment for learning.
Provide positive feedback to students who volunteer, especially during the first class.  Encourage students to be supportive of one another.  I usually make this statement early in the course:
I believe that students learn better in a positive and supportive environment.  It is my goal to be supportive of your learning and encourage you to be supportive and respectful of other students.  

4.       Introduce yourself. 
Spend about five minutes or less introducing yourself so that students get to know you.  Here are some ideas to include in your introduction:
·         Your educational journey
·         Your most important values
·         Why you enjoy teaching this course
·         What you hope students learn in the course
·         Your professional experience
·         Your favorite inspirational quote
Don’t spend too much time on your personal introduction since there are other important goals for the first class. 

5.       Get to know your students and help your students get to know one another.
Students begin any new course with some excitement or anxiety about a being in a new situation.  You can build on the excitement and reduce anxiety by doing some ice breakers.  You can find a variety of ice breakers and introductory activities on this page of my website:
Don’t spend the entire first class on ice breakers since there are other important goals for the first class.  Ideally, aim to spend no more than 10-15 minutes on the ice breakers.  You can do the ice breakers quickly by dividing your students into groups of 5 and having the group share some answers to the ice breaker questions.  Call on each group to share some of the responses.  Remember to share some of your own answers to the questions. 

6.       Use your syllabus to help students understand the course objectives and requirements. 
You can find components and sample syllabi at:
As an alternative to reading your syllabus, give students 5 minutes to skim your syllabus.  Tell them that there will be some discussion questions at the end of 5 minutes.  Ask for volunteers to answer some questions such as:
·         What is a syllabus and why should you keep it?
·         How can you make an A in this course?
·         Do you have to attend every class?
·         What behavior is required in this course?
·         What happens if your assignment is late?
·         How do you contact the instructor?
·         What textbook is required?
·         What is one student learning outcome that you find interesting? 
If students cannot answer your questions, pause so that they can look up the answers.   You could also give a 5 minute quiz on your syllabus at the beginning of the second class meeting. 

7.       Set the standards for appropriate behavior in your classroom.
Standards for student behavior should be outlined in your syllabus and implemented on the first day.  It is important to enforce the standards from the beginning.  For example, if you want only one person speaking at a time, enforce this behavior at your first opportunity.  If you would like some ideas on dealing with difficult students, see Faculty Resources on this page of my website:

8.       Provide an overview of online components of the course such as your course management system or electronic textbook. 
While you may not be able to provide this overview during the first class, it is important to include this information during the first week or no later than the second week.  Show students how to log into Blackboard, Canvas or other course management systems.  Help them to access their online textbook or other online materials. 

Adjust these suggestions to match your teaching style and the needs of your students.  I hope you find these ideas useful in making a good impression and generating enthusiasm for your course.  Best wishes as you help your students to be successful.  

If you would like a Word document of this blog to share with faculty, send your request to 

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Tips for Teaching Summer School

Some of my favorite courses have been the ones I taught in summer school.  I have found that the condensed format with longer class periods provides more opportunities for meaningful discussions and excellent student interaction. Summer courses have a more diverse student population that sets the stage for interesting discussions.  You will find motivated students who are trying to get ahead, students who are making up credits, older students, working students, and recent high school graduates. 

What does the research show about summer or compressed format courses?  Researchers agree that these courses have some advantages such as improved discussions, student interactions, focused learning, and creative thinking.  (Kops, 2009)  Research also shows that success in teaching in a compressed format requires strategies that are important for student success in general, but these strategies are even more critical in a compressed format.  Here is a quick review of the key ideas from research on success in compressed formats:
  • Short and frequent assignments with regular feedback are best.
  • Success depends on organization, student involvement, instructor enthusiasm, prompt feedback, and high expectations.
  • It is important to focus on student outcomes rather than content delivery.  Focus on what students need to know instead of what content you should cover. 
  • Expectations and standards should not be lowered, but the course should be structured differently. 

Based on research and my own experience in teaching summer courses, here are some of my recommendations for an outstanding summer school experience for yourself and your students. 

  • Since summer sessions move quickly, it is important to be organized in advance.  Focus on the student learning outcomes.  Create your course syllabus and course calendar before the class begins.  From the first day, let students know what is expected of them and the required time commitments.
  • While designing your course, focus on what is most important.  As a way to remain focused, try this exercise with yourself.  If you only had 3 hours to teach this course, what topics would you include?  Of course you will include all important student outcomes, but make sure you are focusing time on the most important topics.
  • To increase student motivation, express your enthusiasm for teaching the course and show your interest in the topic.  Tell your students why the course is important and meaningful.
  • Start your class by building community.  Begin by getting to know your students and helping them to get to know each other.   Take a look at the introductory activities in my Instructor Manual at   Also see my blog posting below from August, 2015, “Making the Most of the First Week of Your Class.”
  • The key to success in summer school is student involvement and variety.  Based on current brain science, the human brain pays attentions for about 10 minutes at a time.  (Medina, 2008)  Think about your lesson plan in 10 minute segments.  After 10 minutes, change what you are doing.  For example, after 10 minutes of lecturing, involve students in a discussion.
  • Use a variety of teaching techniques to maintain interest such as the mini lecture, think-pair-share, mapping, quick assessments, demonstrations, humor, riddles, short videos, skits, the one minute paper, or the one minute speech.  As an example, after a 10 minute lecture, use a technique called 60-60, 30-30.  In this technique students work in pairs.  The first student talks about the topic or discussion question for 60 seconds without interruption.  The second student does the same.  Then the first students provides a response for 30 seconds and the second student does the same.  Students share key ideas with the larger group. 
  • Use frequent group activities.  Be careful to set a time limit so that students maintain interest and you maintain focus on important student learning outcomes.  For most groups, I set a time limit of 5-7 minutes for student discussion and then about 5 minutes for large group sharing.  Of course you can expand the time if the discussion is especially relevant or meaningful.
  • Keep grading up to date to minimize anxiety for yourself and to keep your students on track. 

Post your questions below.  Have a great summer!   


Kops, Bill.  "Best Practices: Teaching in Summer Session." Retrieved from 

Gooblar, David. “The Benefits of Intensive Summer Courses.”  Retrieved from

Medina, J., (2008) Brain rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School. (Seattle, Washington: Pear Press.)