Are you Ready for Fall Classes?

Are you ready for the first week of fall classes?
I’m looking forward to the students, the excitement, the energy, the traffic (well, maybe not the traffic). In Brock University A-Z Learning Services, we are preparing for our student staff training, student orientation activities, and at-risk student success programming.


Brock University, Matheson Learning Commons

We’re also busy connecting with our Brock professors to plan support interventions. Here at Brock, students seek out our services (e.g., workshops and drop-in support). However, we also deliver skill development workshops in lectures and offer Academic-Zone online access, as requested by professors. Academic-Zone can be implemented immediately and provides professors with a means to assess and support students’ foundational writing, grammar, and numeracy skills. How? All modules have pre- and post-quizzes and corresponding learning modules. Professors tell us the module they want and the date for the quiz (often before course assignments). Then we give them an academic-zone access code for student registration. Students test online and can explore the modules at their own leisure—to prepare for the post-quiz or as a support resource when completing assignments. Students can also seek additional support through their professor, teaching assistant, or campus services.
Through Academic-Zone, we’ve built strong service and faculty partnerships.

     • Are you a professor who has implemented Academic-Zone in your course? What has been your experience? What are  your strategies?
     • Are you a student staff professional using Academic-Zone in your service or as a support resource for your faculty? What is your story? Do you feel that students benefit from these partnerships?
     • Not an Academic-Zone user? Share your own strategies, challenges, or successes as an instructor or service provider. How do you engage and support students?

Sharing implementation successes and challenges will help all of us in our work.

Margaret Groombridge

Feeling Unable to Learn

I highly recommend reading Maryellen Weimer’s “Feeling Unable to Learn” addition in Teaching Professor Blog.

Weimer shares her difficulty with technology and frustration when trying to learn a new email system–her frustration,  sense of isolation, embarrassment and lack of control.

Weimer’s experience speaks to my own personal experience as a mature student who returned to university in my 30s. I felt frustration, isolation, and insecurity, but I persevered. Why? Deep down, I  knew I would be successful. I believed that I could learn.

Day after day, I see students struggling to believe. Some have never been challenged. When they eventually are challenged, which often happens in first-year university, they may feel excited or devastated. They may avoid the challenge and stick with what they know. Students may be on the other end of the spectrum, never having experienced success. Many students, when they are successful, may not acknowledge the success and only focus on what they haven’t done or on others who are more successful.

Instilling or strengthening students’ belief that they can learn, that being uncomfortable means that they’re growing, and that learning may involve risk drives my teaching. I strive to help students acknowledge their successes, see learning as a courageous endeavour, and feel empowered in the process.

As one of the content developers of our online Academic-Zone modules, I wanted students to feel empowered by using the modules. I wanted students who were struggling with essay writing to have the language to talk about their strengths and weaknesses and to not be embarrassed to seek next steps (and hopefully to actually show someone their writing!). How often have we wanted to hide our essay at the bottom of the pile?

I welcome your comments! :)

Margaret Groombridge BA, BEd, MEd

Lead Designer, Academic-Zone

Assistant Manager, Brock Learning Services, Student Development Centre

Pic me


Moore’s Law: Education is catching up to Technology

A fascinating article on the Forbes blog describes the transition from ‘ideal teaching’ to a more online-supported teaching era, complimented by Moore’s Law. Gordon Moore, the author of Moore’s Law, proposed computing power will become cheaper and faster every 18 months… and he’s been accurate thus far!

“Moore’s Law is finally making its presence felt in education, too.”

This trend is most prevalent with massive, open, online courses (or MOOCs for short). The fastest growing of which is Coursera, lead by Daphne Koller. With over 22 million students enrolled in Coursera, online education has become a rapidly growing industry. Thanks to “very cheap bandwidth and a lot of machine learning, we can finally do Moore’s Law in education,” said Koller.

Moore’s Law has been accurate for nearly 50 years; however its ever-growing future is unknown. 

Academic Integrity: Cheat or Be Cheated?

To get a clearer definition of “cheating” and how schools can change the “cheat to compete” mentality, watch this video. (Breakdown below)

  • How students cheat? (0:000:52)
  • The Data: Survey of students who cheat (0:531:03)
  • Why are students cheating? (1:042:05)
  • Culture of Compromised Ethics  (2:062:38)
  • How can we change this culture of cheating? (Case study) (2:3911:21)

I came across this frightening article on edutopia regarding frequency of cheating in secondary and post-secondary education.

“80 to 95 percent of high school students admit to engaging in some form of cheating.”

Cheating is a serious offence, especially in post-secondary education, and institutions clearly outline the punishments to discourage cheating. Yet, students still resort to copying from a classmate’s paper, sneaking a cheat sheet into an exam, using their cellphone or other technology to get ahead, or discretely writing test answers on their skin. Surprisingly, most students realize what they’re doing is wrong but they justify their actions because “it’s cheat or be cheated.”

Tips to Increase Your Final Exam Performance

The end to another academic term is quickly approaching… along with the stress of writing final exams. If you have to write exams and are feeling nervous, overwhelmed, and exhausted from studying, these are some useful tips from examtime to perform at your best on exam day.

The Night Before
You want to have your exam day planned out beforehand so you can focus on remembering the important information you studied.

  • Check the time and location of your exam
  • Set an alarm to wake up early
  • Collect materials you will need to bring to your exam tomorrow
  • Get a full nights rest (8 hours is recommended)

Exam Day
Make sure you start your day off right. If you’re feeling confident and refreshed before you write your exam, chances are you’ll perform better.

  • Wake up early and prepare for your day (taking a shower can help your body wake up)
  • Have a balanced breakfast (try to eat some fruit, for example, a banana)
  • Grab your exam materials (remember to bring your ID, translators, etc. if required/permitted)
  • Leave early (unexpected events happen all the time; you don’t want to be late)

Starting Your Exam
You have prepared for this moment. Focus your mind and get yourself prepared to ace this exam.

  • Write your name on the exam paper and make sure you have all pages of the exam
  • Read through the exam to get an idea of the content and length of each section
  • Plan your time and focus the majority of your time on the heaviest weighted questions
  • Start answering questions you feel most confident about (leave the challenging questions for last)

Finishing Your Exam
You’re almost done! Just a few more questions and you can leave feeling great.

  • Ask for clarification or assistance if you don’t understand a section/question
  • Pay attention to the time and pace yourself
  • Review your work to ensure you answered all questions correctly
  • Stay to the end of your exam period (review your work multiple times to catch silly mistakes)
  • Hand in your exam feeling confident that you did your best work

You just finished your exam and can now move on with your day and enjoy the rest of the spring/summer!

I hope these tips were helpful and reduced your fear of writing exams. If you still have any concerns, feel free to post them in the comments or contact your institution’s help centre. Best of luck with your exams and the end of your semester!

Teaching students to write, not ‘fill-in-the-blanks’


Jeremy Shermak, an Assistant Professor of Communications at a community college in Chicago, writes an inspirational story about academic writing and consultations with students. Shermak shares his perspective of using education to “light a fire” instead of “filling a bucket” when advising students.

Originally posted on The Unwritten Syllabus:

Last week, when a major research essay was due in my composition courses, more students visited my office on campus than the previous two semesters combined.  I always encourage my students to stop in. I answered every question very diligently and expeditiously, offering the best I had in terms of advice and direction.

Student questions varied greatly.  Many were concerned about their introductions, which for many is one of the more difficult parts of any essay, while others wanted to know about MLA formatting. However, a striking number of students asked some variation of the following question: “What do you want me to write?”

Let’s set the table here: the essay in production has been on their plates for weeks now. We went through a very deliberate, calculated writing process to demonstrate the benefits of planning, forethought, time management, pre-writing, research, revision, etc. It was a tactical approach inspired…

View original 568 more words

The Single Most Important Factor for Success

Have you ever wondered what determines if an individual is academically and/or professionally successful? One would assume intelligence, time management skills, or wealth are all possible factors… but surprisingly those don’t take the top spot. Angela Lee Duckworth, a psychologist from the University of Pennsylvania, just might have the answer. Check out this 6-minute TED Talk to hear her story.

What are your thoughts?

  • Do you think passion and perseverance are crucial for success?
  • Do you think there is a more important factor for success?
  • Can you think of anyone who embodies this factor?