Knerd Story – Wheeler Conover, SE Kentucky Community College
SE Kentucky Community college
What courses do you teach?
All chemistry from survey of general organic, biological chemistry all the way up to organic chemistry and also classic biochemistry.
How long have you been using Alta?
Why did you start using Alta?
Someone from Knewton gave a talk to the chemists in the KY community and technical college system and I thought it sounded like a winner! So I decided to give it a try.
What do you like about Alta?
It encourages you to be wrong. It doesn’t penalize you for the wrong answer. It just says keep working at it, and wait until you master the material. In Kentucky, for close to 15 years, we have had a series of competency based learning classes called learn on demand (LOD). And we have used software in those classes where students keep working on the answer until they get it right. I see Alta as a natural extension of LOD competency based learning.
How do you use Alta?
Homework is 30% of the grade. My theory is that most learning takes place at home. And so if I’m going to have students do work at home and work hard on it, it’s got to be worth their time. When I first started out 25 years ago, homework was optional. That didn’t take long for me to change. I upped it to 10%. But then I also have the philosophy that if they’re not going to do it, I’m going to make them pay. Now I’m going to make them pay hard. And so now with it being 30%, if students choose not to do their homework, they are going to have a reckoning, as we say in Appalachia, they’re going to have a “come to Jesus” moment if they don’t do their homework.
Sometimes I open it (the homework) back up and students can work on it until they get it, but I don’t always let them do late assignments.
Do you get feedback from students?
I have students who say that it’s different than what they’ve done before. And they appreciate the fact that they can learn the material instead of being punished for not learning it.
Do students understand the adaptive nature of the product?
No, not at this point because there are too immersed in a system where it is right versus wrong and they just see that I’m different. And not only do they see I’m a different instructor because I’ve been at this for so long and I try to stay aware of what goes on around me in education, I’m also not the type of person who pulls out lecture notes from 40 years ago and gives my students the same class that their parents had. So they see I’m different and may not be able to distinguish that from the fact that they are using an adaptive product.
Do you create exams and quizzes in Alta?
It depends. I’ve been letting Knewton Alta do most of the exam creation. When we were meeting in-person, I was creating exams myself. But I would pull out questions from Knewton Alta and put them into an exam. Even now, I’m giving a weekly quiz (for each of eight weeks), I have to go in and create questions. I do find some gaps in the coverage of the question banks and so I need to fill them in.
What do students struggle with the most?
Everything. Their biggest struggle is not necessarily with the material. It’s the fact that they’re afraid to get something wrong. They are afraid they will lose their precious 4.0 GPA. They will not make a high grade on an exam and they don’t want understand that 85% is an A. That 85.1% and 99.9% is the same grade. That clouds everything they encounter. They are afraid of making a mistake.
They also don’t see the amount of time that it really takes to put in to learning the material. Sure, they can go look it up on Quizlet, or Course Hero. So their reasoning skills. Number one are short at this point, but then number two, I have to remember that this may be the first time that they’ve seen the material and it is up to me to help them reason through their problems. It’s not necessarily the material per se, it’s the process of learning.
For example, in my current group, when creating the weekly exam, there was one concept that I had to give them three times, on three straight exams. When I went in and I checked the homework, they were doing the homework, but when it came time to write it back on the exam, they couldn’t do it. So I just had to keep after them until I was satisfied that at least the majority of them knew. Sometimes the repetition is not there—and students can mistake recognition for learning.
I also throw up the Knewton Alta to them every week. I make it available to every week and they don’t use it. And I also begin to wonder, is that a function of the fact that they worked on the concepts already in their homework, got 100% mastery and then they don’t feel that they need to go back and review the material a few days later.
Room for improvement
There are two things:
- I wish Knewton Alta would update their question banks. And like I said, still in some of the gaps, make some of the material that we see in match up with what you would normally see in a typical class.
- There is an awful lot of emphasis on minutiae in homework than I think that it really needs.
But overall, I think the system is geared more for conceptual learning. It deemphasizes numerical calculations and lends itself toward conceptual learning. And since it’s taken me that long to figure out which I didn’t really realize this until earlier this year that we say, “I don’t care. If you can punch numbers into a calculator, if you’re punching a bunch of numbers into a calculator and you don’t know what you’re doing, then what good is it?”
So I like the fact that it does lean towards the conceptual side of learning, but then again, where the gaps would come in is if they needed to take exams such as the MCAT or PCAT, and they need to learn things that they have not necessarily even seen the first time, there’s a little bit of a disconnect there.
I think sometimes there is too much detail on some things and not enough on others. When I go into the test bank, I can go into the questions and see nine of one question then nothing on another.
Knerd Story – Hadas Moshonov-Cohavi, Avila University
How long have you been using Knewton Alta?
I’ve been using Alta since fall 2018 and we’ve seen great results with it. Most students that take the course are passing the first time through.
What classes are you teaching?
I have my college algebra class, statistics, discrete math and I’m also teaching the corequisite course that goes with college algebra.
We also have one course that’s called the application of college math. We also use Knewton Alta in that course. Someone else is teaching it, but students from that course are also showing up in corequisite.
Why did you start using Knewton Alta?
When I started my position, it was the first year that we changed our math model offering. We discarded the beginning algebra, intermediate algebra and that old fashioned sequence, and we went with one really basic course which is math literacy.
The main math course was the corequisite course and this was the first year that we offered it. It was my first year, and I was using My Math Lab because I thought that it offered adaptive assignments. Which turned out to be not true, so I had to choose questions myself. What I was really hoping for was a platform that will fill in gaps in students’ knowledge. I met with the Knewton Alta representative, we went through all of the features, and I just fell in love with the product.
I fell in love with a few things:
First of all, the fact that it’s mastery-based, so I don’t really have to choose anything, I can adjust objectives, and then the system will populate the right questions.
I liked the fact that it really promotes growth mindset. It really gives students the instructions, the example, the videos, everything that they need to fill out their knowledge.
And the fact that it’s individually adaptive so that every student has their own personalized process of learning in the course. So, I just fell in love with those things.
Do you get feedback from students?
My students love it! I have stronger students and also weaker students that just keep telling me “I love how Knewton Alta works!” And one student even told me that she has her own approach. She said that she’ll start a problem, and then get it wrong intentionally, so she can see the answer explanation and learn that way.
All throughout this semester I really don’t get any complaints. The only thing some students say and it’s something those students who don’t want to put in the time, they will complain that they got some stuff wrong, they had more questions, and you know, the assignments took longer.
How do you implement Knewton Alta?
I create adaptive assignments in Knewton Alta, there are different numbers depending on the topic but it’s between two and five in a week. They are worth 30% of their grade. Each assignment is targeting a specific topic with the objectives that are related to it. Students have to do it and complete it at 100%.
So, for example, this week we were solving systems of equations. And so, there is a linear systems or three equations. That’s one homework assignment. And then the second one is solving linear systems using matrices and the other a couple of objectives and sub objectives in each assignment.
I use Knewton Alta a lot during my lab course which is the corequisite course. This is the course that students take if they don’t have a high placement test score to go straight into college algebra, or they entered the school as “test optional” or things like that. That first year it was bad, and I realized I needed to do something different. So, the students started using Knewton Alta. The main focus was for students to come to the lab and work on their homework for their math course and I could help them when they needed it.
When we were in class together, I could walk around and look at the students’ screens as see how they were doing. But when we moved online, now students are working on Zoom. I go to their account and see if they’re active, what homework they are working on, how late they are. Sometimes I see a student who is struggling so I can reach out and offer extra help. I use Knewton Alta intensely. And I really appreciate all the information that it provides such as the last time the student was logged in, and how long they worked on each assignment. It’s very helpful.
I have students who show up in lab and tell me they’re working on this week’s homework in math. Then I go into Knewton Alta, and I see that they’re not active!
I also have some assignments that I know will require a little bit of time to do actually write down the questions and solve them. And I look at the time it takes students to solve. And I can see some students only taking five minutes to do something that should take 20 minutes. It alerts me to the fact that maybe they’re using apps to solve their problems. I bring that up in the class and make sure students understand that using the shortcut is actually hurting them and it will actually impact them in a negative way—in the long run.
What kind of impact has Knewton Alta had on student outcomes?
Very positive impact in a few ways. First, I see students who tell me at the beginning they are not good at math, or that math is really challenging for them. And then I see them actually working through the homework and getting good grades and completing the course successfully.
It’s not just my teaching, it’s the whole package that I provide as an instructor and Knewton Alta is a big part of it. I collected data since I started using Knewton Alta – I’ve created a data set that collects all the lab students and grades and their current GPA. And also, the subcategory of grades in the lab, which is basically 50% of the grade in their lab course (the corequisite) is to complete their weekly homework on time.
So, I’m looking at correlations and then I have also a historical data set I’m going to look at. But I’m in the process. I also want to get some numbers out of it, both for the administration here and also for myself for my own research.
How important is the adaptive nature of Knewton Alta?
Very! The fact that Knewton Alta identifies the knowledge gaps, and every student can work at their own level is really important.
8 ways to set up your students for a successful year with Knewton Alta
Make sure you’re ready for whatever this semester throws your way. We’ve outlined some of the best ways for our Knerds to use Knewton Alta to overcome common challenges and empower you to do what you do best – teach!
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Keep our Quick Start Guide and Knerd Manual handy
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- Quick Start Guide – Do you have quick question as you set up or manage your courses? This guide is an easy reference for you to find what you need.
- Knerd Manual – For detailed instructions on how to get going with Alta, plus advice on how to make the most out of your adaptive learning course, download our full manual.
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Join our Knerd Studio where you can:
- Be the first to find out about new Knewton Alta features.
- Connect with fellow Knerds for ideas, inspiration, and insider tips and tricks.
- Influence the Knewton Alta roadmap by sharing your feedback.
- Get recognized for being an A-list Knerd with awesome gifts and rewards.
You’ll receive a promo code for a free “knerd” shirt just for joining, and if you complete our back-to-school community challenges, you’ll be entered to win a $500 Stay the Course Grant for one of your students in need. Just log in using your Alta account, claim your promo code for The Knerd Store, and enter for your chance to win!
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Knewton Alta Refreshers
Summer treat or fruitless chore?
Alta delivers just-in-time remediation to prerequisite skills when students demonstrate a knowledge gap while working on an adaptive assignment—we call these “refreshers.”
Refreshers start by giving the student a couple of practice questions on the most immediately relevant, nearby prerequisite to the target learning objective they’re struggling on. If the student has no difficulty with those refresher questions, they’ll immediately head back on target to their assigned objectives.
But if the student has difficulty with the initial refresher objective, Alta will deliver instructional material aligned to that prerequisite and further practice—and if that doesn’t close the knowledge gap, Alta can deliver further remediation to more distant prerequisites. If we think of each step “away” from the assigned, target learning objective as a “hop” on the Knowledge Graph, refreshers can include content up to three learning objective “hops” away.
If you were to pick a student’s assignment at random from across your class (or all of Alta), it probably doesn’t have any refresher material in it at all; most students don’t need or see refreshers on most of their assignments. However, the majority of students need a refresher on some learning objective at some point during their course.
How often are students encountering this refresher material? How many “hops” is it from the instructor’s assigned objectives? What happens to the assignment as a whole when refreshers are present? In short: what’s the impact of an Alta refresher?
We have a huge amount of robust data on student interactions flowing through the adaptive engine powering Alta, and we can and do perform analysis on trends, outcomes, and pain points in the student adaptive experience on a rolling basis. But getting directly at the question of what impact a refresher made for a particular student is a very hard question—to really know for sure, we’d need to do something like find an identical “control student” to take the assignment with no refresher, and to compare their results with the “test student” who engaged with refresher material!
The analysis below is not meant to prove that any particular refresher definitely helped any particular student—instead, we’ll show some high-level, aggregate trends in what tends to happen when students engage with refreshers.
This analysis draws on data sampled from the four largest families of titles in Alta for Fall 2021—those happen to be the Alta titles in College Algebra and Precalculus, Chemistry, Foundations of Algebra, and Quantitative and Statistical Reasoning. Student usage of these titles amounted to more than 40 million interactions with questions or instructional materials, and for this dataset, we sampled at random about a quarter of the student-assignment pairs from each subject area.
What percentage of student-assignment pairs had any refreshers?
In general, about 10-15% of student assignments featured any refreshers at all. A student who enters their class with less subject-matter familiarity might see refreshers on more assignments than this, while a highly prepared student might see them on fewer—but around 80% of students encounter a refresher at least once across their entire engagement with Alta.
|Subject area||Percentage of student-assignment pairs with any remediation|
|College Algebra and Precalculus||14%|
|Foundations of Algebra||9%|
|Quantitative and Statistical Reasoning||10%|
When refreshers occurred, how much of the assignment were they?
A typical refresher experience is short, both in terms of the number of questions students answer and as a proportion of the overall assignment in which it occurs.
|Subject area||How much of the assignment was “refresher?”||Median number of refresher questions|
|College Algebra and Precalculus||19%||5|
|Foundations of Algebra||17%||4|
|Quantitative and Statistical Reasoning||21%||5|
When refreshers occurred, what was the subsequent assignment completion rate?
While this data does not prove that the refresher is the reason why students were able to reach 100% progress on their assignment, we can see that the vast majority of students were able to close their knowledge gap(s) and perform well enough to reach mastery on the assigned learning objectives after engaging with a refresher. These completion rates are quite close to those of students who start their assignment with a high level of preparedness (and thus correctness) — that’s an important outcome we look for in Alta data.
|Subject area||Percentage of students reaching 100% progress after working on refreshers|
|College Algebra and Precalculus||81%|
|Foundations of Algebra||88%|
|Quantitative and Statistical Reasoning||81%|
When refreshers occurred, how many “hops” away from target were they?
Most frequently, when a student encounters a refresher, they’ll only work on a single-hop prerequisite to the assigned learning objective. Among the already small percentage of assignments featuring refreshers, only about 20% of assignments result in refreshers more than one hop away. This reflects Alta’s attempt to provide just-in-time interventions only as needed: multi-hop remediation is Alta’s most time-intensive intervention, and Alta only provides it to students in cases of persistent knowledge gaps where we think we might be of help.
|Subject area||Percentage of refresher assignments with only 1-hop refreshers||Percentage of refresher assignments with 2- or 3-hop refreshers|
|College Algebra and Precalculus||77%||23%|
|Foundations of Algebra||80%||20%|
|Quantitative and Statistical Reasoning||78%||22%|
When remediated many “hops” away, how did students end up doing on the remainder of the assignment?
Completion rates (and final progress scores) for students remain fairly high, even in the presence of multi-hop refreshers, but rates do drop as the population of students is restricted to only those engaging with such refreshers. Our hypothesis is not that 2- or 3-hop refreshers are causing lower completion rates—but that students who demonstrate a need for significant remediation have a higher hill to climb than their more prepared peers, with or without Alta’s help. We think that these “struggling students” are a key group underserved by traditional homework assignments and online courseware, and many new features developed for Alta are designed precisely to help them.
|Subject area||Percentage of students reaching 100% progress after working on 1-hop refreshers||Average progress when 1-hop refresher students stopped working on the assignment||Percentage of students reaching 100% progress after working on 2- or 3-hop refreshers||Average progress when 2- or 3-hop refresher students stopped working on the assignment|
|College Algebra and Precalculus||83%||93%||75%||90%|
|Foundations of Algebra||90%||96%||80%||91%|
|Quantitative and Statistical Reasoning||83%||93%||75%||88%|
Alta’s refreshers occur infrequently, and usually on the way to student success. But these high-level statistics are small comfort to an individual student who feels “stuck” working on a refresher that they either can’t master or think is irrelevant. That’s why Alta has current and newly emerging functionality designed to enable more student agency in digital learning.
First, when students get stuck and exhaust the available refresher learning objectives, Alta will surface a pop-up screen suggesting students reach out to their instructor for some “real human” guidance. If the student’s not ready to do that, Alta can also suggest the student take a quick break to clear their mind and play a little game we call Knerdie.
Second, we’re nearing the end of our pilots for new “end refresher” agency in Alta. For institutions enrolled in the pilot, this functionality lets students decide after a couple of refresher questions that they think it’s a better use of their time to go back to assigned, target work and try again, instead of continuing to work on refresher content until Alta thinks they’re ready. Our initial pilot results have indicated that assignment completion rates have not dropped as a result of this new freedom of choice, and we’re hard at work expanding other modes of student agency elsewhere in Alta this summer.
Knerd Story – Skylar Carlson, University of the Pacific
University of the Pacific
Chemistry (about 60 students)
“Overall I love it!”
How long have you been using Knewton Alta?
I have been using Knewton Alta since the spring of 2020, when we had to do the switch to online learning. Having Knewton Alta at that time was great because it gave the students alternate instruction when we were short on additional help (e.g., tutoring centers were closed). Students didn’t have the resources they were used to, or that I used to be able to offer to them for extra help.
Knewton Alta “came in clutch” during the pandemic. I didn’t use it over the summer because the class meets every day and I felt that the turnaround time was too fast. Many of my students were working as well, and it was too much.
I used Knewton Alta again in Fall 2021 and really enjoyed it. It allowed me to not have to worry about homework. During the summer, when I wasn’t using Knewton Alta, I was reminded of how much it helps me. I forgot what a pain it was to have to grade homework!!
How do you implement Knewton Alta into your class?
For every class, students have a Knewton Alta assignment due 48 hours later. I have it set up so that they have homework due after my class. It gives me an extra little bit of time to cover material, but also it gives students a chance to ask me a question before or after class. Or ask a question for the whole class. The feedback I get from students is that they really liked the metering, meaning I’m giving them these regular chunks as opposed to when I did it all at once the first time I used Knewton Alta.
I just find that students don’t work ahead.
We give students 20% for the lab, 10% for Knewton Alta homework, 10% for workshop questions or textbook questions, and then the last 60% comes from exams. I like to use it as a supplement, not as something I’m going to spend time going through with myself in great detail.
Knewton Alta drives my class. Each of the bullet points [in my syllabus] (see below) represents a Knewton Alta objective. I choose all the objectives that go along with what I want to talk about that day. One of the things I struggle with a little is making sure that the objectives I choose match the entirety of the content I am teaching. I try and keep the time allocations even. So I might have six objectives on one day and 10 on another, but I have chosen them so that, collectively, they take less than two hours each—which means I have four hours of homework each week, which I think is fair.
The way that I have my course schedule set up is that students can see the chapter, the Knewton Alta objectives for the chapter, and the days we’re going to be covering that material. Below that are all the textbook problems for two different editions of the book.
In the fall I don’t have the same support that I have in the spring, when I have students turn in their workshop or textbook questions. There’s something very different about hand-writing answers that I have found to compliment Knewton Alta quite well.
There are quite a few things I cover that aren’t covered in Knewton Alta, so I supplement the Knewton Alta objectives.
One student marched into my office and said, “I don’t understand your lectures. I understand Knewton Alta better!” I said I’ll tell the developers that—they’ll be glad to hear it.
Students really seem to like the videos and tutorials that come along with the lessons because I pushed them to actually take the time to listen to those. I also have the students explain things to each other. I can only explain it to them the way that it makes sense to me, and their textbook presents it in a way that was reviewed and published. But it can be useful to go out and explain it to a study group or hear one of your colleagues explain it to you. And, lastly, going through Knewton Alta and/or YouTube allows students the opportunity to hear the content explained and described in different ways and helps them start to connect the ideas.
How important to you is the adaptive nature of Knewton Alta?
I think it’s super important. Some students really like it and other students are annoyed. I will say, however, that for some students, you can see that the first homework took them four hours and then every homework has taken them a fraction of an hour (half an hour or less). I see that some students get frustrated and instead of working through it; they seem to have given up on the platform and are just Googling the answers to try and get through it faster. So instead of trying to be a disciplinarian about it, I just say it’s your money, your experience. If that’s what you’re going to do, then there’s nothing I can do for you.
I have to remind them that it’s not a punishment, but if they get lots of things wrong, it means they didn’t get it, so they need to spend a little bit more time. The really challenging part is that I have some students who took an AP and they got all the points, but my school doesn’t give them credit for both semesters. So they’re sitting here bored out of their mind, having done really well in AP chem. And then I have other students who are struggling. They didn’t get any background in chemistry and are coming at this abstract thinking the first time and have no clue. They just don’t know what to do with themselves.
Which of your specific goals that you have as a teacher does Knewton Alta address for you?
I think it meets students where they’re at technologically better than any product that I’ve seen. As a book/paper learner, it’s hard for me to look in a classroom full of smartphone kids and tell them, “You’ve got to bust out your textbook and do text problems.” Having the YouTube links, the interactive learning stuff, and breaking it up into the pieces (metering) helps students both set goals and understand the component parts that work together.
Room for Improvement
Things I would change are:
I don’t like that I have to set up my outline and have everything done at the beginning of the semester and imported into Canvas. So I don’t know if that’s a crutch I’ve been leaning on too heavily. I may be missing a feature in Knewton Alta where perhaps I don’t need to sync it up through Canvas, and then I could make more on-the-fly changes.
The other thing that’s really challenging is that your first student to complete an assignment locks that assignment from being able to be edited. And then if I find out there’s an objective that sounded like it was aligned to what we were covering, but it ended up not being so, I can’t fix it.
If there is an objective that has absolutely nothing to do with what we’re studying, the students have to click through it in order to progress to the stuff that’s actually in our class. Something that I would like to see in future editions is that, instead of five objectives being locked and you have to do one, two, three, and four to get to five, it would be great if there were a way for students who realize they are stuck on objective two, to go to office hours for help on that one, but keep going and do and do three and four on their own.
I’ve not had a ton of time to experiment from the student side to see if they’re able to skip around. But I hear from students that they can’t move around. Then I have to excuse them for the whole assignment because the bad objective is parked in the middle and then they’re locked in, either clicking through it or Googling the answers or whatever they have to do to get through it. And it defeats the purpose of the whole endeavor.
Knerd Story – David Simon, Baton Rouge Community College
Baton Rouge Community College
For a long time, I’ve been thinking about making videos of me teaching, but didn’t get around to it. The move to remote learning in spring 2020 was the motivation I needed to get going on making these teaching videos. By the end of that first week of remote learning, I had a rig set up with my tripod, a selfie stick, and my phone, and I just started making videos and created a YouTube channel. The channel now has about 200 videos.
Why did you decide to use Knewton Alta?
As a college, we had decided to pilot different products in different courses. In the fall of 2019 I was piloting Knewton Alta, along with another competitor product. In the beginning, I really got into Knewton Alta. I just felt that it flowed better, was easier for students to latch on to, and linked up with Canvas much more easily. It was working great. Cut to March 2020 and I was starting my video project in the middle of the semester and working with multiple software platforms in different courses.
I quickly realized I didn’t want my videos to be connected to any particular textbook, so I decided not to use textbook problems in my videos. Instead, I used my own problems, and didn’t have to follow along with textbook chapters, and could let things unfold in my own way. I started incorporating Knewton, which I felt fit in with my plan in a more seamless way. I had links to OpenStax textbooks, and Knewton worked better with my videos. So I stuck with it.
What features of Knewton Alta do you like?
The fact that the homework is interactive and can pinpoint for students where they are is so important. Knewton Alta can tell them, “You need to practice this topic some more…” Instead of just being the typical “Do questions one through five and hopefully I can give you feedback.”
Knewton Alta can give students that individualized feedback. That’s what I need. And I know some of the other software does that too, but Knewton was simpler and it just worked out better.
This interactive stuff, this is the future. Especially with all the video conferencing technology and all the remote learning that’s happening. I don’t think education is ever going back to the way it was. Nobody’s going to let that happen.
I like that Knewton Alta is a software where you don’t ever see a negative, or the downside because it doesn’t ever take points away. That’s one thing that helps motivate students too. They can lose confidence if they keep getting hammered for getting things wrong.
Knewton Alta’s adaptability is important. I tried a couple of softwares that were adaptive. A competitor product was also good, but it’s just the interface of Knewton seemed to flow better. The problem choices were a bit more varied. I felt like I could do more in it. I could make some of the problems in it. And there were just too many blockades for some of the other softwares. Like they didn’t link with Canvas or students had to log in somewhere else. Knewton Alta and myself jive, like puzzle pieces, my tap dancing, and its adaptability. And I just kept getting such good feedback from the students about it too.
What has been the impact of using Knewton Alta?
Well, things have been developing since Spring 2020. I kept piloting Knewton Alta at my school until I was able to show everyone how well it was working. I used to have a 40 or 50% pass rate. Now I’m up to a 70% pass rate.
This semester (Fall 2021) we actually went ahead and adopted it for the college algebra and trigonometry classes too. And it seems to be going really well. There are always pitfalls when lots of people are using things because some people are good at the technology and some people aren’t. I’ve tried to help as much as I can. And then my Customer Success Manager for Knewton Alta fills in most of the gaps. And I’m hoping that it can keep going. I know sometimes people have a tendency to regress and they want to go to something they know, and they want to go back to solutions and partners we’ve used in the past. And I say no, we can’t do that.
I teach a topic and assign a Knewton Alta homework on the topic (or sub-topic). I try to cut the homework up into manageable chunks of about half an hour each. I do this if the Knewton topic is too big. It also allows students to get quick feedback and encouragement. Then even if one weekly Canvas module has seven or eight assignments, students know each one will take about 30 minutes.
Many educators, myself included, would love to be able help individual students. Back in the “little red school house days” you had individual attention. It would be great to be able to stand next to a student and let them know I’m helping them today, until they understand the material like the back of their hand. We just can’t do that. Every semester I’ve got upwards of 200+ students in a small college.
We’re getting technology like Knewton Alta, right when we need it—or maybe a little bit later than we need.
And I don’t know if a lot of us realized that until something like Knewton Alta came along. But now we can figure out where the problems are, where students’ difficulties are, and try to smooth them out. And that’s what we’ve been needing.
What’s New in Knewton Alta – March 2020
Wiley is committed to a culture of continuous improvement with Knewton Alta, which is why we are always engaging instructors and students to gather feedback and optimize the learning experience moving forward.
We also understand that this is a challenging time for both instructors and students, as many of you are acting quickly to move your courses online. Wiley and the Knewton Alta team have worked to compile a collection of resources and best practices for moving to, and teaching in, an on-line format. You can explore this collection here.
As always, we are very cautious with our product releases to ensure minimal disruption during the semester, while continuing to provide an ever-improving experience for you and your students.
Below you will find information on enhancements made to Knewton Alta during the month of March. If you haven’t looked at Knewton Alta in a while, you’re missing something special.
Instructor Control of Question Order in Assessments
More control over your course and assessments means a more personalized experience.
- You now have the ability to order the questions on the assessment home page by dragging and dropping to suit your needs.
- Question cards can be expanded or collapsed for easier dragging and dropping while reordering questions in your assessment.
- There are two easy-to-use views for reviewing your a. You can view by objective, or by question order.
- Custom questions can now appear exactly where you want them to within your assessment!
To get more instruction on creating an assessment, check out this video and guide.
Anticipated Spring Releases
Hey Knerds! Welcome to the future! We are working hard to improve the Knewton Alta experience and wanted to share some of our upcoming planned releases, just to give you a clearer picture of where we are headed.
- Label and Filter mode of work: Easily see work done on prerequisite materials versus on assigned learning objectives. Identify work done before assignment completion, as well as extra practice.
- Filter History by Objective: Filter student history by learning objective to better understand the path to mastery for a specific objective – and what instruction or prerequisite support the student utilized.
- Question Response Details: On review of work completed, this update will provide additional details about how long students worked on a specific question or reviewed instruction.
Improved Student Context
The update will help students to better understand their path to mastery and provide transparency into the type of work that has been completed. A select number of instructors will be piloting this semester to provide feedback on what works best. The new experience will be available to all in May, once the semester has concluded.
- Better progress bars focused on the learning objective:
This update will inform students of their progress on each learning objective, as well as their overall mastery in the assignment. This change will also signal to students whether they are working on assigned or prerequisite learning objectives.
- Per-topic estimates of duration: This update will provide more transparency so users can easily see the number of questions anticipated before topic completion, helping student to manage their work time.
Currently Being Researched for Future Release
Review Insights to better prepare for quizzes and tests
- We’re chatting with instructors right now to examine how Alta can provide best insight into how ready your class is for an upcoming test such that your students (and you!) can better prioritize what to review and achieve best results.
- If you’re interested in providing feedback on this future enhancement, please complete this quick survey in the Knerd Studio here!
Check out the Knewton Blog each month to see the improvements we’ve made to Knewton Alta.
A Year in Review. What’s new in Knewton Alta in 2020
Putting achievement within reach for all students is a continuous journey. Students evolve as quickly as technology does, which is why Wiley is committed to a culture of continuous improvement with Knewton Alta.
We’ve continued to pound the pavement in 2019, asking every student and instructor we can get in front of how we can make their Knewton Alta experience better. Our goal: making an even bigger impact on learning outcomes by continually optimizing our journey together.
Of course, improving the experience of students and instructors requires more than just listening. It takes action. Throughout 2019 we’ve released a series of features and enhancements that address the feedback we received.
Below you will find a year-in-review, highlighting all of the enhancements made to Knewton Alta throughout 2019. If you haven’t looked at Knewton Alta in a while, you’re missing something special.
New Pricing Models
We believe that cost should never be a barrier for students.
- New pricing model: doubles-down on the Knewton Alta affordability promise by dropping the single-course cost to 39.95 USD (for standard-price courses).
- AltaPass: We also introduced the AltaPass as a promise to the student, that they will not need to pay more than $79.95 USD on multiple Alta courses within the same discipline.
- Monthly Subscription: Students can also subscribe monthly to a single course for $9.95 USD per month to suit their needs.
Updates to Adaptive Learning
We are adapting to provide a consistently improving experience for instructors and students
- Milestones: We’ve added messaging (and confetti!) to recognize students’ progress and accoumplishments as they work in Knewton Alta’s adaptive experience. Every student should know where they stand!
- New Assignment Builder: We’ve launched a more streamlined experience for instructors to create adaptive assignments quickly, while providing more transparency. This includes the ability to search for topics, include multiple topics or chapters in an assignment, and a more accurate duration estimate based on historical student data.
Managing your Course
Less time managing your Knewton Alta course equals more time for teaching and learning
- Improvements to assignment date and time settings: Instructors can now change both due and start times for individual students or assignments, in addition, we now have the capability to change dates in bulk for multiple assignments at once.
- Supporting changes to grading policies with automatic regrades: When you change a due date for an assignment, provide an extension, or change a grading setting (e.g. turn on late policies late in the semester), Knewton Alta will automatically regrade all relevant coursework in the sections of the course.
- Improved data insights to identify struggling students: Instructors can now see the bigger picture view of student analytics beyond an individual assignment. Easily identify individual students struggling on many assignments and identify trends with difficult topics. Instructors can now easily discover when many students are struggling, across the course and can use help right now – without waiting for the student to ask for help.
Tests and Quizzes
The new Assessment Builder makes it easier to create the right type of assessment (quiz or test) to match your needs.
- New Assessment builder for Quizzes and Tests: Instructors can now use the exact same flow and features for tests or quizzes – including Review Centers and the ability to select specific questions or adding your own. Calling an assessment a “Quiz” means only that the results of that assessment will appear under the Quiz section of the dashboards.
- Search Capability: It’s easier to navigate the table of contents with the addition of search and filters.
- Fewer limits: No limit on number of questions allowed per Learning Objective. (Just a limited bank of questions)
- Easier to Manage: We’ve added the ability to Copy and duplicate tests.
- Adjust grading of individual test questions: You can now delete a question from a test, mark a question as correct on a test, and mark an individual student’s answer on a test correct or incorrect even after students have started, and automatically update grades for the whole class.
- Weighted test questions: While creating an assessment, instructors can assign different point values to each question (differentiating according to difficulty/amount of time or work it takes, etc.). and students will see each question’s point value when working on assessments.
Instructors will experience a more seamless experience when navigating to the Knerd Studio
- Launched Knerd Studio with Single-Sign On: You can now login to the Knerd Studio using your Knewton Alta credentials. This makes for a smoother transition and easier access to our Knerd community!
4 Challenges Instructors Face to Stay Current in 2020 and Tips to Overcome Them
Teaching Higher Ed in 2020 is no easy task. Consistent change has left many instructors facing an uphill battle to stay current. And while keeping up to date on the latest technology and teaching trends can be difficult enough on its own, it can be even more challenging to actually implement these new ideas in the classroom, with many instructors facing a lack of time, limited colleague and student support, and inadequate resources.
Still, the benefit for both you and your students can far outweigh the effort once you overcome these obstacles. To help get you there faster, below are a few of the most common challenges instructors cite when asked why they wait to change, along with tips to help you overcome these roadblocks when making the move for yourself.
- Lack of time – For most instructors, it’s hard enough to find time for their normal responsibilities, so the thought of adding to those by incorporating new technology or teaching technique can seem overwhelming. Still, as studies show more about the different ways that students learn, it’s important to incorporate those learning where applicable to help give students a better chance at success.
How do you modify your teaching methods without spending hours on prep work?
- Check with your colleagues to see if any have started to use or incorporate the new technique you’re looking into, and if so, see if they have tips or resources to make the process easier. Having a heads up on some common challenges you might face and how others have handles those could save you time in the long run.
- Look for online resources to help with your transition. There are a variety of tools available online these days to help you incorporate new techniques into the classroom with pre-built lesson plans, activities, and more—saving you time and making your life a little easier. Here are a few recommended resources, but the internet is large and instructors are everywhere—blogs, Facebook groups, Twitter, Instagram, and more. Thus, you’re likely not the only one having your issue, so run a search or post a question and see where that takes you.
- Inside Higher Ed – https://www.insidehighered.com/
- The Chronicle of Higher Education – https://www.chronicle.com/
- Higher Education Today – https://www.higheredtoday.org/
- Use courseware that accommodates active learning so you can ensure your students get the activities they need without having to spend the time creating them yourself. Plus, ask the courseware publisher if they have any helpful resources or a community of users specific to their product where you can share ideas, challenges, and solutions. If someone has already worked through an issue you’re currently facing, maybe they’ll have helpful tips for getting over the hump faster. Plus, these communities can often answer questions at all hours of the days versus courseware suppliers’ hours.
- Have your students help. Be open and honest about what you’re looking to update and bring them in on some of the decision making. Often, time is wasted trying to decide what’s best for others when we should just ask. Save some time by first testing the modifications students are most open to trying themselves and then wait to bring in other ideas or additional modifications only if more adaptation or optimization is needed.
- Lack of training and support within departmental culture – Going hand in hand with a lack of time is a lack of training and colleague support. It can take a lot of time to get yourself up to speed on new technology or new teaching techniques, and when you feel alone in the battle, you’re more likely to give up and stick with what you know. Studies show an instructor whose department does not support a new initiative is less likely to try it themselves. And it’s not just about encouraging faculty members to try it, studies show instructors need to be continually supported as they train for and implement these practices to increase the likelihood of success.
How do you find training and support to help implement and effectively use new technology and teaching methods in the classroom?
- Start by checking out your institution’s teaching and learning center if there is one available. These departments are specifically designed to help with implementing new teaching formats and can often connect you with other instructors who are doing the same so you have a support system as you work through the change.
- See if anyone else in your department is interested in incorporating the new element you’re looking into and build a working team where you can research together, share ideas, and work through struggles together.
- Similar to our suggestion for number one, finding an online community of instructors facing similar challenges can make it so you don’t feel alone on your path to change. Maintaining relationships with other instructors helps to provide support in your transition—even if they don’t work at the same institution. A great place to start looking is with your courseware. See if the publisher has an active community of users where you can post questions and look for help.
- Speaking of courseware, again, check in with your provider. See if they have training that can help you better utilize any features you might currently be unaware of. Sometimes the answer is right under your nose; you just didn’t click the right button.
- Lack of student engagement – Student engagement is a tough nut to crack. With a diverse classroom of students and a variety of learners, finding the best way to engage with each of your students can be mind-boggling on its own, but throw in using a format they’re not used to, and it can feel like a recipe for disaster. In fact, many instructors avoid new teaching methods—like active learning—because they find students are resistant to it and do not come to class prepared. So, basically, studies show that these new teaching methods are good for students, but what’s the point if they don’t participate?
How do you get students excited about participating in class?
- One way to combat student indifference is to fully embrace the new experience yourself. If your students don’t feel that you’re excited to teach them, they won’t feel excited to participate.
- Let students help choose the activities you do so they feel more ownership over their learning experience. You can provide options or have students submit recommendations and then vote on what they would most like to do.
- Have students self-identify their learning style (or if they don’t know have them use a quiz like this one to find out). Use this information to break them into working teams for the semester. From there, you can work in specialized group projects that play into their learning style, making them more likely to engage.
- If you tend to do more online than in-person activities, find a course solution that incorporates the activities directly in the courseware so that it becomes a part of your student’s learning experience instead of feeling like extra work.
- Lack of classroom space and resources – The environment a student learns in can have a big impact on their success. For some students, a large lecture may work, but for others, they need more personalized activities to stay engaged. But when you have a class of 300, how do you effectively utilize things like active learning or provide individualize activities based on your students’ needs? And even when you do have a smaller class, how do you modify the standard, fixed-seating classrooms to better foster student engagement activities?
How do you foster active learning and engage students in both large lectures and small classrooms?
- Try to incorporate small activities where you can to foster active engagement. Include things like polls or voting in the classroom to keep students’ attention. Take a 30-second stretch break to snap students out of the lecture haze.
- Have students come to the front to assist with activities that everyone can watch. Not only will it get the individuals selected active, but other students will be more actively engaged in watching what their peers are doing.
- Take things outside the classroom. Visit other areas of the school that provide a more collaborative environment—like the library or outside on a nice day. Sometimes just changing up the environment can break the monotony and help put students in the right mindset to retain more information. This can be easier for small classrooms but can be adapted for larger lectures with activities like scavenger hunts or off-site activities and experiments where students can work on their own or in small groups to bring back results.
- Use courseware that provides students a more interactive experience to keep them engaged in their coursework so they are more prepared to participate when they get to the classroom.
At Knewton we know these challenges can set you back when trying to provide your students with the best education possible. With that in mind, we built our courseware to help you overcome many of the common challenges’ instructors face today. With dedicated training and support, goal focused activities built directly into the courseware, and a studio that allows you to collaborate with fellow instructors anytime, anywhere, Knewton Alta is mastery-based, adaptive courseware that puts achievement within reach for all students and helps you accomplish the goals you never thought possible.
Demo Knewton Alta today and explore the potential.