5 Benefits of Open Educational Resources

Are you ready to transform your curriculum with high-quality and robust resources created by top-notch educators from around the world? Open educational resources (OERs) offer teachers and students access to vetted and proven course materials and assessments. OERs are any educational materials that are freely available in the public domain under open licenses (such as Creative Commons). OERs can include textbooks, lecture notes, syllabi, assignments and tests.

By accessing the OER Commons, you can search for any topic, any type of resource, any grade level, and instantly be brought to a huge variety of educational materials. It’s that simple! OERs are wonderful resources that can be highly beneficial for your class – here are five reasons to make the shift:

  1. You can expand students’ access to learning: OERs can be accessed anywhere, by any student, at any time. As education has shifted to remote learning in many parts of the world, ensuring ease of accessibility to learning resources is essential for your students. Instead of having to worry about buying a specific textbook or printing a handout, students can access all OERs from any electronic device of their choosing. The OER Commons has created a Remote Teaching and Learning Guide to further help educators excel at teaching from a distance!
  2. You can customize OER materials to fit your teaching needs: Much OER content can be revised to suit your specific course needs. By starting with OER material and modifying it to match the specificity of your course, you can easily tailor content to support your curriculum.
  3. You can use OERs to enhance existing course material: Since OERs encompass such a wide variety of materials, they cover a tremendous number of educational topics in a range of modes and formats. The sheer variety of these formats can allow multiple modes of representation for key concepts, which supports diverse learning strengths and styles. This aligns with the Universal Design for Learning guidelines which aim to make learning accessible to all students, no matter their learning style.
  4. OERs Are Often Cutting Edge: Textbooks change every year. New discoveries are made. Progress moves forward. For typical academic material, this means rapid turnover, and the continual need to update (often expensive) textbooks and other material. By using OERs, you will find that scholars and teachers are collaborating on cutting edge topics with innovative practices. Due to the collaborative nature of OERs, materials are continually and expertly updated by a community of dedicated educators.
  5. OERs save (lots) of money for your students: Textbooks are expensive! The typical college student spends over $1,200 on textbooks per academic year. This cost can be prohibitive for many students. Making the shift to OER teaching removes a costly burden from your students and may make a crucial difference in their quality of life.

OERs give educators an opportunity to browse, customize, and apply educational materials that are innovative, accessible, and affordable. By decreasing the costs associated with higher education, we can create a more equitable and sustainable future that enables an ever-widening community of learners to reach their academic, professional, and personal goals.

Image attribution: Background vector created by makyzz – www.freepik.com

Reference herein to any specific commercial products, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not constitute or imply an endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by Touro College.

3 Tech Tools to Increase Participation in Virtual Discussions

Perhaps one of the most attractive features of online learning is its potential for more effectively engaging a diverse student population. But even though online learning environments can flatten many of the social hierarchies that create challenges for some students in face-to-face classrooms, creating engaging virtual environments where students can connect to fellow classmates and participate in meaningful discussions remains a challenge for many faculty. Discussion boards are a key means of encouraging peer interaction in an online class, but too often, discussion boards are often set up in a standard question/response format, and fail to bring students into engaging dialogue. In this blog post, I want to introduce you to some easy-to-use tech tools have the potential to solve this problem, by providing exciting and innovative ways for virtual discussion to take place and increasing student engagement. Read below to learn more about three tech tools that can be especially interesting for students: Padlet, Flipgrid, and Yellowdig.

  1. Padlet: Padlet is an exciting collaborative tool great for group work, projects, and discussions that’s free for educators and students. You can start by creating a simple visual board, and then students can easily add to the board in a variety of ways including video, images, screen recordings, audio recordings, links, and text. Asking a general guiding question and then leaving the response open-ended for the students can be a great way to stimulate discussions and allow students to respond creatively and in a variety of formats. What’s more, Padlet is easy to embed into a LMS page – simply click on the share button, copy the embed code, and paste it into your LMS page by opening the HTML editor (just look for the button that’s labeled with “<>.”)
  • 2. Flipgrid: Flipgrid is a great tool that enables instructors to create video discussion boards. Educators can kick off discussions with a short video outlining the discussion question, and then students can easily respond and debate with each other by recording their own short videos. The focus on a video format introduces a more personal feeling into the virtual classroom by enabling students to see and hear each other, as opposed to an entirely text-based discussion. Like Padlet, Flipgrid is free, and easy to link out to or embed.
  • 3. Finally, Yellowdig: Yellowdig is a discussion board tool that can be integrated with Canvas, Blackboard, and other learning managment systems. Yellowdig includes social media features, such as the ability for learners and instructors to @mention each other in comments and posts, hyperlink articles, share videos, like posts, bookmark comments, and #hashtag content. Yellowdig also has a gamification feature, which can automatically track users’ points by monitoring how much they interact with the discussion. The points feature can encourage learners to engage with the discussion and interact beyond minimum requirements. By adding in these new features, Yellowdig is easy to use and engaging for both instructors and students, and can be a step up from the standard LMS discussion boards.

Online discussions are crucial to online learning, and the digital nature of these discussion means that instructors can test out innovative technologies that support student engagement within the context of a totally online space. Padlet, Flipgrid, and Yellowdig are three tech tools that can encourage engaging peer interaction and creative responses. However, the most important means of creating a welcoming and interesting environment for students will always be creative teaching and genuine care for students. By continuing to look for ways to foster human connection in digital spaces, online classes can be the incredible learning experience that they have the potential to be!

Author’s Bio: Chana Goldberg is currently the Presidential Fellow of Online Education at Touro College. She enjoys reading, exploring New York City, and researching education-related topics.

Reference herein to any specific commercial products, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not constitute or imply an endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by Touro College.

7 Not-So-Common Reasons Why I Love Teaching Online

The following is a guest post by Holly Owens, Assistant Director of Instructional Design with Online Education at Touro College and University System. If you would like to submit a guest post, please contact us

This post was originally published on the Touro College Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning Blog, a blog dedicated to exploring best practices in higher education. You can find a link to it here.

Listen to “Seven Not-So-Common Reasons Why I Love Teaching Online”

Recently I was reading Aaron Johnson’s book, Excellent Online Teaching: Effective Strategies for a Successful Semester Online, and began reflecting on all the planning and time that goes into creating an online course. I have been teaching online since 2012 and hadn’t yet thought about why I do it. Of course, I love teaching, but why do I love teaching online? Yes, sitting at home in my pajamas with a cup of hot cocoa and saving on gas are pluses, but the reality of online courses, as anyone who has built or taught one knows, is that it takes an immense amount of time and multiple iterations to develop a really “good” online course.

Here are 7 not-so-common reasons why I loving teaching online:

Reason 1: I Like to Fail- Failure is not a feeling that everyone is comfortable with – I’m certainly not most of the time – but just as in a face-to-face classroom, some of your online lessons will fail. These failures become teachable and reflective moments for you as the educator. Admit to yourself and your students that the lesson, or module, did not go as you planned and try to do better the next time. Honestly, it all works out in the end, and your students will see you as human.

Reason 2: Growth as an Educator-Online teaching has taught me a thing, or two, about who I am as an educator. It has pushed me to be a better educator in the sense that I want to create a safe, diverse, and welcoming environment for all students: a place for all of us to learn and grow without the stigma surrounding failure.

Reason 3: It is Fun-I know what you are thinking-Did she really say it’s fun, and mention earlier it takes a lot of time to plan for online? Well, yes, I did say it is fun to teach online, and I mean it. Once you get past all the stages of planning, designing, modifying, and deploying the course, you find that you and your students actually can have fun and learn at the same time (Yes, really!).

Example from my course: The use of Zoom breakout rooms has really afforded the opportunity in my online synchronous course to have students do virtual group work. I put them in breakout rooms (a feature of Zoom) and assign each group a task to tackle. They then share their findings later with the other students. The beauty of this tool is I have the ability to jump in and out of the breakout rooms and check on students, which is the same thing I would be doing if I was deploying this activity in a face-to-face course.

Reason 4: I Want to Change Perceptions About Online Learning-I am sure you have heard some of the common misconceptions about teaching online, such as “online learning is inferior to that of face-to-face instruction,” or, “students do not learn as much in an online setting as they do in a classroom.” These misconceptions come from a place of misunderstandingfor those who have never genuinely experienced learning in an online setting, and it couldn’t be further from the truth. Online teaching and learning opens up a world of endless possibilities where you can reach students from all walks of life and change their lives!

Reason 5: It Is Personable-Online students are really unique and have an extensive amount of life experience. Many choose online courses because they want to learn, and otherwise wouldn’t have been able to do so. I find that by the end of the semester, my students and I have really developed a friendly little community of trust and respect for one another. The semester eventually ends, but former students will often reach out to me to say hi, or to tell me that they landed their dream job, and as an educator this is particularly rewarding.

Reason 6: It Just Keeps Getting Better-With technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), virtual and augmented realities (AR & VR) making their way into the education world, the possibilities of what you can do in an online setting are growing exponentially. Can you imagine having students perform a mock surgery together using augmented reality and submit their work for review and critique? So many exciting things can happen in a virtual setting, especially when you support it with the use of technology.

Reason 7: Pushing My Creative Limits- Remember what I said above about liking to fail? Well, out of these failures, I have created the most engaging and creative learning experiences online. I ask myself, can technology help here? What can I do differently? How can I get my students to understand this content and apply it to their lives? Online teaching has pushed me outside of my comfort zone and allowed me to create some genuinely magical modules and this is why I love teaching online.

Author’s Bio: Holly Owens is the Assistant Director of Instructional Design with Online Education at Touro College and University System. You can find her on LinkedIn here.

Reference herein to any specific commercial products, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not constitute or imply an endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by Touro College.

5 Ways Online Students Can Create a Distraction-Free Study Zone

The following is a guest post by Bailey Caldwell, a freelance journalist specializing in education. If you would like to submit a guest post, please contact us

Studying is hard for everyone. It’s difficult to get into the groove and hit a stride and where you study makes all the difference. For online students, getting into the zone can be especially tough since they don’t have the discipline of attending class in-person or the freedom to study on campus.

If you’re an online student, you need to create a distraction-free space where you can focus, push yourself, and still relax. But don’t fret! We’re here to help.

Here are five tips to get you started.

  1. Dedicate a study space.
  2. Get rid of distractions. 
  3. Take brief breaks.
  4. Switch up your playlist.
  5. Invest in fast, reliable internet.

#1. Dedicate a Study Space

Designate a space in your home as your dedicated study zone. Instead of bouncing between your bed, kitchen, or desk, pick a single spot you reserve solely for studying. Over time, your brain will recognize that space as a place to study, and it’ll become more natural to concentrate.

To start, make your space appealing. Hang up inspirational quotes. Bring in lots of lights. Add a plant or two. Create a space that you want to be in. If your apartment is an icebox or sweltering sauna, pick up a portable heater or fan to make it more comfortable.

Even if you’re at home all day, following your routine and getting dressed in the morning will help you catch your groove easier. The act of changing your clothes and starting your day as you would typically helps wake up your brain and signal that it’s time to get moving.

#2. Get Rid of Distractions

A distraction-free study zone can help you retain more information and produce higher-quality work. The only problem? It’s especially tricky for online students since they decide their schedule.

To start, put your phone on airplane mode. Turn off your phone, unplug from social media, and go offline while you’re studying.

The flash of a new text or ping of a new notification can throw off even the best of students. Before you dive in, put your phone on airplane mode or Do Not Disturb mode. This will disable any calls, texts, or notifications and still let you use your phone as an aid while studying. 

If you’re studying at home, put down your gaming console, iPad, or any other distraction. Keep them in a separate room or stash them out of sight. If you’re heads-down in a public area like a library or coffee shop, put some headphones on and steer clear of noisy areas. Find a private room or distance yourself from the crowd.

#3. Take Brief Breaks

Once you’ve created the perfect study space, get out of it. No, seriously. Even if it’s a stroll over to the kitchen or a walk around the block, taking periodic breaks while you’re studying will help you be more productive.

But here’s the caveat: keep your breaks short. Longer breaks make you more likely to get distracted. The point of a break is to rejuvenate your mind so that you can go back into studying refreshed and refocused. Do something that takes five to fifteen minutes—take a walk, make some food, call your mom.

If you’re writing an essay, taking a break enables you to write better. Stepping away from your screen allows you to look at the piece again with fresh eyes. It also helps you establish a healthy cadence. The faster you go, the more likely you are to burn out.

#4. Switch Up Your Playlist 

Swap country music for classical music. Or acapella for ambient noises. Studies show that classical music is the best music for studying. Classical, instrumental, and ambient sounds can help people better focus, retain more information, and spark creativity.

A little Bach never hurt nobody, right?

Classical music also helps put you in a more relaxed and positive mood. So even if you’re stressed about an upcoming project or exam, classical tunes can help cool you off.

(Pro tip: If the thought of listening to Mozart’s symphony bores you, try searching for the instrumental version of the songs you like.)

#5. Invest in fast, reliable internet

A stable internet connection is paramount to success in an online course. Don’t let a buggy connection disrupt your flow (or grade). Prevent your internet from going down by investing in fast internet.

Even if you prefer to study outside your home, it’s always smart to invest in reliable internet since you never know when you’ll need it. Plus, you can’t always bank on a coffee shop or neighbor’s Wi-Fi.

It’s also smart to look at your laptop’s storage limit. Make sure your laptop has enough storage to handle everything from Science 3600 to English 101. If you’re continually saving documents or archiving lectures, you’ll need it.

Author’s Bio: Bailey is a freelance journalist whose work focuses on all things tech, cybersecurity, and internet. She enjoys researching and learning about new resources and technologies.

Reference herein to any specific commercial products, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not constitute or imply an endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by Touro College.

5 Essential Steps to Study for an Online Exam

The following is a guest post by Robbie Marquis, a college student. If you would like to submit a guest post, please contact us

College is one of the busiest phases of a student’s life. There are so many things to keep in mind and balance that you tend to lose time for other parts of your life. Of course, right now, your studies are your top priorities, but if you ever find yourself cramming for some last minute studying, remember that it definitely will be a difficult task to undertake, but with enough focus and determination, nothing is impossible. To make it easier for you to retain everything that you study, here are some steps that you can take.

1. Turn Off Social Media

Social media has definitely changed how we see our world nowadays. It has altered the way we stay updated about the ins and outs of the current world and the way we keep in touch with the people around us. Essentially, social media has become a very important tool for us to stay in the loop and create new acquaintances.

But if you have errands to do, books to read and online exams to pass, then you will need to keep yourself from checking your social media feeds in the meantime. Whether it is your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or any other platforms that you use for social connections, if it won’t help you focus on your studies or even pull your attention away from it, it’s better to leave it alone until you are done with your online exams.

Social media has made a reputation on its own for affecting the focus of many students and even affecting their scholastic performances. So if you want to keep your focus on nothing else but your studying, then stay away from any gadgets that may allow you from opening your accounts. Turn off your phone, laptop and other online devices and stick to reading and memorizing your lessons to make sure that you pass your exams.

2. Gather All Your Materials Before you Cram for an Online Exam

There is nothing more frustrating and panic-inducing than knowing that you don’t have all your study materials available. Not to mention that it’s affecting your study session! So it’s ideal to always keep all your books and notes in one place and ready to use at all times. And if you have an exam coming up soon, get all of your materials ready beforehand.

Aside from getting your documents ready, it’s also best to always have your study station ready and available for your sessions. Keep your desk clean and make sure that the only things you have available on your table are your books, notebooks, pens and papers, or if you have notes on your laptop, then you might want to keep that handy, too. Take away anything that might distract you and once you have started studying, you should just focus on getting yourself ready for your upcoming online exams.

Another good thing that you should do is for you to get some important details about your upcoming exams. Once it is announced that you have an online exam coming up, you should write down the exam’s location, date, and time.

It will also be helpful if you can find out what its focus will be as it can help you understand what you have to study and retain. Some professors give out some pointers beforehand, but if it’s something that is not available, you might want to ask your professor to provide these details to you and your classmates as it can help you concentrate your studies only on topics that are covered.

3. Review All Your Notes or Flashcards One More Time

Whenever preparing for an online exam, you should never underestimate the importance of taking down notes or preparing cards to review everything that you have read and studied. By writing things down, you get to retain information better. By reading back the notes you have prepared, you get to refresh the information in your brain and hone your brain’s ability to easily recall information.

This is why it is essential to schedule a study session, either by yourself or with a group. There are, of course, pros and cons to both setups. If you study by yourself, you tend to get bored or get distracted and no one can tell you off or remind you to go back and focus on studying. On the other hand, by studying with a group, you have like-minded people to throw questions and answers to and to review your lessons with, but there is a tendency for the study sessions to veer away from what really needs to get done. But if you are really determined or focused on reviewing and absorbing as much information as you can, there will always be a way. All you need to do is focus, focus, focus.

4. Focus only on the Big Ideas & Key Details

Speaking of focus, did you know that you can teach your brain to be selective in the information that it retains? Instead of trying to cram every single information from a book into your brain, you can instead focus on the valuable information and tune your attention out from the unimportant details. This might sound challenging to some, but there are ways to improve your ability for selective attention.

First of all, you need to identify which of the topics you need to study are the most difficult to retain. Maybe you are doing well with Chemistry, but you need to improve your understanding of some topics in Calculus. By knowing which of the subjects are more challenging for you, you get to improve your focus and prepare your brain as to what needs to be prioritized.

Next, you should establish your goal. The good thing about online exams is that it usually provides the examinees with an introduction about what they will be looking forward to in terms of the exam proper. If you have that information ready, then you can easily shift your focus on what sections or chapters will be included in your online exams. It will also help if you have an idea about the style of the examination. Will it be multiple choice questions, fill in the blanks, essay style, or a mixture of each. By anticipating the challenges that you may encounter in your online exams, you’ll be able to identify what information you need to focus on.

Lastly, you need to keep yourself focused on nothing else but your study session. You might have a few other things on your to-do list, but by understanding the importance of passing your upcoming examination, you can keep yourself from doing other less important matters. By knowing what to focus on and what ideas or topics matter, your brain can then filter out all the unimportant information and just retain all the necessary details.

5. Set Goals & Rewards as you Study for an Online Exam

Studying for an exam involves a lot of focus and hard work. It might sound like it is an easy task to undertake, considering that all you need to do is sit down, read and write down some important stuff. But it takes a lot of energy for your brain to sponge in as much information as necessary in a short span of time. This is why, as much as possible, last minute studying is not always advisable.

Overworking your brain can sometimes affect your mental and physical health. You might have to sacrifice sleep hours, not be able to eat a proper meal, or even have to drink some carbonated, caffeinated or sugary drinks just to keep you going while you burn the midnight oil. By the end of your study sessions and online exams, you might feel so drained out. But you have done your best to ace your exams, so you deserve nothing but some much-needed R and R.

A good practice that usually encourages us to meet a specific goal is by giving ourselves a reward. It could be something like scheduling a relaxing weekend trip to a spa resort with your BFF or significant other if you pass your online exams. Or maybe you’ll throw a house party and invite everyone in your class to join you. Whatever reward works for you, it’s a good thing to give yourself a prize for accomplishing something important.

Whether you are trying to balance your life as a working student, as a parent pursuing a college degree, or as an active member of your college’s org, the fact remains that your study should always be a part of your list of priorities. Studying should always be a constant practice, so that you won’t have to stress yourself and tire your brain out by doing it last minute. A more relaxed and laid-back study session will help improve your focus on everything that you need to retain. This way you are ready, even for surprise quizzes or exams.

Whether you are preparing for a big online test or just for a weekly quiz, it’s still important to be in control of your studies. Remember that it will take a lot of time, energy and effort before you can get that much coveted diploma, so make every moment count. Who knows, if you are hardworking enough, maybe you can get rewarded with some honors on your graduation day!

Author’s Bio: Robbie served as the Vice President of the Student Congress at OU and has dedicated his collegiate time to representing the students. Some of Robbie’s other interests include writing reminders for himself on sticky notes and putting them everywhere, learning how to become a better leader, watching or performing spoken-word poetry, or doing things that inspire him.

Reference herein to any specific commercial products, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not constitute or imply an endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by Touro College.

Why Groupwork is Important, and How to Get it Right

The following is a guest post by Brandi So, an instructional designer and online instructor. If you would like to submit a guest post, please contact us

After seeing a presentation on the benefits of small cohort discussions in online courses, I started integrating a synchronous small group chat assignment in my face to face and online classes. I immediately saw the benefits of the assignment – students were making personal connections that bolstered their academic support network, as well as reinforcing course content in a way that I, as the teacher, could have never delivered for them. But as much as the success of the assignment sold me on its worth, it is the moments of perceived failure that have cemented my conviction to groupwork, small discussion cohorts, and synchronous student collaboration.

Some experiences can feel like failure, like when students differ on what constitutes acceptable communication styles in informal academic settings. Or when a cohort member fails to deliver on their commitments, and the rest of the group has to decide how to manage the setback. Despite how uncomfortable addressing these challenges can be – for myself included – the students learn lessons they’ll likely never forget, while gaining important job skills along the way.

Group work is about a lot more than just deepening student understanding of disciplinary content, although that is certainly one of its benefits. Groupwork offers opportunities to gain exposure to different perspectives, mindsets, cultural expectations and working styles. In essence, it helps our students gain crucial collaboration skills for a diverse workforce. Being sensitive to and proactive about differences in communication styles is critical for cultural competency, and taking on challenges when unexpected setbacks arise is a workforce skill that every student needs.

So, maybe you can tell that I am a fan of groupwork. And as a teacher whose professional mainstay is actually faculty development, I thought I’d share my suggestions of how to do it well – lessons I’ve learned the hard way, in most cases.

  1. Always start with the meta. Tell students what skills they will gain from the experience, and give them the language they can use to explain their skills to future employers. Telling employers that they have experience using virtual collaboration tools, balancing deadlines and goals within a team setting, and interacting with diverse colleagues is not merely lip service. These are critical job skills, ones that you can include in your evaluative rubric if you’re in the mood to drive the point home. As for the disciplinary skills, I like to head over the Arizona State University’s online learning objectives builder to create learning outcomes that actually measure the skills I am trying to teach.
  2. Get ahead of the “bad citizen” problem. One quick internet search for “group project memes” will quickly confirm that what students hate most about groupwork is the inevitability of a member not doing their fair share. There are several ways to get ahead of this problem, and students will feel much more confident if they know they have some tools at their disposal. Here are a few: Create discreet roles that each student must perform; have group members sign a team contract; incorporate a self- and peer-evaluation into the assignment; or have a mid-point check in for the project.
  3. Make the grading criteria abundantly clear, and give credit for individual contributions. Depending on the assignment format, you can sometimes monitor the individual contributions of each student. Other times, you might need the students to assess their own contributions and those of their peers. Regardless, in a higher education environment I think it’s fair to balance the scores between the overall score of the group, and an individual score for each student. Sometimes, I make the individual score worth 25% of the overall grade. Sometimes it’s half. It really depends on the assignment, and the ways in which students are expected to contribute to the overall goal. Last, use a rubric to score the group assignment, and share it with the students in advance of the due date. You can find lots of great group work at Rubistar.org, or create your own.
  4. Don’t go it alone – you don’t have to invent everything yourself. One of the most redeeming qualities among passionate educators is their commitment to sharing resources. I love the zombie-themed Surviving Group Projects resources from the University of Minnesota’s Center for Educational Innovation. And I always head to Merlot.org to search for curated learning materials in my discipline or learning format. In fact, I rarely begin designing an assignment without first looking at what my colleagues across the globe are doing as well. These time-saving gifts from the world of education are sure to inspire, refine, and elevate your teaching.

Author’s Bio: Brandi So is an instructional designer at Touro Colleges and University Systems, a instructor of American Literature, and a specialist in online education and active learning. She holds a doctorate in literature from Stony Brook University, and is an advocate for universal design for learning, open educational resources, and widening access and success for at-risk populations in higher education. You can reach her at: Brandi.So@touro.edu

Reference herein to any specific commercial products, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not constitute or imply an endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by Touro College.

8 Assistive Technology Tools for Students with Disabilities

The following is a guest post by Jennifer Broflowski, a content creator. If you would like to submit a guest post, please contact us

The application of technology for disabled students is an exciting new educational approach that is gaining ground. The differently-abled thrive in an environment where they are given access to accommodations that help them learn to the best of their abilities. Assistive Technology, equipment that helps to mitigate learning deficits, helps to make this a reality by enabling disabled students learn in new ways. This article introduces students, parents, and tutors to the fast-growing technological tools positively impacting learning.

Here are eight of the best Assistive Technology (AT) tools that help people with disabilities study regularly:

1. Timers

For kids who have trouble pacing themselves, this is a great and handy tool to help. You can either tie it to their wrist or place it strategically where the kid can see and use it. Timers help kids to keep track of the remaining amount of time for accomplishing a task or activity. Whether it is writing an essay or eating breakfast, a timer will help students who can’t easily keep up with the current pace. It is also ideal for kids who find it challenging to transition from one task to the next.

2. Reading guides

Kids with visual tracking problems can now see the light thanks to this innovative tool. Reading guides help them to maintain focus on specific pages that they are reading. Essentially, it’s made out of a plastic strip that helps to block out neighboring words of the text while highlighting those that the student is currently reading. The strip seamlessly moves as the child proceeds to the next words in the text.

3. Text to speech

Some individuals have problems reading standard print texts. This is an impressive tool to help them through this difficulty. Some of the typical disabilities handled by this software include; dyslexia, blindness, learning difficulties, visual impairment, and any other shortcoming that impedes reading. Different types of children that can benefit from Text to Speech technology include ADHD and autists.

So, how does this technology work? It scans the written text and then synthesizes it, reading in a voice that students can easily understand. It employs different types of speech sounds that help make up words in different contexts. This is an advancement in speech synthesis that has helped students accurately study.

4. Alternative keyboards

These are programmable keyboards that help students who can’t quickly type to do so freely. They customize the appearance using unique overlays that are absent on a standard keyboard. It is specifically great for students with LD and typing issues. It achieves this by adding graphics for comprehension, grouping keys using different colors, and reducing input choices.

5. Audiobooks

You might already guess what these are. Audiobooks are pre-recorded tools with relevant information relating to the particular field a student is studying. They are present in different formats, including CDs, MP3s, and audio cassettes. You can also subscribe to electronic libraries online and listen to various subjects.

6. FM listening systems

You have probably listened to various FM radio stations but didn’t even know much about their technology. Frequency Modulation (FM) systems are handy in terms of reducing background noise. This is useful for classes where many students are present, and amplification is required. It is an impressive tool for students with attention deficit and other hearing impairments. It helps to improve the auditory processing issues current with students in a classroom.

So, how does this work? A tutor will wear a microphone that later broadcasts to speakers present inside the room. Alternatively, if there aren’t many people with difficulties in the classroom, the specific students with issues can wear personal receivers. This will help them easily grasp what the teacher is saying, even at a distance. FM systems equally help students facing language-processing concerns get a better understanding.

7. Writing supports

These tools help make writing more palatable for students with this deficiency in learning. Sometimes the problem is more of a mental one than it is physical. For instance, when a student cannot correctly write grammatically potent sentences with no semantic issues, this can be a great tool to use. It is appropriate for students who have thoughts racing ahead of their ability to jot. Some examples of writing support software that can help include word prediction. This technology helps to suggest the next word to the student before he or she types. Speech recognition software is another useful asset to have. The student simply speaks out their thoughts, and the tool transfers the words into text. Most of the current smartphones and other mobile devices have these apps in-built in them.

8. Graphic organizers

These work hand in hand with outlining software to help students who struggle with organizing and outlining problems. This is especially visible in writing projects where students lack the prerequisite skills to draw out a plan accurately. This software helps the student to release information in an unstructured manner. Later on, it plans and organizes everything based on different categories and in a specific order. It helps the student to organize their thoughts ahead of a writing task. The detailed organizers can help a student to map out their thoughts and ideas into reality.

Author’s Bio: Jennifer Broflowski is a talented and skilled writer at PaperLeaf with immense experience. Her expertise stretches far and wide, having worked for popular brands like CraftResumes. She loves to hang out with kids in her free time and appreciates good music. Her dedication to special needs learning is what drives her to wake up every day in the morning. She has made several steps pertaining to people with disabilities, and there is more to what the future holds.

Reference herein to any specific commercial products, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not constitute or imply an endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by Touro College.

5 Key Software Development Technologies You Can Learn Online

The following is a guest post by Hardik Shah, a Tech Consultant at Simform, a leading custom software development company. If you would like to submit a guest post, please contact us

In this digital world, there is no skill more valuable than programming and software development. Every year, thousands of software, apps and web apps are developed, catering to the growing need for enterprise and retail applications.

As the demand for exciting features, intuitive UI/UX and responsive solutions is increasing, the software development field is evolving with new technologies, frameworks, and languages. Also, the existing programming landscape is maturing with dynamic job roles designed for a modern software developer.

In this rapidly changing landscape, learning software development technologies and improving one’s skills is extremely essential. Not only does it boost employment prospects but it also increases the chances of grabbing a lucrative job offer from top industry names.

Also, if you are smitten by the entrepreneurial bug, then learning a thing or two about software development would make you better equipped to launch your own technology startup.

In this post, we’ll highlight five relevant software development technologies that you should master. You can learn these technologies online using online courses and open learning resources easily.

Once you learn any technology, you can search for jobs by googling “custom software development company near me”. You find that there are lot of software development companies that are looking for talented developers.

1. JavaScript

JavaScript is one of the most critical programming technologies on the planet. Not only does JavaScript make it easier to offer enhanced user experiences but it is easy-to-learn and master. JavaScript allows developers to create a full application suite without using any other technology. While JavaScript can support a client-side solution, it can also be used to develop a server-side application using the Node.js framework.

In fact, JavaScript is the base for several programming frameworks, making it a wise decision to learn JavaScript if you want to excel at software development and programming.

There are many paid and free courses on JavaScript that you can start with if you are planning to learn JavaScript online. You can start with this course on Udemy if you are looking to start from scratch and hone your software development skills.

2. Java

Java is one of the most popular programming languages which is used for iOS & Android app development along with other use cases. It was one of the first object-oriented programming languages that are still widely used in web development, software development, and mobile app development. Several Fortune 500 companies harness the Java technology for server-side application development, making it one of the most lucrative technologies to learn at present.

You can use Java to create highly scalable and robust software and apps for a large number of users, easily. Java can also teach you the basics of programming and can help you set a strong foundation for your learning and programming endeavors in the future.

This specialization by Duke University on Coursera can take you through the fundamentals as well as some advanced programming concepts.

3. Python

Python has a long history of supporting large-scale software development projects. Touted as one of the easiest programming languages, Python is known for its extensive support libraries, open-source background, and easy-to-learn syntax. Several large organizations, including NASA and Google, have used Python on several projects. In fact, many modern web development frameworks, including Flask & Django, are also based on Python. This means that Python still has a lot of scope in the programming industry.

So, you should think of learning Python for all its benefits and modern applications that are increasing day by day. This Coursera specialization by the University of Michigan is a great way to get started on your journey to learn Python programming language.

4. Blockchain

Blockchain is a relatively new technology that has already revolutionized many sectors and industries. The growing demand for Blockchain-based solutions makes it a lucrative technology to learn in the modern era.

Blockchain is all about using a decentralized consensus-based system for processing transactions between two parties without an intermediary. In recent times, many financial institutions have explored the scope of Blockchain for digitizing their processes. Also, the cryptocurrency hype associated with Bitcoin has made Blockchain a promising technology to learn and master. In the future, as the use cases evolve and more industries start adopting blockchain-based solutions, the possibilities for a developer would be limitless.

You can enroll in ‘Blockchain Revolution for Enterprise Specialization’ course available on Coursera to learn more about Blockchain and how you can master blockchain development skills for the future.

5. Ruby on Rails

Ruby on Rails technology is in high demand owing to the benefits it offers for employers as well as developers. Programmers can use the web app development framework for quickly developing, testing and deploying prototypes without much fuss. Several tech mammoths, including Airbnb, Twitter, and Shopify, have used the technology to create intuitive web apps.

Also, the open-source nature of the framework and easy syntax makes it a great option to get started for anyone looking to improve their programming skills online.

This course on Ruby on Rails can be a good start for you if you want to understand the framework and want to start building web apps, soon.

Final Words

Learning a programming language, framework or technology can be a gamechanger in your career. If you are already in the IT industry or are planning to kickstart your career, learning more about software development technologies is an easy and cost-efficient way. By completing the above-mentioned courses, you can definitely improve your programming skills and gain the agility and robustness modern companies require.

Author’s Bio: Hardik Shah works as a Tech Consultant at Simform, a leading custom software development company. Hardik leads large scale mobility programs covering platforms, solutions, governance, standardization and best practices.

Reference herein to any specific commercial products, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not constitute or imply an endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by Touro College.

Virtual Orientation: a how-to for Online Classrooms [INFOGRAPHIC]

Online orientation should provide the knowledge and information necessary to succeed in an online course so that all students are prepared to excel! This infographic covers how to introduce course material and clarify expectations for an online class.

The text for this infographic was based off of an article by Dean Marian Stoltz-Loike, vice president of online education at Touro College in New York and dean of the school’s Lander College for Women.

Author’s Bio: Chana Goldberg is currently the Presidential Fellow of Online Education at Touro College. She enjoys reading, exploring New York City, and researching education-related topics.

Online Education and Coding: 5 Websites to Learn Coding for Free

The following is a guest post by Colin Simpson, a project management professional with experience in the IT industry. If you would like to submit a guest post, please contact us.

Coding is not for everyone!” Said no one ever in the modern world. Gone are the days when coding was considered to be only for a few nerds who could spend endless hours in front of a computer screen. Today, coding is a fundamental life skill that helps freelancers, marketers, and entrepreneurs excel at what they are doing.

Coding for yourself is empowering. It allows you to transform your idea into reality. If you are a blogger, coding can help you create an intuitive blog. If you are an entrepreneur, coding can help you with your product idea. Also, coding is one of the popular Education Trends that will Shape the 2019-2020 Academic Year.

Why should you learn to code?

You must be thinking, why learn to code when there are programmers you can hire?

Well, when you code for yourself, you can reduce your dependence on others and execute your idea exactly like it is in your head. The added cost advantage can be a cherry on the top.

For many of us, having the basic programming knowledge will mean that any developer cannot fool you into thinking that an idea is impossible to convert into a program. When you know how to code, you can work on your vision without relying on anyone else.

Why are online methods a great way to learn coding?

The internet has been a great facilitator and has changed every aspect of our life- from shopping to entertainment. Similarly, when we think of education, online learning has completely revolutionized the domain. Anyone can learn using the internet without thinking about the distance, time or language barrier.

When we think of coding, there cannot be a better way to learn coding than the internet. For the instructors too, teaching coding via the internet is really easy. They can provide real-time support and relatable examples by using technology and connectivity, without any trouble of setting up and maintaining physical infrastructure. This way, a lot of resources and time get saved and teachers can concentrate on teaching, instead of other aspects.

Many companies prefer hiring developers who have learned programming on their own or via online learning. We also prefer such candidates and it helped us to become the top app development company in San Diego.

5 Websites to Learn Coding for Free

In the age of the internet, all you need to learn coding is just a reliable internet connection and a laptop. The rest you can discover and try on your own. Here are 5 amazing resources you can use to learn coding without spending even a single penny:

1. Code.org

One of the biggest coding resources on the internet, the website offers detailed guides and tutorials on how to code.

Code.org is really popular among amateur coders and aspirants who want to learn coding. This is because of the presence of several tutorials, applications and guides that are offered by Code.org partners, making the website a large repository of learning resources. Being a non-profit initiative, code.org aims to promote the concept of code learning among school and college-going children.

One can learn how to develop games for school children, JavaScript programming and a lot of other exciting things.

Apart from self-paced tutorials, the website also conducts specific lessons in the form of lectures by famous programmers and instructors for easy learning.

2. Codeacademy

Codeacademy has been used by more than 45 million people all over the globe to learn coding. An educational company that believes in making programming more engaging, Codeacademy offers useful courses in HTML, CSS, SQL, JavaScript, C++, Python, among other courses.

One can learn several technical aspects associated with coding through self-paced courses on a wide range of programming languages.

3. MIT Open Courseware

MIT Open Courseware is ideal for someone who has already cleared the basic stages and wants to learn advanced concepts. An initiative of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Open Courseware gives you a chance to take up language-specific courses on C++, MatLab, Java and other programming languages.

One can also learn more about programming concepts and other innovative technologies using the Open Courseware website.

4. Khan Academy

Khan Academy was developed by an educator, Salman Khan in 2006 and is one of the most genuine free eLearning platforms. There are several dedicated courses and video tutorials on the platform that can help you in learning how to code, how to create webpages with HTML, CSS.

A special program on the website, ‘Hour of Code’ also teaches students more about computer science and programming.

Students can share their learnings with other students and this kind of shared learning model creates more engagement. Apart from instructor-led courses, there are several specialized courses and learning material that you can utilize to create your own extensive code learning repository.

5. Web Fundamentals

A project by Google for web developers, Web Fundamentals has a large number of free resources like tutorials, guides and walkthroughs to learn the nuances of HTML5 coding. Being an open-source platform, one can use the HTML5 code to learn several aspects of advanced coding and programming.

Recommended for someone with basic programming knowledge, this website can serve as a useful resource if you want to refine your skills, grow as a programmer and achieve bigger things with your coding knowledge.

Wrapping Up

Learning to code is no longer an expensive ordeal. The online medium is quite an affordable way to learn coding. Anyone from a school-going kid to an adult can grasp coding fundamentals and use them to his/her benefit by learning to code online. Coding can be especially a useful skill if you plan to launch your own startup or wish to make a career in the STEM industry.

As it is said, a little extra knowledge is never harmful. So, you should not shy away from donning your learning hats and start learning to code, right away!

Author’s Bio: Colin Simpson is a competent project management professional with rich experience in the IT industry. He is currently working as a project manager at BlueKite Apps. Over the years, he has worked with startups and business owners to transform their ideas into digital solutions, and that experience has helped him to start writing on various aspects of the IT industry. You can find Colin on LinkedIn at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/iamcolinsimpson/

Reference herein to any specific commercial products, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not constitute or imply an endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by Touro College.