Gain Skills in Online Courses Requiring Group Work

There are many real-world skills students can gain while partaking in an online course. But what about those collaborative skills you may need in your next job or as part of a team at work? Check out this great article from Marian Stoltz-Loike, Chief Online Education Officer and Vice President of Online Education at Touro College, and learn how online courses can teach students about working with others remotely and giving virtual presentations.

Click here for the full article: Gain Skills in Online Courses Requiring Group Work.


The Study Strategy Guidebook: Techniques that Work with Your Brain

The following is a guest post written by Bella Abdurachmanov, educational writer and writing instructor. Bella enjoys writing, in all of its forms, as a spiritual endeavor and means to self-growth. If you would like to submit a guest post, please contact us.

Studying can be a pleasurable experience. Yes, that’s right—“studying” and “pleasurable” in the same sentence!

“How?” you may ask.

When you work with your brain during a study session, you not only create a greater chance of having a successful study session—by remembering what you are reviewing–but you also engage your brain’s natural curiosity.

Research in Mind, Brain, and Education (MBE) science has shown that there are certain study strategies that work with your brain. These techniques stand in contrast to study strategies that have been in use for far too long—such as cramming and simply rereading notes—which work against your brain.

Consider this your official Study Strategy Guidebook. We will cover six proven strategies for mastering the content you are studying in a fun and successful way. We will discuss timing your study sessions, varying your topics, asking higher level questions, using visuals, providing examples, and recalling information.

In fact, these strategies are so effective, there is an entire website—The Learning Scientists—dedicated just to them. The National Council on Teacher Quality also produced a 46 page report devoted to bringing these strategies into the classroom for teachers to practice with their students.

Timing Your Study Session

Have you ever heard of the Pomodoro Technique? This is a time management system that focuses on working (or studying, in our case) for 25 minutes and taking a short 5 minute break after every session. Once you have reached 4 sessions, you would take a longer break. In the scientific world, we call this “spaced practice”.

Spacing your study sessions in this way helps the brain with long-term retention. When you cram for an exam, you are not allowing the information that you are studying to be retained in long-term memory. In contrast, with spaced practice, you strengthen the connections that have been made in your memory.

In order to use spaced practice, you should schedule 30 minutes per topic. 25 minutes would be for studying with complete focus—that means no checking emails, Facebook, or grabbing a snack. 5 minutes would be for your break, and it is important to actually take that 5 minute break. It would be helpful to get up and do an activity during your break time, such as stretching or walking, since exercise has a positive impact on your ability to learn. You should also reward yourself with something you have been waiting for during your break period, such as 5 minutes to check your Facebook updates or grab that snack!

Varying Your Study Topics

Timing your study session properly goes hand-in-hand with varying your study topics. Just like it sounds, when you vary your study topics, what we call “interleaving” in the MBE community, you study a few different topics from one subject within the same study session, while mixing up the order of those topics that you study. This is as opposed to “blocking” where you study one topic per session.

Switching the order in which you study a certain topic, and studying a few different topics during one session, allows your brain to make new connections between the material. Furthermore, alternating the order of the topics helps your brain to remember it for the long-term. Studies show the profound effects that interleaving has on retention:

“The interleaving effect is long-term—lasting on the order of months—and the advantage over blocking actually increases with the passage of time (in other words, there’s less forgetting).”

In order for interleaving to be beneficial, you must do it properly, spending just enough time per topic. For example, you should choose three different topics that you’ve learned for English. You should then spend a limited amount of time studying Topic A, then move on to Topic C, then Topic B. The next day you should alternate the order, perhaps studying Topic C first, then Topic B, and finally Topic A. Just be careful that you understand the basics of a concept before using the varying technique.

You will notice that the more you alternate the order of what you are studying—and by studying different topics within each study session—you will begin making more and more connections between the material, cultivating an interdisciplinary approach to viewing the world.

Asking Higher Level Questions

Asking probing questions is the most common strategy covered in textbooks for new teachers. So, how does this apply to studying? As a student, college will teach you to hone your critical thinking skill set. Learning how to ask higher level questions is one component of that.

You will learn which questions to be asking yourself, how to ask them, and how to use them to review your notes and other study material. As you study, you should be asking yourself—out loud—higher level questions:

  • You might compare and contrast two different ideas in your notes.
  • You may ask a “why” or “how” question related to your subject.
  • You might ask how one idea connects to another.

Ask questions that are beyond the basic “yes” or “no” answer. Work on giving long, well-thought out answers to your questions. Also, try to connect what you are studying to your own experiences. Tying something new that you want to remember to an already well-solidified memory helps keep the new information anchored. Through this “elaboration” technique, you force yourself to better understand a concept.

Using Visuals

Also known as “dual-coding”—a theory of cognition developed by Allan Paivio in the early 1970’s—visuals help reinforce what we’ve learned. It works because visuals and words are processed differently in the brain. Thus, by using both visuals and words in your study session, you have more of a chance to remember what you are reviewing.

Look at the visuals you have in your notes and try to explain them. Create visuals for yourself, not just pictures, but diagrams, graphs, infographics, timelines, and others. See how many different ways you can illustrate a difficult concept. It is important that the visuals relay the information in a manner that helps you to better understand the topic you are studying.

Providing Examples

Abstract ideas can best be grasped through concrete examples. Try to find examples that you will remember for each abstract idea you encounter. Walk yourself through the analogy from the beginning to the end, really making sure you complete the analogy and understand the comparison. This will help you to further grasp and remember the abstract idea you are trying to comprehend.

If you get only partially through a comparison and it doesn’t work, try again. You may want to check your ideas with peers or a professor to make sure you are using correct examples. The more ideas you are able to generate, the more you are stretching your executive functioning skills.

Recalling Information

Flashcards, anybody? If you use flashcards to study, it is a form of recalling information. Try to push yourself beyond using flashcards just for definitions, and come up with cards that ask and answer those “higher level questions” we discussed previously.

Beyond flashcards, you should sit with your notebook out and start recalling as much information, in as much detail, as possible. Once you have finished writing as much as you can, look back through your notes to make sure everything matches up and to see what you may have missed. This is also known as “retrieval practice”. When we go back into our memory to recall information, we further reinforce that memory in our brains. This is a way to assess yourself before you have your test, quiz, or state exam.

You have officially finished the Study Strategy Guidebook. Now, you are prepared to take on the world of studying!


Author’s Bio: Bella Abdurachmanov is an educational writer and writing instructor. Bella teaches college writing and creative writing at Touro College, hoping to impart a love of learning to her students. As editor of The Learning Mind, a project of Kars4Kids, she studies the science behind how people learn best. She enjoys writing, in all of its forms, as a spiritual endeavor and means to self-growth.

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.

Develop Your Study Skills to Work Smarter, Not Harder [INFOGRAPHIC]

Exam times can be very stressful for students, especially if it’s during the final year of study and the results could determine how readily they will proceed to the next level, whether it’s into a higher educational standard or the competitive environs of job-seeking. Performance in these exams will largely boil down to how effectively the person studies.

Studying for exams requires a lot of self-discipline and hard work, but it should not have to require a Herculean effort. We’ve all heard tales of students pulling all-nighters and poring over their books in the early hours of the morning. Don’t be one of those; divide your workload evenly throughout the course of the year, and indeed over the course of your evening. Three or four half-hour intervals of concentrated study are far more effective than a two-hour block where your focus will inevitably wane, no matter how much coffee you knocked back during the day.

Another common studying pitfall is to gaze at textbooks for a prolonged time. Exams are not about regurgitating chunks of text. They are about processing a question, planning how you will answer that question and drawing upon what you learned to provide that answer. That’s why practicing exam questions from previous years is crucial. You will get a sense of the type of questions you can expect to answer in the exam, plus how to structure your answer so that you’re addressing the question being put to you instead of unceremoniously throwing words onto a page.

This infographic from Study Medicine Europe contains several more valuable tips for exam preparation, so that it’s not about counting the hours of study, but making the hours of study count.


An infographic by the team at Study Medicine Europe.

About the contributor: Aris Grigoriou is a Student Recruitment Manager at Study Medicine Europe, and has over ten years of experience as a recruiter. Aris holds an Executive MBA from Imperial College of London and an MSc from Bristol University.

Is your Classroom “Pinterest” Piqued?

Pinterest, the web-based social networking service that allows users to collect, store, and share images and information using “Pins” and “Boards”, is known for its use in the fashion, arts, and cooking industries. However, the app is not limited to personal and at-home use. Like any other social media, Pinterest could have a great impact on Higher Ed learning, both in and out of the classroom.

Whether using the app online or on an iPad or mobile device, Pinterest can allows students and teachers to collaborate on group projects, share both interesting and relevant course information, create new resources, save important links, and more!  This free application also allows users to make purchases directly from the site, or create and publish new content without using physical storage space. With quick, easy, and FREE access wherever there is internet access, Pinterest could be a great tool both in and out of the classroom.

Take a look at this great Infographic from for more information on the role that Pinterest plays in the classroom and how Professors and Students can use this great app to enhance their learning experiences.


Professors, Peers, and Pinterest
Courtesy of:

e-Portfolios for e-Learning

ePortfolio WordcloudI recently overheard a conversation between two students. They were discussing an upcoming homework assignment and the fact that it had to be posted to the students’ e-Portfolio. One student seemed really opposed to the idea of having his information and work posted electronically, while the other was actually quite ignorant and didn’t even know what an e-Portfolio was. Which got me thinking- I have an e-Portfolio that I created for an online class, but I never questioned WHY I needed it. What is the importance of an e-Portfolio and how does it benefit students in the pursuit of an Online Education?

According to Portfolios at Penn State, a website hosted by Penn State University to provide students and educators with information about and resources for creating an e-Portfolio, the standard use of portfolios is for the presentation of a student’s or instructor’s work and abilities. Because portfolios are dynamic and can be constantly changed and updated, they can help display individual skills or achievements while still acting as more than a technological or digital resume.  Furthermore, thanks to the features made available by many e-Portfolio sites, teachers can use e-Portfolios to assign homework, post information, or increase interactivity and engagement in their classrooms.

E-Portfolios are not just for writing or the arts. In academics, the most valuable use of e-Portfolios is in the support of individualized learning, regardless of subject matter. Learners using e-Portfolios can adapt and adjust their learning experiences, take control of their learning, and use the many e-Portfolio tools to integrate media (such as audio and video) into their learning.

The use of e-Portfolios in academics helps put an emphasis on creativity, promoting originality and the individual process. Furthermore, students and educators who use e-Portfolios in their learning can develop key digital literacy skills and help move education toward the technologically and project-based learning of the 21st Century.

To sum it all up, here are some of the many benefits that students and educators can expect to see from the use of an e-Portfolio:


  • Creating and maintaining an e-Portfolio can help students perform self-assessments in both their work and their learning.
  • Students can take control of their learning, pacing themselves and developing their own goals
  • The process of working on and learning through an e-Portfolio engages students, helping them develop life-long skills while also helping build self-confidence.
  • Upon completion of their e-Portfolio, students will have a record of their personal learning and accomplishments, and could use it as a means of showcasing their work (and strengths) to others.
  • E-Portfolios are a great tool for personal and professional development.
  • And, they are portable, so they can be accessed anywhere, anytime!


  • Teachers could use e-Portfolios to relate to students, taking part in the creative process and providing feedback for work and effort.
  • E-Portfolios also provide an easily accessible record of learning, both personal and professional.
  • When using an electronic template, e-Portfolios are often more organized than physical records and resumes, useful for the quick and efficient retrieval of information.
  • Because of the clear way information is documented in an e-Portfolio, educators can use these sites to link lessons to learning outcomes and prior information and assessments.
  • As with students, e-Portfolios can be used to assess a professor’s or course’s strengths and weaknesses, a great too for future professional and personal development.



12 Important Trends in the e-Portfolio Industry for Education and for Learning, by Trent Batson

41 Benefits of an e-Portfolio, by Karen Barnstable

7 Ways to Create e-Portfolios, by Debra Donston-Miller

CUNY: Teaching and Learning Tips: e-Portfolios

Portfolios at Penn State

Using E-Portfolios in the Classroom, by Mary Beth Hertz

Using Technology: Electronic Portfolios in the K-12 Classroom, by Mary Daniels Brown


The Ultimate Guide to Snapchatting in the Classroom

snapchat in the classroom

You’ve heard of Snapchat as a social-media app for personal use, but what about using Snapchat for education?

Snapchat, the free mobile messaging app that emerged in September of 2011, is one of the foremost social media apps used, not only by millennials but also those born before the digital age, to share pictures, videos, texts, and more.  However, to date Snapchat has been used primarily for social media and friendly interaction. So, how exactly could teachers and students make use of Snapchat in their daily lessons or homework assignments?


Snapchat can be used for:

  1. COMMUNICATING– Dr. Jon Ernstberger of LaGrange College in LaGrange, GA, explains how most, if not all, students are already carrying smartphones, and as of April 2016, more than 77% of college students were using Snapchat on a daily basis. Using Snapchat, teachers can reach and communicate with their students using the technology and tools that are already a daily part of their lives.
  2. DISTANCE TEACHING– Teachers can use Snapchat as a means of coaching students through an assignment or task, sharing pictures or videos of each step in a process instead of having to write or verbalize what may be more complicated instructions.
  3. STORYTELLING– As part of the age of technology, educators are trying to encourage their students to get physically involved in their education. Using Snapchat, students can create and share videos that depict the stages of an assignment, such as a science experiment or the acting out of a book or play being read in class.
  4. LANGUAGE LEARNING– Snapchat can be used like a set of flashcards, with a teacher sending a word to his students and requesting a response in the form of a video or picture that best defines that word (or vice versa). This can be used for advanced vocabulary or foreign language lessons.
  5. COUNTING DOWN THE MINUTES– Another use for Snapchat in the classroom can be for teachers to publicize the amount of time until an exam or due date, visually depicting to students how much time they have to prepare for the upcoming event.

For more information on Snapchatting in the Classroom, see Can Snapchat Bridge the Communication Chasm in Online Courses?, by Jon Ernstberger & Melissa A. Venable. 



80 Amazing Snapchat Statistics, by Craig Smith

Can Snapchat Bridge the Communication Chasm in Online Courses?, by Jon Ernstberger & Melissa A. Venable.

Why Millennials Use Snapchat, by Maya Kosoff