The University of Texas at Brownsville has announced two programs that administrators say will foster innovation and are tailor-made for student engagement.
The university has begun a partnership with Khan Academy, a non-profit organization that offers online tutorials for students. The tutorials will be used during the math section of this summer’s Center for Learning Enrichment’s Summer Bridge Program, said Janna Arney, associate provost for Faculty and Academic Affairs.
The resources from Khan Academy will supplement the math course in the Summer Bridge Program which provides prospective students — who may have been just shy of admission — the opportunity of completing the course to be college-ready for the fall semester.
“We are always doing new things and innovative things,” Arney said.
“What we are interested in is the availability of exercises that can help students at their own pace. What works for students who are deficient in math is practice.”
The videos provided by Khan Academy will give students the chance to practice math problems on their own time.
Unlike professors, “Khan never loses patience,” Arney said jokingly.
Since students can repeat the tutorial, they can reinforce the areas that give them difficulties, she said.
Shaghayegh Azadi-Setayesh, a lecturer who will be teaching the math course, said she’s been working on aligning her curriculum with the materials offered by Khan Academy.
Azadi-Setayesh said she will be asking her students to make an account on Khan Academy and from there she will be able to keep track of the students’ work.
“I will have access to all the work that they have done and see if a student is struggling,” she said.
“I can see who’s more active and who’s doing extra work,” Azadi-Setayesh said.
In that sense, she said, it’s very helpful for the instructor.
iPads in the Classroom
The university has also announced it will incorporate iPads into fall semester courses.
According to Arney, approximately 20 faculty members will participate “who are identifying ways to bring their subjects to life through the iPad.”
“Faculty members that are participating believe the way they are going to reach their students will be better through the use of technology,” she said.
Arney said she hopes students will realize that learning doesn’t just happen in the classroom.
As to whether she believes students will be distracted by the tablets, Arney said it would happen anyway with a phone, but by incorporating the device students can begin to look at it as a learning tool instead of a distraction.
“The hope is that this is a whole area of that tool that they have probably not explored,” Arney said.
“If we can establish a link and establish that they are not mutually exclusive … these tools have the ability to bridge that gap and we like to be a part of showing people how.”
Student engagement, retention and learning gains will be monitored to see if the new tools are working, Arney said.
“As an adult in this world, just because I think it’s a great idea doesn’t mean the students think it’s a great idea,” she said.
Feedback from students will help determine if the program is expanded, she said.