We interviewed George Mason University Dean of Undergraduate Programs and Management Professor, Patrick Soleymani about best practices for planning your management course with Connect and your Quality in Online Learning Certification.

How would you recommend a new faculty member get started?

McGraw Hill offers a lot of great support tools for faculty and students who are using Connect® for the first time. Many of these resources begin at the Support at Every Step website to get you started. Feel confident reaching out to your local rep, implementation consultant team, tech support, and fellow peers to get advice to take full advantage of the platform and resources. I suggest faculty go through these to better understand the basics of the platform before students start working in it. Moreover, there are starter courses for many classes that faculty can customize for their own use (they are called OLC-Aligned Courses).

When getting started with Connect, understand there are a variety of assignments you can create to maximize student success and retention. SmartBook® is one of my all-time favorite tools because it’s McGraw Hill’s adaptive reading experience that provides personalized learning for every student. You then have Connect exercises, which vary from matching exercises, to videos, to cases, Application-Based Activities (i.e. mini-simulations/role-plays), self-assessments, and auto-graded Writing Assignments in some courses, too. Finally, you have quiz and test banks that can be used for assessment (more on that in my third posting). Aside from these categories, instructors also can include their own material, assignments, and weblinks.

Connect has a lot of great features, but faculty who are new to the platform don't have to use them all during the first semester. In fact, they may feel overwhelmed if they do. I recommend faculty start with the basics – SmartBook and a maybe a couple of drag and drops and/or video cases. These hit at lower levels of Bloom's Taxonomy (remember and understand) and will prepare students for activities that will hit higher levels of learning.

Faculty can assign more Connect activities in subsequent semesters once they have learned the “ins and outs” of the platform. After the first semester, I recommend assigning activities like Manager's Hot Seat Videos, Application-Based Activities (mini-simulations/role plays), and auto-graded Writing Assignments in some courses. These hit on higher levels of learning and will allow faculty to develop their students' problem solving and critical-thinking skills. I’ll discuss some of these in greater detail below.”

What are some of the standards you need to keep in mind?

“There are quite a few standards you should keep in mind, but I'll highlight three:

  1. Design: You should have a clear structure to your course. If you are using a learning management system, such as Blackboard, you should utilize folders to keep everything organized. If you are going directly through Connect, you can create folders there, too. You want to make sure your students can easily follow your course week by week.
  2.  Accessibility: You should make sure your assignments, lectures, etc. are ADA compliant to the best of your ability. If they cannot be provided in an ADA compliant format, try to offer an alternative assignment for those who may need it.
  3. Course Learning Outcomes: Your course learning outcomes should be aligned with your School's master learning outcomes. You should clearly state these and also make sure the Connect exercises you assign are in line with these. There are so many different Connect activities that finding ones to match your learning outcomes, for assessment purposes, shouldn't be a problem.”

What specific Connect tools would you recommend using?

When it comes to a framework of designing a course that hits on multiple levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy, three of my favorite tools are SmartBook, Manager's Hot Seat videos, and Application-Based Activities (mini-simulations). Here is why I recommend them to users:

SmartBook: It really all starts with SmartBook, which is an adaptive reading tool. Many titles now have SmartBook 2.0 which has made it more personal, accessible, productive, and mobile. The goal is to help students better prepare for class, pinpoint what students know and what they don’t know, and remediate their learning. Plus, as instructors, we now have closer control over assignments at the concept level. I highly recommend you assign this for baseline or foundational knowledge in all of your classes. It also is a good prerequisite for activities that concentrate on higher levels of learning (Bloom’s Level: remember and understand).

Manager's Hot Seats: These videos inspire critical thinking and problem-solving. They are fictitious videos that cover real and controversial issues. The student views the video from the perspective of a manager. The manager is facing a dilemma that may not have an easy answer, and the student needs to critique how the manager handled everything. Not only do these videos have auto-graded questions that follow them, but they also can inspire discussion threads between students (Bloom’s Level: apply, analyze, and evaluate).

Application-Based Activities (mini-simulations): These simulations are a great way for students to try out their managerial skills without having to face real-consequences! Students go through an activity that can branch depending on how the student responds to questions. It provides feedback within the activity and also additional, detailed feedback at the end, and is a great learning opportunity. Finally, students get to also receive remediation when they make sub-ideal decisions and learn from those decisions (Bloom’s Level: apply, analyze, and evaluate).”

As I mentioned before, I recommend starting with assigning the SmartBook reading. This provides you with an opportunity to ensure students have mastered the material before they get to your other assignments that moving them up Bloom’s higher level of learning. Many of the textbooks also have follow-up activities that allow you to create discussion threads or other exercises once the simulation is done. Some of these activities are meant for groups, which is a great way to get online students working with others in a virtual environment.”