Category Archives: Student issues

14 Things to Know Before Starting College

college-student-lifeIn this sharing world of digital era technologies (which I love) it is easier than ever to read truly insightful articles and essays.  I was alerted to one such article in today’s barrage of social media alerts.

Vivian Giang of Business Insider has written today’s gem in “14 Things High Schoolers Should Know Before They Go To College.”  I didn’t know these things when I attended a local university 45 years ago.  I wish I had.  These 14 nuggets ring true based on my experience as a professor.  Each one of these is important.  Please read the article, but here is my summary.

  1. You don’t have to start college right away.  It is OK to wait a year or two.
  2. Your professors aren’t your parents. They are there to teach you, not to lecture you on life lessons.
  3. Being cool in high school doesn’t mean you will be cool in college, and vice versa.
  4. Go to networking events. Learning how to meet, interact with and establish relationships with new people is one of life’s most important skills.
  5. Invest in your professors. They can be much more than talking heads. Some are worth establishing a relationship with.
  6. Get an internship. It gives business people a chance to meet and discover who are you.
  7. Get a job.
  8. Learn how to write.
  9. Research and learn how college loans will affect your life after college.
  10. Take your scholarship seriously. Losing it will negatively affect your life.
  11. Get up when your alarm goes off.  In other words, get up in the morning.
  12. Always go to class.
  13. Try new things.
  14. Make new friends and be social.

by David Albrecht

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Filed under College Life, Student issues

Landfill Harmonic – Musical Instruments Constructed From Trash

Throughout my academic career I’ve had professorial colleagues who have complained about stupid and lazy students who don’t belong in college.  They have taken it upon themselves to turn their courses into flunk out machines.  At my most recent previous school, I was instructed to fail 30% of my students in a certain accounting majors class.

I’ve always rejected such a notion.  In my experience, students show they are eager to learn if they receive but a bit of encouragement from a caring professor.

Someone is making a movie about people in Cateura, Paraguay creating musical instruments from discarded trash retrieved from a landfill.  That’s correct, a garbage dump.

The documentary–Landfill Harmonic— is a project in progress.  They are accepting donations that will allow completing the film.  The project is supported by people such as Alexandra Nash (ex-wife of NBA player Steve Nash).

Check it out.

P.S.–Here’s a nice update.

by David Albrecht

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Filed under New fangled tech, Student issues

Time for the First Test

At my new school, University of South Carolina Upstate, the fourth week of classes is underway.  For those readers familiar with semesters, you know what’s coming very soon–the first test.  As the professor to my students, my responsibility at this time is to get them ready for the fast approaching first test.

Why the fifth week?  In a 15 week semester, the fifth week is 1/3 of the way through.  One traditional organization for an undergraduate course is to have three tests (1/3, 2/3 and final) and some projects and/or papers.  If I am both traditional and on track, then it’s almost time.

First, some context.  In American higher education, especially in business, a time honored approach is to have professors lecture on course content.  Homework is assigned for students to work on outside of class.  The homework often is designed to help students upload content from lecture notes (and textbook) into their working memory and to give students a few simple opportunities to learn application. Research has shown this to be ineffective.

My classes are flipped.  I’ve written out my traditional lectures, augmented them a bit, and sent them out for students to study outside of class.  During class time my students are engaged with the material so as to learn it deeply and to apply it.  My classes are very engaged (at least compared to many other professors), and I focus on application (doing something with the material).

I interact with students throughout class.  We work on a homework problem as a group of the whole (often with students presenting their work). Then I have students (individually or small groups) work on either a similar problem or an extension.  As they work, I’m walking around, looking over each student’s shoulder.  I can affirm their work (very, very important) and answer questions to help students learn on the spot.  Consequently, I already have a rough idea how students are doing.

A test, however, puts pressure on students to have to complete their study.  Studying for a test forces a student to work on transferring the material from working memory to a deeper recess that has the potential of being recalled and used over the longer run.  It hardens a student’s skill.  Without a test in my classes, student learning is like an unfinished project.

One of my responsibilities is to help students mentally prepare for the next week.  I have always thought that I should help motivate students.  And why not?  I’m their coach and mentor. If students don’t get encouragement from me, then from where do they get it?

In my classes yesterday, I made three important statements.  First, I expect perfect or very nearly perfect work on the test, and only such work earns the grade of A.  Earning an A requires true mastery of the material.  Second, my tests can be aced or flunked.  Moreover, I think all the students are smart enough to ace the test.  And that takes time for intent, planning and then study.  Third, despite complicated, busy lives and difficult times, I wanted each to get an A.  Not only can each student get an A, they should get an A if only they will.  I’m there to cheer them on to victory.

So, what’s next.  My students have much to do during the next week.  Many work and have families.  In other words, they have life responsibilities.  During idle moments, they must resist the temptations of relaxation and distraction. And, many have other courses, each with a test to study for.  Somehow, they are going to have to summon the will to want to do it.

Despite all the pressures and stress, I’m confident that many of my students will find the time and motivation needed to finish learning the material and the life management skill needed to show up next week and ace the test.

by David Albrecht

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Dyscalculia

When I teach Managerial Accounting, I emphasize to students that in many areas of business it is necessary to read numbers and understand the patterns that are present.   I have always wondered why some very smart students who study are unable to do either one.   Perhaps it is due to dyscalculia.

Two fundamental skills underlie almost everything I do in the course:

  1. Starting with the average cost for some amount of units and then calculating the resulting total cost, and vice versa.
  2. Identifying the pattern inherent in a sequence of numbers and calculating what would come next, or what came before.

An example of the first skill would be:

If the average cost for 12 units is $2.50, then the total cost for those 12 units is $30.

Another example would be:

If the total cost for 11 units is $33, then the average cost per unit is $3.

The task seems simple.  But there are very smart students at the universities I’ve taught at, and a significant percentage have great difficulty with it.   Students will spend a lot of time in memorization for this type of problem soon to appear on a test, but they never truly get it.

An example of the second skill is found when I lay out the following sequences and ask students to fill in the missing values.  Can you figure out what are the missing values?

The answers are:

The task seems simple.  But there are very smart students at the universities I’ve taught at, and a significant percentage have great difficulty with it.

I know that many accounting professors ridicule students who can’t perform either task, claiming that students deserve bad grades because they never put in the study time to learn what is necessary.  Not me.  I’ve always thought that there is a missing piece to the puzzle of easy problems that are unsolvable for some smart college students.

Yesterday on AECM we started talking about dyscalculia.  Dyscalculia is similar to dyslexia and dysgraphia.  Dyscalculia is the inability to identify numbers, distinguish number patterns, and perform arithmetic operations.  Dyslexia is the inability to identify letters, distinguish letter patterns (i.e., words), and comprehend what is read.  Dysgraphia is the inability to write.  Some people can read very well, but have not learned to write.

Students with a bad case of dyscalculia will have difficulty in identifying the numbers in the following image.

The current thinking is that these are not physical or intellectual incapacities, but rather they are functional or learning difficulties.  All can be overcome.  Dyslexia, which probably affects 5-10% of the American population has received much attention.  But so has dyscalculia, which is thought to afflict a similar percentage of the population.  To see the range of exercises available to combat this learning problem with numbers, visit dyscalculia.org.

Professors, it might be appropriate to refer some students to your campus disabilities office.

To learn more about dyscalculia, please read this wikipedia article.

By David Albrecht.

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I Am Worried About My Grade

All professors & instructors can relate to the video, “I Am Worried About My Grade.”  We get it all the time.  Give a student a lower grade than what the student wants, and much of the time the student will march into your office demanding a better grade.  Oh, sometimes it is couched in terms of a request, but the tone of request reveals it is a demand.

I’ve taught at public universities and private colleges, and it seems to me that demanding students are worse at private colleges.

I found this video on YouTube.  I did not create it.  It does seem to strike a cord, though.

by David Albrecht

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How College Students Should Use Linkedin

My day job is being an accounting professor.  I teach financial accounting and cost/managerial accounting in equal measure.  This fall, I’ve had the most unusual teaching assignment, a class titled Social Media, Blogging and Business.  Having to teach the class has made me more aware of potential social media uses by students.

I recommend that students use Linkedin to professionally present themselves via social media.  Simultaneously, I recommend that students don’t use Facebook (or use Facebook only under a pseudonym).

Why?  As future professional and possibly future leaders, students should be concerned with their brand image.  There is no way to control it with the informality and personal revelations of Facebook.  However, it can be proactively managed on Linkedin.

Once a student has signed up for an account at Linkedin.com, the fun can begin.  Here are ways to take advantage of Linkedin’s many features.

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When They Bring Laptops to Class

I suggest students bring their laptop to class.  It is my hope that they will use it for class related purposes:

  • Taking notes
  • Working accounting problems on spreadsheets
  • Looking up information

In my Social Media, Blogging and Business class, all 22 students bring a computer to class, every day.  So do I.   I intend for students to use it for class related purposes.  They don’t.  The tell-tale signs?

  • Students tippy tapping away during class discussions
  • Someone laughing out loud while gaze is fixed on laptop screen
  • Lack of engagement with me
  • Admitting to spending 45% of class on non-class related computer use (yes, I asked them).

Have you seen this Doonsbury cartoon?

Something similar has happened in my class.

Students don’t use e-mail these days.  It is too slow, too boring and not social enough.  All my students are on Facebook.  Communication via Facebook is extremely satisfying.  Don’t know for sure, though, because students won’t friend me.  Perhaps they are afraid I’ll be able to check up on their in-class discussions (I wouldn’t).

I’ve been hypothesizing that this Facebook activity is all status updates, replies and chat.  Perhaps not.  There are other things to be accomplished via Facebook, as the following videos attest.  There is love, and there is poke.  Sometimes there is love and poke.

First, about love.  Tyler Ward sings “Facebook Lover.”

Meghean Warren & Jessica Campbell have a different “Facebook Lover.”

Now for poke.  What is poke, and what is poke for?  The poker sends a poke to a pokee, indicating that the pokee is being thought of.  What is the pokee to think?  Presumably that it is an act of affection.  But not always.  Facebook users now have poke wars.

Did you know a Facebook poke can send you to jail?

I’m too old school.  I use my finger poker for a different reason:

How do you use your laptop during class?  Leave a comment and let me know.

– – David Albrecht

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Filed under Social Media, Student issues