How to Prevent Teacher Burnout and Grade Effectively

Just like in every other industry, faculty in higher education institutions had to adjust to remote teaching almost overnight due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With the added pressure of delivering engaging lectures and revamping assessments that could be worked on remotely, teachers had to ensure that students were having a fulfilling learning experience, as they would in a classroom. Thus, more than 50% of faculty members considered leaving teaching due to the burnout caused by the pandemic. 

In this article, we will cover the following topics:

  • What is Teacher Burnout?
  • What are the 4 Stages of Teacher Burnout?
  • 5 Ways to Prevent Teacher Burnout

While one may experience burnout at some point in their life, there are ways to recover from it and come back equipped with the right tools that help with efficiency and productivity.

What is teacher burnout?

Teacher burnout is a condition where, regardless of their level of experience or commitment to their profession, the person is no longer able to work or derive pleasure from their job. Downplaying emotional exhaustion and decreased motivation in teachers leads to burnout.

While burnout could look very different in everyone, it typically affects mental, physical, and emotional health which has serious implications for their personal environment. The crushing workload of delivering lectures, grading effectively, and their domestic responsibilities like no childcare and school have caused educators to go through burnout and also witness lower performances.

While students were coping with the stress of remote education during the pandemic, educators also assumed the role of counsellors and ed-tech experts suppressing their own mental health challenges as they took on these additional responsibilities. Teachers need support not only to avoid burnout but to maintain their enthusiasm for teaching. 

Teacher burnout is on the rise, and it's costing schools dearly.

What are the 4 Stages of Teacher burnout?

Experiencing teacher burnout is not just restricted to the individual, as it also impacts students, their peers, and family members. Identifying and uncovering the level of burnout before it's too late is crucial before finding ways to mitigate the effects of teacher burnout. 

Stage 1: Irritation and self-withdrawal

Increasing workload and stress can cause teachers to back out even from their regular working schedule. They may find themselves not enjoying the work and closing off to their peers. This is where educators start feeling irritated or low. Lack of time, energy, or interest to invest in self-care can seriously impact the mental and physical well-being of the individual that starts to show the first signs of burnout.

Stage 2: No interest in socializing

Socializing with peers and students on a daily basis can be exhausting. Turning down invitations to social activities and meetups is the beginning of Stage 2. By recognizing this stage, taking a step back from their daily responsibilities, or asking for additional help can nip the situation in the bud.

Stage 3: Constant fatigue and complaints

Completing the course, preparing assessments, and grading students can be exhausting. The feeling of mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion can leave you feeling drained out and disinterested in even going to work. By this stage, irritation and anxiety can lead to finding faults and issues in even the smallest things that could adversely affect relationships with peers and students.

Stage 4: Unhealthy lifestyle 

Stress and anxiety can lead to a lack of sleep and unhealthy eating habits. By deprioritizing physical health and nutrition, educators can find themselves at risk of many serious health conditions like heart attack, diabetes, and hypertension.

5 ways to Prevent Teacher burnout

Dealing with burnout necessitates diverse strategies. Educators and non-teaching staff must all work together to address this crucial issue. Leveraging peer grading technology to share the workload can help with preventing teacher burnout.

1. Empower your students with peer assessment

Recognizing burnout in time is critical to avoiding such situations since it jeopardizes student learning. Getting students to evaluate their peers helps enhance their knowledge of the subject and develop metacognitive abilities. Students are able to gain different perspectives and learn how to accept and give helpful and critical feedback that prepares them for life after their university education.

Kritik’s peer-grading platform uses the collective intelligence of the students to give fair and accurate ratings while streamlining workflows and shortening feedback response times. As an educator, it helps channel energies toward teaching students and becoming their mentors rather than simply grading their work.

2. Reduce your workload with customizable rubrics

Rubrics provide unbiased rating criteria during feedback. It allows professors and students to get quick feedback on their assignments through impartial peer review and also reduces their grade load.

With Kritik's customizable rubrics, you can either directly plug them into your assessments or make the required changes to suit your needs. This saves you time and gives your students direction when evaluating their peers which enhances the quality of feedback given. You can choose the section that best suits your essentials. 

3. Enable students to drive discussions

As students exchange ideas amongst themselves, the teacher’s role evolves into a mentor rather than a course facilitator, removing the burden of having to teach concepts to them. With Kritik’s dashboard, professors can facilitate online discussions that help them debate in a peaceful manner through engaging conversations. These discussions enable students with increased learning, knowledge, and understanding that might otherwise be missing.

4. Encourage team-based learning

Team-based activities help increase engagement levels in students as the onus of sharing and receiving information from peers heavily contributes toward their learning. It also sets a healthy learning atmosphere and utilizing Kritik’s team-based learning feature enables students to broaden their knowledge by applying what they've learned to build new concepts and develop a deeper understanding of their course. Team-based learning is effective when setting students up for success while also allowing you to evolve as a coach and mentor to students within their learning. 

5. Power up your LMS

While your LMS is able to help you manage your course and assessments, integrating a peer assessment tool can help you reduce your workload. Advanced technology and ed-tech platforms are seen supporting educators in their teaching process and augmenting students' learning. As such, Kritik’s LMS can be the perfect aid that helps you track students’ records, grades, submissions, and programs. You can maintain them all under one umbrella and collect critical data and documents that students can exchange on the network.

See how Kritik compares with your LMS!

Grade effectively with Kritik!

Seeking support and additional help in time can help alleviate teacher burnout before it's too late. Kritik’s peer assessment tool helps with reducing time grading time while ensuring student engagement

Schedule a demo with our team to understand how Kritik can help you implement peer assessment in your classroom.

8 Ways to Make Peer Feedback Effective in the Classroom

Higher education today has found peer assessment to be an effective way to evaluate students’ understanding of the topic. By employing a rubric, instructors can guide students to look for the right things like structure, idea, explanation, and clarity when giving feedback.

All of this revolves around the role of the professor, who is responsible for enforcing effective peer-to-peer feedback in the classroom to guide students and promote constructive criticism, thereby aiding overall learning!

Here’s what we will be covering in this article:

  • How has Peer Assessment gained importance in Higher Education?
  • 8 Examples of Peer Feedback in the Classroom
  • Comparison of Peer Feedback tools: Choose the right solution for your Classroom
  • 5 Peer Feedback tools that help you deliver an engaging Classroom Experience

How has peer assessment gained Importance in higher education?

Feedback is a vital cog in students' learning process which requires professors to spend numerous hours evaluating their work. This traditional way of giving feedback exposes the student to only one point of view (the professors) and doesn’t give students insights into how their peers understood the topic.

Peer assessment in higher education has gained momentum among professors who have seen highly engaged classrooms and collaborative learning among peers. As the professor gives the students a rubric, it works as a guideline for them to share their evaluations. Along with learning how to give feedback, here are some key takeaways that the students and instructors have gained from peer assessment.

1. Students take the onus of their learning

Peer assessment entails students analyzing their peers' work, comparing it to success criteria relevant to a learning goal, and delivering critical and motivating feedback. Instead of overestimating or underestimating their work, students can learn to self-correct and understand the relevance of the instructor’s inputs, allowing them to become more self-sufficient in their learning.

2. Students get timely feedback

One of the most difficult tasks for professors is finding time to provide frequent, relevant feedback. Peer feedback in the classroom allows students to obtain timely feedback by learning from various perspectives while avoiding the power dynamics inherent in a teacher-student relationship.

3. Students get exposure to multiple points of view

Peer evaluation among students increases their learning by disseminating information and exchanging opinions. Students learn in various ways from their peers' knowledge and perspectives. It enforces teamwork and more engagement when using team-based learning methods.

4. Students learn to accept and deliver feedback

Students become more aware of what is expected of them and develop higher trust in the assessment process when they are allowed to participate in the feedback process. This encourages students to analyze and comment on each other's work to deliver accurate feedback.

5. Students engage with the course material at a deeper level

When students become a part of the peer assessment process, their learning doesn’t stop when they submit their assignments. With the responsibility of evaluating their peers’ work, they are getting a deeper insight into how they interacted with the course material and what their key takeaways were, which could be very different from their own.

6. Instructors can design rubrics to define tasks and objectives clearly

The level of familiarity that students may have with peer assessment can vary. Giving students a clearly defined rubric that elaborates on what to look for in an assignment, how the structure should be, and if it meets the course's learning objectives can help them understand the assessment process.

7. Instructors save time grading

Peer assessment transforms the role of the instructor delivering lectures and grading test papers to a mentor who facilitates meaningful discussions inside and outside the classroom. Irrespective of your class size, the topic understanding gets multiplied when your students get the opportunity to learn and share their work with their peers.

8. Students can give anonymous feedback within their group

Instructors may not know everything that happens within teams. Grading solely on application cases might be skewed and they may not have equally participated in rewarding students for work. When instructors incorporate peer review into their grading, they may produce more informed scores, save time, and reward students who accomplished the work. Furthermore, anonymity can lead to positive attitudes toward peer evaluation and encourage students to be more eager to provide valuable criticism.

Check out how Prof. Jonathan Wisco was able to build a positive and inclusive course culture with peer assessment.

8 Examples of Effective Peer Feedback in the Classroom 

Peer assessment is an effective evaluation approach in any modality – online, in-person, or hybrid – because it allows students to build critical thinking skills and take charge of their learning. Here are a few examples of effective peer feedback in the classroom:

1. Positive feedback that cites specific examples

Delivering encouraging feedback that allows students to enhance their ideas with examples that guide them in the right direction. A positive review can be framed as in the given example -

“This manuscript brings a detailed and exceptional demonstration of the distinct strain differences in Buridan's paradigm. As Drosophila labs exercise their wild-type isolate, especially Canton-S, this difference in strain pertains to a crucial issue for lab reproducibility. This work brings all geneticist attention towards the importance of population effects in background control, and brings their focus onto the mutant lines we are comparing.”

2. Clearly stating the article's relevance

Peer feedback entails having a learner's scholarly work and research examined by peers in the same field to ensure its validity and eligibility for publication. Students must also understand that their thoughts and opinions must be backed up with evidence and suggestions for change. It can be better understood if we look at this example -

“The idea behind this paper is that genomes with a small percentage of guanosine and cytosine (GC) nucleotide pairs encode proteomes that are more vulnerable to aggregation than genomes with a high percentage of GC nucleotide pairs. As a result, these species become increasingly reliant on the protein folding mechanism. If this concept is correct, this could make a direct link between the inclination to aggregate and the genomic code.”

3. Sandwich technique

In the sandwich method, the feedback starts with a couple of positive comments, then points where the students could improve, and concludes with an encouraging note. Here’s an example:

“From the beginning, your project was well-structured and thorough. However, the presentation did not include some things we discussed in the last session. Nonetheless, your presentation was a huge success, and you undoubtedly recognized that some topics were absent and included them later.”

4. Summary suggesting minor revisions

Reviewing academic work necessitates a thorough analysis. When feedback is given summarizing the author’s understanding of the topic, with minor revisions to ideas, typos, or adding and deleting some sections, it tells the author that the evaluator has gone through their entire piece in detail. Here’s an example:

“This is an excellent review and unbiased appraisal of the current state of the water crisis from a world expert on the subject. Important data that may have been omitted when discussing geopolitical scenarios could have been included.”

5. Questioning the author's POV with constructive and unbiased feedback

Peer evaluation that leaves the author with some things to think about without showing any biases can help students critically analyze their work. This allows them to incorporate newer learnings into their work that can be applied to future assessments. Here’s an example: 

“I am grateful to the authors for writing this essay. It's a well-written, necessary, and valuable assessment of the current state of "data release" from one point of view. On the other hand, the authors need to be more daring and analytical. This is an opinion piece, but I don't see much of one. The organization of the paper and the references picked imply a particular point of view, although they could be more obvious.”

6. A detailed breakdown of each section of the submission

A good way to start with peer evaluation in classrooms is by harnessing the practice of providing reviews at the end of an assessment. The author gets detailed feedback on their academic work by delving into each section in-depth. This can be better understood with the following example:

“Chevalier et al. in this paper investigated whether late sodium current (INaL) can be measured using an automated patch-clamp device. The INaL effects of ranolazine (a well-known INaL inhibitor) and veratridine (an INaL activator) were studied for this purpose. The researchers put the CytoPatch automatic patch-clamp system to the test and recorded whole-cell recordings in HEK293 cells that had been transfected with human Nav1.5 for a long time. They also put the electrophysiological qualities of Cellular Dynamics International's human-induced pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes (hiPS) to the test. The title and abstract are suitable for the text's content. In addition, the article is well-written, the experiments were well-run, and the analysis was thorough and proper.”

7. Commending the author on the level of research

Since research is an important part of submitting academic work, delivering feedback on a piece with a strong foundation and analysis can encourage the author to work harder. Here’s an example:

“This study is outstanding and a significant addition to the literature, in my opinion. I like the idea of a self-replicating cycle because it illustrates how the "problem" begins with the neuron, i.e. when the neuron is adversely impacted by one or more of a variety of insults, it releases H1, which then stimulates microglia, causing overexpression of cytokines that may encourage repair when limited but become chronic (as shown here with the potential of cyclic H1 release) and thus fosters neurotoxin production. I'm hoping the authors will assess cytokine expression soon, particularly IL-1 and TNF in astrocytes and microglia, and S100B in astrocytes.”

8. Strengths and weaknesses in offering suggestions

By clearly spelling out what was done well and what could use a bit more work, the evaluator can offer helpful suggestions that can help the author improve. The below example highlights an example of such feedback-

“Overall, this is an important and pertinent piece. It's well-researched and written well, with plenty of metaphors. This will be a good review study if modified to address the comprehensive suggestions and to recognize the complexity of the current data publication situation. This might be an influential work if the authors go deeper into the complexity and conflicts and fully struggle with their ramifications to recommend a path ahead.”

The goal isn't to take apart every detail of the academic work. Rather, it is to provide the writers with constructive and critical criticism to enhance their research and evaluate their strengths and weaknesses.

Comparison of Peer Feedback tools - Choose the right solution for your classroom:

Online peer assessment tools allow instructors to distribute fair and accurate grades based on the quality of feedback a student has offered to their peers. The following table compares Kritik with other peer assessment tools available to instructors today.

5 Peer Feedback tools that help you deliver an engaging classroom experience 

It can be overwhelming to decide between the peer feedback tools that exist today. Along with ensuring that the tool is compatible with your LMS, you want to ensure that it is intuitive and adds value to your existing workflow.

1. Kritik

Kritik is an AI-powered peer-grading platform that provides fair and accurate evaluations by leveraging collective intelligence to streamline daily workflows and reduce feedback response time. Students can not only peer assess their classmates but also give feedback on the quality of the evaluation they received. This encourages students to provide detailed and helpful feedback. 

Instructors who use Kritik in their courses can choose from customizable rubrics based on the course they teach and get full visibility into grading. Access to analytics on the Kritik dashboard allows instructors to see how effectively peer assessment was implemented in their classrooms.

2. Packback

Packback is a cloud-based tool that uses online communities and discussion threads to help educational institutions enhance student participation. Packback's automated technology speeds up the assessment of discussions and cuts down on teacher response time.

3. FeedbackFruits

FeedbackFruits is a collection of assignment tools that allow students to receive and provide feedback. For audio and video student submissions, feedback may be time-stamped to a specific point in the audio or video and supplied via a rubric.

4. Peergrade

Peergrade is an online platform that enables students to grade and comment on each other's work using the rubric. Peergrade is a tool that allows you to reduce the time you spend assessing student work while improving the quality of their scholarly work.

5. peerScholar

PeerScholar is a fully customizable peer assessment tool that aids in developing your pupils' critical and creative thinking abilities. It's integrated with DC Connect; hence creating an assignment and grading turns out to be a seamless process.

Implement Effective Peer Feedback in your Classroom with Kritik! 

Peer feedback in the classroom makes learning more engaging and collaborative while assisting in developing important skills like communication and critical thinking. What Kritik offers is an opportunity for your students to play a vital role in their learning and accept different points of view that enhance their work. 

Schedule a demo with Kritik today to introduce your students to the art of giving helpful feedback.

5 Activity Types to Increase Student Engagement in Online Classes

In the modern world of education, educators have to constantly innovate and look for ways to create an engaging learning experience. Coming up with engaging learning activities can be time-consuming, but figuring out how to redesign traditional classroom activities to translate into an online or hybrid setting is even more challenging. A great way to enrich your current activities and increase engagement outside of the classroom is to incorporate peer-to-peer learning.

In this blog, we will be taking you through learning activities that can be facilitated in an online classroom using peer assessment.

5 learning activities for online classrooms

There are many learning strategies to make online classrooms more engaging. Adopting these techniques with peer assessment can help build classroom community and allow students to broaden their perspective on a subject.

1. ePortfolios

An ePortfolio is a digital collection of a student's school or course-related work that is meant to showcase learning over time. This enables students to critically assess themselves, reflect, and make connections between their work that helps them become self-motivated autonomous learners. Along with positively contributing to their academic performance 3(Sharma et al., 2016), students can also use their ePortfolio as an addition to their resume as it showcases their skills and how they developed them. 

When ePortfolio activities are done on Kritik, students get the added benefit of peer review in combination with self-reflection, which has been shown to result in deeper learning 2(JISC, n.d.).

2. Elevator Pitches

Elevator pitches are a simple yet engaging way to help students become better communicators. Students learn how to be concise and persuasive, giving them an opportunity to build their confidence and ease their nervousness when delivering elevator pitches in real-world situations. Understanding how to make an effective elevator pitch is a useful skill that every student should know as it helps with networking and in making good impressions. 

With Kritik, students can upload their video submissions and get insights into their peers’ styles to improve their own elevator pitch. Here’s how Dr. Nadia Basir from University of Waterloo used Kritik to run this activity in their entrepreneurship courses

"I use Kritik for students to evaluate their peers when it comes to pitching their businesses…In other years, students were only getting feedback from me, and students love using Kritik because they receive so much personalized feedback." - Dr. Nada Basir 

3. Jigsaw

Jigsaw is a cooperative learning activity that gives students the opportunity to specialize in one aspect of a topic and teach it to their peers. Here’s how you can set up a Jigsaw activity:

  1. Choose a topic that can be divided into multiple segments. There can be as little as 2 segments up to a recommended maximum of 5 or 6.

For example, when learning about the composition of blood, the topic can be divided into: 

  • red blood cells
  • white blood cells
  • Platelets
  • Plasma
  1. Assign students into “home groups” the same size as the number of segments. Each student from the home group will then choose or be assigned a specific aspect to become an “expert” in.
  2. Students will break out of their home groups and form groups with peers that share the same segment as them, creating an “expert group”. Expert groups can work collaboratively to do research, hold discussions, and develop their topic together.
  3. Once each student has gathered enough information on their assigned segment, they return to their “home group” and teach their group members about their topic. 
Jigsaw method steps
Jigsaw Method Steps

To facilitate this activity online, instructors can utilize Kritik's group features and have their students upload videos of themselves teaching a topic. This also allows students to get feedback on the content they’ve gathered and their presentation skills. Professor. Heidi Engelhardt from the University of Waterloo conducted a variation of the Jigsaw activity on Kritik, that not only helped with content retention and comprehension but also taught students active listening and verbal communication skills.

4. Roleplays

Roleplays are a great way for students to apply and demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of a concept. They help prepare students for real world scenarios and are very versatile which allows them to be applied in a large variety of courses. For example, Dr. Ellen Pullins from the University of Toledo uses Kritik in their sales class to facilitate a sales call roleplay. Another great example is Professor. Denice Mendenhall who does patient roleplays in their nursing course on Kritik. Depending on the type of roleplay done, it can teach students important communication skills such as persuasion, negotiation, debate, as well as, teamwork, problem-solving, and empathy.

"The only way to practice interpersonal skills is to have an interpersonal conversation. That’s really where Kritik allowed us to expand our horizons." - Dr. Ellen Pullins

5. Concept mapping

Concept maps are visual depictions of information and can take various forms, such as mind maps, Venn diagrams, flow charts, and tables. Being versatile and easy to make, concept maps come in many forms, and because there are so many options it allows students to be creative and personalize it to create connections between the content that they learn. This form of active learning has proven to be very beneficial as studies have found that those who did concept mapping “performed considerably better in improvement and retention” 1(Collins & Nyenhuis, 2020). 

When concept mapping activities are peer reviewed, students gain the perspective of their peers and realize connections between the course content that they have not considered.

Get creative in the classroom with Kritik!

Online learning activities can be just as engaging as in-person ones, opening a plethora of opportunities to innovate and reimagine your course. Kritik users enjoy the benefit of peer assessment which provides a multitude of benefits in the classroom. For tips on implementing these activities in your classroom, book a demo or a meeting with our instructional designer!

Producing Quality Content for Learners and Educators

As educational institutes move towards digital learning, they are now focusing more and more on producing quality content for learners and educators. Producing quality content is one of the most valuable investments for educational institutes in today’s era. As more and more educational institutions are moving towards online learning, the need for creating high-quality content is increasing.  There are multiple factors that contribute to quality education such as academic loafing, unawareness, non-participation, and dissatisfaction (Verma & et. al, 2021). However, this blog focuses on tools and standards from various institutions that are helping in creating high-quality online content and enhanced education: the rubrics from Quality Matters (QM), the Scorecard from Online Learning Consortium (OLC), and other regulations from accreditation.  

It's important to note that while various education organizations and accreditation institutes may share certain values and operate in similar spaces, they should be viewed separately and uniquely.


A rubric helps students to understand what is expected from a certain assignment; it enlists the requirements and explains each level of quality from novice to expert (Reddy & Andrade, 2010). Moreover, rubrics help both students and educators with peer and self-review to enhance their learning (Sanger & Gleason, 2020). The main purpose of rubrics is to bring transparency in formative and summative assessments. Reddy and Andrade (2010) defined three essential factors that can help educators and other professionals create good quality rubrics. First, define a scoring strategy with minimum and maximum marks the learner will achieve in each evaluative criterion. Second, clearly list evaluation criteria, which includes clearly defining what the learners will be marked on, what factors will be judged, i.e., quality, preciseness, accuracy, etc. This will clearly explain what will be considered for the quality of the work. Third, the definition of grades should explain to students the path to show proficiency or skills to achieve a specific level of achievement. 

Quality Matters and Rubric Standards 

Quality Matters (QM) is a non-profit quality assurance organization that facilitates education providers and institutes. Its goal is to help educators to create quality instructions (courses or programs in online or hybrid settings) that are constantly reviewed to maintain high-quality education for students. Since Fall 2002 when some educators from the community of Maryland distance learning worked on regional accreditation teams visits, QM has grown in been recognized by 1500 colleges and universities to be a framework to ensure high quality, resolving issues associated with quality learning in academics (Quality Matters, 2021). 

QM provides Rubric Standards to ensure that the final results comply with the quality standards. There are 8 eight focus areas of rubric standards – Course Overview, Learning Objectives, Assessment and Measurement, Instructional Materials, Learning Activities and Learner Interaction, Course Technology, Learner Support, Accessibility and Usability – and 43 specific standards in the Rubric Standards of QM. To be a qualified quality course design, a course needs to obtain a score of 85% from 3 QM peer reviewers (Quality Matters, 2021). This requires educators to evaluate the effectiveness of their online material (Naim, 2021). Since 2021, QM has been used by more than 60,000 education professionals on online course design standards (Quality Matters, 2021). 

Meeting QM standards is a rigorous process that most educators need assistance with to apply all standards in their courses. QM offers training from designing courses for faculty members to professional development for educators, administrators, instructional designers to acquire expertise: The Pathway to learn QM is to start with the certificate Applying the Quality Matters Rubric (APPQMR).

QM provides educators with a practical checklist and course design guide that contains actionable strategies and important things to consider to offer a comprehensive education for students for Higher Ed, K-12 and K-12 Companion for IEP & 504 Plans. Digital Learning can be challenging, but a practical checklist can help to design teaching and learning in online or hybrid settings. To get started, educators can attend a conference of QM, signup for their Newsletter, choose a course that fits best your need, start with an individual membership with QM, or attend a webinar on QM from our Kritik’s co-founder, Caring Marette, who took her First QM Certificate in 2021. Furthermore, a playbook for Faculty guides thinking and designing strategic opportunities that embed technologies with learning outcomes to amplify the effectiveness of student learning experiences, especially for minoritized students” (Gunder, Vignare, Adams, McGuire, & Rafferty, 2021). If your strategy is based on performance assessment, CBL, Kritik is a great solution. Kritik also offers its educators a large repository of customizable rubrics where they can easily create customized activities for students and conduct online peer reviews to enhance remote collaboration, ensure timely feedback, improve critical thinking skills and accuracy of peer assessments. 

Applying the QM Rubric
This badge was issued to Kritik Co-Founder, Carine Marette in 2021

Online Learning Consortium (OLC) and Quality Scorecard

Online learning consortium (OLC) provides training opportunities for online educators. It offered five pillars to achieve quality in e-learning, which includes learning effectiveness, faculty satisfaction, student satisfaction, scale, access (Moore, 2010). They act as building blocks to provide successful online learning and faculty satisfaction when institutions commit to investing in faculty's professional and personal growth. Since the conferences of OLC in 1995, the platform for online learning innovators provides research with best practices each year in Special Issue (Moskal et al., 2021). Since 2021, OLC has been recognized by 49 U.S  states and global partnerships in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and South America to be a framework to promote online learning with quality education to learners (OLC, 2021). 

OLC provides a Quality Scorecard to examine the quality and develop relevant strategies to bring continuous improvement. Launched in 2011, this Scorecard contains seven dimensions with questions for educators and institutes to judge their online teaching – institutional support, technology support, course development & instructional design, course structure, teaching and learning, social and student engagement, and faculty support – and 72 specific quality indicators for higher education in the Quality Scorecard. This Scorecard has been used by over 400 institutions to measure the effectiveness of their online learning programs (OLC, 2021).

OLC has a playbook for Faculty to help convert the face-to-face course to the digital environment. This playbook, “Optimizing High-Quality Digital Learning Experiences: A Playbook for Faculty,” has everything the educators need to enhance and optimize digital learning experiences for the learners (OLC, 2021). 

Online Learning Consortium (OLC) - Enhancing Online Education

International Quality Initiatives from QM and OLC

QM has put a lot of effort into representing non-English speaking countries and regions, and they have expanded globally. Other than the USA, they have 46 international member institutions in Canada, KSA, Australia, China, Fiji, Japan, and Mexico. QM is a member of the following International Organizations:

  • Member of Internal Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE)
  • Member of International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education (INQAAHE)

OLC  is committed to helping institutes develop superior quality educational experiences. Their goal is to improve the US and international field of online education and build an educated workforce, and this results in having mutually-beneficial partnerships with similar-minded organizations. 

International Recognition from Accredited Organizations

Accreditation is a written document to approve a specific system in a specific environment granted by Designated Approving Authority (DAA). In higher education, the need for regulations and approval from designated authorities is to ensure standards and policies of providing appropriate and high-quality education. Higher education accreditation is a type of quality assurance process in which institutions need to acquire accreditation from authorities to conduct their educational activities in any given space. There are different higher education accreditation organizations, some are recognized, and some are unrecognized (CHEA, 2021). 

While unrecognized higher education accreditation organizations lack appropriate authorization, they are still identified by independent authorities and government authorities in their country, or by the organization themselves. On a contrary, higher education accreditation organizations are recognized by the US Department of Education in the US Regional Accreditor, which is composed of numerous institutional accreditors (US Department of Education, 2021). 

Recognized higher education accreditation organizations are all around the world such as Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, Switzerland. Most of them are transitioning from regional accreditation to national accreditation. To illustrate, the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) provides national accreditation to post-secondary education institutions in the central US. They have five major criteria to provide accreditation, which are mission, ethics, teaching and learning focusing on quality, resources, and support), teaching and learning focusing on evaluation and improvement, and resources, planning and institutional effectiveness (HLC, 2021a). HLC was previously called the North Central Association, it was a regional accreditation until 2001. This shift occurs due to the growth of online learning and satellite learning opportunities in other countries as institutions are becoming present internationally (HLC, 2021b).

The Shift from Accredited Organizations to Institutions

HLC received some major criticism from different commentators about its role and effectiveness. After the rise of digital learning, the criticism is mainly that the traditional system only considers input factors like credentialed faculty and adequate facilities instead of the quality of the school's educational output. Hence, the authorized institutions were asked to create their own standards and regulations such as Institutional Accreditation or Programmatic Accreditation (Kelderman, 2009). 

In addition to ​​authorized institutions, the non-profit organization Council for the Accreditation of Correspondence Colleges (DEAC), founded in 1926, operates as an institutional accreditor of distance education institutions. ​​Open and Distance Learning Quality Council (ODLQC) was founded in 1969 as the Council for the Accreditation of Correspondence Colleges (DEAC), becoming the Open and Distance Learning Quality Council in 1995 (ODLQC, 2012). DEAC provides a handbook for institutions to explain the process and standards to accredit distance learning via an application for assessment such as TEFL. In the network of DEAC “distance education association”, various associations such as OLC and Educause have been added (DEAC, 2021). It is optional to participate in Educause or events hosted by these types of associations; However, participation in optional courses (QM, Educause), program accreditation, specialized program accreditor are signs of good online courses to ensure the quality of instruction for student’s performance during universities and student’s success post-graduation (Crews, Bordonada & Wilkinson, 2017).

Badge & Micro-credential from Institution, Bootcamp & Corporate

Micro-credentials are smaller classes, workshops or programs that learners can enroll in to gain knowledge and relevant skills for the current workforce. These are different from their normal credentials, as they are of short period and focus on practical knowledge more. Once a learner earns a mico-credential, they get a digital badge. This digital badge provides a visual representation for the micro-credential earned and can be shared on different platforms (Ellis. et al. 2016).

Relevant Case Studies

Here are some relevant case studies regarding QM and OLC programs and how they were implemented into different course designs and learning experiences. 

Integrating QM Into Hybrid Course Design: A Principles of Marketing Case Study

This case study focuses on how a hybrid principle of marketing course implemented the QM program for a comprehensive redesign of the learning content and teaching methods. They wanted to enhance their online and hybrid course designs using a faculty-centered peer-review process, so they opted to take the design principles from the QM program. After the redesigning, they found that the learners received this course in a better way. Moreover, the faculty was also able to deliver it efficiently and showed equivalence in the direct measures of students learning (Young, 2014).

Attaining QM Certification for a Registered Nurse–Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program

Another case study shows how QM certifications bring a lot of importance for a nurse enrolled in a BS in Nursing Program. Since there was a lack of structural design and standardization in online learning, it immensely affected students' satisfaction and outcomes. Therefore, the faculty decided to seek QM certification for the registered nurses in the program, specifically the ones enrolled in the online program (Bryan, et al. 2021)

DCCCD’s Strategic Plan for Online Learning Programs

The Quality Scorecard of OLC is implemented in many universities and colleges across the US; one of them is Dallas County Community College District (DCCCD). They have adopted the quality scorecard internally to offer customized programs to their colleges according to their diverse and large needs. This helped them understand what improvements they need to make and how to address the issues by using the scorecard's recommendations. (OLC, 2021).

Kritik & Its Contribution to Quality Education

Private organizations can support quality education such as Kritik. Kritik is an ultimate platform that offers peer-to-peer solutions to enhance students’ critical thinking and learning in online and in-person classes. They have contributed immensely in facilitating digital learning by developing high-quality content courses. This platform lets the educators and institutes curate courses by using insights from the students and keeping the high quality as a priority. 

One of the main goals of Kritik is to create critical thinkers. Most of the time, educators expect the students to have critical thinking and self-reflective skills. However, Kritik promotes the thinking that educators should focus on, enabling them to become critical thinkers by offering them tools to develop analytical skills. This platform relies heavily on feedback from both learners and educators. By using the feedback, the educators can enhance their learning course and designs, and the students get to work on their skills. Overall this creates a very interactive and engaging learning environment that promotes high-quality learning and motivation. 

In the article “Improving Student Success and Teaching Effectiveness through the TEACH Model”, the T.E.A.C.H Model explained the importance of giving quality feedback during the learning process. The T.E.A.C.H Model focuses on giving feedback on ‘Time’ that is ‘Explicit’ focusing on students’ improvement areas and ‘Appropriate’ for the learner considering their course level, ‘Considerate’ feedback using sensitive language, including ‘Helpful’ actions to improve their future learning. 

In conclusion

QM offers many benefits for educational institutes to nurture their students in the best way possible. It offers them a consistent structure and ensures high-quality standards in all courses and programs. However, it can also bring some challenges if the educators are not well-versed with the QM program. It can be time-consuming to gain relevant skills and knowledge, and some administrators might not even encourage it (Budden & Budden, 2013). 

The OLC has benefitted online educational institutes to establish a loose version of the rubrics, but some researchers have found that the consortium can hamper growth (Adams, 2007). Therefore, each institute should do thorough research about what best practices to adopt and what to avoid according to their respective objectives. 

When it comes to the institution's privacy policy on quality, it mandates the educators to maintain a certain decorum of quality and offers standardization. However, if the policies stop the educators from bringing innovation and creativity in the learning space, it can quickly become a challenge more than an opportunity. 

Private organizations that provide peer feedback are also another way to provide quality education as students are at the center of education and are the ones who need to succeed post-graduation. Feedback is another great way to understand the needs and preferences of students and creates a positive learning environment that Kritik provides. To illustrate, with Kritik’s team-based learning feature, students work in teams and solve problems together. When they are together, they share their unique ideas that widen their intellect level and offer each other adequate feedback needed to improve. It enhances their engagement and cognitive abilities.  

In conclusion, educators and institutions need to realize their responsibility and do their research to understand what practices suit their needs the best. 

Meeting higher education needs through digital transformation

Driving the future of higher education

Digital transformation describes the process of using data and technology to innovate processes or products in order to produce customer value while adjusting to changing market demands (Schmarzo, 2017). Higher education institutions are driving digital transformation to allow flexibility in different types of classrooms, optimize remote learning and save costs, and promote soft skill development.

Emerging research and developing pedagogies have highlighted that technology can enhance learning for educators and students alike when used effectively. A 2019 EDUCAUSE survey reveals that 75% of IT leaders believed digital transformation would be more important in the next two years (EDUCAUSE, 2019). These predictions have motivated institutions to research dynamic teaching models and digital transformation in order to ensure they are delivering value for their students.

Achieving institution-wide objectives require research, planning, budgeting, and an alignment of stakeholders. Embracing and making progress within the digital transformation means institutions are set up to thrive in a constantly evolving market.

We have outlined a comprehensive overview of DX below, with the steps, goals, potential challenges and tools to help you facilitate the transition that’s driving higher education forward. The following areas are covered, below:

Goals of Dx

Challenges in Higher Education

Challenges of Dx

How to Approach Dx

Higher Education Digital Capability (HEDC) Framework

How to Design your Dx Strategy

Use Case: University of Toronto

The role of Kritik in Dx

Goals of Digital Transformation:

EDUCAUSE identifies four main goals of digital transformation (EDUCAUSE, 2021):

  • Enhance education: Digital transformation can help institutions innovate pedagogies and support a more diverse student body
  • Improve student success: Digital transformation introduces dynamic benefits to students and instructors, leading to increased student satisfaction, increased student retention, increased quality of teaching and learning, and improved course performance
  • Advance research: Digital transformation allows opportunities for improved research and development, and access to more metrics for quantitative performance
  • Streamline administration: Digital transformation allows institutions to optimize administrative practices and operations because technology enables institutional flexibility and agility (EDUCAUSE, 2021)

Challenges in Higher Education

The digital age has introduced technology to support higher education institutions in adapting and innovating their systems and modes of teaching and learning. While adoption of new systems and technology are often slow, the COVID-19 has accelerated the need and attention on improving teaching and learning practices and embracing technology whether in the online or in-person learning environments. 

EDUCAUSE identifies four objectives and their associated “Grand Challenges,” of digital transformation: 1) Student Success; 2) Financial Health; 3) Reputation and Relevance; 4) External Competition (Grajek & Brooks, 2020). Identifying these Grand Challenges helps stakeholders innovate and allocate resources in order to make progress in achieving these outcomes (Grajek & Brooks, 2020).

Higher ed institutions aim to develop student success, improve financial health, increase institutions’ reputation and relevance, and build a competitive advantage; however, there are challenges associated with these objectives:

  • Student success: Determining what student success means and identifying what indicators correctly measure student success
  • Financial health: US institution leaders describe decreasing enrollment levels as an obstacle to budgeting (Grajek & Brooks, 2020). Additionally, fewer financial resources are available to support institutions in maintaining or upgrading their systems. The average US research university received about 33 per cent of funding from the state government in 2012, which has decreased by 53 per cent compared to 1987 (Grajek & Brooks, 2020). 
  • Reputation and relevance: Students are leaning away from traditional educational models and seeking “alternative credentials” (The image above lists this under external competition) or more flexible ways to obtain credits (Grajek & Brooks, 2020).
  • External competition: Institutions across Asia, Europe, and Australia have increased investments in higher education over the years, while US investments have decreased (Grajek & Brooks, 2020). With waning financial resources, US institutions struggle to maintain a competitive advantage over international institutions.

Challenges with Digital Transformation

Digital transformation is an institution-wide process, and when implemented effectively, the benefits will extend to all levels of stakeholders. That being said, it is prudent for institution leaders to consider the challenges and how they should overcome or address these through their future planning. 

  1. Communicating one vision across all stakeholders

With many stakeholders involved in such a transition, institutional leaders and project managers should make a deliberate effort through their planning and process to align all stakeholders. Information and resources will need to be communicated and shared in a timely manner, and strong leaders, project management teams, and specialists need to work together to communicate the plan of approach, what to expect and why certain changes are taking place (Rodrigues, 2017).

  1. Digital literacy

Higher education is now seeing more diverse student groups, including different generations of students pass through institutions (Rodrigues, 2017). Younger generations of students typically have better digital literacy skills than older generations, meaning that the implementation of new technologies will be experienced and felt differently by different students(Rodrigues, 2017). Institutions should provide dynamic resources that support diverse student groups without compromising students’ quality of learning.

  1. Financial and technological constraints

Historically, universities have utilized a top-down approach and invested resources in technologies without appropriate research or willingness from faculty. Institutions often earn funding from grants or contact investors to close financial gaps. Institution leaders should also involve and communicate with faculty to understand pain points and find technological solutions to overcome these obstacles. For example, a 2021 case study states that a CIO took initiative to identify a well-funded, reputable faculty member who was willing to shift IT systems and worked with this individual to persuade the other staff to shift technologies (Puckett et al., 2021).

Overall, a system should be developed where all stakeholders can express their ideas, wants, and desired course outcomes. Moreover, educators should consider new pedagogies and adapt previous educational models in order to reap the full benefits of digital transformation without limiting faculty and students. 

Approaching Digital Transformation

It is fundamental to align all stakeholders when implementing digital transformation. This can be achieved when future-forward educators and IT leaders consider system sustainability, examine what resources are available now, and decide what is needed to transform their institution. By doing so, leaders help their institution build a competitive advantage by adapting and planning proactively for changing culture, workforce, and technology (Grajek & Reinitz, 2020). 

  1. Recognize a need to change and accept challenges.

Digital transformation is institution-wide and will impact various stakeholders differently. EDUCAUSE (2021) states that the expected outcomes from Dx and tasks related to Dx will need to be collaborative and institutional. That said, to approach digital transformation, institution leaders should adopt an open mindset and realize that effective digital transformation will require careful planning, resource acquisition and allocation, and restructuring. 

  1. Create a digital transformation-driven culture.

Institutions should foster a homogeneous culture in which all stakeholders are aligned on how to harness technology and data. Technology should be flexible and agile to support the pedagogy and suit diverse needs based on class size, student type, discipline, or learning environment. Digital transformation requires leaders and stakeholders to be adept and adaptable, and not only to be open but to also encourage openness as a means of fostering innovation (EDUCAUSE, 2021). Encouraging active stakeholder engagement will introduce new perspectives and ideas about how to undergo digital transformation.

  1. Shift the workforce.

While technology should be flexible and agile, educators and other institution professionals should develop the same agility and flexibility to adapt to digital transformation changes (EDUCAUSE, 2021). Institution leaders should expect and prepare for restructuring, including the creation of new jobs. In fact, new skills will be required to adapt to these changes, and institution leaders should emphasize the development of soft skills such as teamwork and communication (EDUCAUSE, 2021).

  1. Embrace technology and its role in the digital transformation.

The final step is recognizing that technology shifts follow workforce shifts. In terms of technologies role to support the digital transformation in academic institrutions, it is important to recognize that technology is a tool to support curriculum and pedagogy and not to guide the pedagogy and curriculum. This ensures that any major changes that take place in teaching and learning are fully backed by research and data.

Technology, business, and infrastructure should be agile and flexible in nature to adapt to dynamic changes. With technology we can improve how we measure student success and better align what skills and competencies are taught that best prepare studentds for their lives post-graduation.

Higher Education Digital Capability (HEDC) Framework

The Higher Education Digital Capability Framework can be used to identify areas for strategic focus and development. In this model, institutional capabilities contain four dimensions, which are 1) Demand & Discovery, 2) Learning Design, 3) Learner Experience, and 4) Work & Lifelong Learning (HolonIQ, 2021).

These four dimensions contain 16 domains: 4 for each dimension. Under all domains, a list of 70+ capabilities represents digital contexts in which institutions might decide to invest time, resources and money. 

An open-source capability framework for higher education

6 steps for designing a Digital Transformation Strategy

The roadmap toward digital transformation published by EDUCAUSE is a planning model that guides institutions towards the process. It starts with identifying the purpose, or the why, and ends with the inputs, or resources required to execute the vision. While every institution will have a different strategy and path, this roadmap provides the flexibility and direction to help shape a customized approach to Dx.

Downes, S. (2021, September 22). How Dx Powers the Post-Pandemic Institution. Stephen Downes - Knowledge, Learning, Community.

Both, the Higher Education Digital Capability (HEDC) framework and the roadmap from Educause can help decision-makers build a foundation for effective digital transformation: PURPOSE, CONTEXT, IMPACT, OUTCOME, OUTPUTS and INPUTS (Reinitz, 2020).

  1. Determine a Purpose. The goal is to define a single mission and vision to lead the culture and strategy. Leaders are responsible for aligning all stakeholders with this mission and vision.  Some important questions include, “Why am I engaging in digital transformation? What institutional goal, challenge, or need would I be addressing?” Universities need to decide on what philosophy they want to adopt, such as a teacher-centered or learner-centred approach. The institution should clarify their strategic institutional goal, challenge, or need that they want to address when undertaking the strategy.
  2. Identify Context for change. In 2014, North Carolina State University began a five-year project to improve its IT governance design and function to better align its IT governance with the university mission and undergo digital transformation (Carraway & Hoit, 2019). By understanding the challenges they were facing in their current system, they were able to develop a vision that addressed these obstacles and later plan an effective strategy that would enhance their institution while resolving these issues. Educators can follow the Higher Education Digital Capability (HEDC) Framework to contextualize their problems and desired outcomes for digital transformation, such as student recruitment, curriculum design, student life, career planning, and placement, to better align the domains and polish their strategy.
  3. Determine Impact: There is a spectrum of impacts and consequences in this strategic and organizational change when we start considering the trends and triggers of digital transformation in higher education. Bringing together thought leaders from diverse disciplines to trace the relationships between ethics and policymaking, as well as the human impact of AI, will improve the understanding of use cases, edge cases, and consequences of change for both academic and administrative (Phillips & Williamson, 2019). To describe the impact of the anticipated change to the institutional value proposition, stakeholders can ask this question: “How does it address the purpose?”.
  4. Follow Outcome: There is a shift toward digital transformation from 13% in 2019 to 44% in 2021 (McCormack, 2021). There are barriers to the digital transformation such as insufficient cross-institution planning, not enough buy-in, the cost, and insufficient level of digitized processes. To remove these barriers, the outcome needs to stipulate the potential benefits of digital transformation for each stakeholder, the processes, a cost and a timeline. This is by overcoming these barriers through the four stages to effective digital transformation – Stabilization, Standardization, Optimization, Transformation – that institutions can focus on improving their productivity and their students' experiences while creating new growth opportunities to innovate and position their university as a unique experience that most students would desire to enroll in (Fahey, 2021). Then, leaders can ask themselves, “What will change in the next 6 months? In the next 1-3 years?”
  5. Change Outputs: The result should be a new value proposition, providing better learning experiences for faculty and students through exploring new course delivery options. Faculty need to start spending less time on routined tasks and investing more time in creating courses for students to learn better (Weil, 2021). Leaders can ask themselves, “What will you implement, and what shifts will be needed in culture, workforce and technology?
  6. Inputs: Lastly, with the plan, vision and why determined, the inputs, or resources required need to be clearly identified and aligned between relevant stakeholder groups.

The overall goal is to create alignment in various domains such as student recruitment, curriculum design, student life, career planning and placement. Some universities would like to create new technology in-house, and other universities would like to find strategic partners (, 2021). Finding strategic partners is an optimal solution as technology is moving fast and it might be too costly for universities to invest in one technology and not in another area. For instance, universities could develop Virtual Reality and Peer Assessment tools with a team of engineers; however, the future of education might pivot from this perspective to a new one in a few years, resulting in rebuilding the technology and best practice from scratch.

Instead, institutions can consider partnering with companies to integrate technology in their campus, such as using Kritik for peer assessment. There are various technologies that could be used to serve faculty members and Kritik is only one solution for one particular need. The primary role of Kritik is to create an environment in which everyone needs to work together to: 

  1. Establish buy-in from all stakeholders to work together toward a common goal.
  2. Access to technology that promotes diversity, equity and inclusivity.
  3. Meet emerging workforce needs to support competencies for the future 

Use Case: Dx at the University of Toronto

The University of Toronto (UofT) has an Academic Toolbox, which is a collection of programs that the institution uses for its curriculum. UofT has designed a research and implementation process for edtech that aligns with the values of digital transformation. UofT determines faculty and student demand, and then researches and acquires the right technology that will meet these needs; these tools typically add new capabilities and create more value for instructors and students (University of Toronto, n.d.). UofT follows a three-step process for implementing new technologies:

  1. Submitting an idea: Requestors submit a form to initiate the process, discuss their pain point, and introduce the program they want to use; they are encouraged to research whether there are any existing tools used at the institution that will resolve their problem (University of Toronto, n.d.).
  2. Prioritizing the queue: Ideas and requests are published onto a forum and prioritized accordingly for the institution’s Executive Steering Committee for Quercus and Academic Technology to review (University of Toronto, n.d.).
  3. Integration project stage: The integration stage is the most complex of the three but ensures the institution’s adaptability and security when implementing the decided programs. Poorly designed and tested tools compromise the system’s integrity and can lead to security breaches and interrupt services (University of Toronto, n.d.)
  1. First, information security specialists will conduct an information risk and risk management (IRRM) audit on the program and analyze how student data is communicated (University of Toronto, n.d.).
  2. If the program passes, it moves onto the functionality review, where the toolmaker describes the functional structure of their program, such as compliance with accessibility requirements (University of Toronto, n.d.).
  3. Moving on, the toolmaker and institution draft contract conditions such as Terms of Service and End-User Licensing Agreements (University of Toronto, n.d.).
  4. Then, the program is tested on the institution’s servers before it is released for public use for functionality and security (University of Toronto, n.d).
  5. UofT’s Center for Teaching Support & Innovation collaborates with the toolmaker to acquire, develop, and distribute the necessary resources to onboard faculty and staff (University of Toronto, n.d.).
  6. The program is publicly released for use and is monitored onward to determine if it is still viable as curriculum develops (University of Toronto, n.d.). If the tool is no longer needed or used, the institution can decide to remove the program from its Toolbox (University of Toronto, n.d.).

This process has aided the institution in successfully procuring all the necessary programs and tools for its Academic Toolbox: each step helps UofT effectively measure how the tools solve faculty and student pain points and whether the tool has improved student success. UofT encourages a more democratic process by firstly allowing stakeholders to submit a form to request what tool they would like to use in their coursework, and then participate in an online forum to prioritize pain points and identify which requested tool would be best to resolve this pain point. 

In this case, a professor might request to use Kritik across the English Department to actively engage students in the editing process for their essays and help them better apply course concepts in their work. When submitting the form, the professor can highlight the value of Kritik: saving instructors time grading through peer assessment and allowing them to dedicate their resources to personally mentoring their students. Moreover, Kritik helps students prepare for the workforce by encouraging soft skill development through peer assessment tasks, such as communication, critical thinking, and evaluation skills. 

Afterwards, specialists and faculty will audit accessibility and security to determine if Kritik is secure to use and actually resolves student and faculty pain points. The institution will continue to conduct thorough tests before purchasing licenses for the English Department to use Kritik. 

The role of Kritik in Digital Transformation

Kritik can play two roles in helping institutions facilitate digital transformation:

  1. To be used as a tool to support teaching and learning in class
  2. To improve dialogue between educators and discussions on how technology can support pedagogies

Kritik is used as a performance-based peer assessment tool that empowers professors to provide engaging and meaningful learning activities for students at any level in the same classroom. Kritik provides students with a safe space to interact with their peers and engage with course material. According to the HEDC Framework, Kritik falls into the dimension of learner experience, the domain of assessment and verification, and the capacity of peer and group assessment. 

Kritik can also be used at the institution level to facilitate technical shifts towards Dx while achieving all four goals of digital transformation. 

The goal of enhancing education can be supported by Kritik by offering a space to manage dialogue and actualize the stages of Dx in which all stakeholders feel respected, valued, and heard for their contributions. Leaders can create an activity in Kritik in which all stakeholders can engage in the conversation on various topics. IT governance can use Kritik in various ways according to their needs as well. Each institution is unique and Kritik should be considered as a tool that empowers all faculty and students to create content that is meaningful and that progresses individuals and groups towards established objectives.

By designing activities in which students participate in individual self- assessment and cross-functional assessment via institutional self-assessment for the whole institution, it is going to be easier to get buy-in from all stakeholders to work together toward a common goal.

Kritik can help overcome financial and technological constraints by collecting anonymous feedback from all stakeholders in a safe environment to express their opinions – a more inclusive process to collect information, resulting in saving money and time to develop technology that faculty members truly want. 

With information and data accessible in seconds at our fingerprints, educators have moved away from assessing students' memorization of facts and information. Competency-based assessments have been proposed as an alternative solution by many researchers. Despite that, almost all work on this area has remained at high-level discussions without any widely-accepted implementation plan for classrooms. Unlike traditional assessments, competency-based assessments are more subjective and demand a substantial amount of time from busy instructors. These limitations have kept competency-based assessments from being adopted on a larger scale. 

Turning students' assignments into their e-portfolio has been the subject of some research in recent years. Unlike job applicants with previous work experience in the industry, most recent graduates haven't yet built a reliable portfolio to help them compete in the job market. The letters A, B, C, and D in students' transcripts convey little information to prospective employers, and many simply don't even ask for transcripts. Competency-based learning theory proposes specific guidelines that transform student assignments into e-portfolios across all disciplines in post-secondary education. To overcome the limitations of competency-based assessments, Kritik "crowd-sources" assessments using a data-driven and calibrated peer review platform. The platform, with customizable rubric templates, helps professors create peer assessment rubrics that are aligned with course objectives and competency-based learning principles. Finally, Kritik maps these competencies with the skills demanded by employers in the job market.

This approach to transform assessment in competency-based learning during post-secondary education has been studied; however, it is important to continuously advance research, which leads to the third goal of advancing research. To illustrate, peer assessment has been the subject of numerous research papers over the last few decades. Computer and information technology that has facilitated "double-blind" peer review in the context of assignments and course evaluations has led to increased interest in peer assessment among educators. While there has been plenty of studies on designing a proper overall structure for peer feedback, most are limited to a specific subject matter or student background. In addition, there is no comprehensive research on different written feedback models. 

Further studies need to review existing feedback models, and look to new models such as the TEACH model, in which Artificial Intelligence (AI) can play an important role to enhance the ability of students to create quality content, peer evaluation, and quality feedback. Today, Kritik is fostering a culture of quality teaching and learning. Summative and formative assessment has been used to measure Student Success, but it can also be used to measure Teaching Effectiveness.

When students have the opportunity to evaluate their peers, they apply their learning, develop evaluative and critically thinking skills and allow instructors to more efficiently and effectively improve student success through assessment. Increased grading efficiency allows instructors to mentor and provide personalized feedback to ensure that their students learn deeper and master competencies in their courses. Kritik empowers students to take ownership of their learning and actively engages them in the course through the peer assessment process. Instructors provide additional quality feedback throughout the process to guide students to become better evaluators and master their competencies. 

Students are empowered to “own their learning” and enhance their critical thinking skills and decision making.

When institutions decide to undergo digital transformation, technology should be viewed as a tool to enhance the curriculum and education models, support flexibility in putting in place various methods of pedagogy to suit diverse needs (class sizes, student types, disciplines, learning environments, etc.) that foster learning and teaching at all levels. Creating a digital transformation strategy can be difficult without methods in which all stakeholders feel empowered to participate and contribute to the change. 

It is time to include all stakeholders in this process of change and start the bottom-up and top-down approach, which leads to the fourth goal: streamlining administration. Kritik can be used free of charge to all CIO, CTO, and stakeholders who want to assess or adjust their existing processes, analyze outcomes, ask for feedback, and improve communication to successfully achieve your digital transformation. Every institution is unique and everyone in it deserves to see the benefits of the change before validating the change. 


Measuring success should not depend on the technology being used, but rather the indicators for what and how learning and teaching is improving. Institutions should look at what value they are trying to produce with technology, and seek for these tools according to those conditions and metrics. Ultimately, digital transformation should help institutions empower their students and enhance their learning experience with more opportunities to learn and apply their knowledge in real-world situations (Ashford-Rowe, 2019).

Kritik was launched in 2019 for educators to make teaching and learning more meaningful, efficient and effective through peer-to-peer learning. At the time, the platform was primarily used by in-person classes, but the platform has evolved to fit the new and emerging learning environments - including online learning environments. This development was further accelerated by the pandemic, where we saw Kritik become a solution and an opportunity for professors to improve student connections in the asynchronous or virtual classroom, improve the teaching process for the professor, and reduce the professor's grading and administration load along the way. Kritik professors like Katson have expressed what the platform has meant to them, and others have stepped up to be an active part of the Kritik community connecting and sharing knowledge with professors across North America through workshops, conferences like EDUCAUSE, and professor stories.

The digital transformation is about recognizing where we are headed, culturally, technologically and within workforce, and adopting the tools and platforms to prepare students for their future.

If this article resonates with you, please contact me, Carine Marette, E.d.D in Instructional System Technology from Indiana University at

Improving Student Success and Teaching Effectiveness through the TEACH Model

Measuring student success and teaching effectiveness using the TEACH model

Educators should review and select assessment methods and indicators of student success in order to evaluate whether their current teaching methods and systems are effective. For example, institutions may measure course success by enrolment rate, course drop rate, student satisfaction, and grade averages. It is important to identify the right indicators in order to collect the necessary data; making informed decisions will ultimately transform educators’ curriculum and classrooms (Caspersen et al., 2017).

Collecting educator data will help enhance course creations, develop curriculum, and design strategies to help students apply concepts while developing transferable skills for their future. Collecting student data will help measure their learning progress, evaluate learning gaps, and encourage critical thinking as they learn through mistakes and action. Both forms of data complement each other. The ultimate question is which data needs to be taken into consideration to create quality courses for students to learn better in class to prepare students as they enter the workforce (Quality Matters, 2021).

A 2017 meta-analysis of different methods of measuring instructor and student success discusses a “middle road” for developing learning strategies: a system of different indicators, results, and cost and benefits for each method of assessment should be developed to determine the best “way to teach and learn” depending on the environment (Caspersen et al., 2017).

Institutions have used metrics such as:

Academic performance

Academic performance, like GPA or first year performance in core subjects. By tracking academic performance over time, institutions can identify patterns within specific courses and instruction styles (Kim, 2017).

Educational goals

Educational goals, which are more qualitative and subjective. Interviewing and tracking students’ educational goals are more indicative of student success but require more resources (Kim, 2017). Moreover, measuring educational goals will increase student engagement and student satisfaction as institutions and educators develop strategies based on these goals and progress (Kim, 2017).

Learning outcomes or competencies

Learning outcomes or competencies, which are less standardized than academic performance but less subjective than students’ educational goals. Measuring learning outcomes is subject-specific and often focuses on core competencies such as knowledge, skills, or contextual problem-solving abilities (Caspersen et al., 2017). Measuring generic outcomes or numeric grades can apply across various subjects and institutions, but do not identify the varying levels that students study and learn at. Thus, defining and measuring students’ achievements in competencies will provide students more opportunities for growth while acknowledging various conditions for individualized student success (Caspersen et al., 2017).

Higher education institutions are trying to adopt competency-based learning and competency assessments in their learning and teaching systems. A core competency across higher ed includes critical thinking, suggesting that courses and programs should work towards developing and assessing critical thinking skills (Macpherson & Owen, 2010).

There are potential constraints that assessments place on students. In a case study, Dr. Glazewski illustrates that some instructors focus on grading or attendance as indicators of success, while others focus on creating goals and learning outcomes while assuming that all students are learning at the same pace and have the same prior knowledge (Case Study 5; Ertmer, Quinn, Glazewski, 2019). Depending on the indicators chosen and the conditions that define “success,” it is difficult to evaluate how “successful” a course is. Assumptions that all students can learn at the same pace or level without extra resources or contingency plans to close learning gaps are detrimental to the learning environment.

Overall, educators have developed and adopted pedagogical styles that align with their respective learning outcomes and objectives. Some metrics might not be suitable for their teaching style in order to measure their students’ learning progress. Growing education research allows instructors to pick and adapt pedagogies that are best suited to achieve their learning objectives, but many still struggle with determining what is “effective” and how to measure it (Law et al., 2018). For example, the table below highlights established pedagogical approaches and their intended purpose to achieve certain learning outcomes.

Reference: Nancy Law, Hanna Dumont, Amelia Peterson, & Marc Lafuente. (2018). Understanding innovative pedagogies: Key themes to analyse new approaches to teaching and learning.

Competency-based pedagogy

Kritik hosted a session about Competency-based Education at Educause in October 2021.

Peer assessment is an effective method to facilitate competency-based learning. A 2005 meta-analysis highlights a positive relationship between integrating feedback processes in assignments and students’ academic performance. Students who received and gave feedback on their assignments demonstrated higher knowledge acquisition and application skills because they learned more course material and applied their knowledge in order to provide constructive feedback (Vollmeyer & Rheinberg, 2005). Overall, peer assessment allows students to demonstrate their understanding of course content while interacting with their peers.

The TEACH model follows the principles of competency-based learning (CBL) and is an effective framework for activities that utilize peer-to-peer feedback. Many K-12 institutions have successfully implemented CBL to allow students to develop critical soft skills as they progress through school. Higher education institutions are now pursuing CBL as the tangible benefits and opportunities for soft skill development will set up their students for success in their future careers. The elements of the TEACH model are inherently utilized in Kritik because activities are designed to encourage active student participation and critical feedback.

Utilizing the TEACH model to establish the expected quality of feedback and implementing CBL helps educators achieve intended learning outcomes, such as promoting critical thinking, and empowering students to take charge of their own learning.

The TEACH Model

The TEACH model, adapted from “Breaking with Tradition: The Shift to Competency-Based Learning in PLCS at Work” by Brian M. Stack and Jonathan G. Vander Els., assumes five essential elements to facilitate effective peer assessment in competency-based learning.

T: Students should receive (T) timely, differentiated support based on their individual learning needs.
E: Instructors should identify (E) explicit, measurable and transferable learning expectations and competencies.
A: Instructors should provide (A) appropriate feedback based on the students’ level and help them (A) advance when they have demonstrated competencies
C: To provide learning outcomes that emphasize (C) competencies that include application and creation of knowledge, along with the development of important skills and dispositions
H: Assessors should provide meaningful comments and (H) helpful feedback to foster a positive and constructive learning experience.

Assessments with a feedback process help students develop necessary soft skills such as communication, analysis, and critical thinking skills. Following the TEACH model in the feedback process will further enhance the development of these skills as students and instructors provide individualized, meaningful feedback all while applying their own knowledge about the course content.

The benefits of using the TEACH model can be appreciated beyond the classroom, as students feel empowered in their learning and carry the confidence to continue communicating with their peers and developing competencies for their future. Soft skill development including communication and critical thinking skills will propel students forward in their academic and professional careers. Moreover, incorporating reliable and calibrated peer-assessment through Kritik increases grading efficiencies and reduces instructor grading burdens.

Here is a short video by Keirsten Eberts that explains the TEACH feedback model.

Why is personalized competency-based learning important?

Competency-based learning is an efficient and effective way to engage students in the classroom and help them apply their knowledge and skills to real-world experiences. Traditional teaching models fail to incorporate CBL so students don’t get to experience the dynamic benefits of CBL and peer assessment, including:

  • Improved learning outcomes and academic performance
  • Soft skill development for dynamic workforce needs. According to LinkedIn’s Talent Trends, 92% of the surveyed talent acquisition professionals reported that soft skills are equally or more important than hard skills when hiring candidates (McLaren, 2019).
  • Reduce technical grading burdens for instructors as they can dedicate more time for mentoring and coaching

One of the benefits of CBL is that students learn at an individualized pace. A 2011 study reveals that self-paced learning significantly improves memory performance, especially if individuals allocate more time to study concepts that they find difficult (Tullis & Benjamin, 2011). Following the TEACH model requires timely, appropriate, and personalized feedback for students, which improves the quality of feedback, encourages them to maximize their learning capacity, and encourages critical thinking.

Kritik aims to make learning engaging, effective, and efficient for instructors and students alike.

Applying the TEACH model to your rubrics

To guide students in providing meaningful feedback, instructors can design rubrics that firstly establish expectations for both student work and feedback. Students understand what is expected of them when submitting their assignments and peer evaluators know what to look for in standard or exceptional work.

Reference: Sheffield, U. of. (2021, August 11). Assessment and feedback: Giving feedback. Assessment and feedback: Giving feedback - Learning and teaching essentials - Elevate - Staff - The University of Sheffield. Retrieved October 3, 2021, from

How does Kritik help you incorporate the TEACH model into peer assessment activities?

Kritik is a peer assessment platform that enhances the teaching and learning process by facilitating competency-based learning. The TEACH model can also be used to guide students on how to assess their peers’ work effectively:

Feedback should be given on time (T) with explicit guidance (E) on what, where and how students can improve. The comments need to be appropriate (A) for the level of the student. And a rubric is essential to guide students toward competency (C) by providing their peers with helpful directions (H) that are motivational and critical. Not only does the TEACH model guide students to provide quality feedback, it also emphasizes the development of soft skills necessary to succeed in the workplace. 

Educators should aim to develop an evaluation framework that is comprehensive and monitors measurable and achievable metrics. Feedback frameworks that use qualitative evaluative strategies will help institutions find the right resources to support student learning (Lane et al., 2019). Incorporating fundamental student-centred elements for feedback frameworks such as connectedness, growth, and self-management will optimize student pathways to success as they better apply course knowledge, develop fundamental soft skills, and feel more confident in the classroom (Lane et al., 2019).

Kritik allows professors to scaffold larger assignments while requiring personalized feedback during the assignment’s evaluation stages. This gives all students an opportunity to critically think, apply their knowledge when assessing peers’ work, and develop competencies within the course while allowing instructors to provide more personalized guidance and support for students. Scaffolding can motivate students because they are receiving individualized support and have structured opportunities for self-reflection while interacting with their peers at differentiated levels.

Developing necessary soft skills

Kritik goes beyond delivering assignments. Our platform is designed to help students develop critical skills for their academic and professional futures. The incentive to apply their knowledge and provide meaningful feedback allows students to critically think and improve their understanding of course material. Using the TEACH model encourages them to follow deadlines and provide timely feedback while pacing their learning. Moreover, students learn to take risks when evaluating their peers and respond honestly and objectively. The peer assessment process additionally allows students to feel valued for having a platform to think critically and communicate their thoughts and ideas when providing feedback. Not only are students responsible for their own learning, but they also get the chance to share their ideas, and expose themselves to different perspectives.

Additionally, Kritik fosters open and constructive dialogue through anonymous, bias-free peer assessment and open discussion features. When students provide anonymous feedback to one another, they are more likely to focus on providing genuine critical feedback. Students are encouraged to share their thoughts and learn deeper while engaging in healthy dialogue. In an analysis of 140,000 peer-evaluated student assignments on Kritik, only 1-4% of students disputed their grades; a low frequency of grade disputes within courses suggests that students are assessing each other fairly and accurately. Ultimately, Kritik aims to help students develop a strong skill set that will help them as they transition from the classroom to the workplace.

Calibrating reliable evaluations

Kritik adopts an algorithm to ensure that students evaluate closely to their instructors, so as to make every course more reliable and accurate through grading. With the calibration feature, Kritik allows students to demonstrate their competencies through peer feedback. The algorithm helps educators identify prior knowledge and level competency in students at the beginning of the course, group students based on this knowledge, and conduct meaningful and accurate peer evaluations.

The ability to calibrate students’ level of knowledge allows educators to also develop course materials that reduces learning gaps between different groups. Instructors can identify groups of students within the same level and provide more resources or mentoring for students who may require assistance to master their competencies. Instructors can also introduce diverse perspectives and create a dynamic classroom that allows students of different levels to engage with one another. More materials can be provided for students who score lower, and more weight or grading power is given to students who evaluate similarly to that of the instructor, allowing for more reliable and accurate evaluations.

Kritik aims to create a diverse academic environment where novice and more advanced students feel comfortable and empowered to deepen their knowledge in the same learning environment.


Kritik has adopted the TEACH model to shift the dialogue between educators and enhance both the teaching and learning experience. By utilizing the TEACH model through each activity on Kritik, students develop foundational skills like communication, critical thinking, and discipline over the curriculum, all while applying their knowledge of course material and concepts.

Traditional methods of delivering teaching has restricted students from taking charge of their own learning. Moreover, not using the correct metrics to measure pedagogical success has limited educators from optimizing their courses based on desired learning outcomes. By utilizing the TEACH model to develop foundations of fundamental soft skills, educators and students can collaborate to deliver high quality feedback and promote critical thinking and communication skills. Kritik has adopted the TEACH model to shift the dialogue between educators. By introducing dynamic methods of teaching and learning to the classroom, every student gets the opportunity to learn with personalized support and apply their knowledge while hearing new perspectives and ideas.

To conclude, by changing their role and responsibility, instructors can save time grading and focus more attention on metrics that improve student success and teaching effectiveness, such as providing quality feedback to enhance the critical thinking skills of their students. Instructors have more time to mentor their students and provide additional feedback when necessary to ensure that students have the resources and knowledge they need to become strong evaluators, critical thinkers, and masters of their competencies. Using Kritik, instructors provide an environment for students to learn by doing; students are taking ownership in their learning by providing quality feedback for each assignment for their peers. When the feedback is not considered quality feedback, students can flag or dispute the feedback received. Then, instructors will resolve all issues by providing additional quality feedback to guide students to learn to become better evaluators using the five elements of the TEACH model.

Personalized Competency-Based Learning (PCBL) with Dr. Charles Reigeluth

Dr. Charles Reigeluth is a distinguished author and educational researcher who has paved the way forward for high-quality personalized competency-based learning (PCBL). His focus is on the paradigm shift in education where technology systems can support PCBL and a learner-centred model of education. 

Kritik has been designed to empower professors and institutions to adopt this shift to PCBL in any classroom setting. Thanks to the work of researchers including Dr. Reigeluth, there is a strong foundation of literature and research to support the technology and design of Kritik.

Kritik Co-Founder and Doctor of Education at Indiana University, Carine Marette, sat down with Dr. Reigeluth to discuss the benefits and background of PCBL and how this model is supported by peer-to-peer learning within the Kritik platform. 

What is the difference between competency-based education (CBE) and personalized competency-based education (PCBE)?

Dr. Reigeluth stated that CBE is a paradigm of education that centers around student progress based on learning rather than on time. This paradigm focuses on mastery for all students and helps them become agents of their own learning. PCBE shares the same meaning. However, Dr. Reigeluth has added “personalized” to stress the importance that students must move on as soon as the material is mastered - therefore requiring personalization of the learning experience and ensuring it’s working for the benefit of every individual student. 

In Vision and Action (2020), Dr. Reigeluth outlines that the change to PCBE is partly due to changes in educational needs as we evolve deeper into the post-industrial society, partly because learning sciences and instructional theory have advanced, and partly because technological tools that can personalize learning have become more accessible and more powerful.

There are three key areas to maximizing student learning in a system of PCBE according to Vision and Action (2020). 

  1. Motivation: Through self-directed learning, collaborative learning and a competency-based approach to learning that emphasizes real-world accomplishments, PCBE helps motivate the student to learn.
  2. Scaffolding to support learning: PCBE also allows for a scaffolded approach to learning where the instructor may adjust the difficulty of projects and scaffolds, coach students individually, or tutor the students to improve their understanding (Reigeluth, Myers, & Lee, 2017).
  3. Supportive Learning Environment: Through this personalized learning environment, professors build a caring and supportive learning environment to help students succeed.

Time-Based vs. Competency-Based

“Student progress is based on learning rather than time” (Bloom, 1984).

Reigeluth states, “There are some people who try to implement competency-based education in a time-based system, where student progress is based on time, so some are forced to move on before mastering the current material. That does not take full advantage of how CBE can work best. In order for CBE to work best, students must move on only after mastery has occurred.”

The main distinction between time-based and competency-based systems is that students don’t progress to the next level based on when a calendar or schedule says they are supposed to. They move on when they have proven mastery of a particular set of skills identified by the instructor. This ensures the system is built around the learning of the student and successful completion of the course.  Hence, the institution and system of academia can be certain that students are moving forward with the necessary skills and knowledge required in their future discipline or career.

As explained in Instructional-Design Theories and Models, Volume IV (2017), PCBE “meets learners where they are on a predefined set of learning expectations and follows them along the entire sequence they need to succeed.” This system is transparent and provides students with a clear understanding of the expectations and objectives before them and a clear path on how to achieve them. 

What are the benefits in having multiple perspectives in the peer learning process?

Reigeluth responded, “If you put people who haven’t performed well in one group and people who have performed well in another group, the teacher will have to provide more instruction to address inequalities. Mixing the learning levels allows students to teach each other and relieves the teacher of having to teach everyone who hasn’t learned it.”

There is a fine balance between ensuring that students who are further ahead are engaged and those who need more help are receiving the support required to progress. Pairing students with diverse abilities can be an effective way to enable “learning by teaching”, but there are instances where students will learn most effectively when paired with students on comparable levels.

Instructors should consider the activity type and what prior knowledge each student is coming with to a particular activity. For example, Dr. Reigeluth explains how students, even those who are further ahead, develop a deeper understanding when they provide guidance to their peers. The system and tools used by the professor should allow the flexibility to account for this and make adjustments when necessary. 

Kritik takes the pressure off instructors by pairing students based on varying degrees of ability. Through calibration and AI, Kritik measures the students’ progress through each activity and pairs students of diverse abilities, meaning even for large class sizes of over 1000 students, peer learning can be managed seamlessly.

What is the role of PCBE in addressing equity in learning?

Reigeluth said, “PCBE makes a huge difference in addressing equity. Disadvantaged students are hurt most [in time-based learning systems] because they are forced to move on before mastering the current material. This creates gaps in their learning that make it much harder for them to learn related material in the future.”

Equity is not treating everyone the same, it’s providing each student with individual guidance and support they need to be successful. For each student, this will look different because each student learns and processes information differently. While this requires a personalized approach, it’s an aspect we need to appreciate.

Reigeluth stated, “We need students who are different from each other, who graduate with different competencies. The whole issue of equity needs to be one of helping every student to reach their potential, whatever that potential may be and not pretend that everyone ought to be the same.”

Kritik ensures students have personalized and actionable feedback they need to improve over their various course activities. This feedback is also delivered anonymously in Kritik, so that students are evaluated solely based on their work without any external influence, or bias. 

As Dr. Reigeluth explains, “PCBE (done right) addresses equity better than any other method I know of.”

How does PCBE help students adjust in this evolving digital age?

The digital age, more commonly known as the post-industrial age, presents students with a lot of changes and challenges not seen in previous generations. In the industrial age, when workers were tasked with monotonous work, there was a hidden curriculum that taught compliance. Students had to do what they were told, to keep their head down and follow the system. But, as society evolves more to a more complex state, the digital or information age requires a different mentality.

“In the information age, knowledge work is the predominant form of work, and we need workers to take initiative, to problem solve, to be self-directed and to be collaborative. The focus has shifted to learning throughout their careers and not just in school,” according to Reigeluth.  Schools must encourage students to be creative and to apply their knowledge outside the classroom, and this means that teaching and learning frameworks need to be adjusted as well.

Through the process of evaluating and interacting with peers in Kritik, students develop the critical thinking skills and higher-order thinking skills necessary to be active contributors and problem solvers in this digital age. Additionally, through each function of Kritik, including the ability to dispute grades, self-reflect and provide feedback on feedback, students are required to think deeper about the objective at hand and about their own progress towards mastery. 

How does peer assessment help develop task expertise?

Reigeluth responded, “Feedback is a key ingredient for improving our practice.  Feedback can come in many forms depending on the situation, and peer feedback is among the easiest and least expensive forms.  And the peer who is giving the feedback typically learns a lot from the experience, as well.  Of course, the teacher should monitor the peer feedback occasionally for both what is said and how it is said.  In the situation of online tutorials, like in the Khan Academy, the tutorials can provide great feedback.  In other situations, a more advanced student can provide feedback, or the teacher can provide feedback.  But in many cases, especially collaborative projects, peer feedback is the most cost-effective way to go.”
Kritik has allowed instructors across all class sizes and disciplines to incorporate a more efficient and accountable assessment process without adding more stress or accounting for more time and resources. Instructors then have more time to spend working and mentoring students to address particular blocks or misunderstandings and to elevate students who are moving faster through in the course. 

What are some of the challenges with traditional teaching and assessment methods and how can these be addressed by PCBE?

Reigeluth stated, “Perhaps the biggest challenge with traditional teaching is that slow learners are forced to move on before they have learned the competencies, so they accumulate gaps in their learning that make it harder to learn related material in the future…. Also, fast learners are held back, wasting the potential for them to become so much more than our schools currently allow.”  

In a traditional learning environment, the system is designed to compare students to each other. As Dr. Reigeluth explains, this can make the lower performers feel negative about themselves and discourage them from any future learning. 

Through a system of personalized competency-based learning, all students are supported through their learning journey with the expectations for success made clear and the instructor guiding them along with the necessary support to enhance, or adjust their understanding.  If it takes twice as long for some students to master all the course objectives, that’s fine, but it requires some changes in university structures.

How does PCBE address the challenges of traditional teaching and assessment?

In Merging the Instructional Design Process with Learner-Centered Theory, Dr. Reigeluth and Dr. Yunjo An explain that it is argued that traditional approaches are “too linear, too slow, overly analytical, and inflexible (e.g. Zemke & Rossett, 2002).”

The authors explain, “PCBE can address [the challenges of traditional teaching and assessment] by not allowing any students to move on until they have mastered the current competencies, and allowing them to move on as soon as they have mastered them.”

In terms of motivation, Dr. Reigeluth explains that “Personalized, collaborative, project-based learning is far easier to make motivating, and these are important parts of a system that uses PCBE.” 

Kritik has allowed professors to scaffold the learning of larger assignments, meaning students have the guidance and support they need to succeed from one stage to the next leading to the final assignment form. Scaffolding can help motivate students because they are receiving guidance, have structured opportunities for self-reflection and interact with their peers at numerous levels leading up to a larger culminating submission. 

Whether through anonymous and bias-free peer assessment or through open discussion, Kritik fosters open and constructive dialogue. Anonymous peer assessment - when students provide feedback to each other without knowing whose work they have in front of them -  means students are more likely to focus on providing critical and motivational feedback. Additionally, students feel more comfortable providing genuine assessments to their peers when they know it is anonymous (DeMarchi, 2021). 

Kritik goes beyond creating assignments for students. The platform helps build trust, empathy and care between students. Peer learning is a collaborative and team-first approach where one student’s strong evaluation benefits another student who can make the necessary adjustments to succeed in the course. These are the competencies and soft skills that empower students to succeed academically and in the workforce after graduation. The ability to provide specific feedback that is both motivational and critical means students learn to take risks, embrace feedback and provide responses based on facts. Additionally, there is a feeling of value and responsibility that comes with this process as students learn the impact their feedback has on others and the value of their peers’ feedback on them. 

What is the new role of the teacher in this day and age?

Reigeluth responded, “The teacher’s role has to change from ‘sage on the stage’ to ‘guide on the side’.”  In Vision and Action (2017), Dr. Reigeluth outlines how the instructor-as-guide fulfills many roles, including mentor instructional designer, facilitator, collaborator and learner.

Peer learning in Kritik means students' voices are heard and meaningful. Students learn how to provide and receive feedback, and instructors observe and support this progress by delivering personalized feedback and correction within the platform or in person.

With thanks to Dr. Reigeluth for his time and willingness to share his insights and learning with us on PCBE.

5 Steps to Achieving Tenure

What is Tenure?

Tenure is one of the most sought-after milestones for university faculty. Tenure is a category of academic appointment that is indefinite, that is, without an end date. Tenure grants a faculty member job security and higher pay, but not only that, they are granted a greater level of academic freedom - to research and examine views at their discretion (American Association of University Professors [AAUP], 2018; Ehrenberg, 2012; Reis, 1999). It is generally believed that this freedom is not only beneficial for the school community, but for society as a whole. As Clark, Houten and Perear-Ryan (2010) said, “Tenure has long been viewed as a necessary protection for academic freedom, a principle held dearly in academia.”

“Tenure has long been viewed as a necessary protection for academic freedom, a principle held dearly in academia.”

In general, aspiring educators first need to secure a “tenure track” position, which is the pathway to the promotion and academic job security. For example, through the tenure track, an assistant professor may become an associate professor and then a professor. The tenure track will typically involve a probationary period that lasts for 7-10 years and another year after that, where the tenure committee evaluates the candidates’ work. The candidates are mainly judged based on three key areas, or what is commonly known as the standard triad: their teaching effectiveness, research and publications, and service to the community (Schimanski & Alperin, 2018; Clark et. al, 2010).

"The candidates are mainly judged based on three key areas, or what is commonly known as the standard triad: their teaching effectiveness, research and publications, and service to the community."

Common Challenges of Reaching Tenure

The job security and preferred status of tenure are important career goals of professors, but for many it can also be a challenging and daunting process balancing new demands and escalating expectations. The most common challenges are the extensive probationary period while working to fulfill the research, teaching, writing and service requirements, which can be highly competitive. 

During the probationary period, the faculty member prepares, maintains and submits a dossier, or collection of official documents, demonstrating scholarship, teaching and service. The dossier should paint a clear picture of what has been accomplished in a faculty member’s professional career and the quality of their work. There will likely be opportunities and milestones throughout the probationary period where the university reviews the dossier and feedback is provided. It is important that the dossier is started at the beginning of the teaching career to ensure it remains up to date and available for review at a given point without extensive revisions. 

Another challenge is that the expectations and requirements of tenure can be frustratingly vague. Every institution and even every department will have a different process and different expectations. There are similarities from school to school, but it’s best for faculty to ensure they understand what is expected of them at their institution.

"The expectations for tenure also change over time, so understanding the current and relevant requirements is especially important."

The expectations for tenure also change over time, so understanding the current and relevant requirements is especially important. For example, as Boyce and Aguilera (2019) state, generally speaking, faculty in the 1980s were expected to demonstrate excellence in research, teaching, or  service, but 20 years later, all three came to be essential, with research as the top priority in most cases.” 

Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education

The Carnegie Classification system was established by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching in 2015. It has eight categories that range from doctoral universities to master’s colleges and universities to baccalaureate colleges focused on arts and sciences and other fields. The Carnegie Classification system is used across institutions to compare performance and allow academic institutions to benchmark academics, enrolment and research (Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research, 2016). 

It is helpful for tenure track professors to review the Carnegie Classification to understand the expectations that will fall on them based on their discipline and institution. 

5 Steps to Help You Reach Tenure

As discussed, the three major categories used to evaluate aspiring professors for tenure are Teaching, Research and Service. The following five steps address these three categories holistically and will assist you on your road to becoming a tenured professor. 

Step 1 - Know the expectations and document progress

The last thing you want to do is go into the process blindly. Get clarity upfront by asking your institution for the official tenure and promotion guidance in writing. This document is often publicly available in a faculty handbook or through the Provost or chief academic officer. Read the guidelines and discuss them with individuals both inside and outside of your department. At this stage, you are preparing to embark on the tenure track journey and are starting to build valuable contacts and relationships and collect information that will help guide you in the right direction through the probationary period. Remember, you are not alone. Other professors have travelled this path before you, and some professors are working towards the same goals as you. Use this to your advantage - reach out to others early and be strategic with how you collect information and plan each year’s work. 

"...reach out to others early and be strategic with how you collect information and plan each year’s work." 

Often, institutions will have Faculty Advancement offices that offer workshops on tenure preparation for junior faculty. Take advantage of these every year to meet other faculty and the university admin and stay on top of any possible changes to the tenure expectations discussed. 

Keep in mind, there is not a one size fits all approach to tenure. Each tenured faculty will likely offer their unique advice. For example, some may advise new faculty to take things slowly at first and only focus on what counts. Others will advise new faculty to determine what is/are the most important criteria for tenure and invest energy in those areas. While similar, the approach and proceeding steps taken will differ. 

“Documentation is a great weapon” (Larson et al., 2019). Documentation is important both for personal documentation and to track conversations with the admin. For example, it is critical to get in writing what is expected of you and to not waiver from that. Suppose you have an in-person conversation with the dean or department to go over the expectations. In that case, this could be as simple as sending a follow-up email thanking them for their time and summarizing the tenure requirements.

Have multiple conversations - and at various points. Collect as much information as possible and at the end of the day, prepare the best you can, balance the thoughts and advice of others with what is best for you. It’s not a race or competition. Faculty need to balance their personal needs with their professional needs and do what is best for them while ensuring stress and pressure are managed and addressed during the probationary period. 

"Collect as much information as possible and at the end of the day, prepare the best you can, balance the thoughts and advice of others with what is best for you."

Step 2 - Collaborate Regularly 

The committee needs to be impressed by the instructor’s efforts to achieve tenure, which requires a little groundwork. The relationships built with committee members beforehand will help them understand more deeply and holistically why you want and deserve tenure and why you would be a strong fit as a permanent addition to the institution (Whitaker, 2018). 

Be mindful, these interactions and relationships need to be authentic and genuine. There is likely seven-plus years of probationary period. If every interaction is about impressing the committee members, it will quickly become tired and inauthentic. Committee members and school heads understand what tenure means to a professor. New faculty should show them through the work and interactions with the students, community and peers why they are a good fit.  

Additionally, while collaboration and networking are important, new faculty should be careful with how aggressively they jump into networking. It is difficult to establish these relationships, and it’s common to spend the first semester, or even the first year, getting nothing done beyond getting coffee and drinks with many people. It’s also important to understand the group dynamics before diving in on a collaboration. Not all work is good work.

That being said, new faculty members have to consider how to set up a network and how best to do it. One option is to look at thesis/dissertation committees. It’s also helpful to find a partner for research, someone you may already have a relationship with, and who is looking to publish and who has a good work ethic. Interdisciplinary relationships can also be beneficial to broaden your network and scope of work. 

Step 3 - Seek Professional Mentors

The research in your tenure journey is a long process that includes going through IRB (Institutional Review Board), collection of data, analysis, and writing – all of which take time. You must, therefore, have long-term and short-term research plans to ensure that you are going at the right pace. Many pre-tenure faculty focus on quantity rather than quality, but having five articles in low-tier journals is not better than having three in top-tier journals (Houdyshell, 2009). So, keep a balance between impact, publication venue, and number for the research requirements in your tenure process.

It can be incredibly challenging to navigate this journey alone and understand the intricacies of the process - what to spend time on, where to go for clarification, and even how to overcome the personal struggles that may come up along the way. Mentorship is an excellent way to help navigate the process with an ongoing supportive relationship.

Mentorship is different than networking. It’s not about casting your social net far and wide. Spend time evaluating those in your circle. Is there someone in your circle who you feel comfortable asking for honest, direct feedback? Make sure you are upfront and respectful with them so they know you are hoping to ask them questions that come up along your tenure journey. It may seem uncomfortable at first, but it is far better to be upfront when it comes to articulating what you're looking to get out of these conversations. This ensures that both parties are aligned and clear about expectations. Don’t fear - there are mentors out there for everyone. As you progress, you may develop relationships with many mentors who all help in various and unique ways.

Step 4 - Understand funding expectations

Funding is a critical part of the research. Science, technology and research cost money, and it’s common for professors to need grant revenue to bankroll their work beyond the start-up phase (Boyce and Anguilera, 2019). In addition to the necessity to secure funding for research, having grant support from funding agencies and their peer review panels indicated they view the instructor’s research favourably. This, in turn, is likely to be viewed favourably by the committee at the university. 

For new faculty, career awards from private foundations and similar sources can be a potential source of financial support. These types of grants tend to be short and straightforward, which will help get the research started. For the longer term, project-based grants from “NIH, NSF, DoD, large foundations or other agencies are the standard way to keep a lab solvent” (Boyce And Aguilera, 2019). 


Step 5 - Be Strategic 

Tenure track professors should be strategic while offering service to their community, part of the three tiers of the tenure track. For any new faculty, it will be tempting to say yes to every opportunity, but it may be wise to limit extra service on-campus and focus on what matters for your tenure process and also benefits your research agenda (Houdyshell, 2009). With this in mind, it’s also not wise to isolate yourself from the school community. Balance is key; being able to manage your tenure process while contributing to the overall school community. Not only that but being involved on campus is an important, and often rewarding part of the experience. 

In the case of the Carnegie Classification system, this is a helpful resource to consult to understand the best strategic focus depending on the particular institution. For example, for R1 schools (doctoral universities), where the focus is on research, writing peer-reviewed articles in the first two years can be challenging to say the least. For a more strategic approach, new faculty can set aside time weekly in the first couple of years to write and work on grant opportunities reflecting recommendations of other scholars (Larson et al., 2019; Bowen 2005). 

Lastly, teaching is tough time-consuming work. It is easy to become completely consumed by course work - grading and lesson preparation. While these tasks are critical, make sure you learn early on how to manage these responsibilities along with research and service. Take advantage of tools and technology, like Kritik, to help you have more efficient and effective teaching. 

Kritik helps professors save countless hours grading and dealing with course administration while implementing peer assessment that increases engagement and critical thinking of students. 

"...make sure you learn early on how to manage these [teaching] responsibilities along with research and service. Take advantage of tools and technology, like Kritik, to help you have more efficient and effective teaching." 

Final Verdict...

The road to tenure is long and challenging, but it can be incredibly rewarding. Have a strong vision of achieving tenure, but make sure to stop along the way to enjoy and appreciate the here-and-now. Every experience is different, and while there are general steps and factors to consider, make the process uniquely yours, and when you look back from your tenured position, you will have built your future based on your values and interests -- uniquely yours.

How Metacognition Helps Students

What is Metacognition?

We engage in metacognitive activities every day, yet it rarely comes up in day-to-day conversation. So what is it?

According to researcher and professor from the University at Buffalo, Jennifer A. Livingston, metacognition is higher-order thinking which involves control over the cognitive process of learning. In other words: Thinking about thinking (Livingston, 2003).

Metacognition is vital in learning. Metacognition is “rooted in rigorous self-analysis of the learning process by students, with the view to ensure that learning is deep, constructive and outcome-focused” (Yussuff, 2015). The introspective practice allows students to assess their strengths and weaknesses and adjust their practices to achieve improved outcomes (Pantiwati, 2017). 

Metacognition is one of the most dynamically and extensively researched cognitive practices in developmental, instructional, and educational psychology (Mahdavi, 2014). That being said, it can still be challenging to imagine how metacognition fits into a course, particularly ones based on a more traditional model of learning. 

Bloom’s taxonomy is an effective place to start imagining how metacognition fits into the larger teaching framework of a course.

Bloom’s revised taxonomy enhances meta-cognitive thinking skills

Bloom’s taxonomy is a hierarchical framework used to describe the cognitive processes by which thinkers encounter and work with knowledge (Anderson et al., 2001). Created as an assessment aid to help classify educational goals, Bloom’s has become a foundational pedagogical model used for curriculum design, learning objectives and classroom activities. 

Bloom’s six orders of learning position critical and evaluative thinking at the summit of learning. This ‘cognitive process dimension’ represents the progressive continuum of complex cognitive development (Anderson et al., 2001). Using Bloom’s taxonomy, instructors can effectively implement meta-cognitive practices into their classroom. For example, by having students evaluate and analyze their work and the work of their peers, they are revisiting their thought process, which takes their learning deeper as they engage with course content.

Using Meta-Cognitive Activities in a Classroom Setting

Implementing metacognition into the classroom begins with a tailored instructional design. Students need guidance when recognizing, assessing and connecting their new skills to those previously developed (Chick, 2013). Creating an instructional plan with a knowledge construction and introspective approach is key to successfully introducing meta-cognitive learning in your classroom (Chick, 2013). Metacognition plays an important role in varying areas of learning, including: 

  • oral communication of information and persuasion
  • oral comprehension 
  • reading comprehension
  • writing
  • language acquisition 
  • attention 
  • memory 
  • problem-solving
  • social cognition
  • various types of self-control and self-instruction 

While certain areas incorporate meta-cognitive thinking, the benefits to student learning are dependent on effective implementation. (Mahdavi, 2014). More specifically, professors should approach activities with a purposeful plan imagining how students will consider their thinking and learning. Activities should be adapted to reflect the specific learning contexts of a topic, course, or discipline (Chick, 2013). 

How to introduce metacognition into the classroom 

  1. Create assignments with clear instructions 

Establishing clear expectations for course outcomes and individual assignments allows students to understand what is expected of them, what they already know and where they should focus their attention. The more the students can see themselves taking part in their education process, the stronger the learning experience and the more meta-cognitive thinking will occur.  

  1. Create a classroom culture that welcomes metacognition 

Introspective practices can be challenging. Instructors play an integral role in creating an open environment for students to ask questions and discuss gaps in their knowledge. Classrooms with an open line of communication between students and instructors have benefits that extend beyond the course. In particular, an open and supportive class environment naturally encourages students to reflect on their understanding and ask questions to fill gaps in their knowledge. Additionally, inviting discussions of metacognitive knowledge will keep these practices top of mind for students.

  1. Integrate metacognitive components in activities 

Implementing reflective practices into assessments is a fantastic way for students to engage with the metacognitive process. An activity involving reflection encourages students to think critically about what they are learning and what they already know. 

Kritik is leading the way with competency-based assessments that promote higher-order thinking in higher education

Professors across the United States and Canada are using Kritik to engage students, develop critical thinking and higher-order skills while reducing professor workload. Kritik effectively introduces and facilitates meta-cognitive tasks and activities in the classroom through discussion, group work, and peer assessment. Kritik takes the meta-cognitive process a step further through the feedback on feedback stage of peer assessment. With this, students receive feedback on the evaluation they provide to their peers. This means that they can revisit their thought process and make necessary adjustments to improve their work moving forward. 

To learn more about how Kritik can improve learning outcomes and reduce the grading load, schedule a personalized walkthrough

Standardized Testing and Education Quality

What is Standardized Testing

Standardized testing refers to any form of a consistent test that remains the same for all the test takers and is given under the same circumstances, and is graded in the same way for everyone. High-stakes, time-limit, or multiple-choice tests are not required for standardized testing. Simple or complicated questions can be asked. [1] 

Standardized tests assess academic skills in school-aged students, but they can also be used to evaluate almost any topic, including driving tests, personality, creativity, work ethics, and other qualities. Standardized testing is thought to be just and fair, with an objective method of assessing each test taker's results. [2]

Brief History of Standardized Testing

One of the earliest records of standardized testing can be traced back to China, where candidates applying for government jobs had to give a test evaluating their knowledge regarding Chinese philosopher Confucius and literature. Examiners in the Western world preferred essays-- a practice that dates back to the olden Greeks' love of the Socratic method. Furthermore, the Industrial Revolution moved school-aged children away from farms and factories and into classrooms, standardized testing became a convenient method to evaluate large groups of students fast. [3]

In 1905, a French psychologist Alfred Binet started working on a standardized intelligence test, which would later be incorporated into the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Test, a modern IQ test version. During World War I, standardized testing became a popular practice. This meant aptitude tests known as Army Mental Tests were used as a method to assign jobs to US servicemen during the war. 

Removing Standardized Testing from Academia 

When debating over the topic of standardized testing, especially in the education sector, various costs and benefits must be taken into account. Considering how subjective it is to assess one's ability based on standardized testing, there are institutions that argue in favour or against other alternatives. [4]

Pros of Standardized Testing in Academia

  • System of Measurement for Learning 

Through standardized testing, educators assess the quality of their curriculum and gain valuable measures for teaching students. Results from standardized tests are resourceful as they come from a neutral source and allow evaluators to get a general idea of all the students' overall understanding. 

  • Highlights Area of Improvement 

When a common mistake is done by several students, it reflects a lack of knowledge and shows which topic requires improvements and extra effort in teaching. 

  • Evaluates Progress 

Educators can assemble assessment data yearly. Trends can be discovered by comparing data over time, tracking any changes in the initial source. Standardized testing allows teachers to compare students' results within and across schools. It provides objective data on the abilities of individual students and the school as a whole. Strengths and limitations at the school level are more easily identified.

Cons of Standardized Testing in Academia

  • Results affect Test Taker's Confidence 

Since everyone is giving the same test, a student's bad result may reflect his/her poor knowledge of the subject. However, many students demonstrate a clear understanding of the subject but tend to struggle in a standardized test environment. This can affect students' confidence as they may link their success to a high test score. 

  • Teaching for the Test

One of the most prominent drawbacks of standardized testing is that educators tend to keep the exam layout as a base for their teaching style and may teach in a particular manner, focusing on certain topics they feel are relevant to the test. But does that actually guarantee any quality of education to a student who is merely being prepared for an examination?   

  • Results Don't Depict One's Capability

Many people mistakenly believe that data from standardized tests provide an impartial and credible estimation of a child's cognitive prowess. Cultural differences, unknown testing methods, apprehension, health problems, and performance issues can impact a student's ability to perform in a test. Therefore, students cannot be evaluated based on their on-time performance. There are several different elements involved regarding one's mental state while giving the standardized test.      

Qualitative vs Quantitative Knowledge Measurement

  • Quantitative 

Quantitative methods interpret data using numbers and are defined by emphasizing numbers, measurement, experimental design, and statistical analysis. The quantitative method can investigate many cases, and this type of design is deductive, often stemming from a preconceived hypothesis. This method of knowledge measurement helps educators question a student more comprehensively. [5] 

Quantitative assessment is a popular type of study that affects results-based assessment methodology. Structured interviews, questionnaires, and tests are just some of the data collection tools available in quantitative assessment. Quantitative knowledge measurement allows educators to evaluate students understanding of any subject through statistical/numeric representation of data. [6] For example, how many questions were attempted, how many answers turned out to be correct, how many topics were covered? 


  • Easier analysis 
  • Measurable success 
  • Direct comparisons 


  • Inaccurate attention on numbers
  • May not provide adequate support to educators for further growth. 
  • Misleading because of higher numbers with understanding the subjectivity of the matter

  • Qualitative 

Qualitative data focuses on the subjective aspect of a student's knowledge. It reflects one's opinions, thoughts, motivation, attitude, and beliefs influencing a student's academic performance. With questions structured to collect qualitative data, students have the margin to explain their understanding of the matter in their own unique way, which can showcase their familiarity with the subject. However, qualitative knowledge measurement has a limited scope, as it is only applicable to specific situations and experiences, which may not intend for application on a wider target audience.


  • Allows academic encouragement 
  • An open-ended process
  • Adds in individual human experience 
  • Adds credibility to your information 


  • Difficult to adopt an inclusive outcome that applies to all students
  • Extensive data to assess one's knowledge
  • Time-consuming process

Alternatives to Standardized Testing 

Several educators consider that testing narrow down the curriculum while limiting student learning opportunities, emphasizing the basic skills. Not only this, some educators even consider that testing cannot measure higher-level thinking like creativity in students. According to them, educators help students learn more as compared to what their test scores reflect. 

Teachers must understand that they don't need to track every student's true potential through standardized testing. Some schools of thought argue that standardized tests should be a medium for evaluating the education system and not the individual student. Therefore, experts suggest several alternatives are a good way of assessing one's knowledge of the subject. 

  • Random Sampling 

Instead of testing the entire student populace annually, a fairly relevant group of students could be sampled. While this option does not completely eradicate traditional standardized testing, it does reduce its impact on students and teachers. [7] While students spend around 20 to 25 hours per year giving standardized tests, the state spends 1.7 billion on evaluations, according to an infographic from American University. These statistics can be reduced by sampling. [8]

  • Assess the Institute

While it is important to analyze a student's knowledge regarding a topic, it is also highly relevant to keep the school performance checked. Rather than putting pressure on the students, teachers can be held responsible for effective teaching in a way that all the students understand. 

To explain this further, Finland is a good example where there is an annual test that focuses on either math or language and literature. These tests, unlike standardized testing, are sample-based, and the results are used to evaluate the school. Instead of being tied to funding or a national ranking system, these scores are given to administrators to evaluate student learning. [9]

  • Stealth Assessments

Stealth assessments refer to the ECD-based (Evidence-Centred Design) tests. In such assessments, students produce rich knowledge and sequences of actions while performing various tasks using their skills and competencies that educators want to assess. Such assessments can eliminate the cost, time, as well as anxiety that accompanies traditional methods of standardized testing. [10] 

  • Game-Based Assessments

Video-game-like assessments designed by AAA lab at Stanford and GlassLab aim to assess higher-order thinking skills in students. With such game-based assessments, tutors can test the ability to take feedback and systems thinking. These are the measures that traditional assessments cannot do. However, such alternatives are in their infancy. [7]

Kritik- Your Ideal Learning Partner 

Instead of standardized tests that focus on just the quantitative results (ie. multiple-choice questions), Kritik enables professors to administer engaging and informative assessments through peer evaluations. Leveraging student-to-student assessments facilitate high-quality, thought-provoking written assignments as instructors are not burdened with the extreme workload associated with qualitative assessments. Furthermore, instructors are able to have better data on how the students are progressing throughout the term due to the constant feedback students are giving to one another. Through Kritik, students are able to display their knowledge better as multiple-choice-based standardized tests are replaced with quality and interactive assessments, ensuring that the students’ learning requirements are met while satisfying the educators’ teaching objectives. As such, the platform brings educators and students together and encourages flexibility in the learning process to ensure the utmost transfer of knowledge and efficient testing.    

Student with books and laptop doing assignment

Types of Student Assessments and their Purpose and Differences

What Types of Student Assessments are used by Educators?

1. Traditional Assessments

Assessments can take on various forms and often serve different purposes. The majority of instructors use traditional assessments to measure student learning. Traditional assessments usually involve various testing techniques such as fill-in-the-blanks, multiple-choice questions (MCQs), essays, mid-term, as well as a final examination. [2] These assessments are cost-efficient with regards to time and resource allocation; however, they do not provide the instructor and learner with the required amount of feedback on student learning progress. 

Traditional methods of student assessments hinder the ability of educators to apply a new teaching approach. [3] Typically, they are single-occasion tests and measure only what students can do at a specific time. Therefore, the grades obtained from these assessments do not provide insights on students’ knowledge development and can sometimes relay false information regarding the academic progression of the entire class. Since traditional assessments do not offer any forms of self-evaluation or feedback-on-feedback, it inhibits students’ learning as they cannot effectively reflect on their strengths and weaknesses to improve their performance. [4] 

To address these downsides of traditional assessments, such as lack of feedback, educators employ improved student assessments, including diagnostic, formative, and summative assessments. 

2. Diagnostic Assessments

Diagnostic assessments, also known as ‘Pre-tests,’ are used by educators to identify and evaluate students’ current knowledge about a specific topic or subject. [5]


The main purpose of this assessment is to diagnose complications in students’ understanding and learning gaps. This assessment method helps educators decide their next teaching steps based on students’ unique learning needs identified through diagnostic assessments. Diagnostic assessments help educators assess the capabilities and skill sets of students in a specific subject. Educators use diagnostic assessments to identify students’ strengths and weaknesses that allow them to plan their course, learning objectives, and teaching strategies.

Diagnostic assessments usually take place at the beginning of the term so that the current position of students' understanding of topic or subject could be evaluated by the instructors. Such assessments are usually low-stake as they are not calculated as student grades. This assessment method is usually based on written questions which can be either short answers or multiple-choice questions. Educators also use various strategies to diagnose the knowledge base and skills of students, including observation protocol, rubric, and oral or written test questions. 

3. Formative Assessments

Educators use formative assessment to monitor student learning and provide ongoing feedback. [6] This assessment enables educators to check whether students are on the right learning track and find specific areas where students are struggling. This assessment allows educators to offer an individualized learning experience to students. 


The formative assessment’s core purpose is to monitor the students’ ongoing learning and identify their learning gaps. [7] Formative assessment provides educators with continuous feedback, which helps them improve their teaching approach. With this assessment’s help, educators try to evolve the students' understanding before the summative evaluation occurs. 

This assessment method refers to the guiding evaluation that helps educators form their lessons’ instructions according to the learning needs. Formative assessments can be easily implemented and offer immediate results so that educators can instantly make adjustments in their instructions. 

Such assessments can take various forms, including practice quizzes, informal questions (class discussion), one-minute papers, and so on. These methods help educators gain insight into students’ learning during the ongoing unit/topic. Overall, formative assessments offer instructors feedback about students’ current understanding of the topic and how to pick up the pace. This assessment method also encourages students to test their knowledge and practice skills without worrying about grades. 

However, formative evaluation is no doubt a time-consuming and resource-intensive process if they are conducted on a monthly or bi-weekly basis. This is because formative assessments require frequent data collection, data analysis, reporting and refinement of educators’ pedagogical strategies. At Kritik, professors use formative assessments and peer review strategies to give students and their peers formative feedback. Consequently, students are encouraged to improve their learning, writing and critical thinking skills. Peer reviews also help students develop their self-assessment skills, thereby becoming more involved in their learning. [8]    

4. Summative Assessments

Unlike diagnostic and formative assessment, summative assessments are used by educators to evaluate the learning of students when the term ends. Educators compare this assessment against a set of standards/benchmarks. [9] 


Summative assessments also refer to the final exams or final projects. This assessment’s purpose is to evaluate how much students retained information, knowledge, and skills at the end of the learning unit or semester. 

Moreover, summative assessments are used to measure the educational environment, including curricula, educators, and overall learning programs. Also, the results derived from summative assessments offer a comprehensive description of the student's learning status. Usually, educators use standard summative assessments with a common rubric to judge and compare students’ learning. These assessments are commonly comprised of final projects, essays, presentations, reports, or standardized tests.  

On the flip side, summative assessments also have limitations. For instance, this assessment can be disruptive for students as they are regarded as the final grades with high stakes. Moreover, summative assessments lack feedback and therefore, are not considered being the best reflection for student learning. Nevertheless, formative assessments offer ongoing feedback that encourages students to enhance their learning and overall academic performance but consumes a lot of the instructors’ time and resources.

5. "No Grading" Assessments 

Many educators are now shifting their focus from traditional grading towards no-grading assessments. In their viewpoint, traditional assessments and their grading render the development of authentic relationships in the classroom and reduce the students’ motivation and creativity. Besides, grading assessments also foster the fear of failure among students while undermining their interest in the subject. [10] In contrast, this model of no-grading assessments put emphasis on providing feedback to encourage student learning through self-reflection, collaboration, and critical thinking. Feedback highlights the strengths and weaknesses of the student, allowing them to reflect on and learn from it. No-grading assessments are great in remote learning as it promotes interaction between students and thereby strengthening the sense of community in an online classroom. [11]

Differences between Diagnostic, Formative, and Summative Assessments

Timing and Resource Allocation

One of the major differences between these student assessments is timing and resource allocation. Diagnostic assessments are executed before starting the lesson or unit. However, formative assessments refer to the ongoing activity, and therefore, are executed during the learning process. On the other hand, summative assessments often occur either as the mid-term exams or final exams after completing the unit. Out of all the three, summative assessments are commonly used but they consume a lot of time and resources to provide quality feedback to every student.


Additionally, the strategies to evaluate students’ learning can differ between diagnostic, formative, and summative assessments. For instance, in diagnostic assessments, instructors strive to get information about students’ current understanding of the unit/topic right before starting instructions. Educators use formative assessments to examine whether students are on the right path by monitoring their ongoing learning progress. However, summative assessments help educators assess whether students have achieved their learning objectives or not, which is determined by their final grades. Unfortunately, summative assessments don't allow students to retain information at a high level. In contrast, formative assessments help students retain learning through ongoing feedback. [12] 


In each assessment method, the major goal of educators is to promote student learning through evaluation. 

At Kritik, our educators curate new and improved courses using the students’ insights that are derived from formative assessments. Professors at Kritik know that every student requires personalized feedback, which serves as the roadmap for their improvement. In this regard, formative assessments are conducted on a weekly basis. Based on the ongoing feedback obtained through formative assessments, students are encouraged to focus on their own learning rather than worrying about grades. Thus, formative assessment tends to be the most effective assessment that enables students to reach higher-order thinking of learning.

Student on devices completing assignment

Implementing Non-Disposable Assignments to Improve Student Learning

In the current education system, students are required to complete a plethora of assignments that typically lose their value once submitted and graded. These assignments are commonly referred to as ‘disposable assignments’ and post no significant lasting value beyond the students’ experience of completing the activity. Unfortunately, disposable assignments are alarmingly common in most curriculums and students are not effectively learning due to the lack of critical and analytical thinking associated with these types of activities. 

In contrast to disposable assignments, ‘Non-Disposable Assignments’ (NDAs), also known as ‘Renewable Assignments,’ are best known for adding value to students’ learning. This blog will shed light on ‘Non-Disposable Assignment’ and its importance in developing students’ critical and analytical skills while having the opportunity to curate a portfolio of relevant content for future references.

What is Non-Disposable Assignment (NDA)?

Non-Disposable Assignments refer to assignments in which cognitive efforts of students are repurposed by allowing them to generate educational resources and materials for future students, along with formal and informal learners worldwide. Usually, the materials and resources generated by NDAs include wiki entries, tutorials, videos and blogs posted online. [1] In other words, these instructional materials are openly licensed, which can be revised and remixed by anyone to create improved resources for future students in a similar course. [3]

How Non-Disposable Assignments Add Value 

According to David Wiley, non-disposable assignments add value because of the fact that students complete such assignments as producers of knowledge, rather than just being consumers of knowledge. Since these assignments are Open Educational Resources (OER), students from all over the world with similar interests can benefit from them. Non-disposable assignments are widely known for enhancing learning opportunities for students. [2] Considering the unique features of Non-Disposable Assignments such as open access to peers and increased relatability, they promote student engagement, excitement, productivity, and overall academic progress. [4]

NDAs are closely related to open pedagogies, a teaching practice that encourages students to become creators of information and not merely consumers. [5] Open pedagogy focuses on open projects that result in free teaching and learning materials, also known as ‘Open Educational Resources’ (OER). These are the open-licensed educational materials that can be revised, retained, reused, redistribute, and altered according to specific learning needs. OER helps develop students’ skills in digital literacy while enhancing self-learning opportunities for students. This high-impact teaching practice enables students to engage in creating information with the help of non-disposable assignments. 

Why Avoid Disposable Assignments?

David Wiley has addressed some potential issues regarding ‘Disposable Assignments’ in his blog post titled ‘What is Open Pedagogy?’ [6] Wiley explained that such assignments add no value to the world as he said that after a student spends 3 hours creating a disposable assignment, the teacher devotes 30 minutes to grade it. Afterwards, the students throw them away, which undoubtedly offers no value to other students as they cannot benefit from these assignments. [5] 

In contrast, non-disposable assignments allow both instructors and students to work collaboratively to create resources that will be used by the public to add tangible value to the world outside of the classroom. Unlike disposable assignments, students invest more effort towards creating educational materials as they understand that their energy, time, and cognitive efforts will benefit a larger audience than just themselves. [1] Therefore, educators have come up with the concept of ‘Non-Disposable Assignments’ that enable students to gain knowledge and expertise through a social learning experience. 

In Disposable Assignments, students often complain about spending too much time completing the assignment, which is never seen again after instructors grade them. Similarly, educators believe that they waste their time in reading and grading non-disposable assignments that students will never look at again. [6] In contrast, Non-Disposable Assignments put emphasis on personalized learning by enabling students to create new knowledge. Moreover, non-disposable assignments enhance the critical thinking of students as they generate knowledge instead of just remembering and recalling information which only develops the lower levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. With Kritik, professors are empowered to enhance students’ higher-order thinking skills and increase engagement levels. In short, professors encourage students to become creators of knowledge rather than merely wasting their time and efforts towards creating disposable assignments. Through peer-grading, students’ completed assignments are anonymously distributed to their peers which is the premise of NDAs as knowledge is shared among everyone. 

Why Use Non-Disposable Assignments (NDAs)? 

Many thought leaders have highlighted the potential benefits of Non-Disposable Assignments to students’ academic careers. [2]

  • Facilitates Effective Self-Evaluation

Non-Disposable Assignments help students in self-directing their personal learning needs as they create knowledge and come to know their own strengths and weaknesses about a specific topic or subject. Self-regulated learning is closely related to intrinsic motivation and self-efficacy, which, in turn, enhances student learning. [7] 

  • Supports Open Educational Resources (OER)

Non-Disposable Assignments support Open Educational Resources (OERs) by encouraging students to generate open educational materials that can be retained, reused, revised, redistributed.  NDAs involve collaboration and the exchange of knowledge, making accessibility of information easier for students. 


Overall, Non-Disposable Assignments play a vital role in enhancing student learning as well as improving socio-cultural competency. Non-Disposable Assignments enable students to become creators of new and improved knowledge. As such, Open Pedagogy plays a vital role in this regard. Thus, Non-Disposable Assignments and open pedagogy possess a high potential to promote students’ learning and improve critical thinking.

The power of gamifying education in today's society and current learning environments

Gamification in Education - Why it Works

Game-based learning

What comes to mind when you hear the word ‘game’? Is it the word fun? Perhaps, the word exciting? Or maybe, it's the endless memories of you and your friends getting together and happily playing board games all day?

This time, what comes to mind when you hear the word ‘school’? Grades? Assignments? Is it the word dull? Or maybe, the all-nighters you pulled to complete a project that was given a month ago.

Although, we immediately see the differences and it might be rare to see the two words in the same sentence, you would be surprised of the similarities both possess regarding the quality and quantity of knowledge one gets from participating in either activities.

A new era of learners

Students in the ever-advancing digital society have shown differences in population profile compared to those who were born before the 21st century (Prensky, 2012). Apart from the obvious reasons such as students’ greater reliance on technology to support their education, students nowadays have a ‘new attitude to the learning process and higher requirements for teaching and learning’ (Kiryakova et al, 2014). With new variables and uncertainties in the modern student profile, educators face a challenging task to mend the gap between the ‘old’ education system and students’ new learning styles. Meeting both the educators’ and students’ needs is not easy and requires various perspectives of the education system and different pedagogical paradigms. Of which, active learning, highly engaging content and an enjoyable experience are at the core of students’ requirements and what educators strive to provide. However, as much as the education system is trying to facilitate different teaching styles to mend the gap and satisfy the polarizing preferences, relying on past methods and old pedagogies won’t effectively address present and future challenges regarding students’ academic and personal growth.

As such, new approaches to teaching and researched-practices are being implemented across academic institutions such as gamifying education.

What is gamification?

Bringing it back to the all-nighters mentioned earlier, why is it that students wait until the last minute to complete their assignments and don’t eagerly start on working like they would on a game? Simply put, they lack motivation and enthusiasm and the process provides little encouragement. This is not to discount the fact that there are external individualistic reasons why students procrastinate such as different personalities but the majority of the reasons are intrinsic to the ‘old’ education system. A behavioural research done on academic procrastination and the educational environment have shown that “delayed consequences; long periods given for completion; boring, routine, unpleasant assignments; pressure from other obligations; delayed gratification and rewards” are all conditions of the academic process that provoke procrastination (Shemyakina, 2013).

Now, what if there is a method to get students to participate in a manner that piques their interest and activates their innate healthy competitiveness thus empowering them to start working earlier, academically learn and strive for excellence. Enter, gamification.

Gamifying education might sound counterintuitive or even nonsensical given the infancy of the practice in the history of the education system. However, if we dissect games down to its core and design, it is evident that games are no different than school. According to Karl Kapp, a professor at Bloomsburg University and an academic expert in the field of modern education, gamification is “using game-based mechanics, aesthetics and game thinking to engage people, motivate action, promote learning, and solve problems” (Kapp, 2012). Evidently enough, games share the same goals as schools which is to tap into individuals’ creative problem solving skills and impart knowledge on specific content. Same goals, just different execution. Similar to Landers et al’s research on Psychological Theory and the Gamification of Learning, “gamification represents a new combination of and perspective on many prior techniques, all wrapped into new packaging” (Landers et al, 2014). This new ‘package’ of teaching is one of the innovative methods of meeting students’ new learning styles while satisfying educators’ objectives.

The power of gamification in education

As Kiryakova et al describe, “games have some distinctive features which play a key role in gamification:

  • users are all participants – students (for educational institutions);
  • challenges/tasks that users perform and progress towards defined objectives;
  • points that are accumulated as a result of executing tasks;
  • levels which users pass depending on the points;
  • badges which serve as rewards for completing actions;
  • ranking of users according to their achievements” (Kiryakova et al, 2014)

Gamification fits very well with students’ new learning styles as education becomes more digital-based. Educational platforms like Kritik facilitate higher engagement and motivation specifically in online environments through the implementation of game design elements mentioned above. Through Kritik’s proprietary ‘Grading Power’ mechanism, students are able to actively learn and their progress are monitored in the form of a star rating system. They are able to level up their scores, upgrade their evaluator status and earn new badges by improving their peer-assessment capabilities thereby rewarding them for new accomplishments. Ultimately, students are encouraged to participate in a healthy and enjoyable competitive environment that is both interactive and educational.


As mentioned earlier, academic processes that are routinary and mundane result in a decrease in engagement and motivation. Although there is nothing bad about these conditions, to meet students’ new learning styles, new pedagogical practices such as gamification should be explored. Unlike traditional systems, Kritik offers an opportunity for students to improve their academics through the use of enticing game elements. Not only do students learn better and strive for excellence by gamifying education specifically for the college and university environment and online settings (Alsawaier, 2017), students’ stigmas regarding schools are eliminated as the learning process becomes more fun, exciting and rewarding while ensuring that the objectives and fundamentals of education are maintained.

classroom community

What is Classroom Community?

Creating curriculum. Creating lectures that are both engaging and informative. Grading papers and exams. Holding office hours. These are the tasks that most people think of when they imagine the day to day lives of professors. While not incorrect, perhaps the most important task of all is that of building the right classroom community. While this is easier said than done, this guide will answer the big questions that will help all professors create the perfect learning environments for their students.

Think back to an elementary school classroom. It was like home away from home. The teacher put up unique decorations, you spent every day of the school year with the same group of students. You had your own little space in your desk, your cubby, your spot on the rug for story time. The community was built right into the classroom. The further students get along the academic journey, the less of that community is built right in until ultimately, classrooms become unremarkable spaces they occupy once or twice per week, carrying their belongings around on their backs, where they may or may not know anything about the other occupants. 

At the college level, classroom community becomes an abstract concept. It is a feeling that professors must invoke without the aid of permanent tangible objects. Professors know they have turned a classroom into a thriving community when they begin to notice students calling each other by name and connecting with each other on deeper levels. They witness smiles, laughter, and maybe even raw emotion bubbling up out of class discussions. They can look out at the classroom and sense when the dynamic has shifted, even in grand lecture halls full of hundreds of students. In the third section below are applicable tips and tricks for creating this atmosphere.

Why is building community in the classroom important?

Whether leaving home for the first time or returning to school after starting a family or a whole other career, college students are vulnerable. As social creatures, humans are not designed to go through major life transitions, such as pursuing higher education, in a vacuum. Social connection in the form of purposeful classroom community makes students feel at ease, encouraging them to open their minds and receive the diverse perspectives of their peers and professors. This allows them to more deeply process the curriculum, leading to greater academic success and clarity on how to apply it toward their career goals. 

Viewing the professor as the head of their classroom community, as opposed to just an authority figure, makes students more likely to reach out for additional support on everything from specific course curriculum, to academic and career planning, to adapting coursework and academic success into the rest of their lives. When professors create open and welcoming classroom communities, students are also more likely to seek community in the rest of the institution by accessing student services and joining student groups. Every connection a student makes to his or her institution is a step further and another door open to long lasting personal growth and career opportunity.

How to build classroom community

Although professors do not have the luxury of being able to physically transform the classrooms they teach from, there are many ways to create a sense of classroom community! It begins before the first class ever even takes place. Consider submitting a welcome video for students to review and evaluate as a test activity in Kritik. This allows students to see your face, hear your voice, and learn a little bit about your personality and teaching style. It is also helpful to give students a very simple and enjoyable assignment to prepare for the first class. This helps to set their expectations for the first day. Kritik permits students to interact with course material beyond just textbook material and lectures. Through productive conversations and engaging online learning environments, students develop a deeper understanding of course concepts. [1]

Execution of this first assignment on the first day of class should carry into the community building experience by inviting students to connect with each other in some way. Challenge yourself to come up with a creative, personalized, and relevant icebreaker to spark student enthusiasm. The first class should also include a Town Hall-style establishment of a classroom community code of conduct that all students have a voice in and pledge to uphold. 

Once this foundation is laid, maintaining the community feel throughout the semester is effortless. Refer back to the code of conduct when needed, and continue to infuse the curriculum with personalized and socially relevant assignments and discussions that allow students to build on their relationships with each other. All of the above can be applied in both a traditional and online classroom setting, so try them out today and see what kind of classroom community you can create. 

Professors can also communicate with other educators as part of a "community of practice" for professors to share ideas and thoughts surrounding pedagogy, and facilitating stronger and more meaningful connections with students. To learn more visit our Facebook group page.


What is UDL: Universal Design for Learning?

What is Universal Design for Learning (UDL)?

Universal design for learning is a framework. It is meant to help provide guidelines for people in charge of educating students. It differs from other strategies because of its area of focus. Instead of looking at the students, its focus is on the environment.

Universal Design for Learning targets 3 fundamental brain regions

  • Affective Network
  • Recognition Network
  • Strategic Network

The 3 core tenets of Universal Design for Learning

The core of the philosophy is broken down into three tenets. Each of these targets a specific underlying brain network. Consequently, it engages all learning styles. That way, students can always keep up regardless of their individual learning preferences.[1]

1. Engagement

Before a student can learn, they must engage with the material. In psychology, engagement is a part of affect. This principle targets students' motivation. The intended goal is to improve their comprehension of the material.


Affect is the psychological term for emotion. Technically, it guides nearly every one of our daily decisions. By catering to it, we make learning easier for the student.


When you are engaged, staying motivated is easy. We teach students tools to monitor their motivation levels and self regulate.

Multiple Modes of Engagement:

Every student is different. Trying to engage each of them the same way is futile. That's why we have multiple modes. Using multiple methods of engagement is essential. Otherwise, some students will struggle to keep up.

2. Representation

Representation refers to how information is presented to us. For example, you've probably heard of visual learners. This is a similar concept, although slightly deeper.

People Process Information In Different Ways:

An easy way to imagine this is by picturing a disabled student. For instance, blind students don't benefit from visual learning materials. We cater to everyone's strengths.

Offering Alternative For Everyone:

All of our learning materials are made available in numerous representations. That way, each student can find something that works best for them. Each lesson includes numerous alternatives for all learning styles.

Finding the Best Method of Representation:

Some students will learn particularly well using their eyes. Others may do better with their ears. We work with each of them to determine an individual approach.

3. Action and expression

Action and expression refer to the way that we interact with the world. Students differ in their capacity to interact with the external world. Some of them might be disabled. Others may struggle with written language. Regardless, they all deserve a chance.

Movement Is Different For Everyone:

Expression and interaction differ for everyone. Not every student is born with the same opportunities as everyone else. Our program is designed to provide support for all students. Even students who have physical disabilities are taken into consideration.

No One Means of Action Is Ideal:

Not only do we take into account all types of students, but we also recognize there is no hierarchy. A student who has a physical disability is no better or worse than one who does not. Our entire philosophy is built around equality of treatment despite our differences.

How does Universal Design for Learning benefit all students?

What does this philosophy have to offer my students? We are glad you asked. It recognizes that everyone deserves an equal opportunity to receive a quality education. Without a quality education, we are all handicapped in life. By acknowledging inherent differences, we work to overcome obstacles. Pretending that everyone learns the same way does not benefit anyone. The Universal Design for Learning attempts to incorporate everyone. [2]

1. Increase access to learning

Our guidelines improve the ability of students to access an education. They aim to provide support for anyone interested in becoming a better learner. That way, everyone can access the same opportunity.

Recruit Interest:

These principles help keep students on task. As they progress, they develop the skills necessary to regulate their own attention. This will be an invaluable skill throughout life.

Perceptive Options:

Perceptive options are vital. It is no wonder that so many students struggle in traditional classroom settings. If you were not good at learning with visual material, but that was all that was available, what else can you expect? Our guidelines ensure that no student struggles with these circumstances.

Physical Action:

Interacting with the world is a crucial part of the human experience. Not only does it keep your heart pumping, but it also engages different parts of your brain. By developing an all-encompassing approach, we involve all of the brain in learning.

2. Build better disciple and persistence

Discipline and persistence are continuously improved throughout our program. Ultimately, we hope to produce self-directed learners. To this end, much of our curriculum focuses on self-regulation.


Students will learn how to regularly self monitor the way they express themselves. Communication serves an important role in all areas of life. Whether you are at work or at home, communicating allows you to exchange ideas with other people. Without it, conflict is inevitable. By teaching students new skills, we improve their communication with the outside world. Kritik's anonymous peer to peer platform acts as a safe space, and enables students to express themselves and the feelings they have regarding pressing and sensitive issues.

3. Boost executive function and self-regulation 

The executive function is what separates humans from other animals. It derives from the most recently evolved part of the brain. This is called the prefrontal cortex. When you make a conscious decision, it is that part of the brain doing the work. Our entire program is designed to focus keenly on neuroscience. As long as you are committed, you can benefit from the process.

Develop Into an Expert Learner:

Once students graduate from their programs, they will have learned many new skills. These skills should help them become more independent. The underlying philosophy of their program is straightforward. We hope that we can help students become better learners. Not only do we want them to be better learners, but we want them to be experts. To us, expert learners are self-guided. Thus, your students will know how to learn more effectively. Once they internalize these concepts, they can learn anything. Professors have used Kritik as a way of identifying experts at mastering course material and understanding how course concepts apply to real world applications

Become Resourceful:

When you enter the adult world, you are on your own. Sure, you will always have your family. Nevertheless, when you are at work, you cannot call your parents to bail you out. As such, good education prepares you for these situations. Our program cultivates resourcefulness inside of your students. By the time that they are finished, they can come up with novel solutions to unique problems. When life presents them with something, they will adapt.

Purpose and Motivation:

Finally, purpose and motivation are central to life. If you have ever gone through a period of burnout, you understand this. Students can also burn out. When their school is not catering to the way that they learn, it is inevitable. focusing on these concepts ensures that your students succeed. It comes from an understanding that human beings are emotional creatures. Thus, they are driven by their emotions. You can allow these to distract you. On the other hand, you can harness them. This program teaches you how to use them to your advantage.

UDL: The bottom line

The Universal Design for Learning is an all-encompassing framework. It gives you a guide for how you can approach teaching students. It attempts to consider all of the latest research. Ultimately, it breaks down into three core principles. Each of these targets a specific brain network. Thus, it engages all three major brain regions. Furthermore, each aspect of the philosophy is further individualized for every student.

6 Culturally Responsive Pedagogy Strategies to Boost Student Engagement

In the last few decades, classroom structures have changed significantly due to inclusion in education. In today’s classrooms, you will find students belonging to diverse cultural groups, races, identities, and socioeconomic classes. And therefore, educators should not expect their sole cultural perspectives to engage all students in the classroom. 

In other words, teaching styles should be changed and to address this situation, Culturally Responsive Pedagogy is crucial. A Culturally Relevant Pedagogy can create an inclusive environment in class to promote student engagement and improve their academic performance. Students feel safe in a culturally responsive environment and thereby openly contribute to their learning, perspectives, and experiences in class. [1] In this article, we will discuss what exactly culturally responsive pedagogy is, its principles, along with some effective Culturally Responsive teaching strategies that boost student engagement using a student-centred approach.

What is Culturally Responsive Pedagogy?

Culturally Responsive Pedagogy (CRP), also known as, Culturally Relevant Teaching refers to the teaching approach that emphasizes the significance of connecting the culture of students and their social situations with the school’s curriculum. Culturally Responsive Pedagogy helps students build empathy towards different opinions and perspectives by boosting their engagement with peers. Biases permeate assessments. It is important that instructors conduct their courses with cultural consideration.

In this pedagogical approach, instructors are required to include cultural references of students in all aspects of their learning. In a traditional pedagogical strategy that solely focuses on educator-student dynamic, instructors mainly adhere to the curriculum for imparting knowledge in students.


Unlike this out-dated teaching strategy, CRP is more focused on imparting a sense of belonging and safety among culturally diverse students in the classroom. For instance, students belonging to low-income families or marginalized communities often feel disconnected from their peers and instructors in class; however, in a culturally responsive classroom, these students can better engage with course material and perform well in academics. 

Culturally Responsive Pedagogy method often depends on the student-centred approach. In this teaching method, educators tend to identify various cultural strengths of students and strive to nurture those strengths to create a positive sense of self in students and boost student engagement. Specifically, this pedagogy requires educators to encourage knowledge-sharing about diverse cultures among students to build an inclusive learning culture. Since diverse students are all carriers of unique culture, education based on understanding these differences can enhance the respect for the cultures themselves. [2]

Conditions necessary for culturally responsive teaching

1. Inclusion

In order for educators to create a culturally responsive environment in the classroom, they must establish inclusion in the classroom. Educators should emphasize the human purpose behind learning objectives of the course and its connection to the experience of students. 

Besides, in an inclusive environment, educators must treat all students fairly and encourage each student to share their diverse practices with other classmates. This, in turn, helps students feel confident and boost their engagement in class. Educators can ensure inclusion by implementing a collaborative learning approach, peer teaching, and focus groups in the classroom. Kritik’s platform is built to facilitate inclusivity through anonymous and meaningful peer assessments. As one student put it, "I like that all feedback is anonymous, it removes any personal biases, and multiple students can assess my work which provides different perspectives."

"I like that all feedback is anonymous, it removes any personal biases, and multiple students can assess my work which provides different perspectives."

2. Positive attitude

Developing a positive attitude in a culturally diverse classroom is equally important to enhance student engagement. In a Culturally Responsive Pedagogy, educators must relate learning activities to experiences as well as previous knowledge of students. Moreover, educators can develop a positive attitude by encouraging students to make choices in assessment methods based on their strengths, experiences, values, and learning needs. 

3. Enhance meaning

Another motivational condition that educators need to create is to enhance the meaning of course content by providing students with challenging and thoughtful learning experiences. More importantly, these learning experiences must include the values and perspectives of students. Educators must encourage group discussion in the classroom by incorporating student dialect in the discussion. Kritik’s discussion feature allows students to interact with course material beyond just textbooks and lectures. Through dynamic conversations and engaging online environments, students develop a deeper understanding of course concepts.

4. Create competence

Culturally responsive educators should connect the assessment procedures to the students’ frame of reference, social situation, values, and learning needs. Moreover, educators must create an understanding that diverse students perform well in something that they value. Therefore, educators must include different ways in their culturally responsive instructions to represent unique skills and knowledge of culturally diverse students. This can significantly develop students’ intrinsic motivation towards learning and thereby enhancing their engagement in classrooms. Educators are using Kritik to develop new & unique activities and grading that are designed to strengthen students' critical thinking skills. For example, Kritik can be used for interactive and effective online presentations

Inclusion is a key condition for Culturally Responsive Teaching

Culturally Responsive Pedagogy strategies to boost student engagement 

1. Student-centric course

Identifying and incorporating students’ interests in course play an important role in connecting them with their course and motivating them to learn. However, when it comes to motivating students, educators should not force them to see and perceive things as they do. Rather, in a Culturally Responsive Pedagogy, they must identify the likes, dislikes, interests, and learning needs of culturally diverse students. Then, they should incorporate those into the class lessons so that students feel more engaged with the course content. [3] 

2. Make room for differences

Educators can motivate and get the best out of their students by making room for cultural differences. In this culturally responsive teaching strategy, educators must encourage students to acknowledge and respect each other’s cultural differences with a positive attitude.

With the help of this positive identification of differences, educators can encourage productive communication among diverse students in the classroom. Besides, they can also reinforce student engagement and enhance the social skills of students, such as cultural competence and respect for other cultures. 

3. Encourage group interaction in class

In a culturally responsive teaching strategy, educators should arrange open discussions in classrooms. It allows diverse students to talk about their past learning experiences, values, and perspectives. With the help of group discussions, social interaction is encouraged too among students. 

Educators should create class assignments that require group interaction so that students can improve their problem-solving, critical thinking, as well as social skills. By accommodating class discussions, students learn to relate with their peers in a positive manner which, in turn, boosts the sense of collaboration among students. [3] 

Educators should also incorporate team building activities with the purpose to promote peer support which positively influences the academic performance of students. Of note, students should be engaged in-class activities that foster team spirit before providing them with collaborative learning tasks. This is essential for creating a social-emotional environment in culturally diverse classrooms that is conducive for boosting a sense of solidarity among students. 

Team building activities enable students to feel comfortable and respected, allowing them to confidently express their genuine viewpoints, disagreements with others to reach a consensus in a non-defensive manner. [3] With Kritik’s team-based learning feature, students learn how to collaborate with their peers & debate topics and ideas to come up with collective solutions to the problems posed in their assignments. 

4. Validate multiple perspectives in class

By validating the different perspectives of diverse students, educators can motivate and engage students in learning. When educators validate the ideas and viewpoints of each student, it builds confidence in students to do their best; in addition, it encourages students to collaborate with peers and learn more. Educators can authenticate student’s perspectives by responding like ‘Good Idea’, ‘It is one way to understand the problem’, ‘Does anybody have any alternative opinion or idea? And so on. 

5. Culturally responsive curriculum

Before creating and instructing lesson plans, culturally responsive educators must identify the current knowledge of diverse students. This is because the student-centred curriculum is more meaningful as it takes into account the values, interests, and experiences of students. 

Moreover, students belonging to diverse backgrounds engage more in the curriculum when it is relevant to their lives. Also, a culturally relevant educator should be culturally sensitive meaning that he/she must consider cultural competence, academic performance, and socio-political consciousness of students when planning culturally relevant lessons. [1] It is worth mentioning here that culturally sensitive educators expect a high level of academic success from students irrespective of their race, ethnicity, and culture. 

6. Connect school learning with students’ real life experiences

If you want to engage students with their learning, you will need to connect theory to practice so that students can understand and develop the real-world applications of concepts. Also, it is one best teaching strategy to strengthen student motivation which helps students engage in learning. Students take more interest in the information that they can relate to their personal circumstances. 

In order to recognize the real-life experiences of students outside the classrooms, educators can arrange programs such as posting poetry, pictures, quotes, songs and stories. This can largely help educators and peers to learn about others’ cultures. Furthermore, educators can engage students in other content-based projects, including storytelling; free-writing exercises; and surveys, to help students engage with school and their peers. Professors utilizing Kritik administer creative and unique learning activities that enable students to apply course concepts to real-world applications. For example, STEM instructors run activities to allow students to effectively communicate the details of a real world design problem.

STEM instructors run activities to allow students to effectively communicate the details of a real world design problem.

Benefits of a Culturally Responsive pedagogy

There are multiple research-backed evidences that culturally responsive pedagogy practices offer students various social, emotional, academic as well as cognitive benefits. Some of the benefits of CRP are as follows:

1. Facilitates brain processing

Studies have shown that cultural norms and knowledge of diverse students significantly contribute to mathematical thinking and reading comprehension of students. As per neuroscience research, students learn new information more when it is linked with their existing knowledge. Since culturally responsive pedagogy focuses on a student-centred curriculum that draws from cultural background and schemas, students can learn fast and easily. [4]

2. Strengthens students’ sense of belonging and identity.

This pedagogical method promotes the inclusion and equity in the classroom. Students belonging to diverse backgrounds are engaged in course material which ultimately enhances their learning. Due to open class discussions involved in culturally responsive teaching strategies, critical thinking skills of students are developed and improved. 

3. Makes learning more meaningful for students

This approach motivates and engages students as educators connect academic concepts with the lives of diverse students and thereby making their learning experiences more engaging, meaningful, and effective. 

Promotes a sense of safety and support among students

This is because educators cultivate collaborative feelings using different strategies like encouraging social interaction and building respectful relationships among diverse students. 


All in all, educators who adopt Culturally Responsive Pedagogy strive to boost student engagement and a sense of belonging to improve students’ academic performance. Also, they are always ready togo above and beyond to help students succeed in their academics and personal lives.

The Empathetic Professor: How to Teach With Empathy

As part of our series on equity in education, we want to explore ways educators can offer better solutions to help students to ensure an equitable learning environment. As COVID uncertainties remains high, many educators wonder how they will be able to connect with their students at a more human-level. While the teaching is being done remotely, it is difficult for the teachers to keep a check on the well-being of their students.

In this article, we break down what empathy actually entails and how educators can implement it in their online classrooms.

What is empathy?

Empathy is a form of connection that allows you to place yourself in someone else's shoes and understand what they are experiencing, how they feel in a given situation rather than sympathizing with the person's feelings. It's the comforting voice that we tell each other when we are told, "You are not alone."

Empathy is not about feeling sorry for someone, but rather, seeing a person as equal or on the same level as yourself, and trying to understand or connect with them.

Types of empathy

According to most researches, empathy has two distinct types. Affective empathy and Cognitive empathy. It is easy to understand and practice it when described in these terms. There are other types of empathizes as well like Intellectual empathy and is related to knowledge.

Affective empathy involves the ability of an individual to understand another person's feelings and emotions and being able to compassionately respond to it.

Cognitive Empathy is the ability of a person to be able to understand the other person's perspective and comprehending that why the other person has developed it.

Practicing both cognitive and emotional empathy is challenging. It is believed that both can be learned with intention and consistent practice and a balance between both should be maintained.

Components of empathy

There are different components of empathy. Including them in your teaching practice can show students that you're thinking in their best interest.

1. Perspective taking

To understand what someone else is feeling, without being biased by your own feelings or experiences. The feelings of the individual are put forth and assessment of situation is from your students' eyes. To do that effectively, you must understand the complex web of context that allows for that event to occur. Asking yourself questions helps with you staying at their perspective like what is the point of view that may have developed due to the person's experiences in the past?

For example: if a student submits an assignment late because they had to work and didn't have time to complete it, you might tell them that they need to understand their priorities better or that they cannot receive an extension. What if the story behind that late-assignment is that the student lives in a single-parent home, their mother can't work because she is sick, and the student's side job is the only income available to pay for school and living costs. Does that story change your perspective on the student's late assignment? Being able to see events and occurrences from other standpoints is the first step in building empathy.

2. Non-judgmental

When faced with a situation, it's easy to react based upon our judgments or opinions about the circumstances. Put aside your judgement, take a moment to ask yourself what other pieces of information do I need to understand this situation better?

3. Understanding how others feel

It's helpful to reflect on our own experiences and how we may have felt at a particular time when encountered with a similar situation. But we must always remember that people's feelings are unique to them based upon their exceptional circumstances. Therefore, we cannot merely extrapolate how we felt to be the same as how one should feel, given a similar situation.

4. Let your students know you understand

When discussing situations with your students, try using reflective language such as "I hear and understand your concerns…" to show empathy. Being able to create a space by another person, be it their school teacher, where students don't feel judged will go a long way in ensuring that they feel comfortable addressing concerns with you.

Why a teacher should be empathetic:

A teacher is responsible for curriculum delivery and syllabus completion. While a lot of attention is given to the knowledge delivery, assessments and classroom management, a lesser degree of prioritization are the emotional dimensions of a student in the school culture. Feeling for another person and recognizing why others feel that way are essential to becoming a more empathetic teacher. Empathy is a powerful tool that can help a teacher to better understand what’s driving their students’ behavior and find strategies to help then while maintaining a perfect balance between both types. An imbalance can cause a strain in the student-teacher connection.

“The best teachers teach from the heart, not from the book.” - Horace Mann

How to bring empathy into your classroom

1. Be accommodating

Create a space for the students where they feel safe and understood. The pandemic has turned so many of our lives upside down; outside of school, students grapple with job losses, increased feelings of isolation and depression, and higher anxiety levels as their future remains uncertain among the students of high school. Have flexible due dates for assignments, and move past participation and attendance grades as some students may not be able to attend classes regularly. Arrange small group discussions or mentoring sessions where each student can speak up and their issues can be directly addressed. That can help favor bigger changes in the long run.

One of the biggest challenges students face with online learning is the lack of personalized feedback they receive on their assessments. Lack of personalized feedback coupled and reduced student-teacher communication hinders a students overall learning.

2. Asynchronous & flexible learning

With online learning, educators don't need to have a set time block for live lectures. Move your course towards asynchronous learning to allow students greater flexibility in how they want to structure their learning. To provide a better learning experience to the students, instead of a 3-hour lecture, create smaller pre-recorded videos and include case-studies and mini-assignments that allow students to take an active part in their learning, rather than simply listening to a lecture.

3. Curate different viewpoints

Many students feel disenfranchised with their learning because of their history, or their unique story is not represented in the teachings of an educator. Utilizing assessment forms like peer evaluation allows students to be exposed to different point of views, mainly, the opinions and understandings held by their peers. Suddenly a class of 80 college students is no longer being assessed by a single individual (the professor), but rather a diverse group of student peers. Being exposed to different perspectives broadens a student's understanding of a concept beyond that taught by a teacher.

4. Create an Empathetic Classroom culture

Each classroom has a unique culture that can be developed in the start of the session by asking students questions like how would they like to be treated and tested. Each student is unique and should get an individual attention. Small activities that conclude with lessons of empathy should be carried out. This develops a feeling of empathy for students from different culture united together on the benches of the same classroom.

Bob Sornson; Through empathy, he explains, students learn to understand each other, which helps them to build friendships based on positive relationships of trust, in turn improves the student behavior overall.

How empathy affects learning

Science states that students who have had an empathetic environment for learning has an higher capacity of learning. Empathy drives a student to learn. Educators who practices empathy while teaching indirectly teaches empathy to their students. This helps students feel safe and welcomed, which in-turn helps to build strong classroom community. Empathy also has a direct influence on academic achievement and help students be better listeners, colleagues and develops in them self regulation skill in the long run.

Effects of lack of empathy

lf a teacher shows lack of empathy to his students, they will now be motivated, and so learning will be difficult. It may also result in conflicts between the teacher and the student.


Empathy is an important skill and a tool, that needs to be learnt and practice. Many institutes carry out professional development for their teachers emotional learning. Good teachers very well know how the inside feelings of a student are reflected on his facial expressions. He also has learnt how to address the emotions. A teacher's empathy helps develop meaningful connections with his students.

This teaching tool of social psychology helps to better communicate with students and facilitates a better learning environment. When used correctly, it allows students to feel confident that they can excel to their full potential, regardless of the setbacks they may encounter.

In the short term, it may affect the grades and achievements of a student in a positive manner while in the long term it helps them to manage their emotions as well be better listeners and understand others and thus good friends and colleagues.

Flipped classroom

How to Implement Flipped Classrooms Online

Learning shouldn't stop once students leave the classroom or close their Zoom window. How students learn once they get home, is equally an opportunity for innovation and enhancement, as the changes active learning provides to in-class instruction.

What is a flipped classroom?

The flipped classroom, a learning approach recently gaining momentum, is a pedagogical approach in which instructional learning is moved to outside the classroom, and the resulting classroom sessions are focused on applying learned concepts through creative and interactive approaches. [1] In this learning environment, students will listen or view lecture recordings prior to the actual class - a pre-class. Therefore, the concepts that need to be understood are done prior to the class itself in the form of video lectures or podcasts. This, in turn, allows the lecture to be used as a learning space to apply concepts; this can be done with group discussions, mini-assignments, or even problem-solving class activities.

So, what is a flipped class, or how does flipping the classroom works in higher levels of education? Continue reading and let's find out.

The four pillars of F-L-I-P for educators

A flipped class is composed of the following fundamentals:

1. Flexible environment

Flipped learning allows students to consume and understand knowledge in a way that is most conducive to them. Instead of a scheduled lecture slot, learnings in an inverted classroom can occur any time of day or week depending on the student's schedule. The role of the professor is not to simply record and post their lectures. In addition, instructors will also help guide students through their learning, and provide different opportunities for students to display an understanding of course concepts at their own pace.

2. Learning culture

Unlike in a traditional classroom, flipped learning shifts learning away from the instructor and to the students. Now, students are not just consumers of knowledge, they have the opportunity to curate knowledge. In order to ensure students are on the right track, many professors will utilize peer assessment as a way to gauge student progress and an opportunity for students to apply their learnings.

3. Intentional content

Free from the constraints of in-class scheduling, flipped learning allows instructors to curate learnings that will be the most effective for their students. Professors can add videos, or relevant case studies to supplement student learning. Flipped learning forces instructors to only select the course content that is most beneficial to their students.

4. Professional educator

Flipped learning adjusts the role of instructors away from lecturing, direct instruction, or actively teaching, and shifts it towards a moderator or facilitator of learning type-role. In this case, educators actively check-in with their students through routine assessments and observations. [2]

Flipping the classroom online? Yes, it’s still possible!

With the closures of schools as a result of the COVID Pandemic, many educators who were interested in deploying the flipped classroom approach may be unsure how to do so now. Let’s outline a few approaches that will allow educators to offer flipped classrooms with remote learning.

Here are the learning activities and learning strategies if you, as an educator, plans to flip your classroom:

1. Utilize class discussion boards

Features like Kritik’s discussion board will allow educators to post questions, poll the class, and allow students to answer each other's questions. Interactive technologies like these, help to foster the in-class engagement, the flipped classroom approach requires.

2. More team-based assignments

Placing students in groups to discuss class concepts or to complete assignments helps to expose students to differing points of view. Team-based discussions may occur remotely over chats and interactive videos. This can even be done in small-group discussions. Learning accessibility is greatly achieved with more team-based assignments. Also, this approach encourages student engagement making it more effective.

3. Peer assessment

Tools like Kritik’s peer assessment platform helps students receive the level of feedback they’ll require for self-directed home learning. Instructors should adopt the scaffolding approach for assignments which breaks down large assignments into mini-ones, to provide students the feedback they need quickly and frequently.

Peer assessment will also help educators reduce the stress incurred onto them for grading students’ assignments. This is where educators' peer instruction becomes critical in the learning space of every student online.

4. Skill development

There are subjects which require higher education learners to put dirt on their hands whenever necessary for a better learning experience. This could even be a great way to master or have a better grasp of students' work.

A flipped classroom model optimizes the learning experience of the students with their educators more than in a traditional lecture. The flipped classroom approach is an effective way to structure courses to maximize student understanding of concepts and engagement. This pedagogy empowers students to take charge of their own learnings and mold it in a way that is unique and beneficial to how they choose to understand concepts.

Flip your classroom today!

Reach every student in every class every day. Get started today by booking a demo to learn more!

Reducing educator stress

How to Reduce Stress Before the Start of the School Year

Tips for educators on reducing start-of-year stress and how Kritik can help

The end of summer is often met with mixed emotions; disdain for cooler temperatures, students excited about school, and educators finding themselves both hopeful and stressed as the dawn of a new school year encroaches. But fall 2020 will be a school year start unlike any other we’ve seen, the threat of the COVID pandemic is still ever-present. Some professors are forced to start their school year teaching online, others in-person, and some will experience both with hyflex courses.

On top of creating course content, as their job demands, educators are being inundated with questions from concerned students; adapting to new online teaching technologies that are too complex for most to use; worried about having their in-person classes forced online if a COVID outbreak were to occur in their institution.

We’re going to outline how Kritik can help you by reducing the stress experienced with planning & starting a new school year.

Dealing with teacher burnout during Covid-19 pandemic

With the new online learning environment that teachers and students take amid the pandemic, stress management is a must. While this new learning environment heightens professional development, instructors face challenges with high levels of stress. The high stress they experience should be dealt with properly to maintain teacher well-being and not to compromise job satisfaction.

Easily integrated

One of the main pieces of technology instructors may be using for the fall term is a learning management system (LMS), which houses student info such as grades and acts as a communication channel between instructors and their students. Kritik’s platform is built to integrate with existing technologies, so you’ll never have to worry about managing different systems, thus increasing your workload exponentially. In turn, teacher burnout is being managed appropriately.

Utilizing peer assessment

One of the biggest stressors instructors are facing today is the impact reduced teaching budgets are having on a faculty member’s support staff. Many institutions are cutting back on the number of Teaching Assistants or Teaching Aids allotted to instructors, thereby increasing the workload each TA or instructor will have to take on. Peer assessment is a valuable tool in not only saving instructors much needed time from grading but also a crucial tool in helping students develop their critical thinking skills.

By assessing other students' work, students themselves are exposed to new ideas, new viewpoints, and new approaches that otherwise would not be exposed to them. By doing so, students become curators of knowledge, not just consumers of it. This is a great student achievement that will lower the levels of stress among school teachers.

Create low-stakes assignments

Often, most educators will assign a mid-term test, a final paper, and a final exam or project as forms of evaluation on student understanding of course concepts. However, grading said assignments are often time-consuming and not beneficial to students. To ensure you are maximizing your teaching efforts, allow for more low-stakes, “mini-assignments” of sorts, to be added throughout the term. This serves as an act as a temperature check on students and their understanding of course concepts. If students aren’t performing well, perhaps it is an indication that some concepts are not properly being taught and updates to the course should follow in classroom management.

By introducing more low-stakes assessments, school leaders and educators can have the freedom to introduce new course concepts and evaluate early on if they are benefiting students or not. Although their mental health and wellness are at stake in these working conditions, they are willing to take the risk.

Create a sense of community

Your students are just as nervous and worried as you are starting this new academic/school year in secondary school, middle school, and tertiary education. It’s important to foster a sense of community between you and your students, particularly if you’re teaching online. Online courses that do not foster community bonds often see students disengaged with course material. Discussion boards are a powerful tool if used properly.

Kritik’s discussion feature allows you to communicate directly with students. While you can certainly use it for class discussions, try to utilize the tool to engage students outside of class subjects. Use it to post related articles, funny videos, or daily tips. Anything you can do to curate an organic community online will go a long way in ensuring students feel valued and excited to learn. This will help develop student behavior and emotional learning.

Fall 2020 will be difficult for many educators and their students, but it is also an opportunity to enhance student learning for the better over the long-term. The measures to relieve teacher burnout presented above will further strengthen their teaching profession. By choosing technologies that work, not only are you saving yourself time, you are exposing your students to an enhanced way of learning that will last them a lifetime.

With the help of these stress management measures, school teachers, support teachers, and other school administrators will have a work-life balance. A recent study on teacher report indicates the negative emotions caused by the pandemic to the mindfulness, social-emotional wellbeing, and physical health of the teachers. Get Started Today

Work-Life balance for Professors

Work-Life Balance When You’re Teaching From Home

Colleges & Universities quickly shuttered their doors back in March as the COVID Pandemic swept across the globe. This forces professors to teach their courses online.

Many believed a break from school would have resulted in a burst of academic research. This was the case of Sir Isaac Newton in 1665 who developed his best theories while Cambridge was forced to close due to an outbreak of the plague in London. However, it turned out to not be the case. Maybe Newton was lucky as he did not have children to take care of or learn how to have your own schedule for office hours with Google Calendar. He may not have responded to the queries students are sending their professors today. questions may. in fact, be in dozens if not hundreds. This serves as students' attempt to navigate learning remotely.

Online teaching has blurred the lines between work and home for many professors. Those who have kids are forced to home-sit as their children’s schools/daycares also remain shuttered. With budget cuts, professors are faced with fewer TA's to help grade and assist students in large classes.

For some professors, the technology-learning curve has proven to be stressful. Educational technology is now the name of the game to get a good learning experience. This may include Zoom classes, email queries, and scheduling online 1:1 is a lot to learn in a short period. Learning resources and means like g suite, webcam, video calls, and video conferencing are significant in this time of crisis.

Tips for maintaining a good work-life balance

So, where are all these taking you as an educator? How will you be able to deal with this new normal brought by the pandemic?

Here are a few tips to help you prepare for a fall semester of online or hybrid of online & in-person learning. These will help you remain at your best for your students in this new learning environment.

1.  Schedule your time & set expectations

Every educator wants to “show up” for their students, but with in-person classes on hold for the time being, that is proving to be a much more daunting task. Previously, students would interact with their educators before, after, or during class to have any of their questions answered, with online learning, those queries have been channeled to emails. You can spend your entire night responding to emails, but rather, it may be more prudent to set aside a block of time to respond to email queries from students. Couple that by setting a clear expectation to students on when they can expect a response from you on their emails, will help to limit the number of queries you receive. So, schedule your time & set clear expectations so students know what timeline a response may incur.

2.  Interact with your faculty

Over 60% of students surveyed say the hardest part of adjusting to online learning has been the lack of face to face interactions with their fellow students. Can we extrapolate that up to professors as well? Faculty members are not just individuals to bounce new research ideas off of, for many educators, they are friends and sources of understanding. Set aside some time to check in with your fellow faculty members, particularly early academics. Pre-COVID, 64% of PhD Candidates experienced feelings of loneliness and isolation. We all have a role to play to ensure each member in our department is healthy and doing ok.

3.  Avoid burnout

It’s important to realize that we cannot necessarily check everything off of our to-do lists in the timelines we prescribed ourselves – and that’s ok. Sometimes it is ok to not do anything at all – if possible, take a break from your work, recharge, and come back to class feeling recharged and energized.

The pandemic is a daunting time for all of us, but particularly your students. Uncertainty about jobs, the quality of their education, and financial constraints all bleed into their psyche each day.

Students are looking to you as a source of inspiration and energy. If you feel depleted and unmotivated, how do you think that projects on your students? Remote teaching is not an easy task. Care for yourself first, and your students will be better for it.

4. Work from home

While based at home, you will still be able to maintain a work-life balance. This is doable and possible if you are willing to make boundaries between them. Since online learning is the new norm like google classroom, learn how to cope with it. There are some ways to make this possible.

First, set separate areas for fun and work. This makes it easier to have a transition from your teaching work mode to your home mode. You will have equal time for your work and your personal life.

Second, never use your teaching computer during your free time. It is significant to have separate areas and tools for work life and private life. Give equal time to your work and for fun.

Third, go out for a walk after teaching your students. Go cycling is an alternative activity as well as exercise. Move your body and keep yourself up for health.

Fourth, make some plans for your after-work free time. Set a specific time to leave your desk to spend time with your family. A quick walk outside your house would also be a great idea just to ensure that you are getting a life.

5.  Create time-saving remote learning systems

With the new remote learning set-up, you need to adjust your time. Invest more time in setting up academic systems that will save you time. In this scenario, the procedures and routines in a virtual classroom are automated. This gives you focus on both teaching and learning.

The automated systems will help simplify your workload in the coming months or years. Show your students how exactly you would want them to submit their schoolwork. This will save you from responding or messaging to several emails of the same queries.    

6. Teach from home - home learning

You can keep work-life balance while giving students online learning. Be generous and have yourself compassion to teach online. Psychologists recommend online teachers to make plans for physical activities. Make your body move and make it a daily habit.

Acknowledge the stress that any work can give you. Tell your students or your family members what you really feel. Try to discuss stress with them and let them rate their stress level and ease your own.

Also, take note of the fact that you are not alone. Remember, it is us against coronavirus. Stress levels will only get higher when people compete against each other. Work together instead. You can do this by regulating your emotions.

7. Take pride as educators to achieve work-life balance

As educators, you need to figure out how to have a balanced life since teaching is a challenging job. Yes, there are obstacles in your career but you must respect your time. Acknowledge your impact on education. It may be difficult at first but switching off from electronics after work hours is relevant.

Meanwhile, you need to make priorities and your health should be on top of it. Exercise and any physical activities will help you deal and cope with education-associated issues. You still have friends outside of school. They are stress relievers as well. Set schedules and make time to bond with them as you have a flexible schedule now. Dinner dates and outings would not be a waste of time, isn’t it?

There is so much more after your online class. So, go and have a life not just work.

Learning how to have a work-life balance as an educator online can really be tough. However, it is critical for survival. But with the strategies and tips provided above, you can make sure that your career in teaching is also lasting, healthy other than impactful. Make use of these guidelines and the next time you know it, you are enjoying your job while being at home.

Get a life while teaching from the comfort of your home. Have a work-life balance let us be your guide.

Student assessment

Using Bloom's Taxonomy to Enhance Academic Performance

There is no secret formula that will improve academic achievement in students. If it had been there, it would differ by faculty. The purpose of this article is to lay out theories that have worked; real studies that are directly achieving academic success and student success.

Leveraging the science of Bloom's Taxonomy

Students reaching higher-order thinking skills (HOTS) can achieve good grades. HOTS is widely known for its application in STEM-related courses, such as how students analyze problem sets in mathematics courses [4]. Bloom's Taxonomy is a learning concept that classifies educational goals to foster higher-order thinking skills [1]. The progression of elements centers around the domain of cognition.

According to Krathwohl, Bloom's revised taxonomy is a hierarchy of learning elements that starts with remembering, understanding, application, analysis, evaluation, and creation. The learning pyramid together will enable students to engage in a cognitive process where they build their skills to ensure that learning is groomed appropriately [3].

Blooms Taxonomy

How does Bloom's Taxonomy apply to your course structure?

In applying Bloom's Taxonomy in real life, Kritik's gamified online peer assessment tool allows students to earn Kritik points to showcase their strength as a peer assessor. The Evaluation score combines how well you were able to assess your peers' work (based on rubric criteria laid out by the professor) in comparison to how the rest of the students evaluated the same creation. Also, the Kritik system can determine the potentiality of the feedback you provided to ensure that your assessment was from a critical and motivational perspective.  We have found that after administering 5-6 activities on Kritik, students generally increase their Evaluation score points total. Through our research and feedback so far, we have found that students who adopt a "Learning by Teaching" mindset can maintain course concepts more efficiently and effectively. This loop of consistent and increasingly quality feedback throughout the term is leading to students becoming more engaged in their work with a positive attitude. Also, the comments and feedback allow for students to improve on their creations, ultimately leading to good grades and higher class averages.

Graph of student performance

Food for thought:

  • What level of Bloom's Taxonomy do your current assessments sustain?
  • What aspects of the pyramid does your course heavily focus on?
  • Do your assessments allow for a vivid and accurate tracking of student performance and facilitate increases in quality as the term progresses?

To integrate the science behind Bloom's Taxonomy it is essential to construct feasible course goals. Higher-level goals relate to applying concepts whereas a lower-level goal would be more of remembering a definition or filling in multiple-choice questions [3]. Binding both goals together is the bridging goal, where a concept must be understood. Thus, student achievement is also tied to proper goal setting. So students need to know how to set course goals.


Lower-level cognitive task: Remembering [3]

e.g, when asked, the learner will list all six levels of Bloom’s revised taxonomy of learning.

Green - Criteria Red- Condition Orange- Performance

In action

A study conducted at the University of Papua focused on the relationship between HOTS and Mathematics for student academic performance. Their research method consisted of a practice exam conducted for 41 final year mathematics students within an hour to complete 9 HOTS-related questions and be assessed by a holistic rubric [4]. Critical thinking questions included conceptual understanding, prediction of impacts, comprehending principles, problem-solving, and decision-making. While creatively thinking on how they could work within a competency limit and their level of time-management was assessed, new challenges were addressed, and their thinking patterns merged with their imagination. The evaluation of the questions consisted of reviewing the understanding of problems, the problem-solving procedure, and the correct answers. According to the regression analysis model developed, the GPA value was estimated to increase by 0.017 units for every one-unit increase in HOTS [4]. In conclusion, the relationship between HOTS and the students' GPA was linear, positive, and strong. [4]

The effect of assessing vs being assessed

An interesting question arises: Can peer review be used as a tool in your classroom to increase students HOTS? Peer review integrates the teaching concept of learning that is the most effective way of retaining information and knowledge.

A study at the University of Barcelona focused on assessment and evaluation of higher education to determine whether giving or receiving feedback was more efficient for student performance [5]. To draw up a written paper on which to give feedback, a graduate class was put into groups behind the study. Students submitted and completed a survey based on their learning experience [5]. Using a survey that incorporated research indicators analyzing the relationship between cognitive learning and the development of discipline-related academic skills, they found that students as evaluators gained more from their experience and had a greater impact on assignment and knowledge transfer to future tasks [5].

Students who adopt a "Learning by Teaching" mindset can more efficiently and effectively retain concepts of a course. This loop of consistent and increasingly high-quality feedback throughout the term leads to more engagement with their work among students.

In the Kritik creation stage (which is the initial phase of activity or assessment), students are encouraged to understand the instructions and rubric evaluation criteria. So, it is clear how to approach a problem. However, by assessing peers' work, students need to actively analyze the submissions to identify errors and implement new ways to further simplify the hard work of their peers to help them get the correct answer and improve their study skills. Moreover, they can engage in HOTS by reviewing other creations by re-evaluating their methodology to solve the problem (learning strategies). By providing peer evaluations, students encompass learning by teaching mindset, encouraging students to analyze and evaluate the course concepts and knowledge to create submissions that meet the expectations of the assignment.

How to optimize peer assessment in your classroom

Not sure how to integrate peer assessment into your work syllabus? Kritik users Professor Alex Gainer and Jeff Boggs saw that reading-related activities helped high school students better engage with their material. Readings can usually be passive, but students can further increase their academic performance through note-taking during an interactive lecture prep.