NBC Learn Higher Ed Subscriber Spotlight: Helping Students Overcome Anxieties About College
Going to college can be an intimidating experience. Gone are the support structures of high school: the routine, the nightly homework and the continuous assignments that contribute to a student’s final grade. Those aspects of school are quickly replaced by lectures, midterms, and final papers. Despite the challenges of this process for students that recently finished their formal K-12 schooling career, the experience can be even more intimidating for nontraditional college students: individuals that finished high school years ago and have spent the intervening time working and raising a family.
Sara Obeidat, a professor at Strayer University, is often the first collegiate level instructor that students encounter when they enroll at Strayer. She’s sees her job as not only teaching students the content for her Informational Studies course, but also getting them used to how college operates.
That includes “Getting them over their own anxiety and fears,” says Obeidat. “Understanding that not everything is going to be perfect. If they don’t do well on one assignment, don’t give up. They’ve got find that grit and they have to keep going.”
For some nontraditional students, those challenges don’t only extend to the course content, but also include adapting to digital courses. Since Obeidat’s course is taught entirely online, part of the learning curve is related to understanding how modern technology works.
“It is getting them acclimated to not just the course material, but getting them acclimated to the schedule of going to school and through the process,” says Obeidat. “They are also learning how to use things such as [Microsoft] Office, learning about technology, learning some concepts of the internet, and how to be safe in using the internet.”
But it is exactly these topics, like internet safety and the evolution of technology, that excite Obeidat about the course that she teaches.
“I love getting into technology and seeing what’s new because it is always changing. It’s never a stagnant market,” says Obeidat. “Growing up I never had a computer. I used to take apart my dad’s radio. Look at where we are at, the evolution of technology is always different. What was good last year is probably not going to be good next year.”
To introduce her students to different topics related to information systems, Obeidat relies on NBC Learn’s Technology and Engineering collection. The series features a wide range of videos about different uses for technology and the people that have influenced how we all live our lives. This includes everything from a profile of Apple CEO Tim Cook to an in-depth exploration of the information that Edward Snowden released from the NSA. Obeidat has used a variety of these pieces in her instruction, including showing her students how robots are being used in healthcare.
“I like to show that you don’t have to just be an IT major,” says Obeidat. “You can be in health care or academics, and you still need to have information systems.”
For each lesson, Obeidat scourers NBC Learn for relevant pieces and embeds them in her course under the “Professor’s Insights” section. While students aren’t required to review the supplementary materials listed in this section, it provides them with the unique opportunity to go a little bit deeper into each topic.
“I usually add three or four videos just to the Insight section,” says Obeidat. “I’ll throw some videos into the discussions to prove that this is something you might want to consider.”
Students get the chance to respond to Obeidat’s discussion question and often build off of their classmates’ ideas.
“Every once in a while I’ll have students who say, ‘I didn’t think about that’ or ‘Wow that was insightful,’” says Obeidat.
While the internet has afforded Obeidat access to a plethora of content, she is always skeptical about her sources. Over time, she has come to trust NBC Learn for quality videos that relate specifically to the course she is teaching.
“I know that you have the YouTube and Google searches out there, but I know that [NBC Learn] is clean and it is appropriate,” says Obedient. “You can’t trust that with Google or with YouTube that it is going to be clean content, and you might miss something.”
While it is important to have educationally relevant content, it is equally important to have content that meets all of her students’ needs.
“Their attention spans are short when they are in class,” says Obeidat. “If we have a 10 minute video, they aren’t going to watch that.” For Obediat, one of the biggest selling points around NBC Learn is the length of the videos. Nearly all of them are between 2 and 6 minutes in length. “I like the relevancy of it as well and that they are short.”
Short, concise, and to the point is what helps Obeidat keep her students engaged and interested in her course, especially as they are getting used to being a college student.
“There is a point in the course where their light turns on,” says Obeidat. “I enjoy helping them find their goals because I remember what it was like to be a student and want to go to school and get your education. I enjoy helping them meet those goals and come to the conclusion of their education because it helps their families as well as their communities.”