Media Pearsoncmg Docs Assignments Student Success Coco

One of the three key tenets of metacognitive engagement in the classroom is teaching students heuristic strategies specific to the subject matter (Pintrich, 2002; Bembenutty, 2009). The other two are teaching students when to use the strategies and how to self-assess the successful use of those strategies. When considering critical thinking classes, this might involve teaching specific problem solving strategies, like the difference between permutations and combinations, as well as when each should be applied. However, other types of strategies could be beneficial, such as templates for assignments, video instructions, and detailed rubrics for self-assessment.

Students still had to complete the same activities and assignments—but how I supported their learning was the difference maker.

Nearly a year ago I noticed that many adult students in two of my online courses were having serious trouble interpreting the assignments. It is not that the curriculum developers did a poor job; it was due to a scheduling issue—students who were accustomed to taking one course at a time were enrolled in two courses. Compound doubling up with having full-time jobs and families and it was a recipe for poor performance. The challenge was to create strategies that would allow students to focus on the content and specifics of the assignment by minimizing distractions and promoting a better learning experience in the process. Specifically, I incorporated templates, videos, and detailed rubrics to help guide students in their assignments. Learning goals and course requirements did not change—students still had to complete the same activities and assignments—but how I supported their learning was the difference maker.

Before detailing each, I can attest that the number of students who successfully complete each assignment has gone up dramatically, as have the amount of kudos for offering much clearer directions and student comments about being better able to apply the learning objectives in their daily lives. They were more successful in mastering the learning objectives without as much time spent trying to decipher the instructions.


As each of the assignments contains several unalterable components, I developed properly formatted paper templates. These had APA-style cover pages, section headings, and references pages. They also had additional details about where to find the information and what points to cover. This helped ensure that they would address all required parts in a multi-part assignment. Yes, there are times when open-ended assignments are better, where personal exploration is encouraged, but not with these assignments. Students routinely commented that the organization helped considerably.

Instructional videos

After creating the templates, I added video instructions in which I walk students through the process of finding the template and discuss options on how to address each component. These videos also contain examples of the kind of content the papers should have as well as explanations of the purpose and learning objectives of each assignment. Each video is between 10 and 15 minutes. I discovered that students who could not find an hour to watch a longer recording covering the learning objectives were amenable to watching the shorter one covering the objectives in a way that emphasized application.


While detailed rubrics actually appeared as my first attempt to better support my overwhelmed students, I found they were the least effective. Initially, the intention was for students to use the detailed rubrics to self-assess before submitting their papers. These are still quite useful as students can see exactly the value of each component in the final grade. When students used them, they found they were more likely to cover all the assigned components. Using generic topical rubrics seemed to be more confusing and more work as students could not see specifically where they went astray. Detailed rubrics are still beneficial when students are shown how to use them. When there are time constraints, unfortunately, there is less likelihood students will use the rubric to evaluate their work before submitting it.

As stated, when students used the tools, they demonstrated more competency on the learning objectives in the assignment. I also found that the students who ignored the tools were often the ones who failed to grasp the effort required in order to succeed in an academic environment. Without making the templates mandatory, there will always be some who refuse to use them.

Last, there is one downside to using such detailed tools for supporting student success: grading bias. When so much is provided, there is an expectation that the templates will be used and that the specifics of the assignment will be met. It is difficult to be more open-minded when objectives and tools are ignored, but the gaps in understanding the objectives are more obvious.

Bembenutty, H. (2009). Three essential components of college teaching: Achievement calibration, self-efficacy, and self-regulation. College Student Journal 43, 2, 562-570.

Pintrich, P. (2002). The role of metacognitive knowledge in learning, teaching, and assessing. Theory into Practice 41, 4, 219-225.

Steve Wyre teaches full time at Independence University.

Posted in Course Design, Instructional Design
Tagged with rubrics, student success, student support

Welcome to the SSC’s online writing tutor portal! Our online writing tutoring is asynchronous, meaning you don’t need to be online while the tutor reads your paper, provides you with feedback, and returns the paper by email. Here is how it works:

  1. Click the link below to complete a submission form. The form sends your paper, assignment requirements, and other relevant information to the SSC where it will then be assigned to a writing tutor. Please note: Papers that are received without the course assignment requirements will not be reviewed. Online submissions are for paper no longer than 5-6 pages. Papers longer than this should be reviewed in person at the Student Success Center.
  2. Once you have submitted the form, please allow 1 – 2 business days for a response from your tutor.
  3. When the tutor receives your submission, your paper will be converted into Google Docs file, if not already in that format, and using the comments feature your tutor will provide feedback related to the concerns you indicated on your submission form. The tutor’s comments will appear in the right-hand margin of your paper.
  4. A link to your paper with comments will then be emailed back to you, so be sure to check your USF email.

A Few Simple Rules:

  • After you receive a tutor’s feedback and revise your paper, you may resubmit–but only if you have revised.
  • You may only submit documents written by you. You may not submit documents on behalf of other writers.
  • You must use your USF email address, the one ending in

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q:  Do I have to be online during the online tutorial?

A:  No. The tutor does not need to communicate with you during the process.

Q:  When I get my paper back, can I email the tutor questions?

A:  No. Unfortunately, the tutor’s schedule is such that he or she may not be available for dialogue. You can call the SSC, 727-873-4632, to make a follow-up face-to-face appointment with a writing tutor or stop by during regular business hours (see Tutor Schedule for writing tutor availability).

Q:  I have a 50-page thesis. Can I submit it all for tutoring?

A:  During an online session, tutors will spend no more than one hour on a paper; that equates to about 5-6 pages. When you have a longer document, you need to make a series of appointments and submit your document in sections or come in to the SSC for a face-to-face session.

Q:  Can online tutors fix grammar and citation problems?

A:  No. Tutors are not allowed to “fix” student papers. Online tutoring is best for reader feedback and help with organizational issues. Online tutors may notice one or two prevalent patterns of grammar error and direct you to resources for learning how to correct those errors. If you need help with issues such as grammar and citations, please make an appointment for face-to-face tutoring.

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