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Large and Small Publishers of University Resources"Literature Review" Chapter

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¶ … universities and colleges are crowded places making the jobs of teachers and professors a difficult one in attending to personal needs of the students. In addition, suggesting textbooks, either the printed format or e-books is not easy, as few large players dominate the publishing market. The introduction and access of technology has added to the confusion. The e-books add the dimension of larger interaction between student-peers, student-student and peer-peer groups, helping the pursuit of education and dissemination and analysis of knowledge that is the prime objective of education in universities. The continued inactivity of university presses has only complicated the decision-making capacity of the professors at the graduate and under-graduate levels, as specific, proactive, and responsive textbook production (whether in traditional or digital form) remains largely within the confines of select few, large publishing houses in the American universities. In this paper, issues relating to textbooks, teacher's preferences and related issues are attempted through a study of limited literature that is available.

1. What parameters are used by American university professors in choosing classroom teaching resources?

Some of the most difficult classes to teach in the universities are undergraduate classes that have high enrolments. University professors in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and Australia utilize different approaches to tackle the difficulties related to teaching these undergraduate classes and thus create a learning environment that is effective. The approaches encompass utilization of both organizational and simple strategies and a range of advanced technologies and communications equipments to better the learning environment. High enrolment classes are usually taught by instructors who have been trained to lecture smaller classes. This creates a situation that is at times inefficient and unfulfilling to both the instructors and the students, by consequence. The difficulties encountered in teaching large undergraduate classes continue to persist even now (Hanover Research, 2010).

Large undergraduate classes have been a common and almost standard feature in colleges and universities in the U.S. And around the globe for quite some time. As such, lecturers across universities have come up with several strategies to help them effectively structure and teach these large classes. These strategies are designed in such a manner to make instruction times efficient and productive, to improve the interaction between the student and the faculty, and/or to create a learning environment that is proactive. While it is possible and easier to make abrupt changes to a course plan in smaller sized classes, the situation is different in high-enrolment undergraduate classes where it is particularly important to clearly and firmly organize the course plan before the first class meeting. The main objectives for professors instructing high enrolment classes is to make the class seem or appear smaller than it really is, to motivate the undergraduate students to participate and for them to make themselves easily accessible to students. The issue is about the instructors thrust on changing the normally passive learning environment, into an environment that is active and the students can be individually engaged. It is crucial for professors to create and encourage a student-faculty interaction in order to build an environment where the professors are not only easily accessible but the students also feel very comfortable approaching them. To achieve these objectives, professors utilize several teaching and organizational approaches. Of late an increasing number of institutions of higher learning have been incorporating newer technologies to further enhance the teaching of high-enrolment undergraduate classes (Hanover Research, 2010).

A key dimension in the organization of high enrolment undergraduate classes is the strategic planning of assessments. Certainly it is difficult in large classes to grade assignments submitted by the many students, so it is necessary to spend time to create templates for assessment that are both practical as well as effective. One commonly used approach of doing so is by utilizing a combination of easy-to-mark multiple choice questions (MCQs) assignments to test basic knowledge and more taxing projects such as essays to evaluate higher learning objectives. Apart from a clear, well-defined and comprehensive course organization, another key strategy for teaching high-enrolment classes is to create and encourage the interaction between the students and the faculty. Towards creating an environment where students are comfortable to approach and interact with their professors and are motivated to do so, professors can choose to utilize from the several conventional, simple methods to connect with the undergraduate students (Hanover Research, 2010). Some of the primary means of facilitating student-faculty interaction include:

Spending time at the end of lecture sessions talking to the students. Professors can also, if possible end the classes before time to give the students adequate time to approach them and ask questions.

Professors and other instructors can also try to call the undergraduate students they are teaching by their names. Since it can be difficult to remember the names of each and every student in the class, professors can have the students place placards bearing their names on their desks.

Professors also ought to walk around the class to enable the students to feel more connected.

Professors can also have their students fill out a "student profile" that details their interests during the first class meeting (Hanover Research, 2010).

Several new technologies have lately been incorporated to transform high enrolment classes into learning environments that are effective and rewarding. These technologies are directed at enhancing lectures, developing electronic forums for out-of-class learning and creating in-class learning instruments. These three functions are directed towards creating an atmosphere of active learning in large classes. Professors can utilize modern technology to assist them to deliver traditional lectures more effectively to large classes. In a high-enrolment class, students usually have trouble comprehending all the material covered in class. In fact, one study reported that students may learn or record a paltry 52% of the material covered during a lecture. This is attributed to the fact that students are usually susceptible to experiencing several "attention breaks" during a lecture. Utilizing technologies such as visual aids makes lessons exciting and more interesting and is one of the ways through which professors can combat the "attention breaks" phenomenon (Hanover Research, 2010).

The technology that has become commonplace in the teaching of high-enrolment classes in advanced universities is an audience response system. Audience response systems incorporate the use of handheld devices that enable the students to interact with and respond to lecturers. Clickers, part of the audience response systems, enable professors to gather numerous types of feedback for students in high enrolment classes that are often not conducive for the individual interactions between the students and the professors. In many scenarios, clickers enable students to interact and contribute more freely than they could without the technology. This is particularly true in high enrolment classes where even if the professors wanted to, a sufficient amount of time would not be available for all the students to contribute. The ability of clickers to enable anonymous contributions from students is one of its top benefits. Clickers also contribute to enhanced classroom environments. Using clickers, professors can make their students "clock in" using their clickers to note how many are present. Furthermore, by asking questions and getting responses during the class session professors can gauge if the students are paying attention throughout the lecture. Utilized in this manner, clickers essentially become monitoring devices enabling professors teaching high enrolment classes to keep track of the students coming to class and to monitor their participation. Some professors have even incorporated the use of the clicker to count students' final grade; a decision that has resulted in some professors recording significantly increased lecture attendance. Thus, newer technologies are helping American professors to make classes a little more active, rather than just plain monotonous lecture (Hanover Research, 2010).

Even though at times graduate students are perceived or looked at as a totally different assembly from the undergraduates, the reality is that graduate students learn the same way that undergraduate students do; via the effective retention and knowledge transfer (Cassuto, 2013). author Michelle Schwartz, in her article "Teaching Graduate Students" (n.d), describes a course in which students work in unison to generate a "review of the literature" paper, that instead of having students strictly follow the standard graduate format that entails reading and presentation of articles and the eventual writing of research paper at the end of the course, Garcia, a professor, had the graduate students gather, read and summarize a variety of articles and then debate the weaknesses, strengths, needs, gaps and applications of the field and only then, finally develop a focus for a review of the literature paper. This exercise not only gave the students a thorough overview of the thinking in their field but also taught the student about how to come up with a literature review paper from scratch, about the submission process to a journal and how to prepare for a peer review process. Thus, this approach made the necessary preparatory exercises such as reading discussing, analyzing and writing about the field way more interesting to the graduate student since they were… [END OF PREVIEW]

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