Guest Contributor: Lester A. Lefton, President Emeritus, Kent State University.

The reality of higher education today is that students aren’t just learning from just one singular source any longer. Instead, they’re relying more heavily on sites like Google and Wikipedia, which both lack the depth and credibility to be real academic resources. As instructors, you have the opportunity take a leadership role in ensuring academic integrity by stepping up and empowering students to use appropriate resources—including one another. There’s a real opportunity to improve academic outcomes if we empower students by enabling them to play a more active role in their higher education learning experience, and to help each other succeed.

The Millennial generation has a deep-rooted desire to be constantly connected to one another. Today’s average 18-24 year old is sending an average of 67 text messages per day, that’s 2,022 text messages per month and more than 24,000 text messages per year. Let’s utilize that desire and passion for connectivity for more than just text messages; let’s use it to improve the learning process. By encouraging students to listen more to one another and engage in collaborative, peer-to-peer learning—significant gains in academic outcomes could likely be seen.

We need to allow students to tell us what they want, then build a way to guide them through the learning process. We need to listen to students, and stop telling them how they should learn. If a student is more focused on learning through visual modes, let’s provide him or her with visual cues and context. If in today’s world of 140 character sound bites, students learn better with flashcards, bullet points, or tightly modularized notes, let’s provide them with these tools. This does not mean students need to be given free rein. Instead, learning should become a professor lead, student-empowered process.

The Cengage Learning and Flashnotes.com partnership that began last fall, is a step toward embracing this new model of learning. We’re recognizing the need for high quality, student-created content to augment existing study materials in today’s marketplace, and to enable students to study and learn in the way that works best for them—whether that be study guides, notes, flashcards, video tutorials, or live video help. By integrating the Flashnotes.com marketplace into MindTap, the premier e-learning environment, we have continued to deliver high levels of engagement among classmates to inspire improved student outcomes.

It’s time to embrace professor lead, student-empowered learning. Let’s use this generation’s talents in connectivity to transform the learning process, and let’s start empowering students to play an active role in their own academic success.

About Lester A. Lefton
Dr. Lester A. Lefton is President Emeritus of Kent State University, accomplished Psychology professor and best-selling textbook author. During his time at Kent State University Dr. Lefton oversaw one of the nation’s largest university systems. Prior to his time at Kent State, Dr. Lefton was senior vice president for academic affairs and provost at Tulane University, dean of George Washington University’s College of Arts and Sciences, and dean of the University of South Carolina’s College of Liberal Arts.