Guest Contributor: Clayton Austin, Ph.D., Product Manager for Psychology at Cengage Learning.


With over ten years of college level teaching experience, I’ve had the pleasure of having hundreds of students in my classroom. They enter with varying levels of engagement and motivation, and they have a variety of learning goals in mind. In that role, my own goal was to encourage them to take responsibility for meeting their personal learning goals, while still challenging them to be open-minded and to think critically. Now, as a product manager for Cengage Learning’s Introductory Psychology learning solutions, I think about many of the same things that concerned me as an instructor—but from the perspective of someone who is developing the content to support a course.

This new role has also caused me to start at the beginning, and consider again: Of all the options open to students, why might they choose to take an introductory psychology course? And once they’re in there, what will an instructor expect them to accomplish?

To gain fresh insight into this question, my team recently asked instructors of Intro Psych about their goals for the class. We found that their priorities were to ensure that students:

  1. Understand core concepts
  2. Apply these core concepts to everyday life
  3. Understand psychology as a science.

These learning goals make great sense to me. Once students get the foundational concepts of psychology down, they’ll be better poised to think critically about psychology and apply its theories and findings to real-world situations. In my work here at Cengage Learning, I want to make sure that anything we create supports these goals.

Of course, I also realize that I have a responsibility to develop a learning solution that responds to students’ needs and goals. As a company, Cengage Learning is placing more emphasis on our student end-users, and integrating their feedback into our product development. In my conversations with Intro Psych students they tell me that they want tools to help them know what and when to study and how to make their study time as fast and effective as it can be. These tools should help students retain the foundational concepts, while also enabling them to analyze, apply, and improve their thinking. They should also allow both students and instructors to easily see progress to learning goals.

And we’re well on our way there! Recently, Cengage Learning partnered with Cerego to integrate their adaptive learning technology into our MindTap platform for Intro to Psychology students. Built upon years of validated learning science research, Cerego’s adaptive technology help students to efficiently learn and effectively remember by uniquely adapting to their performance to determine what, how, and when to study.

The result of our collaboration for Intro Psych—the Mastery Training MindApp, powered by Cerego—measures each student’s rate of learning and forgetting every concept, and calculates the precise moment to review, resulting in a highly personalized, adaptive learning experience. This distributed practice encourages students to build their learning over time—a far more effective way of learning than cramming at the last moment! And, the highly visual display of progress motivates them to keep studying what and when they need to,  and as a result, strive for achieving the learning goals they’ve set for the course.

As a company, we’re learning that, in order to deliver learning solutions that bring about students’ success, we need to understand their specific wants and needs. By so doing, we’re poised to help them achieve their learning goals. As a Psychology team, our partnership with Cerego and our integration of their adaptive technology helps us ensure that we are delivering solutions that delight our customers.

Clayton Austin is the Psychology Product Manager for Cengage Learning.