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Using MindTap and Aplia to Customize a US History Course
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In this blog post you will read about how easy it is to enhance student learning by customizing your MindTap course.   Not only can MindTap content be customized to match your syllabus, but the content itself can be reorganized, relabeled, and repurposed to suit the needs of your students.


Trace Etienne Gray teaches US History at Texas State San Marcos. Because her courses are totally taught online, she needed to find a way to make her online course materials match her classroom teaching style and present the content in the order she wanted to teach it. In a traditional classroom, this is easy to do, but for an online course, this requires either creating your own content or customizing content from a publisher platform, which is not always easy or even possible.


Reorganizing MindTap Content to Match a Syllabus 

Fortunately for Trace, MindTap is an online platform that makes it easy for an instructor to customize the organization of the content, as well as customize the content itself. MindTap content for US History comes organized by chapter, and for US History, that means organized chronologically. Trace renames all the chapter headers by weeks in the semester because she says that students are not always “attentive to the details” of her syllabus.


She also clearly labels any optional or practice assignments, such as the chapter Check Your Understanding sections, which are great for helping students confirm that they have mastered key ideas.




Trace renames the Aplia assignments Weekly Processing Activities which are required assignments and which count for 30% of the course grade.



Customizing Aplia Assignments

Around Week Five in the semester, Trace has her students take a UNIT REVIEW which is a customized Aplia assignment that she has created by pulling Aplia questions from the Weekly Review Activities. She really likes that MindTap allows her to create her own customized Aplia assignments. 


She also likes that Aplia assignments offer thought questions, not just recall questions.  Trace chooses questions that are going to help reinforce those topics that students will likely see on their essay tests.  


One-to-One Correlation between Assignments and Assessments 

One of the hardest things about using an online study tool, according to Trace, is that students want to see that assignments and the assessments have a one-to-one correlation so that they know what they need to study.  Customizing Aplia assignments allows Trace to offer her students exactly that.



Customizing Aplia Scoring 

One other tip that Trace has found worthwhile is that she sets the Aplia grading to AVERAGE instead of KEEP THE HIGHEST.   She has discovered that her students read the textbook more carefully, knowing that their attempts will be averaged.  When the grading was KEEP THE HIGHEST, they were more likely to try and game the system.  Trace admits that as a result, students must work harder, but she wants to dispel any idea that her course is a “blow-off” course.


Trace also changes the point value of the Aplia assignments for greater consistency.


Customizing the Learning Path to Promote Understanding 

In addition to customizing her Aplia assignments, Trace feels that another huge advantage to MindTap is the ability to move around and customize chapter content in the learning path.  Before asking students to read The New South, a section in chapter 18, she pulls a section from chapter 16 on Reconstruction and places it before The New South, providing her students with the background information that they will need, which greatly increases their reading comprehension.


Thanks to MindTap, Trace can structure the material for her online classes the way that she feels will best support student learning, and in the process makes her U.S. History courses uniquely her own.




Give it a try! Click here to log into your Cengage account and access your MindTap class.

MindTap is included with Cengage Unlimited.