Photo: Milind Basole, the Center for Innovation in Teaching & Learning’s Manager of eText Operations at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, showcases the learning modules in CITL’s Literacy Series, created on the award-winning eText@Illinois platform.
By Bruce Adams, Contributing Writer
In Fall 2021, the Center for Innovation in Teaching & Learning introduced Dollars and Sense, an online learning module created on the award-winning eText@Illinois platform, to help incoming undergraduates to the University of Illinois manage their money.
The popular eText was followed by a second module, Media Matters, which came out the following year.
This fall (2023), CITL is rolling out four new modules: Learning How to Learn, Nutrition Lab—Interactive Online Module, The Library 101, and Cybersecurity and You.
The modules are part of CITL’s Literacy Series, created in collaboration with Illinois faculty to equip students with knowledge and skills on a variety of topics that will help them make informed decisions at college and throughout their lives, according to Milind Basole, CITL’s Manager of eText Operations.
Basole said the modules are interactive, accessible, and designed to provide “how-to” information. Students can access the modules via their smartphone, tablet, or favorite electronic device, and they are free to anyone with a NetID.
“In addition to creating these modules that can help students in their daily lives, … we hope this series introduces more students and instructors to the eText platform,” Basole said.
He pointed out that CITL works closely with Disability Resources and Educational Services (DRES) to ensure its products meet or exceed accessibility standards and best practices for students with visual, hearing, motor, and learning impairments. The interactive feature allows students to take notes or quizzes, email their instructors, and collaborate with peers in the platform. Also, the modules are self-paced, and students can complete each module in about an hour.
Basole got the idea to create Dollars and Sense while helping Craig Lemoine – Clinical Associate Professor and Director of Financial Planning in the College of Agricultural, Consumer & Environmental Sciences (ACES), turn his self-authored materials for his Personal Finance course into an eText. Then he convinced Lemoine’s help to create a shorter, distilled version of the course eText specifically designed incoming students, many of whom were managing their money on their own for the first time, to teach them the basics of budgeting, debt, and other financial matters.
Basole and Lemoine thought it was a great idea, but what would students think?
That first year, Basole said 1,000 or so students took the hour-long module for extra credit.
“Four hundred students came back with comments on how useful this was and that we really knocked the ball out of the park,” recalled Basole, who was tickled that so many students took time to provide feedback.
Buoyed by the success of Dollars and Sense, Basole and Kate LaBore, now retired from CITL, teamed up with College of Media faculty to create Media Matters. That module was designed to give students skills needed to critically analyze and evaluate the news, ads, social media, and other types of messaging they consume, as well as their sources.
It also proved to be popular among students who took the module for extra credit.
The new modules, which are now available, are:
- Learning How to Learn: Created with the help of a teaching and learning expert, it gives students the tools to successfully manage college-level coursework.
- Nutrition Lab—Interactive Online Module: CITL teamed up with Food Science & Human Nutrition faculty to examine why nutrition is important and how students can separate fact from misinformation.
- Library 101: “Our library is a terrific resource, but it’s underused,” said Basole, who teamed up with University Library staff to show students what’s in the library and how to navigate it.
- Cybersecurity and You: Basole collaborated with Technology Services to help students learn how to keep themselves and their personal information safe online.
Basole said CITL is partnering with the School of Social Work to create a module, which will be available in Spring 2024. The interactive module will take students on a virtual tour of Champaign-Urbana from a social and racial justice perspective.
After that, “the literacy series should grow and grow and grow,” said Basole, who would like to create a civics module.
He welcomes other topics from stakeholders across campus.
While the Literacy eText Series is only available to Illinois students, faculty, and staff, Basole said there’s potential for a much broader audience.
In the future, “we want to make this available to anyone in the world who is interested,” said Basole, who is preparing a presentation on the series for an upcoming Educause conference. The nonprofit association brings together educators, technology experts, and industry experts that described itself as “the largest community to forecast the use of education technology.”
Basole would also like to take a variation of Dollars and Sense into the public school system.
“I see a huge advantage to this,” he said, adding it would help students understand how money works and promote the eText program at the University of Illinois.
Check out one or all of the Literacy series modules for FREE at Etext.illinois.edu/literacy.
Learn more about the award-winning eText@Illinois, and learn how to use CITL’s Literacy eText Series in your classroom by emailing email@example.com.