5 Ways to Integrate Active Learning into Your Lectures

By Diane Ross, M.Ed., Realityworks Senior Field Account Manager for NC, SC, VA, WV

A new buzzword in the education world is “active learning.” Across the country, colleges are adapting from the lecture model to active learning. Imagine your old college days, sitting in a sea of students and listening to the professor talk for one or two hours.  Were you able to stay awake? Kids these days say they cannot.

Perhaps today’s students have become accustomed to being entertained, but more importantly, maybe it is time to abandon that old “sage on the stage” model, even at the highest educational levels.

Active learning does encompass some of the older teaching strategies, such as “think, pair, share” and experiential learning. At Realityworks, we embraced active learning before it had a name. We researched how students learn and found that hands-on learning beat lectures any day.

We’re not saying that there is no longer any room for lectures. However, an active learning technique called PAUSE can help make lectures more impactful to today’s students.

Active learning strategy: Pausing in lecture

These strategies work towards inserting wait time in lectures for students to reflect on, discuss and apply the ideas that were just presented. They encourage students to engage actively in the lecture, rather than passively taking notes. These strategies also help students to realize what they do and don’t understand about the lecture.

Try this with your students by:

  1. Asking them not take notes as you work through a concept on the board. When you are done, give them five minutes to copy your notes down and discuss the concept with peers. This allows students to process the information and identify what they don’t understand.
  2. Pausing for six to ten seconds between asking a question and calling on a student to respond. Have students do a quick write-up about a concept just covered in lecture (e.g. their understanding, two questions they have about the concept as presented, what they would like to know more about, etc.). Optional: Collect the write-ups to help you better understand what they understood from the lecture, what questions they have and how best to keep them engaged.
  3. Conducting “turn and talks.” Ask peers to talk to each other about what they do and don’t understand and/or share with each other what they wrote down in their notes about a particular concept just covered in lecture. Encourage students to add to their notes from the discussion
  4. Having students apply their understanding of a concept just covered by working with a small group around a huddle board. Optional: Have a few groups share their work and elicit reactions and reviews from other students. Summarize findings and scientific normative explanations.
  5. Having students conduct “think-pair-shares,” polling them to keep their minds engaged in the topic and share their ideas with their peers for greater meaning-making opportunities.

I am grateful to work for a company that focuses directly on providing hands-on learning resources that support active learning. The curriculum we pair with these tools is full of resources and activities that help students to experience something before actually doing it.  Our research shows that when this type instruction is provided, the students’ learning occurs more quickly and at a deeper level.

How are you supporting active learning in your classroom? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Diane Ross holds a Master’s Degree in Secondary Education from Marshall University in Huntington, WV. She has been with Realityworks since 2013, and has been instrumental in assisting educators with implementing educational solutions that make a difference in students’ lives.

5 Key Soft Skills

What are Soft Skills? Soft skills are personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people. Recent studies have found that employers think personality skills are just as important, if not more important, than hard skills.

This infographic discusses five key soft skills and why employers find them to be essential in today’s workplace. Download it today as a daily reminder for your students of the importance of developing these skills.

Learn More: In our recent webinar, Best Practices for Teaching Soft Skills, we share tips and best practices for teaching students the soft skills they’ll need for life beyond the classroom. Watch it here.

Finding Inspiration

By Diane Ross, M.Ed., Realityworks Senior Field Account Manager for NC, SC, VA, WV

I attended the NC WORKS Conference last month and walked away truly inspired.  I work in sales for Realityworks and keeping a pipeline of customers is essential for company survival.  Inspiration comes from seeing students become successful in life as a result of our products.

NC WORKS is not really focused on just finding jobs for people, but that is a GOOD thing.  They are focused on preparing people for well-paying careers and they have a great plan in place.  The pipeline starts with Career and Technical Education Directors looking at middle school, where kids explore careers suited to their intellect, their interest and their lifestyles.  That pipeline extends to high school, where students begin to make career choices, such as healthcare, or welding, or electrical trades, for instance.

Students choose a life career pathway that leads them to a certification, such as Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA).  But, the NC WORKS group does not want the student to stop there.  They want the student to get that certification as a step into post-secondary, where the community college might take the student from CNA into an allied health field, such as respiratory therapy.

The goal is to get a student highly skilled so that they can best support themselves (salary) in their communities. That salary amount depends on where they choose to live, such as the higher end for areas like Charlotte and maybe less for more rural areas.

The bottom line here is the planning that goes into making sure we are pointing students toward careers that will allow them to live and prosper, create and support their families and be productive citizens.

The good news is that the products that my company is offering align directly in the pathways laid out by the NC WORKS commission.  Our products allow students to experience workplace skills, such as geriatric nursing, welding or electrical trades in a safe environment and allows a student to find out early if they are well-suited for this line of profession.  That makes me feel good.

This is a big charge to take on especially with and this month’s proposed Presidential Budget.  It is aimed at cutting Career and Technical Education funding by a national average of 15%, this certainly won’t help this initiative.  In North Carolina alone, according to ACTE, the state could lose 28% of federal funding under the President’s proposed budget.

Let’s hope they keep working on that budget and keep education in focus.

When Fax Machines First Came on the Market

By Diane Ross, M.Ed., Realityworks Senior Field Account Manager for NC, SC, VA, WV

When fax machines first came on the market, a friend told me a story about one of her sales.  She had gone into an office and sold them a fax machine.  She taught the office manager how to use it and everything was good until the next morning.  She was listening to her messages when that same office manager called and said, “I can’t get this fax thing to work.  I keep putting the paper in the machine, but it keeps coming out the other end.”  Funny as it was, just imaging the recipient who kept getting the same fax, over and over.

This reminds me of how far we have come with technology.  It also reminds me of how important it is to have students demonstrate their learning before moving on.

I work for a company that works to reach students by allowing them to try something difficult (or dangerous), in a realistic setting so that they can make better life choices.  They can try their hand at welding, or take a cow apart and feel the ruminant’s texture, or they can see what it is like to care for an infant.

We now start talking to kids about making career choices as early at sixth grade.  This really isn’t too early because the world is a very big place.  Waiting until they are entering high school and using the old ‘tell them over and over the importance of choosing a good career’ doesn’t work with today’s kids.  They want to feel it, touch it and experience it and they want to know what’s in it for them.

One exercise I’ve seen going on is creating a PERSONAL BUDGET.  You can start this in middle school.  Have the student create a monthly budget.  Where do you want to live, then research apartment rents. Don’t forget about utilities.  Do you want a car?  You’ll need insurance and gas.  What about food?

Put this budget together, then start looking at careers.  How much do they pay?  What schooling with they need?  Can they work while in schools?  How much money will you need to support your life?  What careers meet these financial goals.  I think it is important to talk to kids about their financial goals.  How do they want to live?  What is important?  Then, show them how to get to those goals.

Realityworks’ Employability Skills Program can help you get started with these conversations. Our products will help you continue the conversations and allow student to gauge their interest in a field before they commit money toward a goal they really don’t know much about.

For a great overview of what Realityworks has to offer take a look at our 2017 Product Lineup or visit our Products on our website.

It’s Time to Focus on Time Management

By Denise Bodart, Realityworks RealCare Product Manager


All day, every day, we take steps to manage our time. From coordinating calendars and communicating with loved ones to prioritizing tasks at work and home, we are challenged on a daily basis to balance the time we are given each day. Time management is so important, in fact, that February is National Time Management Month!

Time management is an important skill that helps keep personal and professional priorities under control. It also helps reduce stress. You’ve heard the saying “time is money.” As all employers know, wasted time is indeed a waste of money – and a drain on resources for employers.

Today’s students need to be aware of their own time management skills and how they can strengthen areas that may need improvement, no matter what career path they enter. Resources like our RealCareer™ Employability Skills Program can help students learn the importance of time as a finite resource, and how to manage it well.

You can learn more about how our soft skills program addresses time management by downloading this free lesson, which challenges students to prioritize tasks and overcome barriers to time management.

How are you helping your students develop good time management skills? Share your feedback in the comments!

Business teachers, are you ready to teach 21st Century students?

By Denise Bodart, Realityworks RealCare Product Manager

21st Century Learning is a technology-based learning style. To effectively communicate, collaborate and create with 21st Century students, teachers of all subjects need to utilize today’s technology. Although brick-and-mortar school buildings have remained relatively the same over the past century, the advancement of technology means the tools available to instructors are completely different. For instance, RealityworksRealCareer® Business Education Simulations are a great way to connect today’s students with the marketing and finance that concepts business teachers are covering in the classroom.

Why are tools like this so effective? The following chart, created by Like to Write, is a great visual for seeing the differences that 21st Century learners bring to the classroom:


These differences mean that simulation technology is a very effective engagement tool. This is because simulations allow for:

Creating. Students are comfortable with this medium of learning and therefore create new ways of doing business, working to use innovation to be successful.

Evaluation and analysis. Simulations create a platform on which students need to evaluate analyze their decisions, and understand the consequences of those decisions.

Applying and understanding. Students apply the concepts that they learn in the classroom and put them to work in the simulation experience, connecting business concepts with real-world understanding.

Remembering. Simulation experiences of failure or victory give rise for remembering what to do differently or what to replicate.

Additionally, generational learners react positively to simulations and find them engaging because they are used to video gaming technology. Thanks to the internet and social media, today’s students are used to the immediate feedback that simulation tools like this one provide; the ability to see the impact of their decisions forces them to learn and rethink efficiently.

To learn more about the game-like business education simulations we provide, click here. For more resources on 21st Century learning styles and teaching techniques, we recommend the following websites:

How do you connect with your 21st Century students? Share your feedback in the comments below.

Engage 21st Century business students with online simulations

By Emily Kuhn, Realityworks Marketing Automation Specialist

“Tell me and I forget; teach me and I may remember; involve me and I will learn.” We’ve all heard this famous line by Confucius, a Chinese teacher and philosopher, and many educators agree: We learn best by doing. After all, it takes practice – and lots of it – to learn a new skill, and lectures and textbooks don’t alone don’t give students the chance to truly understand a topic by putting it into practice.

Furthermore, learners today are used to engaging with technology. Just look at social media, gaming, cell phones, and so on; students have technology in their hands 24/7.

That’s why experiential learning tools like online simulations are so powerful. With interactive, technology-based tools like these, students put the foundational knowledge they have been taught into practice. What’s more, these tools appeal to the learning styles of 21st Century students, who react positively to and engage with simulations easily because they’re used to video gaming technology.

One such experiential learning tool is our RealCareer® Business Education Simulation Suite. Made up of three different business education simulations – one for business management, one for finance and one for entrepreneurship – these simulations enable students to run online businesses virtually, making decisions and seeing the immediate impact those decisions have on the business’ bottom line.

In our latest half-hour webinar, Realityworks RealCare Product Manager Denise Bodart joins RealCareer Product Manager Jamey McIntosh to discuss what makes these simulations such effective teaching tools, explore the games themselves and discuss the included curriculum. Click here to watch the webinar.


Want to learn more? You can try each of these simulations for free for 30 days. Click here for details.


Now Available: Business Education Simulations curriculum!

We are excited to announce the availability of a brand-new Business Education Simulations (BES) curriculum that is FREE as part of any current or future BES subscription!


Our Business Education Simulations use online simulations to give students hands-on experience making business decisions.

This new 15-lesson curriculum includes:

  • Step-by-step lesson plans that feature activities, handouts and instructor information.
  • Assessment tools to track participant knowledge prior to and after the simulation experience, including summative assessments with answer keys.
  • Presentation slides to accompany select lesson plans.
  • Implementation strategies for embedding the BES game-play into lesson content to reinforce key marketing, business and finance content.

Whether you use the entire curriculum or pick and choose to supplement existing lessons, this curriculum will help students learn about and practically apply business, entrepreneurship, marketing and finance skill!

Click here to download a complete BES curriculum overview!

September is International People Skills Month…

September is International People Skills Month.  This brings up a big question “What are we doing to ensure our students are learning essential people skills to succeed in the workforce?”

Businessdirectory.com defines people skills as:

A set of skills enabling a person to get along with others, to communicate ideas effectively, to resolve conflicts, and to achieve personal or business goals.
Read more: http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/people-skills.html#ixzz2fG2T4wp0

Seems simple enough – it’s a set of skills that allow you to get along with others through constructive communication and with goals in mind.  Shouldn’t we just glean these lessons from everyday life?  Yet therein lies the problem; the current generation of students has information at the tips of their fingers at all times.  They can get any answer to a question, anytime and anywhere, by simply typing it into a mobile device or computer.  They do not have to branch out and ask questions and connect with other humans to learn and gain people skills.  This is where educators play an integral role in helping develop these people skills.

Let’s break it down and look at simple ways to add lessons in and around each student’s education to develop these skills.

Get Along with Others
It is my hope that we were all taught at a young age how to get along with those around us! But maybe your students don’t see the importance of this, or how this skill can advance them in the work place.  Check out these basic graphics to share with your student. Remember – sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words, and just think of what other things you can teach your students with those extra words! http://www.wikihow.com/Get-Along-with-Others-Well

Communicate Effectively
A recent article from the SouthEast Education Network entitled Teaching Basic Communication Skills explains the essential parts to communicating effectively; they include introducing yourself, being nice, overcoming fear, just to name a few.  It’s these basic communication skills, broken down, that you can show your students. By breaking them down into chewable pieces, it shows just how easy communicating can be.  Show them that these soft skills can put them ahead of the person interviewing for the same job.  http://www.seenmagazine.us/articles/article-detail/articleid/209/teaching-basic-communication-skills.aspx

Resolve Conflicts
Communicating effectively and getting along with others also involves conflict resolution.  Listening to and trying to understand those around you, thinking before you speak, and being open to others ideas are all a part of this.  Not everyone has a strong sense of conflict resolution and walking students through solving problems could put them a step closer to being a great employee. And let’s not forget the benefit of being able to use that conflict resolution with your students while they are still in your classroom! Just another “win-win” solution from conflict resolution!  Check out this great website that has suggestions and lessons on conflict resolution: http://racebridgesforschools.com/wp/?p=3075

Written by Samantha Forehand, Brand Manager for Realityworks, Inc.