March 2017 Newsletter: SJSU’s ‘Ask Me’ Campaign Offers Support to Students

Photo: Christina Olivas 'Ask Me' Campaign volunteers answer questions from students during its inaugural year in 2012. The program was started as part of Vision 2017's Helping and Caring goal.

Photo: Christina Olivas
‘Ask Me’ Campaign volunteers answer questions from students during its inaugural year in 2012. The program was started as part of Vision 2017’s Helping and Caring goal.

By David Goll

San Jose State University, among the largest and most urban of California State University campuses, can be a daunting, confusing place when you’re a new student.

Making the transition to SJSU from high school, community college or after several years in the workplace a bit less stressful was the driving force behind SJSU’s Helping and Caring campaign, first launched in spring 2012 as part of the university’s Vision 2017 campus improvement program. One of its most visible manifestations over the past five years has been the “Ask Me” tables set up at four key locations around the 154-acre downtown San Jose campus for two weeks at the start of each new semester: Clark Hall, MLK Library, the Event Center and the corner of Ninth and San Fernando streets.

“The whole idea (behind Helping and Caring) was to have faculty, staff and fellow students go the extra mile to help students,” said Fernanda Perdomo-Arciniegas, who is currently the deputy diversity officer and previously served as the director of Campus and Community Relations in the Office of the Vice President of Student Affairs. “It means going out of your way to help them instead of suggesting they talk to someone else or go elsewhere to resolve their problem.”

“People who work at tables came from all over campus,” Perdomo-Arciniegas said, noting that the collaboration helped to foster better communication across campus. “Many probably would never have met one another otherwise.”

The “Ask Me” tables provide help answers students’ questions before they even set foot in a classroom. Staffed with two people from the faculty, staff or student body, the tables feature laptops, so information not stored in volunteers’ heads is quickly accessible. Students asked a variety of questions about directions, deadlines, campus clubs and services. Data collected over the years led to FAQ “cheat sheets” providing information on the most frequent inquiries.

“We even offered hot chocolate on cold days and nights,” Perdomo-Arciniegas said.

Incoming freshman and transfer students are not accepted during the spring semester, so only a small number of graduate and international students arrive at SJSU in January, according to Sonja Daniels, associate vice president for Campus Life in the Office of the Vice President. She said the “Ask Me” tables were missing from campus at the beginning of the spring semester, but will be back for the fall semester when classes begin Aug. 23.

“We decided to not have them for spring and focus on fall,” Daniels said, noting the much smaller influx of new students at the start of the spring semester.

At the start of the fall 2016 term, senior Public Relations major Karly Tokioka said she volunteered to work shifts at an “Ask Me” table inside a tent at the entrance to Clark Hall. She answered many questions but also handed out a myriad of resources — including flyers and information brochures — along with free post-it notes, car charger adapters and scheduling planners.

“It’s hard enough to be on a new campus and find your way around,” Tokioka said. “It can really be intimidating as a freshman or transfer student to ask other students for directions, so I think it’s a great way to offer students a way to ask questions without feeling intimidated.”

Senior Bette Cheng, a Psychology major and “Ask Me” volunteer, said the tables provide a valuable service to bewildered, stressed-out students. However, even more than directions or advice on how to add a class, Cheng said she noticed gadgets like pens and USB drives were big hits.

“During tabling, I would have the students ask me a question in order to receive a freebie,” she said. “I found it effective because with a simple question, it led to asking multiple questions.”

Faculty Matter Teaching Tip #18: Re-engaging Students Who Are At Risk to Fail the Course

This is the time in the semester where you become aware of students who are struggling in your course. Reaching out to students in the middle of the semester is a proven effective way to re-engage them in the class, increase learning of the content, and ultimately increase their academic success.  Below are some resources to support students.

Progress Reports and Spartan Connect Program

Last Friday, the Office of Student and Faculty Success sent out requests to some faculty for progress reports on some students. If you have these students in your class, you would have received an email with the subject header “Spring 2017 Progress Reports”. Please take the time to read and respond to that email.

This is a request for your help in identifying students in your class who may be in jeopardy academically and might benefit from extra support. We realize that your time is valuable and your prompt participation in this request allows us to provide appropriate and effective academic support for the students who might be at academic risk.

In addition, you have the ability to proactively alert us to any other students who are struggling in your class (who you weren’t asked about in the progress report email). Through Spartan Connect, you can bring these students to the attention of our staff advisors who will reach out to the student.

Using Canvas Tools to Identify Students in Need of Support

There are a couple of tools in Canvas that allow you to relatively quickly assess the engagement of students in your course and to reach out to those students. When you open a course shell, select “View Course Analytics” on the right-hand side. From there you can see the activity, submission, and breakdown of grades by assignment. At the bottom of this, you will see a list of the students in the class. When you click on a student, you see their level of engagement. If you wish to reach out to the student, you can click on the “envelope” icon by their name to send them a message.

There is also a new feature in Canvas called “Student Context Cards”. Click on “People” on the left side bar. Then when you click on a student’s name, a panel will open on the right that summarizes the student’s overall grade, grades on recent assignments, and level of participation and viewing of course pages. You can scroll through the students in your class to see each student’s context card. If you wish to reach out to the student, you can click on the “envelope” icon by their name to send them a message.

Connecting Student to University Support

Below are some places on campuses where students can get tutoring or attend academic success skill workshops. You can highlight these resources to all students by mentioning them at the start of class, posting them on Canvas, or emailing them to the class. You can also pass this information on to particular students who you see struggling. Send them an email or Canvas message with the resources and a note encouraging them to both take advantage of these resources and to come and see you in office hours.

Peer Connections provides one on one appointments for peer mentoring and tutoring. They also offer several workshops a month on academic success skills. The Writing Center offers one on one tutoring for writing, online resources, and workshops. The Communications Center has drop in and one on one appointments for oral and written communication. There are also numerous tutoring centers in the departments and colleges listed on the Tutoring Hub.

Educational Counseling provides one on one appointments, workshops, and online resources for academic success. The Spartan Success Portal has a range of online, academic success modules.

The library has technology workshops. In addition, the library offers resources to support students, including laptop and I-pad rentals, meeting rooms that can reserved for teamwork or collaboration, details online to help the student define the type of resources and help they need and how to connect with a librarian, and online resources on referencing and literature reviews and tutorials on plagiarism.

While we know this is an incredibly busy time of the semester, the time you spend now reaching out to students and connecting them with support is an investment that will pay off in their improved academic success.

You can read all previous Faculty Matter Tips on the Provost’s Academic Spotlight blog under the category “Faculty Matter. Share your thoughts and ideas by clicking on the comments link below.

February 2017 Newsletter: Researchers Target Human Factors in Cybersecurity

Left to right, Ian Cooke, Dr. Dave Schuster and Soham Shah pose for a photograph at San Jose State University, on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017. Dr. Schuster has received a grant for cybersecurity research. (Photo: James Tensuan, '15 Journalism)

Left to right, Ian Cooke, Dr. Dave Schuster and Soham Shah pose for a photograph at San Jose State University, on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017. Dr. Schuster has received a grant for cybersecurity research. (Photo: James Tensuan, ’15 Journalism)

By Barry Zepel

Anyone aware of last year’s reports about Russian hacking of the Democratic and Republican parties’ computer networks will be familiar with the term “cybersecurity.” As hackers attempt to invade network systems via the Internet – to either damage them or steal proprietary information – cybersecurity has become among the highest priorities for governments, corporations and many other types of organizations.

David Schuster, an SJSU faculty member since 2013, won a National Science Foundation Early Career Development Award grant of $516,000 over five years to conduct research on strengthening cybersecurity and computer network defense. The approach that Schuster and his team of SJSU students are taking in their research is very different than what most people might expect. Schuster is an assistant professor of psychology – not computer science or information technology.

“My field within psychology is called human factors psychology,” Schuster said. “Human factors psychologists study things like the design of a technological device – such as a smartphone – to determine the easiest way to make that device most intuitive for any person to operate with a minimum of frustration. Human factors psychologists study both the technology side and the human side.”

Schuster and his 14 assistants – seven graduate students and seven undergraduates – are focusing their research on the people hired to defend computer networks, not on the technology itself. Two of his graduate students are paid through research assistantships, while two undergraduates are compensated through scholarships; other students are volunteers. They all are dedicated to their research assignments in the Virtual Environments, Cognition and Training Research Laboratory managed by Schuster, located in the newly renovated Dudley Moorhead Hall.

“We aren’t studying the individual using their computer at home and wanting to remain safe on the Internet,” Schuster explained. “Rather, we want to get to know the cybersecurity professionals charged with protecting the computer network systems of organizations like corporations, governments, universities and school districts – organizations across all sectors.”

Schuster notes that no organization can protect its computer network by simply using or turning on some security software.

“There is at some level someone who is making decisions that determine the effectiveness of that organization’s line of defense against a cyber attack,” he said. “We are studying those people; learning who they are, what their role is within the organization, what decisions they make on an ongoing basis, and how those decisions impact the overall cybersecurity of their organization.”

Soham Shah, an undergraduate majoring in computer science, said he spends 10 to 12 hours per week working in Schuster’s lab. The research matches his intellectual passions.

“My interest has been to know more about cybersecurity,” Shah said. But beyond that, “I am learning how to think. Being part of the lab and doing the research is broadening my horizon and lending me a unique perspective.”

Ian Cooke, a second-year graduate student working on his master’s degree in research and experimental psychology, feels the tasks he takes on in Schuster’s lab are a perfect fit with his interests and goals.

“I live for this kind of stuff. I love research,” Cooke said. “I love working on projects that are actionable in some way (like) developing a tool to facilitate some socio-technological need to solve problems, as opposed to simply recognizing them. That’s what I am doing here.”

Schuster, as the grant’s principal investigator, gives credit to his students for “their work ethic, determination and contributions to the research.”

“We’re really one unified team at the moment, as we’re all working towards similar milestones,” Schuster explained. “I continue to be impressed by what the students are capable of, and how they rise to new challenges. With research, there’s one new unexpected challenge after another.”

Ultimately, Schuster’s goal is for their research findings to help determine ways for cyber security employees to make better decisions that more effectively protect their organizational computer networks.

SJSU Hosts “Stolen Education” Documentary Screening Feb. 28



San Jose State University will host a screening of the documentary “Stolen Education,” followed by a discussion, Feb. 28, at 6:30 p.m., in the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library, Room 225/229. The documentary discussed segregation of schools in the southwest during the 1950s and looks at the way eight Mexican-American school children fought against injustice. The event will be attended by Dr. Enqique Aleman Jr, an executive producer and writer, and professor and chair of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at the University of Texas, San Antonio, along with Ruby Luna, a director and writer. The discuss is sponsored by the Connie L. Lurie College of Education, MOSAIC Cross Cultural Center and Adelante, the Chicanx/Latinx Student Success Task Force. Associate Professor Rebeca Burciaga, from SJSU’s educational leadership department, helped to coordinate the event.

Faculty Matter Teaching tip #17: The Last Five Minutes of Class

Faculty Matter Teaching Tip #17: The Last Five Minutes of Class

A significant literature on college student success points to the importance of helping students develop the skills and dispositions needed to monitor and guide their own learning. (See, for example, Major, Harris & Zakrajsek, 2016 Teaching for Learning: 101 Intentionally Designed Educational Activities to Put Students on the Path to Success.) While some recommendations entail relatively complex and protracted “interventions”, others are much easier to implement. For example, the last five minutes of class time represent a critical opportunity, often squandered, to help students assume more intentional control of their own learning, by reflecting on the material they have just covered, by identifying points that were unclear, by noting connections to topics or ideas covered earlier or elsewhere, and by positioning themselves for what will come next in the course. Today’s Faculty Matter Teaching Tip consists of suggestions of things you might do with the last five minutes of your classes.

Make sure that students have the chance to engage in some kind of reflection or synthesis, as this kind of active manipulation of course materials can enhance their active engagement with their learning – or in other words, it can help them take responsibility for their own academic success.

  • Some of us have very well-honed time management skills and can anticipate with great precision how much time each element of our “lesson plan” will require. To the degree that this is the case, we can plan and execute fairly elaborate “wrap-up exercises” for the day. 
  • Others of us have some difficulty predicting how far we will get in any given day, or we opt, quite intentionally, to depart from our plan as student interest and other considerations warrant. This may mean that we need to be rather nimble in deciding on a good “stopping point” for the day, and we may also need to plan to be flexible about how we will reach closure in a way that allows students to tie things together in a meaningful way.

Close with a recap of the day – Reserve a few minutes at the end of class (or as the final step on an on-line module) to summarize key points. But rather than you providing the summary, have students state what they think were the main ideas.

  • Have students “turn-and-talk” with seat-mates, to compare notes. (This can be adapted to for implementation in on-line courses by using LMS discussion features.)
  • As ideas are proffered, acknowledge them, expand on them, invite brief discussion of them as you see fit.  Be sure to correct inaccuracies as warranted.
  • Consider having them do this without consulting their notes or other materials.  Such “retrieval practice”, as it is termed in research in the learning sciences, will give them a chance to “practice remembering,” a strategy which has been shown to promote learning.
  • If you began the class by posing a “question of the day”, consider soliciting “answers’, in light of the day’s activities.

Close with a few minutes for students to reflect in writing on the day’s class, and to identify any points of confusion or lack of clarity.

  • Allocate one or two minutes for students to write about the day’s class (“one-minute paper”). You may want to provide a more specific prompt, to focus them on something you want to be sure they consider. You may want to leave this assignment fairly open-ended, to see what meaning they are making of the material you are covering (e.g., “Today I learned…”  or “The most surprising thing about today’s class was…”).
  • Allocate a few minutes for students to identify areas where they would like more information or clarification (“muddiest point” questions, such as “I am still confused about…” or “I would like more information about…”).  Gather these writings and begin the next class with a guided discussion to address common themes or critical misconceptions.

For additional suggestions, see .

Please add your own strategies using the comment link below.