Bethany Emory
Material Type:
Curriculum Education
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Course Alignments




This free digital textbook serves as a companion to EDUC 1300/1200/1100 Learning Framework: Effective Strategies for College Success at Austin Community College. This book is an accessible and relevant way to explore the research and theory in the psychology of learning, cognition, and motivation as well as factors that impact learning, and the presentation of specific learning strategies. This Open Educational Resource was remixed from a previous version found at by Heather Syrett and Laura Lucas.

Senior Contributing Author and Editor

Heather Syrett, Associate Professor and Assistant Department Chair

Student Development and General Studies

Austin Community College

Contributing Authors

Edgar Granillo, Professor and Assistant Department Chair

Student Development and General Studies

Austin Community College 

Laura Lucas, Adjunct Professor

Student Development and General Studies

Austin Community College 

Tobin Quereau, Adjunct Professor

Student Development and General Studies

Austin Community College

It is maintained by Bethany Emory, Dean of teaching and Learning Support at Southwestern Community College. This free digital textbook serves as a companion to ACA-111 in the NCCCS.   

Making the Transition to College

The Community College Environment

Student Responsibilities

Now that you have transitioned into college, you will have new responsibilities. Research has shown that students who get involved in career-planning activities stay in college longer, graduate on time, improve their academic performance, tend to be more goal focused and motivated, and have a more satisfying and fulfilling college experience. 

What are your new student responsibilities? Are they financial? Course-specific? Social? Health-related? Ethical? What exactly is expected of you?

Expectations for student behavior vary from campus to campus. A Web search for “college student responsibilities” reveals the breadth of expectations deemed important at any given institution.

Broadly, though, students are expected to at least act consistently with the values of the institution and to obey local, state, and federal laws. It may also be expected that you actively participate in your career decision-making process, respond to advising, and plan to graduate.

Consult the college handbook (link opens in new page) for details about your rights and responsibilities as a student. Overall, you demonstrate that you are a responsible student when you do the following:

  • Uphold the values of honesty and academic integrity.
  • Arrive on time and prepared for all on campus classes, meetings, academic activities, and special events.
  • Give attention to quality and excellence in completing assignments.
  • Allow sufficient time to fulfill responsibilities outside of class.
  • Observe etiquette in all communications, giving respect to instructors, fellow students, staff and the larger college community.
  • Take full advantage of college resources available to you.
  • Respect diversity in people, ideas, and opinions.
  • Take full responsibility for personal behavior.
  • Comply with all college policies.

By allowing these overarching principles to guide you, you embrace responsibility and make choices that lead to college success.

College vs. High School

If you know others who attend or have attended college, then you have a head start on knowing what to expect during this odyssey. Still, the transition from high school to college is striking. Even for those that have not been in high school for a while, high school is often their last experience in a traditional educational setting. College life differs in many ways from high school. The following supplemental video clip is an overview of the challenges you may face as a student and provides examples of issues students face in transitioning from high school to college. Click on the “cc” box underneath the video to activate the closed captioning.

Transitioning from High School to College - UNLV Academic Success Center

For more information about high school vs. college, refer to this detailed set of comparisons from Southern Methodist University: “How Is College Different from High School.” The site provides an extensive list of contrasts, such as the following:

  • Following the rules in high school vs. choosing responsibly in college
  • Going to high school classes vs. succeeding in college classes
  • Understanding high school teachers vs. college instructors
  • Preparing for tests in high school vs. tests in college
  • Interpreting grades in high school vs. grades in college

The site also provides recommendations for successfully transitioning from high school to college.

Defining Your Success in College

How do you define college success? The definition really depends on you. You might think that “success” is earning an associate degree or attending classes in a four-year college. Maybe success is a bachelor’s or master’s degree or a Ph.D. Maybe success means receiving a certificate of completion or finishing skill-based training.

If most students believe that passing a class is the minimum requirement for “success,” and if most students want to be successful in their courses, why aren’t more college students consistently successful in the classroom?

Perhaps some common misconceptions are at play. For example, we often hear students say, “I just can’t do it!” or “I’m not good at math,” or “I guess college isn’t for me.” But, these explanations for success or failure aren’t necessarily accurate. Considerable research into college success reveals that having difficulty in or failing in college courses usually has nothing to do with intellect.


  • College brings new responsibilities and the expectations of college are very different from high school.
  • There are many different kinds of college students and you will experience a diverse environment at a community college.

Learning as a Process

Common Challenges in the First Year

It seems fitting to follow up the expectations for the first year with a list of common challenges that college students encounter along the way to a degree. If you experience any—or even all—of these, the important point here is that you are not alone and that you can overcome them by using your resources. Many college students have felt like this before, and they have survived—even thrived—despite them because they were able to identify a strategy or resource that they could use to help themselves. At some point in your academic career, you may do one or more of the following:

Feel Like an Imposter

There is actually a name for this condition: imposter syndrome. Students who feel like an imposter are worried that they don’t belong, that someone will “expose them for being a fake.” This feeling is pretty common for anyone who finds themselves in a new environment and is not sure if they have what it takes to succeed. Trust the professionals who work with first-year college students: you do have what it takes, and you will succeed. Just give yourself time to get adjusted to everything.

Worry about making a mistake.

This concern often goes with imposter syndrome. Students who worry about making a mistake don’t like to answer questions in class, volunteer for a challenging assignment, and even ask for help from others. Instead of avoiding situations where you may fail, embrace the process of learning, which includes—is even dependent on—making mistakes. The more you practice courage in these situations and focus on what you are going to learn from failing, the more confident you become about your abilities.

Try to manage everything yourself.

Even superheroes need help from sidekicks and mere mortals. Trying to handle everything on your own every time an issue arises is a recipe for getting stressed out. There will be times when you are overwhelmed by all you have to do. This is when you will need to ask for and allow others to help you.

Ignore your mental and physical health needs.

If you feel you are on an emotional rollercoaster and you cannot find time to take care of yourself, then you have most likely ignored some part of your mental and physical well-being. What you need to do to stay healthy should be non-negotiable. In other words, your sleep, eating habits, exercise, and stress-reducing activities should be your highest priorities.

Forget to enjoy the experience.

Whether you are 18 years old or 48 years old starting back to college after taking a break to work and raise a family, be sure to take the time to remind yourself of the joy that learning can bring.

Making Decisions about Your Own Learning

As a learner, the kinds of materials, study activities, and assignments that work best for you will derive from your own experiences and needs (needs that are both short-term as well as those that fulfill long-term goals). In order to make your learning better suited to meet these needs, you can use the knowledge you have gained about UGT and other learning theories to make decisions concerning your own learning. These decisions can include personal choices in learning materials, how and when you study, and most importantly, taking ownership of your learning activities as an active participant and decision maker. In fact, one of the main principles emphasized in this chapter is that students not only benefit from being involved in planning their instruction, but learners also gain by continually evaluating the actual success of that instruction. In other words: Does this work for me? Am I learning what I need to by doing it this way?

While it may not always be possible to control every component of your learning over an entire degree program, you can take every opportunity to influence learning activities so they work to your best advantage. What follows are several examples of how this can be done by making decisions about your learning activities based on what you have already learned in this chapter.

Make Mistakes Safe

Create an environment for yourself where mistakes are safe and mistakes are expected as just another part of learning. The key is to allow yourself the opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them before they become a part of your grades. You can do this by creating your own learning activities that you design to do just that. An example of this might be taking practice quizzes on your own, outside of the more formal course activities. The quizzes could be something you find in your textbook, something you find online, or something that you develop with a partner.  It is better to make mistakes on a practice run than on any kind of assignment or exam that can heavily influence your final grade in a course.

Make Everything Problem Centered

When working through a learning activity, the practical act of problem-solving is a good strategy. Problem-solving, as an approach, can give a learning activity more meaning and motivation for you, as a learner. Whenever possible it is to your advantage to turn an assignment or learning task into a problem you are trying to solve or something you are trying to accomplish.

In essence, you do this by deciding on some purpose for the assignment (other than just completing the assignment itself). An example of this would be taking the classic college term paper and writing it in a way that solves a problem you are already interested in.

Make It Occupation Related

Much like making assignments problem centered, you will also do well when your learning activities have meaning for your profession or major area of study. This can take the form of simply understanding how the things you are learning are important to your occupation, or it can include the decision to do assignments in a way that can be directly applied to your career. If an exercise seems pointless and possibly unrelated to your long-term goals, you will be much less motivated by the learning activity.

An example of understanding how a specific school topic impacts your occupation future would be that of a nursing student in an algebra course. At first, algebra might seem unrelated to the field of nursing, but if the nursing student recognizes that drug dosage calculations are critical to patient safety and that algebra can help them in that area, there is a much stronger motivation to learn the subject.

Managing Your Time

One of the most common traits of college students is the constraint on their time. As adults, we do not always have the luxury of attending school without other demands on our time. Because of this, we must become efficient with our use of time, and it is important that we maximize our learning activities to be most effective. In fact, time management is so important that there is an entire module in the course which focuses on it. 

Instructors as Learning Partners

In K-12 education, the instructor often has the dual role of both teacher and authority figure for students. Children come to expect their teachers to tell them what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. College learners, on the other hand, seem to work better when they begin to think of their instructors as respected experts that are partners in their education. The change in the relationship for you as a learner accomplishes several things: it gives you ownership and decision-making ability in your own learning, and it enables you to personalize your learning experience to best fit your own needs. For the instructor, it gives them the opportunity to help you meet your own needs and expectations in a rich experience, rather than focusing all of their time on trying to get information to you.

The way to develop learning partnerships is through direct communication with your instructors. If there is something you do not understand or need to know more about, go directly to them. When you have ideas about how you can personalize assignments or explore areas of the subject that interest you or better fit your needs, ask them about it. Ask your instructors for guidance and recommendations, and above all, demonstrate to them that you are taking a direct interest in your own learning. Most instructors are thrilled when they encounter students that want to take ownership of their own learning, and they will gladly become a resourceful guide for you.

Developing a Growth Mindset

A college education is aligned with greater success in many areas of life. While enrolled in college, most students are closely focused on making it through the next class or passing the next test. It can be easy to lose sight of the overall role that education plays in life. But sometimes it helps to recall what a truly great step forward you are taking!

It’s also important to recognize, though, that some students do not succeed in college and drop out within the first year. Sometimes this is due to financial problems or a personal or family crisis. But most of the time students drop out because they’re having trouble passing their courses.  Using a growth mindset can help you to overcome challenges like these and persist to accomplish your goals.  

Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset


Supplemental Activity – Check Your Growth Mindset

Take this quick assessment to learn about your own mindset.



  • You determine your success and everyone’s definition of success is personal.
  • Successful students have certain traits, characteristics, and habits, all of which can be learned and developed.
  • Having a Growth Mindset, believing that intelligence and skills are gained, is a key to success.

The Rhythm of College - Course Types, Student Types and Grades

Types Of Courses

Choices. And more choices. If college success is about anything, it’s about the choices you need to make in order to succeed. What do you want to learn? How do you want to learn it? Who do you want to learn it with and where? When do you learn best?

As part of the many choices you will make in college, you will often be able to select the format in which your college classes are offered. The list below illustrates some of the main formats you may choose. Some formats lend themselves more readily to certain subjects. Others are based on how instructors believe the content can most effectively be delivered. Knowing a bit about your options can help you select your best environments for learning.

On Campus Classes

On Campus courses are currently the most common course format at SCC. Students nad instructors share a large amount of information, ideas, principles, and/or resources. Lecture-style courses often include discussions and other interactions with your fellow students.

Tip: Students can best succeed in this environment with dedicated study habits, time-management skills, note-taking skills, reading skills, and active listening skills. If you have questions, be sure to ask them during class. Meet with your instructor during office hours to get help on what you don’t understand and ensure that you’re prepared for exams or other graded projects.

Lab courses take place in a controlled environment with specialized equipment, typically in a special facility. Labs are common in science, health science and some career technical programs (like computers, welding and surveying).  Students participating in labs can expect to engage fully with the material—to learn by doing. In a lab, you get first-hand experience in developing, practicing, translating, testing, and applying principles.

Tip: To best succeed as a student in a lab course, be sure to find out in advance what the course goals are, and make sure they fit your needs as a student. Expect to practice and master precise technical skills, like using a microscope or measuring a chemical reaction. Be comfortable with working as part of a team of fellow students. Enjoy the personal touches that are inherent in lab format courses.

Studio-style courses, similar to seminars, are also very active, but an emphasis is placed mainly on developing concrete skills, such as fine arts or theater arts. 

Tip: To succeed in a studio-style course, you need good time-management skills, because you will likely put in more time than in a standard class. Coming to class is critical, as is being well prepared. You can expect your instructors to help you start on projects and to provide you with resources, but much of your work will be self-paced. Your fellow students will be additional learning resources.

Technology-Enhanced Formats

Most, if not all, college course formats can be delivered with technology enhancements. For example, lecture-style courses are often delivered fully online, and lab courses often have Web enhancements. Online teaching and learning are commonplace at most colleges and universities. In fact, the most recent data (2012) about the number of students taking online courses shows that roughly one out of every three U.S. college students take at least one online course.

Technology-enhanced delivery methods may be synchronous (meaning in real-time, through some kind of live interaction tool) as well as asynchronous (meaning in delayed time; they may include online discussion boards that students visit at different times within a certain time frame).


0%Face-to-Face A face-to-face course is delivered fully on-site with real-time, face-to-face interaction between the instructor and student. A face-to-face course may make use of computers, the Internet, or other electronic media in the classroom, but it does not use the institution’s learning management system for instruction. A learning management system, like Blackboard, Moodle, Canvas, or others, is an online teaching and learning environment that allows students and teachers to engage with one another and with course content.


HyFlex classes occur in the classroom and synchronously online simultaneously.  Students can complete all of the course work from a location outside of campus, or can choose to come to campus only as schedule will allow.  This is helpful in accommodating a changing work schedule, need to provide child care (especially when children may be home sick from school) or to provide immediate interaction for students located outside of the SCC campus areas.  

1% to 49%Web-Enhanced

A Web-enhanced course takes place primarily in a traditional, face-to-face classroom, with some course materials being accessible online (generally in the learning management system), like digital readings to support learning objectives. All Web-enhanced classes regularly meet face-to-face, but replace at least a small protion of in class time with independent projects or assignments.

50% to 99%Hybrid/ Blended

Hybrid courses (also called blended courses) strategically blend online and face-to-face delivery. “Flipped classrooms” are an example of hybrid delivery. In a flipped classroom, your instructor reverses the traditional order of in-class and out-of-class activity, such that you may be asked to view lectures at home before coming to class. You may then be asked to use class time for activities that enable you to engage dynamically with your instructor and fellow students. Hybrid courses have fewer in-person sessions than face-to-face or Web-enhanced courses, and students can expect to spend more than half of the scheduled time working independently.

100%Online / Web-CenteredAn online course is delivered entirely through the institution’s learning management system (Moodle) or other online means, such as synchronous conferencing or textbook specific online activities. Generally, no on-site face-to-face class meetings are required, however proctored exams can be an expectation of classes in this format.

Online Courses

Online courses can be accomplished exclusively via computer rather than a classroom. Many different variations exist, but all online courses share certain characteristics, such as working independently and communicating with the instructor (and sometimes other students) primarily through written computer messages.

Your online course may be synchronous, which means it has scheduled virtual meeting times and attendance is usually required. Asynchronous online classes means there are no live components to the class and all instruction is completed through the computer. Asynchronous does not meet the class is self-paced; it will still have set due dates throughout the course.

It is important to know the difference before registering. You should also find out what technology is required. All classes at SCC can require webcams for virtual meetings or proctored exams, and many require access to a printer.  You will need to have the ability to create, open, and edit word processing files (and folks at the learning assistance center can assist if these skills are new to you).  Technology / Hardware like laptops and webcams can be pruchased using funds provided through financial aid, or can be borrowed from the library.  

In addition, you need to have frequent access to a high-speed, reliable Internet connection.  Should your home Internet not be reliable, remember that you can connect using computers at the Learning Assistance Center or Library  on campus, at public libraries, or using wireless Internet provided throughout SCC's campus and parking lots.  

For an asynchronous course, without set class meeting times, you need to self-motivate to schedule your time to participate regularly. Watch this supplemental video, Online Classes Tips and Tricks, by Sarah Jane Lamberth, for some strategies to help you succeed in online classes. 

Study Tips to Succeed as an Online Student


Students at SCC

At SCC you will meet a wide variety of students with different backgrounds and experience.  The following categories are broad, by design.  WIthin each you will find a mixture of student backgrounds and stories, so never hesitate to reach out to students in your classes to connect.  Remember you are all in this together!

Some students enroll in college immediately after graduating from high school (or completing a high school equivalency program).  Many attend classes on a continuous full-time basis at least during the fall and spring semesters (or fall, winter, and spring quarters). They may be employed only on a part-time basis, if at all, during the academic year.

Other students do not enter college in the same calendar year that they finish high school. They may attend classes part-time due to full-time work obligations, family responsibilities, or other factors. 

Special Student Characteristics

Non-native Speakers of English

International students are those who travel to a country different from their own for the purpose of studying in college. English is likely their second language. Non-native speakers of English, like international students, come from a different culture, too. For both of these groups, college may pose special challenges. For example, classes may at first, or for a time, pose hardships due to cultural and language barriers.

First-Generation College Students

First-generation students are often first in their family to go to college. College life may be less familiar, and the preparation for entering college may not have been stressed as commonly at home. 

Veterans and Military Affiliated Students

SCC is home to many veterans and military-affiliated students, and this population is expected to increase as more veterans complete their service and seek higher education opportunities. 

While all students may experience challenges when transitioning to college, as a veteran you may find some feel different to you. As students, you may find taking responsibity for daily activities without having a direct chain of command to follow uncomfortable. Being a veteran also has its advantages. The skills and abilities that veterans bring to college can be an asset in many ways. Your service experience may make you more self-sufficient, and your leadership skills can be invaluable inside and outside the classroom. Veterans shared experiences lend a unique perspective that can enhance the learning experience for all students. 

Early College and Dual Credit Students

SCC offers programs for high school students that allow them to earn college credit while still enrolled in high school. Both early college and dual credit programs offer college classes to qualified high school students. 


How Grades Play a Role in Shaping Success

  • Undergraduate grades have been shown to have a positive impact on getting full-time employment in your career in a position appropriate to your degree.
  • Grades also have been shown to have a positive net impact on your occupational status and earnings.
  • Getting good grades, particularly in the first year of college, is important to your academic success throughout your college years.
  • Grades are probably the best predictors of your persistence, your ability to graduate, and your prospects for enrolling in graduate school.

You stand to gain immeasurably when you get good grades.

Your Grade-Point Average (GPA)

Grades may not be the be-all and end-all in college life. But you should pay close attention to the GPA as it may be important to achieving your future goals.

Your GPA is a calculated average of the letter grades you earn correlated on a 0 to 4.0 or 5.0 scale. Each semester you receive a GPA based on the grades you earned in all of your classes during that semester. You also maintain a cumulative GPA—an ongoing average of all your semester grades beginning with freshman year.

How To Calculate Your GPA In College

Many institutions provide students with an online GPA calculator, like this one provided by Austin Community College. Use the calculator to keep track of where you stand.


  • There are several different types of course delivery formats in college including lectures, labs, seminars, and independent study.
  • Many classes use technology to enhance the classroom experience, are taught solely online, or are a hybrid of classroom and online instruction.
  • Grades are one of the important measures of success while in college, and keeping track of your GPA will be required.  

Licenses and Attributions


  • Manage the Transition to College. Authored by: Heather Syrett. Provided by: Austin Community College. License:  CC BY-NC-SA-4.0
  • Seven Keys to College Success. Authored by: Tobin Quereau. Provided by: Austin Community College. LicenseCC BY-NC-SA-4.0
  • Set Yourself Up for Success. Authored by: Heather Syrett. Provided by: Austin Community College. LicenseLicenseCC BY-NC-SA-4.0
  • Theories of Learning. Authored by: Laura Lucas and Heather Syrett. Provided by: Austin Community College. LicenseCC BY-NC-SA-4.0