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Texas A&M professor recognized nationally for helping students succeed in pandemic

Professor Dan Collins describes his learning style as "transparent" and he tries to keep up with how his students are doing outside of class.

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — This past year has been rough for everyone, especially those in the education field. A Texas A&M professor is recognized nationally for how he’s handled remote learning and formed connections with his students. 

"We can’t put some of these things back, we can’t do exactly the way it was," said Dan Collins, a senior lecturer in the Chemistry Department at Texas A&M University.

Collins uses a program called ALEKS. It is a tool created by McGraw Hill that creates personalized learning paths for students based on their own needs. 

“The system assesses from day one what a student knows, what they don’t know and what they’re ready to learn," explained Kathleen McMahan, the vice president for Science, Engineering and Math in Higher Education for McGraw Hill.

Collins incorporated ALEKS in his learning before the pandemic. He said it has been incredibly beneficial to monitor his students. 

"Not every kid has the same starting point, so why not go and give them a program that helps them with their strengths and helps them with their weaknesses.” 

Without a lot of face-to-face communication this past year, keeping up with his students outside of school was not the easiest. Collins cites ALEKS' reporting system for helping him stay up to date, epically if someone was struggling. 

“If I see a student who I know is having really great work and is strong, then they all of the sudden have an off week, let's be honest, there's probably something going on in their life," Collins said.

He checks out the data reports of each student and is able to recognize how the pandemic has affected each individual. Collins is then able to figure out how to accommodate lessons, due dates and more.

"It’s finding that important balance of I can push you this far, but let's take one step back because I know we’re not having it this week or you guys got your mind on other things," Collins explains.

Through his work with ALEKS, Collins will receive the McGraw Hill’s ALEKS All-Star Educator Award for Higher Education. He received five nominations from students and peers. 

In a nomination form, a student described Collins as "impactful" and "inviting." They wrote Collins constantly reminds his classes they are a community and encourages his students to work together in order to help those who may be struggling. 

“I was excited to teach my classes because of just how excited they were and what they were wanting from me and wanting to go forward to try and do what they could," Collins said.

Collins will receive a $1,000 donation from McGraw Hill to an education-focused non-profit or charity of his choice, a $250 gift card, a collection of McGraw Hill professional books and a package of McGraw Hill promotional items.

The All-Star Educator Awards were created in 2019 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of ALEKS, which has served more than 20 million learners throughout its history. The 2020 ALEKS All-Star Educator Awards honor two educator winners in K-12, two instructor winners in higher education, and four honorable mentions.