News and Announcements

Cruz Joins Schreyer Institute for Teaching and Learning

Laura Cruz (PhD, University of California at Berkeley, 2001) joins the Schreyer Institute of Teaching Excellence as an associate research professor of Teaching and Learning Scholarship. Portrait of Laura CruzHer new role is to heighten awareness of a growing body of research in teaching and learning in higher education, with particular attention to supporting faculty and programs who are interested in turning the work they do in the classroom into published scholarship. Over the years, Dr. Cruz has worked with hundreds of faculty to develop research projects leading to presentations, publications, external grants, and advanced insight into both comprehensive and disciplinary-based pedagogical practice.

Prior to coming to Penn State, Dr. Cruz served as the Director of the Centers for Teaching and Learning at both Tennessee Tech University and Western Carolina University. She has held multiple leadership positions in the field of educational development, including an elected term on the governing board of the professional society for faculty developers and service as editor of To Improve the Academy: A Journal of Educational Development.

Her extensive list of publications include work in her first discipline (history) as well as the areas of course and program design, educational technology, educational development, and emerging forms of scholarship. She has been a frequent invited speaker in the areas of organizational development, teaching and learning by design, and the scholarship of teaching and learning. Her most recent book, Taking Flight: Making Your Center for Teaching and Learning Soar, is currently under contract with Stylus press.

Instructional Design Teaching and Learning (IDTL) group recaps activities

In 2016, SITE awarded a Faculty Teaching Community group grant to the Instructional Design Teaching and Learning (IDTL) group. The group has contributed to the greater Penn State teaching and learning community in several ways.

Fall 2016

IDTL hosted a live web seminar “Learning Assessment Techniques: How to Integrate New Activities that Gauge What and How Well Student Learn” for Penn State community members interested in teaching and learning. More than 20 faculty and learning design professionals participated in the seminar and learned techniques to help improve their teaching and their students’ ability to learn more effectively.

Spring 2017

Approximately 25 people attended a design thinking workshop during Penn State Startup Week to focus on the need for good pedagogical practices in entrepreneurship education. Rose Cameron, workshop facilitator, led a group of faculty, learning designers, and students to explore the needs of faculty and students in entrepreneurship courses. Participants also broke out into groups with each containing representation of students, learning designer, and faculty to provide perspective. As an outcome of the workshop’s activities, the participants generated many ideas for how to improve experiences in these classes, including grading models where failure is valued as much as success, structures to put into place for the flow of the course to cover the content in an active learning style, and the introduction of supplemental courses similar to the first-year seminar that would help students accelerate their participation by focusing on the course material and moving other secondary objectives to another spot.

The Instructional Design Teaching and Learning group launched a speaker series to provide opportunities for conversations around teaching and learning for both online and in-residence faculty, and learning design practitioners. Nearly 80 faculty and learning designers attended onsite or online for presentations by three guest speakers throughout the semester.

In addition to these funded events, the IDTL group supported a number of other activities including summer camp presentations, an ice cream social, breakfast/coffee/lunch meet-ups, and a dinner before the Learning Design Summer Camp 2018.

Plans for continued activities focused on improving teaching and learning for Penn State are underway for the 2018/2019 academic year. Please send your questions about this group, or any of the FTC groups, to SITE.

Say “Yes, and” to the new Improv & Pedagogy Faculty Learning Group!

Following the huge response to last year’s SITE-sponsored “Improving Pedagogy through Improv Theatre” seminar, we are pleased to continue supporting the organizer’s efforts through their Improv & Pedagogy Faculty Learning Group!

The group meets three times a semester in 102 Kern from 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. Fall 2018 dates are:

  • Friday, September 14
  • Friday, October 19
  • Friday, December 7

At these lunches, participants will chat about improv & pedagogy, and you may be invited to perform! This is a no-pressure environment and is a ton of fun.

Lunch is included! Participants can come for all or part of the festivities!

We are pleased to offer funding to support groups of faculty who regularly engage in discussions of teaching and learning topics or issues. Funding is available for start-up or existing groups. Visit our Faculty Teaching Community (FTC) Grant page to learn how to start your own group!

To Teach is to Learn: Doug Hochstetler, professor of kinesiology and Penn State Lehigh Valley Director of Academic Affairs, reveals a lesson he learned in his senior year of college

In this podcast of To Teach is to Learn, Dr. Doug Hochstetler reveals a lesson he learned in his senior year of college, that still informs his teaching and learning today. When asked by his adviser "What happened?" in a class that he earned only a C, Doug said he didn't really like the professor. He elaborated to his adviser that he thought the professor did not do a very good job in teaching the course. Perhaps he thought, his low grade would be justified if he shared his low opinion of the professor. Instead, and to his initial surprise, his adviser said, "Well, sounds like that's your problem." With his reaction, the adviser taught Doug learned a valuable lesson. He learned that the obligation to learn was his, not his professors. It is a lesson that has lived with him forever, and one that he tries to instill in his students.

Although it sounds simple, in the classroom, Dr. Hochstettler tries to pay close attention to his students. When they are working on classroom assignments, he tries to be mindful that teaching and learning are "moving targets," and that, to truly stay tuned to the needs of his students, he has to stay on top of even subtle changes in the students and the classroom dynamics.

Dr. Hochstetler, an award-winning professor, says that people appreciate when we pay attention to them, and he thinks this is true also for students in the classroom.

Listen to the conversation with Hochstetler. This podcast is part of the To Teach is to Learn series produced by Nichola Gutgold. You can find the full collection by searching Gutgold in the Schreyer Institute's Tools & Resources Repository.

Tool for creating diverse student teams

One of the most common reasons for implementing group or team assignments is that many work environments require employees to work effectively in teams that includes members that may come from across the globe. Students who can work well with others and communicate about it may have an advantage in the job market. Plus, it is far better for them to learn these skills before their salary depends on it!

Dr. Micah Modell, assistant professor in the Department of Technology and Society at the State University of New York (SUNY) Korea, recently posted about his use of Diversity Points to help students create teams that directly address one of the primary reasons that faculty use teams in their courses—the ability to effectively work with team members with backgrounds or experiences, while still giving them some control over the team. Each team receives points for different types of attributes (e.g., state, country, gender, major, age). He lets students create their own teams if they meet a minimum diversity threshold. He uses CoLab.online to preserve student privacy and calculate Diversity Points. He hopes this, along with other methods and content, helps students to actively seek out and value diversity.

Fall training sessions provide resources to optimize courses

This fall, IT Learning and Development is offering several training sessions for faculty and staff who are looking to enhance their course content in Canvas.

All training sessions listed below will be offered online via Zoom, enabling faculty and staff to attend from anywhere in the Penn State system. If a session is full, you may still request that session. If space becomes available, you may become enrolled in the workshop, or another session may be added based upon waitlist demand.

Canvas: Using the Gradebook
Monday, September 17, 1:00-3:30 p.m. EDT or Tuesday, September 18, 9:00-11:30 a.m. EDT

This hands-on workshop will prepare participants in using the Canvas Gradebook for recording and reporting student course grades. Participants will be guided through the steps for setting up and maintaining a gradebook, ensuring assignments appear in the gradebook as desired, and using the gradebook to record and modify grades. Register and learn more information

Canvas: Optimizing Canvas Courses for Accessibility
Tuesday, September 25 9:00-11:30 a.m. EDT

This hands-on workshop will prepare participants using Canvas to optimize their content for accessibility. Participants will be guided through the steps for identifying areas of content to optimize, optimizing content when using the Rich Content Editor, creating extended deadlines for quiz and assignment submissions, and utilizing recommended guidelines for optimizing quizzes for accessibility. Register and learn more information

Canvas: Creating & Delivering Effective Content
Tuesday, October 9, 1:00-3:30 p.m. EDT or Wednesday, October 10, 9:00-11:30 a.m. EDT

This hands-on workshop will guide participants through the options for delivering course content through Canvas. Participants in this workshop will learn how to create and manage Modules and Pages through hands-on practice and facilitated exploration of Canvas’s related features and options. Register and learn more information

Canvas Brown Bag: Quizzes and Grading for Large Enrollment Classes
Wednesday, October 17 12:00-1:00 p.m. EDT

In this brown bag, learn and discuss tips and tricks for addressing common issues. You will walk away with new ideas for assessing, grading, and providing feedback to your students in your large (more than 50 students) enrollment courses. Register and learn more information

Canvas: An Introduction
Wednesday, November 7 10:00-11:00 a.m. EDT

In this discussion-oriented seminar, participants will be introduced to the fundamentals of Canvas at Penn State and will examine the best uses of the tool for teaching and learning. Register and learn more information

Canvas: Creating Assignments & Quizzes
Wednesday, November 14 9:00-11:30 a.m. EDT

This hands-on workshop will prepare participants to design and deliver assessments through Canvas. Participants will be guided through the steps to creating assignments and quizzes, selecting assignment and quiz settings, and adding questions to a quiz. Participants will also explore assessment options and settings within Canvas, including settings for question display, interaction, review, and feedback. Register and learn more information

Canvas Brown Bag: Transition Your Course to a New Semester
Thursday, November 29 12:00-1:00 p.m. EDT

This one-hour demonstration will outline tasks to complete in your courses at the end of the current semester and the beginning of a new semester to make the transition to each new term as smooth as possible. You will review both essential and recommended tasks along with how-to resources and suggested timelines. Participants will leave with practical strategies to enhance their existing course management and organization strategies in Canvas. Register and learn more information

SRTEs Go Mobile!

This semester students can choose to submit SRTEs using the new mobile friendly web version for phones and tablets. No app download is necessary, upon sign-in students will see this option when they have active SRTEs to complete. Students may find it convenient to respond to open-ended questions using the voice-recognition built into their mobile devices.

Screen shot of mobile icon from SRTE tool. 
Screen shot of Mobile SRTE icon.

When students choose the mobile option, they will see only one question at a time, rather than the entire SRTE form on their screens.

The regular web version SRTE is still available for students with laptops or without mobile devices.

Faculty will also be able to use the mobile version to check response rates for courses with active SRTEs. Those faculty who are concerned about response rates will be interested in taking advantage of this new functionality by asking students with mobile devices to complete their SRTEs during class.

Faculty: please remember that if you set aside class time for students to complete the SRTE, you need to leave the room.