2020-22 Teaching and Learning with Technology Faculty fellows reflect on their work

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Eight Pennsylvania State University faculty members from two campuses and six colleges have worked in teams with teaching and learning with technology for the past two years as part of the 2020-22 TLT Faculty Fellows program. Their goal was to improve student engagement through technology.

Faculty Fellows are selected through an application process. They work with TLT to test and expand opportunities for innovation in their teaching and research, with the potential to spread their innovation more broadly throughout Penn State and throughout higher education. Additionally, they work to transform courses by leveraging technology-enhanced teaching methods designed to directly support university, campus, or college goals.

“The Faculty Fellows program is a long-standing and distinctive program at TLT. It represents our deep commitment to creativity, experimentation and faculty partnerships,” said Crystal Ramsay, interim director at TLT. “We are always pleased to work with faculty who are passionate about innovation around teaching and learning.”

As the next cohort of faculty grantees gets underway, the previous cohort shared lessons learned from their work.

Justin Brown, Adrian Barragan and Jamie Garcia Prudencio – Immersive Technology in Veterinary and Animal Sciences

Barragan, clinical assistant professor in the Department of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences; Brown, assistant professor at the Department of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences; and Prudencio, an assistant professor of Spanish in Agriculture at the College of Agricultural Sciences, used their TLT grant to develop a series of immersive 360-degree videos to teach undergraduate students deer anatomy.

The team worked with technology experts to create a series of seven immersive videos to teach students the anatomy of white-tailed deer biological systems, how the deer make biological adaptations to their environment, and techniques for examining body tissues and organs.

In addition, the team explored other ways to incorporate this technology into their classrooms and created additional instructional videos that introduce students to standard veterinary medicine and animal husbandry practices, such as: B. catching moose and milking dairy cows.

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They have pursued funding opportunities to support this effort and recently received the 2022 APS Innovative Teaching Award.

Margaret Hoffman – PILLAR Project: Place-Based Immersive Learning for Landscapes

Hoffman, assistant professor of landscaping in the Department of Plant Sciences at the College of Agriculture, focused on the development and implementation of student engagement methods for landscaping majors, including active learning, alternative assessments with a focus on student creation, and the use of virtual reality for future careers. The award coincided with the onset of the pandemic, when student engagement became even more important despite many new challenges.

The team created an extensive library of 360-degree tours and video experiences of public gardens across the country to introduce students to regional differences in hardscape material, construction techniques, design style, and planting material to enhance their understanding of landscape principles in student designs. Hoffman hopes to expand the library over time and collaborate with other landscaping programs across the United States.

The 360 ​​Class Project is currently the centerpiece of an institutional review board-approved study to measure the success of 360 content (viewed with Meta Quest 2 headsets) in meeting program goals and increasing student engagement. Preliminary results indicate a high level of student enthusiasm and support for such materials in landscape design courses.

The results of the project have also contributed to the launch of a university-wide Immersive Tours pilot project.

Tom Hogan – The Virtual Transformational Leadership Development Experience

Hogan, Professor of Human Resource Management at the College of Liberal Arts’ School of Labor and Employment Relations, launched an innovative approach to creating a classroom of the future. The Virtual Transformational Leadership Development (VTLD) Experience helps develop change agents in the pursuit of a more civil, just and equitable workplace, society and world.

Students use a Harvard University self-assessment tool on diversity, equity and inclusion to measure their growth and development throughout the course. They also participate in reflection exercises on various leadership and justice issues and engage in online journaling to encourage self-reflection, self-awareness and increased knowledge.

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The course also includes LinkedIn learning modules on meditation and mindfulness practices from a business leader’s perspective that promote health and happiness. These technologies are designed to change the way students think about others, their situation and the world.

This learning area, which started in the 2021 fall semester, is on the way to being introduced as a general, cross-departmental, overarching course for the 2023 fall semester.

Students enrolling in the VTLD Experience from all campuses can work with artists from the Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State to make connections to the arts as a vehicle for change in corporate governance for diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. During the current academic year, the Director of Digital Education and Science at the College of Liberal Arts plans to support the integration of the software into the VTLD experience.

Randy McEntaffer – Exploring the universe through virtual reality

McEntaffer, a professor in the faculties of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Physics, and Materials Science and Engineering, used his TLT grant to study how virtual reality apps could replace classroom content in introductory astronomy courses.

Astronomy courses currently have many enrollments with limited practical methods to engage students with the material. VR offers an almost limitless environment and creates an immersive experience that allows for a better understanding of the concepts.

This project was carried out in two phases. In phase 1, they tested the VR hardware and software for usability issues to ensure the Titans of Space app can be navigated. Students were also encouraged to provide verbal feedback throughout their experience to gauge their reactions. In phase 2, they used the Titans of Space app to answer questions for extra credit in an introductory astronomy course.

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Because students in Phase 1 found it difficult to read questions on a screen while using the VR headset, the team encourages future studies to collect student feedback when using VR.

Dawn Pfeifer Reitz — Power Skills Suite

Pfeifer Reitz, assistant teaching professor and CAS 100 coordinator at Penn State Berks, developed the Power Skills Suite to help students and graduate students master skills such as oral and written communication, critical thinking, and professionalism.

The Power Skills Suite includes a forward-looking informational website and canvas course, and users can earn two tiers of badges to view on LinkedIn or other platforms.

Developed on the Penn State Digital Badging platform, the project will transition to a new way of content delivery and micro-attestation in 2023.

Jan Reimann — Learn math with Jupyter Notebooks

Reimann, an associate professor of mathematics at Eberly College of Science, used his fellowship to create a Jupyter Notebooks-based platform for sharing open-source content, and then authored and delivered accessible and interactive course content.

The team used the platform to redesign Math 110 Techniques of Calculus and tested it in spring 2022. Replacing a commercial textbook with the interactive Jupyter Notebook reduced the cost for each student by about $100. They rolled out the redesigned Math 110 in the fall, and Google Analytics data for October showed nearly 3,000 active users in the interactive course content.

The team continues to integrate new interactive elements, including new learning activities that leverage the versatility of computational notebooks, which will ultimately help them bring a strong data science perspective to lower-level math education.

The infrastructure can be used to deliver content in a variety of forms, including e-books, interactive computer notebooks, and QTI quizzes to import into Canvas. The system also offers flexible and affordable cloud hosting workflows, overcoming a common obstacle to using Jupyter Notebooks in the classroom.

To learn more about the TLT Faculty Fellows program, please email [email protected].