2020-22 Teaching and Learning and Technology Faculty Fellows Reflect on Work

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Over the past two years, eight Penn State faculty from two campuses and six colleges have worked with technology teaching teams as part of the 2020-22 TLT Faculty Fellows Program. Their goal is to enhance the student engagement experience through technology.

Faculty Fellows are selected through an application process. They partner with TLT to test and develop innovative opportunities in their teaching and research, with the potential to share their innovations more broadly in Pennsylvania and throughout higher education. In addition, they work to transform the curriculum by utilizing technology-enabled teaching models developed to directly support the goals of the university, campus, or college.

“The Faculty Fellows Program is a long-standing signature program at TLT. It represents our strong commitment to creativity, experimentation and faculty partnership,” said Crystal Ramsay, TLT Interim Director. “We are always excited to work with faculty who are passionate about to innovate around teaching and learning.”

As the next cohort of Faculty Fellows begins, the previous cohort shares lessons learned from their work.

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

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

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

In addition, the team investigated other opportunities to incorporate this technology into their teaching, creating additional educational videos that walk students through standard field procedures in veterinary medicine and animal management, such as elk capture and cow milking.

They pursue funding opportunities to support these efforts and were recently awarded the 2022 APS Innovative Teaching Award.

Margaret Hoffman – Pillar Project: Immersive Learning in Place-Based Landscapes

Hoffman is an assistant professor of landscape contracting in the Department of Plant Sciences in the College of Agriculture and focuses on developing and implementing student-engaged practices for the landscape contracting major, including active learning, a focus on student-created alternative assessments, and the use of virtual reality for future careers. The award coincides with the start of the pandemic, which has made engaging students even more important despite many new challenges.

The team created an informative library of 360-degree tours and video experiences of public gardens across the country, allowing students to learn about regional differences in hardscape materials, construction techniques, design styles, and plant materials to increase their understanding of the An understanding of landscape principles in design. Hoffman hopes to expand the library over time and collaborate with other landscape contractors across the United States.

The 360-degree course project is currently at the center of an Institutional Review Board-approved study to measure the success of 360-degree content (viewed with a Meta Quest 2 headset) by meeting program goals and increasing student engagement. Preliminary findings indicate that student enthusiasm for and support for this type of material is high in landscape architecture courses.

Results from the project also informed the launch of a campus-wide immersive tourism pilot program.

Tom Hogan – Virtual Transformational Leadership Development Experience

Hogan, professor of practice in human resource management in the School of Labor and Employment Relations in the Faculty of Arts, has launched an innovative approach to shaping the classroom of the future. The Virtual Transformational Leadership Development (VTLD) experience helps develop change agents in pursuit of a more civilized, equitable and just workplace, society and world.

Students use Harvard’s self-assessment tool on diversity, equity, and inclusion to measure their growth and development throughout the course. They also engage in reflective exercises on a variety of leadership and equity topics, and keep an online journal to promote self-reflection, self-awareness, and increased knowledge.

The course also incorporates LinkedIn Learning modules with meditation and mindfulness exercises from the perspective of a business leader who promotes health and well-being. These techniques are designed to turn students’ thinking toward other people, their situations, and the world.

Launched in the Fall 2021 semester, this learning space is expected to be introduced in the Fall 2023 semester as a general education, cross-field, cross-listed course.

Students participating in the VTLD Experience from all campuses can interact with artists at Penn State’s Performing Arts Center, connecting the arts as agents of change in business leadership for diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. This academic year, the College of Liberal Arts Director of Digital Instruction and Scholarship plans to help integrate the software into the VTLD experience.

Randy McEntaffer – Exploring the universe through virtual reality

McEntaffer, a professor in the departments of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Physics, and Materials Science and Engineering, used his TLT Fellowship to research how virtual reality applications could replace classroom content in introductory astronomy courses.

Astronomy courses currently have large enrollments but limited practical ways of exposing students to the material. VR offers a nearly infinite environment, creating an immersive experience that allows for a better understanding of concepts.

The project is carried out in two phases. In Phase 1, they tested the VR hardware and software for usability issues to ensure the app Titans of Space could be navigated. Students are also encouraged to provide verbal feedback during the experience to gauge their responses. In Phase 2, they use the Titans of Space app to answer questions for extra credit in their introductory astronomy course.

Since the students found it difficult to read the on-screen questions while using VR headsets during the first period, the team encouraged future studies to gather feedback from students while using VR.

Dawn Pfeifer Reitz — Power Skills Suite

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

The Power Skills Suite includes a prospective informational website and a Canvas course, and users can earn two levels of badges to appear on LinkedIn or other platforms.

The program was designed on the Penn State Digital Badge platform and will transition to a new content delivery and micro-credentials model in 2023.

Jan Reimann – Learning Math with Jupyter Notebooks

Reimann, an associate professor of mathematics in the Eberly College of Science, used his fellowship to create an open source content-sharing platform based on Jupyter Notebooks, then author and deploy accessible interactive course content.

The team used the platform to redesign Math 110 Techniques of Calculus and piloted it in spring 2022. Replacing business textbooks with interactive Jupyter Notebooks cut costs by about $100 per student. They continued to run a redesigned Math 110 in the fall, and Google Analytics data for October showed nearly 3,000 active users on the interactive course content.

The team is continuing to integrate new interactive elements, including new learning activities that leverage the versatility of computing notebooks, which will ultimately help them enrich lower grades math education with a powerful data science lens.

The infrastructure can be used to deliver content in various formats, including e-books, interactive computing notebooks, and QTI quizzes for import into Canvas. The system also offers a flexible and cost-effective cloud-hosted workflow that overcomes common barriers to using Jupyter Notebooks in the classroom.

To learn more about the TLT Faculty Fellows Program, email fellows@psu.edu.

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