UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Eight Penn State instructors from two campuses and six colleges worked in teams with Teaching and Learning with Technology over the past two years as part of the 2020-22 TLT Faculty Fellows program. Their goal was to enhance the student engagement experience through technology.
Faculty Fellows are selected through an application process. They partner with TLT to test and grow innovation opportunities within their teaching and research, with the potential to share their innovations more broadly across Penn State and throughout higher education. In addition, they work to transform courses by leveraging technology-enabled teaching modalities developed in direct support of University, campus, or college goals.
"The Faculty Fellows program is a long-standing and signature program in TLT. It represents our deep commitment to creativity, experimentation, and faculty partnerships,” said Crystal Ramsay, interim director at TLT. “We're always excited to work with faculty who are passionate about innovating around teaching and learning."
As the next Faculty Fellows cohort gets underway, the previous cohort shared lessons learned from their work.
Justin Brown, Adrian Barragan, and Jaime Garcia Prudencio — Immersive Technology in Veterinary and Animal Sciences
Barragan, an assistant clinical professor in the Department of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences; Brown, an assistant teaching professor in the Department of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences; and Prudencio, an assistant teaching professor for Spanish in agriculture in the College of Agricultural Sciences, utilized their TLT fellowship to develop a series of 360-degrees immersive videos to teach undergraduate students about deer anatomy.
The team partnered with technology experts to create a series of seven immersive videos to teach students the anatomy of biological systems of white-tailed deer, how the deer made biological adaptations to their environment, and techniques to inspect body tissues and organs.
In addition, the team examined other opportunities to incorporate this technology into their teaching, creating additional educational videos that expose students to standard field procedures in veterinary and animal management, such as elk capture and milking dairy cows.
They have pursued funding opportunities to support these efforts and recently received the 2022 APS Innovative Teaching Award.
Margaret Hoffman — PILLAR Project: Place-based Immersive Learning for Landscapes
Hoffman, an assistant professor of landscape contracting in the Department of Plant Sciences within the College of Agriculture, focused on developing and implementing student engagement practices for landscape contracting majors, including active learning, alternative assessments focusing on student creation, and utilization of virtual reality for future careers. The award coincided with the start of the pandemic, when engaging students became even more important despite many new challenges.
The team created a substantial library of 360-degrees tours and video experiences of public gardens across the country to expose students to regional differences in hardscape material, construction techniques, design style, and plant material to increase their understanding of landscape principles in student designs. Hoffman hopes to expand the library over time and collaborate with other landscape contracting programs across the United States.
The 360-degrees class project is currently the centerpiece of an institutional review board-approved study to measure the success of 360-degrees content (viewed with Meta Quest 2 headsets) through meeting program objectives and increasing student engagement. Preliminary findings show high student enthusiasm and support for such materials in landscape design courses.
The project’s results have also informed the launch of a University-wide Immersive Tours Pilot.
Tom Hogan — The Virtual Transformational Leadership Development Experience
Hogan, a professor of practice in human resource management in 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 to develop change agents in pursuit of a more civil, equitable and just workplace, society, and world.
Students utilize a Harvard University self-assessment tool on diversity, equity and inclusion to measure their growth and development throughout the course. They also engage in reflective exercises on various leadership and equity topics, and do online journaling to promote self-reflection, self-awareness and increased knowledge.
The course also incorporates LinkedIn Learning modules on meditation and mindfulness practices from a business leader perspective that promote health and happiness. These technologies are designed to shift student mindsets toward others, their situation and the world.
This learning space, which launched during the fall 2021 semester, is on track to be introduced as a general education, inter-domain, cross-listed course for the fall 2023 semester.
Students enrolling in the VTLD Experience from across all campuses can engage with artists from the Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State to make connections of art as an agent of change in business leadership for diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. During the current academic year, the director of Digital Pedagogy and Scholarship in the College of Liberal Arts plans to help incorporate the software into the VTLD Experience.
Randy McEntaffer — Exploring the Universe through Virtual Reality
McEntaffer, professor in the Departments of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Physics, and Materials Science and Engineering, utilized his TLT fellowship to study how virtual reality apps could replace classroom content in introductory astronomy courses.
Astronomy courses currently have large enrollments with limited practical methods of engaging the students with the material. VR provides a nearly limitless environment, creating an immersive experience that provides a better understanding of the concepts.
This project operated in two phases. In Phase 1, they tested the VR hardware and software for usability issues to ensure the ability to navigate the app Titans of Space. The students were also encouraged to provide verbal feedback during 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.
Because students found it difficult to read questions on a screen while using the VR headset in Phase 1, the team encourages future studies of gathering student feedback when utilizing 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 master skills such as oral and written communication, critical thinking, and professionalism.
The Power Skills Suite includes a forward-facing informational website and a Canvas course, and users can earn two levels of badges to display on LinkedIn or other platforms.
The project was designed in the Penn State Digital Badging platform and will transition to a new mode of content delivery and micro-credentialing in 2023.
Jan Reimann — Learning Math with Jupyter Notebooks
Reimann, associate professor of mathematics in the Eberly College of Science, leveraged his fellowship to create a platform based on Jupyter Notebooks for open-source content sharing, and then authored and deployed accessible and interactive course content.
The team used the platform to redesign Math 110 Techniques of Calculus and piloted it in spring 2022. Replacing a commercial textbook with the interactive Jupyter Notebook reduced the cost for each student by approximately $100. They continued running the redesigned Math 110 in the fall, and Google Analytics data for October showed almost 3,000 active users in the interactive course content.
The team is continuing to integrate new interactive elements, including new learning activities that utilize the versatility of computational notebooks, which will ultimately assist them in enriching lower-division math education through a strong data science perspective.
The infrastructure can be used to deliver content in various forms, including e-books, interactive computational notebooks, and QTI quizzes for importing into Canvas. The system also offers flexible and cost-effective cloud-hosting workflows, overcoming a frequent barrier to using Jupyter Notebooks in the classroom.
To learn more about the TLT Faculty Fellows program, please email [email protected].