Faculty Center Newsletter Vol. 11.2


nsuring the Success of Hybrid Teaching and Learning at PSH 
DMLImage.jpgThe pressures on higher education institutions to change their traditional practices of teaching and learning can leave faculty feeling overwhelmed. On May 11, 2011, Penn State Harrisburg, Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, and the Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence collaborated to organize a "hybrid" Regional Colloquy: Harnessing the Power of Hybrid and Online Teaching and Learning on the Harrisburg and Erie campuses. Taking place on the both campuses, participants attended workshops in their respective locations and two keynote addresses by Susan Ko, co-author of Teaching Online: A Practical Guide and Alexandra Pickett, associate director of the SUNY Learning Network. Each keynote speaker was broadcast over the internet and screened at the other campus, demonstrating the practical uses of technology for learning. Topics introduced by the presenters in the keynotes and the workshops ran the gamut of addressing the worst fears of teaching online; peer-reviewing online courses using new guidelines; substituting guest lecturers through the use of recorded interviews; leveraging the power of communities of practice through social media; and finding, selecting, and using digital learning materials. You can view the various links to presentations on our blog under the entry "The Power of Hybrid and Online Teaching and Learning" 

Beyond the Regional Colloquy, the Faculty Center has participated in the creation of a consultation and approval process for the development of new hybrid courses so that Penn State Harrisburg can track the growth of online learning as well as provide support for quality course redesigns. Here at the Faculty Center, instructional designers are available to help with the redesign process, review the latest instructional technologies, suggest best practices for online teaching, and align to design standards set by the Penn State Quality Assurance Standards. We are also setting in motion a summer cohort of faculty interested in redesigning a course for a hybrid delivery.


Quick Tips from Penn State Harrisburg Faculty Who Teach Online and Hybrid Courses:

Using the "From the Field" Recorded Interviews in an Online Introductory Course--Dr. Barb Sims

Dr. Barb Sims took us right into her Criminal Justice online course to share with us an innovative way to include guest speakers in an online learning environment. With the help of a Faculty Center instructional designer and a camera person, Dr. Sims interviewed various people about the issues they face in their professions. The recorded interviews provide students with a glimpse of what different career paths might entail while engaging course content. Students loved the videos and Dr. Sims encouraged faculty to consider how effective simply produced videos can be. 

Things to consider:

Discuss with the camera person how they are setting up the shoot and framing the interview. Aesthetics can make a difference. 

More importantly, make sure the sound quality is as clear as possible. Choose a location with minimal noise and chances for interruption.

You never know where the conversation might go!

Things to try in the future:

Asking students to brainstorm interview questions as an assignment

Creating a discussion forum or quiz that links back to the video

Building in interaction with the interviewees later in the course. Perhaps they could return for additions Q & A.

Nested Upside Down Traffic Light for Communicating the Learning Objectives of a Course--Emilia Kenney

In her session, Ms. Kenney reminded faculty that sometimes it is necessary to show students the forest and not just the trees. She introduced a visual graphic that uses the colors of the traffic light to help students become clearer about the hierarchy of concepts introduced in the course. 

Emilia1.jpgMs. Kenney uses this diagram to design exams and feels that it helps bring a texture to teaching. She concluded with her observations that students remembered the core concepts better as a result of using this visual aid. The diagram:

conveys the assessment priorities

allows for structured feedback

cements understanding of the fundamental concepts

Echo Analysis (A Study of Teacher-Student Interaction)--Dr. Bing Ran

Dr. Bing Ran presented a session titled "Teacher- Student Interactions in Hybrid and Online Courses: An Echo Analysis." Dr. Ran has taught in hybrid and online modes for some time, and recently did research using Echo interviews to investigate the behavior characteristics of students and professors as they interact in hybrid and online courses.  His findings were very interesting, and can help inform some best practices for teaching and learning in online and hybrid modes:  

o Faculty must set clear expectations 

o Role identification is key 

o Keep your online office hours

o Provide prompt responses (both students and faculty) 

o Class bonding is important 

o Both faculty and students must work to motivate each other for the purpose of participating (Faculty must participate as well)

o If students perceive the instructor is detached, they are discouraged and less likely to engage

o Students appreciate personalized feedback

o Communication - email is the major channel of communication for fully online - students want to hear from their instructor

o Dr. Ran found no significant difference in responses between students and faculty in online, hybrid, and traditional classrooms 

Using VoiceThread to Build Community--Dr. Jeremy Plant

So, you are teaching online, now how are you going to create a learning community? Dr. Plant's online Master in Public Administration students are literally scattered all over the world. So much of the work done in Public Administration is done in a group setting, so he needed a way for students to work in groups online. Dr. Plant worked with an instructional designer to determine the best way for students to work collaboratively in groups online. They decided to try VoiceThread - an online collaborative multimedia space that allows users to navigate slides and leave comments in several different ways. He used a familiarization assignment during the early part of the course to allow students to practice using the tool. He asked students to use VoiceThread to introduce themselves to the class. It was a great icebreaker, and a wonderful way to get students familiar with the tool. Using it in this way was an excellent way to get personalized introductions, and a great lead-in to working in groups. Overall, it was a very successful experience and he will continue using it in future course offerings. 

World Wide Narratives: Digital Stories of the Penn State Harrisburg Community 

We are delighted to be part of the many good efforts on Penn State Harrisburg's campus to create a welcoming climate for people of all backgrounds. The Faculty Center was awarded a grant from the Equal Opportunity Planning Committee to initiate a campus-wide digital storytelling project in Fall and Spring 2011-12, in partnership with the Outreach Subcommittee of the Diversity and Educational Equity Committee, Media Commons, Intercultural Affairs, and a wide range of campus student organizations of the international, LGBTQ, and multi-cultural communities. Digital stories are short, personal multimedia pieces told from the heart. Typically they incorporate a combination of images, text, recorded audio narration, video clips and/or music. World Wide Narratives is designed to document the often untold or unnoticed stories of fellow students, faculty, and staff from our diverse communities. Storytelling is one of the oldest and most natural ways for people to make meaning out of their life experiences and we hope that creating a venue for people to share and bear witness to stories can lead to learning, action, and positive change. 

Dr. Jo Tyler, Associate Professor of Training and Development and professional storyteller, Dr. Martha Strickland, Assistant Professor of Education, and Nick Smerker, Harrisburg's Media Commons campus liaison will train students in interviewing, storytelling, active listening across differences, and recording stories using new technology and internet-based tools. A Day of Listening at the end of each semester will celebrate the project and honor each of the participants. 

Highlights From the Symposium for Teaching and Learning with Technology 

Community Engagement and the Culture of Teaching and Learning was this year's theme for Penn State's signature event for the collaborative community of faculty and technologists. Even if you missed the 2011 Symposium for Teaching and Learning with Technology (TLT), you can begin planning now to join us at the Penn Stater in State College next year on March 24, 2012! 

You can view this year's keynote presentation by Clay Shirky, writer, consultant, and teacher on new technology and social media at: 

You may also view a talk about how "disruptive technologies" such as Twitter can be harnessed to transform lectures into rich discussions. C. Michael Elavsky, Assistant Professor, University Park discussed his experience of reimagining COMM 110, implementing it and assessing students using social media. 

Here at the Faculty Center, we held a debrief meeting for everyone who attended this year's symposium. Here are some of the faculty's highlights:

Transmedia Storytelling in Education:
Ms. Cathy McCormick attended this pre-symposium hands-on session, which is based on a Hollywood strategy that expands a story in film into spin-off multi-media websites, blogs, games, books, magazines, etc. Transmedia strategies further immerse audiences in stories, allowing them to dig deeper into characters and subplots to reveal hidden significance and meaning. A variety of online tools it possible to apply these ideas to education.

Participants in this session worked in teams to brainstorm branching themes and experiment with different digital media and online resources. One team used a course on "Re-Wilding North America" as an example. The course could incorporate:
a student blog 
field trips to conservatories
student-produced public service messages
recorded interviews with various stakeholders such as farmers, conservationists, hikers, etc.
role playing a debate among different stakeholders.

Ms. McCormick is interested in using VoiceThread to teach students to analyze images, and a tool that creates interactive timelines called Dipity:
She can imagine using her syllabus at the center of a transmedia course and putting different links into a Dipity timeline.

Say it Loud! VoiceThread Session

The presenter of this session gave an example of a course she taught in Geospatial Technology. One of the major assignments was centered around interactive maps that she posted into VoiceThread and students would work with these maps and then reflect and comment on their experiences and the utility of the maps using the audio capabilities in VoiceThread. There were structured conversations using VoiceThread twice a week including her feedback on the content and process.

Faculty members, Cathy McCormick and Tom Buttross felt that VoiceThread would work best in online courses and both were interested in using it to replace discussion forums in ANGEL.

The Unlearning of Science Education: The Story of SC200

This session, which you can view online using this link , was also a highlight of the Symposium. The professor, Dr. Andrew Reed, gave an energized presentation of how he has worked with students who are only taking his class because it is a requirement. SC200 implements Blogs at Penn State and Poll Everywhere to inspire a passion for science in students who are not in the hard science fields. He told and showed examples from the class blog of how non-science majors were discovering that science is a part of their daily lives.

One faculty member suggested in our debrief session that Dr. Andrew Reed would be a great guest speaker for our campus. You can view the Science in Our World: Certainty and Controversy class blog here:

Faculty Center Newsletter Vol. 11.1



Penn State Harrisburg, Penn State Erie, and Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence invite you to participate in a regional colloquy on May 11, 2011 that will focus on enhanced teaching and learning through the thoughtful use of today's technologies. Join in as a presenter or participant. Proposals are due by March 14, 2011: This is a great opportunity to see and hear what others are doing and leave with new ideas!

The availability of the Internet has spurned creative uses of new technologies, changed classrooms, and placed new and different demands on faculty. How are you embracing these changes in your web-enhanced, hybrid, or online courses?

Keynote speaker, Dr. Susan Ko, will discuss the major elements of design and facilitation that determine the effectiveness of hybrid courses, and best practices in online teaching that contribute to the greater engagement of both student and faculty.  Practical strategies will be highlighted, addressing such issues as workload management, different methods for assessment, the skillful integration of online and face-to-face activities, and appropriate incorporation of social media tools and resources.

Join us for this full day of sharing and networking. This event is open to all. Registration is free for PSH faculty and staff.

Community Engagement and the Culture of Teaching and Learning

Community engagement in education involves collaborative efforts to explore relevant issues and create new knowledge. How can community engagement be applied to academia and what effect will it have on the traditional roles of faculty, students, staff, researchers, and administration? 

"Perspectives in Community Engagement" is a new series of workshops sponsored by the Faculty Center, Outreach Committee of the Diversity and Equity in Education Committee, and the Office of Research and Graduate Studies. We will spotlight the work of faculty, staff, students and members of the broader Harrisburg region who make learning come alive beyond the classroom. Read more at:


Faculty Center Newsletter Vol. 10.2





Service-learning is a method of teaching, learning and reflecting that helps learning come alive beyond the classroom and helps students experience real-life connections between their education and every-day issues in their communities. This experiential style of education combines academic classroom curriculum with meaningful community service and encourages lifelong civic responsibility and engagement that strengthens communities in the process. Every subject area can be linked to real life community problems.

Key components of service-learning courses typically include:

  • Curricular connections to a community-based need
  • Student voice and leadership
  • Reflection
  • Community partnerships
  • Assessment

Dr. Roderick Lee has been incorporating service-learning into his Information Sciences and Technology courses by organizing his students to analyze, design and evaluate information systems to solve real-world problems that  community-based organizations are facing. "Now, every semester we get more requests for web development than we can handle. Before incorporating service-learning, I found that textbook cases and scenarios were not well defined. And because students didn't have someone to contact for clarification, the textbook problems were too open-ended. The students couldn't get their heads around what they wanted to design, even late in the semester. But now, having concrete tasks and boundaries makes a big difference."

Roderick believes that it would be useful to have more serious discussion about the benefits and outcomes of service-learning. One way to encourage student engagement and interest in projects is to publicize success stories. One of his past-graduates, Kelsey Kerr, was the sixth Penn State Harrisburg student to win the Ralph Dorn Hetzel Memorial Award. Named for Penn State's 10th president, the award recognizes high scholastic attainment and good citizenship and leadership in student activities. Amongst the many service-learning projects that she worked on during her time at Penn State, Kelsey was project leader for a class group that designed a web site for the Central Pennsylvania Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. She also designed a system for the Penn State Hershey Medical Center blood bank to monitor federal regulations and was the project leader for the PRH baseball website, found at


"The students get real world experience, an enhanced understanding of content knowledge, communication and collaboration skills, and a sense of social responsibility. Some students still work with community partners post graduation," says Roderick.

A few faculty members engage in service-learning on our campus and are a wealth of information about the benefits and different issues involved. The Faculty Center is interested in supporting more faculty in redesigning their courses to engage with the broader Harrisburg community, and can help you access discipline-specific service-learning resources for your courses. In late fall, we will host an hour-long session on what service-learning involves. Shivaani Selvaraj, Instructional Designer in the Faculty Center, is also interested in facilitating a small learning community of faculty to share experiences and resources. If you have an interest in service-learning, please contact her at x6623, or



Quick Tips For Constructing Your Syllabus

Syllabi can be considered roadmaps to students' success. Your syllabus is your students' first experience with you as a teacher and sets the tone and climate for your course. The value of a well-written syllabus should not be underestimated.


The purpose of a syllabus is to give students an overview of the course's goals and objectives, and to set the expectations by giving students the basic information they need about the course.


To begin, answering these questions will help you articulate your vision of your course:

·       What are the goals of your course? In other words, what should your students experience, know, and/or be able to do by the end of the course?

·       What teaching methods will most effectively accomplish these goals?

·       How will you assess students' progress toward these goals?


This will give students an idea of where the course is going, how it's going to get there and why. When communicating to students the benefits of your course, phrase expectations in positive terms, use inclusive language (e.g., avoid gendered pronouns), and clearly present how grades will be determined.


A syllabus is an agreement of sorts between you and your students, but it is also an agreement that is subject to at least minor revisions.  At first, you might want to mark your syllabus as tentative. Basic information that students need to know include course and university policies. The University Faculty Senate requires that students be provided with the following information during the first ten days of class: the examination procedures and grading policy, the academic integrity policy and the evening exam schedule for daytime courses. Remember that many students change their schedules the first week of the semester, so some may miss the first day of class.


You may decide to include additional information that is specific to your course. Possibilities include optional readings, background readings, study questions, rationale for course content, beliefs about the teacher's and students' roles in the teaching and learning process, etc.


Students base their expectations for the course on the information you provide! Keep your audience in mind. Too much information can be frustrating. Use headings, bullets, and separate sections to guide students to the most important information. Most of all, have fun with it!



Course Information

·       Course title and number

·       Credit hours

·       Prerequisites (Permission from instructor required?)

·       Classroom location

·       Lab/recitation location

·       Meeting days and times

·       Lab/recitation days and times

·       Department location

·       Web page


Instructor Information

·       Full name and Title

·       Office location and phone number

·       Office hours

·       Email address

·       Department phone number

·       Home phone number, optional

·       Teaching assistant(s)

·       TA office location(s) and phone number(s)


Texts, Readings, Materials

·       Textbook authors, titles, editions, price(s)

·       Supplementary reading, price(s)


Course Description/Objectives

·       Catalog description

·       General course content

·       General course goals

·       Learning objectives for students

·       Instructional methods

·       Description of major assignments


Course Calendar/Schedule

·       Readings

·       Homework

·       Assignments and due dates

·       Exam/quiz dates

·       Required special events


Course Policies

·       Attendance

·       Lateness

·       Class participation

·       Missed exams

·       Missed assignments

·       Lab safety/health

·       Academic dishonesty

·       Grading

·       Support services



·       Disability statement

·       Statement to cover possible changes in syllabus






The Faculty Center wishes to congratulate Dr. Barbara Marinak, Assistant Professor of Education & Reading, for the publication of Essential Readings on Motivation. Essential Readings on Motivation was published by the International reading Association.
To listen to a podcast with co-editors and leading educators Jacquelynn Malloy, Barbara Marinak, and Linda Gambrell, click here




For full details about the workshops:

Adjunct Faculty Workshop

8/21/10, 8:30am-12:00pm, C15 Olmsted

Blended Learning: The 21st-Century Learning Environment
9/15/10, 12:00-5:30pm and

9/16/10, 12:00-5:00pm, E306 Olmsted

Midsemester Course Evaluations
end of September - details coming!

Perceived Difficulty Assessment Questionnaire (PDAQ): What's it about?
9/30/10, 12:00-1:30pm, E308 Olmsted

Plagiarism Prevention and Turnitin
October - details coming!

Copyright and the New Media: What's New?
10/26/10, 12:00-1:30pm, E308 Olmsted

Service-Learning- What is it?
November - details coming!

Talking about Teaching
W207 Olmsted
9/17/10, 2:00-3:00pm
10/15/10, 2:00-3:00pm
11/19/10, 2:00-3:00pm


Faculty Center Newsletter Vol. 10.1



Even if you missed the 2010 Symposium for Teaching and Learning with Technology (TLT), you can begin planning now to join us next year on March 26, 2011! Five of us from Penn State Harrisburg joined the 400+ Penn Staters at this year's Symposium. This is Penn State's signature event for the vibrant community of faculty and technologists who are working together to enhance teaching, learning, and research.

You can view this year's keynote and some session recordings at:





Besides being an accessible and friendly place to explore technology, both familiar and advanced, the TLT excels in generating dialogue about perspectives and approaches from the frontlines of teaching and learning. We, at the Faculty Center, wish not to reduce technology to a set of tools to be simply prescribed and plugged into different situations. The promise of technology, besides staying current with our emerging young people, is to further understand human values. This year's TLT keynote speaker, Michael Wesch, known for his scholarship and videos exploring the effects of social media and digital technology on society and culture, spoke precisely on this topic.

original photos by opacity on flickr

Wesch reflected on the psychological dilemma for academics who bring their heart and soul to teaching only to face disengagement and apathy, and the struggle for students to find significance and create meaning. With this backdrop, he showed examples from YouTube of the ways that people, young and old, are using multimedia and the internet to forge connections without constraint and to think critically about dominant narratives through a process of co-opting those messages and recreating their own. Wesch would describe himself as being "critically optimistic," not blindly optimistic, that technology will provide the solutions for all social problems.

In his talk, Wesch named the challenge for us all: How to engage real problems with students and harness the relevant tools in our shared struggle to create meaningful knowledge.

To find out more about Wesch's scholarship and view videos made by him and his students:

To read more about his teaching strategies:

From Knowledgable to Knowledge-able: Learning in New Media Environments

Anti-Teaching: Confronting the Crisis of Significance




Clarity of vision and purpose precedes successful implementation of any new technology. Careful planning to integrate technology into your courses can help you think outside the box in face to face, hybrid, and online learning environments.



Original photo by Derick Burns

We thought we would share some great applications of two of the many tools we explored further at the Symposium: Google Earth and Voice Thread. These are web-based tools that allow students to collaborate and share their work using visuals, audio, and video. We heard from several presenters about exciting applications of these tools across disciplines and in both online and face to face courses.

Geo Education


Google tools (Google Earth, Google Maps. Google Sky, Google SketchUp) allow people to "conceptualize, visualize, share, and communicate information about the world around them." These tools are simple to use, free and can be applied to any subject matter. Dr. Laura Guertin on Brandywine campus showed us examples using Google Earth to create "literature trips" that plot the journey of main characters, maps of historical voyages and events, maps plotting the location of scientists debating throughout history, real world math problems using real time coordinates to calculate distance, and of course examples from the very visual disciplines of geography and earth sciences. At each plot point you create, you can easily upload images, text, audio, and video. You can view "Earth QUESTs," Questioning and Understanding Earth Science Themes), completed by students at Penn State Brandywine at


A great example of using Google Earth came from a student who traced his ancestral migratory journey after having his DNA analyzed through National Geographic's Genographic Project. His Google Earth presentation was a rich combination of his own reflections and multimedia, including embedded YouTube videos, explaining different periods of human and geologic evolution.


On our own campus, Google Maps have been used increasingly in the Criminal Justice Department. According to Dr. Carl Garver, "the Google Map has provided an educational dimension to the ANGEL learning environment.  Students love knowing where other students are from.  It enhances discussion when one student asks another whether what applies in one place applies the same way in others.  In the example of my 'Introduction to Law' class, laws are different in many states and local jurisdictions.  Students learn of new events in one area and ask other students to comment on such.  Our Class Sharing Forum allows students to delve deeper into occurrences in particular states (even internationally).  It challenges students to find out more and research more extensively what other students have heard on the news.  The Google Map allows for a constant reference of where students are from.  It also helps the instructor to create questions specific to certain students."



The Power of Voice


Voice Thread is a powerful tool for harnessing the power of our voices when designing opportunities for asynchronous learning. This tool allows students and faculty to collaborate and generate conversations by creating their own identity and inserting recorded video, voice, text, or doodle-based comments around assigned texts, images, powerpoint slides, or videos.  The end result is a multimedia slide show that holds the content as well as the conversation surrounding it.


One example of how this can be used is in an art history class where images are uploaded, and a class can add verbal interpretations and drawn elements specifying different sections of the work of art that they are referring to in their comments. Or, a video documentary in a history course can be uploaded into Voice Thread and as students watch, they can add their vocal reactions exactly at the point in the video clip where they have a comment to make. When the avatar of that student is clicked the video will play and then pause so we here the student's reaction.


At the TLT presentation, we saw how this tool was used in a negotiation course in the Smeal College of Business, where students were asked to reflect on the outcomes of a two week, team-based simulation of a negotiation. A short powerpoint summarizing the different teams' outcomes was uploaded into Voice Thread and students from the entire class held conversations about the reasons for a team's success or failure, what could have been done differently, or if the outcome came as a surprise, etc. Another example came from an online class on Globalization, Technology, and Ethics, which used Voice Thread as a way to collaboratively assess, discuss, and reflect on various international case studies.


Voice Thread is being used on Harrisburg's campus in Dr. Bill Bigos' online capstone course in the Teaching and Curriculum Masters program. In another simulation exercise, students were asked to prepare verbal presentations advising about technology integration to a School Board. Students recorded their testimonies in Voice Thread and then had members of their teams use Voice Thread's commenting to constructively critique each others' presentations.


Voice Thread accounts can be free or for a fee, faculty can obtain 50 licenses for students, with different helpful management features. Click here to see an example of how a graduate class in Education used Voice Thread to discuss and answer questions from their teacher about information literacy:


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