Submit session ideas for Canvas Day 2019

Submit session ideas for Canvas Day 2019

Save the date for Canvas Day 2019 on Friday, March 15, 2019, at the Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center. We are interested in your ideas as we build our schedule of events.

What kind of teaching experiences do you want to hear about from your colleagues at the Canvas Day conference? Let us know your ideas by taking our brief survey.

If you are interested in presenting, we will make a call for session proposals in October. We will also open registration next month. See you in March!

Be inspired (and inspire others) at the 2019 Penn State Symposium for Teaching and Learning with Technology

Be inspired (and inspire others) at the 2019 Penn State Symposium for Teaching and Learning with Technology

Symposium logo

Join leaders and innovators in teaching and learning at the 2019 Penn State Symposium for Teaching and Learning with Technology (TLT).  

The Symposium will take place on Saturday, March 16, 2019, at The Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center. The Symposium, sponsored and produced by TLT, is an annual event showcasing keynote speakers, stimulating concurrent sessions featuring the work of Penn State’s learning innovators, and unique opportunities to build partnerships that transform learning. The Symposium is free for all Penn Staters interested in attending. 

In early October, we will announce our keynote speaker, open a request for session proposals, and make an open call for big ideas to compete in this year’s Open Innovation Challenge.  

The Open Innovation Challenge is a competition that gives faculty, staff, and students an opportunity to dream big.  At the Symposium, five selected presenters will each have five minutes to present their pitch, and attendees will vote for their favorite idea. Have no fear, TLT staff is here to guide the five selected individuals with the process of preparing your five-minute presentation at the Symposium. The winning idea will be nurtured by a team of experts to develop it further. 

Visit for updates and more information. 

Canvas Success Stories: Bryan Wang

Biology professor uses lab guides in Canvas to increase collaboration and learning

head shot of Bryan Wnag

Bryan Wang

Note: This is the fourth in a series we are doing called Canvas Success Stories, which look at some of the more engaging ways Penn State faculty are using Canvas to teach.

While aiming to increase accessibility and sustainability, a Penn State Berks biology instructor has discovered the potential in Canvas for increased student engagement and learning.

Since the fall of 2016, Bryan Wang, an assistant teaching professor at Penn State Berks, has been creating modified versions of lab guides and incorporating them into his Canvas classes. Funding for the project is possible through the Berks Teaching and Learning Innovation Grant.

The lab guides include instructions, a space for data, and focus questions for Wang’s course, BIOL 230 W (GN) Biology: Molecules and Cells. Lab partners copy and paste the lab guide into a Content Page in their Canvas Groups space. The students are able to collaborate with each other by adding notes, data, responses, and photographs to the Page.

From a sustainability standpoint, Wang’s goal is to eliminate the need for students to print out all the course content, which was in the form of PDFs. He also wanted to update the instruction manuals in an accessible, searchable format. “It ended up becoming an enhanced classroom experience,” he said.

Wang was able to observe student collaboration increasing with the lab guides in Canvas. One lab partner will read the prompts from the lab guide while the other student completes the instructions.

Students realize their lab time has become more efficient. Wang noticed students comprehending the lab instructions better than they had in previous semesters.

“I was giving the same lectures, I was telling the same jokes, and they got it better. They were more prepared with the pre-lab content in Canvas.”

While using this group space in Canvas, students could automatically share their lab work and access it for the entire semester. Throughout the semester, students used both their mobile devices and computers to complete their coursework.

New course at Lehigh Valley, Schuylkill campuses gives students the power to create interactive, virtual worlds

New course at Lehigh Valley, Schuylkill campuses gives students the power to create interactive, virtual worlds

A new class at Penn State is a video gamer’s dream—or just the perfect thing if you have ever wanted to design your own virtual realm.

Starting this fall, a new course, Game 180N (GN; GA; Inter-domain) The Art and Science of Virtual Worlds, will be offered to first-year students at Penn State Lehigh Valley and Penn State Schuylkill. The course will focus on the physics and foundations of virtual worlds, virtual world planning and design, interactive fiction narration, and application of technologies used for virtual world input and creation, including virtual reality headsets and a variety of web- and computer-based software packages.

The course, two years in the making, has been led by Jeffrey Stone, an assistant professor of information sciences and technology at the Lehigh Valley campus, and was supported in part by an Integrative Studies Seed Grant from the Office for General Education.

“Students will come up with their own idea of a virtual world,” said Stone. “It’s a vague concept intentionally so students can follow their own passion.”

The multi-disciplinary course will be the perfect marriage of narrative arts and physical sciences. It will be taught at the Schuylkill campus by its developers: Michael Gallis, an associate professor of physics, and Nicole Andel, an associate teaching professor of English. At Lehigh Valley, the course will be taught by Stone; Daniel Jackson, an assistant teaching professor of physics; and Michelle Kaschak, an assistant teaching professor of English.

To help point students in the right direction for their virtual realms, faculty have been diving into the vast world of computer-generated creation.

“Several of us have been playing with the Unity game engine, as well as A-frame, a web-based toolkit,” Gallis said. “We’ve been playing with the 360-degree cameras and some 360-degree animation.”

In the course, students will work in teams to construct the various virtual environments and characters, applying a combination of 360-degree video, programming, and digital imagery.

“Mike’s role, being the physicist, is to help them learn about the different physics concepts behind virtual reality and virtual worlds—things like motion and light—so that their ideas can be grounded in what’s feasible, practical, and real,” explained Stone.

Gallis wants students to learn about the science of observation, including how they make measurements in the virtual world and how they model what is happening in the physical world. In the virtual realm, this becomes interesting, as things can depart from a model for a number of reasons, one of which is due to the fact that virtual worlds may not be exactly correct or complete.

“Virtual reality is useful for is training simulations,” said Gallis. “Part of what we are trying to convey is not just ‘Hey, virtual worlds are cool,’ but they’re actually useful in a variety of situations: training simulations, testing, and it is contingent upon the veracity of the model.”

The narrative arts aspect of the course will examine what the story and narrative of the virtual world will be and how it will be expressed.

Coming from a background in theater, Andel is used to storytelling. As a graduate student, she co-founded a medieval and renaissance drama troupe. Recently, she taught a course on video game literature and she found the opportunity to apply her production expertise.

“I’ve taken the skills I have gained from producing, directing, and thinking in 3-D as a narrative and brought them over to VR,” said Andel. “Part of the class is discussing how to embody a story and how it’s different than it usually occurs in drama, where there is an audience watching people on a stage. Storytelling is different with an avatar.”

For students, there are many options for future careers in the video game industry, as many skills sets are involved.

“There’s lots of room, career-wise; if you ever look at the credits list on video games you will see a large number of people involved in a wide variety of specializations. The budgets for these projects can be tens of millions of dollars,” said Gallis. “They can rival the most expensive movie productions.”

Students will walk away from this course excited and prepared for a growing industry.

“Right now, we’re training people for jobs that aren’t created yet,” Andel said. “We hope that students will gain the skills they need to do these types of jobs in the future; courses like this help them become acquainted with everyday jobs they might be asked to do.”

Andel hopes professors will branch out into teaching similar non-traditional courses in the future.

“My hope is more instructors will embrace these kinds of courses and modes of teaching in really exciting ways.”