Harrisburg leads OER innovation in geology courses

Harrisburg leads OER innovation in geology courses

Open educational resources (OER) are transforming the landscape of higher education, allowing for more accessible and affordable learning. At Penn State Harrisburg, geology students are using digital rock kits and an open-access textbook in place of traditional rock packages and text, a change that has fueled student engagement.

Through a partnership between Penn State Teaching and Learning with Technology (TLT) and the Penn State University Libraries, the ACT@PSU program revolutionizes faculty use of the traditional textbook. ACT@PSU supports instructors who want to teach courses through OER. With the assistance of Julie Lang, OER coordinator for TLT, and Dan Poeschl, multimedia specialist for The Center for Teaching Excellence at Penn State Harrisburg, the transformation of geology classes at the Harrisburg campus began in fall 2018.

“When the center purchased the Agisoft PhotoScan software, we created 3D rocks to replace the rock kit ultimately,” said Jennifer Sliko, assistant teaching professor of earth and geosciences at the Harrisburg campus. “In the future, we will have the rock kit as a recommended but not required resource.”

Poeschl photographed rocks from the traditional kit then uploaded them into the software to create 3D models accessible through SketchFab, where people can share 3D models just like they would YouTube videos. “The software’s primary function is to scan and create 3D models of real-life objects quickly. Its most popular use is by game designers. They can quickly and efficiently populate an open world video game without painstakingly creating a bunch of custom objects.”

By the project’s end, Poeschl had created 43 models. Some reflective, transparent rocks like quartz didn’t translate well in the 3D space, but there will be alternative ways Sliko can teach with these rocks in a digital realm.

Initially, Sliko sought out an online replacement for the rock kit to solve the issue of academic integrity. Each year, the campus bookstore bought back the kits from students, and students could pass on the identification of each rock to the next class.

With the 3D rocks, Sliko can change the labeling each year. “In 2018, ‘Rock A’ might be granite, but in 2019, ‘Rock A’ will be a completely different rock specimen. It reduces the burden of the textbook purchase and minimizes cheating from semester to semester.”

Affordability also plays a significant role in switching to OER. By fall 2019, Sliko plans to have her course become completely OER-based. Physical rock kits are costly, with not many used options available. Students in Sliko’s course now have an online textbook they use to reference for rock identification.

Student engagement has significantly increased over previous semesters. Students are researching online and engaging more with their classmates to identify the rocks.

In the 3D space, students can zoom in and out on the rocks and easily manipulate and identify them based on color and individual mineral grains. The effect is the same as though the students were looking at the stones through a hand lens. Plans for improvement include digital representations of other methods to test rocks and minerals, such as reactions to acids and magnets.

The advantages of using digital rock kits and an open-access textbook will extend far beyond the Harrisburg campus. Other instructors can use these models for their online classes as well.

Sliko said, “Having that innovative technology as we move forward becomes more crucial because the students expect it. In online classes, it’s a nice way to enwrap their attention.”

University of Oklahoma professor to give talk on open educational resources April 8

University of Oklahoma professor to give talk on open educational resources April 8

Over the past several years, there has been an increase in students requesting and using open educational resources (OER) to replace high-cost traditional course materials. A new trend is emerging where students are not only consuming OER, but also creating it. At Penn State, Teaching and Learning with Technology (TLT) offers resources to expand the OER initiative.

On Monday, April 8, from 11 a.m. to noon in The Dreamery, TLT will be hosting Julie Ann Ward, assistant professor of 20th and 21st Century Latin American Literature at the University of Oklahoma (OU). Ward will discuss her experience editing a student-created open educational resource, Antología abierta de literatura hispana. There will be a Q & A period, and the discussion will be available to access remotely via Zoom.

In fall 2016, with the help of the OU Libraries’ Alternative Textbook Grant, groups of four to five students in Ward’s Introduction to Hispanic Literature and Culture course selected ten texts from the fifteenth to the twentieth century to include in a critical edition. Ward wrote about the project in A Guide to Making Open Textbooks With Students, a recipient of the Open Education Consortium’s 2018 Open Education Award for Excellence. The book serves as a handbook for faculty interested in involving students in the creation of open textbooks.

To learn more about open educational resources, visit the Open Educational Library and the Open Pedagogy Notebook. If you are interested in learning more about how to get your students involved in the creation of OER, contact L-OER-AT-PENN-STATE@lists.psu.edu.

Students create immersive videos to enhance criminal justice courses

Students create immersive videos to enhance criminal justice courses

Immersive technologies such as 360-degree videos will revolutionize the future of forensic science, giving police and criminologists a tool to visualize different crime scenes and ultimately, become better investigators. Through the Berks Teaching & Learning Innovation Partnership Grant, Penn State Berks students in CRIMJ 210, a course on Policing in America, are learning to create 360-degree videos of crime scene scenarios.

These videos are viewed by their peers in CRIMJ 100, an introductory course to Criminal Justice, to learn about topics such as self-defense, defense of others, and defense of property.

“The project transforms student learning on two levels: It allows students to engage in creative collaboration related to a course topic, and students get to ‘experience’ the scenarios presented by the 360-degree videos created by their peers,” said Mary Ann Mengel, an instructional multimedia designer for Penn State Berks’ Center for Learning & Teaching.

During the fall 2018 semester, students were separated into five teams to research their chosen topic, brainstorm ideas for a storyboard, create the dialogue, assemble props, and select locations to film. Like good police work, careful research and attention are required to recreate crime scene scenarios that accurately represent the characters, props, settings, and timing of events.

Due to the limited examples of 360-degree storyboards, Mengel designed a template for students to visualize how their scenes would play out through the 360-degree camera. The camera’s vantage point positions the viewer within the scene, and the viewer can focus their attention in any direction. By design, minimal video editing is required.

“This should be the standard,” said Deb Dreisbach, lecturer in criminal justice. “I’m always thinking outside of the box and as we continue to come up with other ideas for these videos, we will institute them.”

Dress rehearsal videos were peer-reviewed before students produced their two- to three-minute-long final videos in November 2018. Assessment questions were written by the teams, which students in future classes will answer after exploring the immersive scenarios.

“In having to develop questions, students are analyzing it a lot differently, and enjoying it more,” Dreisbach said. Dreisbach plans to expand the library of scenarios as she repeats the assignment in future semesters.

These videos significantly enhance how criminal justice students learn. Students are better engaged in the course through extended classroom discussion and reflection.

“By experiencing 360-degree videos created by peers, students are provided a safe way to be present ‘on the ground’ at what might otherwise be a dangerous policing situation,” Mengel said. “The result is an engaging and memorable learning experience.”

Submit your One Cool Thing for Canvas Day 2019

Submit your One Cool Thing for Canvas Day 2019

Which Canvas tool or feature did you discover that helps create a better experience for your students? Penn State Teaching and Learning with Technology is giving you the opportunity to share your best practices with your colleagues at Canvas Day on Friday, March 15, 2019, at The Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center. 

At Canvas Day, enjoy a scoop of Penn State Berkey Creamery ice cream at the One Cool Thing mini-session and vote for the “coolest” presentation. The presenter with the most votes will win an iPad. Stay until the end of the session and one lucky attendee will be randomly selected to also win an iPad.

Submit your One Cool Thing by Wednesday, February 6 and the 2019 Canvas Day planning committee will select the best ideas to showcase. 

Canvas Day will feature presentations by Ryan Seilhamer of University of Central Florida and representatives of Instructure (the creators of Canvas), breakout sessions, and networking opportunities. Open to Penn State faculty and staff only, registration is required for Canvas Day. Registration is free to attendees and includes breakfast and lunch.  

In preparation for Canvas Day, there will be several pre-conference training sessions on Canvas. These sessions will help bring audiences new to Canvas up to speed before attending Canvas Day. 

All training sessions listed below will be offered online via Zoom, enabling faculty and staff to participate from anywhere. If a session is full, you may still request it. You will be contacted if space becomes available. Additional sessions may be added based upon waitlist demand. 

Canvas Day pre-conference sessions 

Canvas: An Introduction 
Tuesday, Feb. 5, 11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. EDT
Thursday, Feb. 7, 2:00-3:00 p.m. EDT 

Canvas: Creating and Delivering Effective Content 
Monday, Feb. 11, 9:00-11:30 a.m. EDT
Wednesday, Feb. 13, 9:00-11:30 a.m. EDT 

Canvas: Creating Assignments and Quizzes 
Tuesday, Feb. 19, 1:00-3:30 p.m. EDT
Thursday, Feb. 21, 9:00-11:30 a.m. EDT 

Canvas: Using the Gradebook
Monday, Feb. 25, 1:00-3:30 p.m. EDT
Wednesday, Feb. 27, 9:00-11:30 a.m. EDT 

For more information about One Cool Thing or general questions related to Canvas Day, contact canvasday@psu.edu. 

Robot technology helps connects students and faculty across Penn State campuses

Robot technology helps connects students and faculty across Penn State campuses

Telepresence robots are helping students engage in meaningful ways with their instructors and remote classmates while bridging the distance between two locations—Penn State Greater Allegheny and New Kensington.

This fall, students in the shared biobehavioral health program are interacting with a couple of robots known by the name of Beam. The robots, one at Greater Allegheny and the other at New Kensington, allow students and faculty who cannot be present in person to participate and interact, virtually. The student or instructor logs into the Beam app on a computer or mobile device and beams or projects, themselves onto the robot’s display screen. From there, they can move the robot around and interact practically with others in the room.

The Beam robots support the REACH (Re-Imagine, Engage, Align, CHange) initiative maintained by Teaching and Learning with Technology, part of Penn State IT. This initiative provided Penelope Morrison, assistant professor of biobehavioral health at New Kensington, and Kristal Tucker, assistant professor of biology at Greater Allegheny, with technology as the solution to provide a cohesive learning experience for their shared program in two locations.

Having the robots as part of the program has attracted all types of students, including undergraduates who would typically choose an online course as their first preference.

“The Beam has been bringing those students back into the classroom and encouraging them to participate,” said Tucker.

When Morrison would meet with her students via traditional video conferencing, they would rarely participate. Now, the hands raise.

“‘I’m happy they are engaged and paying attention. My students now perceive they are part of the classroom,” Morrison said.

For in-class assignments, a student from Greater Allegheny will pair with a student from New Kensington. The student from New Kensington beams in to share ideas with their partner.

Students at both campuses are already experiencing a deeper connection.

“Enabling the students and instructor to interact face-to-face makes it easier to ask questions and be engaged during lectures and in-class activities,” said Cora Rejniak, junior.

Another student, junior Alyssa Stewart, shares her viewpoint that the technology creates a substantial learning experience.

“Using the Beam allows us to connect with our professor and colleagues in a way which ensures we’re all on the same page. It is easier to hear the perspectives of the students at another location,” said Stewart.

The Beam robots will afford the biobehavioral health program additional opportunities. Since many guest speakers are doctors and physician assistants with busy schedules, the technology will provide opportunities for speakers to meet with the students in a convenient way.

The robot will also enhance learning and engagement across other programs.

“People are working in fields such as engineering and radiological sciences and using robots to enter places not safe for humans,” said Tucker. “Making students familiar with these tools is important because many people work remotely from home and use teleconferencing every day.”