Dutton Institute Blog

Dutton Bi-Weekly Digest

We’re all about Student Engagement this week. And staying well!

Check out our newly-revised resource Adding engagement to your classroom. You’ll find instructions for remote synchronous and multiple audience classes of all sizes and ideas for working with groups, pairs, or individual students.

Keep Engaging Series webinars are coming up on Mondays (noon-1) in November. No registration is necessary; simply use this Zoom link. See Keep Teaching’s Webinar page for more information, including how to access recordings. You can also refer to TLT’s Engaging Students Series Resources Pressbook to scan similar topics.

  • Nov. 2 – Tutoring in the Time of COVID
  • Nov. 9 – Inspiring Social Responsibility Through Continued Learning and Dialogue
  • Nov. 16 – Trends and Updates from Penn State Career Services

Explore using EquatIO, an equations app that’s free to all Penn Staters, to read and write math in a digital environment. EquatIO is easy for you and for students to use. Consider, also, that uploaded EquatIO homework can be graded with annotation with the help of Canvas’s Speedgrader tool.

Check out this video EdTech tip to learn about splitscreening and screenshotting, which can improve your virtual classroom by helping you show students more and allowing them to see more of your screens as you teach.

To maintain wellness and ward off feelings of being overwhelmed or depressed with these ideas from Understood.org’s article Practicing Self-Care During Coronavirus: 5 Tips for Teachers.

  1. Set and maintain boundaries
  2. Reflect on your feelings and needs
  3. Recognize what is and isn't in your control
  4. Acknowledge moments of gratitude and joy
  5. Use self-care routines throughout your day

See more in a 2-minute video full of science-based well-being tips to help you through the pandemic.

October 12, 2020

Here's what we're thinking about right now:

Penn State has finalized an enterprise-wide service agreement with Top Hat. Top Hat is a cloud-based teaching tool that enhances in-class engagement. Students work with their own devices, and instructors can take attendance, present interactive slides, launch polling, and administer quizzes. Check out TopHat.psu.edu for more information or consult with a Dutton Learning Designer to discuss how you can get started.

Virtual Facilitation? Try Discussion Mapping, is an article from Learning Solutions that provides examples of discussion mapping for use in your classes, whether they are face-to-face or remote: The practice of Discussion Mapping is a method of recording, quickly, the participation of students in class discussions. It can help create a clear picture of group dynamics, which can help you shore up your facilitator game. 

The Engaging Student Series from Teaching and Learning with Technology continues! Check out the list of upcoming presentations related to blended asynchronous and synchronous teaching, and take advantage of their ESS Pressbook.  

Are students contacting you about disappointing grades? These handouts are designed to provide students with suggestions, based in learning science research, on how to Study Smarter and Not Harder

From the Chronicle of Higher Ed.: Don't Weed out Students. Help Them Flourish focuses on coaching your students instead of judging them.

And from West Virginia University Press, the Teaching and Learning Series Pedagogies of Care, an offering of open resources (videos, podcasts, infographics, articles, etc.) based in "student-centered practices and adaptive strategies" that are available for your use during these challenging times. Find refreshing ideas about teaching, collaborative practices, and assessment.

a bridge
source: Esudrof: Pixabay

September 28, 2020

masked woman playing piano
source: C. Walmark, the Daily Collegian


These are items we're thinking about and are investigating just now:

Use Nearpod to engage students in the classroom and those participating online. Nearpod is a presentation and engagement tool that allows students to engage with lessons, quizzes, polls, and other interactive elements in real time and on their own devices. And it integrates with Canvas, Zoom, and Microsoft. The Center for Teaching Excellence at the Harrisburg Campus provides a great overview.

The Assessment Institute, hosted by IUPUI, is entirely virtual and entirely free this year, and they’ve just added a Bonus Preview Session on “Adapting Assessment Approaches in the COIVD-19 Era” for Friday, October 16, 2020. The institute is the premier conference on the topic. Register and find full details at The Assessment Institute.

Following are a few resources your students might find helpful:

The article Engaging Students Through Asynchronous Video-Based Discussions in Online Courses from the Educause Review is a great read if you are looking at ways to engage your asynchronous classroom in discussion.

Welcome to the Dutton Institute’s Bi-weekly Digest!

September 16, 2020

Here’s what we’re thinking about this week – what we’re reading, pondering, and putting to use:

From FacultyFocus.com, some great ideas for how to connect with the emotional lives of students, and a great reminder that relevance and engagement go hand in hand: Can We Talk About it? Enhancing Student Engagement by Integrating Discussions of COVID-19

If you’re using Zoom polling for attendance or participation, you’ll want to see this quick video (< 5 min.) from our own Jane Sutterlin, Learning Designer: Using Excel to Add Zoom Polling Data to Your Canvas Gradebook. There’s even more on polling here, in our Remote & Online Teaching Guide: Polling.

More on engagement comes from Educause Review and Creating Emotional Engagement in Online Learning. This article gets straight to the point with three major tips.

Another (entertaining!) video, Making Super Simple Videos for Teaching Online, helps break down any fears you have about taking the leap to include DIY videos in your course (in about 10 minutes).

Take care of yourself! Visit The Tree of Contemplative Practices for inspiration. For more explanation, click on the ideas hanging in the tree.

The Tree of Contemplative Practices

Introducing the Remote & Online Teaching Guide for Instructors

Decorative image: Remote & Online Guide for Instructors

The Learning Design Team at the Dutton e-Education Institute is pleased to announce a newly developed resource, a Remote & Online Teaching Guide for Instructors, to assist with the transition from face-to-face offerings to remote or online delivery.

As it was decided that the remainder of the Spring ‘20 semester would be delivered remotely, the University community reacted by pulling together and developing resources to help all faculty transition their courses. We have used those valuable resources and others to curate a collection that we believe is most useful to meet the needs of EMS faculty.

Our goal is twofold: to support EMS faculty and to give our students the best learning experience possible, not only during these trying times but into the future. Our resource provides instructions for how to perform certain tasks with commonly used technologies, but it also provides the “why” to do them.

We hope you’ll find the Remote & Online Teaching Guide for Instructors to be helpful as you begin to think about your upcoming courses. Take some time to work through it chronologically, or use the search feature to locate items that you need to learn how to do quickly.

As always, if you need additional assistance, set up a consultation with a learning designer from Dutton’s Learning Design team by contacting Stevie Rocco at stevier@psu.edu.


Beyond Your Content: Incorporating Learning Strategy Work into Courses of All Types

The use of some key learning strategy work -- with retrieval practice, spaced practice, and metacognition –- has proven to help students engage with, understand, and retain course concepts and material. Implementation of these strategies can also give instructors insights into what, exactly, students need help with. The article Using Learning Science to Make Learning Durable, recently published in The Teaching Professor newsletter, offers tips for working with learning strategies in all types of courses, whether delivered in a face-to-face, online, or hybrid format.

A follow-up article, Online Tools for Durable Learning, explores tools that will help you incorporate retrieval practice, spaced practice, and metacognitive work into your courses to provide students with opportunities to reinforce their learning. These active learning components promote sturdy learning and encourage engagement and friendly interactions among students!

Being Present in your Online Course

Why You Should Care about Instructor Presence

So, you may be asking, why is instructor presence something I should care about? Well, first and foremost, research indicates that instructor presence has a positive impact on students’ learning, motivation, and engagement in their courses (Dixson, 2010). Additionally, students, both resident and online, want to feel cared for and valued in the courses they take. In fact, Glazier (2016) found that students desire faculty who will support and communicate with them. Ultimately, when students feel like the instructor cares about their work, they’re more likely to be engaged in the course. 

In online courses, students need to know that a “real” person is behind the course and that the instructor cares about them and wants them to succeed. Unlike in face-to-face and hybrid courses, creating this type of presence can take a little bit of extra effort on the part of the instructor. Here are some straightforward methods for maintaining and increasing instructor presence in your courses. 

How You Can Develop Your Presence

Communicate Regularly

The first quick and easy step to maintaining instructor presence in your online course is to post regular announcements for students. Posting 2-3 announcements each week is good practice and can include an introduction announcement (introduces weekly material), a reminder announcement (reminding students of any due dates or upcoming events), and a summary announcement (summarizing and synthesizing the observations made throughout the week based on student interaction). Canvas makes it simple to send out announcements, and these can even be scheduled ahead of time, if you prefer. 

Provide Personalized Feedback

Providing timely and personal feedback on students’ work not only boosts your presence but also helps to build connections with your students. Students appreciate the quick turnaround time and feedback that is specific to their needs and work. Canvas’ Speedgrader provides an option to assess student work and give feedback simultaneously. 

Show Students You’re Real

Developing your instructor presence doesn’t always have to be text-based. Creating video-based announcements and feedback can show students that you are indeed a real person interested in communicating and connecting on a personal level. In these videos, feel free to use humor and anecdotes, and make authentic connections between course material and real-world applications.

Leverage Digital Tools 

Beyond Canvas, consider also leveraging Google Docs, annotation tools (like hypothes.is and Kami), and Slack. With Google-based class activities, you can use the commenting feature to be present in students’ work. This is especially useful in longer types of activities (i.e. projects) as you can give quick and formative feedback. Open annotation tools like hypothes.is (which is under consideration for adoption by Penn State) can be used for reading articles together as a class. These tools allow for the text to be annotated, subsequently creating a space where students can share thoughts and ask questions. The benefits from activities such as this have been well documented (i.e. Kalir, 2019). Lastly, platforms like Slack support instructor presence through their quick and easy communication features. 

Simply put, instructor presence leads to better learning experiences for students. Reach out to Stevie Rocco (sxr133@psu.edu) at the Dutton institute for more information or for help with instructor presence in your online course.  


Dixson, M. D. (2012). Creating effective student engagement in online courses: What do students find engaging? Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 10(2)

Glazier, R. A. (2016). Building rapport to improve retention and success in online classes. Journal of Political Science Education, 12(4), 437-456. doi:10.1080/15512169.2016.1155994

Kalir, J. H. (2019). Open web annotation as collaborative learning. First Monday, 24(6) doi:10.5210/fm.v24i6.9318

Using Rise 360 with Canvas

Rise 360 content shown embedded in a Canvas course


The web-based application Rise 360 is billed as a course authoring tool, but this easy-to-use technology is an excellent resource to supplement online or hybrid courses. With the help of a learning designer, you can create a quick microlesson or short practice experience to enhance your course content with Learning Science-based interactive elements that help students test their understanding.

Here’s an example of what you can do in Rise 360. This demo lesson was built effortlessly with Rise’s straightforward system of stackable, flexible blocks for content, media, and interactive elements. The responsive product can be navigated easily by students, who can practice or test their understanding as they engage in the learning process.

A particularly appealing aspect of working with Rise 360 is that you can create mobile-friendly content for phones so that students can access it on an as-needed basis. This could be used for laboratory safety instructions, for instance, that students might consult when completing lab work.

For help with Rise 360 and Canvas, contact Stevie Rocco (sxr133@psu.edu) at the Dutton Institute. 


Encouraging Reflective Practice with Feedback Exchanges

creative commons decorative image

Feedback on student work is typically, and traditionally, one-way communication from the instructor to the student. But what if, with a focus on reflective practice, you were to provide some space for interactive exchanges? What if you were to promote reflection and metacognition in order to help students help themselves?

This kind of practice takes place in Brandi Robinson’s GEOG 438w course, where students feel some safety to share and some agency, to boot.

Read more about it in this short article from the University of Central Florida’s Teaching Online Pedagogical Repository:

Disrupt the One-way Street of Feedback to Encourage Reflective Practice.


5 Reasons to Enhance Your Teaching with Microlearning

Microlearning is a concept that has been well recognized in the training and IT fields, but has yet to become a highly adopted practice in education. That said, microlearning has been steadily gaining attention in higher education due to the number of benefits it offers learners. In fact, one research study found that the use of microlearning objects increased learning and retention of course material by 18% (Mohammed, Wakil, Nawroly, 2018).

What is it?

Microlearning is the concept of providing bite-sized explanations to support and enhance student learning. This can occur in a variety of ways. For example, an instructor may choose to create a 1-2 minute screen recording explaining how to solve an equation, they might create an infographic to help students visualize a complex idea, or perhaps they might record a video to demonstrate the steps in a complex process. Regardless of the approach, the main idea is to provide information in the most concise, efficient, and meaningful way. Now let’s take a look at 5 key benefits of using microlearning in higher ed.

Reason 1: Provide On-Demand Learning

Microlearning objects allow you to provide resources to your students that can support their learning exactly when they need it. Let’s say you give a lecture in class on a complicated topic. If students miss the class or don’t completely understand the information, they won’t be able to successfully complete any assigned homework. But, if you offer a short video explanation of the concept, students can access the video and review it as many times as they need. This offers greater flexibility for the students and more personalized learning support.

Reason 2: Deepen the Learning Process

With increased access and the ability to review instructional materials multiple times, the learning process can become deeper and richer for students. The concept known as spaced repetition, which is the practice of reviewing information at several times and at various intervals, increases the brain’s ability to store that information in the long term memory.

Reason 3: Increased access to information

Microlearning is a more flexible option for delivering content to learners through various formats. Because of the concise nature of the learning objects, they can be formatted for delivery on a number of devices. This allows learners to access information anytime, anywhere. For example, students can watch short videos uploaded to YouTube while riding the bus, standing in line, or simply anytime they find themselves waiting. Time that would have been spent on Instagram or Facebook can now be used as valuable learning time.

Reason 4: Can Support Struggling Students

Not every student engages in a course with the same baseline of knowledge for a given topic or has the necessary skills to successfully complete an assignment. Microlearning can be offered as a way to support struggling students by helping them to acquire the skills or knowledge they need. It can also ensure students are receiving consistent information if the course happens to be very large and has multiple TAs offering guidance.

Reason 5: The Focus is Simple

Lastly, microcredentials are intended to be concise and focused. Because of this, the content needs to be well thought out and designed to be delivered in the most simplistic form possible. This ensures the information is easy to follow and explanations are to the point. Because unnecessary information is removed, students are able to follow the points more easily.

If you’re interested in incorporating microlearning in your face-to-face, hybrid, or online courses, contact Stevie Rocco, Director of Learning Design at sxr133@psu.edu.


Mohammed, G.S., Wakil, K., & Nawroly, S.S. (2018). The effectiveness of microlearning to improve students’ learning ability. International Journal of Educational Research Review , 3(3), 32-38. DOI: 10.24331/ijere.415824

Speed Dating with Learning Technologies

The Dutton e-Education Institute recently hosted its first Speed Dating with Learning Technologies event. This was an opportunity for faculty to get quick and easy introductions to technologies that can be used to enhance teaching in face-to-face, hybrid, and online courses. The event featured the following technologies:

  • Adobe Spark is a suite of media creation apps for graphics, videos, and web pages. This can be used for content creation and student-generated assignments.
  • Kaltura is a video creation, storage, and sharing platform. You can also turn a video into an interactive quiz!
  • Lightboard is a teaching and presentation recording tool. Available in the EMS Faculty Studio.
  • A Pen Display is a tool for creating and recording on-screen drawings and annotating complex images.
  • RShiny helps you turn data and analyses into interactive web apps that students can interact with.
  • Slack is an instant messaging platform where files, information, and messages can all be shared.
  • Snagit is a screenshot program that can capture images, video, and audio.
  • Turnitin is an online plagiarism detection service that can be used by students and instructors.
  • Zoom provides remote conferencing services - great for hosting online office hours and creating pre-recorded segments. Zoom can also be used by students to create video presentations or participate in online conversations or debate.

Visit the Speed Dating with Learning Technology website to view short (4 – 6 minute) presentations for each technology.


~ Jennifer Babb

Open Access to Smithsonian Resources

CC 0 logo

Last month, the Smithsonian launched Smithsonian Open Access, a website that provides access to millions of digital artifacts (2D & 3D images, animations, data, audio files, and more). The items are all available under a CC0 license, meaning they are in the public domain and you are free to download, reuse, remix, revise and redistribute, making them a fantastic resource for education.

Visit the Smithsonian Open Access website for more details and to start browsing for the perfect resources for use in your course.

~ Jennifer Babb

Kaltura Video Quiz

Kaltura is a cloud-based, enterprise-level multimedia platform for storing, streaming, creating and publishing video, video collections, and other media. While all of that’s useful for the work we do, it’s not what makes Kaltura a powerful tool for teaching and learning. Kaltura’s power lies within its Video Quiz feature, which allows you to use video to create active and engaging experiences for students right in Canvas. 

Kaltura is especially valuable in hybrid and flipped classrooms or anytime you need to record or replace classroom lectures. Instead of assigning a long, passive lecture video to watch, give your students a winning learning experience that’s more like what they’d get in your live class. Use Kaltura to create engagement and interaction with its four quizzing options, which can be used in combination: multiple choice, true/false, open-ended questions, and reflection points. 

Video quiz interface showing 4 options including multiple choice, true or falso, open-ended and reflection points.

The first two question types in Kaltura’s Video Quiz, multiple choice and true/false questions, can be graded and even hooked up to the gradebook, if you choose, to be used as an for assessment. 

  • Add these types of questions throughout the video to help students test their knowledge as you progress in your lecture. 
  • Be proactive and write questions that your students are prone to ask in class or that will help them summarize the content that you’ve presented. 

Open-ended questions and reflection points may augment your students’ learning experiences and can be used to scaffold certain behaviors that you want them to learn. 

  • Open-ended questions aren’t graded; however, you can review student responses from them if you choose. Use the information to identify any patterns, and then review at the start of the next class meeting, post an announcement, or send the class a message in Canvas to address any points than need clarification.     
    • Add this type of question if you want students to go beyond remembering and understanding factual knowledge. You may want to ask a student to “Apply or interpret information to ...”  or “Use the information provided to analyze …”    
  • Reflection points are neither graded nor viewable. They are used to simply stop the flow of the video to allow students to reflect on a statement or question. 
    • Reflection points can be used to help students learn active note taking. A reflection point might be, “Take a few minutes to write down the three components that make up…”  or “Take a minute to draw a concept map of the process described in detail.” 
    • Use reflection points to help students practice their metacognitive skills. Ask them to reflect on what they learned and decide on how well they feel that they understand it. Ask them to make notes on it so they can refer to them later or ask for clarification.  

There are a number of ways to learn more about Kaltura Quizzes, including:

Reviewing the IT Learning Development’s Learning Path

Registering for Live Training on Kaltura: Video Quizzes 

Using the Canvas Help button in Canvas and search for Kaltura

Contacting the Dutton Institute Learning Design Team by emailing Stevie Rocco at stevier@psu.edu