Dutton Institute Blog

Lightboard recording gives students the opportunity to self-review

Do you find yourself explaining the same thing over and over? Try recording on a lightboard. A lightboard is a clear piece of glass that faculty write on while facing the camera. Students can see both your face and the diagrams and equations you are showing them. People often ask, “Do you need to write backwards?” Nope, the image is flipped electronically

There is a lightboard studio for EMS faculty in 4 Hosler. A media specialist at the studio will handle the technical aspects so you can focus on teaching. The video will be uploaded to Youtube or Kaltura, and from there you can pop it right into Canvas.

The EMS faculty studio is available by appointment by contacting facultystudio@e-education.psu.edu.

For more information, check out The EMS Faculty Studio webpage, or stop by 4 Hosler.

For tips, tricks and other University Park lightboard locations, visit this Using Lightboard to Create Videos page.



How to create an inclusive online class

Text bubble with the words "Watch Your Language! What you say matters."

At Penn State, we talk about the “All In” initiative ~ a commitment to diversity and inclusion in all areas of the University. This includes our online classrooms. Here are some ways to use language to create diverse and inclusive classroom environments for all students.

P.S. These tips are good for traditional face-to-face classrooms as well!

Why is inclusivity important?

As educators, we strive to create learning environments where all students feel welcome and included as equal participants with their peers. Thus, the language we use should exhibit respect and sensitivity to all students, regardless of background, gender, culture, etc. Such considerations are particularly important in online education, where our students may come from a diverse population of intersecting identities.

Recognize and acknowledge your bias

Now, your first reaction might be, “I’m not biased.” But the term “bias” just means how you see and relate to the world around you, and it’s a product of your experiences, culture, and values. Most of us come to our classrooms from a typically Western experience and use Western names, examples, stories, etc. Think about how you present content and how your presentation might be viewed by someone with a completely different set of life experiences. Does that analogy comparing an American football play and a natural physical process necessarily translate for someone from another country who knows nothing about American football? I encourage you to spend some time before writing content, announcements, emails, essay questions, word problems, quiz questions, etc. thinking about how to be more inclusive.

Here are just a few examples of small changes that can make your classroom more inclusive:

Use universal phrases

  • When using American idioms, explain them. Not everyone in your class is an American and will understand typically American phrases.
  • Avoid binaries like black/white, male/female, gay/straight.

Use gender-neutral phrases

  • Use generic greetings like Dear students, Good Morning Folks, etc. when addressing the class in emails, announcements, video conferences, etc.
  • Do not assume someone’s gender based on name alone. One way to clarify this is to introduce yourself using your pronouns (Hi! My name is Jennifer and I use she/her/hers pronouns). Ask students to share the name and pronouns they would like the class to use. Note that the singular pronoun “they” is an acceptable pronoun according to Merriam-Webster and the Penn State style manual.
  • When giving examples, be cognizant of being stereotypical about gender. For example, don't only use male pronouns/names when talking about a blacksmith or female pronouns/names when referring to a teacher.

Use inclusive examples/assessment

Look for ways to include or portray inclusion in your examples, assessments, written content, and images.

  • Use a variety of ethnic and gender-neutral names.
  • Include a variety of people in your examples and word problems. ie. include people who are differently abled, people from non-western culture, same-sex couples, etc.
  • Use a variety of current events or historical examples. Avoid using all Western examples.

Other word choices

Be aware of the words you use and how they might alienate, misrepresent, or offend some groups of people. For example, use:

  • significant other rather than wife/husband
  • differently abled rather than disabled
  • visually impaired rather than blind
  • winter break rather than Christmas break
  • people of color rather than minorities
  • etc.

Using inclusive language is more than “political correctness.” Inclusivity is about respecting and celebrating people’s differences and including those differences in their educational process. Studies show that increasing inclusivity eliminates unintentional barriers that may hamper a student’s ability to relate to you and to the material, which in turn increases their engagement and learning.

Again, these are just a few examples to get you thinking about how your language can create an inclusive classroom environment. I would love to hear your ideas about how to do this well. Please send your thoughts and ideas to jls164@psu.edu.

~ Jennifer Babb


Single-Page Display LTI

Last month, three of my fellow learning designers and I made a presentation at Penn State's Canvas Day on a realtively new innovation that we utilize in several online courses called the Course Content Selector, which is our Single-Page Display LTI.

What is LTI and what does it do?

LTI is an abbreviation for Learning Tools Interoperability, which is a standard published by the IMS Global Learning Consortium. LTI allows programmers to integrate two separate systems to work seamlessly together, in our case Drupal, our department's Content Management System with Canvas, the University's chosen Learning Management System. If you want to learn more about how our programming team created the LTI, we can put you into contact with Tim Bracken for the technical explanation.

Why was it developed?

That is a simple question to answer, we developed the LTI to enhance our student's online learning experience and our faculty's teaching experience. 

What does the Single-Page Display LTI do exactly?

Our LTI simplifies course navigation by streamlining all of the online course materials into one spot for students - Canvas. All students need to keep track of is the next button! The LTI allows content pages, files, linked websites, discussions, activities and assessments to all flow together into one easy to follow stream. An added benefit of the LTI is that it also allows us to continue to offer our courses as Open Educational Resources (OER) without requiring duplication of effort when anything needs to be revised or fixed or updated. Our designers aren't limited in their course designs because we can continue to develop our content in Drupal using everything that is available to us. 


What is OER?

For anyone unaware of what OER is, Penn State’s working definition of Open Educational Resources (PSU-OER) is any type of educational materials that are available to the university community with little or no cost. It may also be the case with PSU-OER that the nature of these open materials means that students, faculty, and staff can legally and freely copy, use, adapt, and re-share them within the university community.



Can You Hear Me?


How to be heard in the classroom

According to the Hearing Loss Association of America, approximately 20 percent of Americans report some degree of hearing loss. There are some very simple ways to ensure your students will hear you. I will list a few below.

  • Use a microphone, even if you think you have a loud voice! The definition of "loud enough" is for your students to make, not you.
  • Realize that many people, not just those that are legally deaf, look at your lips to figure out what you are saying. Therefore, have your face and mouth visible when speaking and:
    • avoid covering your lips with a microphone, hands, book, beard, etc.
    • avoid chewing gum or sucking on mints while lecturing
    • avoid talking with your back to students
    • If possible, arrange the classroom so students are able to see everyone’s lips.
  • Repeat questions (in microphone) before answering.
  • Provide class notes so students with hearing loss can concentrate on hearing and listening rather than taking notes.
  • Choose videos with captions.
  • Allow students to record your lecture.
  • Allow students to choose their own seats.


~ Jennifer Babb

Zoom local recording no longer an option?

When recording a Zoom session (for example to record an office hours session or a screen capture demonstration) it is nice to have choices on whether the recording should be stored in the cloud (for easy sharing from Zoom or Kaltura) or to your local computer (for editing and higher resolution video).  To choose cloud or local recording options, you can select the carrot icon next to the record button in the Zoom toolbar and choose where to record the video.

use the carrot to select record to the cloud or record to the local computer

If you do not have options, check your zoom settings and make sure local recording is turned on.

One way to get to your settings is to sign in to the Zoom portal at: https://psu.zoom.us/ using your PSU access account.

1. Click 'Meeting Settings
2. In the Recording tab, navigate to the Local Recording option and verify that the setting is enabled.
3. If the setting is disabled, click the toggle to enable it. If a verification dialog displays, choose Turn On to verify the change.

see text for directions

Note: If the option is grayed out and you can not toggle it on, it has been locked at either the group or account level, and you will need to contact the PSU helpdesk (helpdesk@psu.edu or 814-865-HELP (4357)) to turn it on.



Plagiarize-Proof Your Writing Assignments

Plagiarism is a big concern in higher education. In the article linked below from a recent issue of Faculty Focus, Christine Moore provides four practical strategies for fighting plagiarism in your course before any students cheat. It's a quick ready, but contains valuable information especially for faculty who use writing assignments in their courses.

Plagiarize-Proof Your Writing Assignments


Creating an Engaging Presentation

Members of the Dutton Learning Design team recently produced the following video, entitled Creating an Engaging Presentation, for the Online Learning Consortium. This 2 minute 34 second video shares tips for getting your participants eager and excited about your topic.   It's not all about the slides...keep it conversational and plan ways to engage your audience right from the start!


Understanding Canvas Announcements - What happens when I import announcements to a new Semester

When you copy an entire Canvas Course from one semester to another, course announcements also come over.  It can be tricky to understand how these copied over announcements behave in your new course. 

I’ve compiled a list of notes and suggestions to help understand how Announcements work:

  • When creating new Announcements, add a delay date to the posting.  Even if your delay is minutes when you originally want to post, the post date will be adjusted along with all your other event and due dates when you copy your course.
  • After copying a course, go through Announcements and delete any Announcements that are not applicable for the current semester.  
  • No Announcement will be sent when a course is not published.
  • If an Announcement post date is before the course publish date, students will be able to see the announcement in the new Course, but will not receive an email notification when the course is published.
  • Any Announcement that does not have a delay post date will be viewable to students when the course is published.  These announcements are not sent to students unless you edit the announcement.  After editing and as soon as you save the announcement, it will be emailed to the address students have set up in their notifications, unless you have set up a delay date.

For more information on how Canvas Announcements work, feel free to look at the PSU Canvas Learning Center on Communicating with Students, contact Canvas Help or contact one of the Learning Designers in Dutton. 

~ Jane Sutterlin

Study Skills

Looking for a way to help your students get more out of their studies? The study of effective teaching and learning strategies is sometimes known as the science of learning, and it delves deep into cognitive science to inform the ways we teach and learn. Research-backed strategies have proved to be effective for students of all ages.

Click the image below to download PDF files of these Study Skills handouts, and check out this article from Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications for more information: "Teaching the Science of Learning."

link to study smarter, Not Harder infographics

Click for an accessible version of the handouts. (This will expand to provide more information.)

Creating a Welcoming Presentation

Members of the Dutton Learning Design team recently produced the following video, entitled Creating a Welcoming Presentation, for the Online Learning Consortium. This 3-minute video features tips for making sure your presentations are understood and seen by all and that they are inclusive to every member of your audience. As the speaker, you set the tone and help your audience engage!