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Michael Christie

5 Semester Start-Up Tips – Fall 2023 Newsletter 1

Smeal Academy Fall 2023 Connections Newsletter 1: 5 Beginning of Semester Tips

The goal of the Smeal Academy is to equip the Smeal community with best practices and strategies for teaching and learning with technology to support Smeal’s business education and research needs. This newsletter provides resources, tips, and pointers as we begin the semester.

Happy First Day of Classes

Welcome back! The eLDIG team hopes you’re all recharged and excited for the Fall semester at Smeal. WE ARE… thrilled to work together with the Smeal Community as we gear up for another semester of collaborations in teaching and learning. Remember, eLDIG isn’t just a team – we’re a resource to support the college. From course design to tech tips to engaging learning strategies, we’re here to support the entire Smeal community.

We know this is a “crazy-busy” week, so we will keep this message short, focusing on a few short tips for the start of the semester. Let’s make the Fall 2023 semester one for the books!

5 Semester Start-up Tips from the eLDIG Team

  • ‘Message Students Who’ – Many courses use orientation tasks to increase student accountability and awareness of key course information. Taking a moment to message students who have not completed these tasks communicates to students that you are actively monitoring the course and encourages their engagement, early on.
  • ChatGPT – Consider mentioning your policy about Artificial Intelligence tools like ChatGPT to your students. Here’s a sample statement from the new DBA program. Please feel free to adapt this for your course(s):

    Artificial Intelligence and Online Homework Sites

    Unless your instructor tells you otherwise, you must complete all coursework entirely on your own, using only sources that have been permitted by your instructor, and you may not assist other students with papers, quizzes, exams, or other assessments. If your instructor allows you to use ideas, images, or word phrases created by another person (e.g., from Course Hero or Chegg) or by generative technology, such as ChatGPT, you must identify their source. You may not submit false or fabricated information, use the same academic work for credit in multiple courses, or share instructional content. Students with questions about academic integrity should ask their instructor before submitting work.

  • Syllabus Tab – Check your Canvas course syllabus tab (even if, for some reason, you don’t use it) to see assignments and event dates. You may find some items that need to be updated or deleted that you didn’t notice before.
  • Anthology Ally – Check out our Smeal Academy Session Recording: Anthology Ally Basics where we explored the university’s new Canvas accessibility tool, Ally. During the session, we reviewed Ally’s on-demand, student alternative-format download options as well as faculty and course accessibility tools. You can also check out previous Smeal Academy sessions and newsletters on the eLDIG site. Throughout the year, we will offer regular Smeal Academy sessions and resources targeted to address your teaching and learning needs. More about this next week!
  • Syllabus, Part 2 – Do you struggle to keep up with syllabus policies? eLDIG keeps a Smeal Residential Syllabus, Part 2 up-to-date based on the semester instructions from Undergraduate Programs. You are welcome to use this for your syllabi now or in the future.

We will be in touch next week with more Smeal Academy News. Have a great week!

Contact Us

Email us at eldig@smeal.psu.edu or fill out the eLDIG Contact form and we will be in touch.

Anthology Ally in Canvas Courses

Smeal Academy Special Edition: Anthology Ally Information for Faculty and Staff who use Canvas

You may have noticed red, green, and yellow icons and the letter A with an arrow beside it in Canvas pages for your Fall 2023 courses. The University recently turned on a Canvas feature called Ally. Ally supports Penn State’s mission to create inclusive learning environments. The tool helps improve access for all students while guiding faculty and course admins to make content more inclusive.

Ally integrates into Canvas and provides students with the ability to tailor their learning experience to their needs and preferences. When they click on the “A” Alternative Format Link, students can open and download course materials in alternative formats, such as HTML, ePub, audio, language translation, and electronic braille. Below is an example of what students (and you) see when you click on the Alternative format link:

Ally provides faculty with a tool that spots accessibility barriers for students and provides guidance on how to improve the usability of course content.

Here is an Overview of Ally video. You can read more about the benefits of the tool on the Penn State Anthology Ally webpage.

What should you know about Anthology Ally?

  • Content items within Canvas are provided in alternative formats to students on demand. They require NO ACTION from the instructor.
  • Alternative formats are not just valuable to students who request an accommodation. For example, a busy parent might find it helpful to listen to an audio version of the content while commuting.
  • An accessibility indicator is attached to each course and content item within the course. The indicator reflects how accessible (0-100%) that item is for students. This accessibility indicator is NEVER visible to students.
  • Clicking on the accessibility indicator provides guidance on how to improve the usability of your course materials. You can significantly increase the accessibility of your course materials quickly using the tool.
  • This is what the accessibility indicators mean:
    • Green with an arrow  to the right is good or perfect.
    • Orange with an arrow  to the middle  indicates moderate issues.
    • Red  with an arrow  to the left  indicates major issues.


How can you get the most from the Anthology Ally tool?

  • Open an alternative format of a content item in your course.
  • Demonstrate how to access alternative formats for your students. (Be sure to use student view, so you don’t show the accessibility indicators.)
  • Click on the accessibility indicators in your course to view the guidance on improving the usability of your course materials.

Contact eLDIG for Support/Questions & Upcoming Smeal Academy Session

If you have questions or would like support in improving your course accessibility, please email us at: eldig@smeal.psu.edu and we will schedule a time to discuss your needs and questions. Additionally, we are holding a Smeal Academy Session about Anthology Ally on Wednesday, August 9th at 9 am (calendar invites are coming soon). The session will be recorded and shared on the eLDIG website.

AI Battles – Spring 2023 Newsletter 2

Smeal Academy Spring 2023 Connections Newsletter 2 – Artificial Intelligence and Academy Integrity: The Battle of the AIs

The goal of the Smeal Academy is to equip the Smeal Community with best practices and strategies for teaching and learning with technology to support Smeal’s business education and research needs. This newsletter provides resources, tips, and pointers as we move through the semester.

(Meme created by an AI Meme Generator, Supermeme.ai)

In recent years, there has been a growing concern about the use of artificial intelligence tools, such as ChatGPT, in academic settings. These tools, which can generate large amounts of text that is difficult to distinguish from human-written text, can be used to cheat on assignments and exams. However, there are steps that educators can take to detect and prevent cheating, such as using plagiarism detection software and having a clear policy in place regarding the use of AI-assisted tools. It is important to use AI responsibly and to be aware of its limitations, particularly when it comes to generating content that will be distributed to a wide audience.

Did that introductory paragraph make sense? If so, we must confess that we cheated. We “wrote” it using ChatGPT. And if you have been paying attention to the headlines, you know that ChatGPT and other artificial intelligence tools make it much easier to cheat on written assignments. The eLDIG team has been experimenting with AI tools and evaluating their impact for Smeal. The subject is so important that we have scheduled a Smeal Academy session devoted to the topic on March 23rd at 12:00. But given headlines like ChatGPT passes MBA exam given by a Wharton professor, we wanted to provide quick tips to help you in the classroom right now.

The tools and their outputs are getting stronger and better in measurements of days and weeks (not months or years), so it is imperative that we wrap our human heads around their AI capabilities. (And rest assured, except for the first paragraph, all text in this newsletter was written by an actual human being.)

5 things to do now about AI Tools like ChatGPT

  • Don’t panic. As with anything, results may vary. Our experimentation has shown some ChatGPT results to be laughable and easily spotted. Some results are decent at first glance but wouldn’t pass any basic grading process. The problem is that some results are very high quality and could fool many of us. If you are concerned that AI tools could jeopardize the academic integrity of your assessments, brainstorm with the Instructional Designers at eLDIG (eldig@smeal.psu.edu) to come up with alternatives that might be more AI-proof. Sometimes subtle changes make a big difference.
  • Add a Syllabus Statement. Put a clear statement on your syllabus (or make an announcement to the class) about the use of AI tools and ChatGPT in your course. Formal language is in the works at both the Smeal and Penn State University levels and will be available soon. For now, make sure your students know if AI use constitutes a violation of academic integrity in your course. What are your policies and what are the possible outcomes if you suspect AI use? And if AI use is permitted in limited or creative ways, how should the resulting text be cited?
  • Test it out. Get an account and play around with ChatGPT (or other tools) and your assignments. What do they do well in your subject area and assignments? What do they do poorly? If you prompt ChatGPT with one of your writing assignments, what does it typically return? You will be more able to spot possible AI use by students if you are familiar with the range of outcomes that ChatGPT provides. Also, one thing that we realized when testing ChatGPT was that it cannot provide current citations, however, it sometimes provides old (or fake?) ones. A quick Google search showed that most links or sources provided came up as 404 Not Found Errors. And ChatGPT did give the caveat that some sources might not be real, although they appeared very convincing. So, check student sources too!
  • Talk with students. Have a frank discussion with your students about the tools. Are they using them? What do they think? Have they seen limitations? Students are often our best experts in new technologies and their opinions may surprise you. And don’t think writing is the only subject impacted. It is likely that your students are seeing (and using?) AI tools for image generation, code creation, and multiple other uses that impact their coursework.
  • Do some research. Read up on how to spot student use of AI and emerging tools to help. Here are some good articles and places to start:

Quick Ways to Make AI Less Attractive to Students

  • Focus on current events if possible. For now, ChatGPT uses data from 2021 and before. It does not tackle current events well or even at all.
  • Flip the script and think about embracing ChatGPT. For example, you could give students a writing assignment and tell them to use ChatGPT. Their assignment is to then grade the writing product and pick out factual errors, biases, or problems with the final product. Ask them how they would improve upon ChatGPT’s output.
  • Focus writing assignments on an iterative process rather than the end result. Make students show evidence of their work along the way including research notes, outlines, and rough drafts. At the end, ask them to write a personal reflection to sum up what they learned during the process. Or throw students curveballs halfway through the writing process. Ask them to integrate citations or references that aren’t well-represented in current data on that subject.
  • Ditch the tech. If class size allows, you might ask students to perform writing tasks in person without technology. Blue Books, anyone? Alternatively, ask students to write an outline for a writing assignment during class (without notes or technology) and turn it in. After you have graded the outline, the student can write the essay using technology, but only using that outline as the basis. It is much more difficult to force ChatGPT to write to a specific script or outline.
  • Oral Exams. Reserve the right to give a student an oral exam to evaluate their work if you suspect unapproved AI use. Ask students about specific terms used in their work and why they chose a certain citation or angle.
  • Security through obscurity. Get bogged down in the details (in a good way). Ask students to focus their writing assignments for very specific audiences. Or use fictitious company names or your own original case studies as background for questions. The more obscure the details or background, the less chance the answers that ChatGPT provides will make sense.

It is a brave new world out there, and we all know that various technologies have disrupted the educational process before. Calculators, spell check, the computer, and even the blackboard were once thought to be the end of education as we know it. But as we have witnessed, the tools became integrated in the learning process, and we have all managed to keep teaching and learning with them. So, back to the first point: Don’t panic.

The eLDIG team is here for the Smeal community. If you want to discuss an idea or need for your course(s), please don’t hesitate to contact us to schedule a consultation at eldig@smeal.psu.edu.

Upcoming Live Sessions

  • Smeal Academy Session: Leveraging Media to Increase Student Engagement
    Come to this session where we will explore strategies and tools to increase student engagement and take your content creation to the next level. We will discuss faculty- and student-created content as well as tools and tips to enhance your course media game while maximizing the accessibility of your course content. Please join us Wednesday, February 15 at Noon EST via Zoom.
  • Smeal Academy Session: Artifical Intelligence and the Future of Learning
    If ChatGPT passed a Wharton MBA exam, could ChatGPT pass Smeal classes? ChatGPT and other artificial intelligence tools make it much easier to cheat on assessments. The eLDIG team has been experimenting with AI tools and evaluating their impact for Smeal. Please join us as we discuss the brave, new world of Artificial Intelligence and Academic Integrity. Please join us Thursday, March 23 at Noon EST via Zoom.

NOTE: Recordings and resources from previous sessions can be found on our eLDIG Website.

eLDIG ID Tips

  • Tip #1: Tip #1:  Explore ChatGPT for Your Discipline .
    Ask ChatGPT some discipline-specific questions to become familiar with the tool. Or, if you’re brave, see how it does on one of your actual course assessments – you might be surprised.
  • Tip #2: Set up Thresholds in Starfish .
    To make Starfish reporting easier, be sure to set up your grading thresholds in Starfish (and your gradebook and grading scheme in Canvas). Check out this Knowledge Base article for instructions. Students have indicated that Starfish feedback helps them better understand how they’re doing in classes, and it also supports advisors as they guide their advisees which is particularly important as we approach the late drop deadline.

Contact Us

Email us at eldig@smeal.psu.edu or fill out the eLDIG Contact form and we will be in touch.

Springing Into the Spring Semester – Spring 2023 Newsletter 1

Smeal Academy Spring 2023 Connections Newsletter 1 – Springing into a New Semester

The goal of the Smeal Academy is to equip the Smeal Community with best practices and strategies for teaching and learning with technology to support Smeal’s business education and research needs. This newsletter provides resources, tips, and pointers as we move through the semester.

eLDIG’s 5 Things

5 Things from the eLDIG Team:

As we get started with a new semester, we wanted to share the following five things with the Smeal community:

  1. eLDIG has welcomed three new team members:
    1. Chris Coyne, Instructional Designer, joined the team on October 3 and came to us from Penn State’s Ag Extension.
      Fun fact about Chris: He’s related to Grace Kelly (his great-grandmother was a Kelly) and has been to Greenland.
    2. Francesca Joyce, Multimedia Specialist, joined the team on December 5 and came to us from Geisinger’s Commonwealth School of Medicine.
      Fun fact about Francesca: When she was younger, she wanted to be a horse veterinarian but after spending a summer at horse camp decided to choose a different (less smelly) career path!
    3. Whitney Chirdon, Instructional Designer focusing on executive programs, joined the team on December 12 and came to us from Penn State’s School of Public Policy.
      Fun fact about Whitney: She produced and hosted a TV show about Downtown Abbey called After Abbey. Whitney has also only attended Penn State sports games while producing talent as a stage manager or in the production truck for ESPN, BTN, ABC, and FOX sports. She did run on the field with the Blue Band during a game while producing a documentary.
  2. Check out eLDIG’s new video assessment series. Topics include:
    1. Assessment basics
    2. Formative and summative assessments
    3. Assessment best practices
    4. Writing quality exam questions
    5. Canvas quizzing
    6. Exam security
    7. Alternatives to exams
    8. Rubrics
  3. Top Hat’s new “Presentation Tool” that mimics the “quick polling” iClicker functionality is now available in General Purpose Classrooms at Penn State. Quick polling allows a PowerPoint slide to be the basis of a poll – if you want to learn more, reach out to us and we’re happy to help get you started.
  4. Just a quick note that Canvas courses will be archived on January 24th. All LionPATH courses taught prior to, and including, Fall 2021 and ALL non-LionPATH courses, regardless of creation date, including Master, Manually Created, Sandbox courses, and Prides will be archived unless you opt-out.
  5. Do you struggle to keep up with syllabus policies? eLDIG keeps a Smeal Residential Syllabus, Part 2 up to date based on the semester instructions from Undergraduate Programs. You are welcome to use this for your syllabi now or in the future.

The eLDIG team is here for the Smeal community. If you want to discuss an idea or need for your course(s), please don’t hesitate to contact us to schedule a consultation at eldig@smeal.psu.edu.

Upcoming Live Sessions

  • Smeal Academy Session: Let’s Talk – Course Discussion Tools and Strategies
    Come learn about tools, best practices, and strategies for online course discussions. We will give an overview of Canvas, Packback, Piazza, and Yellowdig discussion tools. Come with your questions and input for our discussion! Join us Friday, January 27, 2023, 9 to10 a.m. EST via Zoom.
    NOTE: Recordings and resources from previous sessions can be found on our eLDIG Website.
  • Register Now for the 2023 TLT Symposium on March 18, 2023
    The Penn State Symposium for Teaching and Learning with Technology is an annual event to showcase ways that technology can be used to enhance teaching, learning, and research. Our intent is to give faculty, staff, and students the opportunity to share how they are using technology in unique ways, network with other colleagues, and generate new project ideas.The TLT Symposium is a free event that welcomes all Penn State faculty, staff, and students. Please be sure to use your Penn State email when registering.

eLDIG Teaching and Learning Tips

Contact Us

Email us at eldig@smeal.psu.edu or fill out the eLDIG Contact form and we will be in touch.