Welcome Back  – Fall 2021 Newsletter 1

By September 8, 2021April 5th, 2024Smeal Academy Newsletter

Fall 2021 Resilience – Week 1

The goal of the Smeal Academy is to equip everyone with best practices and strategies for teaching, learning, and technology to ensure the Smeal community is prepared to respond to the unique challenges of teaching and learning during the Fall 2021 semester. Between now and the end of the Fall 2021 semester, we will be sending weekly emails with practical tips and information, providing live sessions, and holding virtual consultations.

Here’s hoping you had a wonderful Labor Day holiday! This week, we are sharing some back to campus tips and pointers to keep your semester running smoothly.

Return to Campus Is In The Books

We know that members of the Smeal community – faculty, staff, and students alike – are juggling so much at the start of this semester. It’s great to be back and it’s also an adjustment. The following are some resources and reminders to get the semester off on your best foot.

Tech Tips for Teaching with Masks

  • Use the Mic. No one thinks they need a microphone. But even in non-masked situations, it’s best to use microphones when they are available. It’s essential when teaching with a mask so people can hear. Typically, people who can’t hear won’t be comfortable speaking up to let us know. eLDIG encourages our community to mic up when teaching and presenting – all General Purpose classrooms have them. For more information on GPC technology, check out the list of Classroom Technology. Contact TLT if you’d like to schedule a consultation to better utilize your classroom technology. Speaking of using a mic, try to make a habit of repeating student questions so everyone can hear them.
  • Use Tech Tools to Gauge Emotions and Build Community. Masks make it difficult to see nonverbal cues. You can use tools like Top Hat to generate a word cloud at the beginning of class so students can let you know how they’re feeling. You could have a simple prompt like “Describe your current mood in one word.” It is as important as ever to build connections with our students.
  • Model the Correct Way to Wear Masks. Our ability to continue in-person instruction depends on all of us to do our part to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Consider reminding students that this is part of upholding the Smeal Honor Code. To reinforce mask adherence, have students agree (via a Canvas or Top Hat quiz) at the beginning of each class to abide by PSU’s masking requirements completely to receive full participation credit for the day. You can also add a slide at the beginning of each class to remind students how to correctly wear masks.


Check out the following resources for more information:

Productivity Tips

  • Use Available Tech Tools. Get to know the tools available to us at Penn State. Schedule a meeting with someone from the eLDIG team or check out Penn State’s Ed Tech Advisor to learn more about available tools to enhance your teaching and learning.
  • Compose Ahead and Delay Posting of Canvas Announcements. Instructors are carrying an increasingly heavy workload and balancing all the new intricacies of teaching can feel overwhelming. When possible, consider composing your regular course tips and announcements ahead of time using Canvas announcements and delaying posting so that they are ready when you need them.
  • Schedule Grading Time On Your Calendar. Just as we schedule meetings and office hours, scheduling time for grading can help ensure that you can reserve time for grading and still have time for work-life balance.

Here are some additional tips for the beginning of the semester: Top Hat Teaching Tips.


Current News

  • eLDIG Continues to Grow! This week we would like to introduce Matt Mignogna to the eLDIG team. Matt joins eLDIG as an Instructional Designer after serving as one of Smeal’s Undergraduate Programs advisors. He brings a wealth of expertise in teaching and learning theory, course design, and video creation. Check out his YouTube channel for videos ranging in topics from things he should have learned in school to gaming. Welcome to the team, Matt!
  • Smeal Academy Video Tip. Are you trying to figure out how to make the switch from Zoom to Kaltura video recording and sharing? Watch this short video to learn the basics of how to share your Zoom recordings with Kaltura: Editing and Sharing Zoom Recordings in Kaltura

Upcoming Live Sessions

  • Who Moved My Zoom?
    This session will discuss recent changes to Penn State’s Zoom recording storage. We will share tips and strategies for creating and sharing recordings with your students and for student-created video assignments using Kaltura, Penn State’s video hosting platform.
    Join us Monday, September 13 from 12 to 1 p.m. via Zoom.
  • Supporting Distressed Students
    CAPS will help lead a session about Supporting Distressed Students and Red Folder Resources. The Red Folder initiative is a guide to help faculty, staff, and others who interact with students to recognize, respond effectively to, and refer distressed students at Penn State.
    Join us Tuesday, September 28 from 12 to 1 p.m. am via Zoom.

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


Tips of the Week

  • Tip #1:   Use videos for announcements and grading feedback.
    Let’s face it – we are becoming a more video-based culture. Consider adding videos to your Canvas announcements or providing video feedback in Canvas assignments. It might even save some time and increase the likelihood of students listening.
  • Tip #2:   Remind students to enable Canvas notifications.
    To ensure students are receiving Canvas notifications, show them how to enable them. The default settings in Canvas do notify students of announcements right away, but they might miss discussion notifications because those are set to be “off” by default.


Helpful Websites


Check out the eLDIG website for more resources and support.

Contact Us

Email us at: course-support@smeal.psu.edu or fill out our Remote Teaching Support form.