Welcome Back to the Arctic! – Spring 2022 Newsletter 1

By January 12, 2022April 7th, 2022Smeal Academy Newsletter

Spring 2022 Connections Newsletter 1 –  Ready or Not, Here We Go!!

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 periodic emails with practical tips and information, providing live sessions, and holding virtual consultations.
This week, we are sharing some beginning-of-the-semester tips and pointers to get your semester off to a great start.

Welcome Back! We hope you had some downtime before the launch of the new semester.
We know that members of the Smeal community – faculty, staff, and students alike – are juggling a lot at the start of this semester. It’s great to be back and we are still navigating all the regular semester challenges along with COVID-19 changes. The following are some resources and reminders to get the semester off on your best foot.

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.
  • Explore suggested teaching strategies in residential courses for temporary instructor or student absence in order to be prepared (as much as possible) with contingency plans. Note: This is a resource Felisa Preciado-Higgins shared with us during a recent Smeal Community meeting.
  • 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.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact the eLDIG team.

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. Just use it – all General Purpose classrooms have them. Checkout the list of Classroom Technology for more information on GPC technology.
  • 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 coronavirus. 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. Note the new mask guidelines this semester – check your inbox for a January 11 email from Yvonne Gaudelius, Vice President and Dean for Undergraduate Education and Kathryn Drager, Interim Dean of the Graduate School and Vice Provost for Graduate Education.


Check the following resource for more information: Effective ways to teach in person with a mask on (opinion).

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

Current News

Canvas Archiving – Opt-Out Before January 25, 2022

On January 25, 2022, Penn State IT will perform its regular archiving of older Canvas courses. Beginning December 7, 2021, you may choose to delay particular courses from being archived by using the in-Canvas Course Archive Manager tool. Please be sure to opt-out of any courses you do not want archived before January 25th.

Archiving on January 25 will include:

  • All LionPATH courses taught prior to, and including, Fall 2020 (LionPATH term 2208) will be archived.
  • All LionPATH courses that you may have previously opted out of archiving will be archived.
  • All non-LionPATH courses, regardless of creation date, including Master, Manually Created, Sandbox courses, and Prides will be archived.

Full details on the long-term archival storage and instructions on how to opt a course out of archiving are available on the Penn State Canvas website.

Register Now for the 2022 TLT Symposium on March 19, 2022

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 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.

Upcoming Live Sessions

  • ITLD Session: SharePoint – An Introduction to File Storage and Collaboration in the Document Library
    Are you new to SharePoint for Office365? Do you have an existing SharePoint site you don’t quite know how to leverage for file storage and collaboration? Join us to learn how to navigate SharePoint online. We’ll cover file sharing and how to leverage your document libraries to collaborate effectively. We will also discuss how SharePoint interacts with Teams and OneDrive to simplify your work and collaboration. Register by January 25th for the session being held Wed, Jan 26, 2022, 9:00 AM – 10:30 AM EST
  • Smeal Academy Session: Contingency Planning – Coming Soon
    We will be holding a Smeal Academy session to explore and discuss strategies and tools for contingency planning. More to come in next week’s newsletter!

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

Tips of the Week

  • Tip #1: Course Announcements. Consider using announcements for course communication to inform the entire class about something. It is easier to use than course mail for sharing global information – but you have to tell students at the beginning of the course to check announcements frequently!
  • 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.