Instruction and Pedagogy

Resources to enhance your teaching and help you transition to different modes of instruction.

  • Engaging Students - Resources to help instructors keep students engaged in their college experiences to positively impact their learning and personal development.
  • Enhancing Your Teaching - Resources for instructors who need to begin teaching in new modalities or who want to enhance their teaching effectiveness in familiar modalities.
  • Gathering Student Feedback - Gathering feedback from students early in the semester helps gauge students' learning and provides instructors with valuable data for making course adjustments.
  • Transition a Course to Remote Delivery - Resources to assist in transitioning course content to a remote delivery environment.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Review the following frequently asked questions about instruction and pedagogy. For additional information, read all frequently asked questions.

Instruction and Pedagogy

Yes, there are places on campus for this purpose. In addition to the normal student spaces that have had seating adjusted to account for physical distancing, approximately 45 rooms have been identified on the University Park campus as Remote Learning Rooms. These rooms are open for use during normal building hours and have clear signage indicating that they are intended for accessing remote classes. The rooms do not have computers available for student use, so students will need to bring their own technology. Students should wear headphones so they do not distract others. If they are talking as part of class participation, they should be aware of their speaking volume and consider using headphones with a microphone. Details can be found selecting the Remote Learning Rooms layer on the campus map or on the Penn State Go app. Clicking on the Remote Learning icon (headphones) will provide detailed information for each building.

Undergraduate and graduate students are permitted to continue working in labs if they are in town. Students may not request to remain in an on-campus residence hall solely for the purpose of working in a lab. Undergraduate students, graduate students, external visitors, and visiting scholars must receive prior approval from the relevant academic dean for them to continue on-campus research. Those who are already approved to work on campus do not need to be re-approved. All students and visitors must adhere to the standard operating procedures of the lab and be part of the person-count for square footage, scheduling, and any other relevant considerations. Instructors cannot and should not require undergraduate or graduate students to come to campus, and undergraduate and graduate students who conduct on-campus research must be included in the research reductions and approaches to de-densification.

All courses, including graduate courses, will move to an online instructional format after November 20, 2020.

Graduate and undergraduate students currently undertaking research in person are permitted to continue doing research in labs after the Thanksgiving holiday in accordance with the guidance from the Office of the Senior Vice President for Research. Learn more about the requirements for continuing to conduct research as an graduate or undergraduate student.

Graduate students at Penn State Law, Dickinson Law, or the College of Medicine have additional guidance. Penn State Law classes at University Park will continue in their hybrid format through Tuesday, November 24, 2020, the last day of Penn State Law classes. Dickinson Law classes will continue in their hybrid format through November 24, 2020, and classes will be held in a fully remote format from Monday, November 30, through Friday, December 4, 2020. At the College of Medicine, all pre-clinical courses for MD and PA students, and all graduate studies courses, will move to an online instructional format after Friday, November 20, 2020. Medical and physician assistant students in clinical rotations and clerkships will continue their patient-care activities in hospital and office settings following the Thanksgiving holiday. They must adhere to all hospital policies for the use of PPE, hand hygiene, and physical distancing in patient-care settings.

At this point, yes, the SRTEs will be administered and instructor peer reviews of teaching are expected to resume in fall 2020. If this changes, instructors will be notified by the Provost or Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs.

Students can use Zoom to meet with their group to discuss, collaborate on, and rehearse group presentations. One team member can submit the group’s recording link or file to the corresponding Canvas assignment dropbox. If the course is being delivered synchronously, groups can present “live” during the class session using Zoom. Consider using VoiceThread for asynchronous presentations that allow students to comment/question on the presentation.

Whether teams are all in residence, all remote, or in a mixed setting, CATME is an option for peer evaluations. This tool requires some initial setup. CATME is a paid service. You will have to discuss this with your academic unit regarding fees.

Remote students can collaborate in Zoom or using digital tools such as Canvas groups or Microsoft Teams that provide workspace, communication, and file sharing. Students have many other online applications to collaborate remotely (i.e., Zoom, Google, etc.).

Think about what learning objectives for your course could be most effectively met in person and plan time for that during in-class periods.  For example, perhaps some lectures could be pre-recorded so that a portion of each class could be dedicated to hands-on activities. Read guiding questions about mixed-mode course design. 

In addition, consider flipping your class, such that all lectures appear in pre-recorded video format, and use class time for students (both in-residence and remote) to actively engage with material.

The online tool LionSpace FIS (Facilities Information System) has a new feature that provides detailed information and photographs of many Penn State classrooms. All General Purpose Classrooms (GPCs) at University Park, as well as many other rooms at University Park and the Commonwealth Campuses, are included. You can access LionSpace FIS with your Penn State credentials. The link “How to Find Room Photos” provides instructions on how to use the tool and you log in by clicking the blue “LionSpace FIS” button.

You can see guidance on recording your class via Zoom on the Penn State Coronavirus Information site. Additionally, you can read information about preparing recorded lectures for remote asynchronous courses. You may also be concerned about sharing others’ work. You may make video clips of short portions of DVDs and Blu-Rays to provide for in-class or out-of-class viewing. Find more technical help on creating these clips in Kaltura. You are encouraged to rely on licensed video already provided by the Penn State University Libraries for out-of-class viewing. Libraries also already have subscriptions to a significant set of streaming audio options for Penn State users. Please contact your liaison librarian or the Libraries’ Music & Media Center for help determining if the audio or video content you need for teaching is available through the Libraries. If it is not, the Libraries may be able to purchase streaming access for additional media. 

For assistance with copyright-related issues, please fill out the Copyright, Publishing, and Open Access form or book an appointment with a librarian from the Office of Scholarly Communications and Copyright.

Motivation for remote synchronous and asynchronous courses may be different for traditional residential students than their motivation for in-person courses. Consider adding a statement to your syllabus saying that remote courses require a certain level of self-direction. For many students, this may be the first time that they have taken a course in this mode. In addition, consider adding an (recorded or live) orientation meeting to go over expectations for the remote course. Share with students how their participation will be similar or different from participation in in-person courses. Especially in remote asynchronous courses, it is a good idea to review the syllabus, materials in Canvas (calendar, assignments, common due dates), and expectations for engaging in the course throughout the week.

Assign students to participate in an introduction discussion forum in Canvas to introduce themselves to you and their classmates. Hold open office hours via Zoom to meet your students. We encourage all instructors to engage with their students and create a learning community in the course, no matter the mode of instruction. For more ideas related to getting to know your students, view resources from the College of Information Sciences and Technology and the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences (see “Creating Community”).

Consult your local college or campus for offerings via your local instructional-support contact person.

Canvas is Penn State’s online system for teaching and learning. You can use the following technology tools in both a remote learning environment and a learning environment with in-person elements: 

For more guidance determining which set of tools will help meet your student learning outcomes, reach out to your TLT Course Liaison to book a consultation.

Because the purpose of having a mixed-mode varies, the portion of the course that must be in-person varies. For a laboratory, studio, design, or performance-based course, the minimum number of sessions for students to be in-person is determined by the activities that must be taught with the faculty and students together. For example, for courses that are lecture/recitation style with the recitation session being in-person, then it is based on the pedagogical design of the course and how much time is dedicated to the recitation portion. If the course is mixed-mode because it is rotating students through the opportunities offered in a classroom setting with the instructor and peers, then it is largely driven by the capacity of the room in relation to the size of the class. If in the rotational model, the in-person time is less than 33%, every effort will be made to find a larger room although distancing requirements present challenges in doing so.

No, instructors are not required to provide courses in delivery modes other than the delivery mode designated for their course. Instructors should consider how students may make up missed work if students are out for short or lengthy periods of time.  

For student expectations for in-person courses, review the in-person details page. Students are expected to attend all classes in-person. Instructors should follow Faculty Senate policy 42-27—Class Attendance, with some flexibility. If a window of absence is lengthy, instructors may need to consider additional flexibility.

Although instructors are not required to provide courses in delivery modes other than the one designated or prepare their courses in multiple delivery modes, they may be asked to consider alternative ways for students to participate, especially if students who have chosen Learn from Home options have no other course sections to choose from. Not all courses can be offered in a different mode than that originally scheduled.

There are many reasons why a faculty member might not teach in person, such as pedagogical considerations, classroom availability, and scheduling. As outlined in “Instructional Issues for Return to Resident Instruction,” the University will provide guidance for decision-making about the teaching assignments for instructors and the pedagogical considerations that would indicate that certain types of courses should be offered in-residence. In addition, some faculty members who are part of vulnerable populations may have concerns about returning to the workplace. Faculty who feel that they are part of a vulnerable population or who have family members who are part of a vulnerable population and have concerns about teaching in person should first work with their unit executive (dean/chancellor or a designee) to determine whether adjustments can be made to their teaching duties and/or other duties. Faculty are urged to consider a variety of available instructional modalities. In addition, a faculty member who initially decides to teach one or more classes in person may request to alter the instructional modality if they believe circumstances warrant it. 

Faculty members who believe they have a disability that necessitates a reasonable accommodation or leave should contact the Affirmative Action Office or Absence Management, as appropriate.

Review the Flexible Instructional Modes section for the latest information. This includes in-person, mixed-mode (including the most common mixed-mode options), remote synchronous, and remote asynchronous options.

Engaging students with course content through reflective activities, peer discussions, and instructor feedback increases the likelihood of achieving learning outcomes. Consider the following resources for engaging your remote students: 

There is no need to publish a list of student names on your syllabus. Schedule students into groups in Canvas, and list on the syllabus which groups (rotation group A, rotation group B, rotation group C, etc.) should attend on different days.

Penn State’s Canvas team is building a tool within Canvas to assign students to class meeting days and to let them know on which days they are expected to attend class.

Check the University Libraries’ Ebooks and Other Course Materials to determine if the materials are available to students. If not, you can provide in Canvas most materials needed for students to successfully complete the course. See more information related to copyright when rapidly shifting your course from in-person to remote teaching.

You can also send your own scans of materials to be posted in e-reserves. To submit materials, please complete the request form and email accompanying scans to ul-reserveshelp@lists.psu.edu

For assistance with copyright-related issues, please fill out the Copyright, Publishing, and Open Access form or book an appointment with a librarian from the Office of Scholarly Communications and Copyright.

Students who are disruptive in a remote class should be handled in the same way that they are handled in a face-to-face class. You should set clear standards of behavior and communicate your expectations. If disruptive behavior occurs, you should confront the behavior. If the student continues to be disruptive, you should ask the student to leave the class, notify your unit head, and file a report online with the Office of Student Conduct. Staff in the Office of Student Conduct also are available to discuss your concern at studentconduct@psu.edu.

Some instructors have experienced online classroom disruptions by participants who are not enrolled in the course, or Penn State. More recommendations on preventing and managing disruptions are available in the Canvas Blog article.

Instructor feedback will be particularly important for students who are new to a remote setting and don’t have regular face-to-face interactions, as well as for students who may be absent for an extended period from an in-person course. You are encouraged to provide feedback during office hours or via tools such as Canvas. If you wish to provide feedback via Canvas, see Canvas feedback guidance.

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