Faculty share their innovative ideas to engage students at Canvas Day 2019

A group of people seated with laptops looking  at two presenters standing in the front of the room with an overhead presentation on the screen

Faculty at a Canvas Day session sharing their innovative ideas with fellow colleagues on using Penn State’s learning management system, Canvas.

Credit: Penn State

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Digital teaching and learning tools enable faculty to engage students with new techniques and approaches. From integrating learning tools with Canvas that allow users to communicate remotely via Zoom to unlimited storage for photos and videos with Kaltura, the goal for Canvas Day is to build upon Penn State faculty's experiences with Canvas in facilitating collaboration among peers to enhance teaching and learning with technology.

Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer Michael Kubit kicked off Canvas Day 2019 at the Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center on Friday, March 15, talking about a digital transformation in higher education, and Penn State's commitment to putting the needs of students and faculty first by taking an outside-in approach to IT services.

“Start with our users and work back to the technology,” said Kubit. “Our jobs as IT professionals is to continuously think of ways to deliver technology better, more effectively and efficiently to the university community.”

Citing a 2017 study by a Penn State Information Technology graduate student, Kubit highlighted that 95 percent of undergraduate students owned a laptop or a smartphone. Eighty-three percent used their smartphone for course-related activities for one or more courses, and 25 percent used a smartphone for all of their courses.

Luckily, for the more than 270 attendees of Canvas Day 2019, Ryan Seilhamer, program director of mobile strategy at the University of Central Florida, returned for his third visit to Penn State. Seilhamer presented on the Canvas Teacher app, which highlighted its enhanced communication features in facilitating a course on a mobile device, and on the Canvas Student app to help faculty optimize a course for the best student mobile experience.

Forty-seven faculty and staff presented at Canvas Day 2019, with 15 coming to University Park from Commonwealth campuses, despite forecasts calling for morning rain. Senior Director for Teaching and Learning with Technology Jennifer Sparrow jokingly thanked the Canvas Day planning committee for their foresight in deciding to give away umbrellas to each attendee, adding that the multifunctional, zippered carrying case for the umbrellas doubled as a case for your sunglasses.

The fun and brain-stimulating energy of the day continued with attendees playing a Canvas clue game to solve the mystery and finally put to rest the unanswered questions about what happened to ANGEL, Penn State's former learning management system. At each morning session, attendees collected clue cards such as one for Lieutenant Colonel Terry Mustard (a.k.a Terry O'Heron, director of operations for Teaching and Learning with Technology). At lunchtime, after attendees tested their knowledge in Canvas trivia, the winning hand for the Canvas clue game revealed that ANGEL met its demise when the Canvas Panda mascot spilled a cup of coffee at the Palmer Museum of Art.

Canvas Day has evolved from faculty training sessions on the basics to becoming an invaluable networking event where faculty share and explore innovative new ways to enhance their teaching in the classroom that advance learning outcomes for students.

A few of the well-attended sessions were Instructional Designer Brett Bixler's session on "Adding Gamification Elements to a Canvas Course" to increase student motivation and satisfaction; Instructure Director of Product Matt Goodwin's "New Gradebook in Canvas" explained some of the new features for managing grades; and Instructional Multimedia Designer Mary Ann Mengel showed how students in a criminology course filmed stories that illustrated concepts of police work using 360-degree video.

Canvas Day 2019 wrapped up with attendees enjoying scoops of Penn State Berkey Creamery ice cream and voting for the “coolest” presentation at the One Cool Thing session. Beating out nine other presenters, Ronald Kelly, assistant teaching professor of administration of justice at Penn State Schuylkill, won the One Cool Thing competition for his mini-presentation, "Spice up your course: Student involvement with Bitmoji," which earned him an iPad. Attendee Hongyan (Red) Yuan, an instructional designer from Penn State Berks, also won an iPad after her name was randomly selected from the list of voters for the One Cool Thing session.

By the end of Canvas Day 2019, it was sunny in the high 60s, and attendees were able to pack away that umbrella to put on their sunglasses.

“On behalf of the Canvas Day planning committee, we thank everyone for attending and hope to see you next year!” said Kristen Lytle, 2019 Canvas Day chair and Teaching and Learning with Technology learning tools project manager.