gives Penn Staters opportunities for professional development

Katie Bohn
May 07, 2016

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Melissa Arnett has to be a jack-of-all-trades.

As a staff assistant in the College of Agricultural Sciences, Arnett helps faculty with a wide range of projects, from researching new educational strategies like flipped classrooms to helping create new websites.

To keep up with the skills she needs to do these and other tasks, Arnett turns to the video training modules on, an online video library of digital training courses on topics like design, Web development, marketing and more. gives all University students, faculty and staff members access to its videos at no additional cost to them, providing nearly endless opportunities for professional development.

When Jeff Borger, senior instructor in turfgrass weed management, asked Arnett and others in her department to help him create a new website called the Plant ID site — an information repository about plants and weeds in Pennsylvania — she logged on to to learn more about Web page design and development.

“The videos were great and helped me learn more about how first to organize the data and then actually get it up on a running website,” said Arnett.

While looking for videos about creating websites, she also found training for ensuring Web pages are accessible, which allows people with disabilities to interact with and experience a Web page’s information and content.

“With the training, I was able to make sure the new site adhered to Penn State’s accessibility standards, which is very important to making sure anyone can access all the content on University websites,” Arnett said.

Now, the Plant ID site is up, running and accessible, with information on more than 130 plants. Each entry in the database includes information and photos, with several also including videos describing the plants.

Leslie Mateer, a lecturer of English in the College of the Liberal Arts, also uses for professional development, logging on to watch videos about social media and tech-related topics.

Mateer has two roles at the University and says using has helped her succeed at both. In addition to being an instructor, Mateer is also a digital education specialist in the Penn State Digital English Studio, which helps faculty members in the English department learn how to use technology in their classes.

When the Digital English Studio began doing social media for the English department, Mateer wanted to learn more about strategy and best practices for using different social media platforms. She says she appreciated the flexibility offers by breaking their training modules up into short, individual videos.

“Even huge training modules that cover a very broad topic are really well done and broken up into shorter videos, so you can find exactly what you need easily,” said Mateer. “For example, in a module covering many aspects of social media, you could decide just to watch a few videos that cover Twitter.”

Mateer also uses the training service to prepare herself before lectures. She says that sometimes she’ll watch a video on a subject that she’s about to teach to pick up on the speaker’s cadence and pace.

“Each video is so concise; they don’t waste your time and they keep you engaged,” Mateer said. “It’s a good way to prepare before giving a lecture yourself.”

In addition to using to learn new skills, some faculty members also use the videos to supplement class materials for their students.

Jeff Kohler, professor of mining engineering in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, says he uses to help teach his students skills that aren’t covered in textbooks.

“I think it’s important that my students know about project management, but that’s not covered in most mining engineering textbooks,” said Kohler. “But I can assign them to watch a couple of videos on that teach them what they need to know.”

Kohler says that is one of the many ways Penn State supports its students, faculty and staff members, and that he’s looking forward to continuing to use the service in the future.

“I’m a real fan,” Kohler said, “The University has a lot of great assets to help everyone in the Penn State family succeed, and this is one of them.”

For more information or to start building on or learning new skills, visit

Arnett worked on the Plant ID website along with Rob Dickerson, Tracey Harpster, Matt Naedel and members of Pesticide Education.

  • A woman sits on a couch at her laptop

    Melissa Arnett uses to learn new skills to use in her job as a staff assistant.

    IMAGE: Katie Bohn

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated June 15, 2016