Well prepared: TLT fellowship equips IST professor for shift to remote learning

Jessica Hallman
May 27, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- When Penn State swiftly transitioned to a remote learning environment this spring due to COVID-19, College of Information Sciences and Technology teaching professor Ed Glantz was more than prepared.

For the last three semesters, Glantz has been recording his residential courses using Zoom and posting his lectures to Canvas. This, he said, is to provide continuity of education to students who needed to be absent from class for professional travel, illness or emergencies.

“I teach large sections and these absences are unfortunately somewhat routine,” said Glantz. “The highly motivated and engaged students have expressed appreciation for the ability to not forfeit access to learning.”

Glantz’s novel idea earned him a Teaching and Learning with Technology Fellowship in 2019. Through that program, he has been exploring best practices in recording lectures in the classroom and how it can be used for reflective teaching.

“Recent technological innovations in video management and cloud storage give us the opportunity to expand learning beyond the physical spaces and provide course content in alternative formats,” he said.

While many faculty members might think that offering lectures online would result in lower class attendance, Glantz has found that this is not the case.

“Unengaged students who skip class are also going to skip recordings,” he said. “Hence, the recorded classes benefit engaged students and do not increase the number of students not in attendance.”

Erin Flannery, a student in Glantz’s class this past spring, relied on the recorded lectures when traveling for two conferences early in the semester as the next-best alternative to in-person classes.

“I was really grateful for this resource because it allowed flexibility for our schedules,” said Flannery. “When I [needed to] miss class, I was able to approach Dr. Glantz with specific, lecture-driven questions about content rather than asking generically ‘So what did I miss?’”

Flannery also utilized the recorded lectures throughout the semester to supplement her in-class learning.

“I continued to watch the recordings [after attending class] to prepare for exams and to compare my in-class notes with the lecture content in case I missed anything,” she said.

According to 2019 graduate Nick Caponi, who served as a learning assistant for Glantz in 2019 and helped to execute the innovative idea, the implementation of Zoom directly paralleled what was taught in the class – which focuses on risk analysis in a security context.

“The course is essentially about problem solving and decision theory skills," said Caponi. "Students learn how to assess vulnerabilities and risk and the corresponding controls that deter, mitigate or correct the identified vulnerabilities and risk.”

Caponi notes that success in the course is dependent on student participation in lectures, their ability to work in groups, and the ability to access information presented in class from outside the classroom. Not only did Glantz prepare for individual students to access lectures if they needed to miss class for reasons such as active military duties or illness, but it allowed the class to prepare for other events or natural disasters that could cause a campus closure -- such as a snow storm.

"In the event of a missed day, we still needed to get information to students in order for them to leave with the best understanding and be able to succeed in the class," said Caponi. “[Recording lectures] fundamentally provided access to information from the class and made sure that students who are engaged and want to learn have the ability to access that information and learn if they so choose.”

While a global pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus outbreak was not specifically among the natural disasters that Glantz was preparing for, it was not unexpected. In 2014, Glantz won the Best Insight Paper Award at the 11th International Conference on Information Systems for Crisis Response and Management (ISCRAM) for his paper “Community Crisis Management Lessons from Philadelphia’s 1793 Epidemic.” In that paper, he analyzed the yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia in 1793 that killed 5,000 people, and said that an outbreak could wreak similar havoc in modern times.

Preparing for disasters is tricky, he said. Actions taken in advance can seem alarmist while those same actions after can seem inadequate, and society should learn from all related experiences even two centuries later.

“I believe the ‘new normal’ will positively combine where we were before spring break with lessons from the largest ever virtual learning and working experiment that followed,” said Glantz. “Hopefully, traditional face-to-face instructors will consider creatively ‘blending’ other learning styles including flipped, hybrid, and online. Recording lectures for students makes much of this possible as well as the ability to bridge student absences and respond to extremes such as outbreaks.”

Kelly Wallert is another student who has benefited from Glantz’s online instruction, which helped her ease into the University’s remote learning environment after spring break. She noted that the online classroom environment served to increase and improve interactions with her instructors.

“My professors have been more hands-on with their students, and I have been able to have a more catered and tailored experience making my education a little bit easier,” said Wallert. “I found this super helpful since the coronavirus was unexpected, and sometimes students have a hard time when transitioning to the online environment. With the added instructor and student time, it felt like each professor was striving for every student to be successful.”

Last Updated May 27, 2020