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Spring 2021 Report

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Penn State provided enhanced flexibility to faculty and students to choose how they wanted to teach and learn during the Spring 2021 semester. While some classes were held in-person, others were entirely online, and many more were hybrid in numerous ways. Due to these changes, the Media Commons, Maker Commons, and Immersive Experiences Lab services had to continue to adapt processes to adjust to the new circumstances. We continued to implement the modified remote and hybrid-adapted resources and instructional methods developed during summer 2020 and Fall 2020 across all services.

As a result, several physically-bound services and technology like the One Button Studios, 3D printing lab, Invention Studio, and the Immersive Experiences Lab’s immersive “pinwheel” theater saw significant adjustments. Media Commons facilities, including One Button Studios, remained closed at the majority of Commonwealth campuses. University Park implemented a new plan that centralized the majority of resources at the Pattee Library location, even relocating VR, 360° video, and 3D scanning resources from the IMEX Lab to Pattee. This approach simplified our staffing needs and we adopted a new work schedule that ensured each consultant worked on campus only once per week on a staggered schedule. While open for appointments, new restrictions and guidelines developed in collaboration with the University’s Environmental Health and Safety group kept the editing rooms and One Button Studios safe for use. This also allowed us to operate the Maker Commons’ 3D printing service, which focused only on printing for approved course assignments and paused personal and exploratory printing for the semester. The partnership with University Libraries allowed us to ship completed 3D prints to students’ homes for those that elected to learn remotely.

Despite the challenges and changes to our service model, the Spring 2021 semester was productive and successful in a number of ways, as outlined in the report below.

Spring 2021 saw 3,315 students and faculty use the Media Commons, Maker Commons, and Immersive Experiences Lab initiatives across the Commonwealth. Much of this use was focused in 120 classes in nearly every discipline offered at Penn State. To facilitate these interactions outside of University Park, traveling consultants offered 124 remote sessions to provide instruction, consultations and support.

While the majority of One Button Studios across the Commonwealth were closed, the two studios located in Pattee Library still helped students and faculty create 384 academic videos, comprising over 7 hours of video. Students across the Commonwealth created 2,035 3D prints in pursuit of their course work. 

The report that follows breaks down our interactions with students and faculty and examines engagement levels with services offered, locations, and by individual colleges. Throughout the report we’ll draw attention to exciting assignments, surprising class partnerships, and interesting observations from the semester – stories that tell the ways in which Penn State faculty and students are pushing the boundaries of education into the future. We also point out usage and technology trends that draw from Media Commons’ proven history in supporting multimedia and emerging technology as well as reflect on challenges and opportunities in the coming semesters.

Adobe Rush workshops became a popular choice over iMovie for video editing this past year because Penn State students could access the software for free and also for its collaboration features. One example assignment from the College of Health and Human Development is Bing Pan’s Recreation, Park, & Tourism Management (RPTM 410) at University Park requirement to interview a local State College resident to tell a “Happy Valley” story and work collaboratively to create a video with attention-grabbing “viral” potential, including interesting, funny, relevant, emotional, or surprising elements. Judges from the Happy Valley Adventure Bureau selected a winning video out of the eight entries based on quality and viral potential and shared it on their social media outlets. A second video assignment example comes from Derek Lewis’ assignment for his CAS 415 class at University Park in which students were tasked to work collaboratively on a short, rough horror production and to incorporate the essential material taught in class: script, video, and key. 

Working with Randall McEntaffer, TLT faculty fellow from the Eberly College of Science at University Park, Media Commons hosted a VR research station for participants to view the VR experience Titans of Space with the goal to “overcome the physical limitations of engaging with astronomy course materials” and to enhance learning in the Astro 001 course.

Adobe Spark was a great fit for our English 15 at University Park Infographics workshops. These three excellent student submission examples, 1, 2, 3, fulfill Sierra Miller’s and Nanami Kobayashi’s requests to present a simple, focused message about a compelling issue in a visual format that included an original data visualization to express complex ideas concisely and accurately. 

Adobe Spark Pages and Video played an integral role in Brandi Robinson’s EME 466 at University Park capstone projects. The semester-long digital story assignment was to collaborate with a business and research ways to help them become more sustainable. Example submission topics included foodprints, solar energy, and cleaner energy.

In its second remote semester, Penn State Center Pittsburgh’s City Semester program asked a record 10 students to create masterful short films demonstrating their experiential understanding of sustainability as applied by each of their community partners. Working with Media Commons and a scaffolded approach, students were onboarded to video production at home and supported with a series of storytelling consultations in both group and individual settings.

Students in Kelly Munly’s HDFS 249N course at Altoona leveraged video tutorials to share enrichment activities and exercises with seniors living in care homes that they would ordinarily have visited in person. 23 students worked individually or in small groups to create 13 video-based lessons.

At the Abington campus, Dr. Rachael Brown challenged her students in MATH 36 to create video projects to illustrate real life statistics. As the 25 students in the class were working in groups, Adobe Spark Video was chosen because of its collaborative platform. The students researched topics ranging from COVID-19 to Solar Energy and translated that data into a visual story of the numbers. Multiple sessions were offered to support this class including training via Zoom, and project critiques towards the end of the semester.

New Kensington was joined by Greater Allegheny for a second year of partnerships with University Libraries and campus Student Research conference committees to leverage Adobe Spark – and tailored Media Commons training and support – to over 70 student researchers, making the presentations accessible to a wider audience.

With many physical spaces closed due to COVID, the Interactive Experiences group decided to go virtual. The team hosted two livestream showcases, the Virtual Space Showcase and the Augmented Reality Showcase. These showcases are a culmination of thorough exploration and testing of different virtual spaces and augmented reality applications that are particular useful for teaching and learning. Cumulatively, these videos have over 290 impressions and over 140 unique viewers. They are still accessible via the Creative Learning Initiatives YouTube page and featured on the VR Experiences and AR Experiences catalogue pages of the IMEX Lab website.

What the Deck (WTD) is an exploratory, card-based game designed to get players thinking critically about technology, how it intersects with society, and how these interactions affect our individual lives. From an empathetic starting point, WTD creates scenarios where players talk about different cultures and societies through the lens of technology. Currently, the card game is only accessible via the website; the experience is 100% virtual and is designed to be a facilitated experience. During the Spring semester, WTD was facilitated for 5 educational events for audiences both inside and outside the University, engaging over 120 players in conversation.

Ten sections of EDSGN 100 at University Park took advantage of Maker Common’s 3D printing, 3D modeling, and Arduino programming workshops and services this semester. Specifically, Smita Bharti’s wind turbine 3D printing assignment and Arduino traffic light project gave students an opportunity not only to exercise their creative and technical design skills but also to expose them to critical thinking and problem solving.

Students in Nick Meisel’s EDSGN 562 graduate level class at University Park researched, designed, and printed mechanical torture test specimens to evaluate the manufacturing limitations of 3D printing technology. Student submissions included examples of restrictive and opportunistic testing.

A team of Nuclear Engineering students designed and 3D printed a sampling capsule for gamma irradiation prototype for the Idaho National Laboratory. The prototype presentation fulfilled an assignment for a NECE 431W class at University Park taught by William Walters.

The Media Commons online resources have continued on in their role as the central focus of all training and support across instructional modes. Comparing traffic year over year, visitorship is down just under 19%. As with the Fall semester, iMovie-related content was very popular, with the Exporting tutorial alone receiving 12% of sitewide pageviews. More concepts-focused content like instructions for Creating PSAs saw a marked climb, ranking as 5% of all Media Commons site traffic. IMEX Lab picked up a very large amount of new traffic, largely due to specifically linked 360º content from the Experience Catalogue. The Maker Commons site rebounded after Fall 2020, likely pointing to more instructors being confident in reliable remote support for 3D printing, given popular content topics.