Penn State York banner

Penn State York signage


In This Issue


Feature: Using Discussion Boards Effectively

What's New? Blogs
Book Review

Teaching Tip

Contact Me








Vol. 1 Issue 1 Spring 2006

Teaching and Learning with Technologyteacher at computer

Best Practices,  Teaching Tips,  Ideas,  Resources, What's NEW!


Greetings and Introductions...

Greetings Faculty at Penn State York Campus!

My name is Suzanne Shaffer and I'm the new Instructional Designer on your campus. When I tell people my job title, I often get the question, "What do you do exactly?" Well, an instructional designer (in academic settings) usually works with faculty in a resource capacity:

  • providing information and resources on best practices in education

  • assisting collaboratively in the course design process

  • instructing in the effective use of technology in teaching

Suzanne ShafferMy time is usually spent in collaborating one-on-one with faculty, developing resources to help faculty inform their teaching practice, conducting workshops, and researching current trends in education.

I often think of IDs as people who carry a tool belt full of ideas and applications for educational endeavors. By talking with faculty about what they would like to do with their classes, IDs can recommend activities and approaches that will help faculty build successful and rewarding courses.

On a brief personal note, I am a York native, happily returning home after many years away. I served as an instructional designer at Montgomery College (near Washington, DC) and at Towson University where I helped faculty adapt their F2F courses for online delivery. I love my job because it gives me access to so many different content areas and teaching situations which I enjoy tremendously. I also enjoy cooking, traveling, and am dedicated to adult literacy and ESL issues, having taught these for many years in the Philadelphia area.
Besides my M.Ed. in Instructional Systems from PSU, I hold a PA State Teaching Certificate in General Science and Program Specialist designation in ESL.

I look forward to meeting you soon, finding out what's happening on campus and what you would LIKE to have happen regarding teaching and learning. Over the summer, I hope to be getting up to speed with Angel tools and applications (my background is in Blackboard and WebCT) and will be working on getting resources together that I think will be of service to you come fall! Please contact me with ideas, requests, questions, and just to say "hello"!

This newsletter is the first edition of what I hope will become a valuable resource for you, supplying information about best practices, teaching tips, ideas for your classroom, and what's new and hot in education!!! This first edition starts with information about using discussion boards effectively to enhance instruction in your classes. I hope you enjoy it and have a wonderful summer break!!

Return to Top

Feature: Using Discussion Boards Effectively

One big benefit of using online discussions is that your interactions are no longer slowed down by students who come to class unprepared to discuss the reading. They also extend the work that you can do during regular class time.

Students benefit by having time to think about and frame their answers according to the assignment and their own experiences.

By using asynchronous discussions, you can ask challenging questions of students. Get them to interpret and apply what they have read. Have them systematically make reference to course materials in their discussion postings to connect and reinforce their learning.

Discussion boards can be used in a wide variety of ways:

  • Discussion/Feedback
  • Role-based simulations picture of Angel help screen
  • Case studies
  • Debates
  • Jigsaws
  • Group-oriented projects
  • Private journals
  • Review
  • Problem-solving tasks

How can you... 

  1. Craft discussion questions to support critical thinking?
  2. Manage the discussion effectively?
  3. Develop guidelines for student
  4. Wrap-up the learning?

Read More….

Return to Top

What's New?  Blogs

A blog (or weblog) is a website in which messages are posted and displayed with the newest at the top. Like other media, blogs often focus on a particular subject, such as food, politics, or local news. Some blogs function as online journals. A typical blog combines text, images, and links to other blogs, web pages, and other media related to its topic. Since its appearance in 1995, blogging has emerged as a popular means of communication, affecting public opinion and mass media around the world. Retrieved from  on April 13, 2006.

Blog use is gaining ground in educational settings. An example of an educational blog that explores the topic of Teaching in a Multicultural Classroom can be viewed HERE . Read more about using blogs in your classroom in the Summer Issue of Teaching and Learning with Technology.

Contact me if you are currently using blogs in your courses and would like to share what you are doing!!

Return to Top

Book Review - Summer Reading Invitation

Learner-Centered Teaching: Five Key Changes to Practice, by Maryellen C. Weimer (Professor Penn State Berks Campus), is an engaging and practical introduction to the world of learner-centered teaching in higher education. Weimer discusses the changes that occur when the focus in college classrooms shifts from teaching to learning: the balance of power, the role of the instructor, the function of content, the responsibility for learning, and the purpose and process of evaluation. She also describes the elements necessary for successful implementation in the classroom. Important resources are also enclosed such as sample syllabi, activities, handouts, and reading list for those interested in learning more about the subject.

Vincent Tinto (Syracuse University), in his landmark research on student retention, concludes that the most important factor in student retention is student learning: when students learn, they stay; when they are more actively involved in their own learning, they learn more, and their retention rates are higher (2000). Adopting a learner-centered approach to teaching can help you to achieve higher rates of student satisfaction and retention.

Consider adding Maryellen Weimer's book to your summer reading list!  Or join an on-line reading group for the summer by contacting if interested.

Tinto, V. (1997). Classrooms as communities: Exploring the educational character of student persistence. Journal of Higher Education. 68,6 (November/December): 599-623.

Weimer, M.C., (2002). Learner-Centered teaching: Five key changes to practice. Jossey-Bass. San Francisco.         


Page 1  2  

Teaching Tip:     quote says Don't limit your students to your own learning for they were born in another time