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New Horizons

In everything we do at Etown we believe we are always improving. We invite students to find their best lives here, and we encourage everyone at Etown to invest in themselves to continually develop and improve their lives. Through every interaction with our students, in every period of inquiry, with each new opportunity to engage in our vibrant learning community, we are always in the process of improving.  

The Etown Teaching and Learning Design Studio launched at a significant time, in the context of a global pandemic, when our entire industry pivoted to 100% remote and online teaching and learning. Our work focused squarely on equipping and supporting professors and instructors in the creation of memorable and lasting learning experiences in online and hybrid formats. As we now set our sights on the next chapter, the Studio will continue to be an important site on our campus that promotes and supports a relationship- and learner-centered culture of instruction, advising and scholarship. 

Our emphasis on design remains intentional as we seek to create opportunities for research, theory, and practice to inform our methods to meet the needs of our students and achieve our institution’s mission. We invite you to join us in these efforts and the Studio team looks forward to working with you. 

Meet the team:

Matt Skillen, Studio Director
Sharon Birch, Assistant Director of Instructional Technology 
Crystal Donlan, Instructional Designer and Online Learning Specialist
Jill Kleis, Program Support Specialist & Administrative Assistant 

Accessibility in Canvas

Web accessibility. What is it, and why strive for it in our Canvas course sites? Google the term and you’ll be overwhelmed by the range of definitions, but it is easier to wrap your head around if you frame it in terms of the sites: an accessible site is one that anyone can use regardless of what adaptive strategies or assistive technologies they use. And that definition answers both the “what” and the “why” – we create accessible sites so that everyone can use them.

Canvas is just a website. It’s interactive, complex, media-rich, storage-heavy, and data-driven, but it is still just a website. Part of it you don’t control, part of it you do. The part you don’t control does meet accessibility standards and is tested heavily by the developers. Your goal is to make the stuff you do control as accessible as possible.

Perfect accessibility is pretty tough to attain if you are not a web developer and media specialist, but you can get most of the way there in a Canvas site just by making a few critical choices as you build your materials and site. What you are aiming to do is make sure students can:

  • take in the content of you site – in accessibility standards parlance that means it is “perceivable”
  • participate in the activities – the site is “operable”
  • the layout and content makes reasonable sense – it is “understandable”
  • the page works – it is “robust”

We’ve created a guide that should help in the choices you make about content, organization, and navigation within your Canvas sites to meet the accessibility needs of your students. That, plus additional resources, are available in the TLDS’s Faculty Development Community site in Canvas. If you are not currently enrolled in the site, you can self-enroll by using this link.

As always, consult with the TLDS team if you’d like to learn more about course design and development in Canvas.

Happy Online Learning Day!

When you think about active learning spaces, what do you envision?  Robust content, engaging activities, student dialogue, community involvement, creative freedom? What does a learning space look like in 2021?

Active learning spaces do not necessarily constitute physical areas. One of the great lessons of 2020 was that learning can – and will – take shape across diverse delivery modalities. Authentic learning can – and will – continue to flourish in digital environments. Best practices integrated with technological tools, agile frameworks, design integrity, and invested stakeholders hold infinite potential for cultivating the online learning landscape in ways that grow more dynamic and inclusive every day.

Today, September 15, is National Online Learning Day, which makes it the perfect time to expand your perspective on what constitutes learning and to open your mind to the possibilities of where learning occurs.

Flipping the Classroom for COVID and Beyond–Dr. Tara Moore

To accommodate some of the challenges of COVID-19 teaching, I flipped my composition course.  Now, two semesters in, a study of my students’ reactions indicates that COVID-19 might have introduced me to my best teaching self, at least for EN100.

My research indicates that it’s not unusual for a professor’s lecture tangents could eat into active learning time. I can relate!  Now my pithy, pre-recorded videos introduce new material, and we spend class time on deepening activities.

When flipping a class, I learned to make sure every assessment and activity align with the Student Learning Outcomes. I based my approach to the flipped classroom on Talbert’s Flipped Learning and Wiggins and McTighe’s Understanding by Design. If you’ve taken the Studio’s Teaching Online course, you have already seen the course design matrix that guided my flipping process.

Fortunately, after all of this effort, my first year students expressed positive feelings about their flipped classroom. Here’s one take on it:

“[It’s] not a bad way of doing things, actually I like it more[.] It makes the work load seem easier. The videos and before class assignments aren’t too long so it usually will get done, and the in class activities are easier [than…] doing it on your own without a professor[‘s] help.”

A small number of students felt that the lure of their personal devices made it hard to focus on video lectures at home. A larger number claimed the opposite, saying that focusing during in-class lectures posed the greater challenge.

Overall, my study found several benefits in the flipped model:

  • greater student agency in learning new materials
  • more time to mentor student writing
  • noticeable student and instructor enjoyment of the course design

My personality fits well with the balance of labor needed to flip a classroom. I prefer front-loading the work of preparing videos, which allows me to focus class time on individual or small-group mentoring.  I can see that not every personality will find flipped learning to be a good fit for their instruction.

I write about the process and my students’ opinions on the design in the upcoming collection Go Online! Reconfiguring Writing Courses for the New Virtual World from Peter Lang.

About the Contributor: Tara Moore teaches writing courses and Young Adult literature at Elizabethtown College.  Her books include Christmas: The Sacred to Santa and Victorian Christmas in Print.

Teaching Sociology Webinar: Podcasts in the Classroom

Podcasting is a powerful teaching tool. The vast catalog of interesting and informative podcasts, available on a variety of digital platforms, allows students to engage with perspectives and points-of-view outside of those they may encounter in a college course. During an August 18, 2021 virtual meeting hosted by the Teaching Sociology editorial team–including Michelle Kozimor, Editor and Barbara Prince, Deputy Editor–scholar-teachers from across the country shared their insights on using podcasts as a resource in their courses.

The meeting included the following presentations:

  • Being Able to Listen Makes Me Feel More Engaged: Best Practices for Using Podcasts as Readings
  • A Review of Podcast “Ear Hustle”
  • A Review of Podcast “Code Switch”

And many more. To watch the virtual meeting, click here.



Instructional design can be considered the building process of the learning experience, with designers working hand-in-hand with faculty throughout the development process. As architects of learning design, we know that the best construction requires planning, materials, and scaffolding to facilitate the building of an excellent course. Throughout this process, instructional designers provide guidance, feedback, and support that will ultimately enhance the student learning experience.

The Etown Teaching and Learning Design Studio is here to work with you in a collaborative way as you look to develop an engaging learning experience for your students.

Do you have a new course to develop, or would you like to revise an existing one? Would you like to request a course quality review? Do you need to incorporate microlearning into your course, or develop a special learning instance for a forum, workshop, or conference?

Please use this handy guide to get started on your course design project, and contact the Etown Teaching and Learning Design Studio at studio@etown.edu to set up a consultation!

Etown Teaching and Learning Design Studio Services PROJECT GUIDE


Creating an Asynchronous Canvas Module with Dr. Tara Moore

As part of our Summer 2020 Engaged learning series, Dr. Tara Moore shares how she develops asynchronous modules in Canvas that provides clear communication and direction for her students. Dr. Moore’s two-part presentation is provided below. 

Creating an Asynchronous Lesson Module

Are you contemplating virtual lessons in Canvas?  Tara Moore explains how clarity and consistent design can help students navigate lesson modules on their own. Click here to access the video on VidGrid.

Additional Tips about Asynchronous Lesson Modules

The second video in the series offers support for budgeting students’ time, setting deadlines, and making a communication plan. Click here to access the video on VidGrid.