Meet HAX: Empowering Faculty, Designers, and Students

Concurrent Session 4
Streamed Session

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Session Materials

Brief Abstract

The idea is simple yet transformative: empower faculty and designers to create engaging instructional content without needing to understand all the traditional considerations of producing that content. Give them flexibility. Give them robust options to educate students. Make it easy. Make it accessible. Give them HAX.


Melissa is the Director of the Office of Digital Learning for the Eberly College of Science, supporting the online course portfolio for the World Campus, engaging faculty to transform their teaching, and helping students learn. Melissa has an M.Ed in Learning, Design, and Technology, and has been working in the field for over 13 years. When she is not blazing a trail on social media, she manages a local adult baseball team, spoils her basset, attempts to quilt, and is a fervent supporter of the #Whole30. She also is constantly devouring books in her pursuit of happiness, creativity, and lifelong learning.
Katrina is an Instructional Designer at Penn State University and recently began her journey to obtain her doctorate in learning, design and technology. She has instructional design experience in industry, K-12 and higher education. One of her core beliefs is that technology can transform education for both learners and instructors through the careful selection and application of educational technology solutions with respect to specific course outcomes and objectives.

Additional Authors

Bryan is a programmer at Penn State and the project lead for ELMS: Learning Network, an open-source Next Generation Digital Learning Environment (NGDLE) platform. He has been building educational technology solutions since 2007 and is a tireless advocate for the transformative nature of open source communities. Bryan is a leading voice in the Drupal in Education community and has helped Penn State adopt and grow a vibrant Drupal community.

Extended Abstract

The idea is simple yet transformative: empower faculty and designers to create engaging instructional content without needing to understand all the traditional considerations of producing that content. What if the complex considerations of content production such as media management, accessibility, security, page layout and design just happened without the need for anyone to understand the code required to traditionally put material online? What if we could give faculty the flexibility to approach a diverse learning landscape with robust options for a variety of teaching approaches? What if we gave students a space that is easy to access, available on all devices, fast to load, consistent, sustainable to update and promotes self-efficacy, metacognition, and learning? It seems like this should be something that already exists. It does. At Penn State.

Meet HAX, a system borne of the Penn State College of Arts and Architecture, currently being used by both Arts and Architecture and the College of Science. The tool is garnering national attention for its potential to transform education. In line with Penn State Transforming Education strategies, the tool uses learning analytics to inform faculty and improve student success using xAPI; improves the content and data structure for student engagement in the digital world; increases not only the creation of OER, but the collaboration around it and establishes a way to track changes to that material semester to semester. It creates a space for learning that improves and drives new teaching methodologies and improves the student experience; facilitates ID support for faculty and improves faculty development; and has already been a focus of educational research. By virtue of its framework, it also is sustainable, scalable, and extremely accessible. Other advantages include:

  1. Access: HAX integrates into any platform, operates in any browser-based environment, and performs multiple functions to address identified pedagogical challenges.
  2. Affordability: HAX allows for the more efficient transfer of resources by creating greater server efficiency and decreasing the time to access to materials.
  3. Accountability: HAX acts as a glorified OER publishing app that allows for the easy projection of one's work on any platform. By reducing the difficulty of faculty to author, remix, and publish content, we can increase OER, reducing costs for students.
  4. Adoption: HAX is currently being employed by multiple faculty members in multiple colleges. It requires very little resources in order to scale and organically grow in adoption. Content can also be produced offline or in hybrid development workflows by utilizing cloud storage solutions.
  5. Organizational Learning: HAX allows developers to share custom HTML elements across projects, reducing developer effort. This translates to faculty and staff sharing knowledge in different ways and faculty institutionalizing the sharing of quality instructional practices through accessible visual design.
  6. Quality: HAX increases development time focus on instructional planning and concept mapping while reducing the time to physically produce and integrate materials. For learners, it means that material across the institution is presented in a high quality, uniform manner.
  7. Interoperability: HAX leverages a new innovation called web components that allows for the rapid integration of third-party solutions (e.g., YouTube or Kaltura).
  8. Innovation: HAX is a first of its kind decentralized knowledge production technology that integrates easily into multiple platforms and provides a consistent authoring experience across platforms. It opens the door to advanced research capabilities by making the web incredibly approachable. 

During the session, attendees will learn about HAX. They will see examples of it being used in the Penn State system Attendees will also have access to the tool where they will be able to experience HAX and its ability to transform the content authoring experience.