What's Old is New Again (And Redefined!): Synchronous Video As Part of Online/Blended Coursework

Concurrent Session 1

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Explore implementations of student engagement through the redefined application of synchronous video. Learn how a framework for faculty adoption, training, and assessment was implemented. Delve into the best practices, how to create a movement beyond basic interactions of chat discussions/voice, and how to integrate gaming techniques/applications during sessions.


Amy Kuntz is as Instructional Designer within Teaching and Learning with Technology at Penn State University and has been in the field of higher education since 2006. Her main role is to work with faculty in the design and development of blended/online/video-conferencing courses for shared degree programs. As Instructional Designer, Amy's work also consists of facilitating a university-wide Learning Design community with other members of her department, working on large/strategic pedagogical redesign projects for the university, and supporting shared degree programs by offering faculty development, technology pilots, and operational support initiatives. Amy Kuntz received a Master of Science in Instructional Technology from Bloomsburg University. She has been an active Quality Matters Peer Reviewer and adjunct professor since 2008 teaching for-credit academic courses in both the face-to-face and online environments. Her professional interests include emerging instructional design models, pedagogical research, and quality assurance in online education.
With a 20 year background in Pre-Kindergarten through Grade 12 education, my focus has always been on technology and how it can be used in education. As a former teacher, educational consultant, and faculty professional developer, connecting schools, teachers, and students with current and innovative technologies has been the motivator for expanding my knowledge in many areas of technology and education. Being a part of the instructional design team within the Teaching and Learning department and Shared Programs at Pennsylvania State University has provided me with the opportunity to not only share my knowledge, but also learn more about technology in higher education and how it can impact teaching and learning. I am currently working on finishing my doctorate in instructional design and distance education.

Extended Abstract

Penn State University has dedicated to creating and offering Shared Programs which are academic programs in a shared structure across regional, geographical locations. These programs consist of a mix of residential courses, blended courses that connect to regional campuses, and/or online courses. These programs offer new opportunities for students who may not otherwise have had access to the degree offering and a larger student and faculty community. New shared academic programs have and continue to be proposed in support of University initiatives to develop strategically important programs that are projected to be growth areas in Pennsylvania. 
Four unique problems merged to combine an in-depth reimagination of the integration of synchronous webinars / videos as part of coursework within Shared Programs.
First, there was a drastic increase of faculty who were interested in adding a synchronous component to their online, asynchronous offerings through the use of virtual office hours, optional recitation sessions, group work meetings, exam reviews, etc. 
At the same time, Penn State University was actively looking for an alternative to Polycom systems / video-enabled rooms for inter-campus sharing. This investigation started due to the recommendations in formal report of the Task Force on Technology Infrastructure and Support Process for Shared Course Delivery.  This task force investigated ways to upgrade and better support the existing Polycom systems / video-enabled rooms being used at the campuses to deliver or receive course offerings. 
Coincidentally, there was a need for the investigation of the next generation of learning via shared courses. Currently video-conferencing utilizing Polycom equipment is the method that is heavily used by the University. Some students enjoy meeting as a small group to connect to other locations, while others dislike the idea of driving to campus to be connect to others (and possibly the instructor) at a distance.
Lastly, a Committee on the Desktop Video Conferencing that was a cross-IT working group investigated the possibilities of Zoom and BlueJeans. The outcome of this was that Zoom was adopted on a one-year contract by the University in 2017.
Approach and Results:
While the timing of the various committees overlapped, the needs of the faculty and ultimately students were the priority in implementing the best workflow and adoption of synchronous webinar / synchronous video technology within Shared Programs. Due to the uncertainty of what tool(s) would be selected, the instructional designers within Shared Programs were very transparent when working with faculty and offered tailored recommendations due to the faculty member's needs. An informal comparison chart / decision making chart, internal for Shared Programs, was used in the decision making process.
To encourage adoption of synchronous webinar / video technology, there was dedicated support as part of an internal Shared Programs pilot of selected faculty. This was integrated as a stepped approach that was then followed by workshops on identified best practices and subsequently evolved into part of the standard support structure offered to faculty within Shared Programs. A focus was placed on:

  • When, where, and why to utilize synchronous webinar / video technology
  • Tailored tips for each type of use case
  • Detailed best practices of how to prepare, conduct a session, and do associated follow-up
  • Student engagement techniques utilizing this type of technology

Assessment of faculty member’s use of synchronous webinar / video technology was administered through a survey, interviews of randomly selected faculty participants, and student feedback.
As a result of the integrated use of synchronous webinar / video technology with Shared Programs course work, faculty in disciplines such as Biology, Rehabilitation Health Services, Project Supply Chain Management, and other have gone beyond traditional uses of the technologies and have: 

  • Created and implemented online/geographically dispersed projects.
  • Established a gaming culture where students self-reported an increased motivation for class preparedness due to gaming techniques/applications used during sessions.
  • Utilized uniquely applied external synchronous polling features that were than carefully followed by breakout discussions.

Session Information:
This session will focus on the best practices of utilizing the redefined synchronous webinar / video technology including an explanation of how the best practices were implemented in particular courses. A framework for faculty adoption, training, and assessment will be explored that focuses on student engagement through the redefined application of this type of technology. An emphasis will be placed on how the Instructional Designers within Shared Programs:

  • Generated a movement beyond basic interactions of chat discussions/voice
  • Applied gaming techniques during synchronous class sessions
  • Employed altered techniques evaluation of teaching / evaluation of student engagement throughout adoption of this technology.

The session attendees will have an interactive experience as the presenters will model best practices of increasing engagement of online synchronous class meetings during the session along with encouraging a dialogue among participants throughout the session. This will be done via open and multiple choice polls interspersed throughout the session, a backchannel discussion / opportunity to post questions, and having attendees actively use some of the technologies (including at least one gaming technique) that will be covered during the session.
By the end of the session, attendees will: 

  • Recall the background / context that paved the way for the redefined synchronous webinar / video use within cross-campus online and blended courses.
  • Paraphrase aspects of the framework that was used for faculty adoption, training, and assessment of synchronous webinar / video technology.
  • Evaluate the best practices of incorporating redefined synchronous webinar / video use.
  • Interact with gaming techniques and analyze whether their use is appropriate with their own course / institution.
  • Discuss and participate in dialogue of current or proposed uses of redefined synchronous webinar / video at a variety of institutions.
  • Analyze the “take-a-ways” / handouts that were used as part of faculty training and assessment of engagement and determine if it will be adopted for a local use.