Digital Teaching Resources

The Office For Digital Learning is currently hosting open office hours Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Zoom. No registration necessary

Join Open Office Hours Now (link valid 11 a.m. - 12 p.m. M - F)Contact Us Anytime

Prepare for fall teaching with the Leonhard Center/Office for Digital Learning Summer Workshop Series

Quality Matters in Digital Teaching

There are a number of resources available to all Penn State faculty interested in improving their remote teaching. On this site, we curate those resources that we find most useful for engineering faculty. The seven best practices below are derived from Quality Matters (QM), a research-based rubric and course review system for measuring quality in online course design.

If you apply these seven principles in your course, you will have covered many of the standards in the Quality Matters Framework.

For more information on QM, visit QM@PSU or view QM’s 1-page rubric.

1. Connecting with Students is Key!
  • Send a class announcement or email at the beginning of each week. Wrap up the previous week and introduce the coming week. Include any weekly due dates.
  • Write instructions clearly and concisely.
  • Establish set online office hours.
  • Allow for appointment opportunities outside office hours.
  • Monitor your students’ progress and reach out if someone is having trouble.
  • Provide feedback within one business day
  • Consider communication opportunities not directly related to the course content, like ice breakers or themed days where everyone shares their favorite coffee mug; team t-shirt, etc. 

Referenced in these QM Standards:

2. Reflect on what you want your students to learn

Course Goals – high level

  • What concepts will the students need to master by the end of the course and why is this important?
  • Making these goals explicit will guide you as you create course content, as well as guide students through the learning process.

Learning Objectives – drill down to the specific goals of each lesson

Referenced in these QM Standards: 


3. Engage your students
  • Use collaborative course tools to facilitate learners’ interaction and active learning (Google Docs, Zoom discussions, Canvas discussion boards, etc.)
  • Create a sense of community by encouraging and guiding learners to introduce themselves in an online discussion forum
  • Add interactive knowledge checks and graphics to your course. See examples created by the Office for Digital Learning.
  • Conduct a weekly discussion forum for students to interact with one another. Make it a low-stakes grade and require two replies from each student. Discussion forum ideas:
    • Create open ended questions based on course content or outside reading assignments
    • Scavenger hunts where students find a course related article on the internet and explain what interested them
    • Student reflections on the week’s content where they explain what most compelled them, what was a little muddy, etc.

Referenced in these QM Standards:


4. Reimagine Assessments

  • Consider a weekly graded discussion forum or Canvas quiz
  • Consider revising your exams as “take home” exams
  • Students can present remotely using Zoom
  • For more ideas, visit Penn State’s Adapting Assessments
  • For Pre-built Canvas Modules of remote exams, including proctoring options, visit COE’s Exam Format Considerations
  • For Canvas specific Assignments, Discussions, and Quizzes visit: Canvas Assessments

Referenced in these QM Standards:

5. Pace and Space your Lessons

Spacing out learning over time has the potential to double retention over timescales relevant to school or college courses (Mozer et al., 2009). Avoid an independent self-paced learning environment. This often leads to students binging through the course content, which results in poor learning and poor retention.

Pacing strategies:

  • Set routine assignments that are due on regular intervals
  • Provide timely and meaningful feedback on assignment deliverables
  • Limit the ability to binge by revealing content on a schedule and impose penalties for late work submission

Referenced in these QM Standards:

6. Explore your Toolbox

Canvas: Make the best use of our Learning Management System

Zoom: Video conferencing allows you to engage in multi-person video or audio meetings/class lectures. Learn more.

Kaltura: Cloud-based media management platform for storing, publishing, and streaming videos. Kaltura works in tandem with Zoom, to help instructors and students record, store, and stream videos. Learn more.


  • Reimagine Assessments (#4 above) to eliminate the need for proctoring.
  • Zoom Proctoring: You and your TA’s can proctor students using Zoom.
  • Examity: This service integrates with Canvas and offers remote proctoring. A cost is associated with each exam session.
  • See these Exam Proctoring Options for more information.
  • To access Canvas modules for remote exams, including proctoring options, visit COE’s Exam Format Considerations

Library Services: The Penn State Libraries offers a rich collection of online resources:

  • Includes streaming video, electronic books, databases and electronic journals.
  • E-Reserves provides course materials that integrate into Canvas while assuring copyright compliance.

Accessibility: See Penn State’s Accessibility Tip Sheet to ensure an accessible learning experience for all students.

Referenced in these QM Standards:

General Standard 6: Course Technology
General Standard 8: Accessibility and Usability


7. Contact the Office for Digital Learning

If you need assistance with any of these topics or would like to learn more about best practices for teaching online, please contact us using the contact form below or at 814-865-7643.

Contact the Office for Digital Learning

If you need assistance with any of these topics or would like to learn more about best practices for teaching online, please complete the form below or reach out to us by phone at 814-865-7643. The Office for Digital Learning will follow up with you within one business day. Note that this form is for use by College of Engineering Faculty only. Faculty at other colleges or campuses should consult the additional resources section above.