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University Center
for Teaching and Learning
2020-21 Annual Report

Greetings from Associate Provost Cynthia Golden
Executive Director, University Center for Teaching and Learning
Center Associate, Learning Research and Development Center

Cynthia Golden

The academic year 2020-2021 presented us with some of the most significant challenges we have ever faced as a University, and as the Teaching Center. The staff of the Teaching Center far exceeded any reasonable expectations for supporting our faculty and enabling our students to continue their education. Our team members were innovative, creative, and tireless in their efforts during this pandemic.

This report provides some highlights and key measures of their accomplishments, but it does not fully document the ways in which the Center enabled Pitt to reinvent itself almost instantaneously to provide excellent remote instruction.

“The University Center for Teaching and Learning went to Herculean lengths to help the entire University
transition quickly and efficiently to remote teaching, and I applaud all involved.
While no one expected or wished for such a disruption, I am confident that
the Teaching Center — and the entire University — will experience
a renewed sense of purpose and a deep appreciation
for our collective ability to innovate.”

– Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor Ann E. Cudd

Increase in Teaching Center website traffic during April
Remote courses running on Canvas and Blackboard on April 23
Teaching Center newsletter accessed between March 13 and March 31
Professional Development for Faculty

Faculty Badging/Credentialing

The Teaching Center increased the deployment of badges for non-credit coursework through Pitt Professional continuing education courses, the University Library System, and through the Teaching Center’s own internal development initiatives (Achievement in Pedagogy, Universal Design Concepts, Online Instruction, and Assessment). Over 1,600 badges have been awarded to date using the Credly badging service, and the Teaching Center is currently working on a larger alternative credential strategy with the Office of the Provost.

Faculty Seminars

We redesigned several faculty seminars for accelerated and remote delivery, including the CGS Online Teaching; the Highly Engaged, Highly Interactive Instructor; and Hybrid and Online Teaching seminars.

Service tickets resolved by the Educational Software Consulting group
Proctored seated testers at the Testing Center
Student responses recorded using the Top Hat polling tool
Teaching Innovation

Flex @ Pitt

I think this may be a good place to recap the Flex@Pitt instructional model, put a bow on it, and have this be the last reference of the playbook. Also use this as an opportunity for us to tout how we’ve helped more faculty than ever to be in the position to take advantage of new and innovative pedagogical approaches.

  • Our team configured interim video conferencing technologies in collaboration with Pitt IT in 200+ learning spaces to support remote instructor/student participation and sustain instructional continuity during the pandemic. We also provided scheduled and ad-hoc training for 522 instructors to effectively use the technologies.
  • Zoom, adopted during the emergency pivot, has become one of the primary technologies supporting the Flex@Pitt model. Since August 1, 2020 over one million Zoom sessions have happened at Pitt. Our team produced three popular training videos (within a week!) to support effective use of Zoom Rooms.
  • 99% of COVID-19 Faculty Survey – Fall 2020 respondents who reported using Zoom said that it worked “very well” or “reasonably well”.
  • Staff built on resources developed by our colleagues at Pitt Bradford to adapt the Online Student Toolkit, a resource that instructors can embed in courses to provide students with educational technology training. Since it was implemented in October 2020, this resource has been viewed approximately 26,500 times. Student feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, with 96% of 190 survey respondents reporting that the toolkit provided them with helpful information that would allow them to use educational technology tools like Canvas competently.
  • We offered 126 workshops related to Flex@Pitt, with 1,503 faculty participating (See Figure 1).
  • We closed 3,570 technology support tickets for 1,413 unique faculty.
  • Our staff performed design and installation of specialty classroom technology solutions that offered remote camera control for over a dozen rooms in both Biological Sciences and Studio Arts. Custom training was provided for faculty.
  • We redesigned several faculty seminars for accelerated and remote delivery, including the CGS Online Teaching; the Highly Engaged, Highly Interactive Instructor; and Hybrid and Online Teaching seminars.
  • Faculty interest in the Teaching Online at Pitt self-paced Canvas course continued to grow and current enrollment is 517. This course advises faculty in creating evidence-based online courses and assesses their knowledge. These modules cover the basics (copyright, developing assignments, recording lectures) as well as more advanced pedagogy (assessment, multimedia design, open educational resources).
  • Demand for the expertise of our Teaching Consultants remained high. Working one-on-one with faculty we have accumulated over 530 individual consultation hours so far this academic year.

Canvas Implementation:

The onset of the pandemic unfortunately coincided with the transition from the legacy Learning Management System (LMS) Blackboard to the new LMS, Canvas. Overall, the transition to the new LMS was smooth and without significant problems.

  • In the Spring 2021 term there were 5,483 courses published on Canvas. 83.5% of Teachers and 92.1% of Students had at least one active course during this term (See Figure 2). In addition to the rapid shift between systems, the overall number of courses actively using an LMS during the fall and spring terms was up 12.5% this past year.
  • While a large majority of courses used Canvas in the summer 2020 term, most faculty used Canvas for the first time in the fall 2020 term. Going into the fall, only 25.5% of faculty assigned to fall courses had previously taught a course using Canvas at Pitt. By spring 2021 that number jumped to 71.2%. The Teaching Center offered many training opportunities in advance of the fall term, and over 1,000 faculty (32.6%) enrolled in fall 2020 term courses attended at least one of our training sessions.
  • The rapid increase in Canvas usage can be seen in the system-wide number of views. During the summer 2020 term the average number of monthly views was just over 5 million. This number jumped to over 42 million views per month on average over the course of the fall 2021 term (See Figure 3).
  • We saw a dramatic shift in support requests by LMS platform. Canvas comprised 63.7% of support requests so far this academic year, compared to just 17.3% during the same period last academic year (See Figure 4).
  • In addition to trainings and live support, we also launched and maintained a set of online self-help resources, which had over 59,000 views during the current academic year.
  • In partnership with Pitt IT, we launched a group of Canvas Subaccount Administrators from across Pitt’s schools and academic units. These staff have additional privileges in Canvas to allow them to better support their faculty.
  • Faculty have responded favorably to the new system, despite the extra work required for conversion. 94% of COVID-19 Faculty Survey – Fall 2020 respondents who reported using Canvas said that it worked very well or somewhat well.

The transition to Canvas was a massive undertaking and support for the transition was the result of a multi-year partnership with our colleagues at Pitt IT. We worked closely with them every step of the way, and that partnership was invaluable as we modified our pre-pandemic plans.

Pitt Professional Education Wordmark

Continuing Education

The Teaching Center continues to play an important role in supporting the design, development, delivery and management of online degree, certificate and continuing education programs.

  • The Pitt Online 2018 Seed Grant Pilot Project, Pitt Professional, has expanded its list of University partners to include continuing education courses from the School of Medicine, School of Pharmacy, School of Computing and Information, School of Social Work, Africana Studies, School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, Institute for Learning, and the School of Education. Pitt Professional is also currently planning to develop courses for the Katz Graduate School Executive Education Program. Pitt Professional enrollment to date has exceeded 1,300 students and course revenue is growing at a rapid pace.
  • We partnered with the School of Law to begin development of 15 credits of online courses for the Master of Studies in Law (MSL) Program, which combined with 15 credits from the current School of Law Health Care Compliance certificate or Human Resources Law certificate will allow students to gain an MSL degree fully online. We also worked with the School of Law to submit new proposals for a Sports, Arts, and Entertainment certificate, an International Business Law and Dispute Resolution certificate, and a Corporate Compliance certificate, all of which will be future options for the MSL online option. Their strategy of building on the MSL core courses has proven to be a successful one for Law and a model for other schools.
  • We migrated the entire catalog of online credit courses to Canvas, while increasing course quality, providing training, technical help, and instructional guidance to faculty, improving Canvas templates for Nursing and Law, recommending use of Open Educational Resources (OER,) promoting diversity and inclusion, and ensuring accessibility.
  • The Teaching Center, in partnership with Coursera, offered an opportunity for University of Pittsburgh students, faculty and staff access to nearly the entire Coursera catalogue of 3,800 courses built by Coursera partner institutions, including our own University of Pittsburgh Coursera courses, at no cost though the Coursera Partner Consortium.
  • We are working with the College of General Studies, providing instructional guidance for faculty-based online development cohorts. These groups of faculty are converting courses from a face-to-face delivery model to an online format for the College of General Studies BA/BS Degree in Health Services and have completed 18 courses with eight more currently in development.
  • Infant Mental Health, a School of Education online professional development course created by Professor Robert Gallen, was released to over 250 state participants from Tuscarora Intermediate Unit, a regional educational service agency operating in south-central Pennsylvania. Interest in the course continues to grow as Professor Gallen is currently working with other interested units in Pennsylvania. This course resides on the Pitt Professional pilot platform and is a model for the impact and reach of professional development short courses.
Faculty attendees for the Teaching Center's Mentoring Academy
Faculty who attended Canvas Workshops
Impressions through our Twitter, Facebook and YouTube channels
Community Engagement

Diversity Digest Videos


  • The Teaching Center developed and continuously updated pedagogy resources developed to support teaching within the Flex@Pitt model, including the Teaching Center’s website, the Flex@Pitt Teaching Support Playbook, and online course template, as well as tutorials and training videos. The Flex@Pitt Playbook has had over 18,000 views since August 1, 2020.
  • We regularly published our newsletter, sometimes twice per week, to share timely information with faculty. 17% of COVID-19 Faculty Survey – Fall 2020 respondents indicated that they relied on the Teaching Center newsletter as a source of information for COVID-19 updates.
  • We launched a new video series called Diversity Digest, which focuses on faculty and staff who are creating inclusive learning environments and performing exemplary work in the diversity, inclusion, and equity space. Five installments are currently available on our YouTube channel.
  • We continue to expand our outreach to faculty via multiple channels.
    • Our newsletter distribution list has grown to 7,000 recipients (See Figure 7). This audience is highly engaged, with 55% of that list regularly opening and clicking on content in our emails.
    • The Teaching Center website saw over 250,000 page views between July 1, 2020-April 4, 2021. This is an increase of approximately 40,000 page views over the same time period the previous academic year.
    • On Twitter we’ve seen over 350,000 impressions since July 1, 2020.
    • Our YouTube audience grew to 117 subscribers this year. Since July 1, 2020, we’ve had nearly 5,200 video views. A top highlight is a video series called Faculty Success Stories featuring those who excelled in the Flex@Pitt instruction, which so far has garnered approximately 800 views.


  • New Faculty Orientation, which the Teaching Center hosts on behalf of the Office of the Provost, adopted a modified format this year, taking place online throughout July and August, culminating with a synchronous, online welcome from Provost Cudd. The new format gave new faculty earlier access to information, addressing feedback from previous years. Of the 318 new faculty invited, 133 attended (42%). Excluding the School of Medicine, the attendance rate was 70%–the highest since 2015.
  • New Teaching Assistant Orientation (NTAO) was similarly held in a remote fashion this year. The synchronous NTAO Welcome Session, held August 14, 2020, included, as in previous years, an address from and Q&A with the Vice Provost for Graduate Studies, an introduction to the Graduate Student Teaching Initiative, and presentation on Title IX policies. In addition to the customary introduction to educational technology available at Pitt, this year’s orientation focused especially upon orienting TAs/TFs to the technologies and strategies relevant to the Flex@Pitt model of hybrid remote/in-person instruction. A recording of the session was made available to permit asynchronous attendance for those unable to participate in the live session. Attendees also completed additional workshops, administered asynchronously through Canvas, including: Role of the TA, Getting Started in the Classroom, Dealing with Difficult Situations, and Preventing and Monitoring Cheating and Plagiarism. 186 graduate and professional students attended from eight schools.
High Quality Service

Teaching Surveys

  • OMET successfully administered end-of-term teaching surveys to assist faculty and administrators in collecting student feedback about courses and instruction. 14,588 surveys were administered across the fall 2020 and spring 2021 terms. The response rate in the fall was 48%. (See Figure 5) Spring surveys are still in progress.
  • Questions about remote teaching and learning were again added to this year’s OMET surveys, giving students the opportunity to voice their opinions about the remote environment and providing faculty with feedback as they designed courses for upcoming terms.
SP20 Response Rate 43%
FA19 Response Rate 57%

University of Pittsburgh Testing Center

Staff Recognition
Annual Report 2020 - Mike Arenth Staff Mentor Award

Staff Mentor Award

Michael Arenth, director of educational technologies, received the 2019 Staff Mentor Award in December. The award recognizes staff members whose positive impact goes well beyond the workplace. He received the award during the chancellor’s staff recognition ceremony on December 5. Said one of the nominators: “Since working with Mike, I have gone from having a job to having a career.”

(Pictured left-right: University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Patrick Gallagher, Director of Educational Technologies Michael Arenth, Bobby Ackerman, Dr. Sera Thornton, Cressida Magaro, Aaron Graham.)

2019 Advancing Educational Excellence award winners

Advancing Educational Excellence Awards

For the third year, we have recognized staff members with the annual Advancing Educational Excellence Awards, a staff recognition program that rewards a Teaching Center staff member who exemplifies the Teaching Center’s values. Nominations are made by Center staff. Recognized this year were (left-to-right):

  • Dr. Charline Rowland, teaching consultant, Teaching Support
  • Mark Vehec, web developer, Communication and Outreach
  • Robin Albright, senior instructional designer, Pitt Online
  • Dr. Tahirah Walker, manager, Teaching Support
Learning Initiatives

Assessment of Teaching

Assessment of Teaching: The Teaching Center continues to advocate for and support a holistic approach to both formative and summative assessments of teaching. The implementation of the 2019 ACIE recommendations on assessment of teaching was approved and codified in the Provost’s Feb. 16th memo on assessment of teaching, and we expect it to have a significant and enduring impact on the university. Support for this endeavor was added to the activities in the Center’s Assessment of Teaching Initiative.

  • Since July, the Assessment of Teaching Initiative has provided approximately 400 hours of support to help faculty and academic units improve assessment of teaching effectiveness. This includes the creation of resources and providing consultations to support academic units implementing the 2019 ACIE recommendations.
  • Staff also developed resources and tools for the use and interpretation of survey results and continued to build on its message about how these fit into overall unit assessment plans in support of the Provost’s Memo on Assessment of Teaching.
  • Teaching Center staff coordinated the breakout sessions and worked in collaboration with the Office of the Provost to deliver the annual Assessment and Teaching Conference which was held virtually this year, and was the first use of Pitt’s approved new conference platform, Accelevents. The one-day event on Feb 12 was attended by 246 out of 280 registered faculty, staff and administrators.
  • Use of the midterm course surveys offered by OMET increased dramatically in fall 2020 and remained steady spring 2021. 904 surveys were administered in fall 2020, a 60% increase over spring 2020. 935 surveys were administered in spring 2021.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI): The Teaching Center continues to support Pitt students by enriching the experience and knowledge of faculty and TAs with interactive workshops, one-on-one consultations, and other programming that underscores the value of diversity, equity, and inclusion in teaching.

  • The Center managed the process for the Fourth Annual Provost’s Award for Diversity in the Curriculum. A total of five awards were presented this year to seven faculty. Each award carries a $2000 stipend. This year’s event was held fully online in February, and was well-attended and widely featured on our YouTube channel.
  • Members of the Teaching Center worked with faculty to produce video content, to create student surveys, and to manage the launch and ongoing delivery of Pitt 0210 (Anti-Black Racism: History, Ideology, and Resistance). Developed under a tight timeline, the course was required of all first-year students and has had significant media visibility. Over 5,000 students completed the course during the fall 2020 term. Course content has been made available to the public. In addition, the 27 individuals who worked to create and deliver the course were also recognized at the Diversity Award ceremony.
  • The Center for Diversity in the Curriculum launched several new DEI-focused workshops, including: teaching with equity, supporting trans students and supporting international student writing.
  • Our Center also launched new online DEI resources, including an Anti-racism resource site and new, LGBTQIA+ resources.
  • The 2021 Provost’s Diversity Institute for Faculty Development begins on May 10, 2021, and will run online again this year. Registration for the opening event has already surpassed 100 attendees–the largest advance signup we’ve ever seen for the institute’s opening session in its seven year history. OMET expanded and highlighted survey questions about diversity and inclusion that instructors are able add to their individual teaching surveys. (WE CAN UPDATE THIS WITH STATS SINCE THE EVENT JUST ENDED.)
  • A question about diversity and inclusion was added to all spring 2021 teaching surveys.
  • We are working with the School of Nursing as they develop an online “Introduction to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Healthcare” course.
  • The new position of Director of Equitable and Inclusive Teaching was posted and interviews commenced in April 2021. The individual in this role will work across the Center and the University to develop and support faculty efforts to integrate diversity into the curriculum and create inclusive learning environments.

Back row, from left: Laurie Kirsch, vice provost for faculty affairs, development, and diversity, Lori Delale-O’Connor, Karen Gilmer, Chandralekha Singh and Kevin Binning. Front row, from left: Tuangtip Klinbubpa-Neff; Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor Ann E. Cudd; Erica McGreevy; Paula K. Davis, assistant vice chancellor for health sciences diversity in the School of Health Sciences; and Cynthia Golden, associate vice provost, executive director of the Center for Teaching and Learning. (Aimee Obidzinski/University of Pittsburgh)

Provost’s Diversity in the Curriculum Awards

  • Six Pitt faculty were recognized with the third annual Provost’s Diversity in the Curriculum Awards for their work in creating a more diverse curricula and inclusive learning environment. This included a monetary award for each faculty member.
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