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University Center for Teaching and Learning
2020 Annual Report

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

Cynthia Golden

The 2019-20 academic year will forever be remembered for the University’s shift to remote learning in mid-March due to the emergency planning caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Our Center became a focal point for faculty seeking guidance and resources on remote teaching, assessment alternatives, and out-of-the-box course delivery approaches as they were forced to complete the spring term from home. It became abundantly clear that the work we do in this Center supports the mission of the University in significant ways—and continues to do so.

We are not a typical Teaching Center — and we are proud of that. We have become a driving force in supporting the University by creating opportunities for faculty to learn, engage and experiment to improve teaching and learning at Pitt. Our Center brings together under one umbrella many of the services that are critical to enable academic excellence and innovation. This annual report illustrates our transformative impact on the University’s teaching and learning activities through our special initiatives, projects, and services.

Faculty attendees for the Teaching Center's Mentoring Academy
Faculty who attended virtual workshops the week of March 15
Service tickets resolved by the Educational Software Consulting group
Professional Development for Faculty
Spring 2020 43%
Fall 2019 57%

OMET Teaching Surveys

The Office of Measurement and Evaluation of Teaching (OMET) successfully piloted midterm course surveys during the fall term, with 49 instructors participating and representing 65 classes. Average response rate was 41 percent, an impressive showing for a pilot survey. Nearly all of the participating faculty indicated that they would administer midterm surveys in the future, with 88 percent saying that made changes to their current course based on feedback they received from the survey. Before COVID-19 interrupted the spring term, 490 midterm course surveys had been requested.

Faculty badging/credentialing

Pharmacy, School of Computing and Information, Social Work involved. 

  • The Center awarded badges and credentials to faculty and graduate student teaching assistants through these programs: 
    • The Seminars for Faculty, a program that offers pedagogy credentials to faculty in four topic areas, with 38 faculty participating in year- long learning communities.
    • Graduate Student Teaching Initiative’s Teaching Assistant and Teaching Fellows Teaching Certification/Pedagogy Badge Program, which is held in collaboration with individual departments and schools. To date, since January of 2016, 496 graduate students have enrolled in the program (73 in the previous academic year). A total of 101 students have earned the pedagogy credential, with 24 awarded in the last year (May 2019 – May 2020).

The Mentoring Academy

The Mentoring Academy launched in April 2019, offered four sessions covering eight competencies during the fall and spring terms. In total, 148 faculty attendees from nine different schools and departments attended, including 21 who attended remotely once the University had shifted to a remote posture.


A total of 2,073 (not unique) faculty attended one of 236 publicly offered workshops this past year, including high enrollment in our Canvas webinars during the spring term. Participants continue to respond positively to our workshops, with the average satisfaction rating being above 4.3 on a scale of 1-5, with many workshops receiving a solid 5 across the board.

Teaching Innovation

Canvas Transition

An implementation team began work to launch a limited release in Fall 2019.  This has been a significant project for the Teaching Center, Pitt IT and our faculty. 

  • A large outreach effort to faculty resulted in broad faculty preparation during the academic year.  2,726 instructors attended workshops delivered by the LMS team in AY 2020.

Pitt Professional

With funding from last year’s Seed Grant program, we purchased a two-year license to Canvas and Catalogue to host online, non-credit, continuing professional education courses. We obtained access to the platform in January 2019 and are partnering with several schools to develop the programs below. We are currently pursuing a licensing strategy and financial model that will enable wider campus access in the coming academic year.

Course Incubator

A second Call for Proposals for the Course Incubator Initiative was issued in Fall 2019. The COVID-19 crisis emerged before a final funding decision could be made. However, two proposals were singled out as possible recipients of funding later in the year. One is a Calculus course in the Math Department. The project team proposes to flip the class by developing short lecture videos and create in-class, hands-on activities. The other is an Algebra course taught at the Greensburg Campus. That team proposes to use a POGIL approach to enable active group learning. The Teaching Center is working with both of these teams to help them maintain momentum during the funding decision postponement period. 

  • Additional, the Biology, Chemistry, and Econ departments have projects ongoing.


This year saw broad adoption of Gradescope. In spring term, more than 8,700 students were active in Gradescope with more than 124,000 submissions (an increase of 260% over the previous year).

Top Hat

Adoption continues to rise, with more than 375,000 responses collected during the 2019-2020 school year (an increase of 39% over the previous year).

Media Creation Lab

The Teaching Center’s Media Creation Lab in Alumni Hall is available by appointment for faculty, staff and students to develop podcasts, record interviews and instructional videos, and create lightboard videos. The clients in the lab are provided training, consulting, and equipment to create and produce broadcast quality content. Usage of the facility increased again this year.

Proctored seated testers at the Testing Center
Student responses recorded using the Top Hat polling tool
Impressions through our Twitter, Facebook and YouTube channels
Community Engagement

New Faculty Orientation: In Fall 2019 a total of 138 new faculty attended, with an average satisfaction rating of 4.67 on a five-point scale, one of the highest ratings ever. 

New Part-Time Faculty Orientation: The Office of the Provost and the Teaching Center hosted the first ever New Part-Time Faculty Orientation. There were 258 new part-time faculty invited and 25 attended.

New Teaching Assistant Orientation: Programs were offered according to plan with 184 students participating in the Fall event.

Faculty Communities

The Center facilitated multiple faculty communities that support topical, focused learning and engagement over a semester or academic year, including:

  • The Teaching Partners, which engages faculty from across the University who use the Teaching Center’s resources to support and enhance their teaching practice. Participation grew from 36 faculty in September to over 210 by spring 2020.
  • The Extended Diversity Program: this community meets over two terms to continue their work begun in the summer as part of the Diversity Institute, collaborating with each other and with teaching consultants, instructional designers and liaison librarians on syllabus changes, course content enhancements and pedagogical strategies.
  • The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL):  During the SoTL seminar, faculty work to design and implement a research plan aimed at improving learning in their classrooms. They identify a problem, conduct a literature review, design a research plan, identify or create measurement instruments, collect and analyze data, and write up the results.
  • The Large Enrollment Faculty Learning Community was launched in Fall 2017. Since that time, 114 faculty have participated. In this current academic year, 26 faculty participated in the fall and 17 in the spring. The final session of the spring semester was conducted as a Zoom meeting to accommodate COVID-19 restrictions.

Faculty Outreach

  • Weekly newsletters reach more than 6,700 faculty, staff, and University community members. This now includes the majority of part- and full-time faculty at the Pitt regional campuses.
  • TC60: This series offers a roster of 25 one-minute stories about a Pitt happening at which the Teaching Center played a facilitating role.
  • Headlines: This series features faculty who have used the Teaching Center services in some way. The 23 episodes have been viewed several thousand times.
  • Diversity Digest: Our newest series offers video segments on faculty who are doing exemplary work in the diversity, inclusion, and equity space. Our first episode premiered in February and more videos are planned.
  • The Teaching Center’s social media impact continues to grow year over year.
    • Twitter impressions: 400,000 impressions (+62% from 2019)
    • Facebook impressions: 7,5200 impressions (steady from 2019)
    • YouTube views: 6,000 views (+90% from 2019)
High-Quality Service

Online Learning

  • Pitt Online ran 46 courses in summer 2019 with a total of 295 students, 60 courses in fall 2019 with a total of 365 students and 55 courses in the spring of 2020 with a total of 346 students enrolled in them.
  • MOOCs: We successfully maintained multiple Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), with enrollment reaching 405,313 learners across an international population.

LMS Conversion to Canvas

Early Canvas adopter cohorts in the fall and spring terms verified the conversion and delivery process of course content. Canvas training ramped up throughout the year and gained special attention when all instruction moved online. 

  • The LMS team resolved 4,512 service tickets this year, an increase of 50% over the previous year.
  • 2, 726 instructors attended workshops delivered by the LMS team in AY 2020
  • We completed major system updates to Blackboard in 12/2018 and 5/2019
  • Using a new metric for student usage, we saw percent of students with at least one active course rise from 90% in Fall 2018 to 92% in Fall 2019
  • The faculty attendance at educational technology workshops doubled this year:
    • AY18-19 to date: 48 workshops, 442 attendees
    • AY17-18 to date: 42 workshops, 223 attendees
  • The number of individual faculty assisted by our consultants also grew:
    • AY18-19 to date: 2,774 tickets closed 1,323 individuals helped
    • AY17-18: 1,832 tickets closed; 1,169 individuals helped
Proctored seated testers at the Testing Center

University of Pittsburgh Testing Center

Proctored testing remained steady with nearly 10,000 seated testers during the academic year (still an incredible jump from 4,000 during the 2011-12 academic year).

This figure includes a consistent annual increase of 25 percent for students with accommodations through our partnership with the Office of Disability Resources and Services.

Classroom Services

Click any of the graphs below to see larger version of statistical data.

Annual Report 2020 - Basic Lecture Capture Recording
Annual Report 2020 - Digital Media Content Conversions
Annual Report 2020 - Educational Technology Term Loans
Annual Report 2020 - Technology Deliveries to Classroom Campuses
Annual Report 2020 - Video Conferences
In House Productions

Academic Digital Media

We created 48 instructional videos used in face-to-face or online classes, with another 42 currently in production.

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
Digital Media

We created 48 instructional videos used in face-to-face or online classes, with another 42 currently in production.

Academic Digital Media

We created 48 instructional videos used in face-to-face or online classes, with another 42 currently in production.


Faculty Voices

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Some say we know more about the cosmos
than we do our own waters. Maybe that’s what draws us to the sea —
the vast expanse, the impermeable deep.
The uncharted has long inspired generations of folklore.

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