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University Center for Teaching and Learning
2019-20 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.

Over the years 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.

“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
March 2020: University Transition to Remote Teaching and Learning

“Faculty Week” Activities

The staff of the Teaching Center executed a remarkable feat in March and April of 2020. In late February, as concerns about the spread of the novel Coronavirus were mounting, discussions began in the Teaching Center about how we could help to support the University community should things become worse. After the novel Coronavirus was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization and a national emergency was declared in the United States, the University made the decision on March 11 to pause all courses until March 23, and transition all courses at all campuses to remote instruction for the remainder of the spring term.

The week of March 15 was used as a period for faculty to modify their courses from face-to-face to remote delivery. To assist, the Teaching Center created numerous resources, including an Instructional Continuity web site, preparedness checklists for faculty, instructional strategies, and important technology resources. We developed a robust communication strategy, working with deans to identify “Remote Teaching Contacts” in schools with whom we were in daily communication.  We used social media, the web pages, and our newsletters to share best practices and research-based strategies for remote teaching effectiveness and to invite faculty to participate in our workshops and consulting hours before classes resumed on March 23.

During that important week, 1,354 faculty attended our virtual workshops (which were recorded and subsequently accessed by hundreds more), 99 faculty participated in virtual office hours, and we fielded hundreds of phone and email questions. The popular Teaching Online at Pitt course saw 328 faculty enroll as we continued to provide faculty with just-in-time resources and advice on how to communicate with their students. We also worked with our colleagues in Pitt IT to secure and provide instructional support for the ZOOM software, which would be critical to enabling remote, synchronous engagement among faculty and students. When classes resumed on March 23, over 5,500 courses were running in our two learning management systems, Blackboard and Canvas, and we were supporting faculty in both environments.


To help faculty move their spring courses to remote delivery, teaching consultants hosted a series of virtual workshops and remote open office hours dedicated to maintaining instructional continuity, starting on March 16. Nearly 100 faculty participated in open office hours, 1,300 faculty attended workshops in real-time, and more than 1,500 faculty watched the recorded workshops afterwards.

I just wanted to let you know how great and helpful these tutorials are for people working remotely. I learned plenty of new information and, even for some things I was already familiar with, it’s nice to have confirmation that I’m doing something right! Thanks for everything you and the staff at the Teaching Center are doing!

Brett H. Say, PhD
Director of Research and Creative Programs
University Honors College

Teaching Center Website

We saw unprecedented web traffic in March, as the front page of our website was converted into an instructional continuity hub of information about assessments, planning, educational technology tools, and support on teaching and learning available to faculty, staff, and students as the University responded to the COVID-19 pandemic. Between March 11 and March 31, there were more than 31,000 page views, including a one-day high of 1,626 views on March 22. Our website saw an additional 30,000 page views throughout the month of April, surpassing our normal traffic by nearly 500%.

I’ve referred to the resources you’ve shared online and via email a lot throughout remote teaching and cannot thank you enough for all of the work you put into this. It has been very helpful.

Rob Mucklo
Associate Director, Faculty
English Language Institute
Department of Linguistics

Teaching Center Newsletter

We increased our normal distribution of the Teaching Center newsletter from every Friday to twice per week during the second half of the term, to ensure that the University community was receiving updates in a timely fashion. Between March 13 and March 31, the newsletter was opened and read nearly 118,000 times, and faculty clicked on a link to seek out more content almost 33,000 times.

The University Center for Teaching and Learning are true heroes and clearly working around the clock to support the Pitt community. It is appreciated and has not gone unnoticed.

Cindy McCarthy, MA, DHCE
Consortium Ethics Program
Center for Bioethics and Health Law

Social Media

The Teaching Center’s Facebook and Twitter accounts proved to be valuable media through which our information was distributed to the University community and beyond. Between March 11 and March 31, our Facebook and Twitter pages combined to make over 75,000 impressions. In April, the accounts tallied almost 32,000 impressions for an average of 1,000 per day.

The Teaching Center has been absolutely amazing! I’ve had so many folks write in praising and thanking you.

John Twyning, PhD
Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies
Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences and the College of General Studies

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
Professional Development for Faculty

Faculty Badging and Credentialing

  • 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 faculty attended one of our 236 publicly offered workshops publicly offered workshops this past year, surpassing last year’s total by nearly 800 attendees. We saw high enrollment in our Canvas webinars during the spring term.

Teaching Innovation
Canvas logo - transparent.

Learning Management System Transition to Canvas

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.
  • More than 85% of Pitt’s summer 2020 courses used Canvas; now, all courses for fall 2020 will use Canvas in support of the Flex@Pitt teaching model. You can find additional information about the Canvas transition in the High Quality Service section.

I had started working with the Teaching Center as an early adopter of Canvas, so I was excited about working with Canvas in the spring term. It absolutely lived up to that billing. It was a seamless transition for my students, as well as a much better mobile experience, which was something that was important to me in terms of developing the course.

Tom Davis
Clinical Assistant Professor of Business Administration
Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business

Pitt Professional Education Wordmark

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 the Schools of Computing and Information, Education, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, and Social Work to develop a total of 23 programs.

Course Incubator

The Course Incubator completed its first wave of transformations with significant changes to Biology, Chemistry, and Economics courses. A second call for proposals was issued in fall 2019 and two proposals were identified for possible funding, but the COVID-19 pandemic emerged before a final funding decision could be made.

  • The Biology project purchased new technology to enable active learning in large classrooms and produced materials, such as a graphic syllabus, to promote more robust engagement. That project was also able to partner with the Office of the Provost, the Office of the University Registrar, and the Office of Facilities Management to upgrade furniture in two of its recitation classrooms in Langley Hall.
  • In Fall 2018, four of eight class sections of General Chemistry I used the Process-Oriented Group Inquiry Learning (POGIL) method to engage students in active discovery learning. An analysis of student grades General Chemistry II, the next course in the sequence, revealed not only less attrition among students from the POGIL class sections but also better performance in final grades among the POGIL students over the students in the control sections.
  • The Economics project redesigned its recitation classes to incorporate active group learning. Final course grades from Fall 2018, the first semester in which the transformation was implemented, were compared to prior fall semesters. We focused on the relative performance of under-represented minorities (URMs) to the majority White students. URMs performed approximately a half-letter grade below White and Asian peers in every semester prior to Fall 2018. In Fall 2018, the Course Grades are almost identical.


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. Cumulatively, the tool saw a submission increase of 260% from the previous academic year.

Top Hat

Adoption continues to rise, with more than 3.75 million responses collected during the 2019-20 school year (an increase of 39% over the previous year).

Media Creation Lab

The Teaching Center’s Media Creation Lab in Alumni Hall saw increased usage again this year until COVID-19 disrupted the spring term. The lab is available by appointment for faculty, staff and students to develop podcasts, record interviews and instructional videos, and create lightboard videos.

Faculty attendees for the Teaching Center's Mentoring Academy
Faculty who attended Canvas Workshops
Impressions through our Twitter, Facebook and YouTube channels
Community Engagement

[toggle title=”New Faculty Orientation” state=”opened”]

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

[toggle title=”New Part-Time Faculty Orientation”]

On Jan. 14, 2020, the Office of the Provost and the Teaching Center hosted the first ever New Part-Time Faculty Orientation, an evening session that brought together dozens of new faculty from across the university to learn about the various resources, services, and opportunities available to them at Pitt. Speakers from departments throughout the University gave presentations, as did teaching consultants from the Teaching Center.

[toggle title=”New Teaching Assistant Orientation”]

We successfully delivered New Teaching Assistant Orientation in both Fall and Spring terms, with over 200 students attending. 2019 marked the second year experienced teaching assistants and teaching fellows facilitated informal discussions about students’ teaching experience and expectations over breakfast.


I really value the opportunity to come to where there are other faculty members who really care about teaching, and who have a lot of ideas about teaching. It’s an opportunity for us to share our experiences, concerns, ideas.

Marie Norman, PhD
Associate Professor of Medicine and Clinical and Translational Science
Director, Innovative Design for Education and Assessment (IDEA) Lab
Department of Medicine

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.


  • Weekly newsletters reach more than 6,700 faculty, staff, teaching assistants, and faculty support specialists, including part- and full-time faculty from all five University campuses.
  • TC60: This series offers a catalog 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)

The work of your team is deeply appreciated by our faculty here in Bradford. Am hearing lots of positives.

Catherine Koverola, PhD
President, University of Pittsburgh at Bradford and Titusville
Professor of Psychology

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.

Learning Management System Conversion to Canvas

Early Canvas adopters utilized the learning management system in the fall and spring terms and reported positive and successful experiences. Canvas training ramped up throughout the year and gained special attention when all instruction moved online in March.

  • 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
  • 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

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

Classroom Services continues to provide multiple services to faculty, students, and teaching assistants in a variety of ways. Click any of the graphs below to see larger version of statistical data.

Annual Report 2020 - Basic Lecture Capture Recording
Annual Report 2020 - Basic Lecture Capture Recording
Annual Report 2020 - Digital Media Content Conversions
Annual Report 2020 - Digital Media Content Conversions
Annual Report 2020 - Educational Technology Term Loans
Annual Report 2020 - Educational Technology Term Loans
Annual Report 2020 - Technology Deliveries to Classroom Campuses
Annual Report 2020 - Technology Deliveries to Classroom Campuses
Annual Report 2020 - Video Conferences
Annual Report 2020 - Video Conferences
SP20 Response Rate 43%
FA19 Response Rate 57%

New Assessment Opportunity:
Midterm 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.

Recording studio interview with faculty and student

Academic Digital Media

We created 48 instructional videos used in face-to-face or online classes, with an additional 42 in progress.

Cumulatively, the audio/visual support we provided for over a hundred academic and scholarly events enhanced the experience for more than 3,000 in-person and virtual guests attending conferences, symposia, and special events on or near campus.

Thank you so much for videotaping the Dick Thornburgh Forum. We appreciate all of your help with requests to connect to the livestream. As always, your department goes above and beyond!

Kim Carson
Program Administrator
Dick Thornburgh Forum for Law and Public Policy
Institute of Politics

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

Center for Diversity in the Curriculum

Throughout the academic year, we supported the University’s efforts to enrich the experience and knowledge of faculty and graduate student teaching assistants through a variety of activities that underscore the value of diversity, inclusion, and equity in teaching across all content areas.

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.

Assessment of Teaching

  • The Teaching Center revamped its efforts to triangulate data by assessing teaching using multiples methods of reviews. We bolstered our comprehensive set of resources to include department peer assessment, self-assessment, teaching portfolios, and much more.

Learning Space Development

Continual improvement of teaching spaces at Pitt is a major University activity that the Center supports strongly. The Teaching Center’s Learning Space Development Team completed 14 projects for schools and departments across the Pitt community, as well as three renovation and technology projects with the University’s Classroom Management Team.


  • We continued to make significant progress in achieving compliance with accessibility for our online and digital assets by:
  • Working with Pitt’s digital accessibility coordinator to secure Ally, which was successfully piloted with faculty in the Fall 2019 term.
  • Monitoring our website for accessibility issues through tools such as Siteimprove and coordinating with the Office of Diversity and Inclusion on implementing accessibility best practices for web content.
  • Close-captioning all videos on our website and in our original video series.

Everyone has been amazingly responsive as we work to figure out how to ensure online courses are accessible to students registered with Disability Resources and Services. Accessibility is being forgotten in this conversation at many other institutions and I’m proud that’s not the case here at Pitt.

Angie Bedford-Jack
Digital Accessibility Coordinator

Open Lab

Open Lab set new records for engagement with the Pitt community in the past year. Now operating in both Alumni Hall and Hillman Library, Open Lab continues to offer virtual reality exploration, 3D printing, and project consultations to faculty, staff, and students. Even with a shortened spring term, Open Lab surpassed its goals for the school year in walk-in client interactions (1,759); faculty, staff, and students taught via training sessions (903); outreach events (105 events with ~1,700 attendees); and scheduled training sessions (95).

3D-printed brain model
3D-printed brain model

I relied on several members of the Open lab to train my neuroanatomy students in the use of 3D modeling software, assess students’ 3D modeling skills prior to and after the students did a 3D brain structure modeling project, print the 3D brain structure models my students created on 3D printers available in the Open Lab, and consult with students about improving their models at several stages during the project. The Open Lab staff was instrumental to the success of this project. They were consistently knowledgeable, reliable, and helpful. In particular, during the transition to online learning in the Spring 2020 term, Open Lab members were proactive and creative about helping me implement this project online as smoothly as possible. I look forward to continuing to collaborate with them.

Erika E. Fanselow, PhD
Lecturer, Department of Neuroscience

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