Teaching and Learning Assistants provide tech help for Penn Staters

Credit: Katie Bohn / Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The start of a new semester is always hectic. There are new students, new schedules and more often than not, new technologies designed to help faculty teach and students learn.

To help faculty with the constant stream of new technologies that can be used in the classroom, the Teaching and Learning Assistants (TLAs) — a subunit of the Tech Tutors service offered by Penn State Information Technology — are available to aid students, faculty and staff in learning to use and incorporate technology into their courses.

The Tech Tutors and TLAs specialize in such software programs as Microsoft Office Suite, Adobe Creative Suite, Sites at Penn State, ANGEL, Wordpress, Photoshop and Prezi, as well as Canvas, Penn State’s new learning management system.

“We help faculty with many different types of software, and, particularly this year, with the transition from ANGEL to Canvas,” said Lauren Godfrey, staff coordinator for the Tech Tutors and TLAs. “We’ll take a crack at anything, and welcome all faculty, staff and students to stop by during our walk-in hours, email us for an appointment or start a live online chat session with a TLA on the Tech Tutors website.”

Leah Eckman and Dale Reyes, sophomores majoring in computer science, both said they enjoy working with and helping their fellow Penn Staters while also getting the chance to learn new things themselves.

“I love helping people. It’s always cool when someone comes in with a problem I also have had in the past,” Reyes said. “Usually I know exactly how to help them because I was going through the same thing at one point.”

Gabriella Tolotta, a sophomore majoring in computer engineering, said she also enjoys connecting with others about computers — even when that connection comes with pressure.

“A woman working on earning her doctorate in psychology rushed in one day because her thesis was due in 20 minutes and she needed help,” Tolotta said. “She needed help getting a Word document formatted, and I was able to help her in time to turn it in.”

In addition to helping people during their walk-in hours, the students have also helped faculty and students in the classroom.

Josephine Pirrone, a lecturer in English at Penn State, reached out to the assistants for help incorporating blogging into her ENGL 202A writing course. She wanted her students to use the Sites at Penn State service, as well as other blogging platforms like Weebly and Wix, to create electronic portfolios and personal blogs to use in the class.

After contacting the TLAs, Pirrone arranged for a TLA to visit her class to help her students set up and get started posting on their new blogs. She said it was especially helpful because she could focus on answering questions about writing while the TLA helped the students with technical issues.

“Oftentimes, the students knew what they wanted to do or say while creating and customizing their blog, but needed help actually doing it,” Pirrone said. “It also freed me up to help the students with their content instead of troubleshooting the technology.”

Tara Wyckoff, a Penn State lecturer in advertising and public relations, also reached out to the TLAs for help with a project in class. Her public relations students had been tasked with creating an email newsletter with the Adobe publishing software InDesign, and Wyckoff wanted some extra help making sure she and her students knew how to get the most from the program.

“It’s so important for my students to have a wide range of skills,” Wyckoff said. “They can’t just be writers and communicators, they need to have web and design skills, too. This project built on their skill sets, and the TLAs helped tremendously with that.”

Much like in Pirrone’s class, a TLA visited with Wyckoff and her students at the beginning of the semester to help them learn best practices and tips and tricks for using InDesign.

“I was very impressed the several times I’ve worked with the student assistants,” Wyckoff said. “They’ve always been very professional and have given great, prompt customer service.”

The Tech Tutors and TLAs are located in 201 Pollock Building and W-122 in the Knowledge Commons in Pattee Library. Walk-in hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday. Live chats are also available on the Tech Tutors website from 1 to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday.

Appointments can be requested by completing the TLA request form. Help with Canvas can be requested via the special Canvas help request form.

Last Updated September 29, 2016