From a class that focuses on the culture and criticism of artist Kanye West to a digital product design class that allows students to test app design, new Students Teaching Students (STS) courses will be offered at University Park beginning next spring.
Founded by student Michael Miller and co-directed by student Josie Krieger (sophomore-history and economics), the pair will test the program that they hope will continue for years to come.
“We’re piloting five courses in the spring,” Miller (junior-values driven product design) said. “[Right now], we're kind of laying the foundation now for to be something that could stay 50 years down the road.”
The names of two of the one-credit courses offered in spring 2020 are 197c: Culture, Critique and Kanye and HCDD 296/496: Digital Product Design. Both courses will be taught by students who created all the content — from the syllabus to lesson plans.
“The goal is to kind of have these niche courses where they can kind of fit into a student schedule without being a strain on it,” Miller said.
Bisman Deol and Cory Steinle will co-instruct the Kanye-centered course.
Deol (senior-biological sciences and health professions) said making the syllabus for the class was easy, and he and Steinle (senior-labor and human relations, and communication arts and sciences) finished the rough draft in one day.
The pair faced difficulty when faced with the need to filter the ideas they wanted to focus on the most.
“I've been listening to Kanye since I was eight years old and nonstop since then,” Deol said.
“As I've grown, the ways I appreciate his music have changed, and that's one thing that I wanted to focus…the idea of as we grow and as a genre or a culture grows, we have to change how we appreciate the music.”
Deol said he also wants to open students’ eyes to the idea of blackness in America through hip-hop culture and song lyrics.
In the class, Deol and Steinle will not hold long lectures, but offer facilitation and encourage participation in specific projects by analyzing song lyrics, listening to music, and looking at the culture and style of hip-hop.
Taking a “history of hip-hop” class his freshman year, Deol thought the course was too focused on the beginnings of hip-hop instead of the cultural implications of the genre. He felt that he could design a course that encapsulated and spoke to the college generation — and was finally given that opportunity through the STS class.
“Cory and I both wanted to create this space, where people who are enamored by hip-hop can exist and grow,” he said. “Our dream for the course is for everyone to be super into it.”
Students Scott Luttmann and Justin Matsnev are co-instructors for the Digital Product Design course.
The course will explore how apps are designed to allow students the chance to create their own. The teaching duo said they wanted students to be able to take a class that they wish had been offered during their earlier years at Penn State.
“I think Scott and I kind of both agreed that the reason why we're teaching this class was that we felt IST didn't give this to us when we were freshmen and sophomores, juniors, and we essentially wanted to give back by creating this course,” Matsnev (senior-design and development) said.
Luttmann (senior-design and development) said the course will focus on how digital products come to life in design apps, and the prototype testing and user feedback process. Through created projects, students will be able to design their own app, or change and critique one that is already created to provide a final project they could put on a resume — something Luttmann and Matsnev said they did not have.
“We wanted to emphasize to the students how a good user experience plays into effect — [how it differs] from a bad user experience and allow them to identify those bad experiences to find strategies to create a good experience out of it,” Luttmann said.
To be able to facilitate the courses, the students have been taking teaching seminars with the Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence to assure optimal course design and teaching strategies.
Looking to other schools that have already integrated STS programs, Miller said these programs helped get Penn State’s STS program started.
“The administration was really receptive, which was awesome,” Miller said. “Students at other schools said that was the main roadblock, but the Penn State administration has really embraced this idea, which I think is super exciting because they see the value that it's had at other schools.”
There are additional STS courses that will be announced in the coming weeks about humane economics, implicit bias in the healthcare industry and an LSAT test prep course.
To continue the program, Students Teaching Students is currently seeking students interested in designing and teaching their own course for fall 2020.
To become a student instructor, students have to draft a syllabus and apply on the STS website. To apply, visit stspsu.org.