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World Campus students hold digital research conference

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – For years, undergraduate Psychology students at Penn State, University Park have gathered in Moore Building for the annual Psychology Department Undergraduate Research Conference.  This year, they were joined by a new group of students.  Twenty-one Psychology majors from Penn State’s World Campus, also presenting their research on a variety of psychology topics.

Like their University Park counterparts, World Campus students prepared posters describing their research.  However, the World Campus students’ posters were displayed online.  The virtual posters were grouped into categories and displayed in different “rooms” using a program called Hyperfair.  Using an avatar, visitors could roam the rooms, read the posters, and chat with the student presenters.  World Campus students logged in from their home computers and discussed the research presentations in real time with their classmates.  University Park faculty, staff, and students could also join in.  A bank of computers was set up for this purpose directly across the hall from the traditional version of the research conference. 

 “This actually has been a dream since the World Campus Chapter of Psi Chi was formed a little over a year ago” said Brian Redmond.  Dr. Redmond, then a Senior Lecturer in Psychology, was the advisor for Penn State’s World Campus chapter of Psi Chi.  To make the online event a reality, World Campus students worked with faculty and staff to evaluate potential software packages, secure supplemental funding to defray start-up costs, reserve physical space in Moore Building, and set up a digital conference center.

World Campus students also hosted a brief talk by Penn State Professor Louis Castonguay titled “Practice-Oriented Research in Psychotherapy.” While Dr. Castonguay spoke in Moore Building, his talk was livestreamed into a digital hall and attended by digital avatars for dozens of World Campus students, attending live through Hyperfair.   The talk stimulated questions and comments from both online and physically present audience members, discussing the alignment of clinical practice, research, and theory to improve the research and practice of psychotherapy. “It was a great experience for World Campus students who don’t regularly get to attend talks like University Park students do almost weekly” said Redmond.

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