Using Learning Technologies in Your Teaching
Technology can help instructors reach their goals for student learning when used thoughtfully. CTL supports instructors as they think about why they might use technology, which tools might best fit their needs, and what constructive ways they might best take advantage of what technology offers.
Below are commonly used technologies that are available campus-wide. Individual schools and programs may offer additional options beyond this list. Contact your local technology support staff to learn more.
- Online Meeting Tools
- Lecture Recording Tools
- Engagement and Collaboration Tools
- Assessment Tools
- Other Tools
If you have questions about technology and using it in the classroom, consult with CTL about how you might best use it.
CanvasCanvas is Penn’s system for managing course sites, which includes the ability to post student-facing course information and resources; assignment, grading and feedback tools, communication tools, and integrated access to other learning technologies like Zoom for online meetings and Class Recordings/Panopto for recorded videos.
- Getting Started with Canvas
- Canvas Course Request Form
- Canvas Guides for Faculty, Staff and TAs
- What Students Want From Canvas Sites
Online Meeting Tools
For a more in depth look at the functionalities of BlueJeans and Zoom, explore Zoom and BlueJeans for Synchronous Course Meetings.
Lecture Recording Tools
Zoom can be used to record in-person class sessions in Central Pool Classrooms. For instructions, see Recording Class Lectures. To check the technology capabilities of your classroom, consult the classroom finder or reach out to your local classroom technology support provider.
You can also use Zoom from your personal computer to pre-record videos for students. Recordings created through the Zoom integration with Canvas will automatically transfer over to the Classroom Recordings area. You can also record directly in Classroom Recordings (also known as Panopto). To get started, review the guide to recording in Panopto.
Engagement and Collaboration Tools
Discussions is a standard tool on the Canvas course menu. It provides a space for threaded discussion posts where students can communicate with each other and instructors can comment as well. Discussion posts easily integrate into the gradebook where instructors can post private grades and comments for each student.
- Canvas Discussions tutorial (video)
- Creating a discussion board in Canvas (guide)
- Creating a group discussion (guide)
- Using SpeedGrader to provide grades and feedback to individual students (guide)
For strategies for creating and facilitating effective online discussions, review Using Online Tools for Discussion.
Ed Discussion is a Q&A and threaded discussion tool that provides a communication platform for students, TAs, and instructors to interact. It is being piloted during the 2021-22 academic year as a potential replacement for Piazza. Students can answer one another’s questions and/or provide resources to one another, including runnable code snippets, LaTeX, embedded video, annotated images, and shared documents and links. Students have the choice to post publicly or anonymously (depending on the instructor's settings). TAs and instructors can also use the tool to reduce email and streamline course communication.
- Introduction to Ed Discussion (guide)
- Recording from CTL Workshop: Introduction to Ed Discussion (video)
Google Suite (Google Documents, Slides and Jamboards)
Google Documents, Slides, and Jamboards can all be used to allow the whole class or groups of students to work together, both during and outside class time. Instructors have used these tools for such activities as discussions, problem-solving during breakout sessions; group presentations; collaborative note-taking; and as a way for students to provide comments or feedback to each other.
Each of these Google tools can be provided as links within Canvas. Alternatively, Collaborations is a tool within Canvas that allows you and your students to quickly create and share Google Documents from within your Canvas course menu.
Perusall is an annotation tool that, if enabled, can be accessed from within Canvas. As a whole class or in small groups, students can use Perusall’s robust set of annotation tools to ask questions and comment on parts of text or images. Students can also reply to other students’ posts. Perusall includes an automatic grading algorithm that provides an initial suggested grade for students’ contributions but these grades can always be hidden by default and adjusted by the instructor.
Piazza is an online Q&A tool that, if enabled, can be accessed from within Canvas. Students can pose and respond to questions publicly or anonymously (if allowed by the instructor) and instructors or students can signify the most useful answer so students can quickly see the best or most correct answer to their questions.
Poll Everywhere is a web-based polling tool that allows for a variety of response types (such as multiple choice, multiple select, open-ended, and word clouds). Students can respond to polls through a dedicated link or through text messages and their responses can be identified or anonymous. Poll results can be shared with the class and/or accessed via detailed reports. Poll Everywhere can also import your list of enrolled students from within Canvas.
The Pinned Q&A feature allows instructors to access student-submitted questions throughout class while other polling activities are still running.
Quizzes is a standard tool on the Canvas course menu and can be used to create a variety of assessment types including quizzes, exams, homework assignments, reflection assignment, and surveys. You can add multiple question types (e.g., multiple choice, multiple answer, matching, essay questions) and select from a variety of settings (such as whether students will be timed and whether they can view their answers or scores upon submission). Questions entered with a correct answer can be automatically graded by Canvas or questions can be manually graded.
Canvas has also introduced an upgraded quizzing option called New Quizzes which better supports scientific notation and formulas, offers improved regrading processes, and includes new question types and settings. New Quizzes will be the default quizzing option by July 2022.
Gradescope is an assessment tool that is being piloted at Penn during the 2021-22 academic year. It provides a variety of time-saving options for grading both in-person and online assessments, including rubrics, reusable feedback, and automated grading tools. Once enabled, it can be accessed from within Canvas.
Once enabled in Canvas, Respondus works with Canvas Quizzes to prevent cheating during proctored online exams by preventing students from opening other browser tabs or windows, navigating away from Canvas, or taking screen capture images. This tool is currently available for courses in Arts & Sciences, Engineering, Nursing, and Wharton.
Turnitin is a plagiarism checking tool that can be turned on for any Canvas Assignment. Turnitin runs an “originality check” as part of the submission process. These reports can be used to detect plagiarism and can be optionally shared with students. Turnitin checks student papers against the current and archived internet, scholarly databases, a global repository of student papers, and a Penn-only repository of student papers.
- Turnitin overview (guide)
Want to use a technology not described above?
Contact your instructional technology support team before using a new, possibly unsupported technology in your teaching, even if it is free.
All technology used in teaching must protect personally identifiable information and education records of students. See the Policy on Confidentiality of Student Records for more information. Further, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and University policy require technology that you use to teach must accommodate students with disabilities.