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Photo of professor George HoffmanA short video describing this teaching strategy.

George Hoffmann, Romance Languages and Literatures, teaches a course that explores the controversial literature on the Algerian War. Thirty-two undergraduate students are each required to deliver a PowerPoint presentation on a capstone analytical project. In-class presentations are dynamic, but ephemeral, and their engaging material is lost to students in following course iterations. Therefore, Hoffmann uses Google Sites to create a collaborative course website to document and extend the highly visual capstone projects across courses.

Based on his or her PowerPoint presentation, each student creates a media-rich web page, exclusively in French, without having to learn HTML. Hoffmann pairs students to peer review web pages using the commenting feature in Google Sites. Students’ grades reflect both the content of their own web page, and the quality of their peer critiques. Through the combined use of PowerPoint and Google Sites, students not only learn valuable communication skills, but also practice disciplinary skills of close reading and critical evaluation. 


Large courses present some distinct challenges to teachers and students. How, for example, can hundreds of students practice challenging concepts simultaneously? And how can instructors in large courses gain insights about the learning of all of their many students? 

CRLT has sponsored several faculty learning communities focused on effective strategies for teaching in large courses. Faculty members learn together about pedagogical tools and technologies that facilitate student learning and then develop concrete applications for them in their specific courses. In this 6-minute video, one participant, psychology professor Pamela Davis-Kean, highlights her use of Google Forms to provide students practice with key skills and difficult concepts in an upper-level course of 150 students. She recommends it as a flexible, easy-to-learn technology that can enhance student interaction and engagement in a large course setting.

For more details about Davis-Kean's use of Google Forms, see this page. You can find more examples of U-M instructors creatively using online tools to enhance student collaboration and learning in our searchable list. And you can click on the "large course" tab below for more examples and resources specifically related to such classes. Read more »

Brief Description: 

Almost any college course will involve some form of testing and grading. Technologies like online testing and gradebooks can make testing and grading more effective and more efficient for instructors and for students. Some tools designed to be used for surveys are included in this category because they can be effectively used for online testing as well.

Tips for Using Testing and Grading Tools

  • Align practice with your course goals Online quizzes should reflect the important understandings and skills you want students to derive from your course, rather than trivia questions designed only to show they did (or at least skimmed) the readings.
  • Make an investment in question banks that you can reuse over time. Many instructors note that students save copies of the online quiz questions for later studying. Often, these study resources are shared a within study groups and among friends. If this is a concern for you, consider creating multiple versions of a question that test the same basic idea, so that a student is unlikely to encounter a questions he/she has seen before. This is a time-intensive task, but question pools can often be re-used from one year to the next, and even shared among instructors.
  • Clearly communicate to students what resources (if any) they can use while taking an online quiz. Are the quizzes open book? open note? open to all resources on the net?
  • Provide accommodations or alternatives for students with disabilities. Canvas has simple options to extend time for individual students who need it, for example. If screen readers or other assistive technology do not adequately render your quiz content (e.g. images), another option may be necessary.
Brief Description: 

Video conferencing, also known as a video teleconference or video chat, refers to conducting a meeting between two or more participants at different sites by using computer networks to transmit audio and video.

Tips for Using Online Video Conferencing/Chat Tools

Before you start

  • Have clear goals for video conferencing. For example, connect guest lecture(s) closely to the course goals and learning activities and arrange a debrief of a guest lecture if needed.
  • Have a back-up plan in case things do not go as expected (e.g. power outage or disrupted Internet connection).
  • Understand how to use the video conferencing tool or equipment well and be aware of where to get technical support quickly when needed.
  • Practice your speaking speed and volume. Speaking to students through a video-conferencing tool is not the same as speaking to students in a face-to-face class. Practice and feedback will help you get it right. Also, keep in mind that there can be lag and delays. Don't cut students off while they are speaking.

Important considerations Read more »

Brief Description: 

Even if instructors have a required text or coursepack for a course, they often have other resources (e.g., articles, videos, blogs, websites) that they want their students to read, watch, listen to, or interact with.  Additionally, many times instructors ask students to create products or resources that they need to share with the instructor or with each other.  These tools provide mechanisms for instructors and students to share artifacts among each other.

Tips for Using Resource and File Sharing Tools

as an instructional tool:

  • Minimize the number of “channels” you are using to communicate & share resources with your students.  Consistency ensures that your students know where to go to find information.
  • Require your students to use a specific naming convention for files (and folders) they share with you.  This will enable you to easily find each students' submissions when needed.

for sharing files and videos:  Read more »