Introducing: The Commons
Find practical online/blended course planning strategies. More content will be added throughout the summer!
Commons Front Door

Tech for Facilitating Connections

There are a variety of tools to facilitate conversation and collaboration between you and your students and among students, both inside and outside the classroom.  These tools allow you and your students to communicate from a distance and provide a more comfortable method of communication for some shy students. 

Classroom Response Systems


UT Instapoll is a service for students and faculty at the University of Texas. It's a simple 'student response system', allowing teachers to give in-class polls, grade them, and take attendance. UT Instapoll is fully-supported by the University of Texas at Austin and is free for both faculty and students.

Web-based Classroom Response Systems

These are web or app based and utilize a mobile device as the response mechanism:

  • PollEverywhere
  • SquareCap
  • TopHat

Learn More by reading our review of web-based CRS.


iClicker is a hand-held student remote and is currently supported by UT-Austin. [Students purchase at UT CO-OP]



Badgr is a free and open source platform for issuing, managing, and tracking user achievements in the form of digital badges. Every Badgr user may use the service to collect the badges they've earned as well as design and issue badges that others can earn. Badgr has a built-in integration with Canvas courses at UT-Austin. Download our 1-page resource for Digital Badging. [Free]

Video Tools (Conferencing, Discussion and Annotation)


A videoconferencing tool that provides integration with Canvas, has high quality video and full-featured apps for mobile devices. Zoom is currently UT's videoconferencing solution.


Developed by the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Minnesota, VideoAnt is an online video annotation tool for mobile and desktop devices. Use VideoAnt to add annotations, or comments, to web-hosted videos.


Students can collaborate with other content creators, commenting and sharing. VoiceThread provides analytics on user use. Check out the following eBook, How to Humanize Your Online Class with VoiceThread by Michelle Pancasky-Brock (CSU-Channel Islands). [Free and Paid Versions]

Discussion Forums, Wikis and Blogs

Steps to Implement Online Discussions Today

Discussion Boards in Canvas can be synchronous or asynchronous, meaning individuals may communicate at different times. The instructor typically poses a thread on a discussion board, or a question to the class. Students can then respond to the instructor's thread and to one another’s comments.

Strategies for Using Discussion Forums, Blogs and Wikis

There are a variety of tools to facilitate conversation and collaboration between instructor and student and among students.

Generating and Facilitating Engaging and Effective Online Discussions

The Teaching Engagement Program at the University of Oregon has created a handout outlining various approaches to designing online discussions.


Offers an online tool that allows students to ask questions within a thread that supports anonymous posts. It is especially useful for STEM discipline problem-solving and has built-in Canvas integration. [Free]


A popular blogging platform that allows you to post and share information with your class. Students who create accounts in WordPress can be given access to your blog site to upload their own posts. [Free and Paid Versions]


Allows you to create a shared, collaborative online writing space for your class. [Free for educators]