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The Digital Side of Your Classroom

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This guide is a supplement to the “The Digital Side of Your Classroom” workshop presented by Cartland Berge, Shannon Hauser and Jerry Slezak of Digital Learning Support on May 12, 2022.

Presentation Description

Any course – whether face-to-face, fully online, or somewhere in between – can leverage digital tools to expand and enhance the classroom experience.  Discover new features and new ways to use common tools (like Canvas, Zoom, and ScreenPal) and potentially unfamiliar ones (like Discord and Hypothesis) to increase student engagement and encourage students to invest in your classroom community. 

Why Digital Tools?

  • They can allow a different type of engagement for students beyond strictly face-to-face interactions:
    • Example: Discord or blog comments
  • Rather than primarily using class time to present content, digital tools can allow you to shift content delivery so you can use in-person class time in different ways that can allow more active engagement:
    • Example: Flipped classroom & active learning 
  • Can help you assess student learning and areas that need reinforcement
    • Example: Mini Quizzes in Canvas 
  • Can allow students to demonstrate proficiency in ways that play to their strengths while practicing digital skills.
    • Example: Offering the option to produce a podcast in place of a paper
  • Can open spaces for unexpected possibilities



Mini Quizzes

Canvas quizzes are often used for graded assignments, but they can also be a great tool for formative assessment. A one or two question quiz after a lecture or reading can help you assess the effectiveness of that delivery method, and item banks can be used to create a randomized practice quiz for students to self-assess their understanding before a larger exam.

Using Discussion Boards to Get Students to Read Before Class

  • Readings assigned before a class meeting
  • Each student posts a question in the discussion board based on each reading due a day or two before the class meeting
  • Other students can reply to answer questions, or ask more questions based on questions 
  • Instructor then reviews the discussions before class and tries to address common questions or themes at the start of the session 


Canvas Groups provide a private group workspace for students working on longer term or large group projects. They can also be used for study groups. Each Canvas group has space for files, announcements, collaborative documents, and discussion boards.


As a platform Canvas makes it possible for outside tools to integrate in to their system. At UMW we already have a variety of integrations already available in all courses (for example Zoom is an integration), but there are others in there that you might not be familiar with and what they can do.

If there are integrations that you are interested in using that require Canvas Admin please contact Digital Learning Support ( to discuss.

  • Attach Office 365 files including Word documents, PowerPoint presentations, and Excel from the Rich Content Editor
  • Distribute Office 365 cloud assignments.
  • Create collaborations where course members can work together on shared documents in real time.
  • Integrate Office 365 files with your course modules.


  • New Quizzes – Eventually will replace Classic Quizzes. Has some new functionality, but some things that were available in Classic Quizzes no longer available. We will send out communication about New Quizzes timeline in the future.
  • Item Banks – You can share item banks with another teacher in New Quizzes or to another Canvas course.
  • Accessibility Checker – Detects common accessibility errors within the editor.
  • Button and Icon Maker – Gives instructors the ability to incorporate simple icons for their courses without using an external tool.


ScreenPal (formerly Screencast-o-Matic) is a tool that lets you record, edit, and host your videos all in one place. At UMW we make premium licenses of ScreenPal available to all faculty and staff.


  • Delivery of content before or after class can create new possibilities for in classroom experience.
  • Create microlectures.
  • Allows student to return to content when needed.
  • Take your Zoom recordings and host them on ScreenPal.
  • ScreenPal integration in Canvas allows you to easily embed videos
  • One stop shop: Record, edit, and host your videos.


How to access?

If you don’t have a licensed premium account you can contact us and we will create an account for you.

New to ScreenPal? Check out our ScreenPal.

Zoom – not just meetings

Communication Platforms (Discord/Slack/Teams)


Discord, Slack, and Teams are all communication tools that can be used to facilitate student/student and student/teacher communication. All have similar features, so choosing between them is a matter of preference for you and your students.


Establishing an official digital communication platform for you class has many benefits:

  • Facilitates student collaboration for group work
  • Allows students to help each other rather than always coming to you
  • Enables community-building inside and outside the classroom
  • Offers an alternative way for students to contribute


Setting up a communication platform for your class is free, quick, and easy.

You might be tempted to set up a lot of structure within the platform in advance, but this may be counterproductive. If you give your students the opportunity to weigh in or even set up the structure themselves, you will likely find that an effective structure develops organically based on the needs of the class.

Getting Started with Discord

Getting Started with Slack

Getting Started with MS Teams

Social Annotation Tools (Hypothesis/Perusall)


Social annotation tools allow people to collaboratively highlight and comment on a shared text. This guide provides a nice overview on what, why, and considerations.


  • Fosters class discussions about a selected reading. 
  • Populate a reading with “sign-posts” that help guide students through a text.
  • Scan an assigned reading to discover “heatmaps” for interaction.


  • Hypothesis can be used outside of Canvas or as an integration (features vary slightly).
  • Perusall can be used outside of Canvas or as an integration.
    • We recommend setting it up through Canvas and making the link available in the Course Navigation. Some faculty have stated that students accessing it through this link can avoid sign-up for a Persuall account that is sometimes prompted when going through Assignments.


Web Publishing (Domain of One’s Own/UMW Blogs)


While there are lots of web publishing tools out there, at UMW we have both Domain of One’s Own (DoOO) and UMWBlogs as ways to publish. See this guide for the difference between the two platforms.


  • Course site
  • Writing in public
  • Portfolio projects
  • Public research & scholarship

Check out our post on teaching on the open web with DoOO and UMW Blogs.


Find the platforms here:

Staff in Digital Learning Support would be glad to talk about what platform might fit best for your class.

Digital Assignments


A digital assignment is any project that asks students create a digital media product that demonstrates understanding of class concepts. This could be a video, podcast, infographic, website, or other form of digital media.


Just like print-and-paper assignments, digital assignments provide the opportunity for students to practice critical thinking, research, and communication skills. But while a traditional paper focuses mainly on the written word, digital assignments open the door to additional modes of communication, including images, video, audio, and web design.

A digital project assignment offers a number of benefits:

  • Allows students to demonstrate proficiency in alternative ways
  • Offers opportunities for students to develop skills in a wider range of communication media
  • Helps broaden understanding of class concepts through varied forms of expression


With today’s widespread access to digital media technology, it is easier than ever to transform conventional class assignments into digital projects. Whether you want to turn a journaling assignment into weekly blog posts, a paper into a podcast, or a class presentation into a video project, there are free, beginner-friendly tools available to help make it happen.

Digital Learning Support staff are available to help with designing and implementing your digital projects.

You don’t need to be an expert on the tools your students will use to complete digital assignments! The Digital Knowledge Center can help your students learn the tools necessary to succeed in thise projects.

DKC Getting Started Guides

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