Identify Online Tools for Teaching and Learning

Online educational tools provide engaging environments for students with various needs. However, exploring new tools can be time consuming for students without any advice on how to select the appropriate learning tools. It is better for instructors to provide the resources as much as we can to help students best utilize the low costs online tools and do their own evaluations.

Here are some examples of where to find free online tools:

The following prompts may help you locates the appropriate tools faster:

  • Which tools might help your students achieve their learning goals?
  • Which tools might help you enhance your teaching?
  • Which tool do you want to use for course activities? Why? What will be your approach to learning how to use this tool?

To evaluate a learning tools or to compare similar learning tools. We need to know what criterions we should look into.

  • Privacy: Whether the user can decide what personal information (e.g., email address, name, location) to share and how that information is used or shared with others? Whether the privacy policy clearly states how the information is used or shared?
  • Ease of Use: Whether the user can quickly learn how to use the tool with relative ease. How much instructions are needed for learning how to use the tool? Are there any tutorials and FAQ information available if the user runs into an issue with the tool?
  • Impact on Student Learning: Whether the tool supports students in acquiring or developing skills (e.g., collaboration, karate, synthesis of information, self-directed learning), knowledge (e.g., content knowledge), or attitudes (e.g., growth mindset)?
  • Cost: Does the tool require any money to use? Does it sell user data or embed advertisements in the tool?
  • Power & Bias: Does the tool empower, favor, or marginalize certain groups of people? Does it present biased (e.g., one-sided perspective) or deceptive information?
  • Access: Can the tool be used on any device (e.g., tablet, smartphone, laptop, desktop) and any browser (e.g., Chrome, Firefox, Explorer, Safari)? Does the tool require separate plug-ins or components that need to be downloaded in order to use it (e.g., Flash)? Can the tool be used with minimal bandwidth?
  • Accessibility: Can the tool be used by anyone, regardless of physical or learning disability?

Those criterions can help you evaluate the tool and determine whether to use it in your practice. Here is an example includes a wealth of information about a specific tool (evaluations, description of the tool, innovative ways to use the tool for teaching and learning).

Upload, Share, and Embed Panopto Videos: Staff Edition!

Are you a staff member who has recently recorded a lecture, performance, or other feat of Emersonian greatness for your department? Why not upload that video to Panopto for use on a departmental website (or other web page)? Here’s how!

1. Request a folder

Contact and ask us to create a departmental Panopto folder for storing your video(s). Let us know if you wish to give anyone else permission to upload to this folder.

2. Upload

Go to and log-in with your Emerson credentials.

You can use the Browse section of the left-hand menu to navigate through your Panopto folders; click Browse to expand the folder menu, then click a folder’s name to view its contents. Find the folder ITG created for you and click on it.

The Browse dropdown in the Panopto portal.

Once inside, click on the purple Create button and select Upload media.

The upload button in the Panopto portal.

You’ll be prompted to upload a video. Once the video has finished uploading and is “processing,” you may close the upload window. Your video will appear in the Panopto folder that’s open in your browser.

NOTE: All videos uploaded to Panopto must be compressed for streaming (H.264/MP4).

3. Share

Hover over the video and click the Share button that appears:

The share button underneath a Panopto video.

A window with sharing settings will appear. If you want your video to be publicly viewable, click under “Who has access.” On the dropdown menu, click “Public on the web.” Then click Save Changes.

Choosing Public on the Web in the Panopto sharing settings.

4. Get the Shareable Link or Embed Code

At the top of the sharing window, you’ll find a shareable link. You can copy this link and share it with whomever you wish. Or, click Embed (to the right of Link). An embed code will appear. Copy it in its entirety, then paste it into the HTML editor of the desired webpage. After saving that page, your video should appear and be publicly viewable.

Finding the Panopto embed code for a video.

OPTIONAL: After ITG creates your departmental folder, you can add members to it yourself. Access the folder and click the Share button at top-right (it looks like two figures). Under Invite people, start typing a person’s name. Click the desired name. Designate invitees as either those who “Can create” or “Can view.” Creators can upload to this folder and view videos in it, while Viewers can only view. When you’re done adding people, click Save Changes.

For further assistance, please contact

Canvas Default Home Survey Results

From April 20th, 2018 until May 11th, 2018, Emerson’s Instructional Technology Group conducted a survey via Canvas announcement allowing faculty to indicate what tool they prefer as the default home page for blank course sites. We also asked faculty to take a moment to elaborate on their choices.

Based on the feedback we’ve received, the default homepage for courses starting in Fall 2018 will be the “Syllabus” tool. Newly created courses in Canvas will also come equipped with additional enhancements: the Syllabus page will include the Accommodation, Diversity, and Plagiarism syllabus statements and an additional “Help Using Canvas” page will be included in the “Pages” section.

Before we break down the survey results, we’d like to take a moment to clarify that this change in no way prevents faculty from selecting a different homepage for their courses. Information on changing your homepage is provided below. As always, Emerson College community members can contact ITG for help setting up their courses using the Help Desk’s ticketing system or by calling x8090. (Note: If you are a Canvas user outside of the Emerson community, please contact the IT department of your home institution for help.)

Survey results

Overall, we received 36 responses to the survey, with 27 faculty members providing clarification on why they made the choice they did.

Of those votes, 17 were in favor of the “Syllabus” tool as the default, while 12 votes were in favor of “Modules”, and 7 votes for the previous default, Activity Stream.


Pie chart of homepage survey results with Syllabus receiving 47.2%, Modules receiving 33.3%, and Activity Stream receiving 19.4% of votes.

The responses to the question “How does this support your teaching?” were also very insightful. A few favorites are highlighted below.

In support of Syllabus:

  • “I am constantly reminding students about upcoming due dates and so my goal for the home page would be something that would remind them of what is upcoming.”
  • “The students are more likely to refer to the syllabus and keep up with the course.”
  • “It’s the most referenced page for the course, i.e., if students don’t go there directly for answers, I send them there.”
  • “This puts the syllabus front and center: something the students need to look at throughout the course.”
  • “It encourage students to be aware of upcoming readings, assignments, and where we are in the arc of the course. It helps students to consider their learning more holistically, including what went before and what went after.”

In support of Modules:

  • “I can create and sequence modules the way I want and direct students to a home page with all available resources.”

In support of Activity Stream:

  • “I heavily rely on Canvas Announcements to post homework and other important course reminders almost daily for my students.”

Why did ITG conduct this survey / make this change?

In the July 15, 2017 Production release from Canvas / Instructure, the default home page for newly created courses was changed from the “Recent Activity Stream” to “Modules”.

Most of Emerson’s Fall 2017 courses had already been created with the Recent Activity Stream default, so this change didn’t impact the community until the Spring 2018 semester. ITG saw an increase in questions about publishing courses due to the fact that it was no longer the same one-step process it had been.

With the Recent Activity Stream, instructors could click the Publish button on the homepage once and be done. With Modules, however, instructors are required to have at least one published module or to select a different home before publishing. Pressing the Publish button without meeting those criteria opens an additional popup prompting the instructor to change the homepage. This is not always obvious if an instructor is used to pressing the button and navigating away and results in courses left unpublished even after pressing “Publish”.

While there’s no official way for local Canvas admins (aka, ITG) to change the default, we determined it is possible to override this setting using the Canvas API. Thus, we decided to survey our faculty to determine what would be the most useful option for our community.

I use X as my homepage, but that wasn’t an option in the survey. Why?

The survey only included three options: Syllabus, Activity Stream, and Modules. Instructors in Canvas have a total of five options for the homepage: Activity Stream, Pages Front Page, Modules, Assignments List, and Syllabus.

We didn’t include “Pages Front Page” as an option despite the fact that that is what we require of our online courses due to the fact that it requires extra setup, similar to Modules. We anticipated that this would cause similar issues with publishing courses that we saw with the Modules homepage.

We also chose not to include “Assignments List” as an option since a summary of course assignments is already included automatically at the bottom of the Syllabus page.

How to change your homepage

Instructors who choose to reuse content from a previous semester will set the homepage of their new course site to match that of the previous semester’s course. This will overwrite the default choice being discussed in this post. For help importing content, see this guide from the Canvas Community site or contact ITG.

To manually change the homepage of a Canvas course site:

  1. Navigate to the course site either from the Dashboard or “View All Courses” menu.
  2. Locate and click the “Choose Home Page” button on the right-hand side menu (on smaller screens, this may appear at the bottom of the page).
    Some of the buttons available in the righthand sidebar of a Canvas course's home page with "Choose Home Page" circled.

  3. In the “Choose Home Page” popup that opens, click the radio button to the left of desired selection and click “Save”.
    The "Choose Home Page" popup window with the radio buttons to the left of each option circled for emphasis.

    • Note: A page must first be published and set as the Front Page via the “Pages” tool before that option is available for use.

For more information and screenshots, see the “How do I change the Course Home Page?” guide on the Canvas Community Site.

Thank you for your responses! Please let ITG know if you have any questions, further feedback, or would like to schedule a one-on-one session to learn more about these tools and how they might support your teaching goals!

Digital Journalism Innovation with

On March 21st, the Iwasaki Library and Instructional Technology Group held its 3rd annual Innovation@Emerson Faculty Showcase. The event featured a variety of professional development initiatives that Emerson offers and highlighted specific examples of faculty work from each.

At this year’s event, ITG highlighted Emerson.Build, a pilot of the Domain’s of One’s Own initiative. Emerson.Build offers faculty and students the opportunity to build websites from the ground up and take ownership of their digital identity.  Mark Micheli and Gustavo Faleiros showcased student-produced websites using Build. In this post, Gustavo discusses how he used Emerson.Build in his JR 637 – Editing and Web Producing course in Fall 2017.

Tell us about your course and the project.

Editing and Web Producing (JR637) is one of the main courses in the Journalism Department’s Graduate Program. The construction of a website from the scratch is the final assignment for the students taking this class. During the semester the students were introduced to as an option for installing their own website themes and customizing their stories. Working in groups, the students decided on a feature story or topic that they would represent with digital elements in their website. Interviews, videos, maps and interactive charts were produced to populate the pages. Here are some examples of the student work:

home page of Allston Basements
An example of one of the student projects from JR 612, Allston Basements. The students built the site using WordPress.

Why did you use

The technology was used to give graduate students experience on how to create a website from scratch and also to train them on the management of digital journalism workflows. is flexible enough to allow students to be creative with their assignments while also giving them concrete practice in mainstream Content Management Systems.

The main results in my opinion were observed in some of the work presented by the students. High quality digital content was gathered and beautifully designed on the websites created with

home page image of Massachusetts Solitary Confinement website
The front page of one of Massachusetts Solitary Confinement, one of the student projects from Gustavo’s course. The students used WordPress to build their site.

Would you recommend Emerson.Build to others?

I think should be taught and disseminated to the college community. That would be hugely beneficial to demonstrate good work that is done by the students. I recommend workshops and hackathons to create a community of users of this technology.

Would you do anything differently the next time you teach this course?

I would dedicate more time on installing HTML applications instead of only using the WordPress CMS.