Part 6: Fall 2017 Labs

93 Active Learning Activities with Joy Altwies – 12.07.2017

In the 12.07.2017 Active Teaching Lab, Joy Altwies shared ideas for making activities meaningful and creating constructive discussions and group activities.

In this lab, participants delved into Discussions and Collaborations for group assignments in Canvas. Attendees worked on
 laptops and mobile devices to get hands-on experience with Canvas tools as a student in our Canvas course and brought a Sandbox course to work with the tools as an instructor.


  • Use the Discussion tool with small groups to prepare students as they work on final projects.
  • Design a course with Backwards Design and the “Absorb-Do-Connect” framework. (Refer to Joy’s slides for a refresher on these concepts.)
  • Create authentic assignments with real-world applications. What are examples of authentic assignments? Joy uses the Discussion function in Canvas to link to an online water use calculator, which students use to assess, share, and discuss their own home usage. She also sends students on a photo scavenger hunt of course concepts in their world; photos are peer reviewed by mid-semester. (Tip: Try a tool like for photo collection and discussion.)
  • Time discussions to be completed during the middle of the week, with consistent weekly deadlines for both posting and responding to others. Use a prompt to guide students to respond to each other. 
  • Employ Bloom’s Cognitive Domain to organize student thinking and objectives throughout the semester.
  • Scaffold final projects so that most pieces are done throughout the semester. The result is less stress at the end.
  • Use the Canvas Discussion tool to group students into subgroups of 2-3. Students can see each others’ work so they can do peer reviews that help them learn from each other. Provide a rubric and grade feedback as an Assignment.
  • Set up Discussions so each group can see other groups. With this setup, students can learn from everyone in the class instead of just their partners.

Check out the session’s activity sheet as well as Joy’s presentation slides, example assignment, and peer review form.

Watch Joy’s Story:

Active Teaching Labs are held Fridays from 8:30-9:45am (and every other Thursday from 1-2pm, see events calendar for dates) in room 120, Middleton Building. Check out upcoming labs or read recaps from past labs. To stay informed about upcoming Labs, sign up for regular announcements by sending an email to


Active Teaching Lab eJournal Copyright © 2016 by DoIT Academic Technology and the UW-Madison Teaching Academy; Jennifer Hornbaker; John Martin; Julie Johnson; Karin Spader; Margaret Merrill; Margaret Murphy; and Jeffrey Thomas. All Rights Reserved.

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