Part 5: Spring 2017 Labs

69 Canvas Synchronous Group Discussions with Morton Gernsbacher — 04.14.2017

The April 14, 2017 Active Teaching Lab explored synchronous small group discussion options in Canvas. Morton Ann GernsbacherMorton Gernsbacher shared how she coordinates synchronous small group discussions for her online course using Canvas Collaborations and Google Docs chat.


  • Jigsawing assignments separate the assignment into multiple tasks. This gives every student a job and every an opportunity to contribute equally and in a way that is necessarily valuable.
    • JigSaw: Each reads separate articles. Come together online and share what they know
    • “Go Find”: Each is sent on a quest to go find specific information, then come together and share. Collaboratively come up with answer that includes all the info.
  • Assigns groups at beginning of semester, but then gives people a chance to regroup on their own at mid-semester.
  • Self-selected groups (reassembled) means that people who like to be in groups (go-getters) find each other first, the people who are mainstream find each other, and the “laggards” end up with each other, and the research shows that they all tend to be happy.
  • When grading, they just skim to check that all participate, who comes in late, any bullying or other issues that need to be addressed, etc.
  • View the session’s activity sheet for additional support materials.

Active Teaching Labs are held every Friday from 8:30-9:45am (and every other Monday from 12:30pm-1:30pm, see events calendar for dates) in room 120, Middleton Building. Check out upcoming labs or read recaps from past labs — or see them all ( To stay informed about upcoming Labs, check back to this website or sign up for regular announcements by sending an email to

Watch Morton’s Story:

Watch the discussion that followed:




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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