Part 7: Spring 2018 Labs

100 Canvas Tools, Google Community with Lalita du Perron – 02.14.2018

In the February 14, 2018 Active Teaching Lab, Lalita du Perron shared how to build online learning communities.
Participants gained strategies for developing the digital classroom space, welcoming students, and personalizing learning through the use of announcements, welcome videos, introductory discussion forums, and small group work. See Lalita’s slides and the session’s activity sheet for more information.


  • The rhythm and pace of a course is especially important in an online space. Organize for predictability to avoid students getting flustered, and minimize instructor response time.
  • Students complete higher quality work when final projects are chunked and scaffolded throughout the semester. Keep them on track with “deadline points” throughout the semester. 
  • An online course can be more inclusive by enabling more students to attend, not just those privileged to have the time and resources required to attend in-person classes.
  • An intro video goes a long way in building students’ relationships with both the instructor and the course.
  • One challenge of online teaching is the time required to keep up. Find ways to save time, such as using Canvas to assign students to small groups (saves Lalita five hours vs. assigning groups by hand).
  • Sticking with the same small group throughout the semester helps students to build rapport with each other despite the lack of face-to-face time.
  • Nothing will shut down a student discussion more than if an instructor posts; minimize interventions in group discussions. (For more strategies for online discussions, check out these 5 Tips from Morton Gernsbacher.)
  • Different platforms promote different forms of communication. Use a G+ Community for brief exchanges (more social media-esque) and Canvas for longer conversations.
  • A rubric that guides students on how to respond to instructor feedback ensures they both read and reflect on that feedback.

Active Teaching Labs are held Fridays from 8:30-9:45am in room 120, Middleton Building (1305 Linden Dr.) as well as some Wednesdays from 12:30-1:30pm in room 302 Middleton Building. Check out upcoming Labs or read the recaps from past Labs.

Similar to the Active Teaching Labs, Active Teaching Exchanges feature instructors sharing their teaching experiences with tools and techniques, but provide more time for discussion without the hands-on investigation time. Exchanges are are held Thursdays from 1-2pm in room 120, Middleton Building. See the full calendar of both events. Stay informed about upcoming Labs and Exchanges by signing 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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