Part 7: Spring 2018 Labs

117 In-Lecture Online Activities with Ashley Bellet 04.06.2018

In the April 6, 2018 Active Teaching Lab, Ashley Bellet from Integrated Liberal Studies shared how she uses in-class Canvas Discussions with large lecture sections to enhance participation. Explore Canvas Discussions with the session’s activity sheet, and watch the session recording below.


  • Ashley uses discussions as an in-class tool to promote attendance and active engagement. One possible structure is to have students
    1. Talk to each other
    2. Write their thoughts online
    3. Connect and/or compare their ideas to others’ thoughts online
  • To encourage students to be present in class (vs. scrolling through slides in their dorm rooms), discussion is only open during the class period, questions relate to that day’s lecture material and are answerable only if students understand the context of that lecture, and students can only reply to others after they post.
  • Ashley has used groups of 17 based on the idea that a “cohort” is 15 people but may make smaller groups in the future so that no voices are lost in the group.
  • Building strong, open-ended questions is key.
  • The combination of both face-to-face and online opportunities to discuss gives different types of learners more equal opportunities to engage.
  • One challenge has been minimizing the distractions of the internet once laptops come out for the discussion. 


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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