IT Connect
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Participate in pilots of new technologies


UW-IT’s Academic Experience Design & Delivery unit provides ad hoc evaluation and assessment of digital learning tools that are designed to meet campus needs. Instructors, students, and staff are important partners in this work; feedback from users is critical to our decision-making process and helps us to inform vendors about where their products do or do not yet meet expectations. Whether or not we recommend a technology for adoption and central support depends in part on

  • The breadth of the potential audience for the tool
  • How well the technology meets user needs
  • How easy it is to use and support
  • How well it meets UW’s accessibility standards
  • The cost of adoption

Each year, AXDD chooses a limited number of technologies to pilot test and evaluate. While requirements for participation may vary, all pilot participants are asked to provide feedback on their experience, typically through focus groups or surveys distributed by UW-IT.

Current Focus

During the 2020-21 academic year, AXDD will focus on evaluating educational technologies that support asynchronous online discussion and social annotation.

This focus emerged from previous evaluations of Canvas identifying limitations with the built-in discussion functionality and feedback from campus partners/programs indicating their dissatisfaction. In addition, UW-IT received numerous requests to support or integrate additional tools that support asynchronous discussion in a variety of ways. The shift to remote teaching and learning due to the pandemic has made meeting the needs for these tools more urgent.

Current Pilots

Below is a brief summary of each tool currently being piloted by UW-IT, with links to more detailed information, resources, and how to submit a request to join the pilot. All three tools integrate with Canvas.


Spring 2021, Summer 2021, Autumn 2021

Harmonize is a broadly applicable discussion tool that allows users to toggle between a traditional list view or a visually engaging grid view. In summer, the tool will include Q&A (peer to peer with instructor endorsement of answers). In addition to supporting formatted text, images, and videos in posts, Harmonize has a rich equation editor and allows for both video and image annotation. Users can flag a post for instructor review and tag instructor(s) or classmates, and all uploaded videos (instructor and student) are auto-captioned. Posts can be generally viewable or anonymous. Online presence and live 1:1 or group chat is an option (student or instructor initiated).

The Canvas integration allows for both ungraded and graded discussions; SpeedGrader enables assessment of all posts and replies for individual students, and a view of overall activity. Auto-grading for multiple participation milestones is an option.

Ed Discussion

Spring 2021, Summer 2021, Autumn 2021

Ed Discussion is a broadly applicable discussion board tool for asynchronous, threaded discussion. In particular, this tool supports Q&A (peer to peer with instructor endorsement of answers) and offers features for moderation and templated posts and replies. In addition to formatted text, images, and videos, posts can also contain LaTeX typesetting, runnable code snippets, and image annotation. Posts can be generally viewable by the class, anonymous, or private to the instructor. Instructional staff can use the board for staff-only communications as well.

The Canvas integration facilitates set up, single sign-on, course roster syncing, and adds the tool to course navigation.

Autumn 2020, Winter 2021, Spring 2021 is a collaborative annotation tool that supports active reading of text, shared annotations, and discussion in response to annotations. Users can add page notes (not anchored to text), reply to others’ annotations, add links, upload images, and embed video in their comments. Users can also search and sort annotations, or hide others’ annotations and view only their own. Individuals can also use on their own to organize their research and take personal notes.

The integration with Canvas adds the tool as an option for Assignments and provides access to SpeedGrader to enable assessment of individual student annotations.

Last reviewed May 14, 2021