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 short surveys distributed by UW-IT.

Participant eligibility

We encourage interested faculty and staff to test our selected technologies and provide feedback. Because pilot agreements with vendors often mean we are limited in the number of users we can enroll, we seek participants who can make a firm commitment to:

  • Participate in or watch a short “getting started” webinar about the tool
  • Explore and test multiple features of the tool
  • Provide feedback at the end of the quarter
  • Invite and make time for students to provide feedback

Our goal is to create a vibrant community of early adopters who inspire one another with their teaching experiments (we enthusiastically welcome participants who want to share examples of how they used the tool in their course) and, where needed, inform the development of new features. We share what we learn from pilot participants with the vendor so that the technology can be improved and better meet user needs.

Autumn 2021 pilots — Discussion tools

Read below for 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. Both tools integrate with Canvas.


Spring 2021, Summer 2021, Autumn 2021

Harmonize is a broadly applicable tool that offers discussion, Q&A (peer to peer with instructor endorsement of answers), and live 1:1 or group chat. The discussion component provides a visually engaging grid view as well as traditional list view. In addition to formatted text, images, and videos, posts can contain math formulas, non-executable code, and image and video 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.

The Canvas integration allows for both ungraded and graded discussions; SpeedGrader enables assessment of all posts and replies for individual students. Harmonize also allows users to set up auto-grading for multiple participation milestones and view activity reports.

Ed Discussion

Spring 2021, Summer 2021, Autumn 2021

Ed Discussion is a broadly applicable 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 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.

Completed educational technology pilots


From autumn 2020 through summer 2021, instructors from all three UW campuses partnered with UW-IT to pilot test Hypothesis, a collaborative annotation tool integrated with Canvas that supports shared annotations, discussion in response to annotations, and active reading of text. Participants provided us information about their goals for using the tool prior to piloting, and these were integrated into our assessment. Based on feedback we collected from instructors and students each quarter, as well as accessibility reviews of the technology and the responsiveness of the vendor to feedback, UW-IT added Hypothesis to its collection of centrally-supported tools for teaching and learning in autumn 2021.

Last reviewed March 23, 2022