IT Connect
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Participate in pilots of new technologies

Current Focus

During 2020 and 2021, UW-IT’s Academic Experience Design and Delivery (AXDD) unit has assessed and evaluated educational technology with a focus on asynchronous online discussion and social annotation.

These areas of interest emerged in part from previous evaluations of Canvas and feedback from campus partners/programs. These findings surfaced the limitations of and instructors’ dissatisfaction with Canvas’s built-in discussion functionality. 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 made these needs 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.

While requirements for some pilots may vary, all participants are asked to provide feedback, and encourage their students to provide feedback, primarily through surveys provided by UW-IT.


Spring 2021 (now closed), Summer 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 March 18, 2021