Centre for Teaching Excellence


Teaching and Learning Tips

Here is some tips for teaching in your class.


The first day of class can cause nervousness even for seasoned instructors. What you do on the first day of class will likely set the tone for the rest of the course. Do you feel prepared? How will you set the right expectations and to star to create an intentional, and supportive learning environment?

In the article First Impressions: Activities for the First Day of Classthe author discusses how students are never more attentive than during the first class and how she uses the first class to help them feel less intimidated and to set the tone for participation. Arriving early to take time to greet each student individually, as well as teaching the students a practical skill right awayas an icebreaker, are some of her approaches.

Another approach is to be very explicit and intentional about the learning environment you are hoping to create such as this instructor does when he cites a poem on the first day of class. While his approach may be less conventional, his intention of expressing first what he asks of himself before expressing what he hopes for from his students is a good example of modeling the behavior and the learning environment he’s hoping to foster.

Finally, while things such as policies, assessment and deadlines may not be up for discussion, how the students decide to learn together may vary depending on the group of students. As the instructor, you can be intentional about soliciting input from students on the kind of learning environment they hope to create for example by facilitating a discussion on ground rules, or by asking each student to state their gives (what do they bring to the class that they are willing to share in terms of skills, background, experience) and gets (i.e. what are they hoping to learn/get from the class) when they introduce themselves. Such approaches not only create buy in, but also sets the tone for taking active responsibility for learning.
Here are a few more articles and ideas to consider:


Microlearning is the trend of breaking content into small chunks of easily digestible or accessible information. For example a traditional one-hour lecture could be delivered instead as a series of 3-4 minute videos, which students can access when needed and which may be an easier format for the brain to process and retain.

  • This Online Lecture Tool Kit is an excellent place to start if you are thinking of creating videos for instructional purposes.
  • teachonline.ca is a resource for post-secondary educators in Ontario, but many of the links are equally applicable to online teaching anywhere. You can find information on technologies in online learning, as well as practical tools to help you integrate technology in teaching in a way that improves the learning experience for students.
  • Teaching in a Digital Age: Guidelines for designing teaching and learning  is a free, open, online textbook from Tony Bates including specific guidelines as well as a more theoretical background. To download, click here. Check out Tony’s website too, for more resources.
  • The University of Michigan’s Center  for Research on Teaching & Learning has some good overviews of Getting Started, Choosing Your Technology, Flipping the Classroom and Examplesfrom faculty here

Think collaboration, interaction, discussions and active learning! The live online or synchronous classroom does not need to be a traditional webinar lecture or presentation, perhaps interspersed with a couple of polls. Below are a few ideas to help you start thinking of making the live online classroom a space for deeper and richer learning experiences for everyone.

Educational Technology Tools

We are highlighting some examples of free tools (or free with trial) below. If you have experience using any of these tools (or another tool, you are using in innovative ways for teaching and learning), don’t hesitate to reach out so we can include your examples


An infographic can be an efficient tool for sharing stories, concepts or data with students. An infographics assignment can also be a powerful way to help students create, apply and synthesize information visually through images, graphs and a bit of text and showcase their knowledge – either individually or collaboratively.


Canva A simple graphic-design tool. It has an easy to use drag-and-drop interface and provides access to over a large library of images, icons, fonts and features. Can be used for designing infographics, collages, flyers, Venn diagrams, slides and other visual representations that can be shared in a web browser or on an iPad.

Ease.ly This tool has a dozen of free templates, which can easily be customized as well as a library of things like arrows, shapes and connector lines. The tool also lets you upload your own graphics.

Venngage (free 14 days trial) Visual storytelling, data exploration and presentation creations. Students can share their presentations and instructors can create classroom accounts.

Infogr.am  Easy to use infographic and chart maker in an Excel-style spreadsheet. Users may also upload videos and images and the infographics are easily embedded on a website or shared via social media. Collaboration and classroom/team accounts available.

Piktochart  An infographic and presentation tool for easily creating engaging infographics. The custom editor lets you do things like modify colour schemes and fonts, insert pre-loaded graphics and upload basic shapes and images. The free version offers three basic themes.

Draw.io An online diagram software for making flowcharts, process diagrams, org charts and Venn diagrams. Has strong collaboration features and can be used with Google Drive.

See these links for further inspiration on infographics as a learning and teaching tool:


Online mind-mapping or concept creating tools can be effective in boosting student interaction and collaboration through activities and assignments in and outside of class, online or in person. Examples include asking students to modify a mind-map with their insights and questions as they develop their understanding of a topic or organizing a student presentation around a mind map. Working collaboratively on a concept map or sharing mind maps and offering feedback to peers can also be effective ways to jump start discussions an enable students to revise and add to their understanding of a topic.

A mind-map can also be an effective way to conceptually and visually illustrate a project flow for a final assignment. If you are looking for different ways of organizing your Moodle course resources, you could also try creating a mind-map of your course resources with clickable links to articles, resources and guides inside the mind-map.

  • Mindmeister A collaborative online mind mapping tool. Students can work in groups remotely and create their own mind maps, which can then be transformed into dynamic presentations.
  • VUE  An open source concept mapping application developed to support teaching, learning and research and for anyone who needs to organize, contextualize, and access digital information. Using a simple set of tools and a basic visual grammar consisting of nodes and links, faculty and students can map relationships between concepts, ideas and digital content.
  • Mindomo Web-based mind map creation application. The basic level is free and allows users to include arrows, pictures and icons. Projects can be converted to PDFs and students can create their own accounts to collaborate on their mind maps. Higher level of sophistication, which allows users to completely customize their mind maps, is available with the paid (professional) version.
  • Padlet Web-based easy to use online bulletin board, mind-mapping and discussion board tool. Instructors or students can add images, links, videos, and more. Great for collaboration and can be easily shared while maintaining privacy, either in class or as out of class assignments.
  • Bubbl.us Simple and easy to use mind mapping tool with interactive abilities such as saving your mind map as an image, sharing (emailing) your maps, printing your organizer, creating colorful mind map organizers, embedding your work into a website or blog. Free to use, but registration is necessary for saving, embedding, emailing, and other features.

For those interested in exploring more mind-mapping tools, this article from eLearning Industry offers an overview of 6 additional mind-mapping tools, as well as an explanation of how to use them.


Student response/polling tools is a growing area of educational technology. It allows instructors to create interactive learning experiences and can be used to conduct class-content-related surveys, spark classroom discussion or to review previously covered concepts with multiple-choice or short-response questions that include text and images as responses. Not only can these tools improve the engagement of students with course content (especially during lectures), they also allow instructors to see student feedback and assess learning needs in real time.

  • Poll Everywhere Free for a basic account with up to 25 responses per poll (40 for the Higher Ed version). Can be used for PowerPoint, Keynote, or Google Slides. Students respond on their phones, and your presentation slide will come to life as responses pour in. Great if you’re looking for simple polling.
  • Kahoot A popular game based tool, which allows online quizzing, discussion, and surveys. See an article from Faculty Focus on Kahoot here

…and a comparison of Kahoot and Poll Everywhere here:

  • Google Slides Q&A If you are using Google Slides this may be the way to go as it works right from within Google Slides. The presenter can start live Q&A sessions at any time and students can ask questions from any device. This is a relatively simple tool and no account is needed.
  • Piazza Easy to use online Q&A tool that encourages collaboration and higher order-thinking.  Can be used inside the classroom, but more often outside of the classroom. The Wikipedia style allows everyone to contribute to the answer and topics are organized with tags. Instructors can post updates, feedback and debriefs.
  • Socrative Online polling service that allows instructors to gather timely information from students during class in the form of multiple choice, true/false, or short answers. Setting up an account is easy, and the service is available across platforms and devices. See an example of Socrative in use from a University lecturer in Business at University of Northampton here.

More polling tool examples:


Open Educational Resources (OER) are freely and openly licensed educational materials that can be used for teaching, learning, research and other purposes. Although most commonly thought of in terms of Open Textbooks, using OER also includes creating, reusing, remixing, adapting and adopting other materials that are openly licensed.
Click here to access more info.

Capilano University is named after Chief Joe Capilano, an important leader of the Squamish (Sḵwx̱wú7mesh) Nation of the Coast Salish people. We respectfully acknowledge that our campuses are located on the unceded sovereign Indigenous Nations of Lil’wat, xʷməθkʷəy̓əm(Musqueam), Shíshálh (Sechelt), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh(Squamish) and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh).


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