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Online Social Work Teaching and Learning Resource Center

Teaching a class in an online environment provides endless opportunities to engage with students using cool new technology to enhance learning.  Every day, there are new apps and tools that are developed for educators to enhance the way that they communicate with students in the virtual world.  I’ve highlighted just a few tools that are simple to use and provide good discussion starters in online classes.

The first tool is, a free program that allows you to transform text into pictures, graphs, and interactive media.  Easy to use with a minimal investment of time, is great for sharing statistics and data with students in a fun and accessible format.

Here is an example made by Soyla Santos, the Coordinator of the Maverick Transition and Success Center at UTA:


Another fun tool for livening up the way we communicate with students is through animation.  One program that is pretty straightforward and also entertaining is GoAnimate.  Let me tell you more:


VideoScribe is a useful way to convey information in a graphic format.  I’ve created videos using VideoScribe that serve as introductions to my courses.  VideoScribe is most affordable to employ as an App on an iPad, as the computer version of the program is cost-prohibitive. 


Creating short and entertaining videos may be easier than you think.  One program, Animoto, makes video production simple.

Here’s an example of a video created using Animoto by Soyla Santos at UTA:

Graphic and Liquid Syllabi

You might consider converting the syllabus for your online course into a graphic, or liquid syllabus.  This would involve enhancing the visual appeal of your syllabus by adding graphic elements such as pictures, links, and videos.  Remember that all of the required syllabus content should remain, regardless of its appearance!

Here are some articles that discuss graphic and liquid syllabi, and provide visual examples of each:

Google Docs

Finally, you can encourage group collaboration and teamwork by having students use Google Docs to complete group projects and brainstorming activities.  Google Docs  allows users to simultaneously work on the same document over the internet, and this can be useful in synchronous environments (students all working on the document at a set day/time) or asynchronous environments (students work on the document as their individual schedules allow).  Google Docs can be enhanced with the use of Google Hangouts as well, a video/web conferencing tool that allows for group collaboration over the internet.

Here’s a quick tutorial developed by Nate Evans, an Instructional Designer at Michigan State University, that provides an introduction to using Google Docs: