St. Thomas E-Learning And Research - The Intersection of Technology and Pedagogy
Best Practices, Tips, and Tricks

7 Things You Can Do to Make Hybrid Meetings Better

Hybrid meetings (with some people participating in person, others online) seems like the best of both worlds, right…? If you’re on campus, you can meet in-person with your colleagues in the conference room or classroom! If you’re not, you can just “Zoom in” to the meeting! We have good A/V technology in our conference spaces and classrooms! We are all really experienced with using Zoom now! We can do this!!! 

And we can…but it’s not easy. Meetings with in-person and online participants can quickly become unsatisfying to both populations. The online participants often slip into a passive observer role because those in the meeting room are engaged primarily with one another, and/or because they cannot hear or understand what is happening in the room. And the in-room participants can’t always see the names and faces of all online attendees and so they don’t even know who is attending the meeting remotely or who is speaking at any given time. 

A good hybrid meeting experience requires the meeting facilitator to purposefully optimize environments for both the “Zoomies” as well as the “Roomies.” Here are 7 things you can do to make hybrid meetings better for both groups:

  1. Include both the physical and Zoom meeting locations in the meeting request
    Someone who says they may attend in person may need to attend via Zoom unexpectedly, or vice versa. Provide the room number and the Zoom link to everyone invited to the meeting.
  2. Make sure all can hear, and be heard
    Make sure everyone can hear what’s being said regardless of their location. Ask Zoomies to give a thumbs up or thumbs down about the sound quality they are experiencing remotely. Ask the Roomies about the audio level in the room and change the volume. Make sure Roomies get close to the mic when they speak…and if they can’t, repeat what was said so the Zoomies can hear.  Set your Zoom meeting defaults so that online participants are automatically muted upon entry in the online meeting room, to minimize background noise, and so you don’t have to mute attendees one by one as they arrive.
  3. Actively facilitate the meeting for both populations
    Greet the Zoomies as well as the Roomies when they arrive in the meeting, and make sure everyone is included in the pre-meeting small talk (it’s really easy for the facilitator to just chat with the people who are in the room…those online folks want to be included, too). Set some meeting norms; ask anyone who wants to speak during the meeting to raise their hand, either in-person or virtually, before they speak, in order to democratize the meeting and make sure all are included and heard. Also ask anyone who speaks to state their name, as voices aren’t always recognized by all. Provide documents related to the meeting in a shared digital space that can be accessed by everyone.
  4. Engage the online folks purposefully, and frequently
    Focus questions to the group by formally addressing the Zoomies on regular occasion. Look into the camera as you do, if possible. Check the chat and call out comments posted there (or assign someone to be the Zoom moderator on your behalf, asking them to make sure comments and questions are summarized verbally periodically to the larger grop). Display the names and faces of Zoomies in the meeting room, either on a digital display or projector. Use tools that all can see (if you write on a whiteboard in the room, ensure the remote folks can see what you’ve written…and if they can’t, use a digital whiteboard or a document camera to display content remotely). Think through how you will manage small group discussions and reporting out (i.e., have Zoom participants in a group together, or ask in-room participants with laptops to join the Zoom breakout with an online colleague). Encourage Zoomies to speak up anytime they are struggling to hear what is being said in the room so that you can repeat it if you have a soft-spoken person in the meeting.
  5. Move side conversations someplace else
    When we’re all in a physical room together and two people start whispering to each other while someone else is speaking, it’s typically easy enough to keep focused on the primary speaker. When you are online, that is impossible. The side conversation becomes this buzz that makes it really difficult to hear the primary speaker.  So, ask people to take their side conversations someplace else…or provide a backchannel chat for those private side convos (more on that below).
  6. Provide a backchannel chat for everyone to engage in from their computer or phone
    The way that Zoom allows for comments and questions to be shared via chat when all are in a Zoom meeting is a feature that many of us appreciate; anyone and everyone can add commentary and pose questions without disrupting the presenter, and the presenter can ask questions to check for understanding or to engage all participants, and there’s often lots of encouragement and thanks shared through chat. It’s still possible to have everyone use Zoom chat – including the Roomies – to support “backchannel” conversation for the whole group, though in-room participants should ensure that they have turned off their audio on their devices so that there isn’t feedback in the room. Microsoft Teams also offers a chat feature, as does Canvas, and there are other tools like Slack or Discord that are being used for this.
  7. Make sure you’re meeting in a place that is optimized for a good hybrid meeting experience
    Not all of our conference rooms and classrooms are the same. Find a space that is optimized for hybrid meetings, with a good camera and mic, and presentation technology. Test equipment and rehearse in advance of any really important meetings with all of your speakers and presenters, and assign someone to monitor the Zoomies as well as the Roomies so that they have a contact to reach out to if they experience problems, and feel supported and engaged during that meeting. 

As is true with all technology, the technology used to support hybrid meetings will continue to change and improve over time. That said, the most effective hybrid meetings are ones that add in a layer of overt facilitation, ensuring remote participants are engaged and equally included.

Lisa Burke is the Director of the St. Thomas E-learning and Research Team, and has experienced both effective and ineffective hybrid meetings, classes, and conferences. She also likes long distance cycling, which is somewhat irrelevant but explains the photo that is mysteriously published with this post.

Best Practices, Tips, and Tricks


A few weeks ago, many people believed that we were emerging from the pandemic. We prepared for a return to the office, the classroom, and in-person gatherings. However, as the guidance and recommendations shift, why should our course planning be any different?

There are a myriad of reasons to plan for classroom flexibility this year:

Below are recommendations to help you build-in and plan for flexibility in your courses, whether they are online, in-person, or blended.

Course Design

Good course design and the principles of Universal Design for Learning require that a course be well-organized so that students can quickly find information and resources to support their learning. If you haven’t already, consider:

  • Including a Getting Started module for student support. Import this pre-made module from Canvas Commons. This module includes a wealth of information and student support resources, such as links to Tommie Tech Services, Zoom Support, and other Academic and Student Support Services. This module also includes a course Q & A forum where students can post questions for you or their peers to answer.
  • Adding more to your course syllabus, such as a checklist for student attendance and communication expectations. For example, if a student cannot attend class in-person, they should email you as soon as possible. When hosting classes on Zoom, you should include your Zoom expectations (cameras on, breakout room participation, etc.)
  • Providing a course cadence statement to your syllabus or the Canvas course, if applicable. For example, “Each module for the following week will be published on Friday. By Wednesday of each week, you should plan to have the reading completed and submit your initial discussion post. On Thursday, come to class prepared to discuss the reading. All Reflection Essay assignments will be due on Fridays at 11:59 pm CST.”
  • Recording your lectures. If possible, having your lectures pre-recorded allows for more flexibility in your classes. It is best practice to record lectures in segments of 10 minutes or less for ease of editing and student engagement. If you suddenly need to pivot online, your material is ready to be deployed to students. Additionally, students can pause or re-watch lectures as needed. You can also add interactive elements to your video lectures (such as quick quiz questions to check understanding) and view analytics. In addition, it’s useful to have your lectures pre-recorded for absent students so they don’t fall behind.
  • Creating accessible activities that serve all learners.

Course Instruction

Plan to build-in flexibility during your live, in-person or Zoom course sessions and be sure to plan for technology to fail at the most inopportune moment. If you haven’t done so yet, consider:

  • Practicing on Zoom. Before the class session, practice on Zoom using your planned technology. Practice sharing your screen, calling up any documents or presentations, initiating breakout rooms, posting in the chat, any transitions, etc.
  • Creating a collaborative document. By creating and sharing a collaborative document before class, you and your students can have a place to post links, catch notes, record questions or comments, and communicate if there is a last-minute change.
  • Planning for intentional social interaction. Establishing a classroom community early can pay dividends later if you need to suddenly pivot to a different modality.
  • Communicating on Canvas by making frequent use of announcements and posting lectures, notes, or resources in the appropriate module.
  • Trying a new tool to facilitate asynchronous time outside of class. There are numerous tools to drive student asynchronous engagement such as video interactives, online posters or white boards (Padlet, Miro, Mural, Google Suite).
  • Technology failures. Technology can and will fail in the classroom. Have an action plan to overcome technology issues. Some actions could be:
    1. Try turning it off and on again
    2. Try a different web browser
    3. Use Canvas to post an announcement or upload an activity or discussion post
    4. Get help – Tommie Tech Services ( includes Innovation and Technology Services (ITS) team help via phone, drop in, remote, and email support.

Overall, the best laid course plans can go awry and planning for flexibility will offer you and your students more options for learning and lead to a more seamless experience.

This post was written by Kathryn Russell, Instructional Designer with the St. Thomas E-Learning and Research (STELAR) Center at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. To learn more about what STELAR can do for you, please visit STELAR’s website or email us at

Technology Tools

Active Social Reading via Leganto: A Game-changer!

I’ve always believed that the Library is the university’s best-kept secret. That moniker is quite unfortunate because the Library is a prime extension of the classroom and the content in any university course. But for those who, like the University of St. Thomas, are integrating Leganto into their Learning Management System (LMS), the secret is out.

We’ve been incorporating Leganto Reading Lists in our Canvas LMS going on three years now. In my role as Instructional Designer, every time I consult with faculty on a new course development or redesign, I make sure we talk about the features and benefits of integrating a Leganto Reading List in their course site.

Not only is Leganto saving our students tens of thousands of dollars on course materials, but using Leganto insures compliance to copy-right and licensing factors, lessening the workload of busy faculty. Incorporating a Leganto Reading List gives our faculty an easy method of extending access to the great resources our Library system has had available all along.

Leganto's Social Reading

This fall, I’m excited to highlight several new features Leganto has engineered. Because I support faculty through a variety of course delivery formats, I try to focus their energy on student engagement strategies. In its newest release, Leganto adds the functionality of “social reading” to their rock-solid platform. This means a huge improvement over static syllabus reading because with social reading students are engaged not only with the content, but with each other. Students will be able to annotate and comment on PDF files a professor curates within Leganto. Students can engage with one another around topics of interest and annotations can be private or public (to others who have access to that resource).

In another release coming this fall, Leganto will add the ability to create Read & Respond assignments. This is a game-changer because it increases accountability among students for required readings in a course. With Read & Respond assignments, a professor can ask questions about specific content in a reading, and students will be able to demonstrate their understanding by highlighting, annotating, and commenting. Leganto readings now take center stage in the course and can be used as learning activities, formative assessments, and engagement strategies.

These new features extend the possibilities for students in all disciplines in socially connected and powerful ways. Because of the innovations Leganto brings to the table, I now have even more reasons to recommend Leganto Resource Lists to the faculty I work with.

This post was written by Michael Wilder, an Instructional Designer for the St. Thomas E-Learning and Research (STELAR) Center at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. To learn more about this topic, please visit our website at or email us at

Technology Tools

Active Learning, Citizen Science and Research with ArcGIS Survey123

In this blog St. Thomas E-Learning and Research (STELAR) instructional designer Matt Vernon invites you to try out a survey tool (Survey123)  that he uses to support active learning.

What does active learning mean for you? For me it’s when I am so immersed in doing something that time slips away…so focused on a goal that I tackle learning something complex to accomplish it…doing something that is personally relevant…or working with others so that it’s a socially rewarding task.

What helps you to create and see signs of active learning in your teaching? What technology tools may help you to create active learning experiences? For me, ArcGIS Survey 123 is one great resource!

What is ArcGiS Survey123

ArcGIS Survey123 is a tool to collect location data and pair it with other types of data. Although designed for efficiently conducting field surveys, Survey123 also has educational and research applications ranging from simple individual or class inquiries to crowd-sourced citizen science projects. The remainder of this blog takes you through a way to experience Survey123 and resources to get you started using it.

Learn by Doing: Give ArcGIS Survey123 a Try!

I hope you find this fun! Below is an activity to investigate the relationship between our material stuff, where it was made, how important it is to us, and what might happen to it when we are done with it.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  1. Something you use in your work that has a label of origin or you know where it was made
  2. A computer, mobile phone, or tablet
  3. About 5 minutes of your time, maybe less

Step 1: Collect data

Begin by opening this survey123 on a computer or mobile device or Scanning the QR code below. If your device asks to access your camera, select yes if want to take a picture of your item.
QR Code to Survey

Congratulations! you just participated in a…

Did you catch the Thank You Message?
If not, don’t worry, you can try again.

Step 2: View the results and analysis

Survey123 provides a fun set of analysis tools to share your data or keep it to yourself. Filter your data, interpret your results, create charts and graphs, print, share or export your results. Check out our data!

What did you discover about your material goods? Where were they made? Where might they end up when we are done with it?

What else is going on that we didn’t anticipate? What new questions can we ask?

Let me know! email me (Matt) at

Ok that was fun, what else can we do with it?

What’s relevant to you? Social, cultural, political, historic, spiritual, architectural, engineered, business, environment, health, wellbeing, equity, infrastructure; your idea here.

One way to be active and engaged is to explore your own curiosity and explore it with others with similar interests. Collaborating with experts around topics that matter to you can help you to make a meaningful impact in the world. Through engaging in data collection and analysis you can fill in important gaps in data at finer scales, like a neighborhood, that can positively impact or inform decision making and public knowledge.

At its heart ArcGIS Survey123 is about adding all sorts of information to a location.

Image of a handful of road salt on a sidewalk

Image of a handful of road salt on a sidewalk

I sample excess sidewalk salt in my neighborhood. When I encounter it I use a survey on my phone to take a picture and choose from a range of values such as: Small Residual, Medium Residual or High Residual. My phone records location, time and date for me.

Taking a photo helps me validate my choice of values, gives me more context about the location, and provides visual evidence for me to engage stakeholders in increasing awareness of chloride pollution.

Makes collecting data easier so you spend more time doing the fun stuff.

picture of iPhone with a survey123 on the screen

Survey to sample excess sidewalk salt

Survey123 has a wide selection of question types you can use to crowdsource or individually collect data.  The most valuable question type is the map which can capture points, areas, or lines; like a walking path.

A smartphone can sense light (in photos and video), sound, speed, direction, altitude, longitude, latitude, and more.  With the mobile app, you can collect data on or offline. Your phone’s sensors can add a lot of information for you, so you can spend more time exploring and observing, or quickly take a sample when you are out and about or on the move. What do you notice? What’s going on? What else? This too is active learning.

The image gallery below are pictures of the types of questions you can use and more ways to dig in to the data for the locations you sample.

Mapping it!  Let’s look at data on a map!

Here is our stuff represented on a pretty simple map. This map has 4 layers of information:

  1. A base map or canvas to layer stuff on top of
  2. A layer with the locations of our stuff combined with one of our questions; the intensity of our response if we lost it
  3. A layer representing the Human Development index score for 2013 by country
  4. A Layer with human population estimates by country

Tip: Click on the locations to display the results of all the questions we asked for that record

*Layers 3 & 4 and much more are available on the ESRI Living atlas

Communicate it

StoryMaps are great platforms to communicate about data and create compelling stories to showcase your results and draw attention to your crowdsourcing, placemaking and citizen science projects.

If you are interested in using ArcGIS Survey123 to make maps or  StoryMaps , contact STELAR to discuss your ideas and we can help you get started. The University of St. Thomas’ Geography Department graciously manages our ERSI account with ArcGIS Survey123 and other tools.

This post was written by Matthew Vernon, Instructional Designer ( with the St. Thomas E-Learning and Research (STELAR) Center at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. To learn more about STELAR, please visit our website at or email us at Continue Reading

Student Systems of Support, Uncategorized

Tommie Tech for Graduate Students: January 2021

This article describes the University of St. Thomas student technology resource for graduate students called Tommie Tech Canvas site, including a summary of student feedback from the fall 2020 semester.

What is the Tommie Tech Canvas Site for Graduate Students?  

All current St. Thomas students have access to the Tommie Tech Canvas site, an orientation to St. Thomas technologies and online learning resources.

Tommie Tech invites students to:

  • Learn about key tech systems such as Canvas, Zoom, Murphy, Office 365, and OneStThomas (intranet at St. Thomas);
  • Set up their devices including free apps to download;
  • Practice with technology tools; and
  • Locate additional resources while learning online.

Students find Tommie Tech on their St. Thomas Canvas dashboard. The graduate student course link works for students already enrolled in the course; students must use their St. Thomas username and password to log in.There is a daily enrollment feed to ensure that students are not missed. After students are given access to the site, if they do not want to be in the site, they can request being removed.

Who uses Tommie Tech?   

As of December 2020, there were 4,344 graduate students enrolled in Tommie Tech; there is a daily automated feed so the course shows up on each student’s Canvas dashboard. It is a 24/7/365 resource for any graduate student looking for additional help so even during holidays the self-help is there!

Many students simply pick any unfamiliar topics to explore. A smaller number of graduate students explore each module and complete the entire site. There is an option for students to receive a St. Thomas Tommie Tech certificate if their graduate program would like them to document evidence of completion, or if a student simply wants to have that certificate of completion.

Several graduate programs require students to earn a certificate of completion; other programs point out or build a link in their program level orientation materials back to the Tommie Tech site with an invitation to explore anything unfamiliar.

Fall 2020 Survey Results from Graduate Students Completing Tommie Tech

In the fall 2020, 124 graduate students completed the entire site and earned the Tommie Tech certificate. The majority of these students were from programs and departments that strongly encouraged or asked them to complete Tommie Tech; however a few students simply found the site and chose to complete it. Ninety-nine of these students also completed a short anonymous survey.

Here are a few highlights from the survey results from 99 graduate students who completed the survey after going through the entire Tommie Tech Graduate site. Of the 93 first year respondents, 45 had reported that they had started their first class/term at time of completing the survey, and 48 had not yet started graduate classes at the time of the survey completion (seven of them were students who had been undergraduates at St. Thomas).

When asked how helpful Tommie Tech was, here is what they said:

Most of the survey respondents (86%) found the Tommie Tech helpful or very helpful, as illustrated by the following comments:

  • “All the information necessary to navigate anything tech-related is there.”
  • “I was able to set up Canvas in a way that will be most beneficial for success.”
  • “There were some aspects of the modules that I was familiar with, specificallyOffice365. However, everything is presented in a clear and accessible way.”
  • “I had not previously used many of these platforms (Murphy, Canvas, etc.) and this course helped me gain a strong understanding of these and many other platforms not listed. I’m looking forward to working through these on my free-time to understand them more but this program was a perfect stepping stone before starting my courses through St. Thomas.”

A smaller number (12%) reported Tommie Tech as Somewhat helpful & Somewhat unhelpful. These students tended to already know certain resources and only needed a smaller subset of the resources, as illustrated by the following comments:

  • “I was already familiar with Canvas due to using it during my undergraduate studies at the UMN – Twin Cities. It was helpful to learn about downloading Office365 on multiple devices.”
  • “I knew how to do most of this and I feel as though, even if I didn’t, it would be easier for me to figure it out myself than to navigate through this entire canvas course. One thing that had not been explained to me before today was the One St. Thomas page and I am very surprised that this is my first-time hearing of this! Maybe I missed it in the orientation packet but like!”

We also asked graduates students “How prepared do you feel for your upcoming class(es) and St. Thomas school experience using technology?” 

Comments from students who selected completely prepared after completing Tommie Tech include the following 

  • I have a strong background in technology and have taken many online classes. Combine that with the very thorough orientation and I feel ready. 
  • The in-depth tour of Canvas helped me get the hang of how classes will be organized. The “preparing your devices” section helped me catch and address a few potentially-frustrating tech shortcomings.

Comment from students who felt mostly prepared include: 

  • This will be my first time taking online synchronous classes, so I am sure there will be a learning curve. Tommie Tech did help me feel prepared to find help if I end up needing it. 
  • I feel like I have a great grasp on the technology and where to find it but I will not feel completely prepared until I need to use the tech in a real world application when classes fully start.

We also heard from six graduate students who had been at St. Thomas for two to four years, and shared that it was helpful or very helpful as illustrated by the following quotes:   

  • Easy to understand the instructions on how to use most of the resources. 
  • I didn’t know I had access to so many apps and resources like Office 365 for example. 
  • Helped me with navigation and awareness of resources.” 
  • Answered common questions in one spot. 
  • I feel very prepared (after completing Tommie Tech). I just need to download the proper apps, but now I know what resources are available. 
  • I feel confident in finding things.”

Summary of Student’s Feedback 

Based upon student feedback, Tommie Tech helps newer students or student unfamiliar with UST tech to have ways to know about and use various UST technologies. A significant number of survey respondents (86%) expressed that Tommie tech was helpful and helped them to feel prepared for the upcoming semester. Students also stated that this was helpful for them as all the classes are now moving towards online. 

Some students also expressed that most of the information was general and it would be helpful before the start of the classes. For students new to Canvas, Murphy and other St. Thomas platforms, this was very important information to aid their successful startup. The students who knew about Canvas and other features pointed out that it was a good review for them after a break.  

However, graduate students also expressed wanting to be able to find the information most important to them, and some students expressed a wish to be able more easily find what was needed. At times students expressed there was too much information although others seemed to appreciate the robust nature of resources.   

Although overall Tommie Tech is more likely to have value for newer students, the comments from the six graduate students (in their 2-4th year) show how there are occasions where more experienced St. Thomas students also find this to be a useful resource. Some of these same students however also mentioned that they would have been a greater help if offered when at the start of their program. 

The majority of the students also expressed that after going through the Tommie Tech they felt completely or mostly prepared for upcoming classes (with respect to technology). After going through the orientation, they felt confident attending classes and knew how to navigate through the systems for upcoming classes. As a result of completing the orientation site, students felt more comfortable navigating around in Canvas and becoming familiar with systems like OneSthomas, Office 365 apps, and other places to get tech help like the tech desk and 24/7 Canvas. 

Next Steps: Continuing to Listen to Student Voices  

Tommie Tech is especially pertinent for newer students, students who have had less access to or comfort with technology or academics, and/or students unfamiliar with St. Thomas technologies. However, some more experienced students also use the site. Students get to decide when and if the site is helpful for them, to enhance their experience and success as a student. 

Even though overall there are indicators that this resource has value for students who need this type of support, we also know there are some ways to improve this experience.   

Student time is so valuable. As we make site updates in Tommie Tech during the early part of 2021, we will seek ways to further help students find what may be useful to them, when they need it. We can do that by both shortening and clarifying the home page to make is easier to know how to find what may be the most useful to you. We also can add some information graphics, and further differentiate headings in the site to depict basic introductory versus “going deeper” or extension resources 

By listening to our student voices, we seek to create a more seamless student experience that effectively integrates technology in meaningful ways. 

This post was written by Jo Montie, Online Learning Student Success Facilitator ( and Rajaram Tangirala and Rayni Shin, Graduate Students in Data Sciences, with the St. Thomas E-Learning and Research (STELAR) Center at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn 

To learn more about this topic, please visit our website at or email Jo Montie at