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Student Systems of Support

Teaching an Online Course this Summer? Help Your Students Find Tommie Tech!

As faculty are preparing to teach summer online courses, our academic technology team wants to remind you of a resource that you can point students to even before students start your class. If you like to send your summer students communication before class starts, consider reminding them about the Tommie Tech technology orientation site. (This April 29 article has additional details.)

All St. Thomas students are enrolled in either the undergraduate or graduate student version of the Tommie Tech technology orientation. This student resource includes an introduction to St. Thomas technology that includes content and activities that will assist students in taking an online class. Tommie Tech guides students to:

  • find technology help available to St. Thomas students
  • set up your own device(s) such as testing your browser
  • use Canvas basic features
  • locate St. Thomas apps and digital tools
  • be aware of online etiquette, and
  • learn about digital security practices

There is also an option to earn a Tommie Tech Certificate.

Faculty, to examine Tommie Tech, please enroll in the faculty version by selecting the respective link:

Review the site to become familiar with what the students learn. We also welcome your suggestions on further improvements!

Security note: All course URLs are password protected and only accessible to St. Thomas personnel using their username and password.

If you are teaching this summer, consider these suggestions:

  • Mention the Tommie Tech Undergraduate or Tommie Tech Graduate site in an early announcement or letter before class starts, and/or further call this out in your Get Started/Module 0 in your Canvas course. If you are using the Summer 2020 Course Template from STELAR (upload from the Canvas Commons), that course template includes a Module 0, mentions Tommie Tech,  and also a sample Student Prep for Remote Learning module. Tommie Tech complements and reinforces what you put into your summer courses, and is there for students even before you open up your summer course to them.
  • Include the student Tommie Tech course link in your summer course to make it easy for students to access Tommie Tech. Select the correct link here:
  • Ask students to explore the orientation content before their summer class starts or by the end of the first week of class and spend time on what is unfamiliar. There are Tommie Tech Site Facilitators available in the discussion spaces.
  • If you decide to act students to complete the orientation and earn a Tommie Tech Certificate of Completion, some instructors then create an assignment in their Canvas site that allows students to upload the certificate. Also, some instructors create a pre-week 1 or week 1 activity inviting student reflections on what they will do to be a successful online learner (drawing upon their review of the Tommie Tech site and other resources).
  • If a student completed the Orientation to Online Learning Certificate during 2018 or 2019, that could be considered an equivalency to the Tommie Tech Certificate. You may still want to encourage students to use Tommie Tech to check their browser and internet speed, and point out other activities in Tommie Tech that you’d like them to review.

If you expect students to complete the orientation and show evidence of completion:

  • Sample Message: Please locate the Tommie Tech Orientation site on your Canvas dashboard or use this shortcut link: <Faculty insert either the Undergraduate Student Tommie Tech  or the Graduate Student Tommie Tech link into your student communication.> Please explore the content in the Tommie Tech by the end of your first week of class. If this is your first online class at St Thomas, please complete the orientation and at the end of the site request the Certificate of Completion. If you completed an orientation to online learning during the past 2 years, please still click through the pages in Tommie Tech to see any unfamiliar or updated content.

If you want students to know about the Tommie Tech resource (but not necessarily required):

  • Sample Message: If you are new to online learning at St. Thomas, please explore the Tommie Tech site and suggested activities. <Faculty, insert in either the Undergraduate Student Tommie Tech or the Graduate Student Tommie Tech link into your communication>. New St. Thomas students may find it helpful to complete the entire site; if you have been at St. Thomas for awhile you may simply want to skim the resource. There is also an option to request a Certificate of Completion. 

Where did Tommie Tech come from?

The current Tommie Tech sites combine ideas from both the Orientation to Online Learning site (in operation since Summer 2018) and the fall 2019 Tommie Tech sites. The earlier versions of both sites had a lot of student, faculty, and staff input that guided us on what to include in this current site. We will continue to learn from students (and you!) in this new version of the site.

This April 29 article includes further information on Leveraging Tommie Tech for Student Success.

Looking ahead!

As we look ahead, we wanted to cut down on confusion, and not have so many different technology orientation sites for students to pick right now. Having just one technology orientation site at the undergraduate level and one site at the graduate level (instead of both a Tommie Tech and also Orientation to Online) was one of the ways we are trying to simplify during this complex time. We all think having this base technology resource for all students provides more equitable access to technology supports for all students.

In the future, we can scaffold onto this base Tommie Tech site with additional levels of online learning supports for students who may want additional challenges and opportunities with technology. Badging and additional learning opportunities around the bend. But right now we are reeling things back in a bit to ensure that all students feel safe and connected to one another and to relevant learning, and are supported to leverage technology to support these people and learning connections!

One St. Thomas, nobody left behind.  

If there are additional resources or activities you would like to see for your online learners this summer, please reach out to Jo Montie to explore some ways to creatively work together on this!

This post was written by Jo Montie, Online Learning Student Success Facilitator ( 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 us at

Student Systems of Support, Technology Tools

Tommie Tech and Online Learning for Students: Also a Resource for Faculty and Staff!

This article describes the Tommie Tech and Online (Remote) Learning Canvas resource for students, and how faculty and staff can use this resource to support student success.  

What is Tommie Tech?                                                                                         

All current St. Thomas students have access to a Canvas site called Tommie Tech, an orientation to St. Thomas technologies and online learning resources. There is both an undergraduate and a graduate student version. Now more than ever, students need equitable digital access to resources to enhance participation in virtual spaces. 

Tommie Tech invites students to:

  • learn about key tech systems such as Canvas, Zoom, Murphy, Office 365, and OneStThomas;
  • set up their devices including free apps to download;
  • practice with technology tools; and
  • locate additional resources while learning online.

Tommie Tech includes videos, tutorials, and optional activities so that students start their classes knowing how to upload assignments, set their notifications, find 24/7 help, and more. Tommie Tech Site Facilitators are available (daily) to participate in discussion and respond to questions.

This resource complements (yet does not replace) the more specific college/department level orientation provided to students, and also complement the course-specific student prep module that instructors may include in their courses.

How do students access Tommie Tech?

Initially, all students are automatically enrolled in Tommie Tech to ensure equitable access. All current and upcoming students have been in the site since March 28; starting May 4 there will be a daily enrollment feed into the graduate and undergraduate student sites 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 at any point (see the home page for unenroll option).

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, students get to decide if the site is helpful for them.

Students find Tommie Tech on their St. Thomas Canvas dashboard. If they have trouble finding this site, please contact the

How can faculty and staff access Tommie Tech?

St. Thomas instructors and staff are invited to self-enroll into the Tommie Tech Sample Sites:

Try out the activities and share your feedback on ways to further improve the resource.

How might instructors, advisors, and program leaders use Tommie Tech with students?

Professors, advisors, program leaders, student service team members hold a special role to help students to find and use this resource. A few ideas to consider:

  • Instructors could point out this resource to students on your course site home page or in announcements. Prior to a new semester or course start, include a message in your pre-class or week 1 note such as “All students are enrolled in a Canvas site called Tommie Tech and Online Learning. Please explore the resources in this site and try the suggested activities by or before the first week of class.”
  • You are welcome to include the student course URL in your current course or student communications.
    • The links only work for students already enrolled in the course (from May 4, 2020, on, that should include any student); students must use their St. Thomas username and password to log in.
    • The undergraduate student course link is
    • The graduate student course link is
  • There is an option in both sites for students to receive a St. Thomas Tommie Tech certificate if you would like students to document a certain level of engagement with the content. Work with Tommie Tech Facilitator Jo Montie to further connect your program with Tommie Tech.
  • Advisors, Counselors, or Disability Services team members – If you see a student having technology challenges or needs, ask them if they know about the Tommie Tech site. If not, help them find this course on their Canvas dashboard.
  • In your advising notes, say “For additional technology support, explore the Tommie Tech Canvas site-there for you, 24/7. If new to St. Thomas, we suggest completing practice activities in the site too.”
  • If a student has unresolved tech needs, point them to the for one-on-one support. Also, if you would like a student to have personalized attention in Tommie Tech, connect that student to one of the Tommie Tech Site Facilitators.

Where did Tommie Tech and Online Learning come from?

These sites combine ideas from both the Orientation to Online Learning site (in operation since Summer 2018) and the fall 2019 Tommie Tech sites. The earlier versions of both sites had a lot of student, faculty, and staff input that guided us on what to include in this current site. We will continue to learn from students (and you!) in this new version of the site.

Who are the Tommie Tech Site Facilitators?

Facilitators in the Undergraduate Tommie Tech Site include ITS (Tech) Team members Mark Weinlaeder, Anna Ewart, Katie Nelson, Sarah Larson, and Jo Montie; Jesse Langer (Student Life/Student Affairs); Amy Kadrmas (DFC); Brian Matthews (Academic Advising); Erica Thompson (Residence Life), Ann Zawistoski (Library), and students Lauren Infante (Center for Well Being and Student Government), Maggie Martin (ITS/media) and Sophia G. Becker (ITS/media).

Facilitators in the Graduate Tommie Tech Site include ITS Tech team members Anna Ewart, Andrew Sosinski, Mark Weinlaeder,  Jo Montie; Rayni Shin (Data Science grad student and ITS student employee) and John Heintz (Library Services).

Additional Site Facilitators are welcome!

In Summary

We are grateful for your teamwork to keep these resources relevant! For feedback or questions about Tommie Tech Online/Remote Learning site, please contact any of these Site Facilitators or Jo Montie at

This post was written by Jo Montie, Online Learning Systems Facilitator 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 us at

Accessibility, Student Systems of Support

Design Resources that are Accessible for All Learners

In this article, I introduce Strategy 3: Design resources that are accessible to all students, not just some students. This is from an Eight Strategies blog series about creating electronic orientation and success resources. New to this series? Also read about Strategy 1 and Strategy 2. 

Strategy 3: Design Resources Accessible for All  

Learn to design resources that are accessible to all learners, not just some learners. I do not know how to fully do all of this (yet), but I am committed to continuing to learn accessibility skills. Whether you are developing a digital orientation, tutoring support, employee training, or another resource in Canvas (or another learning management system), you want everyone to have access to your terrific content, right?  

Accessible for All: Our Values, Mission, and the Law 

Creating fair and equitable access for all is the right thing to do. My values and the St.Thomas Mission Statement guide my accessibility work. Advancing the common good is about the well-being and participation of everybody in our community. People need to have full access to information and learning experiences, including digital/online content, in order to be active members of a learning community.  

If values and mission are not enough to nudge and inspire, recall the many laws (Americans with Disabilities Act-ADA, the Rehabilitation Act Section 504 and 508, Minnesota Human Rights Act) that give “teeth” to these principles. The Section 508 Refresh and What It Means for Higher Education (LaGrow2017) describes Electronic Information and Communication Technology (EICT) as accessible “if it can be used as effectively by people with disabilities as it can by those without.”  As we communicate information electronically (digitally, online), ensure that our learners have equal opportunity and equivalent ease of use.   

Specific Strategies to Use Right Now 

Consider these actions as you strive to create student success sites that work for all learners!

  • Develop a Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Mindset. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a set of research-based principles to guide lesson design and teaching. This UDL at a Glance video (4:36) effectively introduces UDL. This CAST website provides additional information on UDL. Consider following the  CAST Twitter to join this movement to expand learning opportunities for all people. 
  • Incorporate new accessibility skills into your resource design. ThUniversity of St. Thomas Faculty Development accessibility website page describes approaches to create better access for all. The University of Minnesota Accessible U site promotes six Core Skills for targeting accessibility practices into your site design:  
    • Headings and Document Structure 
    • Hyperlinks 
    • Video Captions 
    • Bullets and Numbered Lists 
    • Color and Contrast 
    • Image Alt Text 

The next revision of the University of MN Accessible U site will add a 7th core skill to the list.   

  • Use the Canvas features for accessibility designOr if you are from an organization that uses another learning management system, ask that company for their accessibility features.  
  • Keep on learning! After you learn and incorporate one new accessibility practice, pick another skill to develop. Creating accessible digital resources for all learners requires continual learning and a commitment from all of us. 

Examples in our Success Sites 

Below are some of the practices we currently use in our orientation and student success sites that are co-created with the St. Thomas E-Learning and Research team (STELAR).  

  • Ensure that anything with audio is closed captioned.  
  • In addition to close captioning, also include a transcript document of the audio or video content.  
  • Use bold or italics instead of underline to emphasize a wordunderlining denotes a URL link in an online environment.  
  • Structure documents using paragraph styles or heading tags to make the documents accessible to an individual using a screen reader, and more readable for all students.  
  • When using a colored font for emphasis, use color combined with another visual indicator (bold or italics) to convey information. Someone with color blindness may not perceive the emphasis if you only use color. 

Providing an equitable and effective learning environment for all students requires that we present teaching and learning materials in ways that are accessible for all, including individuals with disabilities. When course materials are designed with this intention, ALL learners benefit. 

This post was written by Jo Montie, Online Learning Systems Facilitator 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 at 

Student Systems of Support

When A Student Has Tech Struggles: Tips for Instructors and Advisors 

Everywhere you look, technology holds a growing role in our lives. At the University of St. Thomas we provide an array of supports for students. Instead of a “one size fits all approach” to student tech support, we strive for personalized and responsive solutions since when it comes to technology since not everybody needs the same thing or accesses learning and technology in the same way.  

Our options run on a continuum from self-help, “do it yourself” resources to people-to-people (expert-guided) support. Options also include in-person, phone, email, live chat, 24/7 self-guided Tommie Tech, and 24/7/365 Canvas-specific support.  

Here are suggestions on how to help students find the range of technology supports available for their success.  

  • Point your students to Tommie Tech, a St. Thomas Canvas resource/tutorial site that helps students to find and use St. Thomas technologies, 24/7/365. You are welcome to give students the link that will allow them to self-enroll into this site. You can perhaps send a course announcement reminding them of this resource or post where you list other tech help information. If you tend to hear from certain students a lot about tech questions, guiding them to Tommie Tech may help address some of their needs and clear up their confusion. 
    • Graduate students can self-enroll in the Tommie Tech for Graduate Students Canvas site. Please share the link!  Fall 2019 is our first launch of this site, and students who explore the site are invited to share feedback that will help shape the site for spring 2020 and beyond.  
    • Undergraduate students can self-enroll in the Tommie Tech for Undergraduate Students Canvas site; all first-year undergraduate students are automatically enrolled in the site, but it is an option for all undergrads. 

And yet…Tommie Tech is just a part of the array of student supports at St. Thomas. If a student continues to have unaddressed tech needs or it seems like they would benefit from talking to a person right away, here are additional options. 

  • Ask students to contact Canvas 24/7/365 live chat or toll-free phone call if their technology need seems specific to Canvas (e.g., trouble uploading documents or media into Canvas, trouble opening something in Canvas). There are also Canvas Student Guides for the visual learner.  Click the Help button (question mark) on the far left, purple global navigation panel to call or chat. 

In addition to the “do it yourself” Tommie Tech Canvas site and Canvas 24/7 for Canvas specific needs, there is a range of additional ways to get personalized support from the St. Thomas Technology support team. 

  • Some students like the Email option. The St. Thomas Tech Desk can be reached at When sending the tech desk your question, it may help to take a screenshot of your issue.
  • If you are on-campus and would like in-person Tech Help, please stop by! 
    • St Paul campus, stop by the Center for Student Achievement Technology Help desk (first floor of Murray-Herrick Hall, St Paul).   
    • Minneapolis campus, stop by 300 Schultz Hall 
    • Check locations and hours before making a trip to one of these locations. 
  • Phone St. Thomas Tech Help- Yes, some people still prefer talking on the phone!
    • Local (651) 962-6230 | Hours listed on Tech Desk Services page 
    • Toll-Free: (800) 328-6819 
    • On-campus: ext. 2-6230 (651-962-6230)
  • And students always have the 24/7 option to visit and explore the St. Thomas Innovations & Technology Services page

This post was written by Jo Montie, Online Learning Systems Facilitator and Peter Weinhold, Director of Academic Technology, 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 us at

Student Systems of Support

Student Success Sites: Home Page as a Foundation

In this article, I introduce Strategy 2: How to create a clear home page and easy site navigation so students start and stick with it. This is the third in a series of Eight Strategies blog series for staff/faculty who create electronic orientation and learning resources for students.

There are several categories of Student Success Sites currently used at our university:

  • Onboarding sites to provide orientation at the beginning of a program or prior to a certain course;
  • Program community sites to provide connection to the people and information in a program once stakeholders have had an initial orientation; and
  • Knowledge, skills or competencies sites to teach a certain concept or subject area that is either program-specific or something that cuts across various program areas.

Home Page as a Strong Foundation

Using a physical home as a metaphor for the design of a home page may help to further leverage important elements at the beginning of a site.

When arriving home, it helps when we feel welcome, know what to expect, where to find things, and who is there to help! We want students to log in and immediately feel welcome since this will help them see this is a resource for them.

Students are more likely to start exploring the resource if their first visit to the home page helps them easily understand the reason to use the resource.

Furthermore,  students are more likely to stick with the resource and drill down beyond the home page if the site has clear navigation tips. A home base may also serve as a re-entry point or a familiar place to return back to; after all, there is no place like home.

Consider these examples to gain inspiration for crafting your own meaningful home page.  

Strategy 2 Home Base Examples:  

  • The Registration Readiness site, created by St. Thomas Academic Advising team members Susan Anderson, Drew Puroway, and colleagues, introduce new students to key first-year content electronically in a Canvas site before they come on campus for orientation and registration. At the top of the home page, there is a welcome message and clear communication about the purpose of the site and steps to get started.  

This Registration Readiness mini-course will prepare you to register for Fall semester classes when you attend Orientation and Registration (O&R) this summer.

    • Start by watching this welcome video on this home page;
    • Next, scroll down this home page and read all of this information;
    • Then, select the “Start Here” button at the bottom of this page to begin this mini-course.”

  • The Tommie Tech for Graduate Students site introduces new students to St. Thomas technology and includes recommended steps for getting the most out of the site. A welcome message from Dr. Ed Clark, Chief Information Officer at the University of St. Thomas, explains why this resource exists and how it may benefit them.

    The home page also includes a short video from a graduate student and additional navigational tips including pointing out a feature where pages will check off to help them keep track of which pages have been explored already. We know student time is important and want to point out helpful, time-saving features.
  • The Orientation to Online Learning site home page includes a 50-second captivating video of a student guide explaining why the site is important to their success in upcoming online classes. During the first two minutes on the site’s home page, students want to know the what, why, and how regarding the site. The home page also includes contact information for the site moderators (if you get stuck in the orientation site), and a clear Start Here and Navigation Tips section.

Wrap Up

The home page can serve as a foundation that students start with and may come back to multiple times. What you put on your home page will depend on your context and preferences for content organization. I hope that these examples further feed your own journey, and would welcome hearing from you about your examples!

This post was written by Jo Montie, Online Learning Systems Facilitator 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 at