Teaching & Learning Tips

A collection of tips and tools designed to aid in transitioning instruction online.

Effective Use of Online Technology

Aug 20, 2020
Effective use of online technology

We all have our expertise with particular apps, or online platforms, but few of us understand all of the technical details and social impact that come with online communication and interaction. These six tips can help you use online tech more efficiently and effectively.

Tip #1 Collaborate with Your Classmates

Social distancing can make it hard to work with classmates in person. When an instructor assigns work that can be done in groups, classmates can be a great resource for a deeper understanding of course material. Working collaboratively allows for deeper discussion and an additional resource for clarification on material. Try these online tools to safely and effectively work on course work with fellow students. 

Zoom - Not only can professors host meetings, students can too! Any student can create a meeting, invite others, share their screen, and record their own meetings to review material later on. The chat feature also allows the ability to send links to files or websites relevant to the group discussion, just remember to save those links in a document because once the meeting is over they are gone. Check out these tips on how to use Zoom effectively.

Microsoft Teams - This option is best for group projects that do not need video conferencing to effectively communicate with their classmates. Files can still be sent over this chat and are saved while you keep the chat going. This can be downloaded as an app on your phone and on your computer so you never miss a chat from another student. 

Best Practices for Group Work

Group work can be messy and unfair if not done right. Start each group project the right wat with these tips:


Tip #2 Keep Organized

There are a lot of free, easy to use tools at your fingertips that will help you keep organized during this academic year. Avoid letting things fall through the cracks, pulling an all-nighter or missing an important due date. Try out a couple different tools that feel intuitive to you. It’s important not to choose too many platforms, which can lead to overlooked information and tasks. 


Use a calendar to keep your schedule straight. Set alarms for project due dates and tests. You can also store information for Zoom rooms and other virtual meetings. Best practices include: 

  • Set-up due date reminders for a week before projects must be submitted 
  • Schedule personal deadlines for papers (ex. 2 pages due Friday, 3 pages due Monday)
  • Make classes recurring events 


Use a list application to keep track of your tasks. In many apps you can set due dates, reminders and organize them by category. Below are a few applications to try: 

Google Tasks - Tasks can be broken down into different categories. This also syncs up with tasks in your Gmail and Google Calendar

Google Keep - Lists are created and arranged like post-it notes, making it easy to view multiple lists at once. Lists can also be archived and tasks satisfying checked off once completed. 

Microsoft To Do - Assign tasks to a particular day or place them in different categories. 

Browser Bookmarks

It can be time consuming to go searching through your email for course links and websites. Use bookmarks to keep all your site organized! To keep your browser bar looking clean; make folders for different classes or projects. Link course pages, articles to read later, or campus resources.


Tip #3 Take Notes

While some people prefer taking notes by hand and others on their devices, there are many free options available to share and organize notes online. Organization of notes is key, and being able to review them after lectures leads to successful studying. 

Google Docs - Best for users of Google applications, this site allows documents to be stored and accessed online and offline. Students can also share documents with others to collaborate or view each other's work. Edits can be shown in real time when multiple people are working on the same file. 

Box Notes - Box Notes allows students to create notes in Box, where folders can be created and shared with others. Edits in Box Notes will be seen in real time, but any other files in Box can be edited by only one person at a time. 

Microsoft OneNote - Students can create “notebooks” online based on their courses to keep all their notes, assignments, and todos together in one place. These notes can also be shared with others for the ability to view or edit in real time. Any file can also be uploaded in these folders for viewing and downloading purposes as well.

Getting the Most out of your Notes

Whatever platform you choose to take notes, that is only half the battle. The best notes are the ones that are well organized and that are easy to understand. Check out these resources to learn how to organize your notes and how to review your notes


Tip #4 Make a Video Project

With fewer projects being presented face-to-face, get acclimated with presenting or creating video presentations and projects. There are many tools for creating videos (you’ll find more details on these in other sections of this website). Here a few extra and their recommended uses: 

Zoom - record a meeting or group presentation virtually. These can be saved to the cloud or onto the recording computer. You can also share your screen and play videos, powerpoint presentations, and other project components. 

Illinois Media Space (i.e. Kaltura) - This is a great platform for storing videos. Previously recorded videos can be uploaded and shared via links. 

Microsoft Stream - Similar to Zoom, you can record a session while you are streaming. Also check out other tools such as Twitch and YouTube Live

Searchable Auto Captioning - Illinois Media Space and Microsoft Stream offer auto captioning for your videos. 


Tip #5 Make a Webpage, Portfolio, or Wiki

Have a group assignment to build a website? Want to show off your skills and examples of your work to others? Need to collaborate on a shared topic? You have access to a variety of free web publishing tools here at the University. In addition to the aforementioned ideas, did you know that portfolios are great for reflecting on and documenting your learning over time? That’s right! 

Publish at Illinois - An easy to use website creator - aka WordPress - where you can create, publish, and host your own website. Many University and local websites use WordPress including Engineers Without Borders, USGBC Students, Illinois Musicology, Illinois Esports, Heartland Maker Fest, and hundreds more!


Digication - A ePortfolio creator typically used to share your skills, achievements, and projects with the world (and help you get a job). Portfolios are also useful in tracking your learning, reflecting on progress, connecting learning across disciplines, evaluating abilities, helping to learn through reflection, and identifying future learning plans.


Illinois Wiki - A collaborative, shared, website - like Wikipedia - where you can collaborate on projects, create a shared knowledge repository, or even use it as a portfolio. Advantages of using a wiki include access to shared content at any time, media is typically supported, and the unique opportunity for peer review/collaboration.



Tip #6 Learn Something New

The campus offers some unique learning opportunities not in the classroom. While there are too many to name in one place, here are some places to get started.

LinkedIn Learning - Learn something new from a myriad of topics from many of those listed above to video editing, marketing, data science, sales, photography, and much more.

Campus Guest Speakers - Check out the University of Illinois’ official speaker calendar for a list of academic and popular speakers.

Makerspaces - There are many maker resources on campus including TechHub, Illinois MakerLab, CU Fab Lab, Idea Lab, as well as a variety of departmental makerspaces.