Zoom in to a web conferencing solution that just works!

Day 12 - Zoom

“Hello…can you…can…can you hear me? Let me just try another microphone. I can’t hear you. I’ll just type in the chat…is there an option to dial in to this meeting?”

Girl looking confused staring at computer screen

We all know the feeling of dread as we try to start a web conference meeting and the audio is cutting out, half the people can’t log in, someone is driving in their car and singing along to their favourite song thinking they are muted. After 10 minutes, you all manage to finally find a stable connection, and it’s time to share the document we all need to see…application sharing isn’t working properly, no one else can see the document you are sharing, trying to share is eating up so much bandwidth that people start losing connection…so eventually, you all give up in frustration.

Sound familiar?

Fortunately, access to reliable internet and devices have improved this experience over the last few years, but many of the tools we use for online meetings still use legacy software that can pose challenges to modern communication.

One tool that has rapidly grown a reputation for reliability and stability, along with ease of use, is Zoom. This well-designed, deceptively simple yet powerful tool has stepped up to help take away the pain of web-conferencing! While it is not open source, for the majority of users it is free to use. The free version is limited to 40-minute meetings of up to 100 people, or unlimited one-to-one meetings.

Image of man on screen in Zoom

Zoom has a whiteboard that you can draw on, the ability to share screens and windows, breakout rooms for collaborative work, and the ability to dial in to a session. It works across all platforms, mobile devices and multiple operating systems, including Linux and Chrome OS. You can even stream live to social media from Zoom if you wish.

If you are using legacy or traditional video conferencing systems, Zoom can also integrate with these so you have a best-of-both-worlds hybrid system where people are not tethered to the video conference room to join a meeting. If you do have access to traditional video conferencing, that equipment can be used to connect to Zoom as well (this requires a paid subscription by room).

Zoom screen showing app sharing

Zoom screen showing application sharing

Apart from the well-designed user interface, Zoom’s biggest advantage is that it…just…works! It is stable, reliable, fast, and seamless across devices and platforms. It has grown so much in just a few years that it is rapidly becoming the number one web communication tool across many sectors.

Chances are, you have already experienced Zoom, perhaps you didn’t even know it. If you haven’t, check it out and see what this neat tool can do to help you communicate and collaborate with people all over the world through a simple link.

As a final note, this is the last of our 12 Apps of Christmas posts for 2018. The Open Learning team hope you have enjoyed them and found something useful in the things we have chosen to highlight. We wish you all a happy, safe, and relaxing holiday season and look forward to seeing you right back here in 2019!

Nothing Sweeter than Mentimeter

By: Ashlyne O’Neil

Dec20_Mentimeter_12appspicOn the eleventh day of Christmas, I’ll tell ya what is true… Mentimeter is the app for you! (sing it – it sounds better.)

As we furiously motor towards the holidays, we are a bit too close to the 12th (and final) app of Christmas. Yeah, that would be tomorrow. I’ll let you absorb that for a moment… In the meantime, I’m here to tell you about the audience response system that could take your class from snooze to… muse? from snore to roar? from drag to brag! (*stop trying to rhyme, Ashlyne, you’re not clever*). Okay, okay, let’s get on with Mentimeter!

Mentimeter is more than just a polling system. It is an interactive presentation software that is mostly free, and fairly intuitive to use! What’s great is that your students don’t need to download anything, and they should be able to use a browser on any device including a smartphone, tablet, or laptop. Your presentation will display a six-digit code at the top of the screen. Students will enter this at menti.com, and if you’re not using any quizzes in your presentation, that’s it! If you do have a quiz, they’ll just be asked to enter a name – any fun pseudonym is good – and will be assigned an avatar. The first time doing this may require a few moments for students to get situated, though the process is super quick and should not pose any complications for you.

The free version is a bit limited, but has worked for me in several instances including classes and workshops! As with all options, you may have unlimited participants in your audience, and can create all the presentations you want (so no need to ration)! However, you may only use two questions and five quiz items per presentation. If you need more, you can upgrade to their basic plan, but I’d suggest trying it out for free first! To do so you only need to create an account using your name and email address; then click on “+ New presentation” to get started.

Once you start your new presentation, you may choose from nine different question types, six “quick slides” and a quiz.

The quiz is a popular option to use, and with the free version you can ask five quiz items within one presentation. In my experience, this is usually enough if you have a 50 or 80 minute session; especially when used together with other question types on menti and/or other activities built into your session. But if you are looking for a longer review quiz, or have a 3-hour class, you could chunk things into multiple presentations or upgrade to a paid plan. The quiz allows you to gauge students’ understanding of course content within lectures, and without having them complete minute-papers or other written activities you would then need to collect, read, etc. (though I do love minute-papers!). This option kind of gamifies of the process by setting time limits and keeping score. Here, your students’ menti-names and avatars are used to keep score, and answering quicker results in more points! You can choose to hide the leaderboard if you prefer (especially if you have hundreds of students), but this can be a fun way to get them engaged and having fun with your content.


Aside from the quizzes, there are also other types of questions you can include to vary the interactions, include images, or ask open-ended questions. Each of the question types allows for various outputs as well, increasing your ability to customize the experience for your own tastes and needs. For example, you may choose to display a pie, donut, or bar chart for outputs of multiple choice items. For open-ended questions, responses may be shown as speech bubbles, one-by-one, or as a flowing grid. All of these options allow for flexibility and variation, keeping you and your students even more engaged!

One question type I am a particular fan of is the “scales” option. While there are many ways in which you can use this tool, I think it’s wonderful for mid-semester, or even session-specific feedback. Many of us likely know the power of formative feedback; not only for our students, but for us as well. When we ask for students’ input before the end-of-term evaluations-of-teaching, we are able to make changes throughout the course, leading to a variety of favourable outcomes; one of which is the sense that you care about students and want them to succeed. And of course there are many ways in which you can elicit this feedback (or let your students know you care), but using this tool is a quick, anonymous way to embed it within class time.

 The Q&A option is also great for large classes when students might be too nervous or shy to raise their hand. You could choose to have a dedicated Q&A session where students enter their questions at the same time, or you can allow questions on all of your slides – though this would only be pertinent if you were using Mentimeter for your entire presentation (rather than separating your own PowerPoint or other activities).

I have personally only used it to complement my other material, so I can’t particularly speak to using Mentimeter throughout the entire session, but that’s when the “quick slides” would come into play. The “quick slides” are basically white/black simple formatted slides you can use to present content. What’s actually really interesting about these slides is that they have added “reactions” much like you might see on social media. I particularly like that you can choose which reactions are available to students, and can include the question mark symbol. This might take the place of, or work in tandem with the Q&A on every slide. When students click the “?” you are alerted that students are unclear on the concept, providing immediate feedback to you, allowing you to adjust on-the-spot. This just might be more effective than the blank stares you often see on students’ faces.

And if all of this audience-participation has you nervous about inappropriate contributions, you’re in luck. Mentimeter has a profanity filter you can employ (just choose your language!), and you have the option of moderating Q&A sessions to weed out the irrelevant questions before your class sees them.

I hope this post has you at least considering Mentimeter for an option in your class. I’ve had great experiences with it, as have some of my colleagues. And if you are unsure how to best integrate it into your course, come see us in OOL, and we can explore your options with you.

This post is part of a 12 Apps of Christmas series from UWindsor’s Office of Open Learning. Celebrate the season with us by coming back each day until December 21st to learn about a new technology-enhanced teaching & learning tool!

What’s the hubbub about PubPub?

Day 10 of 12apps PubPub logo

On the 10th day of #12Apps, my true love gave to me: PubPub, your hub to community publishing! It’s an easy app to make your research stronger. It’s an app to create your own community or participate in multiple communities of practice among researchers, publish books and journals, and host conferences.

Ten Leafs a-Leaping illustration by Werner Zimmerman

Ten Leafs a-Leaping from A Porcupine in a Pine Tree: A Canadian 12 Days of Christmas by Helaine Becker. Illustrated by Werner Zimmerman.

What is PubPub?

PubPub gives research communities of all stripes and sizes a simple, affordable, and nonprofit alternative to existing publishing models and tools.

– The PubPub Team https://www.pubpub.org/about

I know what you’re thinking. Perhaps you’ve met members of the Open Learning Team at a pub at academic conferences, or even joined us on the requisite pub walking tour in search of sustenance, and to keep tabs on the Leafs game. No, I’m afraid this blog post is not about that kind of pub. But, we definitely could entertain a lively conversation about PubPub in a pub, if you like!

Punning aside, PubPub is an academically supported, open-source, and end-to-end alternative to proprietary publishing models and platforms. Developed with strong institutional support from MIT’s Knowledge Futures Group, a joint initiative of the MIT Press and MIT Media Lab, when PubPub says they are open source, they mean business–paradoxical as that sounds–releasing all of their code on Github. PubPub operates on a non-profit, free forever, researcher-friendly business model. How cool is that?

Moreover, PubPub actually “gets” the true nature of our work as academics (when we are not teaching or doing service): the iterative process of conducting research, drafting manuscripts, reviewing the work of our peers, and publishing. While we can and do conduct individual research as independent scholars, the design of PubPub draws on the fundamental insight that scientific research and knowledge creation is a collaborative enterprise.

As a computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL) researcher focused on investigating knowledge creation using iterative design-based research methods, clearly, I’ve already drank the Kool-Aid. But how can I convince you, dear reader, to give PubPub a whirl?

We know that collaboration cultivates research quality, enhances resource utilization, and increases our impact (Hsiehchen, Espinoza, & Hsieh, 2015). Circulating pre-prints on non-commercial servers (e.g. bioRxiv, OSF Preprints, SocArXiv) facilitates conversations and feedback on a manuscript prior to submission (Maggio, Artino, & Driessen, 2018). Sharing our work early, before it is finalized through publication, is what PubPub calls “community publishing.” Let’s take a look at an example of such a PubPub community, next.

Responsive Science

screenshot of Responsive Science PubPub research community

Responsive Science is a community that uses PubPub as

“…a platform for researchers to share their scientific goals and progress with the communities that may one day be impacted by their research. By actively inviting concerns and criticism from local citizens at the very beginning of each projects, technologies can be redesigned to more effectively address societal needs.”


Imagine posting grants, papers, and proposals to engage the very people who will be impacted by your research findings.

For instance, check out video recordings of the Mice Against Ticks team at community meetings with the citizens of Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, and Cuttyhunk. These do not follow the style of an average community meeting. They take a rather lively, musical turn in some cases:

Well, that particular PubPub example is a tough act to follow, isn’t it?

In Science in Action: How to follow scientists and engineers through society, Bruno Latour (1987) conducts enquiry on how someone–a researcher–utters a statement and follow how another character, one that they dub the “dissenter,” believe or disbelieve what was said. Responsive science turns the notion of “intra-group discourse” among members of a research lab on its head by promoting “inter-group discourse” (Woodruff & Meyer, 1997) with a larger audience comprised of real people in the community, people who might be somewhat more unbiased and critical of your research than say, your fellow lab mates working on the same project. Nevertheless, such critiques can help you hone your dialectical argumentation and persuasion, thus enabling you talk about your research in ways that intelligent people not in your discipline can readily understand.

As a segue to an entirely different kind of example, I’ll let you in on a secret. Virtually all of you know me as a social scientist or even a “real” scientist (several of my pubs are included in the dblp computer science bibliography). However, did you know that I have a MA and BA in English Literature? Yeah, think serious paradigm wars unfolding in my head.


To tell you the truth, when I first saw the title, Frankenbook, on the PubPub site, I thought of “Frankenfish.” Not the 2004 American horror film, but rather of stories of genetically-modified salmon that my colleague from the Canadian Food and Inspection Agency would regale me with on his visits to the Learning Centre where I worked for Health Canada in the BC-Yukon Region.

Imagine my delight to find out that Frankenbook is

..a collective reading and collaborative annotation experience of the original 1818 text of Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley


This project was launched in January 2018 as part of Arizona State University’s celebration of the novel’s 200th anniversary. This PubPub community allows scientists, engineers, and creators of all kinds to explore–through annotations and discussion–Shelley’s first novel (yes, she started writing it at age 18; think about your first-year student writing this novel) from scientific, technological, political, and ethical dimensions, as well as its historical context. Two hundred years later, Shelley’s text inspires us in films, parodies, cartoons, costumes, memes, gifs, etc.


Examples of #public Annotations on the book, Frankenstein, at Frankenbook.org/pub/book

The annotations on the 1818 text stay focused, unlike my own inattention and shifting frames of reference. I can’t resist connecting Shelley’s the Romantic era novel with pop culture referents like the brilliant 1974 comic scene, “It’s Frankensteen,” in the scene where Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (Gene Wilder) meets Igor (character not in the original book).

Books from my collection and current prices for new copies, in CDN, on Amazon.ca. Left to right: Norton Anthology of English Literature ($115.76), English Romantic Writers ($586.08), English Romanticism ($45.95), and Frankenstein ($46.92). Total cost $794.71. Wouldn’t it be nice to save students nearly $800 using an open solution?


The discussion posts are many (413), multi-vocal, and ongoing, with posts continuing many months after the project launched.

Example of continuing discussions on Frankenbook many months later

Both the annotations and discussions are more legible than the private annotations that I madly scribbled in pencil on hard copy books as a student. Like this:

Annotations on "Prometheus Unbound" by Percy Shelley

Note: Mary Shelley’s work and Frankenstein are on the “marginal syllabus,” outside of the main body of Perkins’ English Romantic Writers. Oddly, works by Mary Wollstonecraft (Shelley’s maiden name) are in included in the main body of the book


PubPub is a powerful app because it creates a hub where participants in a community, whether they are students participating in a learning community in a traditional, hybrid, or online course; a community of practice of literary scholars critically analyzing a text and seeking reviews and feedback; or scientific researchers engaging the larger civic community as partners in their research process.


While I haven’t yet fully explored PubPub’s capabilities for embedding rich media content (e.g. H5P in PressBooks), or LTI integration with a Learning Management System (LMS) like Hypothes.is, I feel confident in saying that PubPub is worthy of the hubbub that it’s creating in open education circles.


So keep an eye on PubPub, it has a lot of potential to transform the way you enculturate learners into your discipline, whether you research and teach in the humanities and social sciences, or in science and engineering.

Contact North – Delving into Santa’s sack of goodies for online teaching and learning

By Nick Baker


Day 9 of our 12 Apps of Christmas is not really an app, but rather, a very useful website owned by Contact North called TeachOnline.ca. This site focuses on providing resources for online instructors, and has a collection of recorded interviews and webinars with high-profile thinkers in the online and open world, as well as a section on Tools and Trends, Pockets of Innovation, and their famous global list of conferences related to teaching and learning. Let’s look at each of these individually.

Tools and trends

In this section, there are nine sub-sections that have collected resources on various aspects of online and open learning. This starts with a section on facilitating student success, which has some helpful hints and tips, and links to a range of resources on relevant topics. The next section is on directories of things related to online learning, ranging from vendors of technology, to a list of Canadian researchers in the field, a directory of journals, teaching and learning centres across Canada, and even the collected open universities from around the world where you can find all sorts of gems.

The next sections provide some predictions about what the future might look like, followed by a directory of open resources from around the world, books to read if you are interested in various aspects of higher education (broken down by different perspectives), and a section on ‘best practices’ in online and blended teaching. The final three sections are on business models for online programming, technologies and tools to watch, and quality assurance in online courses.

Pockets of innovation

Probably my favourite section of the site is the pockets of innovation area. This section houses over 200 interviews from the Pockets of Innovation Series, with people from colleges and universities who were doing innovative things in teaching and learning. The pockets are divided into nine categories covering everything from course design, to supporting student success and access, OERs and MOOCs, online assessment practices, faculty support, collaborative models, and institutional planning resources.

These resources are provided in French and English, openly licenced (under Creative Commons), are downloadable as a single PDF, and encompass ideas from across Canada and around the globe. Each of the pockets provides contact information for where to find out more.

Upcoming conferences

This is actually my go-to place for keeping up with conferences from around the world. Originally started as a simple list by Clayton R. Wright, it is now in its 38th edition, and has grown into a globally known list that is as close to definitive as it comes. There are 1,700 conferences listed in the resource now, which is searchable by keyword, month, year, and country.

Teaching in a Digital Age

Bates Book Cover Teaching in a Digital Age

If the goodies above are not enough for you, there is also Dr. Tony Bates’ open access book, Teaching in a Digital Age, which also forms the basis of a series of recorded webinars that you can also find on the Teach Online site. This is a comprehensive book on all the things you need to know to get started in teaching and learning online, but it covers much more than just online teaching, as it delves into the way that technology has irrevocably changed our approaches to teaching and learning. It also explores notions of quality in online teaching, and provides a practical tool for selecting the media you use in teaching. You can either read the Pressbooks online version, or download it as a PDF – free and openly licenced. For those who are interested in the Office of Open Learning’s Certificate in Online and Open Learning, you will encounter parts of this book in two of our courses, where it is used as a primer.

So whether you are interested in finding out more about online, blended, and open teaching and learning, improving your existing practice in these areas, or simply looking for ideas, Contact North’s Teach Online site is a treasure trove of goodies for you to explore and discover!

Contact North Teach online sute