Teaching and Learning Collaboratory

To support active and blended learning we provide faculty with resources that define various concepts and tools to use in their classroom that promote student participation and engagement with the course content, instructor, and students.


Communication Resources

Teaching and Learning Email List

An email list for faculty interested in instructional technologies, pedagogy, and innovative tools for classroom engagement. This list has been created to support faculty who wish to try new technologies and strategies for learning, and as a place to share success and troubleshoot struggles. Subscribers will be notified about any teaching and learning workshops/events on campus and will have the opportunity to share questions and best practices through this forum. Be sure to join this community and join an initiative that strives for active student participation and learning and nurtures the passion for innovation.

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Learning Newsflash

Listed below are the Learning Newsflash articles that contain educational information and/or quick tips on innovative strategies to enrich knowledge.










Preparing Your Course Material for Online Access

Important Update >>  In efforts to streamline information, the Divison of the Chief Infomation Officer and Undergraduate Education announces a new site for accessing information and tips for working remotely.  Please use this site as a guide and be sure to add it to your favorites: https://info.rpi.edu/working-remotely. This site will continue to be updated with new information. This link is also available on our informational RPI coronavirus page using the link on RPInfo.

This information is provided for emergency situations and offers guidance in preparing for online teaching and communcation. 

  1. Make sure you have access to your RPI email from a mobile phone, laptop, or web browser.
    RPI Outlook Web Access link: https://exchange.rpi.edu
  2. Make sure your laptop or computer at home has the software and internet connectivity that you need for online instruction. Make sure that all TAs are also prepared in this regard.
    RPI VPN Connection for access to files
    RPI LMS - Blackboard
    RPI Webex
  3. Make sure your Blackboard course website contains all of the relevant course material.
    You should understand how to use Blackboard for distributing assignments to students and if you use audio/video in your class, to be able to share this on Blackboard. You can always use email as an alternative way of communicating with students or sharing information but the size of the attachment may prove to be an impediment in some cases.
  4. Establish communication channels with your students.
    This includes ways in which students can contact you with questions, students having a way to contact each other and collaborate remotely, and for you to have chosen a platform to discuss material with students online. Blackboard allows each of these functionalities and Webex is integrated into Blackboard.
  5. Understand your options for conducting classes at a distance. 
    Students can read content that you post, they can listen to an audio file, or watch a recording of your lecture. Whatever is your preferred format, provisions exist within Blackboard to do so. We can help you choose an approach and to test how that works. Learn how students can submit assignments through Blackboard and how you can conduct tests or examinations using this platform. You and your TAs must also prepare to provide feedback to your students using Blackboard or through email or other platforms like Skype or Webex. Posting of final grades to the Registrar would be as in a normal semester, but you can share intermediate grades with students in Blackboard.
Additional Resources/Support

RPI LMS - Blackboard


Internal Support Spreadsheet Link

In addition, review the Tools to Support Learning link from the navigation bar on the right of this Teaching and Learning Collaboratory Page for RPI supported tools as well as additional tools for engagement.

Helpdesk Contact Information



  • Communicate early and often with students.
  • Define expectations for communication with students - how often? response time?
  • Manage communication responses. If multiple students are asking the same question, send out a group message or create an announcement in Blackboard instead of emailing individually.
  • Communicate when new material is posted using email or notifications in Blackboard. Students may need to adjust their notification settings in Blackboard.
  • Instructor must be present with their students. It will be important to be present in the online format for the success of the students as well as the training.
  • Encourage communication and collaboration using both synchronous and asynchronous tools to allow for multiple avenues of communication and collaboration. Live meeting sessions using Webex, discussion boards, recorded sessions, voice streaming tools are all ways to merge together both synchronous and asynchronous communicators. 
  • Offer clear goals for communication and build in accountability. If using discussion boards, assign a few participation points. Be clear on how the participation points will be awarded, for instance so many points for an initial post and so many points for a response. 

Delivering Lectures

  • Recording lectures. If recording lectures and posting to Blackboard, be sure to record in small chunks (5 to 7 minutes). Keep it simple and add in some engagement, if possible.
  • Live Video. Use Webex to offer a live lecture session, however be sure to be flexible. Record your session so it can be posted at a later time for students to be able to review and access. A student may have not been able to join in due to slow internet connections or audio challenges. Use live video to encourage the course community. Use the webinar setting as a way to review topics, check in with students, and offer any updated information.
  • Posting links to other credible sources. If there are other credible sources (e.g, Ted Talks or Kahn Academy) that explain the topic, create a link for additional support in Blackboard for student to review. 

Lab Activities

Lab activities can be a challenge in a situation where campus is closed as it can be hard to reproduce an experiment outside of the lab classroom. Some thing to keep in mind:

  • Online lab activities. Can parts of the lab be conducted remotely or online? If so, organize the content that can be done remotely or set up the partial online exercise. This will offer more value to the learning experience. 
  • Research online or virtual labs as well as any alternate software that may be available for implementation that will compliment your subject.
  • Provide raw data for lab activities if student are unable to produce it on their own. This will assist in keeping students engaged and give some relevance to the experiment.
  • Encourage instructor/student interaction in other ways. 

Collecting Assignments

  • Be sure students have access to the software they need to submit an assignment. If they do not have access to the software outside of being on campus then use a common software that everyone will have access to remotely.
  • Use Blackboard to collect assignments instead of emailing attachments. There are also grading tools and options available in the LMS. Define how to name the files for assignment submissions (e.g., firstnamelastname-assignment.docx). 
  • Set assignment expectations and due dates but be flexible in allowing extensions.

Assessing Student Learning

  • Embrace short quizzes/tests.
  • Write questions on a short quiz or test that will offer critical thinking versus quick factual responses that are easy to look up.
  • Research whether the textbook publisher offers a question bank, assignment, quiz or test option. Depending on the text book it may integrate with Blackboard.
  • Be flexible and willing to reexamine project completion dates due to challenges in accessing content or collaborating with team.
  • Consider setting up tests in Blackboard or consider alternate exams.

Beta Classroom

The Beta Classroom is located on the First Floor of the Folsom Library. The Beta Classroom is a high technology classroom for interactive learning, which can accommodate about 25 participants. The goal of the classroom is for faculty to pilot new or interactive technologies and pedagogical approaches that may be appropriate for rolling out in a broad range of classrooms. 

Technology Preview Session

Check out our workshop schedule to see if a Beta Classroom Preview Workshop is running. Be sure to click the red plus sign to the left of the Current Workshop title to expand the listing.

If the workshop is not available or does not fit your schedule, contact Maureen Fodera to schedule a preview session of the technology. 

Scheduling the Beta Classroom

Send an email to Kim Ellenwood with a brief summary on your learning concept using the various technologies available in the room. Define which technologies you would like to work with and explain how you will be testing/using the technology with your content to create engagement for the students and improve their learning. 

Once your proposed concept is approved for testing in the Beta Classroom, you will work with Maureen Fodera to schedule your session(s).

After testing, you will be asked to complete a survey that collects your observations and conclusions on using the technology to improve learning. The data will be used to assist in the justification for pushing out some of the technologies into other classrooms on campus.


Tools to Support Learning

RPI Supported Tools
Blackboard Learn 

Blackboard Learn is the Learning Management System (LMS) supported by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The platform contains multiple features, such as organization for your course documents, such as syllabus and lecture notes. Blackboard Learn also allows instructors to set up spaces for students to upload assignments, which can be run by the Safe Assign plagiarism checker if desired. Other features include online tests, discussion boards, and blogs. 

Contact: rpilms-support@rpi.edu  

Cisco Webex Meetings and Teams

Cisco Webex is a web conferencing software service that offers immersive online meeting experiences for collaboration, virtual classrooms and webinars.  

Contact: MultiMedia Services


An iClicker is a radio frequency device that allows students to anonymously respond to questions the instructor poses in class. The instructor can create polls or low-stakes testing in-class to have instant feedback about the lesson material. 

Rensselaer Supporting Documents for Installation:

Student PowerPoint slides with registration notes to share in class.

Contact: Maureen Fodera (foderm@rpi.edu)


Submitty is an open source programming assignment submission system from the Rensselaer Center for Open Source Software (RCOS), launched by the Department of Computer Science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. It supports secure testing of many languages, including Python, C/C++, Java, and anything available on GNU/Linux, as well as advanced grading tools like memory debuggers. Other features include multiple submissions for students, flexible late day policies, hidden tests, an interface for instructor manual grading, and support for multiple instructors. 

Contact: Prof. Barbara Cutler (cutleb@rpi.edu)


Box is a cloud content management and file sharing service. Box's main features include online storage, secure file sharing, syncing with desktop, file editing, notes application and file preview. Box supports granular permissions, which allow the user to permit others to have specific permissions, such as "view only" or "edit", over files hosted on their account. Additional features include version history, commenting, and search options. Box supports usage via a web browser on a desktop computer, or the Box Mobile App on mobile devices, available for Android and iOS.


The platform includes thousands of assets that you can access anytime from any device! Lifelong learning is a fundamental component of our mission at Rensselaer. New technologies and business practices require skill development and innovation. Whether you are interested in a short vignette for a specific job related need, or a comprehensive course designed to advance your career, the Professional Learning Center for Faculty, Staff and Students contains solutions. Explore the possibilities and login to your personalized account via the Skillport link above using your RCS login information.

Contact: Will Fahey (faheyw@rpi.edu)

Professional Video Recording

The division of Production & Video Services of RPI MultiMedia Services is a full service video and multimedia production facility, dedicated to professionally producing and delivering content for the Rensselaer's instructional, event and Institute advancement needs. Its services are provided at no charge for course listed on the SIS Class Hour Schedule, but their equipment and services are also available (on a fee basis) for non-course, on-campus events.  

Contact: pvs@rpi.edu 


Mediasite is a presentation tool that allows instructors to make live digital recordings of lectures or presentations. Students can view the presentation over the internet in real-time and/or can access the presentation for viewing at a later date. 

Contact: mediasite_admin@rpi.edu 


Additional Tools

Gradescope is an online grading tool that allows teachers to provide feedback to students on their tests and assignments. It provides detailed feedback on each section of the submission to students, and  instructors can access detailed assignment and question analytics. Gradescope is a free service. 


Voicethread is a collaborative, multimedia, cloud-based slide show that holds images, documents, and videos and allows people to navigate slides and leave comments using voice, text, audio file, or video. Voicethread's services incur a cost per instructor with additional per-student fees for classes of over 50 students.


Slack is a cloud-based platform of team collaboration tools and services. Features include teams, which groups to join through a specific URL sent by a team admin or owner, and channels, which are specific chat threads that can be public and open to all members of a group, or can be private an include only a subset of members. The platform can be accessed via a web browser on a computer, or via mobile app available on Android and iOS. Slack is a free service, with additional features available for a fee. 


YouTube is a video sharing platform that allows unregistered users to view all of its content, but users to log in with their Google account to upload, rate, share, comment on videos, make playlists and subscribe to other users. YouTube hosts user uploaded videos in a variety of topics, including education, science, entertainment, lifestyle, beauty, travel, fashion, and more. The plaftorm can be accessed via a web browser on a computer, or via mobile app available on Android and iOS. YouTube is a free service, with the option to pay a fee for the YouTube Red service, which removes advertisements and allows users to access restricted content.

Desmos Graphing Calculator

Desmos is a mobile application and browser-based graphing calculator. In addition to graphing both equations and inequalities, its features include: lists, plots, regressions, graph restriction, simultaneous graphing, piecewise function graphing, polar function graphing, and other features commonly found in programmable calculators. Desmos is a free service accessible via its website, and application available in Android and iOS

Google Drive

Google Drive is a file storage and synchronization service that can be accessed with a Google account (which can be associated with an email of any domain, for example: Gmail or an RPI email address). Google Drive supports desktop via web and programs for Windows and MacOS, as well as mobile platforms, with apps for Android and iOS. It also includes a collaborative editing office suite comprised of Google Docs, Sheets and Slides, which allow multiple users to open and edit files of the following categories in real time: documents, spreadsheets, presentations, drawings, forms, and more. Google Drive is free to use up to 15 GB of storage, though additional storage can be purchased.


SurveyMonkey is a web-based platform that provides customizable online surveys, as well as a suite of paid back-end programs that include data analysis, sample selection, bias elimination, and data representation tools. Surveys can be created wither using a computer with a web browser or on a mobile device with the SurveyMonkey app available for Android and iOS. However, surveys can be responded via web browser on any device. SurveyMonkey can be used for free by a single user receiving 100 or less responses per survey, but further features can be accessed at a cost. 

Microsoft Translator

Microsoft Translator translates conversations so everyone can join in. There is also a feature to download the transcript once the conversation or course content has been shared.


Kahoot! is a game-based learning platform, where anyone can create multiple-choice quizzes that a whole class can access and interact in real time by using their own electronic devices. Kahoot! supports use via a web browser on Windows or Mac computers, or via a mobile app on Android and iOS smartphones. Kahoot! Is a free service. 

Wheel Decide

Wheel Decide is a website that lets users provide a set of options to create a “wheel”, which can then be “spun” to output a random choice of the given options. The tool is available to be used by anyone at the website, and users that log can save wheels to their profile for later use. It is a free service and can supports use from any computer with a web browser.  


Voice and text chat tool. 


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2020 Teaching and Learning Collaboratory Board

The group of people comprising the TLC is the Rensselaer teaching community, led by a board of faculty advisors. The goals of the TLC board are:

  • To cultivate an Institute-wide culture of pedagogical excellence in the classroom and to encourage innovations in teaching.
  • To host workshops where teaching best practices are disseminated, new technologi es are introduced, and broader discussions around pedagogy take place.
  • To encourage and create teams of faculty to compete for external funding for research into pedagogical innovations.
  • To identify and support promising pedagogical innovation seed projects.

The TLC board is comprised of Rensselaer faculty members committed to pedagogical innovation. Members of the board serve staggered 3-year terms. The board’s current membership includes:


Call for Proposals

The Office of Undergraduate Education is pleased to announce the fourth annual call for proposals supporting pedagogical innovation from the Rensselaer Teaching and Learning Collaboratory (TLC). 

The TLC invites proposals from full time tenure track faculty members or lecturers/Professors of Practice for piloting and assessing pedagogical innovations, especially those integrating interactive technologies into the classroom.  We wish to fund seed projects that will serve as the foundation for external grant applications.  Project proposals should entail the implementation of new interactive approaches, including the use of the Beta Classroom, gaming, remote laboratories, or other innovative methods. 

Proposals have been extended until March 30, 2020 (pdf to rpiuged@rpi.edu)
Winners will be announced May 4, 2020 and funding will commence July 1, 2020.

For futher information on the call and details for applying, click TLC 2020 Proposal Information.

Take a look at previous winners: