Faculty Using Technology

Photo of professor George HoffmanA short video describing this teaching strategy.

George Hoffmann, Romance Languages and Literatures, teaches a course that explores the controversial literature on the Algerian War. Thirty-two undergraduate students are each required to deliver a PowerPoint presentation on a capstone analytical project. In-class presentations are dynamic, but ephemeral, and their engaging material is lost to students in following course iterations. Therefore, Hoffmann uses Google Sites to create a collaborative course website to document and extend the highly visual capstone projects across courses.

Based on his or her PowerPoint presentation, each student creates a media-rich web page, exclusively in French, without having to learn HTML. Hoffmann pairs students to peer review web pages using the commenting feature in Google Sites. Students’ grades reflect both the content of their own web page, and the quality of their peer critiques. Through the combined use of PowerPoint and Google Sites, students not only learn valuable communication skills, but also practice disciplinary skills of close reading and critical evaluation. 



Professor Pamela Davis-Kean, Associate Professor of Psychology, discusses her use of Google Forms to clarify difficult concepts in her Social Development course (Psych 353), a 150-student course for upper-level psychology majors.  In class, Professor Davis-Kean used Google Forms to engage students in the actual work of developmental psychologists.  For example, she had students practice coding videos of parent-child interactions, submitting their initial codes anonymously via Google Forms. Using the results from this coding activity, Professor Davis-Kean was able to engage the students in a more nuanced discussion of interrater reliability.  

Through this use of Google Forms, Professor Davis-Kean found she could interact with a larger percentage of her students and better gauge their understanding of difficult concepts in class.  Having successfully incorporated Google Forms into Psych 353, Professor Davis-Kean is now exploring other ways this technology can be incorporated into her teaching, even in her smaller courses. She recommends it to others as a technology that assists students' learning rather than distracts from it, that is easy for both faculty and students to use, and that can be easily incorporated into an instructor’s existing lectures.


Steve Skerlos (Mechanical Engineering, College of Engineering), discovered that his graduate students, even those who were quite successful in his classes, were not retaining what they had learned in class in a way that they could apply that knowledge to research questions.  Additionally, Prof. Skerlos had a desire to shift his lecture-based courses to have more in common with senior design courses in engineering, i.e. the instructor and the students all working together to solve problems.  The following description of Prof. Skerlos’ flipped class is for his ME 499 course, Sustainable Engineering and Design.  Prof. Skerlos, though, has flipped many classes, including a 150-person undergraduate course.


Students’ First Exposure to Content

 In Prof. Skerlos’ classes, students must watch a video or read a case study prior to class.  In his course syllabus, Prof. Skerlos estimates that the video or reading component of the pre-class work should take about one hour.  Each student is expected to reflect upon the discussion questions posed by the instructor and, prior to class, submit one question that s/he would like the instructor to answer during class. Read more »


Michael Witgen (History, American Culture and Native American Studies) did not set out to “flip” his class.  He was inspired by colleagues to find some way to integrate technology into his 300-level History course, History of the American West.  Working with the Michigan Education through Learning Objects (MELO3D) community, Professor Witgen and his GSI team created a wiki for the course that, along with a coursepack, served as the course syllabus and textbook.  


Students’ First Exposure to Course Content

Each week of the course has its own webpage, which gives students access to the readings and study questions for each class session.  The course “readings” are primary source artifacts from the American West, ranging from images of maps created in the 1700s to letters from Noah Webster to YouTube videos of Daniel Boone cartoons.  The study questions serve as guides for students as they explore the pre-work for the class.

Student Accountability for the Pre-Work

Professor Witgen leverages two mechanisms for holding students accountable for engaging with the pre-work: pop quizzes and social pressures/peer accountability, as the students are expected to be prepared to contribute to small group discussions of the class readings in the face-to-face class session. Read more »


Can technology help student teams improve their group process—and ultimately their learning? CRLT's recent Occasional Paper on "Teaching in the Cloud" explains some ways it can. In particular, the paper highlights how Online Collaboration Tools (OCTs) can enhance students' ability to collaborate effectively. OCTs can facilitate group members' access to one another and the team's efficiency by reducing spatial and temporal barriers. OCTs can also provide novel, efficient, and effective means for instructors to monitor and provide feedback on group projects.  

The paper features two U-M faculty members who successfully utilize OCTs to improve student teamwork as well as instructor management of group projects. 

  • Robin FowlerRobin Fowler of Technical Communication and Engineering: Fowler has improved student teamwork in Introduction to Engineering by shifting from face-to-face team meetings to synchronous, text-based online discussions. Her students share and assess design plans using Google Docs, a system that has increased student engagement and participation in group decision-making.  To learn more, watch a short video of Fowler discussing this teaching strategy and some of its outcomes.
  • Melissa GrossMelissa Gross of Kinesiology: Gross's studio course uses 3D animation and motion capture technologies to study the biomechanics of human movement. Students' group presentations include such animations to illustrate their research findings, and these require sharing and collaborating on many large video files. Gross uses Box.net, a cloud-based storage and sharing service, to solve storage and capacity challenges and facilitate student management and coordination of their teamwork.  To learn more, watch a short video of Gross discussing this teaching strategy.

For additional resources about using student teams effectively in a range of course settings, see this section of our website and this recent CRLT Occasional Paper