Tools and Software


We encourage faculty to start with their course design goals, and then to select the tools and platforms that best align with those pedagogical choices. We also encourage faculty to start by using a small number of tools and platforms that are supported by Academic Technology in order to minimize the number of different types of tools that students have to learn as the navigate their courses.

Must-know technical basics for faculty:

  • Use video conferencing platforms (Zoom and Google Hangouts) from home (or office)  
    • Schedule a Zoom meeting 
    • Embed information for a Zoom meeting in a Google calendar invite. (Every time you create a Google calendar invite it automatically populates it with a Google Hangout so you don’t need to embed that separately.)
    • Use share your screen and chat features in Zoom or Google Hangouts
    • Turn recording on/off for a meeting
    • Optional (but highly recommended): know how to use breakout rooms in Zoom
  • Build your course in Moodle 
    • Course materials and documents uploaded to and organized in Moodle
    • Student assignments are described in and submitted through Moodle
    • Student work is assessed and returned through Moodle
    • Know how to use Announcements forum 
  • Scan a document and create a PDF from home, even if you don’t have a scanner (ITS recommends the Adobe Scan app. Here’s a Getting Started guide for Adobe Scan.)
  • Read, edit, and share files in Google Drive
  • Create and edit Google Calendar events



For more examples of different implementations of the above tools and software (at Carleton and at other institutions), please see the Examples page.


How can I get a read on the room during a synchronous Zoom session?

If you are using Zoom, you can adjust how many students you see in the gallery view. Login to the Zoom desktop client, click on settings (gear icon) and then select Video settings. There you have the option to select “Display up to 49 participants per screen in Gallery View.” This allows you to see many students in a large class all on one screen. In Google Hangouts Meet, you can change the configuration of screens in your Meet, but you cannot create a gallery view like you do in Zoom.

Using a thumbs up, thumbs down, thumbs sideways, can be a quick visual way to quickly poll students about some topic with a three-way response. In Zoom, you can also use the Reactions option and assign meaning with your class to the thumbs-up and clapping symbols, which will appear in the upper left corner of a student’s window. There are also a number of preset feedback icons in the Participants window that can be helpful if you open that option.

How can I manage students joining a Zoom session late?

We recommend leaving a chunk of time at the start of the session as a buffer to allow everyone to connect. This time can be used to build social connection with students before moving to the content of the session. Depending on the size of your class and how you’ve configured your session, you may not be able to see new students joining the synchronous session once it has started in either Hangouts Meet or Zoom.

If you use Zoom and are using the “waiting room” feature, you will get a notification when a new person enters the waiting room and can add them to the session at any time. You can also send a message to students in the waiting room using the Chat feature to let them know you know they’re there. It may also be possible to ask for a student volunteer to monitor and admit students from the waiting room; you can make a participant a co-host once a session is started.

If I don’t want to sit in front of a screen while waiting for students to come to drop-in office hours, what are my options?

One option to consider is monitoring either Slack or Google Hangouts during office hours. If a student has a question, they can send you a chat message, and then you can join a designated video conference call to talk face-to-face. That makes sure you are available for a single student or groups of students to drop by, but you don’t need to be quite as on-call as if you are waiting with a video conference call open during the entire time window for office hours.

How might I use Slack? How does it compare to Google Hangouts?

Slack and Google Hangouts are both messaging tools that allow you to chat with individuals or create a chat that involves a group of people. They allow more informal conversation than what might occur on a Moodle forum.

If you are trying to keep the number of tools to a minimum, Google Hangouts is part of the existing Google suite that we use at Carleton, and you can use Google Hangouts in the same window as your Carleton Google email.

Slack is a separate application that you need to sign up for (the free version is sufficient — Carleton does not have a campus-wide license), but it is one of the suite of tools that the LTC/AT team is supporting. One advantage of Slack is that it allows threaded discussions, and you can have multiple different Slack channels for discussions on different topics. For example, some classes use one channel for discussion about class activities, one channel for office hours discussions, one channel for discussion around lab activities, as well as having a #random channel to allow class participants to develop a social presence that isn’t tied only to course content. One additional benefit of Slack is that it has some optional plugins that allow for more diverse forms of messages and more robust connections to other software.

What are the pros and cons of using Google Hangouts vs. Zoom?

Google Hangouts is very easy to use and integrates well with Google Calendar. In addition, participants can turn on auto-captioning if they are using Google Hangouts Meet in the Chrome browser. For those who aren’t comfortable with video conferencing and don’t need many bells and whistles, Google Hangouts is a good place to start.

Zoom with a Pro license (which is available to all Carleton faculty members now) has many more features, including polling, digital whiteboarding, and breakout rooms. In addition, the video resolution for Zoom is higher so if you are working with digital images and media, Zoom may be preferable.

Both platforms provide the option for participants to dial in via phone, which allows students without a high quality internet connection to participate in the audio portion of the conversation. Both platforms allow recording of sessions, although the defaults about who gets to record are different. In short, we encourage you to choose the video conferencing platform that works for you and your students.

I have students creating ________ (video recordings, podcasts, slideshows, posters, websites, etc.) as part of an assignment. What support can you provide?

Academic Technology supports these types of assignments in a typical term, and has a range of resources that they can share with you and your students. Contact with a description of the nature and scope of your assignment, and they will get in touch with information about the relevant resources available.

Will students have the necessary resources for engaging in online learning?

All students have a basic laptop to support their learning at Carleton. ITS has been working with the FInancial Aid and Dean of Students offices to identify which students need the College’s financial support to procure a device. ITS has developed a website documenting which software applications are available for downloading to student-owned computers and which software is available via our “remote lab”. 

How do I take into account students using tablets or smartphones as their primary device for my class?

It is likely that, at some point during the term, students will access course materials or participate via a tablet or smartphone. Materials and activities that use platforms and tools that are low immediacy and low bandwidth are better accessible on mobile devices. ITS has developed documentation for students on how to install common apps (Microsoft Office tools, Google Apps) on their tablets and smartphones. We recommend anyone accessing Moodle on a tablet or smartphone use that device’s web browser — we do not recommend using either the iPhone or Android Moodle app at this time.

Should I be concerned about security and privacy issues with Zoom?

There have been recent media reports and concerns about Zoom security and privacy issues, including “Zoom bombing”. ITS has been following these issues closely. We are encouraged that Zoom has taken these concerns seriously and addressed them quickly.

To take advantage of the latest security patches, you will need to ensure your application is up-to-date. Zoom updates are not uniformly sent automatically. Instructions for updating Zoom for macOS and Windows can be found here:

We recommend Zoom’s Best Practices for Securing Your Virtual Classroom for those teaching (or meeting) with Zoom, particularly enabling a waiting room, restricting attendance to invited guests, and using random meeting IDs and passwords for each session.

What do I need to know about recording in Google Hangouts vs. Zoom?

In Google Hangouts, any individual using a computer (not a mobile device) can start recording the session, and when they do, they will get a message about the benefits of obtaining consent. Recording will proceed regardless. After the session is completed and the recording file is generated, the recording link will be made available to the person who initiated the recording and to the meeting organizer.

In Zoom, the default setting is that only the host/co-host can record, although permission to record can be granted to others or revoked. After the session is completed and the recording file is generated, the recording link is made available to the host. 

Even if a student does not record through the videoconferencing interface, be aware that there are other ways of recording screens. Tools will not solve all of your concerns. Having a conversation with your students about guidelines is the best way to develop shared expectations about responsible and ethical engagement. 

Processing times for recorded video can be significant. If you record a session, it may not be available for sharing until hours after the session is completed. 

Recorded video conferences can result in large files. Depending on internet connectivity, it may take a considerable amount of time for students to download or stream the video.

Why is it taking forever to upload videos I’ve recorded?

In general, video files are big and upload speeds on most home networks are slower than download speeds. We will be developing and sharing recommendations to optimize upload speeds, but you should expect that, whether you are processing and uploading a video in Panopto or a Zoom recording, the processing and upload time could take several hours.

One way to address this issue is to keep your videos short. Instructional videos should be kept to 6-10 minutes. Research shows that students do not engage with longer videos, so even if you have lots to say, try recording it in smaller chunks. In addition, for students with low bandwidth internet connections, shorter videos with their smaller file sizes are easier to download for later watching.

I’ve heard about [fill in the tool you read about]. Should I be using it?

To record and upload instructional videos, you are welcome to use whatever tools you would like. However, please be aware that AT will not be able to provide support for tools that are not part of the regular suite of technologies that we are recommending. Panopto is the lecture capture and instructional video tool that AT supports.

For student-facing tools, we encourage you to limit the number of tools you ask students to use. If every faculty member finds 10 tools to use in their online teaching, then students are having to learn 30 different tools for the term. That is overwhelming!