Communication Tools

Classroom Communication

Classroom communication can be defined as an interaction between the teacher and the students in the classroom through verbal, nonverbal and written. This particular application of classroom communication will specifically deal with technology that can aid in classroom communication.

CAEN supports several pieces of software that allow faculty and students to communicate in various ways; quizzes/questions/polling, discussions, and other categories. each of these can be used for online courses, hybrid course, or in person courses.

Technology available to support classroom communication

Quizzing/Questions/PollingDiscussionRealtime Chat
iClicker CloudCanvas DiscussionsCanvas Chat
iClicker ClassicPiazzaZoom Chat
Learning CatalyticsSlack
Canvas Quizzes
Zoom Polling

Lettersmith helps instructors and students build writing skills to communicate more effectively with anyone. Users can follow along with a checklist of best practices specific to different writing contexts, see examples of communication from experts and peers, and get feedback on their writing from experts and peers

Perusall logo

Perusall turns coursework into a social experience, making learning more fun and engaging while simultaneously helping students think critically and develop a deeper understanding of the material. Perusall’s assessment features save instructors valuable time while providing actionable data. Perusall’s group chat feature may be used in multiple ways to encourage social collaboration. Students may have one-on-one discussions with other students or the instructor..

Piazza logo

Piazza gives students anonymity options to encourage everyone to ask and answer questions. Instructor endorsements of good questions and answers let instructors push the class in the right direction. Questions and answers on Piazza are community-edited. Each question has a single students’ answer that students can contribute to, and a single instructors’ answer that instructors can contribute to. As an instructor, you have complete editorial control over class content. Your contributions in the class are highlighted, so students can easily identify instructor input. Instructors can encourage students to ask and answer questions by endorsing good content.

Slack logo

Slack is a messaging app which is available for all instructors and students. Slack is organized spaces called channels—a different one for everything you’re working on. With all the people, messages and files related to a topic or course in one place, you can move a whole lot faster. Give everyone you collaborate with a more productive way to stay in sync. Respond faster with emojis, keep conversations focused in channels, and simplify all your communication into one place.

Remote Office Hours Queue

Two people chatting

Remote Office Hours Queue is a virtual queueing tool that allows instructors to manage students waiting to meet with them for private one-on-one meetings in person or over Zoom video conferencing. Instructors may select which meeting type (in person and/or Zoom) attendees can select when joining the queue. The Remote Office Hours Queue is perfect for instructors who prefer to have one-on-one meetings with students rather than host office hours or other meetings in a group format.Instructors and students must log in to Remote Office Hours Queue using U-M Weblogin with a uniqname and password (i.e. not Friend accounts).



iClicker Classic

CapabilitiesLimitationsUse Cases
Instructors can choose to only allow participation using clickers, or allow students to participate with laptops and mobile devices.Target/Heat Map, Long Answer question types are not supportedEvaluate students’ understanding of concepts
Can filter by demographics results to facilitate in-class discussionsData is only stored locally on your computer or flash driveImpromptu polls
Integrates with CanvasGPS attendance not supportedTracking attendance
Anonymous Polling

iClicker Cloud

CapabilitiesLimitationsUse Cases
Integrates with presentation software (PowerPoint, Google Slides)Requires an internet connectionEvaluate students’ understanding of concepts
Integrates with CanvasDemographics feature not supportedTracking attendance
Anonymous PollingGive students access to in-class polls and quizzes to use outside of class
Instructors can access gradebook from any computerGathering class demographic data

iClicker is recommended if you want to ask questions during class to evaluate students’ understanding. They offer a wide variety of question types that could be used in a formative assessment for grading purposes. Although iClicker integrates with Canvas and can track attendance, using iClicker for attendance purposes is highly discouraged as studies (and our experience here at U-M!) have shown students resent this, and instead become less engaged and simply find ways to cheat the system. iClicker Cloud offers more flexibility as students can use their personal devices, and data is stored on the cloud and can be accessed anywhere.

Learning Catalytics

CapabilitiesLimitationsUse Cases
Integrates with presentation software (PowerPoint, Google Slides)Does not integrate with CanvasEvaluate students’ understanding of concepts
Integrates with CanvasAdditional costsTracking attendance
Anonymous PollingTeam-based and group-learning activities
Use in conjunction with Pearson resources

Learning Catalytics is recommended if your class utilizes Pearson resources.

Zoom – Polling

CapabilitiesLimitationsUse Cases
Integrates with CanvasAdditional costsEvaluate students’ understanding of concepts
Anonymous PollingYou can create a maximum of 50 standard polls for a single meeting, with each poll having a maximum of 10 questions. 
You can create a max of 50 advanced polls for a single meeting, with each poll having a max of 50 questions.
Tracking attendance
No asynchronous participationVirtual learning
Does not Integrate with presentation software (PowerPoint, Google SlidesDoes not require the creation of an external account or additional login.
Polling does not work in Zoom breakout rooms.

Zoom’s polling function is recommended for synchronous virtual classes to evaluate students’ understanding of concepts throughout the class.

Canvas- Quiz

CapabilitiesLimitationsUse Cases
Part of CanvasNo option for anonymous pollingMore formal way to grade students’ understanding of concepts
Ability to assign points to each questionTracking attendance
Can be used for both synchronous and asynchronous participation

Canvas’s quiz is recommended if you want to offer more formative assessment of students’ understanding of concepts. It can be used both synchronous and asynchronous settings. For example, during class, you could ask students to open Canvas and take the quiz in real-time. You can ask students to work in groups or individually on these quizzes.

Discussion Boards

Canvas Discussions

CapabilitiesLimitationsUse Cases
Instructors can create, edit, and delete topics.Cannot be used outside of Canvas.Class participation
Create threaded (focused) discussions.Not Mobile FriendlyPeer to peer idea sharing
Create graded discussions for everyone, individual students, course sections, or groups.Students Cannot Post AnonymouslyAllows students time to consider a response
Embed or attach files, images, and YouTube videos.Instructors Cannot Post AnonymouslyMitigate fear of sharing individual opinions by building relationship among classmates
Add course content directly from your course.Discussions are organized by name (by default)Student led learning
Delay discussion posts until a defined date/time.Cannot “favorite” postsDon’t have to be graded


CapabilitiesLimitationsUse Cases
Private Instructor FollowupInstructors Cannot Post AnonymouslyAllows for broader idea sharing
Integrates with CanvasNot Automatically Connected to Canvas GradebookReconcile opposing arguments
Anonymous ResponsesNo “student view”Interactive and future forward
Lock a Class or PostAct as digital portfolios
Export statistics

Realtime Chat

Canvas Chat

CapabilitiesLimitationsUse Cases
Built in to each Canvas courseCan not be exportedQuick on-the-spot chats
Ease of access for usersCannot invite people outside the course
Chat historyLimited functionality
Simplistic interface

Zoom Chat

CapabilitiesLimitationsUse Cases
Built in to every Zoom sessionOnly available during Zoom sessionGood way to accept questions during a lecture
Private messagesLimited functionality
Can be exported for review later


CapabilitiesLimitationsUse Cases
Multiple usesInability to make a public group private after it is createdKeep separate spaces for specific topics of discussion
Can create multiple Slack groups 
Create multiple channels for each subject
Audio calls
Video calls