Tool Comparison

Asynchronous discussion

Canvas discussion
  • If you are using Canvas for your course, this tool is already available to you and your students.
  • Discussion boards can be created for sections and other groups of students created in Canvas.
  • Discussions can be ‘focused’ or ‘threaded’. Focused discussions are two layers deep, consisting of posts and replies. In threaded discussions, replies to posts form threads of discussion without restriction.
Blackboard discussion
  • If you are using Blackboard as your course management system, this tool is already available.
  • Fully integrated into Blackboard. Students’ posts can be graded and those grades can be automatically added to the gradebook.
Ed discussion
  • A full-featured, threaded discussion platform.
  • Allows for the insertion of run-able programming code snippets.
  • Discussion board posts can be marked as ‘Read’, ‘Unread’, ‘Starred’, ‘Answered’, ‘Unanswered’, or organized into categories that you define.
  • Discussions can be configured to allow anonymous posts, providing options for peer and instructor feedback.
  • Support the use of LaTeX for math equations and Markdown for quick and easy HTML
  • Supports the creation of Post Templates, allowing you to define a structure for student posts.
  • Built specifically for threaded discussions on and around media items, including images, video, audio, and presentation slides.
  • Participants can post comments in a variety of ways including in-browser voice or video recordings, via telephone, text, or file upload.
  • Threads can consist of comments on a single media item, or on a sequences of items, such as a slide presentation

In-class polling and feedback

  • Best for in-person classroom situations. Questions are added to slide presentations and students answer using physical ‘clickers’.
  • Can be integrated with Blackboard or Canvas to upload student responses directly into the course gradebook
  • Can be used anonymously
  • Does not rely on any online applications, meaning students do not need to use their computers or smartphones in class.
  • Questions are multiple-choice
  • A completely online polling solution with a wide variety of question types, including multiple-choice, wordcloud, free-form text, quizzes, ‘image choice’, and scales.
  • In face-to-face classroom situations, can be used to collect attendance.
  • Supports the creation of pre- and post-class activities, such as polls and quizzes
  • Supports live feedback during lecture, announcements, Q&A, and instant messaging
  • Supports LaTeX for inline equations and formulae
  • A free, online tool. Class participants simply go to a web address that you provide and respond to your prompts.
  • While easy to use, AnswerGarden only supports short text answers and only displays responses as ‘wordclouds’

Grading and assessment

Canvas SpeedGrader
  • Canvas’ own grading tool. Grades entered in SpeedGrader go directly into the Canvas gradebook.
  • Instructor feedback may be provided as text comment, file upload, or as media recordings
  • Includes annotation tools, allowing you to draw or write directly on PDF documents.
  • Connects with Canvas, so grades submitted in Gradescope are sent to your course gradebook in Canvas
  • A good choice for large-enrollment courses, especially when multiple graders are grading at the same time.
  • Allows each grader to grade particular questions on each exam.
  • Provides a flexible rubric that allows for additive or subtractive grading.
  • Well-suited for grading hand-written responses, such as those that include equations.
  • Rubric entries can be created ‘on-the-fly’ and reused when grading subsequent student work.

Digital projects and assignments

McGraw Commons
  • An online platform for course blogs managed by the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning
  • Based on the popular and easy-to-use WordPress software.
  • Fully integrated with Princeton’s authentication systems, meaning students don’t need to register for anything.
  • Offers a wide variety of design templates and extra ‘plug-ins’ specifically suited to teaching and learning.
  • A popular, free online tool for telling stories with timelines, images, and text.
  • A popular, free online tool for telling stories with maps, images, and text.
ArcGIS StoryMaps
  • A tool for composing ‘digital narratives’ that can integrate text, images, video, audio, and maps.
  • An extension of the online version of ArcGIS, a feature-rich platform for mapping and geographical data analysis.
Google MyMaps
  • Similar to Google Maps, but with the additional tools for custom map creation.
  • Students can import spreadsheets of data and plot locations on a map, and add text and image annotations.


  • Can be used directly in Canvas with PDF files saved to the Files area or to Blackboard with PDF files stored in Google Drive or available on the Web.
  • Allows comments to be added to images, presentation slides, and video via text, audio, video, or telephone.
  • A good choice for courses such as language courses in which voice recordings might be preferred.
Commons video commenting
  • A ‘plug-in’ to existing course blogs on the McGraw Commons course blog platform that allows participants to leave time-coded comments on videos.
  • Works with the Library’s video reserves system

Data visualization

Voyant Tools
  • A convenient and easy-to-use suite of text analysis tools
  • An online tool for quickly visualizing multi-dimensional and relational data.
  • Generates network graphs, galleries, and map-based network graphs based on uploaded CSV data.
  • An online tool for quickly generating charts from uploaded data sets.
ArcGIS Online
  • An online version of the very popular ArcGIS desktop software.
  • Combines both mapping capabilities, including basemaps and data layers, and tools for integrating maps into digital presentations.
  • Useful for both geographic data analysis and for presenting student projects on the Web.

File sharing

Blackboard or Canvas
  • An obvious place for instructors to make files available to students, but difficult for students to make files available to the entire class unless one uses the discussion board tools.
  • Both Blackboard and Canvas allow for the creation of student groups in which files may be exchanged.
Google Drive
  • A shared online space in which course participants can upload files and create and edit text documents.

Lecture capture

  • Zoom’s built-in live recording feature captures video conference sessions.
  • Recordings can be downloaded to your computer or stored and delivered in ‘the cloud’ with Zoom.
  • Very easy to use and convenient for low-quality, quick recordings.
  • A familiar interface that also includes features for recording audio narration as you progress through the slides and to export the recording as a video file.
  • Audio initially recorded individually for each slide, meaning if you make a mistake, you do not have to start again from the beginning.
  • Extremely easy to use. Press record, perform your presentation, and then export to video file.
  • Common software for viewing video also contains tools for screen recording. Use Quicktime to record your screen while you perform your lecture in Powerpoint, Keynote, or other presentation software.

Streaming media delivery

  • A video repository built into both Canvas and Blackboard.
  • Superior to simply uploading videos to a course website because Kaltura processes video before making it available. When the user chooses to play a video, Kaltura is able to select an appropriate size and quality for smooth playback.
  • In addition to uploading existing video resources, users can also record, manage, and edit videos.
  • Includes tools for inserting quiz questions or messages into videos.
Media Central
  • A shared video repository for the Princeton community (like YouTube for Princeton). Videos uploaded to MediaCentral may be public or private, but best suited to videos that you would like to make public in a space outside of the learning management system.
Posted by June 24, 2020