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Technology for Teaching 

This page focuses on the technology tools and applications that the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) has found to be most useful for integration into Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health courses.

When choosing a tool, you will want to consider three things:

  1.     Value—Will it help students achieve the goal and/or learning objectives?

  2.     Function—Does it do what you want it to do?

  3.     Implementation—Do you understand how to use this technology, and where will you or the students go for help if issues arise?

Below are overviews and links to more information on some of the available and most popular tools. Whether you use some of these or other technologies with your students, make sure to keep accessibility, availability, student privacy, terms of service, user-friendliness, and tech support in mind as you find the appropriate one(s) to meet your instructional goals and desired pedagogical approach. 

CoursePlus Tools

CoursePlus is the Bloomberg School’s learning management system. The platform offers many tools for activities, assignments, and communication. Please see the Overview of CoursePlus page for more information and resources on getting acquainted with the platform. This page describes a subset of the tools available inside every CoursePlus course site.

Discussion Forum

The Discussion Forum is used for online, asynchronous discussions.  It is a place where students or instructors can post questions or updates, and others in the class can respond with their own comments or questions. The Discussion Forum can be set up with "Categories," which are groupings of posts, and "Topics," which are the individual threads within a category. Faculty and teaching assistants (TAs) can also set a variety of different restrictions or requirements for the Discussion Forum: students can be required to post their own messages before they can view the others in a category or topic; a topic can become read-only at a specific time; a topic can be made "sticky" so that it appears at the top of the listing; and many others.

For more information and instructions on using the Discussion Forum in online courses in CoursePlus, see the CTL Discussion Forum guides: 

Learn more about discussion forums:

Drop Box

The Drop Box is a virtual tool serving as the faculty team’s in-box that allows you to electronically "drop off" documents for assignments, papers, labs—any coursework that is specified in the course Drop Box assignment list. Benefits of using the CoursePlus Drop Box tool from the faculty perspective include organization and ease in grading assignments, including giving feedback directly in submitted documents and returning the saved documents using the Gradebook tool. Instructions for grading items submitted through the Drop Box are available in the Faculty Guide that can be found on our Toolkit Shelf. More information on the Drop Box can be found in the CoursePlus Guide.

Note: The CoursePlus Drop Box is different from the commercial tool Dropbox. While both are valuable in an academic setting, there is a significant difference in how they are used.  For more information on the commercial tool, see the Dropbox website.


The CoursePlus Gradebook tool can be used to automatically calculate students’ grades while also allowing for individual and class feedback for every graded item. Faculty have control as to when and what items to display to students, as a class or by individual.

Gradebook allows you to:

  • Set up the Gradebook with a percentage- or point-based grading method

  • Create graded categories that can be weighted toward the overall grade

  • Pull grades from the CoursePlus Quiz Generator, Discussion Forum, Peer Assessment, and PathFinder activities

  • Create and send graded files or text as individual or class feedback

  • Export grades from CoursePlus to Microsoft Excel

  • Prepare final course grades, with a final roster ready to submit to the student information system


For more information on the Gradebook tool, see the Gradebook section in the CoursePlus Guide.


Interactive simulations are one method of active learning, and the PathFinder tool was built to help faculty create them. Faculty use the tool to construct scenarios, often based on real-world events, where students are tasked with making choices that demonstrate their comprehension. The path-based scenarios can be simple or complex and can combine rich content (text, audio, video) for immersive, impactful, and unique learning experiences.

Faculty have the option to give feedback on “correct” and “incorrect” student choices before proceeding to the next branch of an activity, or even return a student to a previous point in a simulation and allow them to try again.

Learn more about the activity in the PathFinder section of the CoursePlus Guide.

Peer Assessment

The Peer Assessment tool is a way for students to evaluate each other based on a rubric designed by the course faculty. Students use the tool to evaluate a completed assignment or activity against one or more criteria, usually according to a standard performance scale determined by the faculty. The assessment may be set up to allow or even require open-ended comments (feedback) in addition to the standardized evaluation criteria. The tool is used after an activity or assignment is completed.

Depending on how faculty set up an activity, the Peer Assessment tool can be used to have students assess:

  • Their own work (as a sort of self-grading rubric)

  • The work of one or more other students in the course, randomly or manually assigned

  • The work or participation of individual members of their own group

  • The collaborative effort of one or more entire groups, including their own


The assessment can be set up to be anonymous—where students do not know whose work they are evaluating, as long as there is no identifiable information in the submitted assignment—or, as would be required for assessing group participation, it can be set up to show the names of the students who are being evaluated.


More information on the Peer Assessment tool can be found in the CoursePlus Guide.

Quiz Generator

The Quiz Generator is a tool that makes it possible for instructors to create graded and nongraded (review) quizzes and exams. 


Quiz Generator allows you to: 

  • Create and add different types of questions: multiple choice, true/false, matching, fill-in-the-blank, combo, numeric value (with optional range), and essay

  • Grade questions automatically or manually

  • Weight questions’ values in the final quiz score calculation, automatically or manually

  • Create a randomized display order of questions and answers

  • Create tags that can be used to filter questions as a quiz is built

  • Create question blocks that “stay together,” including allowing randomized selection of questions based on their tags

  • Display hints and feedback on individual questions

  • Set special student access, including time extensions and retakes

  • Specify result-sharing preferences (email versus on-screen, etc.)


For more information on the tool, see the Quiz Generator section in the CoursePlus Guide.


A wiki is a collaborative online workspace where multiple students can access and edit a single web page or collection of web pages using a simple WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) text editor.  Many courses use wikis for group projects, papers, or discussion areas. Instructors can also use wikis to present information to students and then have students build on that information. 

Faculty can determine who (e.g., course groups) has editing privileges and who has read-only privileges in the wiki workspace. Individuals who can read a wiki can leave comments on its pages if faculty sets up the wiki to allow commenting. Faculty can also lock wikis to prevent further editing or hide them entirely. Students can mark a wiki as "finished" to indicate that they have completed their work on it and submit the wiki for an assignment. This action sends an email alert to faculty if this option has been selected in the wiki setup.


More information on wikis in CoursePlus can be found in the CoursePlus Guide.

Tools Licensed by the Bloomberg School

The Center for Teaching and Learning manages accounts and provides support for the following applications, chosen specifically for teaching and learning. Faculty and staff can contact CTL Help for more more information, including subscription requests, on the following. 

Poll Everywhere

Poll Everywhere is an audience response system.  For those familiar with the concept of "clickers," it functions in a similar manner, but from personal devices such as cell phones and laptops. Descriptions of many of its features can be found on the Poll Everywhere support site and in this Features video. To learn about specific educational uses of Poll Everywhere, including examples of classroom use and presenter tips, review the Instructor Guide.

The Bloomberg School has a Schoolwide premium account for Poll Everywhere. Registered users under this account can set up unlimited polls. Contact your instructional designer or CTL Help to obtain a Poll Everywhere pro-level account if you need one. After your account is completely set up, to get started, you may want to view the Poll Everywhere support videos and the aforementioned Instructor Guide. And, if you use Poll Everywhere as part of a regular lecture, you may also want to consider downloading and using the PowerPoint add-in.

Note: The Poll Everywhere add-in is said to be installed on all teaching (podium) computers at the School. These are Windows PCs. If you regularly use a Mac, polls created in your version of PowerPoint’s add-in will not work if they are displayed using Windows. Instead, you will want to connect your Mac directly to the podium’s projector input. 

Tools Licensed by Johns Hopkins University

The University manages accounts and provides support for several other tools used in teaching and learning. Faculty and staff can contact CTL Help or University Information Technologies (JHED login required) for more more information on the following. 

Microsoft Office 365

All Johns Hopkins faculty, staff, and current students have access to Microsoft Office 365 with their Johns Hopkins Enterprise Directory (JHED) ID and password when logging in directly through Microsoft's sign-in page or through my.JH portal, following the instructions provided by Johns Hopkins Information Technology (IT).  (If logging in directly through Microsoft, make sure to use your Johns Hopkins University email in the format JHED, with no spaces, as your account/sign-in name. If prompted, select “work or school account” as the associated account type.) This subscription provides both web apps for (online) collaboration and full versions of the Microsoft Office Education Suite (MS Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and OneNote, downloadable on up to five devices, including Macs, PCs, and mobile devices), as well as 5TB of cloud storage in OneDrive for Business. Office 365 also allows each user to define levels of sharing toward collaboration on individual documents or file directories. Sharing is made easy for Bloomberg School students and faculty by the built-in address book tied to Johns Hopkins accounts.

To download the full Office 365 suite on up to five different devices, go directly to your Microsoft portal's apps and devices page and log in with your JHED ID followed by Microsoft will recognize that you are logging in via the Johns Hopkins enterprise subscription and will navigate to the familiar Johns Hopkins login screen. Once you are successfully logged in, you may be prompted by Microsoft to confirm that you want to stay logged into the account. If so, go ahead and agree. Then look for the "Install" button on that screen. (You may have to scroll down on the page.) After installation, you will need to log into your Office account the first time you open any of the programs. This account info is the same JHED with your JHED password.


Panopto is a screencast, or lecture capture, application. It is a service that provides the ability to combine audio and screen capture in a single recording and store the files with customizable sharing permissions on the web. The recordings can also be exported as stand-alone files. Panopto is currently installed in all classroom and auditorium podium computers in the Bloomberg School Wolfe Street and Hampton House buildings. Johns Hopkins faculty can download the software to their personal computers from the Hopkins-hosted Panopto website. (Bloomberg School faculty should sign in using the "JHU Prod Shibboleth" sign-in option.) If you are unable to download the software, put in a request to Bloomberg School IT Services (login required), selecting “I need a new service.”

For on-campus, hybrid, and blended course formats, Panopto is the preferred application for lecture capture. See the instructions on setting up Panopto in CoursePlus [PDF] for these course formats. The Bloomberg School’s Panopto help site for faculty and TAs (login required) offers further information and support, as do resources on our Toolkit Shelf.

Turnitin and iThenticate

Turnitin and iThenticate are online plagiarism detection services that can be used in support of maintaining academic integrity. Their online resources include a searchable support knowledge base and links to guides for faculty (instructors) and students. For new accounts, Bloomberg School faculty should contact Brian Klaas. For technical support, students and faculty should contact


VoiceThread is an online, collaborative tool that allow students and faculty to upload presentations, images, and video, and to comment on content in multiple different ways—via text, voice, or webcam. VoiceThread can be used in online or on-campus courses for group or individual student presentations, short lecture updates, discussions of current events or research, and more.  For more information on VoiceThread, please visit the VoiceThread features website

Johns Hopkins has a special site license for the VoiceThread platform, and anyone with a JHED ID can log into the special Johns Hopkins domain. All users logging into that domain are able to create VoiceThreads that can be shared with groups, individuals, or anyone with a link to the presentation. Additionally, faculty team members (instructors, teaching assistants, and guests) can have their accounts upgraded from basic to pro by contacting a CTL instructional designer or CTL Help. Those with pro accounts can create VoiceThread groups and an unlimited number of VoiceThread presentations.


Zoom is an online video collaboration platform that allows people all over the world to come together face-to-face virtually, and share programs and apps, with high-quality video and audio. Zoom is an amazing tool for building community and increasing efficiency and productivity.

Zoom Meetings are used for LiveTalks at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, which are synchronous online sessions for discussions and presentations in the School’s online courses. LiveTalks are used for many purposes: Q&A sessions; student presentations; talks by guest speakers; live lectures; break-out group discussions; team, group, or class meetings; and so on. LiveTalks can be both streamed live and recorded for later archive viewing.

Beyond LiveTalks, Zoom is used by faculty for:

  • Virtual office hours

  • Pivoted or faculty-hosted synchronous class sessions

  • Scheduled or impromptu meetings

  • Recorded lectures

  • Recorded interviews


Students might use Zoom to join class sessions and office hours, to record presentations, or for group work and other collaboration.

Zoom Accounts

The agreement that Johns Hopkins has with Zoom requires that paid, licensed accounts for faculty and staff use be provisioned through the Johns Hopkins IT Service Catalog; that is, not everyone has a licensed account. Faculty with a provisioned account should log in through the Johns Hopkins Zoom portal or through the Zoom client using “Login with SSO” (entering as the SSO, or single sign-on).  All students, including TAs, with an active JHED ID automatically have a licensed account. Students can access their Johns Hopkins licensed Zoom account using this link. Of course, anyone can create a free Zoom account on their own. Faculty and staff can also create a free, basic account as part of the Johns Hopkins enterprise license through the IT Service Catalog. (CTL recommends the Johns Hopkins enterprise licensed account.) A free account allows you to join and host meetings but comes with the limitations that (1) meetings are limited to 40 minutes if there are more than two people in the session, and (2) recordings can be saved only to the local device and not the Zoom cloud. Learn more on Johns Hopkins' Zoom FAQ site and Zoom's Plans & Pricing site

Other Useful Technology Applications and Tools


What is a backchannel?

[verb] To employ a back channel. (linguistics) To employ non-verbal (oral and visual) means to influence a speaker without interruption. 
[noun] (computing) [A] real-time online discussion that occurs simultaneously with a verbal presentation. (Ninjawords, n.d.)

A backchannel conversation is pertinent to a common experience, such as a lecture or presentation, and transforms the event from personal to communal. Usually, this conversation is accessible through a mobile app or website. Twitter is probably the most familiar backchannel tool, using predetermined hashtags to categorize conversation threads. Backchannel communication can be linked from a course site or, in face-to-face events, projected alongside a speaker or facilitator, reaching as many participants concurrently as possible. Zoom’s in-meeting chat function can also be used for backchannel conversation. A course moderator (designated student or TA) can moderate the backchannel and keep it focused, as well as answer any relevant questions that cannot be immediately addressed by the presiding faculty. 

Here is a video describing the use of a Twitter backchannel in a college classroom for both on-site and remote students. 

PDF Annotation

One type of tool that faculty and students have found useful is the PDF annotator. There are several different PDF annotators available, some specifically for Mac, PC, or iPad, but all allow you to highlight, mark up, and take notes on PDF files. For students and faculty, this can be useful for annotating journal articles. For faculty and TAs, these tools can be useful when grading papers that have been submitted as PDF files; they enable you to leave comments and highlight areas of assignments without actually needing to edit the PDF documents directly.  

The full version of Adobe Acrobat actually allows for annotation, but it is limited in its capacity. Other PDF annotation tools can be found online. When selecting an annotator, consider how you plan to use it. Many websites provide reviews; consider reviews that evaluate the specific functions that you will need.

Social Bookmarking

Diigo is an education-friendly social bookmarking tool. It can be used by class participants to collaboratively build a set of links to resources about a certain topic; share, tag, and comment on web links; and even highlight notable text on resources found on the web. 

You can also see the Educause Learning Initiative’s 7 Things You Should Know About Social Bookmarking.

URL Shortening

Have you ever been shown a web link that you could not click on and that took you a whole minute—or longer—to write down? URL (Uniform Resource Locator) shorteners make it possible to present shorter URLs that are much quicker to write down or type into your web browser. TinyURL, for example, can change something like “” into something like “” 

URL shortening is important when posting to social media, where brevity is rewarded, and when making accessible hyperlinks, where the entire URL might be read aloud to the end user by assistive technology.

Two of the most common shorteners are TinyURL and


Ninjawords. (n.d.). Backchannel. In dictionary. Retrieved April 29, 2022, from

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