Fall 2021 Learning Technology Update

Our teams and vendors have been working hard over the summer to update and improve the learning experience for the Duke Community. Below are some highlights from the past several months. We’re offering workshops on many of these topics and would be happy to discuss them with you during our open office hours.

Sakai (Learning Management System)

Updated Rich Text editor

We’ve streamlined the way you create text in Sakai by updating Sakai’s Rich Text Editor (RTE). The RTE is the set of tools you use to format text in all the places in Sakai where you add information. This update will allow both new and expert Sakai users to create accessible content quickly and easily. Full details of the rich text editor changes can be found here.


Conversations is a new tool that provides a Questions & Answers space in your course site. Built to provide an alternative to Piazza and designed with guidance from Duke instructors and students, this tool is now available in Duke Sakai.

The Conversations tool has several organizing options to help students and instructors keep track of Q&A topics. From tagging and filtering to bookmarking, to pinning key posts at the top of the list, Conversations makes it easy to find the content that you’re looking for. Conversations can also be customized by the instructor to guide students and TAs to the kind of participation they’d like to see in their classes. 

Learn more about using this tool here, or sign up to try the beta yourself. 

Pronouns & pronunciation 

Users may now add their pronouns, provide a phonetic name pronunciation, and/or record an audio example of their name pronunciation to their Sakai profile.

Lesson name tokens

Within the Lessons tool, instructors can insert certain tokens that when saved, will display users’ first name, last name, or full name when they view the lesson’s page. This is a unique way to personalize a lesson page for the users enrolled in your site.

Kits (App Store)

Kits (formerly Toolkits) gives you one place to go where you can manage all the apps you use in your course, including Sakai, WordPress, Box, Warpwire, and many others.  Several new features have been added to Kits recently, such as:

  • Delete kit: Need to clean up your old kits?  In your kit click the kabob menu, choose Edit kit, then Delete kit.
  • New help documentation: Learn everything you need to know about Kits.
  • Improved app names: You can now choose a better name for apps in your course kit.
  • Set up Panopto: The new, improved Panopto app is available again in the App Store for all new course and collaboration kits.
  • Combined course kits: Need to set up a Box folder or WordPress site for multiple rosters?  No problem!  Create a combined kit and then add the apps you need.

Gradescope (Assignment, Assessment, and Grading)

Gradescope is now more integrated with Sakai making it easier to manage rosters and grades between the two systems. 

New assignment types are available: online assignments can be used immediately and report/essay assignments can be added to your course by requesting them at help@gradescope.com.

More information about Gradescope can be found here.

Ed Discussion (Question & Answer, Discussion)

Ed Discussion is a new tool we are piloting to facilitate discussion and question & answer in courses. Similar to Conversations above, Ed Discussion allows instructors and students to ask and answer questions and share information. 

Ed allows for pinning and assigning posts to categories for easy organization and for sharing computer code. Your Sakai roster can be synced to the roster in Ed and class members can access the tool via the left-hand menu in Sakai. 

More information about Ed Discussion can be found here

Zoom (Video Conference and Recording)

Zoom live captioning is a brand-new feature that may help provide better accessibility for students and co-instructors. If you wish to use this feature, make sure to set it up before your meeting starts. Check out the Zoom Support site for the step-by-step guide: Enabling and managing closed captioning and live transcription.

Adding pronouns in your Zoom profile can bolster mutual respect in your course. Learn more about Adding and Sharing Your Pronouns.

The much-anticipated Immersive View feature in Zoom provides a way to place up to 25 meeting participants on a virtual background. Be sure to set it up for your account before starting your next meeting.

Panopto (Lecture Capture and Video Creation)

Panopto moved to the cloud in Summer 2021 – a change that will provide performance and reliability improvements along with several other benefits. In particular, Panopto can now generate “Smart chapters” through automatic speech recognition – which makes it easier for students and instructors to review a course recording.

The cloud upgrade also ensures that all Duke users can now access Panopto through one central site at duke.hosted.panopto.com. This change makes it easy for anyone to get started with utilizing the many features that Panopto has to offer. The new Panopto Capture tool works directly in your browser, allowing you to quickly and easily produce a high-quality video lesson without the need to download any extra software.

Over the 2020-2021 school year, hundreds of online courses utilized the Panopto tool in Duke Sakai to easily share video lessons made at home – as well as educational recordings from the classroom. 

Users can now automatically import Zoom Meetings into the Panopto tool – all within Sakai. Learn more at Duke Sakai Guides and Documentation : “How do I use Panopto with Sakai?” 

PlayPosit (In-video engagement and assessment)

The new interaction templates tool is useful for getting started with building an interactive video lesson by providing a ready-made set of interactions. You can choose from a library of templates and make your videos interactive in an instant, such as Vocabulary matching, pre/post/summative assessments. Or, use the My Interactions feature to create your own template – which can be reused over multiple video lessons.

PlayPosit’s integration with Sakai Lessons can send student grades from each PlayPosit item into Sakai Gradebook, greatly simplifying the assessment process. 

Usage has grown steadily across programs at Duke, and graduate online programs such as the Duke Physician Assistant program have used PlayPosit as a core part of their teaching strategy. Elaine Kauschinger has used PlayPosit as an essential part of her asynchronous master’s-level hybrid online courses at the Duke School of Nursing. Learn more about Dr. Kauschinger’s teaching use case.

Voicethread (Media-based discussion)

The VoiceThread Assignments tool is now available to use in the Lessons tool in Duke Sakai. Frequent users of VoiceThread will notice benefits to this improved integration with Sakai. This includes the ability to place individual VoiceThreads throughout your Sakai Lessons pages – and automatically populate grades to Sakai Gradebook for each VoiceThread item. Here’s a guide on how to set up a VoiceThread Assignment using Deep Linking: Adding a VoiceThread activity to your course – Sakai.

Piazza (Question & Answer)

As you may have heard, Piazza is no longer supported. Faculty or departments may choose to use the tool independently, however, we recommend moving to another platform such as the Sakai Conversations Tool, Ed Discussion, or Microsoft Teams.