Technology Tools

Last Updated: December 15, 2022 - 11:47 am

For remote instruction, Northwestern encourages the use of the following tools: Zoom, Canvas, and the attendant software integrated into Canvas, such as Course Reserves, GradeSync, and Panopto. This website and the Canvas Learning Center provide many resources for learning about the techniques of teaching online and about the tools Northwestern supports.


Canvas is a cloud-hosted learning management system (LMS), powered by Instructure, that allows Northwestern instructors and students to deliver course materials, submit assignments and tests, view grades, and create learning activities. Additional Canvas features include full-featured mobile apps for both iOS and Android, a global calendar, and tools that enable two-way communications between instructor and students including text, video, audio, and attachments.

Get Started with Canvas


Set Up a Class Discussion

Setting up a Canvas discussion is an easy way to allow instructors to discuss course content or assignments with students, or for students to share work or ask questions.


Share Course Documents

The Files area in Canvas provides a place for storing all course materials. Add files such as documents, PDFs, slides, or spreadsheets.

Ideally, all material you add to the course will be accessible to all students. Here are some recommendations regarding accessibility: How Do I Make My Course Resources Accessible?

Allow Students to Submit Assignments Online

Assignments in Canvas allows students to submit assignments online and also permits instructors to grade and provide feedback online. One point to consider when adapting your course is that some students may be depending on their phones as their primary source of internet access. Students can easily submit assignments on a mobile device by using the Canvas Student app. If you have a large class, avoid collecting assignments via email attachment; instead, use Canvas Assignments to collect submissions.


Communicate through Announcements

Post Announcements in Canvas with written or recorded messages for your students. This is the fastest way to communicate with your entire class from within Canvas. Ask students to modify their notification settings to allow copies of Announcements to be forwarded to their email address.


Share Lecture Video and Audio

To record or share large or long lecture videos or screen-share presentations, you have two options:

  • Schedule, host, and record a Zoom session with or without your students. You can then share the video in your course. Zoom provides video and audio capture, along with whiteboards for annotation, slides, and screen sharing. Zoom has additional features like breakout rooms and the ability to “raise your hand.”
  • Panopto is available for more complex lecture and screen captures, and it offers robust editing features and the ability to view analytics.
  • For short, simple videos, use the video recorder within the rich content editor in Canvas to record a video or audio message for students. The tool is available in several areas in Canvas and can be used when posting an Announcement.


Use Zoom to conduct your class synchronously. Zoom integrates with Canvas, the University's learning management system, allowing instructors to conduct audio, video, and content sharing conferencing within their Canvas courses.

This cloud-based audio/video/content sharing conferencing service works through your web browser (Chrome only) or an app that can be downloaded for most desktop and mobile operating systems. It supports HD videoconferencing, screen sharing, breakout rooms, and real-time video sharing. Live chat is available during meetings, and meetings can be recorded. Zoom encrypts all presentation content and telephone audio.

Sign in to Zoom


Get started with Zoom

Zoom is available to anyone with a valid Northwestern NetID. Visit the Zoom Conferencing Service page to learn all about options for using this tool.

Zoom Conferencing Service Page 

Protect against “Zoombombing”
Guidelines for using Zoom
University policies on  Zoom recordings
Zoom and Accessibility

Examine closed captioning options for live classes.

  • Captioning can be added by a captioner typing directly in Zoom. If you don't have a captioner, the best option is Alternative Communication Services (ACS), an organization AccessibleNU and Northwestern IT work with on a regular basis. ACS can arrange for captioners to join your meetings. View contact information and pricing details.
  • AccessibleNU also has instructor information for remote learning and can help make accommodations for students with disabilities. Should a student require live captioning as an accommodation, please ask them to contact AccessibleNU at
  • Note that if you are recording classes, Zoom will automatically generate a transcript that can be used as closed captioning. This transcript is generally accurate, but not perfect, so there is still a need to make some edits. View instructions for generating and editing Zoom's auto transcription.
Displaying handwriting during Zoom meetings

Writing on a chalkboard or whiteboard is used extensively as part of the teaching process in the classroom. How can this practice best be moved online? This article breaks down the hardware and software needed for three solutions to this problem.

Group work using Zoom

For in-class activities, consider using Zoom breakout rooms. You can divide students into small groups to work together in real-time, then bring the class together as a whole. The guidelines here will help you set these up


You can use Panopto to record and edit video lectures, including narrated slide shows and screencasts. Here’s a brief overview of using Panopto to record a video presentation.

You can also add questions to a video recording to check for student understanding. Here are some guidelines on adding questions to a Panopto video recording.