Learning Systems Announcements

Put Some Tech in Your T&L

Oftentimes, instructors get overwhelmed by the hundreds of Canvas 3rd Party Tool options available to use in their courses. Canvas 3rd Party Tools are external apps that add functionality to a course which enhance course facilitation through the platform.  However, many of these tools are to be used ‘at your own risk’ with no real support options when you run into trouble.

Caution is advised when using instructional tools that are not supported by VCU Technology Services (TS). Their impact in regard to cost, security, data privacy, accessibility, support resources, etc. can have a negative effect on the student’s overall experience and could potentially have other implications for liability and risk.

It is our responsibility as faculty, staff and a university community to implement a safer learning environment by ensuring our students’ data privacy, personally identifiable information that is collected from an individual, is secure. This student data is not only names, email addresses, phone numbers, addresses, photos and videos but also the participation and activity in email accounts, online bulletin boards, and educational programs and applications.

VCU Technology Services has identified and acquired some viable tools that are centrally supported by our staff. Instructors are highly encouraged to utilize these reliable tools rather than venture out into the ‘unknown’. Examples of unsupported tools include Discord, Flip (formerly known as Flipgrid) and Packback, among others.

Here are some of the most prominent tools supported by our team:


Canvas is VCU’s centrally supported web-based learning management system designed to integrate seamlessly with the university’s Banner system for automatic course creation and enrollments. It is used to access and manage online course learning materials and communicate about skill development and learning achievement. It includes a variety of customizable course creation and management tools, course and user analytics and statistics, and internal communication tools. 

Canvas can be used for online, in-person, or hybrid courses. Not only does the TS Learning Systems team provide hands-on support and training; faculty, staff, and students have access to 24/7 vendor support via chat, phone, and ticketing. Additionally, Canvas is compatible with 4 browsers, Respondus Lockdown Browser, and has a Canvas Mobile App for those on the go.


Kaltura is VCU’s centrally supported, cloud-based video management system that facilitates the conversion and distribution of audio and video formats online. It combines intuitive methods for recording, publishing and interactive viewing on any device in or outside of the classroom.

Users have unlimited storage for their audio and video needs and can embed media directly into their Canvas course without using all of their valuable course storage space.

Benefits to Instructors:

  • Allows grade passback of interactive quizzes into the Canvas gradebook.
  • Enhanced functionality that allows creation of interactive quizzes.
  • As long as users are logged in with their VCU eID Kaltura will track which users have watched the video.
    • Note: Kaltura will track number of views but you won’t be able to tell exactly who watched it unless they are logged into VCU’s Kaltura mediaspace.

Benefits to All Users: 

  • A free to use tool to record class discussions and presentations.
  • Provides secure, cloud-based storage for files.
  • Captioning services
    • Automated, machine-generated captions available for all media. 
    • Professional, human-generated captions available for an additional fee.
  • Used for creating and embedding videos and audio files within Canvas course(s), which conserves the limited course and account storage space.
  • Allows users to create channels for better video management that can be shared.
  • Allows users to create playlists (only for personal viewing) for their personal management of videos, or to save videos for future playback.
  • Core toolset also includes:
    • Kaltura Express Capture
    • Kaltura Classroom
    • Kaltura Personal Capture
    • Rich content editor (RCE) for direct creation of new recordings


VoiceThread is a centrally supported tool that allows multisensory collaboration between faculty and students. Instructors can deliver their content using rich multimedia to enhance the engagement of their students. It allows audio, video, and text comments on uploaded documents, presentations, images, and video. There are no new usernames or passwords to learn, and rosters are synced automatically.

Benefits to using VoiceThread: 

  • Universally accessible to all users, regardless of technology needs, cognitive differences, disability, or preferred learning style, due to built-in accessibility features and the multi-media interaction options. 
  • Flexibility; whether you want to have an informal chat, a lecture, a student-led presentation, small-group discussions, or a formal assessment, VoiceThread can be used to achieve it.
  • Human presence is the thing most students report to be missing from courses that have an online component. By empowering students and instructors to use their voices and faces to communicate, VoiceThread creates more of a human learning experience even for remote learners.
  • No scheduling necessary — VoiceThread is fully asynchronous, so even with these very human-centric conversations, there is no scheduling required. This is a powerful attribute for busy students who might also be parents or have jobs, or for instructors who have large course loads and need to do some of their student interaction outside of standard hours.
  • Tight integration with Canvas, including gradebook integration, automatic login, and automatic course copying features.
  • VoiceThread vendor support provides prompt instructional and technical assistance with an average first reply time of 24 minutes and an average resolution time of 2 hours.

Additional functionality includes:

  • Upload, share and discuss documents, presentations, images, audio files and videos. Over 50 different types of media can be used in a VoiceThread. Comment on VoiceThread slides using one of five powerful commenting options: microphone, webcam, text, phone, and audio-file upload.
  • VoiceThread Mobile offers an iOS app for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch, and an Android app for Android mobile devices.

Respondus LockDown Browser & Monitor and Respondus 4.0

Respondus LockDown Browser is a centrally supported, downloadable application that is installed on your local computer and provides a customized user interface within your internet browser. It is intended for use by students while taking assessments to prevent them from opening additional browsers, software, or other tools to aid in their test taking experience.

Here are 10 Reasons to Use Respondus LockDown Browser.

Available functionalities at the click of a button:

  • Assessments are displayed full-screen and cannot be minimized.
  • Browser menu and toolbar options are removed.
  • Users are prevented access to other applications including messaging, screen-sharing, virtual machines, and remote desktops.
  • Printing and screen capture functions are disabled, and much more.
  • Respondus Monitor is a companion application to LockDown Browser that uses webcam and video analytics to deter cheating during non-proctored, online exams. Suspicious behaviors are automatically flagged for instructors, and exam sessions are ranked in terms of overall risk.

In addition to  24/7 support, students can access a live-chat agent within Respondus Monitor itself, with an average wait time of 24 seconds. For support tickets opened by a licensed system administrator, the average time for a written response is 22 minutes during daytime hours.

In addition to LockDown Browser, VCU has acquired Respondus 4.0 used to create and manage online assessments that can be printed to paper or published directly to Canvas. Create a pool of questions in Respondus, then select which ones to use for tests, exams or other assignments.

Exams can be created offline using a familiar Windows environment, or moved between different learning systems. Whether you are a veteran of online testing or relatively new to it, Respondus 4 will save you hours on each project.


Turnitin is a centrally supported web-based plagiarism detection service that can be used to uphold academic integrity and serve as a deterrent to misconduct.

The tool aids in teaching students how to work with sources, and fosters excellent writing and original thinking skills. Turnitin Feedback Studio also includes tools for peer review, automated spelling and grammar review, document annotation and feedback, and grading of student submissions.

Instructors can provide high-quality, actionable feedback that fits easily into their existing workflows and can use Turnitin as a tool that streamlines manual grading processes, so they can spend more time teaching.

Turnitin is seamlessly integrated with our Canvas instance and can be easily enabled when creating or editing an assignment.

For any questions or concerns, email LSRequest@vcu.edu.

Categories Canvas, Faculty, Kaltura, Online Teaching and Development, Respondus, Staff, Teaching with Technology, VoiceThread

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