Accessibility statement

Tools for supporting teaching and learning

Which tools should you choose for online teaching and learning activities?

This guidance document is intended to help you consider the University's IT provision in making a decision over the right tool for the online teaching and learning activities that you are seeking to support. We have anticipated a selection of scenarios (see below). If, after reflecting on your teaching and learning requirements and the range of centrally supported tools available to you, you feel that there is a gap in the University’s provision and a strong rationale for using an external IT service, then you will need to follow the University’s guidance on use of externally IT services for learning and teaching. Please contact the E-Learning Development Team ( for support with this.

Here are some pedagogic scenarios to get you thinking:

Pedagogic scenarioUniversity IT Services
1. Instructor(s) and students use a shared discussion forum to discuss research literature and this space can also be shared with external staff and students (not affiliated to the University) enabling them to participate in the discussion too. Google Plus supports the sharing of resources, links etc. and also offers a discussion space, and this can be made available to York and external users, if they have a Google account. Create a circle and then you can share thoughts, links and photos with all members.
2. The instructor sets up a blogging facility for groups of students to use to reflect on research data and key findings

The Blackboard blog tool on Yorkshare can be set up, enabling groups to share results and discuss their findings, and a course-wide blog tool can also be set up too.

Google sites can be used, providing a dedicated set of web pages and template for students to use in documenting their research findings.

3. Students on work placements are asked to blog on their experiences, using individual sites to do so. Their blogs may be shared with the public. Blogger provides individual spaces for students to share their reflections with York students and the wider public.
4. An instructor wishes to run a research seminar in collaboration with remote participants from different institutions.

Google Hangouts can be configured to support the participation of external participants in a live seminar, working best for a maximum of 12 active participants.

Blackboard Collaborate is a licensed and ELDT supported tool. Collaborate sessions can be launched from the VLE and the software is resilient, coping with large numbers of active participants.

5. An online teaching space is created, enabling students from York to collaborate with students from a different institution in shared learning tasks Google Sites can be configured to offer web pages with teaching materials which can be shared with external users.
6. An instructor creates a presentation area for shared data and images, including a space which all students can use to upload resources, and a shared discussion area. The Blackboard wiki pages can be configured so that a course wiki site is made available, with students awarded editing rights to pages. The commenting tool will enable a discussion to evolve on each page.
7. The instructor wishes to create a social networking space for students to collaborate and share ideas.

A Google circle can be set up, as outlined in scenario 1.

For simple discussion via email for a dedicated set of members, you can also use Google groups.

Further information on centrally supported tools and services


Google Groups:

Google Hangouts:

Google Plus:

Google Sites:

VLE tools: For a general overview of the e-learning tools supported by the E-Learning Development Team, please see the following guide: (PDF) A good starting point to learn more about the VLE’s communication and collaboration tools is the overview document: Communication and Collaboration Tools in Yorkshare

For specific searches: type the name of the tool that you would like to use into the search box on the VLE support site’s Guides tab, and you will find a range of guidance resources available to you.

You may also find it useful to take a look at the range of case studies on centrally supported e-learning tools, which set out the pedagogic use case and technology that was employed to support it. Go to the Inspiration tab on the VLE support site ( and search from there.

Guidance on procedures for using externally hosted tools

If you decide to go ahead and use an external IT Service to support a formal teaching and learning activity, you will need to follow the correct procedures , taking account of data protection, personal data and information retention issues. For further information, please see the following guide: Use of external IT Services for learning and teaching.


For further information on tools or a discussion about your particular learning and teaching scenario, please contact the E-Learning Development Team:


Contacts Web page:

Document history and status

May 2014 Created by E-Learning Development Team
June 2014 Approved by University Teaching Committee


Review cycle: Three yearly

Date of next review: May 2017