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 or combination of tools for the online and blended teaching and learning activities that you are seeking to support. Many of the supported learning technology tools can be used only by registered University of York staff and students, and scenarios that only involve participation by staff and students are more likely to be easily served using the supported toolset.

However, it is also worth noting that many scenarios involving external users without University IT accounts can also be supported using University tools. This includes, for example, collaboration and information sharing with external users using Google Workspace for Education, attending online web conferencing sessions using Zoom and Blackboard Collaborate, for taking part in online discussion and polls using Padlet and Mentimeter.

We have anticipated a selection of scenarios 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 Programme Design and Learning Technology Team ( for support with this.

Pedagogic scenarioUniversity IT Services
1. Instructor(s) and students use a shared asynchronous 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 Groups offers an open discussion space, and this can be made available to York and external users if they have a Google account. 

For one-off discussions and activities, a Padlet  can also be used for York and external users to add their ideas on a shared ‘noticeboard’ space without needing to log on.  This can be moderated by the user who created the Padlet.
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 and journal tool on Yorkshare can be set up, enabling groups to share results and discuss their findings with others in their cohort.

Google sites can also provide a set of web pages and templates for students to use in documenting their research findings.  Individual students can take copies of these and share them externally if appropriate.

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.

Both Zoom and Blackboard Collaborate allow for externals to access a web conferencing session without being required to log in.  For Blackboard Collaborate, please see guidance for working with students enrolled or not enrolled on a VLE site.  When setting up meetings and sharing invitations, you should note the guidance on security (Secure your Zoom meeting and Blackboard Collaborate - Avoiding and Resolving "Zoom Bombing").

To support interactive participation in the seminar, Mentimeter can be used for polling and Padlet can be used to collate ideas on a shared ‘noticeboard’ space without requiring a log in.

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. This can be used in combination with the collaborative tools outlined above.
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.

Google Groups 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

TEL Handbook: 4.4 Choosing the right tool.

Learning and Teaching case studies organised according to the type of tool: Case studies by technologies

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, information retention and digital accessibility 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 Programme Design and Learning Technology Team:

Document history and status

May 2014 Created by E-Learning Development Team
June 2014 Approved by University Teaching Committee
November 2021 Updated by the Programme Design and Learning Technology Team


Review cycle: Three yearly

Date of next review: May 2017