Adverse Weather Tech Options

person with blue umbrella walking behind old well in the rainChapel Hill and the surrounding areas will feel the effects of Hurricane Dorian this week, making it possible that you won’t be able to come to campus. If you cannot meet in person, you can still have class / meet online or make your materials digitally available!

Here are some options to consider:

  • Meet in a virtual classroom
  • Record your presentation over your slides and share them digitally
  • Schedule office hours and meet with students online
  • Have students watch videos and report their feedback via online assessments or a discussion board

All the tools mentioned in this blog post are available through Sakai opens in new window. You can add each tool opens in new window to your course site through Site Info > Manage Tools.

Meet Online in Zoom

Not being able to meet in person doesn’t have to prevent you from having class. You can set up a virtual classroom using Zoom opens in new window and share your slides or desktop with meeting attendees. You and your students can turn on your microphones and speakers or even enable video connections for a more interactive experience. If you have not already, you can easily create a UNC Zoom account opens in new window, create a Zoom meeting, and share the Zoom meeting link with your students!

Here are two quick 1-minute videos on creating and joining Zoom meetings:

You might also consider recording your whole lecture in Zoom and then sharing the recording with your students. See Zoom Support opens in new window if you have any questions.

If you want to schedule office hours to meet with students individually, consider the Sakai Sign-up opens in new window tool!

Record Your Presentation in VoiceThread

Voicethread logoAnother way you can share your recorded presentation with your students is through VoiceThread opens in new window. You can quickly upload your PowerPoint slides as you’re creating a VoiceThread opens in new window and then narrate over the slides with an audio or video recording with comments opens in new window. Don’t forget to share your VoiceThread opens in new window with your class when you’re done!

Share Videos through Warpwire + Student Feedback

You might just have some videos you want your students to watch. If the videos are not already online but on your computer, you can easily upload the videos into Warpwire opens in new window. Warpwire will privately stream your media directly in your Sakai course site.

Perhaps you want to assess your students after watching the video. You can set up a discussion Forum opens in new window and have students post their thoughts and replies to other student posts, or you can quiz their knowledge using the Sakai Tests & Quizzes opens in new window tool — we recommend creating quizzes using Markup Text opens in new window!

We hope the hurricane impacts will be minimal but be sure to stay safe!

See Alert Carolina opens in new window for updates.

Request FREE Captions on Warpwire Videos by April 12

warpwire logoIf you are sharing videos with your students, you are most likely using the built-in video streaming platform in Sakai called Warpwire. If you have not heard of it but share videos or large images with your students, we recommend adding the Warpwire tool to your Sakai course site to securely share media with your students.

Fun fact: Warpwire was created by former UNC students – Go Heels!

Add Captions to Your Videos

When using videos, captions and a transcript should be included. Adding captions encourages an inclusive environment and promotes accessibility for all. You may have students who have been approved for accommodations by Accessibility Resources & Service (ARS) at the University, but the truth is, making your videos accessible helps everyone. According to Texas A&M University’s Division of Information Technology, providing captions and transcripts can:

  • Enhance the educational experience for people who respond to different learning styles and preferences
  • Allow content to be utilized by those in either extremely loud or extremely quiet environments
  • Ensure non-native speakers have access to information in videos
  • Facilitate understanding of vocabulary, or information presented in different dialects, as part of captured lectures or other video resources

Captions benefit all students.

Request Captions for FREE by April 12

If you are not using an automated captioning service, adding subtitles to your videos can be very time consuming or expensive. We have great news – ARS is currently accepting requests for closed captioning on Warpwire videos at no cost to you! Instructors can easily request closed captioning on their videos in just a few clicks. To request captions, you must be the owner of the video. Any course instructor may request captions, including faculty and student instructors.

On each Warpwire video that you’d like to request closed captions, all you have to do is:

  1. View Media Info (circle with 3 dots > Settings)
  2. Next to Captions, click + Add
  3. Click Request Caption
  4. Enter notes if needed and click Create

Pending approval, ARS will reach out to you after you have submitted the request. Approved requests will then be sent to a third-party subtitle vendor. Subtitle files will automatically be uploaded to the video in 3-5 days.


  • Captions cannot be added to copyrighted videos
  • A limited amount of resources are available for this captioning service

This is a great opportunity for instructors to easily take part in a global effort to make accessibility a reality for all. We highly encourage you to take advantage of this resource. Huge thanks to ARS!

Spring 2018 Semester in Review

Another semester has come and gone, and Summer courses are already well underway! Let’s take a moment to look back on another successful semester here at Carolina.

Before we dive into numbers, we wanted to say a quick thanks to the featured UNC students in the current photo on the Sakai gateway page!

From left to right: Patrick Buhr, Arijit Datta, Branden Pantoja, Han Wang
Photographer: Damian Walker


With Sakai being the University’s central learning management system, it’s no wonder there were over 4,000 courses in Sakai this semester!

Course sections: 4,039
Course sites: 3,216
Unique instructors: 2,273
Project sites to date: 3,587

Here are the top 10 tools in Sakai for Spring 2018:

table of top sakai tools: groups, messages, gradebook, course reserves, syllabus, announcements, gradebook classic, roster, assignments, drop boxVoiceThread

What is VoiceThread, you might ask? Think of this tool as a set of slides of images, documents, videos, PowerPoint slides, or really anything to be shared online. Your collaborators can post comments on your VoiceThreads, adding to a rich discussion around your shared media!

MonthVTs CreatedUsage in MinsTotal Comments


Do you have videos you need to share privately with your students? Consider using Warpwire, the video-streaming service available directly in your Sakai course site. You can add videos through the Warpwire tool or just use the Warpwire plug-in in the text editor to essentially stream videos in any part of your Sakai site!

MonthFiles CreatedUnique ViewersTime Watched
January2,0863,09845d 9h 54m 10s
February2853,83267d 17h 27m 42s
March3302,43138d 20h 53m 52s
April3623,14853d 23h 23m 13s
May 1-137656710d 16h 5m 37s
TOTAL3,13913,076216d 15h 44m 34s

Poll Everywhere

This semester we had 261 active instructors using Poll Everywhere, including 51 new accounts. Check out the overall usage since we’ve had Poll Everywhere available at UNC!

Instructors: 568
Participants: 45,932
Polls: 32,997
Poll Responses: 4,445,848

Thanks for a great semester!

Snow Day? Have Class Online

snowman in carolina gearSnowed in? Consider making class material available online! There are a number of ways of distributing class content to your students and having class discussions without being in a physical classroom. Don’t let the forecast of snow and ice disrupt your schedule!

Here are options available to you within Sakai:

  • Have an online class in a Collaborate Ultra webinar room
  • Record lectures over VoiceThread slides
  • Stream videos through Warpwire
  • Have students post on discussion boards in Forums
  • Administer quizzes through Tests & Quizzes

To enable tools in your Sakai site, go to Site Info > Manage Tools.

Collaborate Ultra

collaborate ultra logoSet up a virtual classroom through Collaborate Ultra to share your lecture slides and have a discussion with students. Turn on your webcam and microphone to personalize the experience and make it interactive with your students. It’s the closest thing to being in a physical classroom!

NOTE: Collaborate Ultra is available in Sakai through Site Info > Manage Tools > Plugin Tools. See tutorial.


Voicethread logoIf you already have your presentation slides together and a lecture prepared, consider using VoiceThread to share those slides and record your lecture over those slides as comments. If you want to make it even more interactive, you can have your students add their own comments to your slides and truly have a class discussion. Comments can be added through text, voice, and video!


warpwire logoHave a video for your students to watch? Upload it through the Warpwire tool to have it stream directly in your Sakai site. You could also record yourself giving your lecture presentation and have students watch it online.

Other Sakai Tools

There are so many tools available in Sakai that you can use to distribute your course content to your students. You can use Resources to upload slides and articles, Forums to have online discussions, Tests & Quizzes to administer quizzes, or use the Lessons tool to bring all of these materials together into one place.

Have scheduled meetings? You can set up a sign-up sheet for virtual office hours through Sakai! Once your schedule is set, you can meet with your students and colleagues through Skype, Google Hangouts, Collaborate Ultra, or other webinar options.

Contact the ITS Help Desk if you have any questions through or 962-HELP. Stay safe and warm!

Fall 2017 Semester in Review

photo of carolina graduatesAnother semester has come and gone. And we have seen another class of students walk across that stage to become Carolina Alumni. Congratulations to the nearly 1,200 students who graduated this past weekend!

You should be proud to know that Kiplinger’s Personal Finance has once again ranked UNC #1 in public schools for the 16th year in a row [upd Dec 22 — UNC is ranked #1 value in public schools for the 17th year in a row]! Carolina also gets the best out-of-state value and the ninth spot on Kiplinger’s combined list. Way to go, Heels!

It’s been quite a semester. Take a closer look at many of the educational tools we support in Teaching & Learning!


We have once again hit over 4,000 courses in Sakai. What some people may not know is that Sakai is a great tool that can be used for not just courses but also projects, committees, and other collaborative work. We currently have 3,416 project sites in Sakai — and counting!

Course sections: 4,125
Course sites: 3,229
Unique instructors: 2,341
Project sites to date: 3,416

Some Sakai tools have seen a huge increase in usage in the past year, such as the new Gradebook, which has been added to 636 more course sites this semester compared to just last semester! Here are the top 10 tools that have seen the biggest jump since Fall 2016 or Spring 2017:


Using VoiceThread to share media and having students post their comments? VoiceThread is a great way to collaborate and have conversations around images, slides, and videos!


We just rolled out Warpwire, the video-streaming service, to all course sites in Sakai last semester and are already seeing a lot of usage. This past term the total time watched through Warpwire was an astounding 286 days, 12 hours, 24 minutes, and 46 seconds!

CCI Printing

CCI Printing is the most convenient way for students to print on campus. While there are over 20 accessible printing locations on campus, nearly 75% of campus printing takes place at the libraries and Student Union.

Virtual Lab

Another extremely convenient service available to students is Virtual Lab. Instead of paying for that expensive software, you will most likely find the application available to you for free on Here are the top 5 apps for Fall 2017.

From all of us at ITS-Teaching & Learning, have a happy and safe holiday season! See you in 2018!

New! Streaming Media Campus Solution

We have very exciting news!

If you have been looking for a way to share videos or have students upload recordings to share with your class, search no more. We now have a campus-wide media streaming solution! Introducing…


So what exactly is Warpwire? Think of a YouTube-like service in your Sakai site. Instead of uploading a file that each user has to download and then watch on their computer, the video will be embedded directly on the Sakai page. You and your students just click play and the video will play instantly. It’s that simple!

Why Use Warpwire?

There are many advantages to using Warpwire!

  • Upload video, audio, and image files and securely stream in Sakai
  • Record and upload media files straight to Warpwire from any mobile device or computer
  • View detailed analytics (% viewed and viewed segments)
  • Create private library collections and share with individuals or groups
  • Have students upload videos to share with classmates or privately with instructor

Getting Started

image of warpwire plugin

If you are interested in using Warpwire, just submit a request through to have Warpwire added as a tool on your Sakai site. Once we add it, you will then see Warpwire as a tool in your left Tools menu on your Sakai site and as a plug-in in all the tools with the rich-text editor. Just look for the blue W!

Warpwire Help


Here are help options to assist you with using Warpwire:

Don’t forget we also offer personal consultations or you can contact us through the ITS Service Desk at or 962-HELP.

Happy streaming!

Communicate More Visually with Less

ss_punchWe are less than a month away from the start of Fall Semester! Instructors, you are probably gearing up for new students, new classes, and a new semester. Now is a great time to review some of your lecture material as you do your prep work. We know many of you are using PowerPoint slides for your lectures so we wanted to bring back our presentation design series:

Communicating Visually: A PowerPoint Design Series

In this series we covered basic principles of good PowerPoint design to not just make your slides more visually appealing, but to ultimately help your students better grasp the content of your lecture and therefore improve their learning experience. We highly invite not just instructors but students and staff members to take a look at these principles and design tips to enhance your presentations!

Principle #1: Communicate More with Less

ppt_presenterIf you only change one habit in PowerPoint, make it this:

Put less stuff on each slide

Everyone has seen a slide with a list of bullet points, but students cannot be expected to attentively listen to the lecturer while frantically reading and copying a slide full of text. You may still need all the slide details, so here are two tips:

  1. Hide the slide
  2. Hide your notes

Both tips allow only you to see your slides and notes as you present instead of your entire audience. Click here to find out details on hiding this content.

Principle #2a: Communicate Visually with Imagery

Images are instrumental in connecting to the audience emotionally by enhancing a speaker’s key points and conveying more than words can describe. Images draw viewers into your story, can mark a transition point in a presentation, and serve as a mnemonic device.

For example, which slide grabs your attention?

ansp_butterfly_text          compfight_butterfly_egg

Click here for more on imagery!

Principle #2b: Communicate Visually with Infographics

Infographics visually illustrate a complex idea or system and can dramatically improve your lecture by simplifying processes you are describing, visually showing relationships between ideas, and creating another mnemonic device for your audience.

For example, you can turn this slide:

visual.ly_chickens   into this   visual.ly_chickens_infographic_crop

See more on infographics.

Principle #2c: Communicate Visually with Illustrations

Illustrations and icons can be just as useful in visually communicating your ideas to your audience. Always consider the audience prior to choosing imagery, as using an appropriate style for the clip art you choose creates support for your credibility.

For example, for a higher-ed audience, opt for clean, sophisticated clip art with a professional quality–

beaker_tableClick here to learn more about using illustrations in your presentations!

Principle #2d: Communicate Visually by Disguising Bullet Lists

Sometimes you can’t help but use a list of text. Instead of using a bullet list, disguise it through these simple text layouts, offered by Connie Malamed of “The eLearning Coach“–

  1. Organizing text into boxes
  2. Placing the content into a table
  3. Diagramming (see example below)

ppt_diagramPrinciple #3: Limit the Distractions

We understand that limiting text on slides and inserting graphics and different text layouts can be overwhelming. If you do not have the time to review your slides, consider helping your audience focus on the content you are delivering during your presentation by limiting the distractions. Here are two tips to keep in mind:

  1. You do not need an exorbitant number of slides
  2. Every slide does not have to be overly designed to be meaningful

Relying too heavily on PowerPoint during a presentation could occasionally distract your audience when they should be listening to you. Consider taking a pause from the visuals when you need to make a key point. Read more on limiting the distractions.


Communicate Visually by Limiting Distractions


Image by Rick Bolin on flickr (CC BY)

Over the past month we have taken you through our Communicating Visually with PowerPoint Design Series. We  discussed limiting text on PowerPoint slides and offered suggestions on how to utilize graphics and text layouts to make the slides more interesting. To recap, you can:

But we understand this can be overwhelming and time-consuming. This brings us to the third principle in our series to help your audience focus on the content you are delivering during your presentation–

Principle #3: Limit the Distractions

As a suggestion, keep in mind that:

  1. You do not need an exorbitant number of slides. Moving from the slide presentation to a few moments of interaction with your audience will create a more interesting and dynamic discussion.  It is also a refreshing change of pace from a PowerPoint show, helping engage students in the lecture again.
  2. Every slide does not have to be overly designed to be meaningful. For example, you can create a very simple transition slide with your question or topic for discussion on it such as “What’s next?” in a large font.

Using the tips above, you can limit how much “design” you have to do, while still offering an interesting presentation and lecture.

Relying too heavily on PowerPoint during a presentation could occasionally distract your audience when they should be listening to you. Therefore, it may be worthwhile to consider taking a pause from the visuals when you need to make a key point or when you make a major transition, prior to showing the next slide. Presentation coach, Dave Yewman, has another helpful tip, this time for hiding the visuals during your lecture:

TIP: “Hide the Distractions”

According to Yewman, “When you’re in presentation mode in PowerPoint (or Apple’s Keynote) hit the B key and the screen will go blank. Hit it again and it will come back.1

Momentarily hiding your slides automatically directs your audience’s attention back to you, forcing them to focus on the lecture once again.

If you’re concerned about leaving a slide on screen too long while you discuss a topic with your students, you can use Yewman’s tip to temporarily hide the screen, and then show the screen when you are ready to resume the presentation.


  1. J, Arun. (2008, July 15). Slide Tips: Dodging Bullet Points in Powerpoint Presentations. Retrieved from

Communicate Visually by Disguising Bullet Lists

To date in our Communicating Visually with PowerPoint Design Series, we have discussed exchanging lengthy text and bulleted list PowerPoint slides for ones with more visually interesting, emotionally connecting, and easy-to-understand graphics and infographics. Sometimes, however, a list is the best way to communicate your idea, and other times, you’ve just hit the wall and run out of time or creativity. So what do you do with the text then?

Principle #2d: Communicate Visually by Disguising Bullet Lists

Thankfully, Connie Malamed of “The eLearning Coach” shares some wonderful text layouts, which will disguise a bullet list for those times when the list is unavoidable. On her website, Malamed details 6 Alternatives To Bullet Lists1.

The simplest text examples Malamed relates are:

  1. Organizing text into boxes
  2. Placing the content into a table
  3. Diagramming

Other solutions Malamed offers include incorporating icons and graphics (see all options here); however, since we are taking the focus off graphics for the moment, we will share the 3 text-oriented options here:

Option 1:  Text Boxes

ppt_text_boxesOption 2:  Tables

ppt_tablesOption 3:  Diagrams

ppt_diagramEach of Malamed’s suggestions above is simple and works well on its own, or with the addition of icons or background graphics.

Now that we have introduced several ideas for dressing up your PowerPoint slides and enhancing your presentations, we will focus on how to keep from overloading your audience. Stay tuned!


  1. Malamed, Connie. (n.d.). IP Research & Communities. Retrieved January 13, 2015,

Communicate Visually with Illustrations

In our Communicating Visually with PowerPoint Design Series, we have reviewed incorporating photographs and infographics into our slides. Illustrations and icons can be just as useful in visually communicating your ideas to your audience. While PowerPoint and Microsoft Word include a Clip Art library, be wary of choosing art that may not be appropriate for your presentation. Always consider the audience prior to choosing imagery, whether you are lecturing in a classroom or presenting to peers.

Principle #2c: Communicate Visually with Illustrations

For a higher-ed audience, opt for clean, sophisticated clip art with a professional quality


Using an appropriate style for the clip art you choose creates support for your credibility. Choosing the wrong art can cause the audience to question the validity of your statements. See the following comparison–

Clip art credit: Phillip Martin Clip Art



The top image with the cartoon-like clip art may be appropriate for a K-5 music lesson, while the bottom image is better suited for a higher-ed course. Using the top image for a presentation to an audience of college students is out of place and can make the topic appear comical.

Resources for Illustrations

Finding high-quality, free illustrations can be challenging. This may be an area where you have to purchase inexpensive stock art to find exactly what you need. Consider these resources: