Have you been searching for an easy way to create and monitor classroom “teams”?  Slack may be the app that can help make this happen.  Slack can bring classroom team communication and collaboration into one place.  In addition, the instructor can participate in and monitor the group activity.

Employer’s and recent college graduates have informed us that we need to increase the number of team activities within our courses.  As educators, we tend to focus on individual student grades and grading group activities can be difficult.  As a result, new graduates can be unprepared for the large amount of team activities and projects that are imbedded into daily activities within many organizations.  A bonus to using Slack in your classroom is that Slack already has a market presence in many organizations where team activity is vital to their success.   Therefore, it is an easy transition for students to utilize the same technology tools in their future jobs that they used in the classroom.

When using Slack in the classroom, each group will be assigned their own “team” channel.  The channel tracks the conversation and progress of the group activity or project.  Having access to the “team” channel aids in grading student contributions to the activity or project.  Also, Slack has migrated from being only a communication tool into a community platform.  Slack has the functionality of a message board and social media tool. Furthermore, it is easy to set up topic channels and have students provide input for the class topics that interest them.  Slack provides all your team communication in one place.  You can instantly search key words or topics and the information in available on any device.  Slack can be used from a computer or mobile apps compatible with iOS, Android and Windows Phone.

In addition, most organizations that utilize Slack have created some best practice rules of engagement for their team members.  Best practices might include: emphasizing appropriate behavior that will be read by others, no gifs, and setting snooze or do not disturb options when team members are unavailable.  There are many options available to choose from, but you will need to determine what will work best for your team structure.

Best of all, the “free” version of Slack works well for the classroom environment.  To learn more about the many features of Slack and to set up your free Slack account, visit

© 2018 Teaching and Learning Toolbox

Microsoft Power BI

Power BI - 3

Do you already use Excel in your daily life?  Are you looking for an easy way to develop some Data Analytics skills?  Power BI is a Microsoft product that was originally developed as an Excel business intelligence (BI) solution upgrade and it may just be the tool to help introduce you to the world of business analytics.

Business intelligence encompasses the strategies and technologies used for data analysis of business information and Power BI is a tool which allows non-technical users the ability to assemble, analyze and share data.  Many individuals who currently use Excel have discovered Power BI to be a natural fit.   The interfaces of Excel and Power BI are very similar and simple visuals are easy to create and import.  Power BI is a natural migration for analyzing data sets when they become too large for Excel’s capabilities.  In addition, many extra analysis tools are available in Power BI compared to Excel.  Power BI allows users to create relationships between data sources and create various visualizations.

Review the following links to learn how Power BI can fit your data analytic needs:

Power BI Introduction Video:

Power BI Frequently Asked Questions:

Getting Started with Power BI:

PowerBI VideoTutorial Playlist:

The best part is that you can get started for free today with the Power BI single user version, which includes 1GB of storage.  Create your free account at:

NOTE:  For an additional Business Intelligence analytics tool option, view our Teaching and Learning Toolbox Tip of the Month – April 2017 –  Tableau

© 2017 Teaching and Learning Toolbox


Tableau logo

Are you looking for a way to easily provide your students with a marketable Data Analytics skillset?  Many of us already use Microsoft Excel and/or Microsoft Access in our Accounting and Business courses to organize, sort and analyze data.  We know that Excel and Access work great for smaller amounts of data, but Tableau can analyze larger amounts of data very quickly.  In addition, Tableau is easy to use and it can incorporate visual analytics into your curriculum.  Tableau allows a user to keep asking questions of the data until they find the root cause of an issue.  Furthermore, Tableau has the ability to display a bigger picture of the data by creating powerful interactive dashboards.  An advantage of using Tableau is that we have the ability to make better decisions by quickly finding trends and identifying opportunities for improvement.

You don’t have to be an expert to try Tableau.  To help you get started, Tableau provides free ready-made curriculum materials, including lecture notes, student handouts, and assignments.  Visit the Tableau Instructor Resource Page at

Benefits of Utilizing Tableau:

  • Free Instructor and Student Tableau Software
  • Free Start Up and Training Materials
  • Free Curriculum Materials
  • Free Learning Resources
  • Free Tutorial and On Demand Training Videos
  • Basic and Advanced Functionality for any Field of Study
  • Network Community for Tableau Academic Users
  • Allows for Cloud Based Document Sharing for Students and Instructors
  • Basic and Advanced Functionality for any Field of Study

What are you waiting for?  Get started today with Tableau by completing the simple license request process at

© 2017 Teaching and Learning Toolbox

Don’t Use Technology Without a Backup Plan

Cathy and I promote and use a lot of technology on a daily basis. Whether we are on the road presenting at a conference or utilizing technology in our classrooms to engage our students, we ALWAYS have a Backup Plan for the unfortunate event of when our technology fails. The question is not “if” we will encounter technology issues, but “when” will our technology fail? For several years, Cathy and I have promoted technology use within the classroom to increase student engagement, but we always encourage an environment of being prepared for technology failure with a solid backup plan.

How would you react if technology failed in your classroom? Our philosophy is that “the show must go on”, therefore, having a paper backup copy or reverting to a group textbook exercise can insure that your classroom momentum is not stalled when technology fails. Typically, students do not demand instructors to be technology experts, but they do have an expectation that we will not panic, but rather adjust to unforeseen technology issues. Each time that Cathy and I enter a classroom or presentation situation, we always have a “Plan B” in our back pocket.

Cathy and I have had to react to technology failures within our classrooms (even once during a faculty evaluation classroom visit). In addition, we have had to respond to technology disasters when presenting at conferences. Throughout the years, internet failures, lack of cell phone / hot spot service, app crashes and equipment breakdowns have afflicted us. Having video clips downloaded and web screen shots imbedded into our presentation materials have aided in a smooth presentation. In addition, having a presentation file backup is a requirement before we hit the road or enter the classroom.

No one can fully anticipate every possible technology failure, but entering a presentation situation with a “Backup Plan” can provide you with the confidence to react quickly and deliver a great lecture.

© 2017 Teaching and Learning Toolbox



We encourage everyone to make a New Year’s resolution to better protect yourselves from identity theft.  The high tech internet and cloud based world in which we operate our personal and professional lives within exposes our private information to hackers on a daily basis.  It is no longer a question of “if our personal information will be stolen, but when?”  LastPass is a password protection tool that can help safeguard your personal data.

The “free” version of LastPass provides the following benefits:

  • Access on All Devices
  • Save & Fill Passwords
  • Password Generator
  • Secure Notes
  • Share Passwords & Notes
  • Security Challenge
  • Two-Factor Authentication

LastPass provides unlimited password storage for all your online accounts.  Once you save a password in LastPass, you’ll always have it when you need it, therefore, logging in is fast and easy.  In addition, LastPass works great in protecting your information when you shop online.  Furthermore, you can store insurance card information and membership account numbers in LastPass.

Getting started with LastPass is a simple process.  After installing the free app, you’ll be instructed to set up a new account.  It is recommended that you set up a strong master password that no one else could easily guess, and that you have not used for any other application.  Once your account is set up, you can begin adding your website usernames and have LastPass generate new safe passwords to all your online accounts.  Both, Cathy and I have been impressed with the ease of utilizing LastPass in protecting our information working in the online environment.

So make a 2017 resolution to protect your personal information by downloading LastPass today.  For more information visit

© 2016 Teaching and Learning Toolbox



Are you looking for an innovative way to be more productive and improve your student’s experience with office hours?  If so, Calendly may be just the technology tool for you!   Calendly is a great way to simplify scheduling office hour appointments with students or meetings with colleagues.  I use Calendly to manage my office hours and the results have been amazing.  Calendly is as easy as 1-2-3.  Simply set up your availability preferences, and provide students with your personalized Calendly web link. Students can easily check your availability, select the day and time that works best for them, then quickly schedule an appointment from any location, 24/7.

I offer appointments in 15-minute blocks, with a 5-minute buffer between.  Once students select an appointment day and time, my Calendly settings require them to provide some basic information (e.g. Name, Student  ID Number, Course Number/Section, and a brief description about the appointment topic, such as tutoring, advising, etc.), before confirmation.   Having this pre-appointment information helps me prepare for the appointment.

Calendly’s appointment window option, allows you to close the automatic appointment scheduling feature hours or even days in advance of the appointment.  For instance, I don’t allow students access to schedule appointments on Calendly within 12 hours of the appointment day/time.  Students know they are always welcome to stop by during my office hours on a walk-in/as-available basis, but the appointment feature guarantee’s them the one-on-one time slot.

Upon completion of the appointment process, students receive a confirmation email that can be added to their Google or Office 365 calendars.  At the same time, my calendar is automatically updated.

Not only is Calendly user-friendly, it also works with any device (e.g. smartphone, tablet, or computer).  Concerned about double-booking?  No worries, Calendly even checks for scheduling conflicts.

Calendly is by far one of my favor technology tools.  It provides students instant access to my availability, eliminates email or telephone tag, improves the student’s experience in my course, prepares me for the appointment, allows me to easily blackout time for other activities,  allows breaks between appointments, and best of all, for scheduling a single activity, such as office hours, it’s free!  For a nominal fee, Calendly can be upgraded to manage additional calendar activities or projects.

For more information about getting started with Calendly visit their Knowledge Library at  You may also want to view Calendly’s tips for managing office hours at

© 2016 Teaching and Learning Toolbox