Online Learning Systems and Tools

The institutionally-supported learning management system (Blackboard), commonly referred to as the “Portal”, includes a number of tools that can assist faculty in the delivery of course materials and content, and can strengthen communication between and among instructors and students through a range of engagement strategies.

Within the Portal, instructors are able to:

  • Post course materials/media
  • Post/link to readings
  • Collect/Download/Mark/Return assignments
  • Facilitate webinars
  • Conduct discussions
  • Collaborate on document creation
  • Create quizzes
  • Create surveys and polls
  • Connect students to library and departmental resources
  • Send emails and materials
  • Post announcements
  • Conduct office hours
  • Coordinate with teaching staff
  • Provide group collaboration space

For instructions on how to use these tools and for contact information for support or consultation, please see Portal Information + Help.

Support for the Portal and other online tools may also be available through divisional instructional technology staff.

Instructor Guides are available to help you set up your course, design accessible courses and to begin using some of the more advanced features and tools to customize your course to suite your learning and teaching needs. See:

The Blackboard Mobile Learn app allows students to receive content updates and notifications sent from Portal courses on their Android, Blackberry, and iPhone/iPad mobile devices. Instructors require a laptop or desktop computer to build their course and communicate with students.   The Mobile Learn App should not be used to create or complete tests, quizzes, surveys and assignments.  For more information please see:

Email if you have questions about the U of T Portal.

Academic Toolbox Initiative
The University of Toronto has selected “Canvas” to serve as the core learning management engine (LME) of its academic toolbox environment. The process to replace the University’s current “ U of T Portal” began October 2017. For more information please see the Provostial Memo:

News and updates regarding the transition are posted on the Academic Toolbox Initiative website: Contact if you have questions about switching to the new LME.

A number of tools, available through the Portal provide opportunities for the delivery of online activities, assignments and assessments:

Discussion Board

  • The Discussion Board tool enables and encourages discussion with and among students, and provides a quick and easy way to answer questions and broadcast information to all course users. Every discussion board is organized into “forums” and then into “threads”. A forum is a space within a discussion board dedicated to a particular topic; discussion boards will often contain multiple forums. Within each forum, users will post and reply to messages—or threads—on a specific topic. A discussion board can replace face-to-face tutorials and office hours, for example. Deployment of discussion boards can occur within minutes, assuming support staff are available.
  • Resources needed: Discussion Board tool set up with forum structure Outline of instructions and participation expectations for students


  • The Assignment tool allows an instructor to distribute assignments to students, individually or in groups.  Once an assignment item has been created a new column is automatically generated in the Grade Center.  Students submit their file to the course. Instructor and TAs can download and collect completed assignments electronically. Submitted assignments are automatically added to Grade Center, where you can assign grades and provide feedback to each student on the assignment.
  • Resources needed: Assignment tool Grade Center


  • Instructors build their own tests and assign specific point values to each question.  When a student completes a test, it is submitted for grading and the results are recorded in the Grade Center.  Instructors can also include feedback on each question. Tests can be added to any content area within a course.  Consideration should be given to the redesign of quizzes for online delivery, including strategies such as the adjustment of weighting, re-design as an open book test or a group-based collaborative test, or as self-assessment.  We would not recommend this as a replacement for high-stakes exams, but an increased use of formative assessment through increased quizzing could augment what might normally happen in tutorials, for example, and provide instructors with additional data for summative assessment. Deployment of the quizzing solution can occur within a day, assuming support staff are available.
  • Resources needed: Test tool Prepared set of questions


  • The Survey tool is useful for polling purposes, formative evaluations, and general checks of student knowledge.  Surveys function in the same manner as quizzes and offer most of the same options. However, surveys differ in that the student responses are anonymous; the instructor cannot provide feedback on the response and the responses cannot be graded.
  • Resources needed: Survey tool Prepared question(s)


  • The Portal includes a Rubric tool that lists evaluation criteria for an assignment.  Rubrics help instructors and TAs explain their evaluations to students.  Instructors or TAs can view the rubric as a grading widget in Blogs, Journals, Wikis, and Discussion Boards, and also associate the rubric to a grading column in the Grade Center while assigning grades.
  • Resources needed: Customized rubric Grade Center


  • The Portal’s Grade Center can help instructors organize student grades and feedback, and share this information with students (if they choose) and with other Instructors, TAs, and Graders in the course.  Instructors, and teaching assistants with access to Grade Center, can review and download the class list, add and edit student grades, and provide feedback, share information with students about their performance in the course, and calculate final course grades.  While only Instructors, TAs and Graders have access to Grade Center, students can review their own performance in the course through their My Grades page.
  • NOTE: The Repository of Student Information (ROSI) is the official system recognized by the University of Toronto for student grades.  Students should understand that My Grades allows them early access to preliminary grades, but does not represent their official final marks. For more information on University of Toronto policies and guidelines regarding the posting and distribution of grades, please visit the Q and A for Instructors under FIPPA on the website of the Vice-President and Provost.
  • Resources needed: Course Syllabus Weighting for each method of assessment Grade Center

Webinar/ Web Conferencing Software

  • The University of Toronto has a Webinar tool called Blackboard Collaborate that can be accessed from a course’s website on the Portal.  A webinar tool connects a large number of students with their instructor in real time.  In some cases, students may watch and/or listen to the presentation and ask questions via live chat.  It also allows for sharing the presenter role functions with the students, including two-way audio and video communication.  In addition to audio and video channels, webinars can provide shared access to a desktop (on which an instructor can show course materials, web sites, slides, etc.).  A webinar can replace face-to-face tutorials and lectures.  Archived recordings can be created for each session allowing students the opportunity to review material following the live online lecture.  This type of presentation can be very effective for large classes, but requires advanced planning and knowledge of the system when using it to teach groups of 20 or more.  A webinar tool is particularly useful if a disruption affects access to the physical campus.  Deployment of the webinar solution can occur within a day, assuming support staff are available.  Some divisions also maintain licenses for other webinar tools that they host locally.
  • Blackboard Collaborate includes a default room called “Course Room”.  Students can enter the “Course Room” at any time throughout the course.  In this room students can test their audio and video settings, navigate the software and use the Chat panel to communicate with other students.  By default, students enter the “Course Room’ as participants and instructors enter as moderators.  Instructors have the option to make the “Course Room” unavailable to students if they so choose.
  • Further information for instructors on using the webinar/web conferencing tool is located on the Portal Information and Help website. Information for students participating in a webinar session is also available on the Portal Help website.
  • A Mobile app is also available for participants to join Blackboard Collaborate sessions from Android and iOS portable devices.  To begin, contact staff providing educational technology support within your department/division or e-mail
  • A tip sheet that includes examples of effective uses of webinars for teaching called Real-time Teaching and Learning Online with Webinars is available for download.

Lecture Capture Software

  • Lecture capture software allows instructors to record lecture audio and sync this recording with presentation software. TechSmith Relay recordings are automatically stored and shared using MyMedia, University of Toronto Libraries’ central streaming service. MyMedia provides a link to the streamed video and to a downloadable file (if you have selected this option). This link can be posted in your Portal course.
  • It is recommended that you download and install the software onto your laptop; however the Teaching Stations should have TechSmith Relay software already installed. To find out which stations have access to TechSmith – Relay and what preparations may be necessary contact Academic and Campus Events (formerly the Office of Space Management).  Further information on using lecture capture can be located on the  Portal Information and Help website.
  • Copyright and Recorded Lectures: If you plan to record your lectures, there are a number of things to keep in mind in relation to copyright and privacy issues.  Please see CTSI’s Audio and Video Recordings of Lectures and Class Sessions page.
  • For information on copyright and the use of copyrighted materials in your courses, please visit the University of Toronto’s Scholarly Communications and Copyright Office. Or contact Bobby Glushko, Scholarly Communications and Copyright Librarian at or with more specific questions.


  • Turnitin incorporates a reliable means of accepting assignments electronically.  Even if you do not plan to use Turnitin, including the Turnitin disclaimer on your course syllabus would provide you with the option of using Turnitin to accept assignments electronically later in the semester.  For more information, including the conditions of use, please visit the Turnitin section of this website.