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Center for Academic Technology

Instructional Activities

For each instructional activity in your course:

  • Introduce the activity and tell students how it aligns with outcome(s).
  • Provide clear instructions on what to do, approximate time the assignment will take, due date, how to submit, and how the activity will be graded.
  • When possible, include examples of exceptional work.

The CAT Instructional Designers have created an Instructional Activities Template to help you design your activity.


Alternatives to Papers


Portion of an infographic titled "What Are Infographics?"

What are infographics?

Infographics are striking visuals that tell a story and are often segmented into multiple sections, resulting in one long document. Infographics may describe a process, visualize data, compare or contrast, chart a timeline, break down complex topics, and more. 

Infographics require students to practice several skills, like summarizing key information, employing data visualization, and constructing a narrative. Infographics tap into students’ creative skills as they determine how to visually represent their ideas. 

What technology fits this activity?

CAT recommends Piktochart, a tool originally designed for infographic creation that has evolved to also include presentation and report design. Users can create up to five free infographics with Piktochart.

Students in CAT's Information Commons program created a series of nine infographic training videos designed to support faculty wishing to assign infographic projects to students. These videos cover everything from the planning and design of infographics, to the ins and outs of online infographic makers, to considerations faculty should bring to the table when grading infographics. Faculty wishing to incorporate these videos into instruction, whether to supplement or replace in-class workshops, can do so in a couple of ways: 

  1. By sharing a link to the publicly available course in which the videos are housed: Infographic Training Videos (Butler University); or 
  2. By pulling the videos into their own courses via Canvas Commons: Butler Infographic Training Videos - Canvas Commons

Infographic Examples

Explore the following infographic examples created by Butler students.



What is a podcast?

A podcast is an audio recording, typically in the format of a talk show, that is streamed online or downloaded for personal listening. Podcasts rely heavily on storytelling to maintain audience engagement and provide structure to content. 

In addition to storytelling and writing skills, students who create podcasts may engage in research, collaborate with peers, interview subject experts, edit audio content for clarity, and more. Podcasts can be used to assess learning and give students an opportunity for creative expression. 

What technology fits this activity?

Visit CAT’s Podcasting LibGuide for equipment and software recommendations. Email for a consultation about podcasting or to check out podcasting equipment from the Lending Library.

Instructors can also schedule training for their students, either in conjunction with CAT’s Sound Booth or for at-home podcasting.

Podcast Examples

Explore the following podcast examples from Butler students and faculty.

  • Forgotten: Life Histories of Indiana Prisoners: A student-produced podcast series that “focuses on reclaiming the histories of individuals sentenced to life in prison at the Indiana Prison in Michigan City at the turn of the 19th century.” This series is a project from Butler’s HST 354 “American In/Justice: The Prison as a Social History of the US” course, Fall 2018.
  • The BUBeWell Podcas‪t‬ (Apple Podcasts and Spotify): This student-produced podcast focuses on holistic wellness at Butler University. The creators say the podcast’s purpose is to “foster a positive environment that helps individuals grow, learn, and be the best version of themselves.”
  • Butler University EPPSP Nygaard Series: Student-produced podcasts “leaning into relevant, courageous conversations on topics impacting all stakeholders in the world of education.”
  • Naptown (Butler Digital Commons and Apple Podcasts): Butler’s Susan Neville’s interviews with “journalist/novelist/raconteur” Dan Wakefield. Read Butler’s news story about this project.


What are portfolios?

To start, we must understand what a portfolio is. As Melody Kruzic explains it, a portfolio is a "compilation of work samples and professional documentation that provides proof of your accomplishments or samples of your work". Traditionally, a portfolio would be a physical, paper version of your work. However, as technology advances, the use of the electronic portfolios (known as e-portfolios), has gained popularity. Whether paper or electronic, these portfolios allow professors easy access to student work—and progress—over their academic career. Professors can find areas of strength and areas of struggle, allowing them to tailor their lessons to the needs of their students, providing useful commentary and guidance.

Portfolios generally take three forms: reflective, showcase, and/or assessment. When writing reflective portfolios, students evaluate their own performance and self-identify gaps therein; document their professional, and occasionally personal, values and beliefs and changes over time; and connect theoretical ideas to applied practice. In showcase portfolios, students self-select artifacts representing their best works; showcase portfolios document students’ achievements and may include work samples for future employment. For assessment portfolios, students document how their achieved learning outcomes and may be asked to include specific rather than self-selected artifacts on their portfolios. While some portfolios use a single form, e.g. a reflective portfolio, other portfolios may serve multiple purposes and combine two or all forms.

What technology fits this activity?

CAT recommends using WordPress, Weebly, or Wix for ePortfolio development. To get started, visit the ePortfolio LibGuide.

ePortfolio Examples

Explore the following ePortfolios created by Butler students:

Problem-Based Learning (PBL)

What is Problem-Based Learning (PBL)?

Problem-based learning (PBL) is a student-centered active-learning teaching method in which students work together and direct their own learning to make decisions and solve realistic and relevant problems. The basic premise of PBL is that people will seek and learn whatever is needed to successfully solve problems. As a result, PBL requires the synthesis of multiple concepts, rules, and procedures. The role of the instructor during a PBL activity is to ask questions, redirect students when they get off topic, and provide feedback.

PBL activities can be very time-consuming to create, implement, and evaluate. Due to the amount of time it takes to run PBL activities successfully, it is usually not possible to cover large amounts of content.

Problem-Based Learning (PBL) Best Practices

What technology fits this activity?

PBL may include cases, stories, or situational problems that can be presented in different formats—videos, role play, text based, etc. 

For student collaboration, consider using the Canvas Collaborations tool; Collaborations uses either Google Drive or Office 365, housing files and controlling permissions all within a Canvas course.

Depending on the PBL activity, students may use technologies like Adobe Spark, Piktochart, Canva, or other content creation software to showcase their work. Contact CAT to determine what technology best meets the needs of your students.

PBL Examples



What are simulations?

Simulations are scaled-down, low-risk versions of real-life situations that allow realistic practice without the risk or expense otherwise involved. Simulation enables deliberate practice in an environment where it is ok to make errors; it ensures learning outcomes are addressed; and it provides opportunities to learn procedural or technical skills. Debriefing and feedback are essential components of simulations. 

Simulations can be built across a spectrum from low-fidelity to high-fidelity. Many types of simulation fall somewhere in the middle of the low- to high-fidelity continuum and may have varying degrees of realism depending upon the intended purpose.

Low-Fidelity Simulations 

Low-fidelity simulations address basic concepts but leave out many elements of real-life experiences. The goal is to help students understand fundamentals before moving on to more complex scenarios. 

High-Fidelity Simulations 

High-fidelity simulations try to be as realistic as possible. They substitute for hands-on training that would be too risky and/or too costly to effectively implement.

Simulation Best Practices 

What technology fits this activity?

Low-Fidelity Simulations 

Low-fidelity simulations can be facilitated with little to no technology. For example, students may be asked to participate in a role-playing activity; in an online environment, students may role-play with other students on Zoom, record their meeting, and submit this for instructor feedback. 

High-Fidelity Simulations 

High-fidelity simulations may use technologies like 360 video or virtual reality (VR) so students can learn or practice in a realistic yet low-risk environment. Contact CAT to explore what 360 or VR applications are available for your context.

Simulation Examples

Low-Fidelity Simulations 

Some examples of low-fidelity simulations include role-playing and paper-based or web-based scenarios used in problem based learning (PBL).

The following is an example set of instructions for a role play activity for a Healthcare Policy course:

For the Committee Hearing Simulation, each group from the Group Policy Brief will present their topic in a mock committee hearing. Each group member will present for three minutes. Other students in attendance and your professor will serve as committee members, and will have the opportunity to ask questions of the group after the testimony. As a committee member, each student must ask at least one question of another presenting group. The Group Policy Briefs of the presenting groups will be provided to committee members before the presentation for reference.

Many modern language classes also make use of low-fidelity simulations in role-play conversations. Read how Butler’s Adrian Bello-Uriarte uses role-playing in his Spanish Intermediate II course:

High-Fidelity Simulations 

Some common examples of high-fidelity simulation include flight simulators, virtual reality and haptic-enabled surgical training simulators, and mannequins for basic medical training.

  • The COPHS PA program purchased an Anatomage table, a virtual cadaver table on which students can perform virtual dissections and examine the human body. Read more about this cutting-edge technology.
  • The COPHS PA program uses a high-fidelity, low-tech simulation called Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) simulation labs to assess student-patient interactions and clinical skills. The program brings in people carefully trained to assume common characteristics of real patients (referred to as the "standardized patient") and uses Panopto to film the interactions. Faculty then watch the recordings and provide students with feedback.
  • In September 2020, Dr. Brandie Oliver was awarded grant funding from the USDOE under the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEERF) to create Social Emotional Learning (SEL) VR experiences for teachers, students, and families.

Asynchronous Online Discussions

What is a discussion forum?

A traditional discussion forum is an online platform for asynchronous communication in the form of posted messages. Traditional discussion forum topics can be organized as focused or threaded discussion forums. Focused discussion forums only allow for two levels of nesting, the original post and subsequent replies while threaded discussion forums allow for infinite levels of nesting. 

Advances in technology created variations of the traditional discussion forum. In addition to a traditional threaded message board, faculty and students can have online discussions directly on shared texts or videos. The initial post will be position-based (for text) or time-stamped (for video) and subsequent replies will be threaded. 

Online discussions are very different from in-person class discussions. In-person class discussions tend to be fluid, in-the-moment, and benefit extroverts willing to speak freely in class. Discussion forums give students more time to dive into a topic, develop writing skills, express their opinions, explain their positions, and accept others' opinions.  

A good online discussion can take as much (or more) time to develop as planning a lecture or in-person activity.

Discussion Forum Best Practices 

Using Groups for Discussion Forums 

Restricting Students from Editing or Deleting Their Own Posts 

What technology fits online discussions?

Traditional Discussion Forums

Faculty can use several tools in Canvas for online discussions. A traditional discussion forum is created through the Discussions tool. 

Faculty can also add rubrics to discussion forums for grading and feedback. Instead of starting from scratch, consider importing the CAT-ID Discussion Forum Rubric Templates available from the Canvas Commons into your course.

Discussions with Video (Canvas Studio)

Canvas Studio is a video creation tool that can be used in media-rich discussions in two ways. First, faculty can create a traditional discussion forum and direct students to post a video reply. Faculty using the former activity should consider adding a low-stakes activity so students can practice with the tool prior to completing their assignment; for example, many faculty set up an introduction forum where students can record their video introductions for the rest of the class to view. Faculty can set up a traditional discussion forum using the above resources, and direct students to post following these instructions:

The second method uses Canvas Studio’s commenting feature to engage students directly on a video. Faculty can record or upload a video using Canvas Studio, and students can comment directly on the video.

Social Annotation Discussions (Hypothesis)

Hypothesis is a social annotation tool used to add annotations to websites and online files. Hypothesis is an open source tool that can be used outside of Canvas; Butler faculty and students are currently piloting the Hypothesis LMS app inside of Canvas to explore extra features like private annotations and grading options. When used inside of Canvas, Hypothesis annotations are visible to only the students enrolled in the course. To use Hypothesis for discussions, faculty can pre-populate a text with discussion question annotations or encourage students to respond to one another’s annotations. Read the following resources to learn how to add the tool to Canvas and explore annotation ideas.

Note: The Hypothesis pilot runs during the Spring 2021 semester. There is no guarantee that this tool will be available after the pilot period. Please provide any tool feedback to CAT at