Timesaving tools in Canvas for grading assignments

By Bruna Pelucchi Addison, Ph.D., Senior Instructional Technologist, UW-Platteville TTC

Canvas SpeedGrader is a timesaver when it comes to grading! 

Here are some tips for SpeedGreder:

  • You can add a summative comment as a text, by typing it or using the Chrome’s speech recognition feature. You can also record a video with your comments. In either case, the students will have the option to reply
  • DocViewer, the annotation tool that comes with SpeedGrader, allows you to highlight, annotate and add comments and in-line corrections on your students’ assignments
  • After adding a rubric to the assignment and checking the box “Use this rubric for assignment grading” you will be able to use it directly in SpeedGrader. By simply clicking on the appropriate rating cells, the total grade will transfer to the Assessment box. This use of rubrics, besides ensuring transparency and consistency in your grading, will also make the process more efficient. 
  • As you grade, you can see how many assignments you have left and what the average grade for the class is, so far. You can also quickly skip to the next ungraded assignments. 
  • Your students have taken the test and you realize there was a mistake and need to change the correct answer or the point values? No worries! Canvas can automatically regrade all completed submissions according to your updates. 
  • Some comments tend to recur often, due for example to common students’ misunderstandings. Although it is paramount to personalize students’ feedback, being able to save frequently used comments is a great shortcut. 

Comment Bank: A useful “new addition” to Speedgrader.

To learn how to use the Comment Bank, watch the video below and follow these tips: 

  1. While grading, take notice of issues that appear more often. 
  2. Create a draft comment that specifically addresses the trend. For example, in a lab report that requires the use of Arrhenius equation you might notice that, although most of the students are able to identify the correct formula, many fail to use appropriate units. Your comment could be as follows: 
    • “You have correctly selected the Arrhenius formula to calculate the kinetic constant. However, you have overlooked to convert Kilojoules to Joules / Celsius to Kelvin degrees.” 
  3. As you do so, be mindful of using specific and distinctive wording that will serve as tags later, when you are searching the Comment Bank. The example above contains some keywords (Arrhenius, kinetic) that will facilitate retrieving the appropriate comment in the future. 
  4. After adding the comment template, you will want to personalize them. Time will be saved the whole comment from scratch each time. In the example above, you will have to identify which one of the two most common mistakes in unit conversions that student made and delete the other.
  5. The annotation tool will also provide you with further opportunities for personalization. 

Rubrics: Overview for Instructors

Speedgrader: Overview

SpeedGrader: Comment Library

Canvas Immersive Reader

by Beth Ambort, Instructional Technologist

Canvas Immersive Reader improves course accessibility and promotes inclusivity by presenting information in more than one way. All learners benefit when provided with multiple ways of engaging in content, and Immersive Reader does that through choices in language, font styles, voice settings for the reader. 

This tool’s most obvious role is to make Canvas materials more accessible to the visually impaired. However, the Immersive Reader can also be critically useful for neurodivergent students, those who prefer auditory input to visual input, and students who speak English as a second language. When designing for people with disabilities, your efforts can be beneficial to everyone.    

The immersive reader can be used in Pages, Assignments, and the Syllabus page, but it is not available for Quizzes or content that is not text, like videos. By clicking on the Immersive Reader button, a new window will open showing the following tools in the top-right corner:  

  1. Text preferences: adjust the character size, increase spacing, change the background color, and change the font types. 
  1. Grammar options: automatically identify parts of speech by color coding or adding labels and divide words into syllables.  
  1. Reading preferences: set focus on one line or one paragraph at a time, use a picture dictionary or translate in a different language. 

At the bottom of the page, the Play icon starts text-to-speech conversion, both in the original and in the translated language. Options to alter the voice speed and gender are also available.  

Learn more about Canvas Immersive Reader in this video:

Instructure Release Screencast: 2021-10-16

How to make PDFs accessible for your students

By Bruna Pelucchi Addison, Ph.D., Senior Instructional Technologist, UW-Platteville TTC

What are PDFs?

The PDF, short for Portable Document Format, was devised in the 1990s by Adobe Systems. It allowed the user to include in a single file text, links, tables, and graphics without requiring the use of any ulterior software. PDFs quickly became the standard for digital documents, as the format progressively enhanced with options for encryption, digital signatures, rich media, and annotations. PDF is now an open standard, maintained by ISO (International Organization for Standardization). 

Its widespread appeal resides in its adaptability, as it can be opened and printed by any computer, regardless of its operating system or installed software. 

What makes a PDF accessible?

An accessible PDF file can be read and used by individuals with disabilities, particularly those who are visually impaired and utilize assistive devices like screen readers, screen magnifiers, speech-recognition software, text-to-speech software, alternative input devices and refreshable Braille displays.  

Some of the main characteristics that are needed to make a PDF accessible are: 

  • Structure tags (hidden accessibility markups that allow the screen reader to identify the structure and components of the document),
  • navigational aids (like links, heading, etc.),
  • alternative text descriptions for images, and
  • indication of the language of the document.

Why does your PDF need to be accessible?

  • Be ready: Even if this semester you do not have a student that requires special accommodation, you will eventually have some in the future. Building a course that is accessible from the start will be far less time-consuming than trying to retrofit existing materials afterward. 
  • Design for disabilities is better for everyone: The document structure that enables a screen reader to read a PDF aloud, also enables a mobile device to reflow and display the document on a small screen. If the document is accessible, students with undocumented learning disabilities, like dyslexia, attention deficit, or simply trying to access materials in a noisy environment, will benefit from the use of a screen reader, like the Immersive Reader built-in in Canvas. It is important to remember that obtaining disability documentation from a health provider, as required to obtain special accommodations on any campus, can be expensive and not affordable for all students. 

How to check if an existing PDF is accessible

For existing PDFs, the very first step is to ensure that they contain text. PDFs can be classified, based on the way they were created, in: 

  1. True” PDFs (digitally created, using MS Word or Excel). With these PDFs, the user can select individual words using the mouse, and the PDF can be made accessible, if not already. 
  1. Image only” PDFs typically originated by older scanning methodology or a phone camera (instead of a PDF creating phone app). This document cannot be searched or read by a screen reader. When trying to select a word, the whole page is selected as a large image. The text cannot be read by a screen reader, nor can it be edited. 
  1. Searchable” PDF, typically the results of converting an “image only” one using OCR (optical character recognition) software that adds a text layer under the image.  

If the PDF contains text, the Accessibility Setup Assistant in Adobe Acrobat Pro allows you to check the document and walks you through the steps needed to make it accessible. 

How to create accessible PDFs

  • The very first question that you want to ask yourself is: Do I really need to give my students a pdf? Could I give them a word document instead or provide them with a link? 
  • In case the PDF contains documentation that was found online, consider providing students with a link in lieu of a copy of the actual document: the burden of accessibility and updates will be on the original author, and you will avoid any potential copyright issue.  
  • Whenever possible, start from an accessible MS-word document using the Microsoft Accessibility Checker and then convert it to an accessible PDF. This can be done by using the option “Save as Adobe PDF” or by selecting “Create PDF” from the Acrobat ribbon that is automatically added in MS Word when installing Adobe Acrobat Pro. Do not use the “print as a pdf option” as many accessibility features might be lost.  

Starting from an accessible MS Word document is faster and easier than trying to fix accessibility features in an existing PDF. Furthermore, it will leave you with an original MS-Word document that you could easily modify and update in the future and then quickly export as a new PDF. Although Adobe Acrobat Pro allows to edit PDFs, when dealing with substantial changes the process is tedious and can lead to unpredictable results. 


Adobe Acrobat guides: 

Understanding accessible PDFs:

The complete checklist to PDF accessibility

How to edit text and images in a scanned PDF using Acrobat

Fixing Image-only PDFs: Text/Character Recognition in Acrobat DC, a guide from Brandeis University 

Best practices in compressed teaching time frames

By Bruna Pelucchi Addison, Ph.D., Senior Instructional Technologist, UW-Platteville TTC

Courses in a compressed (also called accelerated or condensed) format, especially those held in inter-sessions, are becoming increasingly common. Their popularity is due to several reasons.

  • Students can catch up with their graduation requirements.
  • Instructors tend to select the more essential learning objectives. This, together with smaller class sizes and reduced academic load, facilitates students’ focus. Conversely, a longer class session allows more time for more in-depth discussion.
  • Smaller enrollment encourages stronger connections among students and with the instructor.

However, many instructors are concerned that these formats sacrifice academic rigor and learning in favor of student convenience. By using the term “compressed”, we imply that the traditional “normal” semester-long format is the most effective approach, despite the lack of any specific evidence for it. To quote educator Craig Swenson: “Academic calendars designed for an agrarian society are anachronisms in the digital age, where more than half of all students work full-time, year-round, and instruction can take place regardless of time and place.” (Swenson, 2003)

Since the evidence indicates that effective learning requires time-spread practice, it seems reasonable to assume that cutting the course length will have a negative result on learning. However, studies that have examined the efficacy of condensed courses, have either found no differences between the two formats or determined that the condensed one is more effective. Several confounding variables are likely to contribute to these mixed results, including the variety of length of condensed courses, the course logistics (such as differences in instructor, class size, or cohort of students) as well as the measurements used (grades, retention, or comparison of pre- and post-tests). (Walsh, 2019)

Now the question becomes, what are the characteristics that make a condensed course a successful one?

Student Perspective for Best Practices

Professor Patricia A. Scott (2003) analyzed the attributes of high-quality intensive courses and found that when they are not carefully designed and planned, students can find them tedious and boring and might forgo good practices like in-depth reading and creating drafts​. Likewise, instructors may feel overwhelmed, thereby reducing the quality of their feedback. Additionally, when teaching a writing-intensive course, the time frame may be too short to accommodate a typical cycle of drafting/feedback/revision of papers​. Based on students’ feedback and direct classroom observation, these are the main critical factors for success:

  • Instructor characteristics: Enthusiasm for discipline; demonstrates expertise and teaching experience; good communication skills with a willingness to receive and use feedback from students; a student-centered learning environment, showing that the teacher cares.
  • Teaching methodologies: variety and creativity through the use of active learning techniques; experiential learning; discussions with thought-provoking prompts; demonstrations; efficient organization of content; emphasis on depth over breadth to avoid information overload.
  • Classroom environment: Fostering peer relationships and teacher-student connections; relaxed atmosphere; decreased classroom size. 
  • Assessment choices: substituting a few high-stake assignments with frequent and smaller ones; scaffolding, strict alignment of learning objectives to activities and assessments; authentic assignments with a variety of submission modalities (presentations, videos, essays). 

Instructor Perspective for Best Practices

A survey of high-rated instructors (Kops, 2014) identified the following best practices for teaching in a compressed format.

  • Organize ahead of time
    • prioritize courses that do not require in-depth conceptual understanding​
    • avoid teaching more than one course​ per session
    • adopt comprehensive planning instead of prepping on a day-to-day or week-to-week basis​
  • Redesign the course
    • restructure and adjust the course content to better fit the compressed format, focusing on the basics while removing superfluous content and trimming the frills​
    • utilize backward design to build learning activities and assignments​ that are carefully aligned once the must-know learning objectives are identified
    • move complex topics to the beginning of the term​
    • employ more interactivity and in-class group work to keep students engaged over longer meetings​
    • include pre-class readings and prep work​ as homework
    • maximize opportunities for practice and feedback, increasing long-term retention of knowledge​
  • Reconfigure assignments​
    • prioritize low-stake and frequent assignments with a clear routine; this is especially important if teaching online​
    • assign lengthier readings over the weekends or consider substituting reading a book with watching a relevant video ​
    • carefully consider if the time frame can realistically allow students to write a research paper involving primary sources
  • Capitalize on continuity and smaller classes, especially when teaching F2F​
    • Immerse the students continually with relevant materials. This requires less review and recall, so you can cut down on recaps and allow more time for assigned tasks ​
    • get to know your students​ with informal introductions
  • Support(This is especially critical when teaching online​.)
    • be available in multiple ways​
    • provide timely feedback and communicate frequently​
    • offer guides and notes and time-management guidance​

Other Resources:

Workload Estimator: It can be difficult to adapt your learning activities to a compressed time frame. The risk is to underestimate how much work you are going to require of your students. This Workload estimator is a useful tool, designed by B. Barre, A. Brown, and J. Esarye from the Center for the Advancement of Teaching Wake at Forest University. The calculation is based, in part, on reading and writing assignments, discussion posts, exams, and class meetings. ​


Kops, W. J. (2014). Teaching compressed-format courses: Teacher-based best practices. Canadian Journal of University Continuing Education40(1). 

Scott (Scott, P. A. (2003). Attributes of high-quality intensive courses. New directions for adult and continuing education2003(97), 29-38.​

Swenson, C. (2003). Accelerated and traditional formats: Using learning as a criterion for quality. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 97, 83–92.

Walsh, K. P., Sanders, M., & Gadgil, S. (2019). Equivalent but not the same: Teaching and learning in full semester and condensed summer courses. College Teaching, 67(2), 138-149

Canvas Best Practices

By Bruna Pelucchi Addison, Ph.D., Senior Instructional Technologist, UW-Platteville TTC

In 2021 the University of Wisconsin System Administration commissioned a survey to examine the students’ experience of the Digital Learning Environment (DLE).

The research questions were the following:

  • Are students satisfied with the DLE?
  • How do students experience the DLE?
  • How do students navigate the DLE?
  • What challenges do the students experience with the DLE?

More than 4800 students responded to the survey, across all 12 UW System campuses. One of the main findings is that, although students are generally satisfied with our LMS, their negative or positive experience is mostly determined by how the instructor utilizes Canvas. Based on these results, the UW-Platteville Teaching and Technology Center has developed the following guidelines.

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Chatbots in the Classroom – III

By Bruna Pelucchi Addison, Ph.D., Senior Instructional Technologist, UW-Platteville TTC

Artificial intelligence (AI) is increasingly finding its way into higher education. From the potential for new educational opportunities to challenges to academic integrity, the impact of AI on higher education will be profound– both in its potential and in practice. 

Much attention has been devoted to ChatGPT, one of many new artificial intelligence tools that can produce convincing text and that are now readily available to the public, including our students. What makes ChatGPT innovative and “disruptive” is the level of competence it demonstrates in communicating with the user, and the versatility of its abilities. Many instructors are worried that students could use it when asked to write essays, computer codes, or mathematical proofs in assignments.  

After the initial post by Gen Iverson, introducing the subject and analyzing challenges and opportunities that these tools pose in academia, we posted a second article that was authored by ChatGPT for comparison.  

Since Iverson’s original post was approximately 800 words with two references, we provided ChatGPT with the following prompt: “Write an 800-word essay on the pros and cons of ChatGPT in higher education, with particular emphasis on its potential role in academic misconduct. Include 2 references.”  

As we were familiarizing with these tools, some issues became evident:  

General observations: 

  • ChatGPT is not the only tool: Many tools exist, and more are coming, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. In our example, we checked specifically for the ability to write an essay-style text with references. Other tools might be more efficient in producing math-based outputs or codes. Some are designed to produce original images or artwork in specific styles or media, or even poetry. When requesting a text, the user can define the output style within a large variety of options, including different historical context (e.g., “Answer this question as George Washington would”) or age of the writer (for example, “Write in the style of a second-grader” in which case the output might include intentional grammar or spelling mistakes).  
  • Equity issues: We chose ChatGPT due to its popularity and the fact that it offered a freemium model at the time of our test. Different software with potentially more powerful capabilities are available with different marketing options. For example, we tested Jasper.ai using the same prompt. Jasper produced a high-quality textual output, with more consistency and without some of the log-in issues we encountered with ChatGPT; however, the free trial was quickly used up after entering just two prompts, at which point a paid subscription was required. On the other hand, when using the free ChatGPT account, we experience frequent connectivity issues and the text produced was consistently shorter than requested. A paid subscription is available, that offers more reliable access and faster response. Many AI Content generators are available, at a variety of prices, but the need for paid subscriptions would put students with limited financial resources at a disadvantage. 
  • Inclusivity issues: AI tools rely on pattern recognition and are only as good as the input they have received. Existing bias in their development will result in tools that are not inclusive. These issues are well known with applications that involve facial recognition. Also, AI tools are reported to perform poorly in foreign languages, especially those with a complex morphology (like Italian, Hindu, or Finnish). 

Writing performance: 

  • It took many attempts to obtain a complete text from ChatGPT. Often, the response would stop in the middle of a sentence. In the only attempt where the text was complete, the text was shorter (600 words total) than requested. In a similar experiment conducted by a journalist, ChatGPT performed better, even when asked to write longer essays. Such discrepancy could be due to the fact that we were using the free subscription.
  • Although the two requested references were produced, they proved to be completely fictional. It was interesting to note that such references looked somehow “plausible”: the authors existed, but worked in different fields, the journals were real and pertinent, but the volume and issue reference did not match any actual article, and web addresses and DOI numbers, when provided, were also fabricated. This makes sense considering that this software was developed to “create” language and not to search an academic database for relevant articles or books. The references were therefore created rather than retrieved. 

Further Resources: 

YouTube. (2022, December 21). Cheating With ChatGPT: Can OpenAI’s Chatbot Pass AP Lit? | WSJ. YouTube. Retrieved February 27, 2023, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l01biyMZjEo: WSJ’s journalist, Joanna Stern enrolled in a high school AP Literature class to see if she could pass using just AI.

Zabój, D. (n.d.). All You Need to Know to Use Chatbots in Business. Complete Guide. Chatbot Blog. Retrieved February 27, 2023, from https://www.chatbot.com/blog/chatbot-guide/ 

UW – La Crosse: CATL Blog: A guide about ChatGPT: https://www.uwlax.edu/catl/blog/ai-help-the-semester-is-starting/

UW – Madison:

ChatGPT in the Classroom – II

By Bruna Pelucchi Addison, Ph.D., Senior Instructional Technologist, UW-Platteville TTC

In our last post, ChatGPT in the Classroom-I, Gen Iverson, a member of the Teaching and Technology team at the University of Wisconsin – Platteville, wrote a post about the potential impact of ChatGPT in the classroom. We tested this chatbot to see how they would have written the same blog post. 

Gen’s original post was short of 800 words and included two references. We provided ChatGPT with the following prompt: 

“Write an 800-word essay on the pros and cons of ChatGPT in higher education, with particular emphasis on its potential role in academic misconduct. Include 2 references.” 

Below you can find the original and unedited text produced by ChatGPT.

Some observations: 

  • We used the free subscription. 
  • To obtain a complete essay, we had to submit the prompt multiple times as it would repeatedly stop mid-sentence, producing a partial text. 
  • The text length did not meet the required 800 words. 
  • Although the references generated look plausible, they are not real.  

Article generated by ChatGPT

Retrieved on Feb 15 2023 

ChatGPT is a language model that uses artificial intelligence to generate human-like responses to text-based inputs. It has been widely used in various industries, including education. In higher education, ChatGPT has been utilized to improve the learning experience of students. However, its use in this context is not without controversy. This essay will discuss the pros and cons of ChatGPT in higher education, with particular emphasis on its potential role in academic misconduct. 

One of the benefits of ChatGPT in higher education is that it can enhance the learning experience of students. It can provide personalized feedback to students based on their individual needs and preferences. For instance, it can suggest specific learning materials based on the student’s performance or recommend a study plan that is tailored to their schedule. This can help students to better understand the course content and to improve their academic performance. 

Moreover, ChatGPT can also improve accessibility to education. For instance, it can assist students who have learning disabilities or are non-native speakers of the language of instruction. It can provide real-time translations of lectures, or assist students in navigating complex academic concepts. Additionally, ChatGPT can be used as a digital tutor, which can help students who are unable to attend classes regularly, either due to geographical constraints or other reasons. 

On the other hand, ChatGPT can also be a double-edged sword, as its use can potentially facilitate academic misconduct. Academic misconduct refers to any behavior that violates academic integrity, including plagiarism, cheating, and fabrication of data. With the rise of online learning, there has been an increase in incidents of academic misconduct. ChatGPT, as a language model, has the potential to further exacerbate this problem. 

One way ChatGPT can facilitate academic misconduct is through the generation of essays or other assignments. It can create essays that are original in appearance but lack original thought. In other words, it can create essays that are plagiarized from existing sources, but that have been reworded in a way that is difficult to detect. This is particularly concerning because plagiarism is a serious offense in academic settings and can result in severe consequences for students who engage in it. 

Another potential concern with ChatGPT is that it can be used to facilitate cheating on exams. For instance, a student can input a question from an exam into ChatGPT, and it can provide the correct answer. This can give students an unfair advantage over others who do not use the tool, which can undermine the fairness and validity of the assessment process. 

To mitigate the potential risks of ChatGPT in higher education, there are several measures that can be taken. For instance, academic institutions can incorporate software that can detect plagiarism into their learning management systems. This can help to detect cases of plagiarism that may have been facilitated by ChatGPT or other tools. Additionally, academic institutions can develop policies that clearly outline what constitutes academic misconduct and the consequences of engaging in it. They can also provide training to students on academic integrity and the importance of original work. 

In conclusion, ChatGPT has the potential to enhance the learning experience of students in higher education. It can provide personalized feedback, improve accessibility to education, and act as a digital tutor. However, its use can also facilitate academic misconduct, particularly in the areas of plagiarism and cheating on exams. To mitigate these risks, academic institutions need to implement measures that can detect and deter academic misconduct, while also providing training to students on academic integrity. 


  1. Kanungo, R. N. (2019). Chatbots in higher education: benefits and challenges. Journal of Educational Technology Development and Exchange, 12(1), 1-13. 
  1. Rienties, B., & Toetenel, L. (2020). Ethical considerations in learning analytics: a critical review. British Journal of Educational Technology, 51(3), 655-668. 

ChatGPT in the Classroom – I

By Gen Iverson, Teaching & Technology Center and OER Librarian 

Android at the computer station

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and chatbots like ChatGPT are hot topics in higher education. Simple chatbots have existed for decades, but they have recently become more sophisticated, with the prime example being ChatGPT, which was released on November 30, 2022. Thanks to a few articles in national media, ChatGPT has become a kind of bête noire in academia. Articles in newspapers, academic journals, and blogs ask questions like, “Is the college essay dead?” “Will everyone become a cheat?” or “Will the human researcher become obsolete?” Of course, these are just a small sample of what has been written about Chat GPT, and one drawback of Internet commentary, in general, is the trend towards hyperbole and exaggeration to drive clicks and revenue. However, despite the well-known drawbacks and limitations of the Internet, we would never, in 2023, dream of getting rid of it as a research tool. Instead, we do our best to understand its pros and cons and adapt. In this blog post, I am suggesting that we can do something similar with ChatGPT. 

Concerns that instructors have about chatbots are valid: ChatGPT can be used for cheating and plagiarism. Unfortunately, cheating has always existed, and it will never be entirely eliminated. In order to reduce the use of chatbots as tools for academic dishonesty, we need to understand them. There are many chatbots, and they all have different capabilities. My experience has mostly been with ChatGPT, so that will be the focus of this post. Here are a few facts about ChatGPT to consider in the prevention of cheating and plagiarism: 

  • ChatGPT does not cite its sources. Therefore, if you are assigning an essay, have students show their work and cite their sources. University libraries or writing centers are good resources for bibliographic instruction. 
  • ChatGPT makes mistakes! While this chatbot is quite sophisticated, it is not accurate 100% of the time. Also, as of this writing (early February 2023), Chat GPT does not have information from after the end of 2021. 
  • ChatGPT does not always answer questions within the parameters specified, such as the page or word count. As anecdotal evidence, I asked ChatGPT to write a 5-page paper about modernist art. The answer returned was about one and a half pages. 

Because the algorithms in chatbots tend to be proprietary secrets, chatbots do not show their work. They can be used to brainstorm or understand basic concepts, but despite their power, they are still no substitute for the human mind. In some ways, ChatGPT is like Wikipedia. It is similar in the sense that it is not entirely reliable, and it is worse than Wikipedia because of its complete lack of citations. Often my advice to students about using Wikipedia is that it can be a fine place to begin their research, but a lousy place to finish it.  

Instructors can adapt to using ChatGPT as an educational tool by modifying their assignments. The types of questions that cannot be answered by artificial intelligence also tend to be the questions that require learners to dig deeper, to demonstrate understanding and proficiency in their subject. A good strategy in general is to have students show their work and how they arrived at a particular answer and grade them on completing the process, rather than having the grade depend on a right or wrong answer. A potential assignment you could give a student is to have them ask ChatGPT a question, then take the chatbot’s answer and critique and expand upon it. In this way, you are teaching critical thinking and information literacy skills. Being transparent about the process of learning and having a frank conversation about the advantages and disadvantages of AI can also give students an appreciation for the process of research, and a better ethical understanding of the importance of doing their own work.  

I believe that this new generation of chatbots presents many exciting opportunities. Chatbots need not spell doom for university education, just as calculators, the Internet, Wikipedia, and MOOCs did not bring an end to it. One drawback of chatbots is that they give students another potential way to cheat; however, instructors can use them to help students focus on the process of writing and learning and to provide a spark of inspiration. Not a crutch. Therefore, let ChatGPT be like a calculator: A useful tool, but one to be used only at the appropriate time and place.

Reich, R. (2022, November 28). Now AI can write students’ essays for them, will everyone become a cheat? The Guardian. Retrieved February 8, 2023, from https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/nov/28/ai-students-essays-cheat-teachers-plagiarism-tech

Weiker, A. (2023, January 21). We need to chat about ChatGPT. The Georgetown Voice. Retrieved February 8, 2023, from https://georgetownvoice.com/2023/01/21/we-need-to-chat-about-chatgpt/

Writing an Inclusive and Accessible Syllabus

University of Wisconsin-Platteville Teaching and Technology Center

It's in the Syllabus Cartoon
Piled Higher and Deeper by Jorge Cham | www.phdcomics.com | originally published 5/10/2013

By Bruna Pelucchi Addison, Ph.D., Senior Instructional Technologist, UW-Platteville TTC

The syllabus is arguably the most important document of your course, and it sets the tone for the whole semester. An effective syllabus will serve several functions. 

  1. INVITATION: Especially if made available ahead of time, it will give your students a sense of what taking your course will be like and what they should expect from it, explaining modality, methodology, and requirements. 
  1. DIRECTIONS: The syllabus will explain what students must do to succeed: how their grades will be calculated, what type of assignments they should expect, and what your stand on academic integrity is. 
  1. REFERENCE: throughout the semester, students will be able to refer to it to check for office hours, contact information, schedule, etc. 

Writing an inclusive syllabus 

An inclusive syllabus incorporates intentional language and strategies to foster a welcoming and inclusive classroom environment. It includes policies and resources that help to ensure all students are supported in their learning. 


  • Language such as “I” or “we” is more welcoming than “you.” 
  • Use language that conveys support, respect, confidence in student success, and value on the experience they can bring to the course.  
  • Consider adding a diversity statement that explicitly explains your position on diversity and inclusion.  
  • When scheduling office hours, offer a variety of times and modalities, to accommodate unconventional students who might have a harder time fitting them into their family and work schedule. 
  • Keep paragraphs short, include clear section titles, and use clear and simple language so that your syllabus is easy to read and navigate. 
  • Design your syllabus having students in mind. 
  • Shift the language from “what the course will teach you” to “what you can learn,” 
  • Consider moving at the beginning of the document those sections that are more relevant for the students, like grade composition and schedule, instead of those that are more important to you. 

Writing an accessible syllabus 

Accessibility should not be an afterthought. Accessible syllabi are inherently more inclusive. Even students who do not have special accommodations can take advantage of screen readers, alt text, and closed captions. 


If you want to learn more about Accessibility, check out the UW-Platteville Accessibility Initiative SharePoint page.