The Humanizing Tool Buffet

A collection of emerging tools just right for humanizing your online course.

Peruse the buffet, click on the links, and sample what looks intriguing and helpful to you!

by Michelle Pacansky-Brock

Want to see these tools in action? Check this out too!

Behaviors & Strategies for Improving Instructor Presence Online


Tools that Deliver the
Human Touch

Adobe Spark Video

for web, iPad, and iPhone

A free, simple to use app for creating digital stories. Get creative and give it a try! Here's an example of a 1-minute course bumper video created with Adobe Voice.


Create hip, high-energy videos that look like they belong on TV! Videos are generated from still images, text you type onto the screen, and you can choose to add 10-second video clips.

  • Sign-up for an Animoto classroom account and receive a free 6-month Plus account that includes the creation of unlimited full-length videos!

A free app for iOS devices that records video, auto-captions it, and enables sharing through social media and/or download and embed within your LMS.


Present a question (in writing) and your students respond in video, asynchrously. An image of each student appears to designate their comment.


A very popular live (synchronous) video meeting tool that provides options to join from a mobile app or phone. Zoom recordings can be used as a workflow to record your microlectures for students too.


Use this web-based screencast tool to record anything on your screen! Create videos up to 15 minutes in length that may be downloaded as high quality .mp4 files or uploaded direct to your free YouTube account -- all free and no downloads! To eliminate the small watermark on your video, upgrade to the Pro version for $15/year -- it includes loads of features including editing tools.


A free method of leaving online voice messages. SpeakPipe provides a user with a customized URL that you may embed into a website or LMS. When a user clicks on it, they just click a button to record a message for you. Be sure to customize your settings to require users to enter an email address and name so you always know who your messages are from (sometimes students forget these details!). Replying is as simply as clicking a button and recording. This blog post shares more!


A Zoom video add-on that extends the way you present your content in so many creative ways!


Record, caption, edit, and embed your videos with a free account. There's so much more too including the ability to create embeddable playlists and online slideshows too. Return to your videos and add text annotations to them to engage students in deeper inquiry.


Tools for Communication and Interaction


Web, iOS, and Android

Create asynchronous conversations in voice, video, or text around media files (images, videos, presentations, documents, audio files, and more!). To teach with VoiceThread, you will need the minimum of an Individual Instructor account. A site license includes LMS integration (single sign on and gradebook integration) and may include automatic captions if included in the license.


Web, iOS, and Android

Looking for an alternative to email? Slack just may be your answer! Slack is a communication tool designed to keep teams connected. Create a "Team," invite your team mates (or students) to join, and as the conversation starts, identify themes and create "Channels" to allow those themes to branch off into smaller groups. Attached files get added into the Channel's resources. All conversations are searchable. To get the most out of Slack, install the web app on your computer and the mobile app on your phone.


Web, iOS, and Android

A tool very similar to Slack that is marketed to education. Pronto includes LMS integrations, enabling a simply way for students and instructors to stay connected through live chat in text, voice, and video.


A digital bulletin board! New free accounts support up to the creation of 3 Padlets. Students simply post by clicking and typing. Works on smartphones too! Each post can be text, image, or a link. Use for brainstorming, feedback, research resources, debating topics, notetaking...the sky is the limit! Padlets can also be embedded within an LMS or on a webpage. To support accessibility, it is advised that you use either the grid or column format for your Padlets.


Web, iOS, and Android

A simple and effective tool for creating video responses to a prompt. Limit recording time, enable built-in transcripts, and record from a mobile device with the free app. Here's a tip: A "Grid" is a landing page that contains all of your related "Topics." Want to try it out? Click here to go to an existing grid or download the free Flipgrid mobile app and enter the code: 293tr4v


Web and iPad

Create a question in AnswerGarden for free. Embed the question in your course or site. Students type in their answer and it appears instantly in a word cloud. The answers that are submitted more frequently appear larger than others. Tip: One-word answers work best. Try to write questions that include the prompt, "In one word..."

Google Docs

More than just documents! Google Drive includes the options to create collaborative docs, presentations and simple forms (like online surveys) too! Don't miss the Template Gallery!

Google Jamboard

A free tool that enables group collaboration in a white-board-like space.


Provides a method for facilitating an asynchronous conversation in text around a video. Link a YOuTube video straight into Vialogues and ask your students a discussion question. As they view the video, they type their comments, which are synced with the video and play back in real time for later viewers.


Tools for Creating
Beautiful Content

Google Sites

The new and improved Google Sites is a quick, beautiful way to create online resource sites for your classes. Students can use Google Sites to create ePortfolios, demonstrating mastery of your course objectives.

Haiku Deck

for iPad & web

Create free, stunning, visual presentations in a moments. Haiku Deck enables you to pull beautiful images directly from Flickr and attributes them for you. Your prez may be shared online or exported into PowerPoint where you can add more slides for customization. Click here to view a sample Haiku Deck.

Adobe Spark Page

A free, simple tool for creating gorgeous single-page websites.

Adobe Spark Post

for web, iPad, and iPhone

Create stunning graphics for social sharing -- free and easily!


for web and iPad

A simple, online graphic design tool with thousands of images, backgrounds, and graphics available for free. Canva is super for designing online course banners or any type of image for social media. If you want to design from scratch, get started by selecting a canvas size from the templates provided. Be sure to spend some time reviewing a few of Canva's fabulous (and fun) tutorials to learn some basic design skills.


Download beautiful images you may re-use without attribution!

Image Credits

Creative Commons License
How to Humanize Your Online Class: Tool Buffet by CSU Ch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
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