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Instructional Technology Innovation

The Instructional Technology Innovation (ITI) subcommittee from the ITLC Educational Technology Committee, helps manage the process whereby members of the university community can request university support for software licensing and other IT innovations.

The Forest software platform is used to solicit ideas from the UIC community. Community members can submit ideas on the Forest software at any time. Other community members can upvote suggestions. New ideas are periodically reviewed by the ITI subcommittee.

See ideas or submit an idea here: (login required - UIC NetID and Password)

Pilot programs are an effective, low-cost way to test new ideas and move instructional technology forward.

Re-imagining Online Discussion Heading link

The Need for the Pilot

Online discussions are an essential component of a well designed online or hybrid course. While Blackboard Learn, UIC’s learning management system, contains all the basic needs for online and hybrid learning, LMS discussion boards in general have significant limitations. Online students struggle to engage with the typical “Post a comment, and then reply to 2 peers’ comments” discussion board formula, and instructors find themselves backlogged with increased grading loads of rushed student responses.

UIC centrally offers the following tools for discussion:

  1. Blackboard Discussion Board, the default discussion tool that allows threading for students and groups of students.
  2. VoiceThread, a multimedia collaborative tool that can be used to discuss via text, image or video.

In an effort to support and boost student success, the Instructional Technology Innovation subcommittee (from the ITLC Educational Technology Committee) is looking to find a campus solution that would complement Blackboard’s basic discussion board features.

Questions to Consider

  • How might we re-imagine the basic discussion board?
  • How can we engage our students so that they don’t see discussion as busy work but as meaningful learning
  • What would facilitate this engagement?


During the ideation phase, a campaign to re-imagining online discussion drove over 100 instructors to the website; they engaged by submitting an idea, voting on a suggested idea, or just browsing ideas in the campaign. The top tools identified were and Piazza.

During the evaluation of ideas, instructors responded to a survey that helped define the features needed in a solution identifying the most important characteristics that would improve the way they use online discussions:

  • Integration with Blackboard
  • Easy grading
  • Ability to manage group discussions
  • Ability to integrate media in the conversation, specifically from students

Tool Selection

The ITI suggested as the tool to evaluate. is an AI-based discussion software that allows instructors to facilitate discussion with ease, assess performance with accuracy –and save time– while encouraging students to improve their dialectical skills and rediscover the excitement of active learning. presented their solution at the Educational Technology Committee in the January, 2022 meeting. The UIC community can access the deck provided by is designed for teaching to:

  • Emphasize qualitative assessment.
  • Improve student analytical skills.
  • Maximize student-to-student interactions.
  • Reward properly articulated ideas.

Pilot Implementation

The pilot program will start in the summer of 2022 with up to 1,000 students enrolled in summer courses. A second cohort of the pilot will be conducted in the fall semester with up to 2,000 students.

Call for Participation in the Pilot  (Coming soon for Spring participation)

CATE invites UIC instructors to submit a request to participate in the pilot. Instructors can address one or several of the following approaches:

  • Develop skills and competencies as an instructor in introducing asynchronous discussion in their courses.
  • Develop the technological, cognitive, professional and social competencies in students that include deep discussions.
  • Increase student engagement and participation through online discussion.
  • Evaluate the functionality of to help the university decide its adoption and to influence further improvement and development of the tool.

What will instructors do?

Instructors will participate in this pilot in the summer 2022 or fall 2022 semesters. They will work with an instructional designer at CATE to integrate into their course prior to the start of the semester. During the term, they will be asked to observe and reflect on how has impacted online discussion and students’ learning experiences. At the end of the semester, instructors will also collaborate with CATE on creating an innovation vignette or video sharing their experiences using the tool in their course. A survey will be conducted at the end of the semester to gather feedback regarding functionality.

How will CATE support instructors? 

  • License to use
  • Training in the use of
  • Consultation with an instructional designer to guide your efforts on integrating into your course (e.g., creating discussion questions, facilitating discussions, etc.).
  • Support to create an innovation vignette or video featuring how you have used in your course and its outcomes to share with the UIC teaching community.
  • Instructors will receive a one-time $500 payment as part of their time commitment to the pilot, including the evaluation of the tool and the development of an innovation vignette or video.

Who is eligible for participation?

  • Instructors already familiar with Blackboard’s discussion board who are teaching courses in any discipline during the summer or fall term are eligible to apply for participation in this pilot program.

When is the pilot happening?

  • The pilot program will take place over the summer of 2022 with up to 1,000 students enrolled in summer courses, and in fall 2022 with up to 2,000 students.

Application Process and Deadlines

The application for the fall term has passed. If you want to be considered for the spring term, please email us at

Recently Completed Pilot Programs Heading link