Spring 2023 Faculty Focus Group Report

In spring of 2023, Academic Technology Support Services (ATSS) gathered instructors and faculty for a series of focus group conversations. The goal of these focus groups was to hear how learning technologies are being used to support teaching and learning across the University of Minnesota system and to identify functional gaps in the academic technology learning management ecosystem from the faculty perspective.

Focus group participants were provided their thoughts following discussion prompts:

  • Describe the teaching strategies you currently use to engage students in your classes. Why have you chosen to use any particular teaching strategies and/or learning technologies to support learning and engagement?
  • Imagine improvements with the learning technology tools; how could Canvas and/or learning technologies work better to support student engagement in your courses?
  • Describe factors you consider when deciding whether to use a learning technology with your students. How would you know that the adoption of a new learning technology tool has been successful for your teaching?

Some common themes emerged from the conversations. If you are an instructor, you may see some of your own experiences in the findings described below, both in the challenges identified and the solutions suggested.

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Challenge 1: Getting new tool approval takes time

When you find a learning technology you are excited to employ with students, there is often a delay between when that tool is requested and when it is approved and ready to use. We know that seeing a tool work and then not being able to use it in your teaching can be frustrating.

Possible solutions

Approving a new learning tool for integration is a rigorous process due to University privacy, security, ethical, and accessibility considerations. Maintaining a secure and healthy technology ecosystem requires the coordination of multiple university offices, including the Office of General Counsel, University Information Security, Academic Support Resources, Academic Technology Tools, Disability Resource Center, Bookstores, and Libraries. Data security is top of mind in many sectors of our lives, and university tools are no exception. As such, the learning tool approval process can take longer than users would like. Here are some things to try when you find yourself facing this challenge:

Challenge 2: Locating help is hard

Many session participants conveyed challenges with how to find help and support for various technologies. They often feel overwhelmed and confused on where to find resources or how to reach out for support when trying to use a technology.

Possible solutions 

Because the learning technology landscape is ever-shifting, it can be understandably challenging to carve out time to explore, evaluate, and adopt new tools. You may have questions about how to locate an appropriate and approved tool, learn to use tools, know what (or whom) to ask about resources and solutions. Here are some things to try when you find yourself facing this challenge:

  • Visit the TeachingSupport site for resources to support your teaching practice in any (online, blended, or in-person) environment. Resources are designed to meet the needs of both new and experienced instructors.
  • Most University technology help pages include the footer shown below. Any time you have a suggestion for a resource improvement, select “No” and you will be presented with a text box where you can share your suggestion.
  • Coordinate with others in your college or department to request a specialized consultation or training

Challenge 3: Functionality of tools is difficult

Though the University currently has over 70 tools integrated into its Canvas environment, you may still feel you don’t have access to needed, user-friendly tool functionalities. You may have access to an appropriate tool, but find it’s not engaging students as you’d like. 

Possible solutions

Learning technologies will always be an evolving state, both at the University and beyond. Below are a few ideas that may help you stay informed of potential solutions to your own challenges. 


Remember that you can always consult your Canvas contact or explore academic technology workshop opportunities. You can also contact [email protected] with questions or suggestions. We’re here to help!