Teaching Hub

Tech Toolbox: Polling, Collaboration, and More

by Jessica Porter, Office of Educational Technology (eTech)

This list includes the digital tools available at The University of Alabama, plus a few free or low-cost options from around the web.


Hypothes.is is a free annotation tool that allows you to comment on any blog, website, article, or document. You simply create an account and install the Chrome add-on (or another browser bookmark), and you’re ready to annotate. You can create private groups for your classes and have them annotate documents within Blackboard Learn, or encourage students to use the tool as they read and prepare for class (not as a course requirement).

VideoAnt allows you to annotate any online video. Users can save their annotations, or “ants,”  and manage them from the account dashboard, known as the “Ant Farm.” Annotations can be exported in a variety of data formats or embedded in Blackboard, and users can log in via their Google accounts (meaning students can use their Crimson email).


Flipgrid is a video discussion tool, which displays topics and videos in a neat grid. You add the topics and students reply with short videos — pretty simple. Flipgrid can be embedded in Blackboard, and it is an interesting alternative to text-based discussion threads. Free accounts include a single grid with unlimited users, and paid plans offer unlimited users and grids.

Padlet is a virtual bulletin board, where students and teachers can share information in a secure location. Easily create bulletin boards for collaborative projects, or use it to gather course-related content (most file types supported). If you plan to use Padlet extensively, consider subscribing to their unlimited plan.

VoiceThread is a cloud-based collaboration tool designed for sharing and discussing multimedia content. Comments can be in audio, video, or text form, making it a potential addition to discussion threads or collaborative assignments. VoiceThread is fully accessible and can be used within Blackboard.

File Sharing

Google Drive is a free cloud storage service available to anyone with a Crimson Mail account. Users can create and share files within the Google ecosystem or save material from external sources.

UA Box is a free, unlimited cloud storage service provided to UA students, faculty, and staff via Box.com. Users can share and edit files, and the robust permissions settings allow you to specify whether users are editors or viewers, making it ideal for the classroom. Box also saves your revisions, so your prior work is never lost.

Live Polling

Mentimeter is an interactive polling tool you can use during presentations. With the easy-to-use poll codes, students can answer questions directly from their smartphones — no installations or downloads required. Mentimeter pairs seamlessly with Office 365 products, and it works well enough as a student response system. There are tiered plans based on question types, privacy, and number of users.

Poll Everywhere allows you to poll students and collect responses in real time, either online or within your presentation slides. You simply pose a question using their iOS application, and students answer via SMS text or a web browser. They offer multiple question types, and results can appear in a variety of formats. Poll Everywhere is free for a limited number of responses.


Adobe Creative Cloud, which includes Photoshop and Premiere Pro, is available to UA faculty, staff, and graduate assistants at no cost.