Interactive courseware and how to use it in Canvas

Written by Joel Duffin

2021 is almost here and we are still advancing in technology and changing the way we use technology. Online education has become more relevant than ever, and will only continue to grow.

Online education is still a territory that has it’s growing pains. Trying to solve problems like student engagement, student participation, and retention without a physical instructor to help the student can be challenging. 

Some of these problems can be solved by introducing interactive courseware to your online course.

What is interactive courseware?

You might be asking yourself, “What is interactive courseware?”. Interactive courseware is another way of saying “Interactive Questions”, which can be inserted into your course material. These questions provide more engagement for the students and help them understand difficult concepts that they are learning.

These interactive activities can give the student an opportunity to test their knowledge of the course material directly inside the content, which gives them instant feedback based on their answers. 

Allowing the student to practice with the course material can help them prepare for exams at the end of each unit. 

That all sounds great, but how do we add these questions into Canvas? 

How to add interactive courseware to Canvas?

How can you add interactive courseware to your Canvas instance? Atomic Jolt has created a tool called Atomic Assessments, that helps instructors and instructional designers create interactive questions for students. 

Atomic Assessments comes with over 65 unique question types that give you a wide variety of designing course content that can embed into any page, assignment, or quiz. 

These question types include Fill in the Blanks, Classify, Match & Order, Written & Recorded, Highlight and Drawing, Math, Graphing, Charts and Chemistry.

In my Introduction to Music course, I added a Match List question type (which you can see in the image below) to allow the students to drag and drop the answers into the right columns.

Match, Classify, and Order question type

This question is inserted directly into my Timing lesson where students just learned about the different note types. 

Atomic Assessments is a great tool to help design your online courses, and it gives your students a unique way to test their knowledge while they are still learning about it.

Contact Atomic Jolt today to get a free sandbox of Atomic Assessments. 

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Derivita – Math Homework Made Easy

Finally, a comprehensive online solution for the “I don’t get it” math and science homework hurdle.

Devin Daley, Co-Founder and CEO of Derivita

Take an inside tour of Derivita courseware; math homework made easy for the educator, but effective for student learning through the use of automated dynamic feedback. Devlin, the co-founder of Instructure and co-creator of the Canvas LMS, takes us down the pathway of not only how and why Derivita was created, but also an in-depth demonstration of everyday student and teacher use.

Timestamped Outline

  • 0:00 Devlin Daley background and Canvas history
  • 6:50 Talking panda and publishers produce low-quality content
  • 7:50 Derivita introduction and purpose
  • 10:00 How does Derivita reduce costs for the students?
  • 13:45 Derivita’s market approach
  • 14:25 Derivita demo
  • 15:30 Dervita offers mastery-based learning & examples
  • 24:08 Graphic with Derivita
  • 25:50 Derivatives with Derivita
  • 27:10 Do Derivita’s graphs support interactive sliders?
  • 38:58 Create a randomized factor 
  • 41:10 Creating a matrix
  • 45:15 How does Derivita organize its topics?

Derivita Highlights

Written by Rich Kingsford

Show the how; don’t just give the answer

Sometimes an instructor takes the pencil and solves the problem for the student, then demands the student solve the next problem.  This is heartbreaking; this instructor just stole from the student!  Derivita shines by showing the student, step by step, how to arrive at the answer.  Most math questions have a series of steps.  If I, the student, can walk through one step at a time correctly, I’ll arrive at the right answer – and strengthen my logic and programming muscles as a byproduct.

Step by step instructions

Derivita’s step by step instructions blew me away.  When I was learning this stuff, my teacher explained it to the entire class, either going too fast or too slow through every single step in the mathematical process.  Sometimes, I would zone out. Even if I zoned out for one second and then came back, I would still be confused through the remainder of the explanation.  But, today my kids can enjoy the power of one-on-one instruction.  Derivita gives my kids individually paced, one-on-one instruction, adapted to what the kid does or doesn’t understand.  If a kid is struggling with step one of nine, Derivita knows it, and will focus on step one. Amazing.

Instant feedback

In many programs and textbooks, the student receives feedback after it’s too late.  “Darn… I missed that question. Oh well, I’ll get the next one right.” But why did you, student, get it wrong?  Students need instant feedback, given the millisecond after she errors to understand the mistake and try again.  Instant approval also tickles the student’s reward centers, encouraging them to keep on fighting!

Dynamic feedback

This one was quite impressive too… I’ve never seen this in any math assistant. Derivita gives students dynamic feedback, meaning it uses the numerical inputs they enter in.  For example, given the problem __ * 4 = 32 and the student answers 6, Derivita might reply, “6 multiplied by 4 equals 24, not 32.  Try again!”  Dynamic feedback like this helps the student examine her thinking from another angle. 


Derivita is an easy to use, attractive, self-grading, and almost-fun (is it possible to make math fun?) math tutor.  Imagine the possibilities as it becomes available to every student in the world.  (Did I mention how easy it is to translate numbers into other languages?  😃)

See additional Derivita features and information at

Improve your student engagement with breakout discussions

How can we intellectually stretch the students without causing too much pain?

Written by Rich Kingsford

Which will engage your students more: class-wide discussions or 2-3 person breakout discussions?  Of course it depends on the circumstances, but I have absolutely loved the increased engagement I’ve witnessed by giving students one to seven discussion topics, usually open-ended questions, and then turning them loose.  I teach a series of computer science classes and business classes, so most of the concepts are best learned through case studies and scenario application.  We tend to do less memorization and test taking and more projects. 

Of course class wide discussions are probably far more comfortable for most teachers and students; after all, 80% of the students can pretend to be paying attention while the other 20% carry most of the conversational and collective thinking burden.  Class wide discussions might also be more interesting for the instructor, because she can explore the more interesting areas.  

But we don’t go to class to be comfortable… How can we intellectually stretch the students without causing too much pain?  (How much pain is too much pain anyway?  And what are the risks of crossing that line?) I would argue that peer-to-peer discussions in small groups quickly become comfortable, right after the student learns the basics of making an argument, develops a healthy sense of curiosity, practices a little human decency (politeness), and builds a tiny bit of courage. As for the teachers, if you’ve never done a breakout session before, an experiment like this is low risk and very inexpensive, from a time perspective.

I was first introduced to breakout discussions in a negotiations class.  My instructor shared fewer than five concepts the entire semester and instead gave us challenges and then asked us to pair up and roleplay through the scenario, each with a different role.  It was a little uncomfortable, at first, but we learned how to get through it quickly and efficiently.  

For most of my subjects, the structured scenarios and roles in my negotiations class seemed too heavy – I simply list a set of questions and ask the students to break out and then reconvene as a class in 20 minutes. 

“What about virtual classes where all the students are remote?”

  • Collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams, Slack, Discord, Google Hangouts, and even Skype make putting one call on hold while you meet on another call very easy.  Sometimes the students will IM me a quick question.  Works great.

“Can’t the students just pretend they’re meeting and discussing?”

  • Some will try to do this, yes.  Rather than shooting down the entire idea, I suggest experimenting with a control mechanism.  
  • One control mechanism I often use is requiring one or more students to write out some or all of their arguments. Sometimes I ask the students to meet asynchronously, not vocally, and then copy and paste their text discussion on our class collaboration tool (e.g. Trello, Facebook Workplace, Canvas, or Quora).
  • Another control mechanism I use is to randomly call on students and ask what their team discussed.  Occasionally a student will go AWOL, in which case I dock a few participation points. 

“Aren’t breakout discussions higher maintenance and therefore more work for me, the instructor?”

  • Nope – they’re a fraction of the work.  I often use the isolation time to catch up on email or improve the quality of my personalized feedback on a project or assignment.
  • Occasionally I will have an idea on how to improve the discussibility or insight of a question.  Modern discussion tools make it very easy to update my discussion templates.  

How have you used breakout discussions or class discussions in your courses?  (Instructor or student comments are welcome!)

Are there any discussion-based challenges you’ve faced in your remote or face-to-face classes?  Asynchronous or synchronous?

The Who, What, Why and How of the Atomic Jolt Newsletter

Written by Tawny Hoskin

Who are we?

We are a group of eclectic individuals who are united by our passion for education. Our significant others, pets and children can attest to our unsatiated drive to deliver technology based solutions that support engaging, effective, efficient teaching and learning. 

Atomic Jolt creates and supports products and services for education. We like thinking both inside and outside the box to build custom web and mobile applications for education. Customizing, enhancing, and integrating learning management systems by using industry standards and LMS APIs. We also host, maintain, and support open source Canvas for large organizations.

Why are we doing a Newsletter?

EdTech is constantly changing and evolving, but we all feel smothered by the masked fiend known as “time.”  We ourselves, want to stay current in the EdTech world, so we thought – why not pass along what we learn to save others’ time? – and the Atomic Jolt Newsletter was born.

What is the Newsletter likely to include?

  • In house presentations to our employees of the latest and greatest EdTech. We know your time is valuable – so, yes, we will not only give you a brief summary, but also a timestamped outline for convenience or selective viewing.
  • Occasional in-house blog posts on hot topics and educational tips
  • Atomic App hints and tips for using our products more effectively
  • Atomic App upgrades and new releases
  • We say “likely to include” because if you don’t like something or want something different, we can include that instead.  We’d love your feedback at (the nice kind… not the 1-star kind).

Why subscribe to the Newsletter?

We are undertaking the endeavor of researching “what’s hot”, then recording insider demo tours of the latest and greatest EdTech and freely wrapping it up in an economical package ready for consumption at your leisure. Yes, Christmas just came early this year 🙂

Do we take requests?

You bet!  We have presentations and topics lined up, but we are flexible.  Looking for a way to cultivate an online community or engage students in online learning?  Or maybe you have rescheduled a demo for your own education solution five times already… Send us a request and we will do our best to highlight your topic!

How to subscribe to the Newsletter?

Send your first born child to PO Box 529 Millville, UT 😉 or just click here to leave an email address.