Technology that can help TBL

Forming Teams

I most often use Excel to form teams. Usually I am working with results excel-logofrom a team formation quiz we give using our course management system (Blackboard in my case). We sort the teams using a nested sort, which lets you prioritize the ranking of your sorting questions. What you are in essence doing is like lining the student up in a small class and counting them off, so you get maximum diversity in each teams.

Figure 5-1









See Getting Started with Team-Based Learning page 70-72




Grumbler is an Excel macro you can download and use to build teams. Groups can be simultaneously balanced in terms of gender, nationality, experience, or job description (or in terms of any other factors or criteria that course administrators deem important, and around which they want to guarantee optimal mixing).

Group assignment via Excel file (.xls file with programming scripts – need to turn security settings to low); provides diversity within each group based on characterizations of each student; can also generate sequences of up to 10 successive group assignments (e.g., keep students apart who have been together in any group before).

Description from



Create fair, balanced teams
Team-Match’s revolutionary match-making technology sorts students into balanced teams based on cognitive styles.


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Perusall is a new e­book platform with collaborative annotation that keeps students on track before class. Perusall ensures students learn more, get instant answers to their questions, come to class prepared, and enjoy the experience. It enables you to teach more effectively, understand student misconceptions, structure class discussion, and save time.

Perusall provides a simple “student confusion report” that summarizes areas your students misunderstood, disagreed with each other about, or were most engaged with ­­ along with examples of the best annotations, so you can call out specific questions or individuals in class.


Learning Management System Quiz Tools

We often use the quiz function in our learning management system to ask team formation questions. We then use these results to build teams. This needs to be a quiz not a survey, since surveys don’t record who said what…and that doesn’t give us the information we need to form teams. Most often we download the team formation quiz results and build the teams in Excel.

Test scannersdatalink-3000

These inexpensive scanners can be a real time saver in large classes. Students record their answers on those standard bubble cards, that most of us have seen and used. We used take the scanner to class and scan the test during the tRAT and use the results to inform the mini-lecture, but came to realize that some of the misunderstandings were being cleared during the tRAT, so we didn’t need to talk about them. Now we just ask our students which question we should revisit. Now we scan the tests later, after class.

The picture shows the Appersen 3000 – our current favourite. It is equipped with an automatic feeder that holds 300 answer sheets. Score up to 65 answer sheets per minute on tests of up to 150 questions.

You can and receive results in standalone mode. Or hook it up to a computer and use the exclusive DataLink Connect software to digitally score and report.

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ZipGrade lets you scan tests with your iPhone or iPad. You use free-to-download answer sheets in multiple sizes to build your tests. It is very quick and very easy to use and lets you provide instant feedback to students by grading exit tickets, quizzes, and formative assessments as soon as they finish.

  • Free download with 100-scan demo
  • Full Version: $1.99 for 2 months or $6.99 for 1 year.

Quick KeyScreen Shot 2016-04-19 at 9.50.27 AM

With Quick Key you can make a simple answer key for any quiz, or make your own printable standards-aligned assessment on our Website. Distribute your quiz to colleagues, and upload the results to PowerSchool. Administer and grade assessments with our Web and ChromeBook quiz apps for students, or scan paper quizzes with our patent-pending mobile scanner for Apple and Android devices.

Free for 4 quizzes a month

ClickersScreen Shot 2016-04-12 at 3.48.54 PM

Many people use clickers to conduct iRATs. There are many clicker manufacturers and models with a wide variety of features. Shown here is the very simple iClicker+. The fancier clickers with displays look interesting, since they support self-paced tests where students can go back and revisit previous questions and answers. Otherwise with simpler clickers you will need to lock step student through test with PowerPoint. This actually has some advantages since there are then no tests to print and students can’t take a copy of the test back to the frat house.

Poll Everywhere


There are many tools like Poll Everywhere. These applications lets students use whatever device they have – phone, tablet or laptop – to answer clicker questions. The instructor can then display the compiled results. These are great to use in videoconference setting where the students are in more than one location, since everyone just needs the uRL and can participate from anywhere.



Some people use Clickers, Poll Everywhere-like applications, and Learning Management System Quiz Tools to deliver the tRAT’s


Learning Catalytics

Learning Catalytics features open-ended, multiple-choice, heat map, and image upload questions that encourage collaboration among students for team-based and group learning. The system also enables instructors to monitor student responses and keep tabs on how well students understand what is being taught and discussed.

4S Activities

Google Forms and Spreadsheetsgoogle-drive-logo

We have used Google forms to fill up Google spreadsheets in real-time, then use the filled spreadsheet reveal as the simultaneous report. One of nice things is you can ask students for many parameters pertaining to decision. For example, in a Mechanical engineering course total cost, actuator type, and transmission type needs to be entered by each team into a Google form. All the results flow into the spreadsheet for simultaneous report. Once student input is revealed…column can be sorted….showing least expensive or highest performance, etc.



To get students to the Google forms you can display a QR code on a PowerPoint slide. There are lots of free QR code generators out there and you download the unique QR code and put it on a PowerPoint slide. In class students just hold up their phone take a photo and get taken right to form.

Pick Mepick_me

Pick Me is an iPhone application lets you enter your class roster, give it a spin and select a random student or a random team to report.


youspinYouspin is an iPhone application lets you build a roulette wheel with a segment for each team. You place your phone on the document camera and give it a spin. Round and round she goes…great theater and excitement.  I watched this used in class with 24 teams. Students had just completed a worksheet and the chosen team was called to front to walk us through their calculations. A fun twist on this is to add one segment with the instructor’s name….then student often chant the instructor’s name as it spins hoping they will be one one that needs to report.

There must be Android versions out there as well….I just haven’t used them.

Peer Evaluation

You can use online software to streamline the task of peer evaluation. Often you can set the software up in September and collect the results in April.
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This free open software was developed at the University of British Columbia and allows you to entirely automate the peer evaluation process. It supports a number of different evaluation types and has a building block integration with Blackboard Learn. The software need to be installed on a local server and is based on the typical LAMP stack (this means sometime to your IT group). You can learn more about it here and download it for free here. This is a good choice for countries with strict privacy laws. In my home province of British Columbia, Canada – any student data needs to be stored on Canadian servers, so we can’t use any of the web services below.


A formerly free US based web service lets you easily set up peer evaluations for your class. Now they are charging for services (as of 2017).

TeammatesScreen Shot 2015-08-23 at 2.05.07 PM

This free Singapore based web service lets you easily set up peer evaluations for your class. This software is relatively new but looks extraordinarily promising.


This inexpensive Australian based web service lets you easily set up peer evaluations for your class. This software was developed by Mark Freeman from the University of Sydney Business School to support his very large TBL courses.

Whole TBL Management System

screen-shot-2016-12-04-at-6-30-17-pmInteDasboard is a complete online
system that can manage all aspects of the TBL process: Readiness Assurance (iRAT, tRAT), Clarification, Application Activities, Grades Management, and Peer Evaluation.


Open TBL is an open source application in development at Iowa State (Holly Bender and some colleagues). I will post more details as they become available (March 2017).