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Enriching Scholarship 2014 – CTools Hidden Treasures II May 20, 2014

Posted by aquillam in teaching.
Tags: , ,

Enriching Scholarship is “a week of free workshops, discussions, and seminars… for instructional faculty and staff” at the University of Michigan. On Wednesday I attended a session on CTools new and underused tools by Jeff Zeigler. CTools in the U-M implementation of the Sakai learning management system (LMS). If that’s gibberish to you, this post probably isn’t useful.

 Joinable link

If you have a project site that is joinable, you can create a link to invite users to join your site. Simply take the orignal site url and add /join in the middle. The original url looks something like https://ctools.umich.edu/portal/site/<siteid&gt;. The joinable link looks like https://ctools.umich.edu/join/portal/site/<siteid&gt;. 

Note that only users with uniqnames or friend accounts that already exist in CTools will be able to use this link. They are working on an “invitation” that would create a friend account if it doesn’t exist.

To make the site joinable: In Site Info, under Manage Access, choose “Allow anyone to join the site with valid login id.”

Sharing materials across sites

If you use the same materials on several sites, you can place it under Resources in My Workspace. The best practice is to create a public folder in your resources folder, and make sure it is shared with the world.

Add a Site Icon

The site Icon is at the top of the navigation menu on the left side. You can change this to something to make your site easily identifiable to the users. An image size of 120×80 is optimal. Place the image either in the Site Resources, or in the Public folder in Resources under My Workspace. From the Actions drop-down menu for the image, choose Edit Details. Click “Select URL (for copying)” next to Web address (URL) under the File Details section to copy the URL of the image. Go to Site Info, Edit site information, paste url into the box  labeled “Icon URL.”


Some documents can be printed directly from CTools. From the Actions drop-down menu for the image, choose Print. It doesn’t work with all documents types. ALso, it’s a new feature, and still has a few bugs.

Special templates

Site templates are useful if you repeatedly create the same basic sites. Templates contain a basic set of tools and resources. There are a few special templates too. The Listserve project only displays home and help. User can receive emails from the site without having their email address revealed. However, it does reveal the sender’s address if users send to the site or reply to a message. You don’t need the email archive enabled to send & receive email from the site. The HIPAA template is a compliant site that can be audited at any time.


In the polls tool, responses are always anonymous. The user data, including the reference number, is not stored. Because of that, multiple answers are possible.

Embedding YouTube videos

YouTube changes the embed code regularly. This is the best method to use as of May 2014.

Find the video you want to use on YouTube. Below the video, click Share, then click Embed. A box will open with a code snippet. Copy that embed code.

Go to the CTools site you want to embed int in,  or to My Workspace. In Resources, under the Add dropdown menu for the folder you want to place the video in, select Create HTML page. In the upper left corner of the WYSIWYG editor, click Source to switch to the source code view. Paste the embed code here and save. You now have a page within CTools with the video embedded in it. To use the video elsewhere (e.g. in a test or on the homepage), Select Edit Details from the Actions dropdown menu, then copy the URL. You can now paste the URL into the Web Content tool, into the Worksite Information box on the site homepage, or into the attachments field in Test Center or Assignments.

Images and Video in Test Center

To hide an image or video, create the HTML page in My Workspace instead of in the Site Resources and share it to test from there. Students won’t be able to browse to it. Just to make sure, test it using a friend account.

Lesson Builder

This is an powerful and big tool, deserving of its own separate post.


This is still in stealth mode, so it must be requested. It lets you post anything you can put in an Excel CSV. The first column of the CSV needs to be the uniqname. The rest of the columns can be anything else: grades, comments on a project, group assignments, etc.

Comming Soon

The following tools are currently in stealth mode, but should are available soon.


Aggregates sites into your MyWorkspace in a more intuitive way. Allows push notification.

Sign-up tool

Allow students to sign up for things like office hours

Page order tool

Available on project sites now. Use with caution – students learn the names and order of the tools so changes can result in confusion.  This allows the site owner to reorder pages, change their name, or hide tools.



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