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Nestor tools for online learning

Online teaching can be done in many different ways. Below we’ll provide brief information on tools you can use. All tools are available through Nestor and require no further logins or signups. Please also take note of our information on structuring your online course.


Under the tab ‘Announcements’ you can place important messages regarding your course. An announcement is something you could use as a first step in any given week of your course.

You could use this tool to inform students about changes that occur during the course or to remind students about, for instance, an upcoming deadline.

More extensive information is available at Blackboard.


You use an Item to make content available for students. It is also possible to add attachments. You could use this tool, for instance, to add literature sources as attachments to make clear for students what the required reading is for a course week. Most common use of Items is to share articles and videos. But you can also share audio files, or pictures. Here are some suggestions to get you started.

Adding articles: Reading an article is an activity that your students most probably will be doing on a regular basis. Articles can be shared through Items. Keep an eye on the length of the article, this should be between 300 and 1000 words. If you want to use long (academic) papers it is advisable to write a summary or highlight parts for the students to read. Please take note of the tips from the University Library on creating reliable links. There are some regulations for the publication of links to articles or other online resources. If you have copyright related questions on using articles, then please consult with our colleagues at the University Library via eduteam-library

Adding video: If lectures from your course from previous years have been recorded, you can easily make them available in your current Nestor course via the Presentations2Go Item. You can also choose to share any older recording and let your students watch this at home, whenever they have time. Or you might want to use YouTube or other (pre)recorded videos. Those items can be added as a link via Items. Always try to give the students instructions on what to expect from the video, such as the question(s) that you want them to answer after watching.

There is more information available about uploading previous recorded lectures. If you want to upload your own video, please do not do this via Items, check out the separate information on Video.

More information on creating items can be found on the instructions and tips from Blackboard.


In Nestor you can divide your students in the course into groups by means of the Advanced Group Tool (AGT). Per group different options are made available such as a group homepage, an email function and a discussion board. You can enroll students in groups within your courses and manage groups by importing and exporting them (via CSV files).

An important feature is group sets. By using group sets, settings for several groups can be adjusted by just one click. It is also possible that students subscribe to several groups, or unenroll from a group.

Extensive information on using the Advanced Group Tool is available at Nestor Help.

Discussion Board

Discussions are effective in actively engaging your students, and finding out what they still struggle with or have further questions on. It’s asynchronous, which means that students can post at a time that works for them, within a timeframe that you set for them. Use a discussion as an activity for your students to reflect on the theory shown in a preceding article or video. Another way to use the discussion board is as a brainstorming step at the start of a new week or topic to get the learner to think for themselves first.

A question and the answer(s) on a discussion board are visible for everyone. Please encourage your students to use this, and also make it part of your own routine. Ask your students to refrain from sending you private emails.

You can make a general discussion board for the course and have a separate discussion board per week, or per group. Check out the information by Blackboard on how you can set up an effective discussion board.

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Assignments are a great way for students to show their understanding of the course content. You can ask students to write an essay, upload a picture, post a video, make an audio-recording, etc. Be very clear on what you expect for the assignment and inform the students about what the criteria (rubric) would be for a successful completion. Indicate also the time commitment that would be typically needed.

It is advisable to spread out the assignments. Try to do not too many assignments, maybe 2 per week. You can use peer review for assignments, so that students review each other’s contributions. When properly done, peer review this obviously saves you some time. But more importantly, it provides your students with an opportunity to reflect on their own work, while doing the review of the contribution of another student. This is a very nice way of active learning! Find more detailed information on creating assignments on the Blackboard Help pages.

Checking contributions for plagiarism is also possible. Assignments that are handed in through “Urkund assignments” will be checked for plagiarism. So, this obviously only applies to textual assignments, such as essays. You can find further information in Nestor Help.

Video assignments

Sometimes a video says more than 1000 words. If you want your students to show something that they have learned, for example a procedure or a skill, you would not want a textual submission from them. For these types of assignments you can create a so-called P2Go assignment. You can grade the submissions and provide feedback in a similar fashion to normal assignments. You can read more at Nestor Help on how to create a P2Go assignment


It can be even harder to know how your students are doing in an online class compared to a face-to-face class. For your students, too, it’s harder to know if they are on track to reach the learning outcomes. For this reason, it’s especially useful to build in several moments of formative feedback and assessment. This can be everything from quick check-ins with students at the end of an online lecture, to quick, ungraded quizzes before meetings, to low stakes assignments, such as reading responses.

Quiz: quizzes consist of multiple questions. Quizzes can give insight to both the students and teachers on how they are progressing with the course materials; so this a type of formative testing. It also provides insight for you in which topics students struggle with or find easy. You can use all types of questions in a Quiz.

Test: A test is essentially the same as a quiz, with one big difference, namely that a Test is graded and the results will appear in the Grade Center. This can be done at the end of a particular topic or section within the course. Please note however, that students are working from home and could share answers or other information with each other. We do not recommend using tests from home for examination purposes.

More information on these tools is available on the Blackboard website.

Voting (Polleverywhere)

Another way to do a quiz with your students or to collect and use students' questions, is by using a voting tool. Collaborate has such a voting tool. Another voting tool supported by the University of Groningen is Poll Everywhere. Poll Everywhere can be used synchronously, so during online lectures, or asynchronously, by creating polls that students can answer outside of class time.

Poll Everywhere gives you many different options to engage with your students, for example:

  • Doing online quizzes (including open questions)

  • Showing student responses in a word cloud

  • Asking for questions to start a discussion

  • Having a collective brainstorm session

  • Voting on (online) presentations by students

A polleverywhere account is available for anyone who has a (staff) p-number. When going to, log in with your RuG mail account and you will automatically transferred to the SSO-page where you can log in with your credentials. For technical questions, you can contact Nestorsupport at nestorsupport

We have a quick guide available for you with some suggestions on how to use Poll Everywhere.

We also have recorded a webinar on how to use and implement Polleverywhere in your lectures and online instruction.

Blackboard Collaborate Ultra

In Collaborate you can host live (real time) lectures for up to 250 students. Collaborate also gives you the option to record your lectures.
This can be an alternative for those lecturers who want to offer their classes asynchronously (so not in real time).
But you can also record short instructional videos with Collaborate for your students and ask them to work on a collaborative writing project, or respond to a discussion question on the discussion board on Nestor.

We’ve got extensive information on using Blackboard Collaborate. And also on recording your own instructional videos.

More useful resources

  • Nestor Help is also available if you would need more detailed instructions on using the aforementioned Nestor tools.

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Last modified:21 October 2020 11.08 a.m.
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