Author: Sarah Kinne



As faculty closely monitoring the Generative Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) landscape, you may be interested in learning about a new tool in your toolbelt: the Zoom AI Companion. While generative A.I. may rightfully be seen as a new hurdle to overcome in some contexts, such as assessment design and academic integrity, it’s important to also look for ways in which generative A.I. can make our work easier, more efficient, or more engaging. To that end, Loyola has enabled use of the new Zoom AI Companion.

Zoom’s new AI Companion feature can…

Help you compose chat messages in an appropriate length and tone for the occasion. Pro tip: Did you know Zoom Chat is available outside of meetings within the Zoom Desktop app? Learn more here: Zoom’s AI Companion can also summarize any chats you missed—a feature that Microsoft Teams doesn’t yet boast.

Catch you up on part of a meeting you missed, including identifying any time your name was mentioned while you were grabbing that second (or third!) cup of coffee.

Answer specific questions about meeting content and divide meeting recordings into smart chapters, highlighting potential takeaways and action items.

What’s on the horizon for Zoom’s AI Companion? Zoom predicts that its AI Companion will serve some functions of an administrative or personal assistant, helping you to prepare for meetings, providing summaries of previous meetings, and prompting you to follow-up on action items. The AI Companion will also provide presentation coaching, something that Microsoft’s suite of tools is already capable of via its Speaker Coach feature (

Overall, these new features—and those on the horizon—seem to embody the ethos “work smarter, not harder.” It will be interesting to see how Zoom capitalizes on its rapt audience in the education sector, though. Microsoft did a solid job outlining ways in which their Speaker Coach can act as technology-assisted education for students learning to hone their presentation skills: Our initial impressions of the Zoom AI Companion are that it shows promise in helping faculty pinpoint student questions and points of confusion, which might be addressed in a future class session. The AI Companion’s generation of meeting summaries may also help faculty to better scaffold their instruction by providing students with a review of what material was covered in previous class sessions.  

To get started with the Zoom AI Companion, enable it in your Zoom account. To do so, visit After logging in, select “Settings” from the menu on the left; then, select AI Companion. From here, you can choose which specific features of the AI Companion to enable. To read more about the AI Companion, check out Zoom’s guide to getting started with AI Companion:

Let us know how you’re using this new feature for teaching and learning by dropping us a line at 

Introducing Learning Analytics at Loyola: The ‘How’ and ‘Why’ of Data-Informed Instruction

Introducing Learning Analytics at Loyola: The ‘How’ and ‘Why’ of Data-Informed Instruction

Data-driven decision-making is becoming increasingly important across many sectors, including education. As an instructor, you might have come across the term “learning analytics.” But what exactly does it entail, and how can it benefit faculty and students? Read on to gain a better understanding of what learning analytics encompasses and how it may boost your instructional efficacy.

What is Learning Analytics?

Learning analytics can be defined as the “collection, analysis, and interpretation of data related to students’ learning and the contexts in which it occurs” ( This data is typically derived from various sources, including learning management systems (LMS), online course platforms, and student information systems. At Loyola, learning analytics data is currently drawn from LOCUS and Sakai—including several third-party tools integrated with Sakai such as Zoom, Panopto, VoiceThread, and Turnitin.

How Does it Work?

Learning analytics involves the use of advanced technologies and statistical techniques to extract meaningful insights from educational data. These insights can range from understanding student engagement and performance to identifying patterns and trends in learning behavior. At Loyola, faculty can glean insights from the Sakai Statistics tool and the analytics offered by specific teaching and learning tools (e.g., Panopto). They may also use their personalized Learning Analytics Reports to view aggregated instructional data in one location.

Why is it Useful for Faculty?

1. Personalized Learning Experiences:

By leveraging learning analytics, faculty members can gain valuable insights into individual students’ learning needs, preferences, and progress. This allows them to tailor their teaching strategies and interventions to better meet the diverse needs of their students, ultimately fostering a more accessible and personalized learning experience.

2. Early Intervention:

Learning analytics can help faculty identify students who may be at risk of falling behind or struggling academically. By detecting these warning signs early on, instructors can intervene promptly, providing additional support and resources to help students succeed.

3. Data-Informed Decision-Making:

Learning analytics data, in conversation with other metrics such as teaching evaluations, test scores, and final grades, can help faculty make informed decisions about curriculum (re)design, instructional methods, and assessment strategies. This data-driven approach empowers instructors to refine their teaching practices to enhance student learning outcomes.

4. Continuous Improvement:

By analyzing trends and patterns in student data over time, faculty can identify areas for change and improvement in their teaching practices and course design. This iterative cycle of reflection and refinement enables instructors to adapt to the evolving needs of their students and enhance their overall quality of instruction.

Getting Started with Learning Analytics

Learning analytics holds immense potential for faculty in higher education to enhance teaching and learning experiences. Embracing learning analytics can empower faculty and instructional support staff to create more effective and engaging learning environments that support the success of all students.

To learn more about learning analytics at Loyola, visit our website ( Faculty are invited to schedule a consultation with an ITRS Learning Design Engineer, who will provide access to the Learning Analytics Report as well as guidance in interpreting the report data and deriving actionable insights.

Christmas is around the corner, and so is Sakai 22!

Christmas is around the corner, and so is Sakai 22!

Don’t let final exams put a damper on your holiday spirit! Instructional Technology & Research Support (ITRS) is hard at work and preparing to unveil a new version of the Sakai LMS just in time for the holidays. Loyola will upgrade to Sakai version 22 on Wednesday, December 21st. During the upgrade process, Sakai will be unavailable (approximately 7am-11am Central Time). Faculty, staff, and students are not required to make any changes for the upgrade; all course and project sites will be intact and ready for use in Sakai 22. 

The annual Sakai upgrade ensures that Loyola can take advantage of the latest Sakai features and functionality, and we can eliminate pesky software bugs that have been squashed by the Sakai community. A few highlights you can anticipate in Sakai 22 include:

  • A new tool, Conversations, allows for threaded Q&A and discussions. Conversations enables users to filter and bookmark posts so it’s easy to find the content that matters most. 
  • New page layout options in the Lessons tool. 
  • A new integration with Gradescope, an AI-supported grading platform that streamlines grading of paper-based, bubble sheet, and coding assessments. 

Want to learn more? Visit Sakai 22 Upgrade. Here, you’ll find registration links for informational sessions conducted by your friendly ITRS colleagues, a promotional video highlighting new Sakai features, and more! 

Are you ready for Sakai 21?

Are you ready for Sakai 21?

Sakai 21 is coming to Loyola, fittingly, on December 21st, 2021. This change is an upgrade-in-place, meaning that Loyola faculty, staff, and students do not need to make any changes to their Sakai sites or accounts. All good things take time, so Sakai will be unavailable from approximately 7am to 12pm on 12/21/21. 

When Sakai returns, better than ever, here are a few things to look forward to: 

  • Dark Theme (also known as Dark Mode) to give tired eyes a break 
  • Enhancements to Lessons (e.g., a reorganized Add Item dialog), Gradebook (e.g., message students directly from the Gradebook), and Rubrics (e.g., search for rubrics by title) 
  • Certifications, a new tool for awarding micro-credentials 

Intrigued? Check out the Sakai 21 Upgrade page to learn more and to register for an upcoming infosession. This page also includes a promotional video showcasing the most exciting improvements, complete Sakai 21 release notes, and other resources. 

As always, ITRS is here to help Loyolans make the most of Sakai 21. Schedule a virtual consultation to work one-on-one with ITRS staff. 

Join ITRS for Summer Learning Opportunities

Join ITRS for Summer Learning Opportunities

Loyola faculty, did you know ITRS offers year-round, free professional development opportunities? That’s right: while you’re sipping a tropical drink by the pool this summer, login for some learning!

A tropical drink that makes you think of ITRS

ITRS is offering the Instructional Technologies Course (ITC) from July 19th-August 13th. This course covers the basics of Sakai and Zoom, increasing participants’ comfort with the tools while prompting reflection about how to integrate technology into curriculum in a meaningful way. While any faculty or teaching-adjacent staff can benefit from this course, it is best suited for those who have little or no Sakai experience. Check out the promotional video to learn more about the course. Registration for the Summer 2021 cohort closes on July 15th.

If you’re no Sakai newbie, or are looking for bite-sized learning opportunities, check out the ITRS workshops schedule. Live sessions on Zoom, Panopto, and Labster are offered throughout the summer. We can’t wait to see you there!


Bringing Global Accessibility Awareness Day to Loyola

Bringing Global Accessibility Awareness Day to Loyola

If you follow ITRS on Twitter, you know we were recently celebrating Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), which occurs on the third Thursday of May every year. The spark behind GAAD is that accessibility awareness, testing, and design should be mainstream and essential—not just the work of a few specialists.

On a personal level, my contribution to this day of recognition is to spread awareness of the journey that accessible design entails. Learning to design accessible courses; to create accessible websites and documents; and to remediate inaccessible courses, documents, and websites takes time, patience, and a growth mindset. If the idea of making your course completely accessible and inclusive is overwhelming, you’re not alone! Start today by incorporating one new accessible design practice into your course development work—add headers to your documents, captions to your videos, or alternative text to your images. Recognize that the work of digital accessibility is never done; it’s truly a journey rather than a destination.

Here at Loyola, there are several teams excited to support faculty, staff, and students in digital accessibility work, including Instructional Technology & Research Support, the Office of Online Learning, and the Student Accessibility Center. In ITRS, we focus on the accessible, inclusive design of digital course materials in and outside of the learning management system, Sakai. To that end, ITRS offers one-on-one consultations to address questions about accessible design and assistive technology. We can discuss digital accessibility best practices, check your course materials for compliance with ADA and W3C standards, and assist with formulating an action plan for remediating inaccessible learning materials. To schedule a consultation, visit our booking page, select Instructional Technologies, then Digital Accessibility. We look forward to working with you!

We’re Here for You: Introducing ScheduleOnce

We’re Here for You: Introducing ScheduleOnce

Do you need help setting up your Sakai site? Are you curious which instructional technologies will help your online learning vision come to life? Just need a friendly face to talk you through some tech troubles? ITRS is here for you and we’re happy to introduce a new tool to streamline the experience.

Visit the ITRS ScheduleOnce hub to book a one-on-one appointment with a member of our team, comprised of Instructional Designers, Learning Design Engineers, and more! Appointments are offered via Zoom and you will receive a link to the Zoom meeting when our team confirms your appointment.

How to schedule a consultation

To get started, visit the ITRS ScheduleOnce hub. You can also find a link to the hub on any of our web pages.

This widget appears on all ITRS webpages!
What’s New in Sakai 20?

What’s New in Sakai 20?

Sakai 20 is coming to Loyola on Monday, December 21st, 2020! On 12/21 from 7am to 12pm, Sakai will be unavailable. 

Once the upgrade is complete, the following new and improved features will be available: 

  • Sakai Grader with a document preview for the Assignments tool 
  • A date manager that allows instructors to quickly modify all due dates in the Site Info tool 
  • An auto-groups wizard that takes the guesswork out of creating groups 
  • A brand-new Rubrics tool that integrates with Assignments, Forums, and Tests & Quizzes 
  • Gradebook enhancements, including the ability to equally weight items within a Gradebook category 
  • Rich text editor templates to easily create stylized Lessons pages 
  • And more! For a full list of new features, see the Sakai LMS blog

Faculty, staff, and students who would like to learn more about the changes coming to Sakai are invited to attend a “What’s New in Sakai 20?” info-session or a Q&A open forum with ITRS staff. For dates and registration information, see Sakai 20 Upgrade