Ethos Community

Hi everybody,

I teach a first year blended, flipped Anatomy & Physiology paper at a tertiary institution in Auckland, New Zealand and we have struggled to find a good platform for an online glossary.

To add some context: The glossary we want to use is the kind that is freely available online and that students can self-populate. In 2014 we used the moodle glossary function, but found that the export function it offers is not good enough. That is, at the end of the course, the students should be able to either continue to access the glossary or to be provided with a pdf export of the glossary. Unfortunately the moodle glossary does not offer this and formatting many entries by hand at the end of the course is too time consuming for my staff. I also explored myPortfolio, which I believe has a glossary function in later releases, but the version we currently use at our institution does not have the function built in. At the present we have been using a gdoc (with hyperlinked headings representing the letter entries) but students do not seem to find it very user friendly. I have had comments from students that feel the gdoc is either too "busy" or too difficult to search or actually not usable with Macs (?). Finally, in an ideal world, the online glossary we want to use should be able to stop students from entering a term that is already present in the glossary. While we are slowly teaching students that they should add to entries that other students have made, this is a slow process and since students are not consistent at complying, the glossary becomes less user friendly...

So, my question is (sorry for the long story), does anybody know of any platforms with above characteristics which we can move to?

Many thanks in advance,


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The eLearning team had a chat about this when we met last week, and came up with a couple of suggestions, although there seems to be a bit of a dearth of collaborative online glossary tools (but maybe other community members might have some good suggestions).

  • We though of the social media tool Diigo. While it's not a glossary tool per se, it is collaborative, multimedia friendly, shareable, tag-able, searchable, and can be accessed on multiple devices / via a Diigo app. It also has an education account option - which might do the trick (scroll down to the info on groups and sharing. The only drawback is, it may have too many functions, and so may need a bit more support of students up front...but on the upside, you might also see other uses such as sharing articles, diagrams, multimedia etc as another part of the course.

  • Something similar isDelicious, a classification system which can be tagged, searched, shared etc (generating a kind of folksonomy). Ditto that it is a powerful tool, and may offer other options for using it (and this paper covers a few of them - see pp. 7-8 in particular for collaboration).

  • Zotero is free and open-source reference management software that was another option, but seen as less suitable as it tends to be way more focussed on organising and referencing academic resources. (But it's something we could consider for the Masters of Applied Practice?

  • Melita also mentioned that she might be able to build something more user-friendly using GSheets, if essentially what is needed is a searchable database that can be added to (this page shows how a translation glossary can be created).  Melita has built a type of database using GSheets before (a while ago!) so it is possible (she thinks)... :)

I have shared your question via G+ and Twitter, and am hoping more folks will come in with more suggestions. Sing out if you have questions about any of the 

Diigo may be useful but it can't download in a file that you could possibly use in a PDF form but then I would ask why you want a PDF if you are wanting to access web sites through it.

The joy of using it is that it can be co-constructed with everyone easily chipping in to add to the resource via a Chrome extension- if everyone follows the same list.

And you can annotate your Diigo resource and save them to multiple 'folders' for easy access.

Thanks Allanah and Hazel. The PDF export would have mainly been a necessity if the platform/resource was such that students would not be able to continue to access it past the end of the course. I assume that with the resources you suggest here, this would not be an issue since students can continue to access it. I will explore the suggested options as soon as I get a chance.Many thanks for your help.

Here is the link to my Diigo account tags- or folders- to give you an idea of how it works.

Hi Sylvia,

it is hard to meet everyone's needs. There have been a few ideas in the other comments to do with digital bookmarks etc. already, give those a try.

I disagree with the person who thought you couldn't use Google Docs on a Mac, in fact GDocs is pretty much the most platform agnostic tool I have come across to date, I use it across Windows, Mac, Android, iOS etc. I have been playing around with the Read & Write for Google extension in the Chrome Browser which on the full version allows me to highlight documents (GDocs, PDFs, Websites etc.) and then collect my highlights into a new GDoc - you can see an example here. However, a multitude on individual docs is not going to solve your problem either.

I have just had a little play with TitanPad, a very simple collaborative tool. Have a try at, password Ethos. This exports in a few different file formats. As it is fairly simple (formatting etc.) I could imagine it requires little editing in the end.

Let us know how you fare, and I'll keep on thinking in the meantime :)

Cheers, Monika

Hi everyone,

Thanks for the useful resources. I checked out most of the suggestions today and learned a lot about the different tools. I particularly like the diigo tool and will keep thinking of ways of incorporating that into the courses I teach. 

However, one problem with all the suggested tools is the following and I had not thought of mentioning this before, so this is no reflection of the quality of the suggestions/tips you have offered: One difficulty we continue to encounter is that students struggle to grasp the idea of academic integrity and plagiarism. I feel that the suggested tools would inherently perpetuate the belief that it is okay to copy and paste material from websources. I see the glossary work they do as an opportunity to train the skill to paraphrase the information they gather from the web and elsewhere, thereby engaging deeper processing. 

As a result of the research around the tools I did today, I was thinking that perhaps a wiki (used as a glossary) would be a good solution for this course. Does anybody have any experience with wikis and can suggest a free wiki platform that is easy to use? Initial exploration led me to xwiki. Would that be a good solution? Ease of use is very important. This is because students already immerse themselves in new learning in a lot of different ways as part of these (NZQA) Level 5 courses.


I think that whatever tool you use the issue of plagarism while arise.

You can't stop people from using things they are not allowed to without a discussion around the ethics of doing that.

Maybe the questions that we ask need to be ones that you can't Google.

Also here are a couple of resources on wikis should you decide to go down that road.

Wikispaces is the most commonly used wiki by teachers.

Here's an example of ours from a few years ago.

Interestingly I made a Google Site on how to make wikis

The irony of that is not lost on me.


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