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Greg's Canvas Blog

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Sometimes I like to turn off the automatic embedding of YouTube videos in the Rich Content Editor. I might be jealous of the space on the web page or maybe do not want to give my students a clue about what will be in the video beyond the link text. There is a way to disable this in the Rich Content Editor, but how we do it is different in the new Rich Content Editor. Because it requires editing raw HTML I'm not sure I would count this as an enhancement.


The first video shows the steps to turn off the inline preview in the old Rich Content Editor. It shows how to do it both before adding the YouTube link and after. Doing it after requires precision in the order:

  1. Select the "a" underneath the Rich Content Editor while you are in edit mode
  2. Select the Link to URL button in the Rich Content Editor toolbar
  3. In the dialog that appears, select the check box to turn off the inline preview
  4. Select Update Link


The second video shows how to do the same thing in the new Rich Content Editor. It shows editing the class attribute of the YouTube link to add "inline_disabled":

I use a Google Form for assignments where I want students to have a choice on how to complete it and if I want more control over what students submit than is allowed with Canvas assessment options. The challenge I have with entering data into the Canvas gradebook is that the list of students in Canvas does not match the list of entries on the Google Sheet where form results are collected. This has been bugging me until I figured out how to use the SIS ID as a sort key in both locations.


This works for me because my college is a Google Suite for Education client, we use single sign-on, and our students' Gmail addresses begin with their student ID number.


In the embedded video I show how to make the SIS ID appear in the Canvas gradebook and sort by that field. I also show how to sort the Google Sheet by email address:


The Google Chrome browser has a built in set of developer tools. Included is an emulator that shows what the current web page looks like on various mobile phone browsers. It even includes a button to show what happens when the device is rotated. This is great help for when we are working on Canvas pages and want to see what they look like in the browser (not the app). I made a video showing how to access this neat tool:



Thank you Stefanie Sanders for sharing with me this tip!

In my district our SIS enrollment processing for drops removes students' users from Canvas courses. I don't know the specific status that is applied, but I do know that dropped students do not appear on the Prior Users page. One of the challenges this presents is for documenting when students on financial aid have been removed from a class. Their aid can be prorated based on the last date they participated in an academically related activity, so it is necessary for a fully online class that their Last Activity be visible.


In the embedded video I show how an instructor can find this date to share with our Financial Aid office by using our .test Canvas instance. I suggest using .test because that way the student can be manually re-enrolled in the class without generating a notification.


There have been times when students say they completed work on time but forgot to submit it or ran into some kind of technical problem that made it hard to submit on time. With a Google Cloud assignment I discovered a way for me to verify when the work was actually done, but it requires that students go to their Google Drive and then share the file with me. If they give me edit rights to the file I can then view the version history and see what the file looked like at the time the assignment was due. It's almost like I had the Eye of Agamotto and used its powers to recover the homework before the dog ate it.


The embedded video shows students how to share a Google Drive file with their instructor. Note that it assumes that the instructor and students are both users in the same Google Suite for Education domain.

Almost exactly three years ago Brian Rueckert proposed the idea LTI External Tools - Ability to Add Rubric. I am getting ready to use a Google Docs cloud assignment in a class next semester and discovered some unsettling things about rubrics. A search within the Canvas Community led to this idea. My response was long enough and I expect my colleagues to ask me about this, so I decided to blog about the experience and what the workarounds might be.


In the embedded video I demonstrate the following:

  • Adding a rubric to a Google Docs cloud assignment 
  • Showing that the rubric is not visible on the same page as the assignment
  • Showing why it's not a good idea to copy and paste the rubric into the instructions of the assignment
    (no, I did not do a screenshot -- not exactly universal design even with alt text)
  • Showing how students can find the rubric if they can access the assignment instructions
  • Showing how students can find the rubric if they cannot access the assignment instructions
    (yes, it depends on whether the assignment is published but unavailable)

All of this likely applies equally to any External Tool assignment type. Until it gets fixed, students will be justified in feeling like their instructors don't want them to see the expectations for assignments before submission.

Thank you to Matthew Moore for asking a question about how faculty can write comments on essay questions in quizzes. I wasn't sure whether the question was for Essay or File Upload questions and wanted some more experience with them so I made a video showing things from the student to teacher perspective and back again.


A comment on the Canvas Guides document 4152,43384 caught my eye: "Note: Any general answer comments are visible as soon as a quiz is submitted and cannot be hidden from students." I had not thought how useful it could be to give students immediate feedback in between the "you've submitted the quiz" to the final score and feedback.


In the embedded silent video I show how the general feedback is visible to students immediately upon submission. I also show how neither the File Upload or Essay question types allow for inline commenting in the SpeedGrader. A File Upload assignment this is not. It's also not yet an option to limit the type of file that can be uploaded. 


A colleague asked me how to view the grades of a student who had been dropped from a class. Our SIS processing gives dropped students a status that prevents us from using the View Prior Enrollments link, so we have to be creative with our .beta instance.


Here are the steps:
  • Go to the .beta instance, where data from the production system is copied over weekly. Instructors can log into this instance but students cannot. Also they receive no notifications of any activity that takes place there. The Canvas Guides has a document with more information: How do I access the Canvas beta environment as an instructor?
  • If the student is not enrolled in the course on the .beta instance, their user can be manually enrolled there by selecting the +People button on the People page and using the student ID number for Login ID (or SIS ID). Grades and activity data will reappear for students who were formerly enrolled who are then re-enrolled in a Canvas course.
  • If it is after the semester has ended, you will notice that the +People button is not active. You can activate this by going to the Settings page for that course on the .beta server and de-selecting the check box "Users can only participate in the course between these dates" and selecting the Update Course Details button. The +People button on the People page will then become active.


The best part of all this is that an instructor can do all of this on their own without needing a sysadmin's help (at least on our instance).

At the end of each episode of This Week in Canvas, I ask viewers to make a suggestion for tip of the week. We began the series this semester and have only received a couple of suggestions, and the first one we used as the tip of the week in a subsequent video. This week someone asked for a histogram of grade data, which is a feature that our former LMS had. I started to imagine how to fit in the process of downloading, creating a chart, etc., and wondered how well that could fit into the short videos we like to create.


Then serendipity touched me when I made the connection to Analytics Beta, which is now available in our production instance. So I created a demo video and showed how to enable it, selected a couple of links to show features (including a histogram), and ended with encouragement to be an active member of the Canvas Community:


Thanks to the inspiration of Laura Gibbs I have decided to try Grade Declarations for my fully online history class in the spring. One of the assignments I am going to use it with is the primary source analysis, which students do several times over the course of the semester. They find a primary source that is from a specific time period, and I have them write a three-paragraph analysis of the source. The paragraphs focus on the source's context, content, and finally an interpretation.


I am used to assigning points for each criteria within a rubric:

Writing quality
Is the writing free of grammatical errors, and does it flow smoothly from one paragraph to another?
5.0 pts
3.0 pts
0.0 pts
5.0 pts
First paragraph (context)
Does the first paragraph contain at least one properly formatted citation from the text that is used to support the description of the document's context?
10.0 pts
7.0 pts
0.0 pts
10.0 pts
Second paragraph (content)
Does the second paragraph contain at least one properly formatted citation from the document that is used to support the description of its content?
10.0 pts
7.0 pts
0.0 pts
10.0 pts
Third paragraph (meaning)
Does the third paragraph include properly formatted citations from the text and/or document that effectively support an interpretation of the document's meaning?
20.0 pts
15.0 pts
0.0 pts
20.0 pts
Works Cited list
Does the analysis include a properly formatted list of works cited that includes the text and the document being analyzed?
5.0 pts
0.0 pts
5.0 pts
Total Points: 50.0


After seeing a question from Danielle Casey about Student Self-Grading for Variable Credit? and Laura' response, I thought about how I might make a Grade Declaration for each criterion.


I created two quizzes. For one I made each criterion a separate question worth the appropriate amount of points. This ended up with a quiz long enough to require a page down before seeing all of the questions:

Quiz preview with multiple questions


The second quiz I have with just one question, which is in line with how Laura does Grade Declarations. This one fits much more easily within a single window:

Quiz preview with a single question


This will also be a peer-review assignment, so my students will be doing an assignment in addition to taking the Grade Declaration quiz. And they will select from the analyses created by the entire class as part of the capstone assignment. Both the peer review and the within-class repository will make these public, so students will be thinking of their peers as the complete the Grade Declaration assignment.


It all boils down to whether it makes a difference for students to do a separate declaration for each criterion or one declaration for all of them. They will separately submit it, provide and read peer feedback, and then read my feedback. It might be enough for there to be a single declaration question instead of several. Since this is new to me, either option will teach me something.

I had a question to confirm that the mobile app respects the module prereq and requirement settings for students, and I made a demo video:



I did the recording using the Student app on an iPhone, and I assume the same is true for the Android app.

When my college started using Canvas a couple of semesters ago, I used the opportunity to change how I communicate with fellow faculty about upcoming training, tips and tricks, and other news related to our LMS. I started a weekly email, "This Week in Canvas," as there was always at least workshops to publicize. This also fits in with dealing with frequently updating software that is hosted by the vendor, two things about Canvas that we had not dealt with before. The weekly emails include reminders about where faculty can get help, next week's training, and a tip of the week.


This semester I am working with my department mate Michael Bittner to make a video for each week. Mike makes awesome videos, and therefore the response has been positive. We have a YouTube channel for our department and this week decided to make our playlist public:

Of course the tips of the week are the same from semester to semester, so we plan to decrease the frequency of videos we make. We will do sixteen for this semester, a few more next semester, and then isolated ones after that. Each video takes time to plan, shoot, edit, and caption. So I hope that all our references and suggestions are timeless.

Earlier this year I proposed the idea Arc Recognize Captioned YouTube Videos, but it has not happened yet. So I did some poking and searching and found a solution.


In the embedded video I demonstrate the following tasks:

  1. Use the website to generate a .srt file from a YouTube video's captions
  2. Upload the caption file into Arc

The video demo I made on my iMac, and I was able to download the .srt file directly from the website. It is also possible to create your own .srt file by copying the caption from the website into a plain-text editor (like Notepad on Windows) and saving that with a .srt extension.


Edited with a new process:

This week I looked at the site mentioned in this blog entry and found out it no longer functions. Ugh! Before I fell into too much despair I saw that it is possible to download a copy of the captions file from YouTube. The video must be set to allow community members to contribute captions. If the video already has English captions provided by the creator those cannot be downloaded, but I discovered that I could tell YouTube I was contributing captions in a friendly language, say Canadian English, and I was able to one-click copy the published captions to my new language. That could then be downloaded. (I say "friendly' because I tried to create captions in Klingon but that language does not have the one-click copy from English.) 


YouTube does not download captions in a file that is recognized by Arc. so I had to convert those captions (.sbv file) into an Arc-friendly format (.srt file). I found a site that does this ( We'll see how long this one lasts! 


It's all demonstrated on this video:

As with Conversations, email can also be used to reply to messages in Discussions. In my classes I like to respond to each student's introduction to help them feel welcome, and doing it via email means I can take care of that task when out and about. But unlike Conversations, it is easy to clutter a Discussions page with duplicates of the original message. Just taking care of not including the original message when using email to reply to a Discussion post makes for a cleaner Discussions page.


In the embedded video I demonstrate the following:

  1. Showing that a user is Subscribed to a Discussion.
  2. Confirming that the content of an email and a Discussion post have the same content.
  3. Demonstrating dirty Discussions-via-email.
  4. Demonstrating clean Discussions-via-email.

This does not take care of grading, however, so I still need to log in to Canvas to give students feedback on graded Discussions. And it will not mark the message as read to which I replied.

At my college our exam bluebooks (actually they're green*) include our CRC Honor Code printed on the inside cover. That is part of a college-wide effort to build a culture of academic integrity. We are encouraged share the code with our students in various ways, and it is framed in each of our classrooms. It also is available on a printable form that faculty can give to their students. It has a place to sign indicating agreement with the following statement:


I understand that I, as a member of the Cosumnes River College community, am responsible for upholding this value, supporting academic quality, academic rigor, and an appropriate college atmosphere.


Our Academic Integrity Committee (AIC), a subcommittee of our Academic Senate, developed the code at a time when when less than half of our classes were using the college's learning management system.


The AIC chair asked me recently how the CRC Honor Code might be made similarly visible to students using the Quiz or Assignment tools in Canvas. We are a client of VeriCite (I mean Turnitin) and assignments using the tool for plagiarism detection have the similarity pledge enabled. But his question about quizzes got me to thinking about the various ways something like that could be done there.


One is pretty straightforward: Add a question to each quiz that is a true/false declaration (or even a single-option multiple choice question) that asks students to agree with the statement as if they were signing the paper. If I were to do this I would make it the first question on the quiz and make it worth some points. A zero-point question could work too, but that might communicate something undesirable about how much academic integrity is valued.


Another option is to use the prerequisite and requirement features of the Modules tool so that students are forced to agree with the statement in some other way. Following are some of the options, each of which I would put inside the "course orientation" module that I use as a prerequisite for all other modules in the class:

  1. Require students to view a content page "CRC Honor Code"
  2. Require students to mark as read a content page "CRC Honor Code"
  3. Require students to attempt a quiz that includes a true/false or single-option multiple choice question that asks them to agree with the statement
  4. Require students to get a perfect score on a single-question quiz asking students to agree with the statement
  5. Require students to submit an assignment writing a paragraph reflecting on what they think the code means to them

My favorites are numbers 3 and 4, which easily reward students with points for making a declaration. Since I already give students a pre-course quiz it would be easy to add a question to that assignment, but the standalone quiz draws additional attention to the issue. I wonder what other options there are and hope that other members of the Canvas Community share those here.


*: So was our carbon footprint reduced more by the move to "greenbooks" (made with >30% post-consumer recycled material) or by the increasing number of exams that are given online using the learning management system? Sounds like a great question for an environmental researcher!