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Greg's Canvas Blog

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Sonia Parada from Pasadena City College shared an awesome icebreaker she uses in a face-to-face class and wondered if it could be done online. In person, each student draws an image or series of images that correspond to the syllables in their name. The class then does a gallery walk where everyone tries to guess the names represented, ending with a reveal. Genius!


This is not possible using the Canvas tools since there is not an option to do anonymous discussion replies. I did some testing and using a Google Presentation might work for this activity. Here are the steps:

  1. Create a Google Presentation and share it so anyone with the link can edit it
  2. Share the link along with the activity instructions to students (including admonishing them not to edit their classmates' slides)
  3. At the end of the activity encourage each student adds their name to their slide


The embedded video shows the results of my testing:

The California Community Colleges Online Education Initiative created a series of Online Readiness Tutorials that help prospective online students decide whether they should take classes in this mode. The tutorials have been available for a few years and I and other faculty at my college have used them within our online classes. Some of us tie assessments to those tutorials so that students earn some points by taking quizzes after viewing them.


I have always wanted one place for my college's students to access those tutorials for a couple of reasons. One is to know which students have accessed them, making future research more authentic. As we ask about so many of the things we do for students, does this make a difference? The second reason is to prevent students from being asked to complete the same assignment for multiple classes. While repeating the same task over and over might reinforce learning, it will also be perceived as busywork.


I solved the first of these problems by creating a self-enroll class in Canvas. It contains the readiness tutorials as well as a quiz so students can demonstrate they understand the content. I put the link to that class on my public-facing "Distance Education" web page, and I contact our counselors, librarians, and faculty teaching online classes and encourage them to refer prospective online students to that resource. I hope in a few years to have a large enough n (or is it N?) to answer that question about difference.


The second problem has been tougher. I am the instructor for the self-enroll class so *could* let the other online instructors know which of their students completed the quiz. While I like to be helpful, I also fear those requests would take up all my time. I would rather spend my time fighting to make readiness activities a requirement before taking an online class.


My solution for now is to link a Google Form in the self-enroll class. Thanks to the requirements options for Modules, the link to the form is not visible until students have passed the quiz. The form asks for a preferred name, collects the form-filler's email address, is limited to people who have user accounts in my college's Canvas instance, and emails the form results back to the form-filler. The form-filler can then forward the email as needed. Fortunately we are a Google Suite for Education client, and Google Forms created within that domain can meet all of these interests. There is also an option to limit to one response, which mitigates against the benefit of unauthorized collaboration among students. The form I designed has a congratulatory message and an image that indicates success, which means it looks nice if printed. Just don't call it a "badge." 


However, students have other Google accounts and might already be logged in to those accounts before they access our Canvas instance. Google does not yet perfectly manage that situation, especially when a Google Suite file has its sharing settings limited to users in its domain. This is not so bad for Google Documents, Slides, or Sheets. If a user tries to access a domain-only file while logged in to another Google account, there is a handy button to "Switch accounts." Unfortunately this option does not appear for Google Forms. These display "Need permission" and prompt the user to ask the owner of the form to grant access. This less-than-helpful message is a reason why I have not been an active user of Google Forms when it matters to record who fills out the form. I have used regular expressions to require a properly formatted username that matches our system's format, but that does not prevent one user from typing in another's username.


Single sign-on came to the rescue! We enabled single sign-on for our Canvas and Google systems among others, and now our students cannot log on to Canvas without concurrently being logged on to our Google Suite domain. So now I can set up my self-enroll class with a module requirement to manage access to a Google Form. As originally intended, that form only asks students to type a preferred name and sends them a congratulatory email that they can use to document their readiness to learn online.


In my final testing I discovered a couple of things about vanity URLs and single sign-on. I do not know if there are single sign-on settings that will fix these issues:

  • Using our single sign-on URL works perfectly -- even though the student is first logged in to another Google account, they can easily access the domain-only Google Form inside Canvas
  • Using our vanity URL works the same, as that redirects to our single sign-on URL
  • Using the Instructure URL does not work -- the browser behaves as if the user has not logged in to the Google Suite for Education domain, yet the user is able to access Canvas


Before I start sharing this cool trick with my colleagues who will create undreamt uses for domain-only Google Forms, I figured out a specific set of circumstances that could cause this to fail and present a student with the dreaded "Need permission" message: 

  1. Instructor links a domain-only Google Form from inside a Canvas course
  1. Instructor gives students a direct link to *any* page in the course (i.e., including in the URL)
  2. Student is already logged in to another Google account when they select that link
  3. Student navigates to the Google Form and gets the “Need permission” message

Students should need no permission to learn.


In the end I feel confident about the Google Forms solution to my problems with documenting student readiness. The benefits of centralizing data collection on student access to readiness tutorials and the ability for students to share their completion of those tutorials with all instructors hopefully outweighs the risk of having to ask for permission. And this way I'll get a fair idea of how many instructors share direct Canvas links *and* use domain-only Google Forms in the same class.

Canvas privileges continuing student access to information once released. For example, an assignment cannot be unpublished once students have made submissions. Since the assignment instructions are visible on the page, this means that students can always access those instructions once a published assignment's availability date has passed.


A colleague of mine puts the details for an assignment in a separate file that is linked from the assignment instructions, and he wants to hide those files after the assignment due date. Canvas allows us to change the availability dates of individual files, so this interest can be met by scheduling the date for each file to match the associated assignment's until date. Note that the file availability date cannot be set separately for individual students, which may complicate assignments with differential due dates.


Specific details about managing the availability of files are in the Canvas Guides document How do I restrict files and folders to students in Canvas? 


The embedded video demonstrates the following workflow:

  1. Student can access a file attached to an assignment after the assignment's end date
  2. Instructor finds the attached file in the Files tool
  3. Instructor changes the file's availability date to match the until date for the assignment
  4. Student cannot access the file

We know that plagiarism is not limited to the papers that students submit to Assignments and that copied words can be used for Discussion replies as well as answers to Quiz questions. One of the things that I like about the native integration of VeriCite with Canvas is the check box on an Assignment with the Online option selected for Submission Type. This option is not yet available for Quiz answers nor Discussion replies, but a workaround is possible when using the LTI option for VeriCite. That option allows instructors to submit assignments on behalf of their students.


The embedded video demonstrates the following:

  1. Copy the text of a student's submission to a graded Discussion
  2. Create an Assignment and choose the LTI option for Submission Type
  3. Click the Find button and then select the VeriCite option*
  4. Click the Save button (not Save and publish)
  5. Click on the student whose text was copied in the first step
  6. Click on the link to copy/paste text, paste the text copied in the first step, and then Submit Paper
  7. Printing the VeriCite report.

*: Though these steps and the video are specific to VeriCite, it is possible that a similar process can be used for other LTI tools for plagiarism detection.

I already posted a blog entry on Using Google Slides to Make an Image Rotator, and Sandy Lumley's question on Video - Autoplay and Loop prompted me to see if the same thing could work for videos. It does!


I begin in Google Slides:

  1. Add a YouTube video to each slide in a Google Slides presentation (Insert >> Video...)
  2. Right-click on the video within the slide and choose Video options...
  3. Turn on the check box for Autoplay when presenting
  4. Publish the presentation to the web (File >> Publish to the web...)
  5. In the "Publish to the web" dialog:
    • Select the Embed tab and pick a size - I like using the Small option for "Slide size" because it gives me more space to type the instructional context for the embedded media
    • Select the check boxes to turn on:
      • Start slideshow as soon as the player loads and
      • Restart the slideshow after the last slide
  6. Copy the embed code


And then in Canvas:

  1. In the Rich Content Editor, click on the button to Insert/edit media
  2. In the "Insert/edit media" dialog, select the Embed tab and paste the embed code
  3. Edit the embed code so that the delayms= value is a second or two longer than the longest video within the presentation
  4. Click Ok

Edited embed code


I did some testing and learned a couple of things. It looks like the Google Slide needs at least two slides for this to work. The time code cannot be different for each slide, and I added the extra time to account for the time it takes for the video to start playing.

I like to give one grade for group assignments, but I then run into a problem for students who do not participate at all in a given assignment (or for whatever reason need a score that differs from their teammates'). The embedded video demonstrates the following workflow:

  1. Create group assignment and set for one grade for the whole group
  2. When I am ready to grade, mute the assignment
  3. Grade all submissions
  4. Edit the assignment to set for individual grading
  5. Adjust individual grades as needed
  6. Unmute the assignment

The mute/unmute steps are good to prevent those students who got a zero for the assignment from seeing points they did not earn.


I work with an instructor who has her students take pictures of themselves doing course activities, and she wants to share those pictures with the rest of her class. Without a learning management system, she would create a PowerPoint presentation and show it during class. Since she started teaching that class online, she would love to put those images online in a rotating slideshow that appears inside her course home page.


Google Slides has options for auto-advance and looping presentations using easily created embed code, so it is a natural choice to use for this purpose.

In the embedded video I demonstrate the following:

  1. Clicking the File menu in Google Slides and selecting Publish to the web...
  2. Selecting and then copying the Embed options for an auto-advance and looping slide show.
  3. Editing a page in Canvas and paste the embed code into the Insert/Embed media dialog box.

I find this works pretty well. The Google Slides presentation does not have to be shared, and the viewer cannot copy or download the presentation unless it is shared. New slides can be added at any time to the Google Slides presentation without needing to upload new files or change the embed code. Since PowerPoint files import directly into Google Drive, using extant presentations is easy. However, the slideshow controls do appear so the viewer could arbitrarily advance to the next slide, see the speaker notes, etc. That opens up the possibilities to add notes to students about each slide or image that could be used for all kinds of possibilities.


EDIT: This post (and video) updated to reflect the easily visible Insert/embed media button.

Our instructors use the cross-listing tool to put multiple classes into the same Canvas course. One has a group activity where her students who pick the same topic work together to submit a group assignment. Since she has cross-listed two face-to-face courses, she wanted to know what would happen if she used the Canvas groups tool, allowed self-select, and also limited the groups to students in the same section. That way she could count on all students in a group being present during that part of the class meeting set aside for group time.


In our exploration we discovered that any student can join any group, and the first student to join a group locks that group so that the members must be enrolled the same section. To discourage all groups being locked by students in the same section, she will include the meeting pattern as part of the group name (e.g., "M/W Cardio Systems Project") and encourage students to join a group that matches when they attend class. In addition, she will turn off the self-select option and then manually move students if they joined a group with the incorrect meeting pattern.


In the embedded video I demonstrate how to create a group set that has the options for self-select but is limited to the same section. I also show a student user joining a self-select group and what happens when a student from another section in that course views the list of self-select groups. Students from other sections can see who is enrolled in a group even if they cannot join it.


An instructor came to my department with a question and that was how to share the same content with students who are taking multiple classes across a multi-year program. The particular example in this case is a set of protocols covering the steps that are required for a particular examination. As students take the various classes in the program, professional standards require that they have access to those protocols at all times.


The challenge is how to make those files (they are MS Word documents) available and up to date. Sharing them via Canvas would work except for needing to upload the same files to each course and (especially) if the files need to be changed. The solution I proposed is to use a Google Drive folder, which helps meet a couple of interests. All that is needed is the folder's share link, and each instructor can decide where to put that in their Canvas courses. There is a single place to make updates, and the same link can be used easily outside of Canvas.


In the embedded video I demonstrate how to set up a shared Google Drive folder and post that link inside Canvas. I also discuss an effective sharing setting for an institution like ours, which uses Google Suite for Education. The default at our institution is to limit sharing to people who are institutional users. While this does limit access to official students, it also adds a pain point for students who have to reauthenticate multiple times.


This post has information on how to use our new service for plagiarism detection (VeriCite).

For Canvas:

For D2L (Brightspace):

Instructure has created a new tool called DocViewer, which serves the purposes now met by the Box and Crocodoc tools. These are the tools that allow documents to be embedded within Canvas pages (Box) and for instructors to provide inline comments and feedback in student submissions (Crocodoc). Instructure has promised a seamless transition for users.


The switch will occur between June 14 and 24 on the Los Rios production server.


For more information and an opportunity for you to ask questions and give feedback, read Kate McGee’s blog entry Insights: Canvas DocViewer.

For faculty who give incomplete grades *and* expect students to complete their work within the learning management system, note that student data (assignment submissions, grades, discussion entries, access statistics) *is not included* in a D2L export file and so cannot be imported into Canvas. As you plan for your transition to Canvas, please keep this in mind.


Here is my example: I plan to start using Canvas in spring 2017. I had one student with an incomplete grade in spring 2016, and I told that student that fall 2016 would be the only opportunity to resolve that incomplete. In my fall 2016 class, I did not give any incomplete grades.