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2020
“I have a question about Canvas. Do you have a sec?” said any Canvas user at some point in his/her life. 

 

Many of us know there are multiple ways to apply the tools and leverage the features in Canvas. Despite having almost thousands of pages of official guide documentation and 33K+ posts in Q&A, we still rely heavily on our colleagues and other community members for real-time support.

 

Can you spare an hour?

 

We initially asked this question of our Canvas Advocates. And we were overwhelmed with their initial responses! Many of them found times in their already-busy schedules to commit to future virtual office hours, free to anyone in the community. In fact, as of this posting, over 20 hours of open virtual office time have been scheduled through July 31, 2020!

 

Some office hours are audience-specific (i.e. for admins or teachers). Some are platform-specific, like mobile. Others are people-specific. I mean, who wouldn’t want to 'Jabber with Jenna' or talk all-things-Canvas with Beth?

 

We are thankful to our Canvas Advocates who are setting a great example. Click here to check out all of the upcoming virtual office hours.

 

Can community members host virtual office hours?

 

Yes. YES. YASSSS! We would love that! In fact, we welcome any hour you can provide in support of each other. Schedule your office hours when it’s most convenient for you (even if that means 5am or 10pm). We are a global community, after all.

 

Click for steps on hosting your CanvasLIVE event

 

NOTE: There are no naming conventions for ‘event title’ (but be sure to select ‘office hours’ under event type so members can easily filter by and find an event.) Title your office hours however you wish (i.e., “Bob’s Office Hours”, “Teacher Office Hours”, “Open Lab for All”) -- you get the idea!


But what if I don’t have the answers?

 

** News flash** We don’t always have all the answers, either!

 

Seriously, don’t feel like you have to duplicate Canvas support. We want you to be there to help answer questions to the best of your ability, point people to resources and guides in the community, and help users make progress towards their goals (even if that means helping them create a support ticket.)

 

“Answering questions and solving problems is a key to my own professional development. If I do not know the answer, I take the time to explore the possibilities during the session,” encourages Gregory Beyrer, Canvas Advocate who has already hosted over 40 virtual office hours in the Canvas community since 2017. “Through those interactions, I have discovered new ways of doing things and hopefully helped others.”

 

Any tips?

 

There isn’t a right or wrong way to host virtual office hours. But if you want to avoid being “Zoom-bombed” or ensure you don’t share the wrong screen, here are a few suggestions:

 

  • Use video conferencing technology with which you are most familiar. People should be able to hear and see you, clearly. Ensure that participants can join easily and securely, if possible (i.e. enable waiting room in Zoom, know how to kick people out who aren’t appropriate, etc.)
  • Stay online the entire time. Even if no one shows up, keep your event open the entire scheduled time. You never know who might show up later in the session. Multi-task if you wish, but don’t end early.
  • Share the time with a colleague. If you don’t want to go at it alone, tag-team with another colleague. At least, if no one shows up, you have some time to catch up.
  • Double-book with your school. If you already host virtual office hours at your school, consider opening up one of those sessions to the wider Canvas community. (Or vice versa - if you’re hosting an event here, let your faculty know, as well.)
  • Avoid recording the session. These sessions are not meant for public consumption. People are coming to seek help in real-time (and sometimes that’s easier than articulating their question as a Q&A). Respect their privacy.

 

Some faculty are developing new Canvas courses. Other Canvas admins are helping schools wrap up their semesters. Sometimes all we need is to talk through our Canvas journey with a friendly face.

 

Keep helping each other!

 

We’ve been sheltering in place and practicing social distancing anywhere between one and three months, as of this post. In addition to our work responsibilities, many of us have also added unexpected tasks to our to-do lists. And in an effort to survive this storm, we all continue to gravitate to the things that ground us. 

 

What is calming me at the moment is cleaning. No, not the “re-organizing my garage” or “decluttering the storage closet”- kind of cleaning. I’m purging digital stuff. Old emails. Outdated files types that don’t even open. You name it, I’m deleting it.

 

Click. Empty Trash. Byeeee!

 

So, when the Community Team asked me to “clean up” the CanvasLIVE space, of course, I agreed without hesitation.

 

Surface ‘Essential’ Content

 

Purging digital content isn’t a mere “select-all-and-delete” approach. You have to look at the resource and determine its impact: how many views, comments, bookmarks, and so forth. Part of what makes any content in the community relevant is both how timely and timeless it is. 

 

In CanvasLIVE, we wanted to remove the things that were no longer applicable and surface the things that were. So, we came up with a criterion for the things that should stay.

  • All content from August 2017 to present. Community Team will review this content later this year.
  • Any content related to past Instructure-hosted events. We realize content from InstructureCons or CanvasCons is often referenced internally and externally. These links will remain intact.
  • Any content that shares best practices. Despite the fact that features are regularly updated or UI/UX changes over time, some concepts or ideas shared still hold value.

 

In our commitment to avoid deleting content from the community, anything that did not meet the above criteria has gone to Cold Storage.

 

More Real-Time Connections, Less Recorded Content

 

Next, we wanted to establish revised criteria for creating future CanvasLIVE events. One of the things we had observed about virtual meetings (despite the Zoom-fails and video-conferencing flops) was how easily it kept us connected. A virtual coffee chat with a colleague or a fun game night with some friends never involved an agenda or preparation (or recordings). It just required you to be present.

 

Similarly, CanvasLIVE events shouldn’t always need a slide deck, a new idea, or a best practice to share. Just show up! In an effort to emphasize connection over content, face-time over footage, CanvasLIVE ‘event types’ have been updated to include more informal events. 

 

  • Twitter Chats
  • Meetups
  • Fireside Chats *new*
  • Edutainment *new*
  • Office Hours *new*
  • Canvas Talk *new*

 

Click to learn more about ‘event types’ in detail.

 

Same Mission, Better Feng Shui

 

Every once in a while, a deep digital cleaning is warranted. But along the way, it’s also nice to change a few icons, swap in a cool background, and move folders around. Am I right? If there were such a thing as digital feng shui, then perhaps we’ve achieved that with our new space design, too.

 

I re-read a really old blog post from 2016 about CanvasLIVE when working on this project (cuz that’s what happens when you look in sub-spaces and click archived links). The following sentence from that four-year-old post still resonates with me today.

 

At the end of the day, we're all just surviving, designing and refining our Canvas best practices... and what better way to do that than together with friends by your side.

 

The Canvas Community always finds a way to adapt and grow to meet the needs of our members. Right now, CanvasLIVE is a place where you can meet people, help each other troubleshoot issues, and share your knowledge... in real-time.

 

 

See y'all soon in a future CanvasLIVE event...

 

Biray