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2020

“COVID-19 didn’t produce any new gaps, it just showed us the true impact of existing gaps.” -Ji Soo Song, Senior Policy and Advocacy Associate at ISTE

 

Tracy Weeks, Executive Director of State Partnerships at Instructure, recently sat down (virtually) with leaders from ISTE, CoSN, SETDA, and Foresight Law & Policy to discuss key components of the CARES Act and how it can best support instructional continuity and equitable access in K-12 education. 

 

We invite you to read Tracy's blog post where you can learn more about the panel discussion, view the on-demand webinar, and find more resources supporting state and district leaders as they navigate the CARES Act. 

Assessment will be more important than ever...

Live Webinar, May 19th, 12:00pm EDT

With twenty-five percent of the previous year's content getting delivered via remote learning, and with no-end-of-year testing scores to reference for student performance, how will districts prepare for Fall 2020? To better personalize learning during this unprecedented time, schools should look to develop a strong assessment strategy that informs teaching and learning at all levels to mitigate learning loss the best they can.

Join this webinar on May 19th, 12:00pm EDT, and learn how schools can: 

  •    Leverage a simple framework for improving communication and assessment processes.
  •    Take a data-driven approach to monitor student learning, while proactively providing intervention strategies.
  •    Support teachers, provide world-class professional development opportunities, and increase collaboration district-wide. 
  •    Streamline the development of curriculum or assessment maps at the district, school or teacher level.

Don't miss out on the opportunity to get your students on track for this upcoming school year.

Register for the Webinar

 

In Part 1 we explored best practices, practical tips, and considerations for creating online assessments.  In this Part 2, we’re focusing on the assessment itself and the provisions that can be put in place to ensure that online assessments run smoothly.

Consideration 1: Will Canvas be able to handle this?

In short - yes!  Canvas can automatically scale to address increased needs imposed by COVID-19 and then again heightened by assessment periods, or indeed by any other situation that might require an increased use of the platform.  From more users, to more assessments, to more simultaneous access, Canvas will scale.  And we have.  In March 2020 alone, millions of users used Canvas around the world, we saw an 85% YOY increase in learners accessing the platform simultaneously, and through it all we maintained 99.9% uptime.

For more information, and solid reassurance on how Canvas will scale, take a look at the following blogs that have been written throughout COVID-19.

 

While Canvas has proved it is up to the task, technology is only as good as its users.  There are important steps we can all take to ensure that students, teachers, and everyone involved in the process are suitably prepared for a successful online assessment context.

Proactive Support 

Empower everyone involved in assessments by clearly communicating both the expectations and support options available to them.  Students need to know where to find their assessments, how to complete them, and what to do if they need support at any point of the assessment period.  Teachers need to know how to create assessments (if they are required to do so), as well as how they can access support with the transition to and management of online assessments.  

 

Once you have decided on the workflows and resources you would like to provide for students and teachers on how they can gain support, communicate this clearly so that everyone is empowered with access to the correct, relevant information.  This could be achieved with a Global Announcement, differentiated by user so that Teachers and Students see the information that is pertinent to them on their Canvas Dashboard.  Additionally, customise the Help Menu to prioritise relevant assessment support available.

 

 

 

When considering support resources, make the most of existing resources to both provide and communicate these support options.  Use the existing Canvas Guides to provide students and teachers with ‘how-tos’ for completing assessment activities within Canvas.  These guides include screenshots alongside comprehensive, step-by-step instructions and best of all, we keep them up to date so that you can have complete confidence that they will always provide accurate information.  

 

You may also have additional internal support resources such as student experience, learning support, or ICT department telephone or email addresses.  For Teachers who will be creating their own assessments, training provisions need to be considered so that Teachers are able to make informed decisions about how to use the available tools.

 

Taking proactive support measures empowers students and teachers with the information they need to achieve a successful assessment experience, and can minimise the need for reactive support at the time of assessment itself.

Practice Makes Perfect!

Provide students with the opportunity for a trial run.  If they will be taking a Quiz, create a practice Quiz and include different Question Types that will be used during the real assessment.  Questions could even be related to the process of how to complete the assessment, reinforcing understanding of the workflow. If students will be submitting an Assignment, create a test Assignment and ask students to practice accessing and submitting the Assignment.   Make these practice assessments available ahead of the real assessment, so that students have plenty of opportunity to ensure they know how to complete their assessment when the time comes.

Consideration 2: Providing Time Parameters 

All assessments require students to complete a given task within a certain time frame.  There are various ways to replicate this on Canvas depending on the type of time parameter required.

Deadline for Submission 

If you have a specific date and time that an assessment must be completed by, add this as the Due Date in any Assignment or Quiz.  Canvas will still accept submissions (for Assignments) and allow attempts (for Quizzes) after the due date, though they will be identified as late to both the student and the teacher.  Adding an Until Date can be a helpful way to replicate any existing policies you may have around late submissions (i.e. late submissions will be accepted for up to 1 week after the deadline with a penalty applied during the grading process).  The Until Date prevents Canvas from accepting any submissions or attempts after this date.

 

 

Timed Assessment

For assessments that have specified start and end times (such as exams), there are two methods for facilitation in Canvas.  For exams using the Quiz tool, a time limit can be applied to each attempt.  For all Assignments, we can add an Available from date, which when used in combination with a due or until date creates a start and end time parameter around the assessment.  Keep in mind that setting an ‘Available From’ date will prevent students from accessing any information added to the RCE or settings applied to the Assignment.

 

 

There may be information about the assessment that you would like students to have access to ahead of the Availability Dates, such as what resources they might require or how long they will have to complete the assessment.  A great way to do this is using an Announcement.  Not only will this be easily accessible to students from within the Course, but it will also trigger a notification via their chosen notification preferences.  The release of the Announcement can also be coupled with a delayed posting, effectively providing a timed release of this assessment information.

 

Scheduled Release of Assessment(s) and/or Resources

Where there are multiple pieces of assessment content that you would like to be released at a specific time, use the Lock Until feature within Modules to schedule the release.  This will allow students to see only the title for each piece of content before this time, providing them with the reassurance that they know where to find their assessment content as well as the exact time they will be made available to them.

 

 

This feature is useful particularly when there are multiple assessment points opening at the same time.  Do keep in mind that if you have added any Files within the Module or RCE that these could still be accessible from the Files tab if this is available to students within the Course.  Make sure to add availability dates to the files that match your assessment if this is the case.

Consideration 3: Exam Integrity 

As with all assessments, we want each student to make an authentic submission.  Canvas has partnerships with a variety of tools that can provide plagiarism checks and proctoring solutions.  Explore how many of our partners are here to support you through these extraordinary times, or talk to your Customer Success Manager for more information on appropriate solutions.  Meanwhile if you are delivering your assessment with a Quiz, take a look at this detailed resource exploring the variety of inbuilt settings available to maximise security.

 

As with in-person exams, occasionally situations may arise during the assessment where responsive action is required.  The Moderate the Quiz panel allows us to monitor student progress during the quiz, as well as give extra time or attempts to individual students should this be required in response to any given situation (perhaps the student had a connectivity issue for example).  We can even manually submit any outstanding attempts should students forget to do this, allowing the grading process to continue without delay.  Though if a time limit has been applied, Canvas will do this automatically once the set time has passed.

Keep In Mind

“The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”

 

As educators, we are all too aware that even the most well planned in-person assessment can be impacted by unforeseen circumstances.  Adverse weather can lead to rescheduling, an on campus event can lead to a distracted cohort, or a forgotten resource can impact a students’ ability to access material.  Technology will never entirely remove the risk of unforeseen circumstances, but we can certainly make ourselves aware of the potential risk factors and mitigate them as best we can.

 

  • Will students have a device and sufficient internet access to enable them to access the assessment? Providing trial runs and practice assessments can help to spot these potential issues.

  • What if something happens to a students’ device or internet connection during an assessment? In an in-person environment, a student would raise their hand to inform an invigilator - provide students with a suitable alternative workflow when they are working in a remote setting (refer to the Proactive Support section for ideas on how to communicate this with students)

  • How will IT staff be able to support multiple teachers and assessments remotely if incidents occur? Consider staggering start times and deadlines to allow internal support to be available and responsive at these key crunch times if required.

Just as you might have policies in place for how to respond to unforeseen circumstances in an in-person context, have policies ready for how you will respond with unforeseen circumstances in an online context.  Share these clearly with students, and as always apply them with parity as best as possible.

Summary

One of the best ways we can respond to change is to embrace it.  The current context is forcing us to adapt in many different ways, from how we shop for groceries to how we effectively provide opportunities for assessment.  Understanding the tools available to us can enable us to make informed decisions about how to best facilitate assessment within the new context that we find ourselves.  The method we use may have to change, but hopefully these blogs have given you ideas for how you can continue to achieve the intended end goal.

 

Contingency Planning

Read More Contingency Planning Blogs

by Michael Freedman

 

The advantages of online meetings are to save travel time, convenience, and flexibility while retaining or augmenting the benefits of group interactivity. For interactivity, we need engagement; for engagement, we need encouragement and trust.  A one-way webinar is not a lot better than a video or a one-to-many lecture. Here are some points to consider in developing and running an interactive online meeting.

 

Development

 

Leverage time together for interactivity and sophisticated communications. Ask your participants to prepare in advance. Be clear on what this means: what they should come equipped with, and what should they be prepared to do.

 

Minimize large group time, maximize small group time. Large group time is for opening comments and announcements, setting the tone and agenda, for sharing results of small group efforts, wrap-up, and follow-up. Replace lectures and one-to-many instruction and guidance with pre-work sent in advance.

 

Group management. Small group models suggest optimum group sizes are 5-9.  If this is a short ad hoc session, try less, perhaps 3-5. Use break-out sessions or hold multiple meetings if that’s what it takes.

Present structured activities and conversations with targeted outcomes; and be flexible if those outcomes evolve as this is the point of having people work things over: to develop the thinking.

 

Provide timeframes for working sessions with the Goldilocks model: not too short and not too long. Provide enough time for all to participate, along with a deadline to drive action. Most of the small group working sessions will have specific tasks that can be addressed in five – twenty minutes.  If the working session agenda is long, use multiple working sessions.

 

Have an end game.  What are you seeking to accomplish, and what will you do with the results?

If you have unstructured conversations, then make that distinction and ask folks to come with some thoughts on the topic to be discussed.

 

Have two leaders: One focuses on content delivery (short and succinct) and the other on the chat and looking at participants to get an idea of their engagement. This person then “presents” next. One can play the role of synthesizing with help from the group.

 

Consider a group participation agreement, formal or informal, depending on the group.

 

Include an opening round-robin so that everyone has a chance to say something – this will “break the ice,’ and set the tone for full participation.  Make sure opening is on topic and relevant, not a timewaster.

 

Plan carefully to avoid time-zone and cultural snafus.

 

Use easy-to-use technology and make sure you know how to use it. Offer to train participants in advance.

 

Operations

 

Be consistent with your start time protocol and start on time. Consider an “unofficial” start time where folks can get set up and say hello.  But start on time.

 

As the leader, show up early and kick off the conversations. Get people comfortable and participating. Try the “one-word” exercise: share a word that reflects how you are and what’s going on.

 

Let the group know your preferences for interaction. Do you want questions as they arise or at the end?  By voice or text?

 

Keep a roster of participants and take notes on crucial contributions, factoids, and follow-ups.

 

Put on a show – prepare a solid opening, make it positive and constructive, if not joyful. Make time for people to add their ideas and modify the agenda. 

 

Don’t overuse technology. Tools should serve their purpose without getting in the way.  A show of hands might be better than an online poll.

 

Seek buy-in where possible. Buy-in engenders commitment and commitment fosters participation.

 

Allow some personal clearing and ideation; these are trust-building and tone-setting activities.

 

The downside of virtual conferencing is the limited ability to read non-verbal cues. Encourage all to use video so that expressions are readable, and to counteract the narrow “bandwidth,” slightly exaggerate your expressions and tone.

 

Wrap up

Follow-up. Distribute the results of the meeting with any action items and clear responsibilities as soon as possible following the end of the session. Keep the momentum going.

 

Thanks to the members of the Right Company for their contributions.


Developing and running online meetings take specific skills to offset cultural, technological, and internal barriers to participation.

 

Learn more about our programs:  Schools - Practical Academics 

The end of the school year is in sight, we can almost see it, just beyond that final assessment period!  Amidst the current context of COVID-19, where we are utilising online tools to enable teaching and learning more than ever,  we may need to take a different route to get there to the one we had planned.

The purpose of this blog is to support you with running online assessments in Canvas. In this Part 1 we’ll look at Creating the Assessment, and in the following Part 2 we’ll look at Facilitating the Assessment.   Wherever your starting point, from making a few adjustments to previous assessment periods, through to upscaling your entire assessment process to online for the first time, we hope this blog will provide you with helpful best practices, practical tips, and considerations to ensure your assessments run smoothly in Canvas. 

Consideration 1: Ease of Access

The workflow for students to access their assessments should be clear and easy.  We want students to be focusing on the assessment itself, and a logical navigation, simple presentation, and well chosen functionality is going to support this. 

Navigation 

Where will you place the assessments? One option could be to add them to a new Module, placing the assessments in the same Course as the teaching and learning occurred.  This could be further signposted by moving the Module to the top of the Module list, or even linked to within an Announcement (particularly useful when combined with the setting that shows recent Announcements in the Course Home Page).

 

 

Alternatively, you could create a new Course purely for assessments.  This could include only the assessments for a particular course, or if students are taking multiple Courses across the institution (for example as part of a larger programme of study), they could be coordinated into a singular assessment Course.  This could provide a secure assessment space for access to and storage of assessment artefacts (should that be required as per any existing policies).  Students would then navigate to the assessment Course from their Dashboard, and a Global Announcement could be used to signpost this workflow to all Students.

 

There are other important considerations beyond a streamlined workflow that should be taken into account when deciding on where to place your assessments:

  • Consistency - if Students and Teachers are participating in multiple Courses, navigation to assessments should be consistent across these.  
  • Communication - decide how will you let your Students (and Teachers / Graders) know where to find their assessments.
  • Grading - ensuring those involved are able to access the assessments and complete their workflows.
  • Existing Integrations - if you have any automations for creating assessments, enrolling users, or data extraction, these will of course need to be considered.

Presentation

As with all assessments, there will be information that you need to share with your students to ensure they are able to complete the assessment effectively.  If your students are going to need access to a resource during an assessment (for example a case study, an article, or a video demonstration), consider embedding this directly into the Rich Content Editor.  This allows the students to access all assessment content in one page, minimising navigation and allowing them to spend more of their time on the assessment itself over navigating between different items.

 

 

Rubrics provide an effective way to present your expectations for the assessment to students.  As well as supporting the grading process, Rubrics are visible to students as part of the Assignment or Quiz information both before and during the assessment.  This allows Rubrics to be used as an opportunity to present your expectations, guiding your students to meet the assessment criteria as best as they can before they submit the assessment.

 

Functionality

Assignments and Quizzes are two tools with functionality that support assessments.  Choosing the appropriate tool and enabling the required functionality that best meets your needs is a key component of successful assessment preparation.  Canvas has the functionality, your responsibility as a teacher or decision maker is to choose the right tool and settings that provide the required opportunity, along with as clear and simple workflow for students as possible. This leads us on to Consideration 2...

Consideration 2: Which Assessment Tool to Use?

The primary assessment tools in Canvas are Assignments and Quizzes Assignments allow students to submit artefacts that teachers can then grade and give feedback on.  Quizzes allow students to answer questions, with the additional functionality of being able to automate the grading and feedback workflow.  With this baseline functionality, there are many ways that each tool can be utilised to provide agency for a variety of assessment formats.

Assessments with specific File Types to Submit 

Perhaps you want your students to submit a particular file type - a PDF, a Word document (doc, docx), or an Excel spreadsheet (xls, xlxs) for example. If so, have Canvas carry through this requirement for you.  By restricting the file upload type, students will only be able to upload the file types that you allow. Reinforcing your expectations while preventing your students from making accidental uploads of incorrect file types.

Assessments with Multiple Artefacts to Submit 

We may need to ask students to provide multiple artefacts as part of the same assessment.  For example, a Music student may need to submit an audio file along with a pdf of the score, a Business student may need to submit a portfolio of case studies, or an Apprentice may need to provide a combination of video and written evidence from a work placement.  There are different options to consider here to facilitate an assessment with multiple submissions required:

 

  • When a variety of ‘Submission Types’ is required, the preferred workflow may be to Duplicate the AssignmentEnabling the relevant Submission Type in each Assignment and using a clear naming convention will support your students to understand what is required for each Assignment.  This option may be preferred for assessments that require video as part of their submission, as the video can be embedded and therefore previewed in the SpeedGrader for ease of grading workflows. It can also allow for a different Rubric and/or grading schemes per submission, should that be of use in the grading process.


  • Quizzes also can also be used to allow for submission of multiple artefacts.  Using a combination of Essay and File Upload question types, a question can be added for each artefact required.  This can provide a clear framework for students, and Quiz functionality such as adding a time limit to the attempt may be beneficial.  However, do consider the implication on the grading process, as the SpeedGrader has less functionality when Files are uploaded via a quiz.

Assessments usually taken on Paper or presented to a Panel

There are, and always will be, aspects of assessment that do not easily translate to an online format.  In Mathematics, the ‘workings out’ are often more important than the final answer itself.  For language, we need to assess the spoken as well as the written technique.  Or in Performing Arts, demonstrating a specific skill visually is often required.  For these cases, remember that Canvas can just as easily accept media submissions.  Using the ‘Text Entry’ submission method,  photographs, voice recordings, and videos can easily be submitted from the browser on a laptop or even the app on a mobile phone.

 

For assessments usually taken as a formal exam, there are many settings within Quizzes that can be used to manage the student experience.  In particular, you may wish to consider adding a time limit, multiple attempts, showing one question at a time, locking after answering, and when the students will be able to see the correct answers.

 

 

Consideration 3: Accommodations for Students 

When conducting assessments there is often a need to differentiate the experience to make sure that all students have fair access.  For all assessments we can use the Assign To box to assign students with different availability dates, due dates, or different assignments entirely.  In Quizzes, we can also give additional time or attempts to individual students.  These accommodations should be set up before the assessments are accessible to students, to ensure that students are aware of the correct parameters pertaining to their own assessment experience.

Practice Makes Perfect!

One of my favourite tools in Canvas is the Student View as it allows us to view and experience our course as our students do.  In the case of assessments, this means that we can check the workflow for our students is logical, functional, and matches the intentions we had when we created the assessment.  Use the student view to test run your assessment, and remember there’s always the option to trial this in the test environment first if you’d prefer to keep content unpublished at this point.

 

These are just a few considerations and suggestions for Creating Assessments in Canvas.  Stay tuned for Part 2,  where we’ll take a look at Facilitating the Assessment.  

 

For now, we’d love to hear from you - what are your thoughts about these suggestions? What are your tips for managing assessments in Canvas?

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