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5 Posts authored by: Champion

In this blog, I'll explain how our College uses a custom "Viewer" role in conjunction with "master" courses. This blog expands on part of a Twitter chat conversation I hosted on Tuesday, February 14, 2017 called #CanvasChat: Managing Masters. But first, some background...


At MPTC, my team (Instructional Technology) gets approved course curriculum from our Instructional Designer/Curriculum department to build into the LMS. We take the course curriculum built in WIDS (an online curriculum building tool) and put it into the LMS. For the most part, our team builds the curriculum for our faculty and adjuncts so it is ready for them to teach at the beginning of the semester. Most of our instructors do not build their own curriculum into the LMS themselves. One of the reasons for this is to have a consistent "look" and "feel" for the courses that we that students have a general idea of where they need to go to access parts of their course. If instructors build content on their own, there is high chance that course "A" will look different than course "B", and students would have to figure out where to navigate around the course. We wanted to avoid that. Additionally, we found that this consistency also has helped our retention rates.


When we moved to Canvas, we wanted to mimic a similar setup we had with our previous LMS, Pearson eCollege’s LearningStudio, by way of Canvas Permissions. We decided to create a custom role (How do I create course-level roles in an account?) called Viewer. This new role was based on the "Teacher" Base Type. (This was the only way we found that instructors could import content from a "master" course.) For our Viewer custom role, we turned off almost all permissions, but we kept the following turned on:


  • Create student collaborations
  • Create web conferences
  • Moderate Grades
  • Post to discussions
  • See the list of users
  • Send messages to individual course members
  • View announcements
  • View discussions


Some of these permissions might not really apply, but that's what we've got set right now. The custom Viewer role can only view a course. Instructors assigned this role in a “master’ course cannot make any edits to the course content.


We work with our Deans and their Administrative Assistants to determine who gets access to “master” courses in Canvas. In general, we typically have one full-time faculty member (sometimes two or three) who is the person responsible for keeping a course up-to-date in Canvas. This person is assigned the Teacher role in the “master” course. Then, other faculty and adjuncts in the same program area are enrolled in the “master” course with the Viewer role. This allows for collaboration among the team. Based on student and instructor feedback, an instructor with Viewer rights can talk with the instructor who maintains the “master” to make any suggested or needed changes to the course.


If you choose to do something similar at your school/institution, be aware of one minor thing. When instructors are enrolled in "master" courses and then look at their "Courses" >> "All Courses" screen, they will currently NOT see the custom name that was created by the admin. Instead, they will see Teacher listed under the Enrolled as column. I submitted a Feature Idea about this issue in April 2015, but it's been put on Product Radar (New Ideation Stage: Product Radar): Custom Role Name on "View All or Customize" screen.

Each Monday I post a Global Announcement listing the up-coming CanvasLIVE sessions that are happening for that week.  I have noticed over the past few weeks that several CanvasLIVE events are being streamed over YouTube.  This got me thinking yesterday...  Can I embed a streaming CanvasLIVE event using the YouTube LTI in a Global Announcement?  The answer...yes!


(This may work for other non-YouTube websites...though I've never YMMV.)


  1. Make sure the YouTube LTI is added at the account level of your Canvas instance.
  2. Go to a CanvasLIVE event page such as Google LTI Series: Accessing Your Assets 
  3. Navigate to the YouTube link given for the event, and then highlight/copy the title.
  4. When creating your Global Announcement in the back-end admin pages of Canvas, select the YouTube button in the RCE, and paste in the YouTube title (or I believe you can even paste in the YouTube URL) in the search box.
  5. Embed the YouTube video on your announcement.


You may want to include a note along with your announcement that users will need to click on the "Play" button for the video in order to start watching.  Also, after the session is over, the recordings are immediately available via the same YouTube URL.  Since I just started trying this yesterday, I set the global announcement to display five minutes prior to the start of the CanvasLIVE session and then end 15 minutes after the scheduled time ... in case the session runs over the scheduled time.

funny-trivia-questions.jpgUpdated: March 1, 2019

Clarified the formatting of "Matching" question types.


If you currently create quizzes in Canvas manually (question by question), there is a quicker solution: Respondus 4.0: Exam Authoring Tool.  (This is a paid product, so you'd need to check with the appropriate people at your school to see if purchasing is an option.  At our Technical College, we only have a few licensed copies for people in our department.)  The Respondus software allows you to batch-upload multiple quiz/test/exam questions contained in a single file to the software.  Those questions are then uploaded into a Canvas course.  For those of you who already have Respondus or for those of you who are thinking of purchasing...this blog will attempt to give you examples of how to properly format files that Respondus can "read".


When we get quiz/test/exam questions from our faculty to put into Canvas, I prefer to create these questions in either Microsoft Notepad or WordPad.  If the questions don't have any special text formatting, then Notepad works great!  I save these files as *.txt files.  However, if questions have simple formatting that needs to be included (bold, italics, underlining, subscript, superscript, etc.), then WordPad can tackle that for you.  I save these files as *.rtf files.


Before creating the files, though, you need to make sure that you have a few basic things:

  • Questions
  • Answer Key
  • Number of points per question


Now that you have these things, you can begin creating your file(s).

Even though Canvas Quizzes have multiple types of questions you can create, the question types that Respondus recognizes is more limited.


There are two different ways to format it's really your decision on which method you prefer.  In either case, you'll want to make sure that your formatting is consistent throughout the file. For example, there should be one line of space between the end of one question and the beginning of the next.

Example 1

All questions in this example use a period after the question numbers and possible answer choices (though you could also use a closed parentheses instead as shown in Example 2 below).  There should be a single space between the period and the start of the question or possible answer.  Correct answers are indicated with an asterisk.

For Question #1, instead of "True" and "False" as your answer choices, you could also use "T" and "F" (without the quotes).  Canvas will automatically detect it as a True/False question type even though the question Type is not specified.

1. Albert Michelson determined the exact speed of light?

*a. True

b. False

For Question #2, Canvas will automatically detect it as a Multiple Choice question type even though the question Type is not specified.

2. Who determined the exact speed of light?

a. Albert Einstein

*b. Albert Michelson

c. Thomas Edison

d. Guglielmo Marconi

For Question #3, Type: MA needs to be included before the start of the question to tell Respondus this is a Multiple Answer question...compared to question #2 which only has one correct answer.  You can also use MR (Multiple Response) as your Type.

Type: MA

3. How many of the given shapes consist of at least three angles? (Select all that apply.)

*a. triangle

*b. square

c. circle

*d. trapezoid

For Question #4, Type: F needs to be included before the start of the question to tell Respondus this is a Fill In the Blank question type.  The possible correct answers are listed below.

Type: F

4. Who is known as the "father of television"?

a. Zworykin

b. Vladimir Zworykin

c. Vladimir Kosma Zworykin

For Question #5, Type: MT needs to be included before the start of the question to tell Respondus this is a Matching question.


Also, it's been my experience that putting the definition first and then your term second is the better way to go.  Once loaded in Canvas, your students will have a drop-down list of terms to choose from rather than seeing a drop-down list of (potentially) long definitions.



a. A large bearlike mammal with characteristic black and white markings, native to certain mountain forests in China, and feeds almost entirely on bamboo. = Panda

Type: MT

5. Match the correct name to the discovery or theory.

a. Michelson-Morely = Speed of light

b. Einstein = Theory of Relativity

c. Marconi = radio waves

For Question #6, Type: E needs to be included before the start of the question to tell Respondus this is an Essay question.  There isn't a "correct" answer with this question type.

Type: E

6. How is the Michelson-Morely experiment related to Albert Einstein's theory of relativity?


Example 2

All questions in this example use a closed parentheses after the question numbers and answer choices (though you could also use a period instead as shown in Example 1 above)There should be a single space between the closed parentheses and the start of the question or possible answer.  Correct answers are NOT indicated alongside the questions.  They will appear at the end of the file.


Refer to Example 1 (above) if you have questions about the Type lines.

1) Albert Michelson determined the exact speed of light?

a) True

b) False


2) Who determined the exact speed of light?

a) Albert Einstein

b) Albert Michelson

c) Thomas Edison

d) Guglielmo Marconi


Type: MA

3) How many of the given shapes consist of at least three angles? (Select all that apply.)

a) triangle

b) square

c) circle

d) trapezoid


Type: F

4) Who is known as the "father of television"?


Type: MT

5) Match the correct name to the discovery or theory.

a) Michelson-Morely = Speed of light

b) Einstein = Theory of Relativity

c) Marconi = radio waves


Type: E

6) How is the Michelson-Morely experiment related to Albert Einsteins theory of relativity?


At the end of the file, Answers: indicates the start of the answer key for the quiz/test/exam.


  • For question #1, you can also specify the "correct" answer as "T" for "True" or "F" for "False"...or use the actual words "True" or "False" (without the quotes).
  • For question #3, you can also enter the correct answers as: "A,B,D" or "A B D" (without the quotes).
  • For question #4, each possible "correct" answer is listed separately.


1. A

2. B

3. A, B, D

4. Zworykin

4. Vladimir Zworykin

4. Vladimir Kosma Zworykin




Finally, there is a way to include feedback for your questions which shows up after the quiz/test/exam has been taken.


Example 1

General feedback can be imported by placing the tilde ~ symbol in front of the feedback for a correct answer (see green "Correct answer comments" box below).  The @ symbol can be used to indicate the feedback for incorrect answers (see red "Wrong answer comments" box below).  There must be one space between the @ or ~ symbol and the start of your feedback.  A blue "General answer comments" box is also included in the Canvas interface, but I haven't found a way to include that in my text files at this time.  So, I manually typed in that feedback after I uploaded the questions to Canvas.  


General Feedback


You can also combine this method of feedback with the method described in Example 2 below.


3) Who determined the exact speed of light?

~ Yes. Albert Michelson won the Nobel Prize for Physics for determining the exact speed of light.

@ No. The correct answer is Albert Michelson, who won the 1907 Nobel Prize for Physics for determining the exact speed of light.

a. Albert Einstein

*b) Albert Michelson

c) Thomas Edison

d. Guglielmo Marconi




Example 2

To import feedback for individual answer choices, place the feedback immediately after the answer choice and begin the line with the @ symbol.  There must be one space between the @ symbol and the start of your feedback.


You can also combine this method of feedback with the method described in Example 1 above.

3) Who determined the exact speed of light?

a. Albert Einstein

@ No. Albert Michelson determined the exact speed of light.

*b) Albert Michelson

@ Yes. Albert Michelson won the Nobel Prize for Physics for determining the exact speed of light.

c) Thomas Edison

@ No, Thomas Edison did not determine the exact speed of light.

d. Guglielmo Marconi

@ No. Marconi did not discover the exact speed of light, but he did win the Nobel Prize for Physics for his work with radio waves.


These are the basic question types that I have used the most.  If you know of other types that also work in the Respondus software, feel free to comment. 




In part of this discussion thread, Is it possible to import quiz questions with feedback for each response using Respondus?, Tara Bunag and Elizabeth (Online Learning) Jackson discuss adding images to quizzes via MS Word documents.  I won't repeat the information they've already shared here in this blog, but I will share how this can be accomplished using either Notepad (*.txt files) or Microsoft Wordpad (*.rtf files).


To start, make sure that any images you use are JPG, JPEG, or GIF formats.  These images should be stored in a folder you create on your computer.  For the below example, I will included an image of Kermit the Frog in the question.  The image name is Kermit.jpg.  Now we can begin to create our questions in Notepad or Microsoft Wordpad.  Here's an example question with several areas of feedback for students once the quiz has been taken:

  • Highlighting is my own.
  • The first line with the Title is optional.
  • The second "Kermit" (shown in blue) in the question is supposed to be for the ALT text for the image, but in my own testing, this hasn't transferred over from Respondus to Canvas.

Title: Muppets
1) Which Muppet is pictured here? [img: "Kermit.jpg" "Kermit"]
~ Yes, this is Kermit.
@ No, this is not Kermit. Kermit is green in color. You picked a Muppet who isn't green.
a. Gonzo
@ This is not Kermit. This is his weirdo friend, Gonzo.
*b. Fozzie
@ This isn't Kermit. This is his bear friend, Fozzie.
c. Kermit
@ Yes, this is Kermit the Frog.
d. Miss Piggy
@ No. This is Miss Piggy.

Make sure that you specify both the File name location of your quiz file AND the Image Folder location...otherwise Respondus will not upload the file for you.



Once you have uploaded your quiz to Canvas via Respondus, you'll probably be curious as to where your image got stored in your course.  Head on over to your course Files area.  Find and open up a new folder in there called Quiz Files.

The Quiz Files folder (and all sub-folders within it) folder is set to "Hidden. Available with a link."

Next, open up the qti_import_NNNNN folder where NNNNN is a five digit number.  Your image(s) should be in this folder.


As a final note, you may want to check over your quiz that you just uploaded to Canvas to make sure any images you included are positioned correctly within the questions.


Here's the final result:


Student Perspective

Muppets Quiz 1

Instructor Perspective

Muppet Quiz Choices

newsletter.jpgI'll start off this blog post by stating that I am not, by any means, an expert in creating professional looking newsletters.


I decided to start sending out a newsletter to our full-time faculty and adjuncts via e-mail this semester.  To date, we've sent out five newsletters...each being sent out within 2 to 2 1/2 weeks of each other.  I've been creating these in Microsoft Outlook using tables and themed colors and fonts.  For the most part, they have turned out pretty nice...though I've had some difficulties with table cells wanting to re-size on their own even after I've set a specific percentage for them.


I'm sure there are other ways to make e-mail newsletters, and I'm sure there are some free templates I could have found somewhere (Anyone?  Anyone?  Bueller?  Bueller?), but I've been choosing to start from scratch each time since I may not use the same table layout from newsletter to newsletter.


Here are some things that have worked for me so far:


  • Overall table width set between 75% to 80% of your screen.
  • Use PNG images when you want the colored background of a table cell to show behind an image (as shown in the screen shot of our school's logo).
  • When there are separate sections of content, consider displaying those with different background colors.
  • Don't use background and font colors that will clash.  For example, red text on a blue background hurts my eyes to look at. 
  • Pick topics that are relevant/current.  For example, we recently enabled Canvas Commons, so our second newsletter focused specifically on that.
  • Have a place where you keep an "archive" of your newsletter for people to read.  For us, we keep an archived newsletter in our "Canvas Resources" shell.  Basically, we set up a Canvas course to hold a bunch of helpful information for our instructors.  We made it "publicly visible" so that our faculty/adjuncts can access it at any time without needing to login.


I would be interesting in reading about how you send out newsletters at your school.  Also, if you think there are easier ways to do newsletters, I'm all for that, too! 

I've been working with one of our instructors for several months and helping him with Groups he's got set up in his course.  One of the challenges he's had is there isn't an easy way to find the student groups links from an instructor's point of view compared to a student's perspective.  Instructors must go through the People tab of a course, click on the tab for the Group Set, and then click on the cog wheel to the right of a Group name to Visit Group Homepage.


But I discovered a work-around.  It's possible to enroll a person in a course with two different role types.  So, I did some testing in our "Test" environment.  The instructor was already enrolled as the Teacher, so I enrolled him in the same course as a Student, too.  Then, I masqueraded as the instructor, logged in to his course, and added him to the student group he had created.  After refreshing the course page, I saw the result of what I was hoping for.  These marked areas aren't normally displayed from an instructor's view in Canvas.




There are a couple potential downsides that I can see with this, however.


  1. You are now a member of one or more groups in that course...initially meant for students.
  2. You are now listed as a student in the Gradebook.


Maybe these aren't big deals, but I thought it would be good to point them out.


Our instructor created this Feature Idea (open for voting until August 5th), Same Groups view for instructor and students, where I posted much of what I've written here.  The main purpose of his Feature Idea is to have an easy way for instructors to access groups in the same way that students can...without having to be "dual enrolled".


EDIT (08/26/2015): I had used the above process to "dual enroll" one of our instructors in his "Economics" courses.  He was also using the Pearson MyLabs LTI app.  He contacted me saying that, inside of the "My Labs and Mastering" button, he was unable to access some of the MyLabs screens he was used to seeing so he could connect his MyLabs content back to Canvas.  After some troubleshooting with Pearson tech support, the instructor told me it was because I had "dual enrolled" him as a Teacher and a Student.  Once I dropped him from the courses, sent him re-invites to the courses, and he "Accepted" the invites, he was able to complete the necessary setup of MyEcon Lab with Canvas.  I don't know if this will also be the case with other LTIs that look at the role type, but I'm posting this information just in case.


EDIT (03/03/2016): There is a new feature idea here: Simplify access to Group Homepage for Teachers


EDIT (09/26/2016): Today Mark Anthoney posted a hidden gem that I was not aware of on how to easily switch between groups within a Canvas course.  Mind blown!



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