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Here are five:


5. Complete the course set up.  In addition to the content this involves setting due dates, adding supplemental resources, and a review of standard communications such as welcome announcements and grading feedback mechanisms.  For example, am I fully leveraging all the tools that I can?  Is there a best practice I've been missing out on?  Have any nifty new feature been released yet to be discovered?


4. Read up on current events in my field: Computer Science.  While the words of Dante's Inferno, the Pythagorean Theorem, and the atomic weight of Silicon are not changing between terms, chances are there is news pertaining to consumer technology, network security, privacy laws, nanotechnology, and much more than I need to know about in order to ensure for meaningful discussions.


3. Throw the Wild card.  Each term I like to try something new.  It can be a new method of interacting, a new resource to help the students, or applying something I've picked up from a peer.  It can be basic and sort of low-key or quite spectacular.  For example, a few years ago I dropped the publisher materials and adopted open source content.


2. Learn about my students.  During introductions ask questions and make connections.  Also, make every effort to personalize the course via inclusion of brief video segments and more.


1. Ensure I've added variety to my reward system.  While this certainly applies to student feedback and acknowledgement of their masterpieces, this is more about my personal reward system.  Once grading is complete for the week we need to recharge and reconnect. There are many ways to do this and I've found the best approach is variety.  Also, grading is such a sedentary activity so when I am complete I get up and go places.  For example...




1. Take care of ME!

This means scheduling a vacation in late July/early August that involves my camera, my tent, and myself. This year it was Acadia National Park. Getting away and out into nature helps me re-center and come back refreshed and re-focused. Absolutely essential if I'm to get through the hectic season!


2. Course Design (or Redesign)

I'm not just a Canvas Admin - I am also an adjunct instructor. I know that this dual role means I won't have time to do any quality course design once Mid-August rolls around. Having all my ducks in a row and having my course built out in Canvas for the entire semester means less stress and last-minute scrambling all semester long.


3. New Faculty Orientation

Faculty new to our campus need a little extra help. This year we provided a separate new faculty orientation that focused on pedagogy as well as campus resources. We made sure they knew about Canvas and where to find help as they designed their courses in Canvas.


4. Update our Support

This means double checking our support sites for both faculty and students and making sure we have the most up-to-date information according to the latest Canvas updates.


5. Two-a-Days

No, not football practice, but SIS uploads! We (OK, I) run queries of the data in our Student Information System and create CSV files for course, faculty users, student users, faculty enrollments, and student enrollments that we use to populate Canvas. Beginning a week before the semester and continuing until the Add/Drop deadline, I run the enrollments twice a day. I also make sure the courses are in Canvas and faculty are enrolled as soon as the Registrar has that information in the system. This process has cut down the amount of calls and emails we get about "where is my course?".

1. Prep. Before the end of the previous semester we're already prepping for the next one. [A meeting between our front desk, tech support, IDs, and admins.] There's another meeting the week before and one the week after classes start just to make sure everything is going smoothly.


2. Check. We make sure everything is ready. File runs are flipped to the next semester.


3. Support. Our support office offers extended hours and open labs for faculty who need help.


4. Help support our Special Programs area (non-academic course like virtual orientation and ferpa training).


5. Snackfest. Take a moment to have a break. We setup a room and everyone brings food. It's all day grazing on the first day of classes but it allows everyone a moment to take a breather and walk away from their desk. And, enjoy the yummy snacks.

5 things

Posted by Sep 15, 2015

Give teachers an apple, give them support and competence development in relation to new features in Canvas.

Support teachers using Canvas against the institution's educational perspective.

Creating courses and enrollment of students ready


... It was three things... I think to have fun and work together on the creation of Cool courses with innovative teaching activities, but it takes more than two things to get it set up.


From an innovative teacher and developer

5 Things

Posted by Administrator Sep 13, 2015

Before I worked for a software company, I worked in the community and technical college system of Washington State.  Nine and a half of those years, I worked at Lower Columbia College.  My most rewarding years at LCC were spent in the eLearning office, helping students and teachers use technology for teaching and learning. So, while I wasn't a teacher, I got to help people get ready for a healthy start to their year.


Five things that we did to help students at the beginning of each term:

  1. In the week before classes began we ran hands on technology boot camps for students.  We gave invitation cards to counselors and staff who had contact with students and asked them to invite any student who seemed receptive to attending.  We also included info about the boot camps in all emails going out about enrollment in classes that used the LMS.
  2. On days two and three of the term we ran roster reports for all fully online courses and then had work study students call online students who hadn't logged into their classes yet to make sure they had their login info and knew what to do.
  3. Teachers could nominate students who did particularly well in their courses to become mentors via the tutoring center.  These mentors went to the physical classrooms of the next term class to introduce themselves or posted in the online class for fully online classes and were then present in the online courses to help review students draft papers, etc.
  4. In the learning center, technology coaches were available to help students try to troubleshoot problems with computers, online courses and using software.  We also had a small lab off to one side, equipped with technology that students might encounter in the classroom so they could come practice presentations and lab work
  5. All of our student help videos were available with captions and with transcripts.  We found that 80% of students surveyed found the transcripts helpful - not just for students with disabilities.

5 things

Posted by Champion Sep 11, 2015

1. Remind our Faculty what they need to do to start the semester.


2.  Review the Production release notes  to ensure I know what changes have occurred and what questions to anticipate.


3.  Prepare all our training materials for the upcoming workshops.


4.  Touch base with our Help Desk.


5.  Make sure the Canvas FAQs are updated on our support site.

  1. Support.  Make sure our support team has all the information it needs to help our Canvas users.  We will meet and make sure all of our Canvas documentation is up to date in our local knowledge base and that all links to Canvas are directing properly (no broken links).  Canvas is normally our top support item our users will contact support about.  Making sure our sites, information, and directions are up to date is critical.
  2. Integrate.  Every semester we pilot, evaluate, and explore new integrations in Canvas.  This fall was our largest piloting pool yet as we tried to explore the use of as many requested tools as we could manage.  Offering a wide variety of tools to our instructors really helps to diversify and make their teaching experience unique for our students.  Plus the pilot program helps us to decide what tools are worth keeping and allows us to compare the same types of tools and figure out which one best suits our teaching needs.
  3. Communicate.  We send out emails about the Canvas release notes, local canvas changes we make, getting help with migrating from Sakai to Canvas, Canvas training from our local team, and much more.  Send the emails out every 3 weeks and also send specialized communications when needed.
  4. Educate.  We are also big on allowing our users to help themselves.  We have done lunch and learns about the new community so users know where they can find answers, make feature requests, and learn more in general about Canvas. 
  5. Fun!  Make sure to take some time off before the start of the school year!  We always plan a family vacation before the start of the school year and i make sure to not do any work.  Even if it is just for a few days it is good to just step away and clear the mind.  Great Wolf lodge is our usual destination!



The easiest way to set up percent based (or weighted) grading for your Canvas course is to use groups on the Assignments page. Assignment groups are used to show how the different assignments in your course are weighted differently. Yet, there are some important considerations and things you should understand when you go to set up your Assignment Groups and Assignments.


  • Individual assignments within an Assignment Group do NOT count equally, it depends on the number of points an assignment is worth. In other programs (like WebAssign) there is an option you can check to weight all assignments equally. Canvas does not have this option. Within an Assignment Group an assignment worth 100 points will be weighted and worth more than a 25 point assignment.
  • If you want assignment grades to be weighted equally within an Assignment group here are the options:
    • Separate each assignment (quiz, etc) into their own Assignment Group and assign each group the same weight. This might work well if you don't have too many assignments, but if you have a lot of assignments this could definitely get crazy!
    • Make each assignment in the Assignment Group worth the same number of points. Example: All assignments in the HW group are worth 20 points.
    • Instructor adjusts grade before entering it into Canvas. If students aren't submitting assignments in Canvas (they are turning it in on paper) then the instructor can adjust the grades before entering them. Example: the instructor grades the HW and the student gets 17/20 points or 85%. In Canvas the instructor enters 85 for the HW grade (out of 100) instead of the 17/20. Next homework the student gets 15/25 or 60% so the instructor enters 60 for the HW grade instead of 15 (for the 15/25). Note this definitely isn't the best work around and wouldn't work at all for quizzes or other assignments submitted in Canvas.
  • Why is the grade calculated this way? Mathematically this is the way weighted averages work. See example below for how this works.
    • (total points a student has earned from assignments in a group)/(total points possible in the group) = percent that shows up for that group in the Canvas gradebook
    • If a student earned 10/25 points for HW1 and 90/100 points for HW2 this is how their grade would be calculated within the Homework Assignment Group --> (Student earned HW 1 points + Student earned HW2 points)/(HW1 + HW2 total points possible) = (10+90)/(25+100) = .80 or 80% = student's grade for the Homework Assignment Group.


Here are a few useful guides that might help as well:

How do I add an assignment group in a course?

How do I weight the final course grade based on assignment groups?


I know this can definitely be confusing, but I hope it helps!


Add functionality to your course Roster page by 1) sorting on any column, 2) generating a PDF of the roster, or 3) creating a Photo Roster.


Although this is placed in the Higher Education group, it's only because Canvas requires blogs to be put somewhere and I teach at a community college. K-12  can benefit and Canvas Admins  should be aware in case their faculty want to do these things. It deals with programming, although not specifically API, LTI, or SIS, so maybe the Canvas Developers would want to know about it. Basically, share it with anyone who you think can benefit from it.



Several people have asked for features related to the Course Roster page.

I have been having some success installing user scripts to work with Firefox and Greasemonkey, although those were short enough that I could display and explain the code in my blog posts.

I had also added the ability to sort tables to pages before, so I thought ... how hard can this be? Well, it turns out that things are much harder than I anticipated, but that is perhaps a topic for another blog post. For this one, I'll get to the point.


Available Scripts

In the end, I had three scripts, depending on how much functionality you want. All three of them are attached linked to this blog post. The words basic, intermediate, and advanced refer to the functionality provided by the script, not the user level required.


Canvas only loads 50 users on the roster page until you scroll down. I couldn't find a way to tell if all of the users had been loaded or not yet, but I set up a MutationObserver to check to see if new content is added and place a warning if you try to generate a PDF and there is exactly 50 users in the list (that can be suppressed if it gets in your way). Pagination was, by the way, a huge obstacle to overcome, but not as much as the photo roster.


1. Canvas Roster Sorter (Basic functionality)

This script allows you to sort by clicking at the top of any column on the Canvas Roster page. If you click again, it will reverse the order of the sort. If you click a third time, it will restore the table to its original order.


This is based off of an enhanced jQuery Tablesorter plugin, so read there for more information.


2. Canvas Roster Download (Intermediate functionality)

This script includes everything in the Roster Sorter and adds the ability to generate a PDF of the roster. By default, it only includes students. It displays the name, login information (if available), the section (if there is more than one in a course), the last activity date and total activity amounts (if available).


It adds a button to the right-side menu to download a PDF of the roster.


This uses the PDFMake routines to generate the PDF. They are a higher level attempt to create PDFs to avoid the normal hassle of specifying sizes, but that means some functionality may not be there. I did offer the ability to set the default font size and there are some other options you can use.


3. Canvas Photo Roster (Advanced functionality)

This was the nightmare that wouldn't end. It includes the roster sorter and the roster PDF download as well. It also uses the PDFmake routines to create a photo roster of four students wide. Under the photo is the student's name and section (unless there is only one section in the course). Images are resized to fit the avatar dimensions of 128x128.


It adds a button ot the right-side menu to download a Photo roster.


This one was the hardest to write and it's also the hardest to get working. The first two don't need any special privileges, but the avatars, which are displayed on the page, are part of the CSS background-images and not part of the document object model (DOM), which means that I couldn't get access to them without re-downloading them. Some of the sites hosting them were using cross domain restrictions to make sure that I couldn't download them. And if I could download them, they had a flag set that wouldn't allow them to be added to the HTML5 Canvas (not to be confused with the Instructure Canvas) to create an image out of it.


I'm beginning to see why Canvas said it wouldn't be happening in the next six months.


I worked around all that by using the internal greasemonkey routines rather than jQuery's, but that means I had to enable some options that threw the whole thing into a sandbox and the normal stuff stopped working. The first two scripts don't need this functionality and they load much faster. It turns out that the pdfmake routines don't load in the sandbox, so I had to add them through a getscript() function, which means that sometimes they're not fully loaded when it's ready to create the PDF. Occasionally, a photo will timeout before it gets downloaded (it seems that Canvas may do some throttling).  A warning will pop up if some of the images don't correctly download so that you can decide whether or not you want to go ahead and print. If you don't, usually trying the report again will fix it.


The bottom line is - click the button, but don't expect it to work the first time, especially if you have a large class. Give it about 10 seconds and then try again. Maybe a couple of times. It seems to work fairly well for small classes where no pagination is needed.



Installing Greasemonkey

The key to getting all this to work is Greasemonkey, which is a Firefox add-on. For Chrome users, there is Tampermonkey. These scripts are tested with Firefox. I had them working in Chrome, but then as I added more features, I broke something, so for right now, it's Firefox only.


Here is a short video on how to install Greasemonkey. Ignore the part at the very end about installing a user a script - I found a better way.


Install the desired script(s)

After you have enabled Greasemonkey, then click on the appropriate attachment below. Greasemonkey recognizes the extension .user.js and automatically intercepts it. You need to click Install a couple of times (once to install it and once to activate it), but then it should work.


The only configuration that is necessary is if your site isn't hosted on I've set up the // @include in the header to work on any site matching **/users but you will need changed if you are using a custom domain.


You should only install one script, although it's possible they might work if you install more than one. It's more likely that you'll run into issues.



  • If it doesn't work the first time, wait about 10 seconds and try again. This is especially true with the photo roster where it has to download a bunch of stuff. But after you download it, it's in your browser's cache so it should go faster the next time.
  • If you notice Firefox starting to act slowly, you might want to restart it.
  • Patience is key. If you can't find the Patience key on your keyboard, try F12 and click on console. Some messages are logged to the console that might help you track down what's going on.
  • I have tried to automatically determine the columns rather than hard-coding the order, but I have admin rights and see everything on the course users page. If you find something doesn't work, let me know. If you're not using US-English, I did code the headings at the top of the files so you can change those to match the text.
  • Everything is loaded from the users page except for the photos, no API calls are made. If it's not visible on the roster page, it's not going to show up in my stuff.
  • Chrome isn't working yet. I had it working with Tampermonkey, then I added a lot of features and things stopped working. The last error I got was that MutationObserver wasn't a function. Rather than take the time to get it working with Chrome, I thought I would make it available to people and hopefully work some of the other kinks out.
  • I am not turning this into a full-featured roster tool. If you write and ask for features like "Can you make it randomize the order of the students on the photo roster?" I'm going to say, "You've got the source code, have at!". Like most of what I write, I won't use it myself, I'm writing it to contribute stuff to the community and hopefully spark some ideas in other people who will then give back to the community.
  • I'm not a JavaScript programmer. I don't know how to put stuff on GitHub, although that would be a much better way to manage that than using Blog Posts in Canvas.
  • The code is yours to do with as you like. If you do enhance it, you might consider changes back to me to make it available -- or set up a GitHub repository and let me know about it. Since I obviously don't consider myself an expert, I would love to collaborate with people, but so far, no one has stepped up to volunteer. If we could setup a repository of user scripts for Canvas, that would be awesome.
  • Use at your own risk. I've done extensive testing (pagination, GIF images, corrupt images, only downloading the default avatar once, etc.) It's currently handling everything I've thrown at it, but that's no guarantee that I didn't miss something. If you find a bug, find a solution, and then let me know.
  • Only use one of the scripts below. You can install all of them if you like, but you should only enable one of them on a particular page. The first two (sorting and downloading) play well, it's the photo roster that acts up and I would avoid it unless you need it.

January 5, 2016 Update

Canvas has split the Login/SIS ID into two separate columns. I've updated the code to accommodate for this. However, the original attachments are no longer valid, so I've linked to the Canvancement site that will hold the latest versions of the software I'm contributing to the Canvas Community.

Cross posted from the Instructional Designer's Group



I love the start of a new term. It allows for a fresh start and for new ideas to be brought forward. As I have reflected over our process for this post, I really love the way we assist our faculty with getting ready as it seems to be very personal and allows for a lot of collaboration. Here are some of the ways we like to P.A.R.T.Y. as we begin a new term.


  1. Personal contact - We start personally contacting each Course Manager either by email, phone or stopping by their office to reach out and ask if the is anything we can do to assist them in getting their course ready for the start of the term.
  2. Attention to details - In those meetings we emphasize the need for tight consistency of directions, terminology, and structure of the learning materials. This means that all of the dates are accurate, links are not broken and that there is a unified look and feel to all pages.
  3. Readily available - While we are not a 24/7 help desk, we work hard to be available when needed to answer questions during business hours, with a willingness to eagerly assist when asked. We also have a knack for showing up at the office door just as a faculty member is getting ready to call/email us. Which happens because we go…
  4. Trouble hunting - We go looking for trouble. A couple of times a day members of our office will “make rounds” to each faculty office to see if they need any help or to check-in on any issues we have been working through with them. This is where we most often get accused of have telepathic super powers. We just know when and where to find trouble.
  5. Yelling allowed - We tell our faculty to not hesitate in contacting us. Actually we tell them if it takes them longer than 5 minutes, they need to call us, email us or hunt us down.


So the next time you are getting ready for a new term, make it a PARTY and keep being awesome!



If you've seen the movie City Slickers starring Billy Crystal, you may remember the character Curly as a hard-nosed, grumpy, downright-ornery, old cowboy.  In the movie, he shares with Jack (the character played by Crystal) the secret of life through his famous "one thing" speech.


With that as my inspiration, I want to share with you the "one thing" that makes a successful start to a new semester for us -- building a team.  At our institution, we have designers in the second floor of one building, support people in the basement of another, system admins in another, departmental tech liaisons all over campus, our ITS Help Desk in yet another building, and Instructure support in a totally different state.  This makes for a challenging team to build, but it works.  It works because each part of the team knows the other members of the team, what they do, and how they operate.


These 5 things are what make our team successful:

  1. Our course designers also provide backup Canvas user support and training.  During the busy times of year, the designers grab calls and support tickets from our ITS Help Desk just like everyone else.
  2. Our team communicates with each other in a back-channel.  Specifically, we use Slack as a group messaging application.  All the members of our local team use this to discuss calls, troubleshoot problem issues, and to share horror stories from our users.
  3. Our team has a functional ticket tracking system to use for institutional purposes.  When users call our ITS Help Desk about an institution-specific issue or Instructure Tier One support sends a user back to us for assistance, that ticket is logged and tracked.
  4. Our team knows when to send things back to Instructure for additional support.  In all levels of our organization, users are encouraged to call the experts at Instructure for support with Canvas.  When a user contacts us, we make sure to answer their questions while also helping them learn to contact Instructure Tier One for future requests.  Our system admins are also in frequent communication with our CSMs.
  5. Our team has fun!  Just today, we met at lunch and played a few rounds of Exploding Kittens!!  Exploding Kittens - A card game for people who are into kittens and explosions and laser beams and sometimes goats

Having supported faculty and students using 3 different Learning Management Systems (LMS) in Higher Education, I've seen the support and training needs of our faculty shift over time.


When we started with Blackboard, there were so few adopters, we had the time to work with individuals for as long as necessary for them to feel comfortable. As we moved from one LMS to the next, these instructors adapted quickly to the changes and have needed very little help from us over the years.


As we moved to ANGEL in 2008, we found that a massive number of faculty jumped on-board and usage of the system quickly climbed to about 80% adoption. This seemed to be spurred by the fact that it was a new system, as the increase in usage started with a large uptick and then a gradual increase every semester onward. This group, for the most part, needed some initial handholding and a good manual to refer to in those times when they couldn't remember how to do something. Most of these users fell in love with ANGEL, even though it's interface wasn't what I would call simple.


A year ago in early 2014, we moved to Canvas. Canvas is very intuitive to use compared to any system that we have used in the past. As I expected, following the change in systems, we are seeing another quick increase in the number of faculty using the system. From all appearances, these are our late adopters, really late adopters, 10 years too late adopters. Some of them are nearly retired, others are "the last holdouts of their department". I think that they thought it was the Alamo and they were making some kind of last stand for a tech-free education. Now their departments or peer pressure or in many cases, the constant haunting moans of their students pleading with them to get with the times have finally broken them down.


This brings me to the problem. We're kind of at a loss in how to work with this group. Most of them are impatient about getting caught up with their counterparts (finally) but frustrated and easily discouraged by every minor difficulty that they encounter. They want to jump into using publisher LTI integration when they are not even wet behind the ears in Canvas yet. They require a lot of personal time with support specialists, sometimes needing to be calmed down first. Canvas is so simple to use, but this group of faculty really seem to be struggling. Providing them online resources for self-help is not the answer. This group is used to a simpler life on the plains where nothing ever changed, let alone changed every three weeks. They "Thought this would make everything easier" but I don't think they are seeing how it does.


I welcome any thought or ideas about working with this group of faculty. I have a feeing the number of these faculty reaching out to us is only going to grow as those last 20% (now more like 15%) start using Canvas.

Here are some things I do to get the semester off to a less chaotic start.

  1. I introduce myself to my students:
  2. I strive to have direct communication with every student in the first twenty-four hours of the course through conversations, announcements, an introduction discussion, etc.
  3. My courses provide a combined tour of Canvas and my course:
  4. I collect contact information for my students as part of their orientation assignments, and with the Canvas Speedgrader app on my phone, I can contact my students on-the go inside or outside of Canvas.
  5. I drink a lot of coffee and Red Bull.

There have been some great blog posts so far about how to start the semester right and tips and tricks for running the semester. What I would like to do here is to outline a few things that I have found to be helpful when starting a new semester with Canvas for the first time.


1. As other blogs have said, communication is key. Be up front with your students about the software, what it can do, and how you will be using it. Let them know it is ok if they cannot get something to work, as chances are someone else is having the same problem. The same goes with teachers. Make sure there are open lines of communication between those who are making the courses and those who are making the software work.


2. It is ok if something goes wrong. No one gets everything right the first time. There are very few things that cannot be fixed if broken/messed up. Your institution will have help lines you can follow for help, and also the Canvas community has a large archive of help topics and a very fast turn around on questions. You are not alone.


3. Encourage innovation. The main thing that I see is people just wanting to do the bare minimum to get their courses working, which is fine. However, try and foster those people who want to try and do something new or different with their course. Everyone will benefit from it.


4. With number 3 said, remember it is ok to say "we will come back to that". Chances are that the beginning of semester will be one of the busiest times, especially when using Canvas for the first time. The bare minimum gets everyone working and happy, it is ok if innovation doesn't happen until the second week.


5. Don't panic. Canvas is a tested LMS and your institution has put it through its paces before implementing it. We were all new to it once. It is intuitive and as mentioned there are a lot of support lines. Again, if in doubt, ask.

Before I get to my beginning-of-semester MO, I'd like to acknowledge the blogs contributed thus far by Kona Jones, Kelley L. Meeusen, and Chris Hofer:


(A few more than) Five things I do to start the semester right!

5 Things I do to help students get off to a good start!

Five Things to Ensure a Healthy Start to the School Year


You simply can't lose by following their advice.

Now, on to my process.


I liken the period immediately preceding and following the first day of classes as a process of herding cats (a phrase I co-opted from a former colleague).


To set students' expectations and avoid surprises, I communicate early and often. Redundancy is better than scarcity.


  1. Two to three weeks before the first day of classes: Communicate! Using the list of currently-enrolled students, I send an external email to all enrolled students. The email thanks them for enrolling in the course, provides a link to the textbook information, a link to the school's Canvas orientation, a link to a self test for determining suitability for online learning, and a copy of the course syllabus. This email also tells students that the course will be available on the first day of classes and that I will let them know exactly when it becomes available. I then double-check enrollments daily and send the same email individually to new students as they enroll. Sometimes students receive this email and realize they aren't suited for online learning, or the course content isn't quite what they expected, or they signed up for the wrong class. Starting this process two to three weeks before the first day of classes gives them plenty of time to enroll in a different course.
  2. One day before the first day of classes: Communicate! I send an external email reminding students that the course will be available on Canvas the next day, the first day of classes.
  3. The morning of the first day of classes: Communicate! I send an external email informing students that the course is now available in Canvas ("Welcome to the Course!"). This is the email I promised them earlier. In this email, I provide the direct URL to the course home page, tell students that they should bookmark this link and use it to access the course in case the Portal is down (it happens, but Canvas is never down), and inform them that subsequent communications must be conducted with me through the Canvas Inbox. This email also includes a link to the first course announcement, which explains the specifics of the course navigation. At this time, I set an auto reply on my external email that tells students that if they have just sent a message to my external email address, they must resend it to me through the Canvas Inbox if they expect to receive a reply. As much as it pains me to ignore a message (it kills me! it keeps me up at night!), I absolutely stick to this policy, and students learn quickly that I am not kidding.
  4. Daily through the last day of the add-drop period: Communicate! I check for new enrollments, and as they occur, I send them a copy of the "Welcome to the Course!" email, and explain that they are receiving it as a newly-enrolled student in the course. Time is ticking, I tell them.
  5. The day before attendance verification is due, and daily as needed thereafter: Communicate! I check my Canvas course to see which students have not completed the attendance verification assignments (there are three, none of which contribute to the course grade, but all of which must be completed in order to unlock the course), and send them messages both in Canvas and via external email informing them that they must log into the class and complete the attendance verification assignments before I will verify their attendance in the course (this has implications for their financial aid). At this point, I enlist the help of our student support specialist in bringing these students into the fold. We have achieved cohesion--the process of herding cats is behind us--and we can all move forward in the course.


Did I say "communicate" enough times?

CraigKilborn.jpgIn the spirit of former late night TV host Craig Kilborn (famous for "5 Questions"), here are some things that we have done prior to the start of the semester to ensure a healthy start to the school year...


  1. Offer face-to-face sessions for students who would like to come to one of our campuses and have a hands-on demo of Canvas.
  2. Started a department newsletter that was sent out to all faculty and adjuncts via e-mail.
  3. Offered Canvas Community 2.0 sessions for our faculty who wanted to know more about this space.
  4. Posted reminders as announcements to the Canvas Dashboard for faculty and adjuncts that they need to publish their courses and ensure their start dates were correct.
  5. Created two new resources over the Summer for faculty.  One is called "Canvas Resources for Instructors at MPTC", and the other is called "Canvas Labs".

As a Canvas Administrator here are some things I do to ensure a healthy start to our Fall semester!


  1. Three months (or more) before the start of the semester we run a weekly report of which instructors are scheduled to teach online and hybrid courses for the current and next semester. We monitor this list and cross-reference it with our list of instructors who have already completed the appropriate level of training to teach hybrid and/or online courses. Any instructor who hasn’t completed the appropriate level of training is contacted and provided information about what they will need to do to complete training and the timeline for when training needs to be done. We then track and work with the faculty to make sure they (and their courses) are ready for the start of the semester.
  2. One month before the start of classes I double check the global announcements scheduled for that semester. We have a few that always show up at certain times of the semester and I make sure the wording and timing is accurate. These announcements relate to start of the semester information and end of the semester course feedback/evaluations.
  3. Ten days before classes even start I start monitoring our online students. I have a report that I run to get real time information about which online students have/haven’t completed the mandatory Canvas Student Orientation, this report also includes information about how many classes the students are taking, what type of classes (traditional, hybrid, and/or online), and the student’s adviser. I use this information to organize the students by those who haven’t completed the orientation and those who have. For those who haven’t complete the orientation I then organize them by adviser and send each adviser their list of online students who need to be contacted and reminded about completing the orientation before the start of class. I update this list daily until every online student has completed the orientation.
  4. One week before classes start I send a message to faculty who use Canvas reminding them of normal things they need to check in their courses (every semester) and reminders about new features (this is especially important for fall).
  5. One week before classes start we send a message to all students (traditional, hybrid, and/or online) who haven't completed the mandatory Canvas Student Orientation reminding them to get it done before classes start! It is a board policy that any student who uses our LMS has to complete this training before they get access to the course.
  6. Five days before the start of the semester I send an email to all faculty with information about our office and the services we provide. This is information for the Instructor and for the Instructor to share with their students and includes how to get help, how to activate new accounts, how to log into our different systems, and a reminder that we work on personal computers for free!
  7. The evening before classes start I run the unpublished courses report and contact any instructor teaching an online or hybrid course and remind them to make sure and publish their courses by the next day.
  8. The first week of class I send out an email to instructors about attendance. It really does cause a lot of confusion with the roll call showing up automatically in their gradebook and this cuts down on the confusion.
  9. The first week of class we send an email to students reminding them about our office and how to get technology help.
  10. End of the first week of class I send an email to faculty teaching online to reminding them about Dropout Detective, how amazing it is, how easy it is to use, and that they need to be checking it and monitoring their students.


During the semester we continue to send emails out to faculty reminding them of new and useful features (like Crocodoc/speedgrader, "message students who," etc). We also do this with students, the biggest reminder being about "what-if" grades.  And last, throughout the semester we monitor our online students and provide support as needed.

This is a great idea - teachers helping teachers!


My Five, although I am sure there are more............


  1. Create an engaging, warm and informative welcome page (front page) in my classrooms,
  2. Provide content links as buttons on my home page for all useful areas and resources, including a clearly designated "Start Here" button;
  3. Provide a Canvas orientation,
  4. Provide a course orientation,
  5. Provide a downloadable Schedule of Studies,
  6. Limit left-side navigation items to the absolute minimum needed by the student,
  7. Provide an introductory page to all modules that includes:
    1. Overview of module,
    2. Module learning objectives,
    3. How those objectives can be met,
    4. A mini-schedule of studies for the module
  8. Create a standardized consistent module structure that includes consistent object naming,
  9. Provide accessibility information well beyond just the usual reference to the college's access services department,
  10. Provide embedded access to Student Services pages.


I told you there were more than five.


I hope some find this useful, and I am always ready to answer questions.



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