josh.emmitt@auckland.ac.nz

Keep on keeping on

Blog Post created by josh.emmitt@auckland.ac.nz on Mar 3, 2016

I am a part of the team to train people in Canvas at my institution. I have also touched on some of the issues I mention below in these blogs You can lead a horse to water...  Seeing the digital world unfold Introducing Canvas to a new University - 5 things Paper Pumpkin - Moving marking online, the uphill battle . I hope that some people find this useful.

 

We have been using Canvas in a training and trial capacity since last year, but it only went live in January this year and full implemented for the start of semester one in March. I have been a part of the team learning the system and training people since just about day one, and in some cases being on committees which were a bit above my station. Through all this I have been trying to keep up with my PhD which is in Archaeology. There have been challenges throughout this process from all sides, but none have been any that were not eventually figured out by the support teams or one of the facilitators. It has been a wonderfully frustrating journey, some days I wanted to quit, others I was excited about what has happening around me.

 

The first challenge I realized was that some of the people in support roles did not understand or realize what the "boots on the ground" a.k.a. teachers would want from Canvas. The other issue I realized straight away was that we were going to have a generational challenge ahead of us, with some of the more technically un-proficient people would struggle with this new software. I worked with these teams and committees and gave my naive opinions about what I thought should be done, some comments were listened to, some were not. Things were compromised between the needs of the system and the wants of the teaching staff. Things were getting done and the trial classes were going well.

 

We started training the staff in a variety of ways, and for the most part it was successful, we had people taking the system with both hands and using it to teach how they wanted. Others, not so much. Some teachers simply wanted to know what they had to do, why they had to do it, how long it would take, and how do they replicate what they had always done into the new system. On some of those days I wanted to tear my hair out. Then I stopped worrying. We were never going to get everyone on board with this, and to be honest we did not have to, we just had to get the system working, teach people the basics, and deal with any issues as they came. The majority of the people with a problem with the system were from the older generation, those who genuinely did not know what a internet browser or tabs meant, and for those people we had to shift the training accordingly. For other people we had to try and slow them down as they ran through the system like a bull in a china shop, doing everything they had always dreamed of, without knowing the tricks of the software or how to use it. Muting assignments before marking is still something we are drilling into peoples heads. Training sessions needed to be tailored for who we were talking to, often on the fly.

 

Getting all the systems and tricks that teachers would want into Canvas was another issue. The Canvas software is fantastic, but there will always be institutionally dependent tools that need to be made in house. Sometimes we didn't have time for a feature request to go through the community, or knew that this was something unique to us and our systems. In these cases the IT developers worked miracles and did a great job. In other cases there were features that certain areas of the institution needed that others did not, these were discussed, meetings held, administrations consulted, and ultimately the ideas were put on the list of additions or rejected. The problem then was telling the teachers who needed this addition that it either wasn't going to happen or that it would be awhile, and to try and find a mid-term or permanent solution for them. It is all about thinking on your feet to solve the problem, kind of like on The Martian but without the potentially dying on Mars part.

 

Other times it was just something to make peoples lives easier, which is where these guides came from Creating a "button" oriented syllabus page iframes (UoA Lecture Recordings) Embedding a webpage in an assignment (iframes) Embedding a pdf in the rich content editor. What was a bit heartbreaking was when you showed someone these and they didn't want to because it either took too much time or looked too complicated. Neither of which is true, but they could instead be working on a journal article or something else. I keep making guides and things in spite of these people, as there are some people who use these resources and are getting really great feedback about them. My hope is that these people will help to raise the standard that students expect that that those who don't want to will have to.

 

I can see some other issues that will likely come up in the coming months, and I will be there to help solve these when they come up too. You just need to keep on keeping on.

 

It's not over yet.

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