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2019

As a humanities teacher, I love using the RSS feed for Announcements.  There are some phenomenal news feeds and podcasts that support a variety of my course content and it was awesome to have the announcements automatically appear in my Canvas courses.

 

My biggest frustration, though, was when I found great resources while navigating the internet that I wanted to make available for my students.  I would copy the address, open my Canvas instance, navigate to the particular course, open an announcement, embed the URL with an explanation for my students, and publish it to my course.

 

What if you're on your phone and find a great link while navigating social media?  The steps to posting can be prohibitive.  You can set up an external feed and "clip" articles to it!

 

There are two different methods (that we know of): Evernote Webclipper and OneNote Webclipper. This post will address Evernote, but the steps are similar for OneNote!

 

Steps for Creating a Customized RSS Feed using Evernote:

  1. Download and explore Evernote here.
  2. Create a specific Notebook that will be dedicated to your RSS feed.
  3. Download and install the Evernote Webclipper here.
  4. Create a free account with Zapier.  Note: You can create 5 free "Zaps."  If you are creating a feed or two, the free option will cover all of your basic needs!
  5. Begin a New Zap: Make a Zap
  6. Follow the prompts to create a "Trigger Event" (the action that starts the Zap process):
    1. Choose App: Evernote
    2. Choose Trigger Event: New Note
    3. Evernote Account: sign in to your Evernote Account to link it to Zapier
    4. When asked to Customize Note, select the Notebook that you created specifically for your feed.
  7. Follow the prompts to create an "Action" (the result of the Trigger event created above):
    1. Create the action (this :  When asked, Choose App: RSS by Zapier
    2. Choose action Event: Create Item in Feed.
    3. Customize Item: Create a unique FeedURL 
      1. Make sure to Copy to Clipboard your full Feed URL to use as you set up your Canvas RSS Announcement Feed.
    4. You do not need to enter anything under "Max Records"
    5. Set your Item Title: 
    6. Set your Source URL: 
    7. Provide a brief description of your Feed: 
    8. The remaining options (Author Name, Email, Link, etc) can be left blank.
    9. Select "Continue"
    10. Select "Test and Continue"
  8. Use the web clipper to start the process!
    1. Navigate to any website that you would like to add to an RSS Feed
    2. Use your web clipper and "Save Clip" to the pre-determined Evernote Folder that you established specifically for your RSS feed.

 

NOTE:  There will be a delay between when you clip an article and when it appears in your Announcement feed.  Most of my tests are delayed a few hours, but I have seen shorter and longer!

 

Enjoy customizing your own RSS feed!!

Over the summer we gave the New Gradebook a good “tire kicking” before releasing it en masse this fall.  Most of the changes are subtle, some changes are powerful but just under the surface. However, some changes are very informational, yet are confusing until you look a little deeper.  Also, there are some advanced features that you may be excited to try. So, “What’s new?”

 

Let’s start with the cool stuff.  It's cool on an Academic Technology level, anyway.  I'm referring to the new feature that is helpful by filtering the gradebook down to see only the specific group of students you want to see.  The new gradebook makes it possible to filter your list of students assignment groups, by module, by section, and by student group.  

 

So, it might be used to find the:

  • weekly reflection (grade group)
  • for the week 2 module
  • in section 004 
  • student group “the cooliest biologists”

 Of course you don’t have to drill down that far to be useful.  The filter feature is super handy, but you have to pull it into view, or that functionality sits hiding below the surface.

To pull them into view, in Gradebook, go to “view”>”Filters” and then click on the one(s) that you want to try.  

 

In contrast, there are a things that are immediately in view with the new gradebook that are, let’s say not perfectly clear.  One such item is the color based “status” indication.  By color, you can tell if an assignment is late, missing, or excused.  If the color doesn’t work for you, you can change it.  

The defaults are:

Blue : Late submission
Red : Missing submission
Green : Resubmitted assignment
Orange : Dropped grade
Yellow : Excused assignment

 

Also in the realm of informative but potentially confusing is the icons that appear in the new gradebook.  With a glance you can tell much about the current grade situation, however, you may not have a clue as to what the iconography means.  I find it easiest to just look it up the key and instructions in the Canvas document specific to the icons and colors in the New Gradebook. 

 

However, there is one icon, hidden icon,that I need to call to your attention right now. The hidden symbol may appear at the top of a grading column, it indicates that the manual grading policy is set for that column.  It also means that at least 1 grade is not visible (posted) to the student(s) for that assignment.  This new icon shows up by default to those that used the "mute/unmute" feature on the previous version of gradebook. That feature allowed you to hide (mute) the grades from view, enter the grades, and later post (unmute) all of the grades at a later time.  The change is that now you can start out with all the grades hidden, and post (make visible to the student) one grade at a time if you want.  So, if you previously used the mute/unmute Canvas assumes that you want to use the manual grading policy.  You do have a choice though, you can also set it to post your grades automatically/instantly by changing the Grade Posting Policy.  but that isn't immediately obvious that is what you need to do from the eyeball on the screen.  You may want to look closer at this one in How do I use New Gradebook?

 

More functionality includes setting late policies  and  curving grades.  Also, inserting zeros is handy by using the set default grades feature, and you can choose to override your final grades column for whatever reason.  

 

I hope that helps give you a better idea what the New Gradebook is all about.  If you want help with any of this, shoot us an email, or leave a message below. 

 

-Evan

It's the start of another school year, so what better time to use a tool that will make communicating with your students so much easier.  Announcements is so much better than just sending an email to your whole class. If you are not using the Canvas inbox, you will have to go through the trouble of getting all your students' emails and making them a group list in your email program.  If you are using Canvas inbox, it's pretty easy to email the whole class, but with the flood of emails students will be getting from instructors and TAs at the start of a semester, it is really easy to lose an email.

 

Wouldn't it better if you had a tool that:

  • automatically notified every student in your class and
  • showed up on the course home page the next time students go to the course site and
  • had all the announcements you ever sent for the course in one place where students could easily find old ones and read new ones?

Bonus points if that tool would allow you to:

  • easily link to things in the course site and
  • create your announcements early and have them post later at a date you choose and
  • automatically shift those posting dates when you start a new semester!

 

This is why you should be using Announcements.  Announcements has all of those features, including all the bonuses!

 

Creating an announcement

When you want to send an announcement to your entire class, choose to add an announcement (instructions).  

  1. You create the announcement.  You can add links and images or videos using the rich text editor and link to assignments, pages, or files directly using the content selector.
  2. Underneath the text box choose to add a delay date. Even if your delay is minutes, having a delay date will allow the date to automatically shift when importing your announcements to a new Canvas site. (Thanks Elson Boles for the clarification!)
  3. You can also choose to attach files and allow commenting and liking. 
  4. When you save, students are notified there is an announcement based on their notification preferences.  By default this is usually this is email but it can also be by text if students make that choice!

 

Setting announcements to show on home page

To ensure your announcement shows at the top of the home page you need to adjust the course settings

  1. Go to Settings > Course Details
  2. Scroll down and click on More options
  3. Check the box by  "Show recent announcements on Course home page" and choose how many announcements you want to show.  One is usually enough, or choose two if you communicate often, but avoid three as it takes up a lot of space on the screen.
  4. You can also choose "Disable comments on Announcements" as the default.

 

Shifting posting dates for a new semester

This process is pretty easy.  When you import your course content from one Canvas site into another, choose to shift the dates (instructions).  Not only will the assignments' dates shift, so will your delay posting dates!  Never again will you have to create that test reminder email!

 

A few warnings:

  • If you allow comments on announcements, it looks a lot like a discussion, but it cannot be found under the Discussions.  The announcement and all its comments stay under the Announcements item in the navigation menu.  This can be confusing to students.
  • Announcements will not be sent out if the course is not published.  Additionally, students that have never been in Canvas and have never clicked the Canvas agreement (like freshmen) will also not get announcements.  For this reason we recommend that any announcements before the semester starts are sent through your institution's system of record. *For the University of Minnesota, that would be MyU.  Go to your course roster and scroll down to find the Notify All button.
  • This doesn't work for sending emails to individual students, sections or groups.  The Canvas Inbox is the tool that will do that for you.
  • When you import your course to a new site, if you select all content, all the announcements will also be copied over.  If you did not set a delay date, your old announcements may be visible to students!
    • Announcements with a post date before the course is published will be visible to students as soon as the course is published. These announcements are not sent to students unless you edit the announcement. After editing and as soon as you save the announcement, it will be emailed to the address students have set up in their notifications, unless you have set up a delay date.(Thanks again Elson Boles.)  
    • Be sure you either delete or set a delay posting date (instructions) on imported announcements before publishing to prevent students from seeing the all the imported announcements immediately.

 

Did I miss any Announcement functions?  How do you use this tool in your courses?

 

*The CBS-RLT Tech Tip is written by academic technologists at the University of Minnesota, College of Biological Sciences.  It may contain references to Canvas settings and integrations that are specific to that institution. 

 

Updated 9/17/19

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