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NB: This is the first post in a series on what we learned in our Fall 2017 Blueprint Course pilot. This post provides an overview of our experience, and later posts address how we got buy-in from teaching teams and administrative stakeholders for our target courses (Lessons Learned about Blueprint Courses: Getting Buy-In), our experience with a "failed" Blueprint pilot course (Lessons Learned about Blueprint: When Blueprint Wasn't the Solution), and replacing a course copy workflow with Blueprint (Lessons Learned about Blueprint Courses: Replacing Course Copy Workflows).


In Fall 2017, the Wharton School piloted Blueprint Courses (Canvas Release: Blueprint Courses) as a way to meet the needs of teaching teams that need to maintain consistency across course sections and Canvas sites. When Blueprint Courses were introduced during summer 2017, our Courseware Team was immediately excited, and we identified several courses that would greatly benefit from the capabilities offered by Blueprint.


We rolled out Blueprint in four courses during Q1 of Fall 2017. All were multi-section, large-enrollment courses that needed consistent content across multiple Canvas sites. Each course represents a slightly different use case, and in a series of blog posts, I'll talk about how things went. I'll discuss some of the lessons we learned, what worked well and what worked less well, as well as where we encountered unexpected challenges with this new feature. Some of what I'll address in this series includes:

  • Selling Blueprint to teaching teams
  • Setting up a Blueprint template site
  • What syncs and what doesn't (and when)
  • Syncing LTI tools with Blueprint
  • Communication, planning, and managing enrollment in multiple Canvas sites
  • Replacing Course Copy workflow with Blueprint
  • Groups and group assignments with Blueprint Courses
  • Modules in Blueprint


Locked items in associated courses have a "locked" Blueprint icon.

(It turns out that organizing and syncing content with Modules in Blueprint courses is more complicated than we expected.)


The courses selected for the initial roll out of Blueprint were:


  • MGEC 611 -- a half-term core MBA course with four faculty members each teaching three sections, a small army of TAs, and several support staff. Previously, this course had a single Canvas site (with all 12 sections!) in order to maintain consistency. Some of the faculty, however, wanted to customize the content for their assignments and course materials. We selected Blueprint to provide the teaching team with a common starting point, the ability to keep content in sync (if they chose not to modify their Canvas sites), and the ability to customize content if they chose. This Blueprint course has four associated Canvas courses, each with three sections (more than 800 students in total).
  • WH 101 -- a new core course in the undergraduate curriculum, which had been piloted in spring 2017 (with about 30 students) and was rolled out in the fall to almost 700 undergrads. This course is team-taught by three core faculty members, with the help of about 36 TAs. The challenge for this course was to provide the teaching team with an easy way to manage and update four Canvas sites and to maintain consistency across those sites. There were a number of challenges posed by the complexity of the course organization, scheduling, and frequent updates and changes as the semester progressed. The teaching team also wanted the flexibility to be able to post announcements across all sections/Canvas sites at the same time. This Blueprint has four associated Canvas courses, each with three sections.
  • WH 201 -- a new core course in the undergrad curriculum being piloted in Fall 2017 in preparation for a larger roll out in spring 2018. This communications course was collaboratively developed by several faculty members, and it required content consistency across all sections. Further, course coordinators in this program wanted to prevent teaching team members from being able to make changes within a Canvas site. One of the challenges for this course was dealing with rapidly evolving content that needed to remain in sync, as the course continued to undergo development after the semester started. This Blueprint has six associated courses.
  • WHCP 611 -- a half-term core MBA course that is the first of several required communications courses. Staff in the Wharton Communications Program had been asking for years for a way to ensure consistency across Canvas sites and to prevent instructors from being able to make changes to that content. Blueprint was an ideal solution! We were a bit concerned about including this course in the pilot, as this half-term course has 56 associated Canvas sites in Fall Q1, and an additional 53 associated sites in Fall Q2. And if things didn't work as expected ... well, that could have been a lot of sites that needed fixing!


In future posts, I'll discuss the specific challenges presented in each of these use cases and how they were addressed by our Canvas admins and/or by the teaching teams. Our Blueprint pilot was a resounding success by just about every measure. And I gave an overview of what we did in the Fall Community Showcase (2017-11-1). One of the teaching teams has decided not to continue using Blueprint (and I'll discuss this decision in a future post), but their path forward would not have occurred without first trying Blueprint. (I'm preserving some mystery here, can't you tell?)


If you are thinking about using Blueprint, I urge you to read Ken Black's encyclopedic post Tips for Designing and Maintaining Blueprint Courses. And then read it again. And maybe a third time. Ken provides outstanding advice for planning and getting started.


And if there are topics from our experience that you'd like to hear about, please let me know!

Rob Gibson

Fly Instructure

Posted by Rob Gibson Oct 29, 2017

Things are going SO well in SLC, that they now have their own airline. =)

Does a student need to enable particular sharing settings to allow the instructor to view the Google Docs in a group collaboration?

When the instructor goes to groups < selects the group < selects view group home page< collaboration < the blue colored text of the title of the google doc <now we hit a roadblock.

The Instructor is prompted to request access to view the document.

At what point in the student creation process does the student enable some kind of setting so that the instructor does not have to request access. Requesting access could be cumbersome and in some cases take a while for the student to approve access. We need instant access to the collaboration doc that the students set up in their groups area.


Any information would be helpful.

This past week this article, Standardization in Online Education, came by my social media feed. It was particularly interesting to me because we are knee deep in discussing the very issues that are discussed in this article. I have very mixed feelings about standardization of online education. I want course sites to adhere to accessibility and usability standards because this makes the design of the course site more inclusive to all students. However, on the other hand I don't want instructors shoehorned into teaching with a course site that is totally locked down by a Blueprint master course. Some of the best teaching and learning often happens outside of the Canvas using other software that wasn't specifically designed for teaching and learning. We are also discussing how to use more open educational resources in place of textbooks and it seems to me that these two subjects are intertwined in our discussions. Not long after reading the previous article this blog post, This is not the online learning you (or we) are looking for by Alan Levine showed up in my social media feed. Wow what a juxtaposition from the first article! This brings up many questions in my mind. I feel like these are tough questions to answer for my self and my institution so I'm curious to see what other people think about this issue.

  • How do we "standardize" online learning while providing flexibility needed for teaching and learning? 
  • What professional development really works and has successful outcomes? 
  • How do we build a culture of open pedagogy using open educational resources? 


Blueprint Courses were introduced with the June 24, 2017 release and are one of the coolest features introduced by Canvas, in this writer's humble opinion.  As an administrator, I thought it was a no-brainer to turn it on immediately on our campus. (It must be enabled by your Canvas administrator first.) When I enthusiastically outlined the features and functionality shortly afterwards to our entire faculty via email, the response can pretty much be summarized by this sound. Of course, it was in the middle of summer. So I must begin with this....


Full disclosure: Everything below has been checked while I tested out blueprint courses on our production server, but not (yet) by users during an academic term.


November 2017 update.  Community member Linda J. Lee is currently writing blog posts with some outstanding "real world" experience in launching Blueprint Courses, which mine below--writing when it was just getting up and running--lacks.  Anyone wishing to use Blueprint Courses and to gain some expertise in their use would do well to read Linda's posts.  Here is what has been done so far:

Also, be sure to check out her contribution on this topic in the Fall Community Showcase 2017 .  And finally, now that InstructureCon 2017 videos have been posted, check out Matt Goodwin's Magical Blueprint Courses- Matt Goodwin .


I'm rather anal about testing out new releases that I think will benefit my institution, as most Canvas administrators likely are, so I tested and re-tested things every way I could, courtesy of my ability (as an administrator) to create a few sample course sites and play around with varying faculty logins. Even if my own faculty may not yet be taking advantage of blueprint courses, I figured I could at least share some of what I discovered with the Community. I share the concern expressed here by Susan Hicks (UCF-CDL) regarding a good way to sell this feature to faculty, especially when compared to Canvas Commons. But the ability to "push out" material to an assortment of classes is awesome, especially to help those people who are not good about importing Commons material on their own.  


Virtually everything I mention below IS dutifully noted somewhere in the documentation, so the best place to start is with links to the official Canvas documentation guides.


For instructors of blueprint courses (the templates, as it were, not the associated courses), these pages from the guides are exclusively on blueprint courses, though blueprint courses come up in other places, as well:


For instructors of the courses associated with blueprint courses (the "destination" courses) your primary point of reference is How do I manage a course associated with a blueprint course as an instructor?


And finally, administrators can benefit from all of the above plus these:


Plan, plan, plan

Blueprint courses are well-named, because--like a house or anything designed with a blueprint--planning is critical, as is communication. Blueprint course instructors/designers wield a bit of extra power in their ability to "push" things out to other course sites, and virtually unannounced. Any issues that arise could likely have been nipped in the bud immediately with proper planning or communication. Therefore, everyone involved in the process should be sure to update their notification settings to ensure they are receiving timely updates, given that the Blueprint Sync notification setting became a newly-listed arrival on the notification screen.


While a few of the scenarios outlined below may cause one to shy away from blueprint courses altogether--don't!  This is truly an amazing addition to Canvas. It will be good, for example, for ensuring any sub-account outcomes get embedded in courses so that the individual faculty do not have to add them in on their own. (Yes, I tested this.) While it's true embedded rubrics cannot be locked, as several pointed out early on when this feature was released, just being able to get them out to instructors is a plus. 


But like a real architect you hire to design something, you will want to make sure you have the right person as the instructor of a blueprint course. As they say, "with great power comes great responsibility."1 And that power, as it were, comes in the hands of the architect...the blueprint course instructor/designer. This blog entry is designed primarily for them, but really for anyone ready to take full advantage of this great feature.


Timing is everything

This is noted in the documentation as the very first item on this page. Any blueprint course that already has content in it when associated courses are added will be synced immediately. So if you have a department that already has a super-great existing course that they want to use as a blueprint, that's fine. The course can be imported into a newly-created blueprint course shell just like any other course import. But for heaven's sake, have the instructor of that blueprint course check things over before your administrator adds in any associated courses, otherwise those associated courses will receive that material immediately…..existing warts and all.  


If your administrator is associating courses that already have had material added to them, the content will get added in like any other course import. Therefore, an associated course could conceivably have two assignments named the same thing if the associated course-building has already been started by a few well-intentioned faculty who like to get a head start on things. As an example, here is a course that had an assignment already created, but before associated courses were added in to the blueprint course. End result once the association was made? Two near-duplicate items:

[Coming up with assignments names has never been my strong point.] So both administrator and blueprint course designer alike should first make sure the associated courses have not been worked on too much. To be fair, Canvas does warn about this when the first associated course sites get added by the administrator:

Instructors of associated courses can recognize any new items courtesy of the new blueprint icon that appears next to an item that has been added, as pointed to in the arrow above. So again....planning and communication. You probably do not want to be the one telling a colleague: "That stuff you just added your own? Oh, you can remove them all now."


Don't publish. (Or you might perish.)

If the term has already begun, I cannot think of too many things that would make the instructor of a blueprint course less popular among colleagues than publishing an item before syncing it, since (as the documentation points out) the publishing state remains intact. Be aware that it can be unpublished by an associated course instructor, but by then students may have seen it . . . or been notified of its existence, depending on their own notification settings. Every institution will be different, of course, but I imagine most in the higher education field (where I'm from) would prefer to be able to choose the time to publish an item on their own after receiving it.


"I should lock this item. Well, maybe not. But maybe I should. Then again...."

This is critical, folks, and again gets back to the general blueprint mantra: planning and communication. (Neither of which is always in great supply in higher education...or elsewhere.) First, let's make clear that the new Blueprint button seen in a blueprint course site can just easily be labelled Lock me! and is dependent upon the site/sub-account administrator's setting of what items will be "eligible" for locking, as covered here.


An "unlocked" item that is synced can be edited by the instructor of an associated course like any other item.  This is pointed our early on in both the blueprint instructor's documentation page as well as the associated course instructor's page:

Objects that are unlocked can be managed by a course instructor in the associated course like any other Canvas object. If the blueprint course is synced and the instructor has modified unlocked content in the associated course, unlocked content is not overwritten with the synced changes.

But is it truly "like any other Canvas object"? Not quite. As an example, below is an assignment that was created in a blueprint course and synced to an associated course. In this case, the instructor in the associated course made a slight title change, adding in -Biography and and even adding in her own file attachment in the description:

Unlocked assignment in an associated course

But in this case, let's say the blueprint course instructor realized that perhaps that assignment should have been locked, and locks it after the original sync and then syncs it again. The result is locking it in the associated courses and overwriting any editing done by instructors on their own:

Same assignment then locked

So, the addition the instructor made to the title in the first example, as well as her instructions get overwritten. It is important to realize that although an unlocked assigned can be modified, if that same assignment later becomes locked the modifications are overwritten. (The file the associated course instructor attached remains in the associated course's Files area, though. The issue is the instructor can no longer edit the description, since the content is now locked.)


What the heck is an "exception"?

Before you think locking items in a blueprint course is just a bad idea altogether, here is another side to the editing coin. A screen capture on this page (under the "View Sync History" heading) displays an item in the sync history that shows "1 exception." Just what the heck triggers an exception? Let's say an assignment was pushed out from a blueprint course without any instructions/description and only the title.  (NOT locked--simply synced with no clicking of the Blueprint button.) The instructor decides to add in her own description in the rich content editor, which is shown below:

Assignment with some added instructions

But after that assignment was sent out (synced), the blueprint course instructor realizes that an attachment was not included. Horrors! So the blueprint instructor modifies the assignment and adds in an attachment, as seen below:

Same assignment but with changed instructions and a file attachment added is still NOT locked, only synced. This is what triggers an exception, as seen below:

Example of sync history with an exception

The file goes through, but not the assignment. Why? Because the instructor of the associated course has already edited it.  Once an assignment pushed out to associated courses is edited by the instructor of that associated course, Canvas will treat that assignment as the instructor's creation and will not touch it, so long as it was not locked on the blueprint course site when synced. Had the original assignment been locked in the blueprint course in the first place, this would not have caused the same issue.


Oh, and speaking of file attachments. . . .


Create a locked assignment with a file attached in a blueprint course? Don't forget to lock the file, too!

This is easy to overlook, though it is noted in the documentation. Files are locked separately. Using the above example, let's say our hapless blueprint course instructor now decides to lock the above assignment via the Blueprint button. (Which, as we have already seen, will overwrite the instructor's previously-edited version).

Locked assignment with file attachment

Again, this is now LOCKED in the associated course. The equally hapless instructor of the associated course goes to the Files area and decides to—you guessed it—delete the file from the Files area, perhaps not realizing that the now-locked Assignment Six has an attachment that relies on it:


Deleting a file in an associated course

Note on the screen capture above that while the file is clearly identified with the new blueprint icon, it is NOT locked, because the blueprint course instructor never locked it. Just the assignment was locked. If this file gets deleted, you can guess what will happen: student goes to the assignment, clicks on the file to download or preview it and…nothing's there. And all because the instructor deleted a file attached to an otherwise-locked assignment. The moral of this story is to lock the files, too, if you're locking the assignment. 


Actually, the moral to all of the above scenarios is this:  inform all associated course instructors to be extremely cautious of anything with a blueprint icon, locked or not. Better yet, the instructor of any blueprint course should be aware that it is not a good idea to change one's mind about the locked/unlocked state of an item after it is synced the first time.


Options not locked: Discussions and Quizzes

Let's say a discussion is created and is set to be graded with points in a blueprint course.  Even if points is an otherwise locked item, as the screen capture below shows, Discussion options can be changed—which means the instructor of an associated course can unclick that Graded checkbox, as seen below:

Locked content on a discussion topic

Basically, the above discussion will no longer be graded, even though, in theory, content and points should be locked. Quiz options can be added to this mix, as well, for a quiz that is otherwise locked. (This is probably just as well, given the many ways faculty may choose to administer a quiz.)  But here's a different quiz exception . . . 


Points get locked on quizzes if content is locked

Let's look at the opposite issue, where points are not locked in the blueprint course settings but wind up being locked, anyway. Here's the view from an associated course for a quiz that was synced from the blueprint course:

Locked content on quiz

Note the only thing locked is content...not content and points, as some earlier examples have shown. In the case of quizzes, however, the points will NOT be editable by the instructor in the associated course. As the screen capture below shows, there is no pencil icon in the question to edit the points:

Example of quiz question now allowing points to be edited

November 2018 Update:  Thanks to a question in the Community from Nancy LaChance, it was revealed that if there is no pencil icon in circumstances when content is locked, this also means that instructors cannot see the correct answers on a quiz if it is over 25 questions!  (See the discussion here:  Blueprint Dilemma .)  I overlooked this rather obvious fact when this was originally written. The reason for this is that on the legacy version of quizzes, when a quiz is over 25 questions long this disables the usual Show Question Details checkbox that instructors can check that will ordinarily show all questions and their answers.  With the editing pencil disabled, this effectively means they cannot see any answers at all. Fortunately, Nancy informed the Community that Instructure indicated this is resolved for any institution using Quizzes.Next.  


Deleting items from a blueprint course

Locked items will get removed from the associated courses if it is deleted from the blueprint course (followed by a sync, of course).  NON-blueprinted, a.k.a. unlocked items will also be removed, but not if it was edited in any way by the instructor of an associated course site. This is in keeping with the idea that once an instructor edits a non-locked item, it is essentially treated as their own in the course and the sync operation will not touch it, even if it has that a blueprint icon next to it.  (That's another thing that will register as an "exception" in sync history, by the way.)


Course settings

Course settings will never be locked, though they can be included as part of the syncing process, as the documentation on syncing a course shows. This is one way that courses can all share a specific grading scheme if the sub-account does not otherwise have its own.


Final random thought on how to remember what can be locked

What items can be locked? They are listed on the settings page, and are: Assignments, Discussions, Pages, Files, and Quizzes. I remember them this way:  PDQ-AF. Syncing is pretty darn quick (PDQ), and A-F is our usual letter grade scale. (If you're a hard grader, then it may be PDQ-FA!)


I hope some of this is useful to the Community as we all embark on this exciting new feature. I'd love to hear about any other interesting tidbits you discover as our academic terms begin in the northern hemisphere!

How would you describe your current adjunct faculty culture?  Is it disjointed, disconnected, disenfranchised, or stagnant?  Would you like your culture to be one of connection, development, community, and support?  If so, you’ve come to the right place.

We had the privilege of presenting at InstructureCon 2017, “Building Culture: Adjunct Faculty Success and Connection.”  Thanks to all those who attended!  We’re excited that many of you have reached out wanting more details about what we presented.  To that end, below are links to our presentation and all the documents we referenced that we’re using to build this positive culture among the adjunct faculty at Olivet Nazarene University. 

Feel free to use them, adapt them to your own needs, and even shoot us a message if you’d like to connect and discuss these in greater detail. 



Jeremy Van Kley & Stacey Moore


instcon 2017



faculty success

faculty engagement

adjunct faculty


Building Culture: Adjunct Faculty Success and Connection Presentation

Online Faculty Expectations

Mentor Observation Form

Mentor Timeline & Expectations

I have to admit - I am a bit of an Apple junkie/fanboy. In a past life, I was lead on mobile initiatives for a private university of 9,000 students, so I had test devices where I would install beta builds as they became available after Apple's annual Developer's Conference. My current role doesn't have me focusing on mobile quite as heavy, but it still drives me - so I installed a public release of iOS 11 beta. (Go to Apple's Beta Program to sign up for their iOS, MacOS, and tvOS publicly available beta programs.)


After installing iOS 11 on my personal device, I started tinkering with the new features, trying to break things and hoping to get myself into some trouble. Instead - I found an icon in the newly revamped Control Center.


After clicking on it, it asked if I wanted to start recording my screen, and I have to admit I was a bit giddy. Although there are some solutions out there that enable you to record your iOS device on your computer, I have never truly been satisfied with some of the outcomes (please, if I'm missing something out there, tell me!). 


At first, my hope was that this was going to enhance mobile training and tutorials. However, after my first video, I can tell you that it will most likely create more work for you after the recording. 


I haven't tested this with audio, so I can't verify how well it records your voice, but according to, you can use your microphone, but not the audio from the application. But I can say it does not record where you are tapping in any sort of manner - so you will need to be mindful of that and slow down your steps while recording, and then add some sort of visual cue in an editing software. Also, it records from the very beginning to the very end. What I mean by that is you get from the Control Center being open - to the "Stop Recording" window still showing. In my opinion these should be removed for a more professional look. Oh, and don't get me started with that blue bar at the top of the screen letting you know you are recording! It's pretty hideous. Just take a look at a very simple sample video I made where I take a picture I edited in VSCO, then I show you the difference between the original and the edits in Photos, then I upload to Instagram. 


So, what do you think? Is this a viable option for training or tutorials in a pinch? Or is it better suited for remote support of our users? Take a look at the 9to5Mac article I linked above that talks about this feature. It not only talks about this update, but also how to enable this feature and possible uses.


(And Android users - is this something you already have and Apple is playing catch up? Or is this something completely new? there already an app for that on both platforms that I'm not aware of?!?)

Kenneth Rogers

Why InstructureCon?

Posted by Kenneth Rogers Champion Jun 13, 2017

I have been working in Higher Ed for about 13 years or so (most of it in Instructional Technology of some sort). I have been fortunate enough to go to many, many conferences over the years. I have spoken at conferences, worked with product management/marketing on their presentations, helped organize local conferences, etc, etc...but it has been roughly 4 years since I have been able to attend any conference as an attendee. And I have missed it.




What is the value?

To me, there are two major selling factors to going to a vendor specific conference:

  1. Making connections with peers from around the country/world who are also in the trenches.
  2. Access to vendor support/resources and application specific announcements.



When you are a new parent (or shoot, just a parent!), sometimes it's great to make a connection with someone who can commiserate with you; someone who "gets it". The connections at a conference are the same. You can say what you do (Administrator, Instructional Designer, Faculty, Instructional Technologist, Higher Ed, K12, Pro-Ed, etc, etc, etc) and you will make a connection - and one that will last (thanks to social media!). Exchange contact information, you never know when you will run into an issue and think, "I should contact Joe Schmoe, maybe he can help."


Vendor Support/Resources:

Do you have a nagging problem with your system? Have a major complaint from your administration or users? Well, guess what - not only do you have someone to talk to, you have their undivided attention! You can have a face-to-face conversation with representatives from Instructure - and if they don't know the answer, they will find someone who does! And maybe the best part? Product managers are at InstCon! What better place to ask them "Why did you do that!?!" or "What is coming and when?!?" (And as an added benefit, most vendors who integrate with Canvas will be there also, so you have even more people to talk to!)


Why am I going?

As I mentioned, it has been roughly 4 years since I attended any IT conference as an attendee. I had a stint working in the private sector for an Ed Tech company - so I went to a few conferences and had to work. I am very excited to go to InstructureCon 2017, make connections, and learn from my peers. I have only been working in Canvas since last August, so this will be a great opportunity for me to meet people and soak in everything!


I am fortunate to work for a great boss (shout out Tracey DeLillo) who sacrificed her attendance so that I could go this year. I'm looking forward to talking with the vendors, pressing on ones we have, and talking with Peyton Craighill in person (plus a slew of other people - especially anyone from Canvas Mobile Users).


I am also really looking forward to Canvas Intelligence Exchange where I can meet other community members, learn from them, and gather any pre-InstCon knowledge (Kona Jones has already told me to bring an extra suitcase ).


Why are you going? What are you looking forward to? What are your InstCon suggestions?

I could not agree more....


"It is unfair (if common) to blame the longstanding LMS providers for the current limitations of their systems, as they were solving what was then the transactional task asked of them by universities: replicate the transaction of the traditional classroom in an LMS. Those transactions were the ones needed by faculty members to conduct their classes, things like taking and returning assignments, posting grades, sending messages, conducting classroom discussion, and sharing course materials. That generation of LMS providers did a great job and built systems around faculty needs and helped drive the enormous growth in online learning. However, we are now seeing a paradigmatic shift away from the faculty member/teaching focus that has long characterized higher education to a new student/learning focus. Whereas the LMS of the past encapsulated the whole of the instructor’s course and what was needed to conduct it, next generation systems holistically capture the student’s learning experience."


Moving From The Transactional LMS To The Transformational LRM 

The Active Teaching LabI just want to send out huge thanks to the entire Canvas Community! You and your contributions to this community have been instrumental in the success of one of UW-Madison's Faculty Development programs, the Active Teaching Lab.


The entire Spring 2017 semester of UW-Madison's Active Teaching Lab has been focused on Instructors' stories of teaching with Canvas tools. Each week we hear the trials, tribulations, and successes of instructors making their way in Canvas as our university transitions from D2L. We've sustained a voluntary attendance of ~17 participants per week with a ~20% return rate. Our faculty are hungry to hear the experiences of our early adopters and to see how they navigated through issues that arose. We wouldn't have been able to do it well without you! Although many complain about the unresponsiveness of the Canvas development path, many more continually find solutions and workarounds in the Community forums.


You can find some data and more information here: Active Teaching Lab | Teaching Academy and see what they're like by accessing all five of the past semesters of Labs — including takeaways, videos, and links to our Activity Sheets — in our eJournal here: Active Teaching Lab eJournal | Open Textbook 


Thanks again!


Myself as well as many other students use Carmen at Veterinary School and find our schedules packed and constantly trying to multitask or are forced to work offline. The lecture captures should be downloadable by students to play back with or without video so that they can be watched offline! Also we enjoy the beta feature of being able to speed up the playback so PLEASE institute this as a permanent addition to the site!



Thank you from students that would love if you made our lives easier!

For Faculty - Do you have students who miss the deadline or do not earn a passing grade? How can you efficiently communicate with these students?  The answer is in the grade book. 

Go to Grade book >> Locate the assignment title >> Click to the right and from the drop-down menu select ‘Message Students Who’


From this menu, a message box will appear and the message will be sent to all students who meet the criteria specified

  • Students who have not yet submitted
  • Students who have gotten a grade below passing


This can also be used for positive reinforcement to message students who scored above average.


Note: Multiple students can be messaged simultaneously but will receive their own private message – message should be general and not address a specific student.


For Students – The distribution of grades in the course on a graded assignment can be key for student motivation and empowerment.  In addition to viewing their own grade, students can also view the mean, low and high grade from the Grades view in the course.

Directions for Faculty – click on Settings >> Course Details >> More Options (in blue at bottom) and make sure ‘Hide grade distribution graphs from students’ is unchecked.


Directions for Students – To view your grades in comparison to the class go to Grades >> Next to the assignment click on the checkmark with the plus sign to show details. ck.png

As UW-Madison transitions from D2L and Moodle to Canvas, I've been hosting weekly Active Teaching Labs that feature:

  1. early adopting faculty sharing their stories (successes, challenges, frustrations, workarounds, etc.) of using Canvas tools.
  2. Independent, guided, hands-on experience through Activity Sheets (example) on each theme.
  3. Quality Q&A and discussion about the pedagogical aspects of the tools and their use —informed by the hands-on experience.

It's been moderately successful with about ~15 coming each week. Afterward, we create a simple recap with takeaways and videos of the lab. I invite you to check them out on our home page, or YouTube playlist.Spring 2017 Labs schedule

Rob Gibson

Amazon Outage

Posted by Rob Gibson Mar 2, 2017
Leona Barratt

A few Canvas Tips

Posted by Leona Barratt Mar 2, 2017

What does the analytics information in my Canvas course mean?

I like Analytics but wasn't sure what the data meant. I reached out to get the following explained so that I knew what I was looking at.  I hope you find it helpful.

Submissions can be for assignments, discussions, quizzes anything that requires student participation would be referred to as a submission.

Page Views
Page views are going to be for anything within Canvas the student has clicked on and accessed. Meaning that could be assignments, quizzes, pages, etc.

Since LTI's are an external tool or program it is not something that is going to be counted towards the course analytics.


Participation is anytime they interact with Canvas in a meaningful way, such as submitting assignments or making a discussion post.
Announcements: posts an announcement (instructor)
Announcements: posts a new comment to an announcement
Assignments: updates an assignment’s settings or description (instructor)
Assignments: submits an assignment (student)
Calendar: updates a calendar event’s settings or description (instructor)
Collaborations: loads a collaboration to view/edit a document
Conferences: joins a web conference
Discussions: posts a new comment to a discussion
Pages: creates a wiki page
Quizzes: submits a quiz (student)
Quizzes: starts taking a quiz (student)

Use the Notes column to sort the Gradebook

I've had instructors who want to sort the gradebook by sections, graduate level vs non graduate level, and by T.A.s assigned to students.
Consider using the Notes column in the gradebook to do this. Just add the section number, or T.A. or other criteria and click the column heading to quickly sort students into groups for easier management in the gradebook!

Create engagement with simple self check html code!

Here is a way to engage users with simple html code. Ask a question, let the user ponder the answer, click "Reveal th answer".

self check

Here is the code I used:

<div class="hidden-desktop hidden-tablet hidden-phone" style="background-color: #d00000;">
<p style="color: white; padding: 1em;">The following content will not function in the mobile app. To access the interactive content, please login to Canvas using a web browser.</p>
</div><h2>Answer the following questions:</h2>
<h3 style="border-bottom: 1px solid black;">Q1</h3>
<p>Why is using Headers better than just increasing the text size?</p>
<p><span class="element_toggler btn btn-primary" role="button" aria-controls="group_2" aria-label="Toggler toggle list visibility" aria-expanded="false">Reveal the answer</span></p>
<div id="group_2" class="content-box" style="display: none;">Because screen readers use Header code to find topic headings and locate information.</div>
<h3 style="border-bottom: 1px solid black;">Q2</h3>

This works best with only 1 question on a Canvas page. If you have multiple questions you need to change the number for both the aira control and answer div id for each question to make the buttons open up separately.

You are welcome to copy and experiment with it.

Using Box with Canvas?

Using Box at your university? It's a great way to manage files in one spot and have updates proliferate throughout all your courses.
Using Box with Canvas - YouTube 


File storage - How does it work and How do we manage it?

What do we do when faculty max out their file storage? We try to give them options such as storing large files in Box or the simple process of optimizing files (Word, PP, .pdf) to a fraction of their original size. I created a short video on how easy this is to do.

Optimizing your files for Canvas - YouTube 

Also, I have to admit. I get confused when I look at the storage information in the Files area. What does it mean 0% of 471 MB used? I just copied a course over how can this be? The original course was almost at the limit and the new course is telling me 0% of our maximum used. What's going on?
Okay! So the files only count against quota the first time they are uploaded. Because the files were already in Canvas, they do not count against the quota in the second course. Way to go Canvas on managing duplicate files.  I learned something new!

Discussion Board Setting - Users must post before seeing relies

There is a setting in a Discussion Board to encourage students to not copy another post when they are supposed to be posting an original thought. You can select the option to "Users must post before seeing replies".

However, sometimes students will work around this requirement by posting something then deleting their post after reading what others have posted. You can change your course settings to keep students from doing this.

In the Course Settings - Course Details - scroll down to the "more options" link at the bottom of the page.
Uncheck the "Let students edit or delete their own discussion posts".
However, I'm a big fan of allowing students to edit posts. If they have a typo and can't edit their mistake, they may never feel comfortable posting again. Use this option only when needed.

discussion board settings

Create Private Journals for Students

It's possible to create private journals for students to post their thoughts in and share with the instructor. This works best for small classes.  Here is how to do this in Canvas.

Creating private Journal movie


Quickly check your Due Dates in a course

Want to quickly check all assignments in your course for Due Dates?

  • Go to the Calendar View from the Home Page or from the Calendar icon in the Global Navigation Bar on the left
  • Select the course you want to check Due Dates for
  • Any assignments without a Due Date will appear in the UNDATED area

For any easy fix, just drag and drop the assignment on the proper date!

due dates

Quickly Display a linked File in Page Preview

If you've linked to a file on your page just do the following.

  • Select the text that links to your file
  • Click the link icon in the menu
  • In the menu box that appears, check "Auto-open the inline preview for this link"
  • Click "Update Link"

The document will display in a Preview window without having to click on the link.

For more information check the Canvas Guide

preview on page

Common mistake with Notifications

Notification settings are ESSENTIAL

I've had individuals turn off Notifications for Conversations and wonder why their email stopped coming in. I've created the following tip on this.


One of the first things anyone using Canvas should do is to carefully check and consider all your personal settings in the Notifications (Links to an external site.) area. You'll find these options when you click on your Account - Notifications.


If you want email coming in to your Outlook account you need to leave the setting for Notifications on in Conversations. If set for "X Do not send me anything", email coming in from the course only appears in the Inbox area for you in Canvas.

Your default email is your primary university email address unless you've changed it in your Account settings. Copies of all course correspondence will go to this address unless you've turned the notifications OFF.

Carefully check all your Notification Settings at the start of each semester and adjust them as needed


Using BOX LTI with Canvas

We use both Canvas and Box here at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and I've had faculty that want to integrate the two.

So, I created a video explaining how these two tools can be used together.

While the local authentication to our system here is specific to us, the following instructions could be helpful to anyone. These instructions include:

  • Embedding a document in Canvas using iframe code
  • Students using Box to submit an assignment from their Box account
    • Why using the link function"website URL" isn't the best option for assignment submissions

Watch the video - Box LTI in Canvas - YouTube


Want to create a banner for a course?


I like to use FlamingText. It's quick, simple, and there is no need to register or signup.


Why iframe doesn’t always work in your Canvas page

There are several reasons why your iframe embed code may not work in your Canvas page. It depends on if the site owner has restricted this embedding option.

Let’s look at a few of these reasons.


http and https

Any URL with the address of just http will not display within your page with the iframe code. This is because this site is considered to have insecure content.



The X-Frame options set to SAME ORIGIN is not something you can work around. It is a rule that is set by the site owner to prevent their content from being framed on another website.  The same-origin policy restricts how a document or script loaded from one origin can interact with a resource from another origin. It is a critical security mechanism for isolating potentially malicious documents.

Google doesn’t allow iframe embedding.

I tried to embed the Google page in my Canvas page. I used the following code in my html editor:

<p><iframe style="border: 0;" src="" width="600" height="450" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></p>


When viewing the page, it came up blank. I just got my title “iframe linking to Google”.

On my Mac in Firefox I used the CMD/CNTRL shift J to bring up the console display as shown below:

Here, I was able to see that X-Frame was indeed blocking my iFrame code from working. Check your own browser and platform for seeing this code.


How do I know if my iframe content will display?

First, only a secure site starting with https will work as iframe code. If you want to refer to a link starting with http, you the link tool and have the link open in a new tab or window.

If you want to dig into html code, potential problems can be analyzed using the inspect element function of your browser on their page. Or, by viewing the console error when a page that is iFramed is not showing. Here you might see the X-Frame issues as I did above.


Whenever possible, get the embed code from the site that you want to use in the iFrame. For example, in Google Maps, you can get the embed code from the maps menu. Just look for the embed/share code.

In YouTube and Box there is an area where you can get the embed code for folders or documents. Once you have the embed code, paste into the html area of the page editor.


Too many Discussion Board Notifications?

Perhaps you need to stay current on discussion board posts in just one class so you've set your notifications to immediate notifications or even a daily summery.
While you can't control which course you get notifications from, you can control notifications from discussion board posts that you don't need notifications from.
Simply click the "Unsubscribe" icon next to any discussion board post you don't want notifications coming from. Do this for any discussion board post where notifications aren't needed.

unsubscribe from discussion board post

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