Skip navigation
All Places > Higher Education > Blog
4 5 6 7 8 Previous Next

Higher Education

118 posts
Jeff Nuckles

The End of the Blend?

Posted by Jeff Nuckles Jul 26, 2016

blended graphic.pngMy institution recently renamed our “Blended” courses to “Hybrid” in the hope of easing perceived student confusion. Following some brief research, I’ve come to the conclusion that students aren’t the only ones confused by the terms used to describe the variety of modern course types. On ground, traditional, face-to-face, web-enhanced, blended, hybrid, flipped and online are just some of the words that educators are using to describe the ways in which they deliver courses. I found many definitions for each of these terms. Some consider “Hybrid” and “Blended” to be the exact same thing, while others describe their “Blended” courses as those where no seat time has been replaced by online course work even though much of the course work is completed online. Using this definition, our “Hybrid” courses have always been mislabeled as “Blended” and around 60% of our “On Ground” courses should actually be labeled “Blended”…or should they be “Web-enhanced”?

 

The only agreement in all of the definitions that I have found are that they all include some description of the amount of time spent in the traditional classroom setting with an instructor present, often called “seat time” or some quantification of the percentage of learning activities that take place outside the classroom. If 50% of the learning activities are online but the college does not reduce the amount of time that the students spend sitting in a seat in a classroom, is this a “Blended” course? If the 50% of the course is online and the time in the classroom has been reduced, then is it a “Hybrid” course? If the course is only 25% online then is it a “Web-enhanced” course? If the instructor only uploads documents but none of the assignments, is it still “On ground”? If there is proctored testing in a physical testing center can we call it an “Online” course? The questions go on and on. I believe that educators are making things unnecessarily complicated for students in order to suit our need to classify what we are doing. With all good intention, we try to educate students on these different course types because educating is what we do. Of course, in this case, we are trying to educate students on a subject that we can’t even agree upon ourselves.

 

We know that instructors (70% of them at our institution) are putting at least some content online for their “On ground” courses. There will soon be a day when this number reaches 100%. By that point, using the previously mentioned definitions, none of our courses would be considered “On Ground”. We don’t really know exactly what percentage of these courses take place in the classroom and online and neither do the students when they register. It could be 1% or it could be 49%. Hasn’t this always been the case? How long has the concept of homework existed? Students have always been expected to complete coursework outside of the classroom. The fact that homework now requires more than a paper textbook and a spiral notebook doesn’t really change anything for the student except for the required access to more advanced technology than a pen or pencil.

 

Some time ago we stopped using the term “Course Sites”. I felt that this was a remnant or the days when having a class website was something very uncommon. We now just refer to “Courses”. The days of going to college and never using a computer are gone. We need to embrace this fact and make sure that it is clear to all of our incoming students, no matter their background.

 

Haven't we also reached the point where we no longer need to categorize and define the type of courses for students? Even if we could agree on what they are, could we ever get our students to understand this mess? I think it is time to end the “Blend” and the “Hybrid” and the “Web-enhanced”and probably even the “Online”. These are all just courses now. Can’t we just say to our students:

 

“Classroom time may be reduced or replaced by outside coursework. Outside coursework may require the use of computers, tablets or smartphones in varying degrees.

 

I know that there are many additional complications to doing something like this, such as the legacy of fees that some schools (including mine) still charge only the students who take online courses and the ability for the college to continue to ensure that the proper seat time rules are being observed as well as requirements for accreditation. These are all details for us to work out internally. Students don’t need to know how the bread is made, they just need to buy the end product.

 

Welcome students! Some courses meet in-person frequently, some meet a little less, some don’t meet in-person at all. Pick the courses that fit your schedule and learning preference.

Rob Gibson

Instructure Chicago Office

Posted by Rob Gibson Jun 16, 2016

Not sure if this is a good place to post, but found this interesting. Meet the Instructure Chicago Team - YouTube

This blog could also be a very interesting discussion for another time. What I would like to briefly cover is not what people's different backgrounds are, but more what they could be, and how it doesn't really matter. Canvas has now been taught to academics from all over my institution in all the different disciplines and sub-disciplines that that entails. The original Canvas Facilitators at my institution were PhD students from all over the University. What we do for out academic careers really has nothing to do with it. By training I am an archaeologist, I have worked in Egypt and visit museums all over the place for my research. In my studies I have had a bit of exposure to different technologies and without talking myself up I am competent at a number of them. That was probably part of the reason why I was offered a job to teach Canvas to others, my day job involves teaching and my skills included technology.

 

I have had some emails recently of people saying that things are a bit too difficult or that they "don't understand this stuff". In particular I have had people saying that this guide on how to manage the lecture recordings is too difficult iframes (UoA Lecture Recordings) because it involves a little bit of copy and paste html. The second people see that they seem to switch off or dismiss it immediately. To be honest, I don't really know a great deal of html either, but I can figure it out if needed. That is the main skill that I see lacking in people who find these things too hard, they simply need to give it a go and try figure it out. These people are Academics from all disciplines. There are other people at the other end of the spectrum of course, who understand it and improve on it, which is great.

 

So, with Canvas, it doesn't really matter what you do if Canvas or e-learning is not your main job, it can be learnt either way. It doesn't matter if you don't do computer science or use computers for much beyond documents and email. I see Canvas as an augmentation of my teaching skills. Does it have anything to do with archaeology? No of course not, but that doesn't mean I'm not willing to sit down and figure it out. So if Canvas is not your day job, that doesn't matter, it can be figured out with patience, willingness, and time.

Back in October I participated in the Paper Pumpkin challenge, which encouraged conversations around online marking: Paper Pumpkin - Moving marking online, the uphill battle. Five months on I thought it would be time for an update. Since then we have not had many assignments due as it was the Christmas/Summer break and Summer School, but at my institution we have trained several thousand academics and professional staff in the use of Canvas. I have briefly summed up some of my thoughts on that process here: Keep on keeping on.

 

In the original post I talked about how great online marking is without all the bits of paper and the promise of quicker grading. Also, it is better for the environment due to less printing, and cheaper for the faculty and students for the same reason. Some staff have decided to give online only a go which is great, and the team I work with are doing all we can to make sure that that goes smoothly. As with all things, public (in this case staff) opinion is half the battle. Unfortunately not much has changed to sway the majority of the paper markers, although from more interaction with these people, some common themes have emerged as to why they don't want to do online marking:

 

  • There is a generational gap - A lot (but not all) of those who have a problem with online marking are from the older generations. They could cite any of the reasons below, but they are more likely to have a problem with the concept. The same people likely struggle because they don't understand computers either, and we frequently have people not knowing what an internet browser or a "tab" is.
  • Health reasons - Some complaints have been that screens hurt peoples eyes, or working on a computer is uncomfortable. While I can sympathize with these issues, there are a range of technologies available which can help with this. Tablets and laptops enable the use of a computer wherever suits you. Software such as f.lux: software to make your life better can adjust the brightness on your screen depending on the time of day. "Harden up" is something I wish I could say in these circumstances, but that doesn't really help the situation.
  • Internet connectivity issues - Some people want to mark where there is no internet connection. This is a tough one. Submissions can be downloaded, marked, and then re-uploaded but this is a bit clunky. There isn't much more that can be done. Having said that, internet connections and wifi are increasingly common everywhere, and devices now often will be able to have their own modem or be able to tether to a device which does.
  • It doesn't have all the options - This one is just an education issue. With tools such as Speedgrader and Grademark there isn't much you cannot do online now. One thing is the ability to just assign a letter grade without the student seeing the raw points, that would be a great help to encourage people to go online, this feature idea is suggesting that this option is added to Canvas: Allow final grade to be letter grade only
  • They just don't want to - Even if they were force to mark online, some people just don't want to and will print out all the submissions anyway. There really isn't much that can be done in this circumstance except to either revoke their ability to print (yes I am kidding here, mostly), or to continually encourage them to give it a go and demonstrate how easy it can make things.

 

In the end all we can do is offer support to the staff that cite (consciously or unconsciously) cite one of the above reasons for not marking online. An official decree from those in charge would not work in my opinion, we need to use the carrot not the stick in these circumstances. Although over time I suspect that neither will be necessary and the transition will happen "naturally". Time will tell.

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.

With the February 20, 2016, Release, Canvas replaced the number of assignments needing graded with a 9+ indicator when there were more than 9 that needed grading. No one thought much of it before it happened, probably because their examples all used single digit counts.

 

Here's what my To Do list looked like on the morning of Saturday, February 20, 2016.

 

Once the February 20 update was released, people started complaining, explaining how they used the count in their workflow, and asking for the real count back. After several days, Canvas came back with it as an attempt to simplify the interface and that we should file a support ticket so that they could track the number of affected users, not just those in the Community (even though my original plea to restore the actual count had 20 helps and 22 likes as I write this). So, please read the discussion in the Release Notes and then go file a support ticket if this change bothers you.

 

Since Canvas really botched this and it's important for me in my teaching load, I wrote a user script that will restore the functionality that previously existed. It's a shame that I have to make extra API calls, one for each assignment that needs grading, but it is a work-around until they restore this much needed functionality. I truly hope this is one script that I wrote which quickly becomes obsolete.

 

Here's what my To Do list looks like after installing my script.

It's pretty quick, unless you happen to have hundreds of assignments. As a user script, it is up to the individual to decide whether or not to use it. The browser add-on and the user script need loaded on each machine/browser that you want to use it with, but it won't mess up the general experience for everyone.

 

It has been tested on Firefox, Chrome, and Safari. It has been tested with the old UI and the new UI. It changes the Needs Grading counts on the Canvas Activity Stream (initial page when you log in) or any Course homepage (all of the four styles). It even works when you get that little message to load more assignments.

 

Be sure to follow this issue and the Canvas Release Notes. If/when Canvas restores this functionality, please disable this script or uninstall the browser add-on.

 

Installation

  1. Make sure Greasemonkey for Firefox or Tampermonkey for Chrome or Safari is installed and enabled
  2. Install the needs-grading.user.js file

 

This script will automatically run on any Canvas instance hosted at *.instructure.com. If you have a custom domain, then you will need to modify the \\ @include line to refer to your site.

 

This script is a Canvancement and designed to improve the user's experience with Canvas. It is up to the user to decide whether or not to use it. The source code is available on the Canvancement website.

I was first introduced to Canvas somewhat jet lagged on my way back from a conference in Europe, being told by my supervisor (whom I didn't know was on the flight) at 3am somewhere that we would be using it for the class starting the next day. In my jet lagged state I had the course running my the mid-morning, and then with a small revision I had it looking a bit better a few days later when I had caught up a bit, the result of which is here Creating a "button" oriented syllabus page. Our course was a part of the pre-release of about 10 courses, part of the advanced users group as we called ourselves, each from very different disciplines of the University, and me being the most junior person in the room. I did not have the benefit of the training the others had received before going it, but I soon caught up and was finding new ways to use Canvas. One of which resulted in a way to manage the lecture recording links that we use iframes (UoA Lecture Recordings).

 

Before long, whether by nagging, luck, or skill, I was offered a part-time position as a Canvas Facilitator for the University, helping to train the staff at the University of Auckland in the use of Canvas. I ended up just focusing in the Faculty of Arts due to my PhD and teaching commitments. I have posted other blogs about some of the challenges I have encountered while doing this job; Paper Pumpkin - Moving marking online, the uphill battle and You can lead a horse to water..., but for the most part the result of the training sessions have been interesting to see. What the other facilitators and myself are seeing is people taking the LMS on board and using it in new and innovative ways. Some people are playing more with the html editor, while others are salivating about all the ways they can improve their teaching styles. This is all in contrast to our old LMS, which while it was state-of-the-art when we got it many many years ago, is now tired and needed replacing. What is exciting is to see what people can do with Canvas and what they will continue to do with it as they are introduced to it, hopefully without the jet lag.

We are now well into teaching Canvas to all the staff in preparation for next year at my institution. In my Faculty, the overwhelming response has been positive to the switch to Canvas, with people getting very excited about what they will be able to do with their courses in Canvas. But, and yes you knew there was a "but" coming, this is not always the case. Some staff simply do not want to put any more effort into their courses than what they currently do, which is to upload a few pdf's and maybe some power-points and call it a day. This response mostly comes from tired and jaded staff, but also surprisingly from some people who you would assume would be excited. To them, the prospect of putting in a bit of extra time to set up their courses is unthinkable. I have tried to sell it to them as an investment of time, if they put it in now to make an awesome course, it can be copied over to the next time they teach it, but that line only works about half the time.

 

Along with Canvas, my institution is introducing Talis Aspire to help manage our copyrighted content, which again brings a collective groan from those same staff. In one case, a staff member suggested that they may retire instead of deal with adding the copyright to all of their 30,000 images that they have. Whether or not they use all 30,000 images in their course I never did ascertain.

 

I was a bit disheartened at some of these responses, I couldn't see why people would not want to make their courses a bit better, which is part of their jobs after all. While my initial response to these negative attitudes was that of disappointment, I have come to see the situation another way. The people who don't want to learn Canvas or put in any time at all, probably weren't doing it in the first place with our old LMS. I have done my job and tried to get them enthusiastic about Canvas and what it can do, but at the end of the day I can't do much more than that. All I can do is help those people who want it to make their courses as good as they can be.

 

You can lead a horse to water... but you can't make it drink.

When I work with a faculty member who is a bit of a technophobe, all I have to do is show them the wonders of SpeedGrader and Crocodoc and they're sold on Canvas.

 

I start by asking by them how they normally grade written work (essays, research papers, etc...). They all tell me some version of, "The student emails it to me, I download it, print it out, make corrections by hand, and then make a copy for my files and give the student the original in class a week later.

 

I respond by asking if they'd like to save paper and hours of time. They look skeptical until I walk them through the work flow of grading written assignments in SpeedGrader and using Crocodoc to leave comments on the document.

 

Hands down, it's been the biggest tool in my toolbox for converting folks to using Canvas in their courses.

 

Plus it saves trees! What's not to love?

How do I go paperless in Canvas for my hybrid Statistics course? Here are nine ways I've cut down or cut out using paper for my class and instead use Canvas!

 

  • Textbook - My textbook is OER and I provide the PDF in my Canvas Course!
  • Syllabus - No printing of my 15+ page syllabus! It's in Canvas for my students to read!
  • Handouts - I have a lot of handouts ranging from the course calendar to content specific handouts and they all get uploaded into Canvas and added to the appropriate Module!
  • Assignment Directions/Instructions - All assignment directions/instructions are in Canvas and always available! No more" I lost the directions" or "I couldn't find them"!
  • Statistics Tables - No more printed statistics tables! I provide the link to an awesome online Probability Distribution Calculator.
  • Quizzes - No paper/pencil quizzes in my class! All quizzing is done in Canvas! My favorite part is that the questions are formula based (or there is a large question pool to draw from) so I can let students have multiple attempts. This helps students who aren't getting it to try and figure out what they aren't understanding and do better (or ask questions!!).
  • Assignments - The majority of the Assignments for my class are turned in on Canvas (we do some hands-on stuff in the classroom) and graded in Canvas (I LOVE Speedgrader!). This works well because I'm not collecting papers from the students and it's easier/quicker to grade!
  • Google Collaborations - I use Google Collaborations to create and share information/data with my students and my students use them all the time for their group projects!
  • Attendance - Instead of keeping paper attendance I keep track of attendance in Canvas!

My institution is known for elementary and secondary teacher education.  In the past, student teachers had to complete both a work sample and portfolio.  Students often turned in bulky three-ring binders to their supervisors.  It was cumbersome, paper rubrics were used, and students had to coordinate a time with their supervisors for feedback sessions. Since our implementation of Canvas, both of these assignments have been converted to submissions in Canvas.  Naturally, the portfolio assignment utilizes the e-portfolio section of Canvas.  Supervisors now have the opportunity to grade these submissions online, using the coordinating rubrics to provide feedback.  No bulky binders, no hassle of setting up follow-up sessions; it is now all online!  A great and simple solution for two very important submissions! 

My school had the luxury of a gradual transition to Canvas. Over an 18-month period, a small team of instructional designers and one contractor (me) met with professors to redesign and reformat their courses to bring them over to the new learning platform. Since I taught humanities and philosophy courses, I primarily worked with professors who teach English, history, and of course humanities courses: writing-intensive courses. The first few semesters of transitioning consisted of migrating those courses that were already conducted fully online.

 

That was the easy part. We were now faced with helping those professors who primarily taught face-to-face to consider adopting some aspects of Canvas. One of my roles during this part of the transition was to meet with groups of these professors to obtain their buy-in.

 

I decided to showcase SpeedGrader, Turnitin/GradeMark, and Crocodoc's annotation tools. I traveled around our campuses to show professors of brick-and-mortar writing-intensive courses how they could leverage Canvas tools and integrations to simplify and streamline the grading and revision process for themselves and for their students.

 

At this point in the story, you should know that all of my experience in teaching college-level courses has been online. Having never stood before a lecture hall of college students, and having never used a pen to mark comments on an actual piece of paper, I embrace a mindset of saving trees, eschewing print cartridges, and indeed, happily allowing the printer sitting in the corner of my office to gather copious amounts of dust. I even made a game of keeping a mental count in my head of how many pieces of paper I had to print over the course of a semester, with the goal of keeping that number in single digits (and even that entirely due to administrative stuff like contracts and withdrawal forms): the "Under 10 Club," if you will. So when these professors asked me what was--for them--an obvious question, it took me a moment to think it through:

 

If we use SpeedGrader to mark up papers, can our students print their annotated papers to bring them to the Writing Center for review and revision?

 

I confess I hadn't given that any thought, and indeed, at that time, I didn't even know the answer. But what flashed through my head was the memory of my own professors complying with FERPA by laboriously placing every single student's graded and annotated paper in a separate envelope, writing the student's name across the front, and sealing the envelope to leave them for pickup. The old days, I thought, at the same time realizing that what for me were "the old days" were "these days" for the professors sitting before me--and "today," for many more even now.

 

I can be fast on my feet when I need to be.

 

"They don't have to! Save trees," I quickly replied. "Students can pull up their courses from anywhere where they have access to a computer and an internet connection. So once you've annotated your students' papers (and please, let's start calling them 'Essays' or 'Submissions,' since I hope you will agree that the term 'papers' is increasingly becoming anachronistic), they can go to the Writing Center and pull up their Canvas course. They can sit side-by-side with a tutor and look at the annotations together. Your students can launch the essay in a separate window so they can work on corrections to their draft. They can resubmit the revised assignment on the spot. Or, they can go home or to the library to continue to work on it, or they can pull it up at Starbucks. Wherever they are, they can continue to work on their assignments, and they never have to hit a 'Print' button again.

 

"And neither do you."

 

After the first meeting I learned that yes, of course, students can print their Crocodoc- or GradeMark-annotated assignments. But they don't have to! I hope that hundreds of instructors and students joined my Under 10 Club during our transition to Canvas and are no longer plowing through thousands of reams of paper.

 

Has your transition to Canvas allowed you to join the Under 10 Club?

Not to get all John Hughes on you, but Speed Grader is where it's at for grading. Electronically submitting comments is more effective for students and teachers. Reading comments from your instructor no longer feels like trying to interpret hieroglyphics. The feedback is precise. Teachers can effectively and efficiently leave comments all while having a rubric in front of them. One more benefit of Speed Grader? Students and teachers have an electronic record of essays with specific feedback. This is useful for revisions and general reflection in the classroom. Speed Grader for the win!

     Now, this is a story all about how,

my life got flipped-turned upside down.

        And I'd like to take a minute,

              so just sit right there;

  I'll tell you how I became the prince

           of a town called Bay-lor.

 

Flipped classrooms are nothing new to world of higher education, but they aren't nearly as ubiquitous as they should be.  Since Canvas uses LTI standards to integrate with hundreds of third-party applications, we recently integrated Kaltura into every course in Canvas.  Now, recording short lectures online is as easy as one-click!  Instructors can spend quality class time evaluating, expanding on, and re-visiting information with students who come to class already prepared.

Filter Blog

By date: By tag: