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I can't take credit for coming up with this, but since the faculty member who did is not in the community as of yet, I will share their project here for them.


One of our Biology Instructors has students take a bare bones (no pun intended) model of the human body, and then use modeling clay to create muscle groups and attach them to the models. He then sets up each of these models into stages around the classroom and uses pins with labels to indicate a specific muscle groups on each model. The labels just have letters, not the names of the groups. In the past, he would create paper quizzes and hand them out at the beginning of class and have students split up into groups and then go to each stage and try to answer which muscle group was indicated by the pins at that model. As soon as a group completed all the stages they would turn in their quizzes to him, he would furiously grade them as fast as possible, return them, and let them go over what they got right and wrong.


He has now transitioned to using college provided tablets and Canvas Quizzes to replace the paper quizzes. Students get immediate feedback, all of the grading is automatic, and he can provide rich comments if the students missed any questions. This is saving tons of time and tons of paper and the students really enjoy the activity. They are up and out of their seats engaging with real physical objects while at the same time leveraging technology to create a wonderful learning experience.

The example I have is from our nursing department.  Prior to Canvas, students in the practicums had to turn in daily  logs detailing the goings on of the day.  The students would record these logs with a phone, digital camera or even software installed on a laptop or tablet.  This was time consuming for the students and a headache for the instructors as they had to have a number of different video tools to watch these videos.


When we switched to Canvas, the nursing faculty loved the built-in video tool that you could use in assignments.  This made the creation of the daily video logs much more simple and removed the barrier of all the needed video recording software and playback software.

As a student, I gave many presentations in class. I hated standing in the front of the class. I hated the unrevisable nature of a live presentation. Sure, I understand that live presentations have their place, but online presentations also have their place, and Canvas makes online presentations easy for both faculty and students.


The built in media tool is great. It can be used to record video presentations by both faculty and students. It is so easy that I have found myself offering more video messages in discussions, conversations, and announcements. These quick and easy videos help me feel a greater sense of presence, connection, and communication with my students. Besides, if I mess up, I can revise.


My students report the same experience I have: ease of use and better feelings of connection.


For more formal presentations, Canvas does a great job of integrating with web services. I like to create slides with Haiku Deck and use Screencast-O-Matic to record the slides, audio, and webcam for a polished lecture type of video. The whole thing ends up as a YouTube video that embeds nicely on any page, discussion, or announcement in Canvas by simply pasting in the url. While my students find these more involved presentations, most of them report enjoying the process.

Our various health care career programs have to grade students by observation at their clinical practicum sites. Previously this was accomplished with a clipboard using check-off sheets for each task observed - one sheet per student. Then the instructor would come back to campus, tally the sheets, and enter each student's clinical observation grade. Tedious! They now convert those check-off sheets to a Canvas grading rubric, attach the rubric to a Canvas assignment, then use the SpeedGrader app on an iPad and the rubric to grade their clinical observations. No paper, quicker, and student grades are immediately available to the student.


Now, many of our other technical programs are using this same method to grade any hands-on observational tasks in their programs. Observe a student painting a car, and grade as you observe. Observe a hemodialysis student perform a venipuncture, and grade as you watch. Too cool, folks. I actually did a presentation on this at InstructureCon 2014.

Groups.jpgOver the past few months, I've helped answer a handful of questions re: people wanting to set up a campus club or group in Canvas that lives outside of any course.  The club/group isn't tied to any one course.  For example, we have a Multicultural Club, an Auto Technicians Club, an Accounting Club, and a Chiropractic Specialist Club (to name a few) in our Canvas instance.


In order to set this up, you need to have Admin access to your Canvas instance.  If you don't have this kind of access, speak to someone who is at your school.  Here's what you get: Home, Announcements, Pages, People, Discussions, Files, Conferences, and Collaborations.


Here are the steps to setting this up:


Go to your Admin Pages (Managed Account) of Canvas.


  1. Go to your Admin Pages (Managed Account) of Canvas.
  2. Click People on the left nav.
  3. On the upper right corner of the screen, click on the More People Options (three dots) button.
  4. Select View user groups.
  5. Click the + Group Set button to name your group set (for example, "Clubs").
  6. Click the + Group button to add the name of a group within that Group Set.
  7. Begin adding people to the Group by clicking on the round + icon next to the name of the group.  You can search for a person's name or their e-mail address.
  8. Click on the cog wheel to set the Group Leader.  At this time, there can only be one Leader per group.


Keep in mind that if you have the same person in multiple groups, it will be necessary to first create an additional Group Set (step #5) since an individual cannot currently be assigned to two or more Groups within the same Group Set.

As we all know, traditionally the marking of assignments has been on paper. At the beginning of the computer age when students wrote their assignments electronically, some teachers would take and mark electronic copies of their students work. This largely continued on with tracked changes in word documents and the like. With Canvas and other tools such as Turnitin teachers can receive all their assignments digitally and mark them online, and in the process reduce the amount of paper flying around, the clutter it causes in offices, and the hassle of the handing in/returning the paper assignments. Sounds great doesn't it?


In theory, it is great. In practice, people have been slower at adopting it than would be expected (hoped). One of the main complaints is that screens are harder to read than paper. Also, people like to mark in places without internet and scribble all over their students work. With increasingly common access to cheap readable touch-screens, and the increasing number of places with wifi, a lot of these issues are disappearing. Speedgrader is a great tool for this, as is Turnitin's grademark. The two are very similar, with the exception that Speedgrader does not generate an originality report or talk to Turnitin well, which has resulted in our staff who want to mark online and use Turnitin choose to just use Turnitin in lieu of Speedgrader. What is seen is that once people move to online marking, they don't usually move back.


Maybe it is a generational thing that results in some people being open to online marking more than others, however there are always exceptions which cause doubt on this hypothesis. What is seen is that as more people mark only electronically, their colleagues follow suit as the stigma or fear of it is removed by example. Maybe in a few years time we won't need a physical place for students to hand in assignments, and on that day we will all reclaim some of our office-space.

Communicating to members of advanced degree programs has historically been problematic - primarily because many such students work full time and are pursuing their post-baccalaureate degrees in off hours and potentially only online. Email can be unreliable and important communications can get lost in user inboxes or filtered into junk mail. The distribution of paper forms, brochures, newsletters, posters, bulletins, etc is costly both from a production and a delivery standpoint.


To facilitate communication and mitigate these difficulties, several programs have begun using Canvas courses as their source for communication, storage, and distribution of information. Students are already accessing Canvas on a regular basis for their academic courses, so they will see when there is new information posted in these additional courses. Course shells are manually created each school year, with department-designated teacher(s) who manages the content and invites the students to join the course.


Important information, forms, documents are then posted electronically rather than printed and mailed or handed out. Students can view materials online, or print if they so choose. Distance learners are not at a disadvantage having to wait for hard copy materials to be delivered.


We expect this usage to expand as our departments, instructors, and staff become more comfortable and familiar with Canvas and aware of its potential!

To make recording of academic activities (verification of work by students in a course to qualify for their financial aid disbursement) easier on teachers and faster for both the financial aid office and students we started a process using available canvas features, the APIs and our SIS.


Teachers can now record attendance, give quizzes/exams, or homework assignments. Once those items are completed our SIS using the APIs can see if an "activity" has been recorded. Now teachers no longer have to fill in a form or going into the SIS and manually enter information.


This process is now used by teachers who teach only face to face classes to those who only teach online and everyone in-between.

Here are five:


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


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


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


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


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




1. Take care of ME!

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


2. Course Design (or Redesign)

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


3. New Faculty Orientation

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


4. Update our Support

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


5. Two-a-Days

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

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


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


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


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


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

5 things

Posted by Sep 15, 2015

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

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

Creating courses and enrollment of students ready


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


From an innovative teacher and developer

5 Things

Posted by Administrator Sep 13, 2015

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


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

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

5 things

Posted by Champion Sep 11, 2015

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


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


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


4.  Touch base with our Help Desk.


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

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



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