Gideon Williams


Blog Post created by Gideon Williams Champion on Jan 12, 2017

When I started working in elearning I was given some interesting advice when trying to persuade staff to adopt new practices.


It wasn't the usual stuff like:


Show something that will make an impact, show something that will reduce workflow, show something that will give added value or show something that saves time.


It was..




Basically, its all of the above put together - so not too tough an ask then.


The reason why I mention it is to highlight a number of irritations which is best delivered through the events of the past few days.


A tweet appeared from my colleague who was keen to develop his feedback to students. He had noticed the Media Comment feature on Assignments and had the bright idea of recording his feedback rather than typing. Not only did he think that this would have greater impact but it would also speed up the process (so 2 of the above already ticked off!). He brought up the assignment at home on his laptop and connected in the microphone (at this point he had decided that an audio recording would be more preferable than a video one). Once the connection had been made he began to record his feedback and there the problems began.


The recording box (light box?) appeared in the centre of the page and the assignment, which we needed to read through was 'greyed' out in the background.

Although you can move the box about, there was no way to minimise the box or to bring the assignment to the foreground and to be made visible. His only W.A. was either to open up the assignment in another browser or to export/open the assignment into a different location (oops, there goes one of the above items).


Needless to say he stopped. His initial plans and excitement ended.The alternative was too time consuming and in the end he found himself writing down the points he wanted to say.


I spoke with him the next day and not believing what I heard I contacted support. The issue had been raised before over a year ago as an 'idea' and in the commentary, it was mentioned that the same issue had been raised a year previously! ( if you are interested).


I contacted support to see if something could be done as to my mind this was not a pedagogical idea but a technical issue that needed to be resolved. Unfortunately the fix/improvement had not got enough votes and had been left there.


Not completely downhearted I approached Michael Kop in our IT support team who has done some amazing things with Canvas in the past -  add link.


30mins later he came back with a solution that used 'a bit of javascript to hack the CSS'. It is simple but brilliant. On the bottom of the page he has added a min button.

Pressing this hides the light box recorder allowing you to see the students work.


Once clicked, the button changes to max.

Pressing max bring back the light box which you can press to end the recording.


Works for all types of assignments - submitted works and quizzes.


Problem solved... until it turns out that the Media Comment cannot be played more than once in the comment section without (here's the W.A) - refreshing the page. Canvas are working to solve the problem.


So were are we after this...

(i) Should I be glad that Canvas is so Open that it allows a solution to be found - YES

(ii) Are we incredibly fortunate to have such expertise on site, most definitely - YES

(iii) Am I pretty disappointed that this issue has not been resolved in the first place and 'left' for two years - YES


What gets me most though is that a member of our staff had seen an amazing opportunity with simple use of technology to transform an aspect of his teaching and learning that would have had huge impact for him, his colleagues and his students and the platform could not deliver. It did so in the cruelest way by being there but no longer being fit for the purpose intended.


Reading through this post again it sounds critical and maybe rightly so. Michael Fullan's has a woderful quote 'pedagogy is the driver, technology is the accelerator'. Canvas is a marvellous platform, don't get me wrong, but it needs to be more agile and address a number of these issues. Teachers have a very interesting relationship with technology. Whilst a few explore at the outer edge of EdTech and are happy to try out new features and take risks, the majority just want it to work and to do those things outlined above to make things better.


So perhaps Canvas, have a think about all those 'ideas' submitted that are not 'new ones' but ones where there is an expectation that the platform should deliver. I have a list of my own; the example above (and why there is not a Pause button on the recorder!), self assessment rubrics and embedding O365 in the RCE. I am sure there are others that people can think of.


As for the cryptic title of the piece. The bane of my elearning life - Here Is A Work Around.....