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Canvas User Engagement

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Over the years when working with anything to do with computers I’ve found that I learn best when I 'do the doing'. Having an expert at the front demonstrating without letting me have a go just doesn’t work for me. Nor does having someone reach over to fix mistakes I’ve made. No learning happens, it just doesn’t go in.


Surely I’m not alone.


I’ve made a rule for myself when supporting teachers with developing their blended learning skills, or when they are problem solving – Sit On Your Hands Bobby! They must 'do the doing' themselves.


It’s so very tempting to reach over and grab the controls, or leap in and say what the next step is, when sometimes a bit of wait time ensures they figure out the next step on their own.


Another avenue to explore when supporting teachers is to show them how to problem solve, and where to go for help. Keep this up your sleeve for a giggle


Time spent on these may seem like eternity, but it is time well spent. I encourage you all to sit on your hands at least once this week! Then tell us how it goes.

Jaclyn  Myers

Canvas Groups

Posted by Jaclyn Myers Employee Nov 6, 2018

"Groups are for collaboration, sections are for differentiation"



Understanding the analogy:

  • Each cell phone represents a group set.
  • The group set holds all of the groups (folders) and students/participants (apps). 
  • You can't have folders for your apps without your cell phone - You can't have groups without a group set.
  • Each app can only belong to one folder - each student can only belong to one group within that group set.
  • Apps don't have to be in a folder - students/participants don't have to belong to a group. 
  • Apps can be arranged differently on a different cell phone - groups can be arranged differently in a different group set. 


Resources about Canvas Groups: 

Paul Towers

Panda's Are Not Scary!

Posted by Paul Towers Oct 31, 2018

Happy Halloween!


Although Halloween isn’t really celebrated here in the UK (well it’s not as big as our American cousins) I wanted to use this spooky day to campaign that Canvas isn’t scary. This all came about from watching Jared Stein  CanvasCon Europe 2018 presentation where he focused on ‘small change big impact’. Jared pointed out that although big change can happen, if we focused on small change over time this will have big (or even a bigger) impact on an academics learning and teaching. Personally this really spoke to me and it’s something I’m trying to develop in our institution.


Since we’ve had Canvas, we have used the 3E framework to create our staff development plan (we recently presented this at ALT 2018.) The 3E framework is Enhance, Extend and Empower and on a basic level it allows staff and students to use Technology in an incremental way. Just like Jared’s ‘small change big impact’ presentation we want people to use Canvas, but they shouldn’t feel scared or overburdened by the scale of the functionality. Some areas I’m trying to get across to our academics

  • Focus on one piece of functionality
    • Explore the use of a discussion and where it can sit in your course. Create different discussions for different topics and have them placed throughout a course. Have a discussion at the end of each week to raise questions or thoughts from the topics the students have learned. Use the ‘like’ functionality to provide quite feedback
  • Don’t put resources/video in isolation
    • Rather than just show students a YouTube video have it embedded in a discussion or at the start of a quiz.
  • Students want clear navigation, structure and context.
    • Give clear instructions of how your course flows or even hide certain areas you know will not be used.
    • It’s so important to build structure in your modules. By weeks, by themes, by sessions, by topics, etc. Having a structure will allow your students to work through in a set order or to easily find information.
    • From the work we’ve done with students they don’t want simple an endless list of PowerPoints, pdfs or word documents. They want context or a narrative to tell them why this specific document is important to them and how it will them with their learning.


So, we have decided to use twitter as a platform to promote our ‘small change big impact’ initiative. First, we will have a Halloween video (embarrassing one of me) and then a series of tweets that focus on small elements of Canvas functionality or where they can get support. Check out the twitter feed here.  We would love to see your ‘trick or treats’ throughout the day by using the hashtag The specified item was not found.



 As it’s Bonfire night here in the UK on the 5th November will be discussing 6 ways to make your Pages go off with a Bang (Panopto , H5P, Twitter, etc)



Thanks for reading and sharing!

Doug Holton

Using FlipGrid in Canvas

Posted by Doug Holton Sep 27, 2018

FlipGrid logo

FlipGrid is a free video discussion tool that allows for threaded video discussions in your Canvas course.  It's become very popular in both K-12 schools and college classes lately, possibly even more popular that Kahoot   And Microsoft recently bought FlipGrid and opened up all the premium features to everyone for free (such as maximum allowed video length, now 5 minutes).  My colleague James May posted a short 2 minute video about FlipGrid & Canvas that includes some comments from his students about using FlipGrid:


Try It Out for Yourself

Feel free to try it out for yourself and post a video reply to this FlipGrid discussion "grid": Using FlipGrid in Canvas


How to Use FlipGrid as a Student in Canvas

Michelle Pacansky-Brock made a couple of great videos showing students how to participate in a FlipGrid discussion in Canvaseither with their computer and a webcam:

If students do use FlipGrid with a laptop or computer, they may get errors that Flash is required.  Here are instructions on how to enable Flash in Chrome and enable Flash in Firefox.

Or students can participate with their smartphone and the Canvas Student app (Android, Apple) and FlipGrid app (Android, Apple) installed:


These videos can help students not only see how to successfully use FlipGrid but also help assuage any fears some may have about recording video.


How to Set Up and Use FlipGrid as a Teacher in Canvas

Setting up and configuring FlipGrid for use in a Canvas course requires a few steps, but should not take too long, especially once you get used to using FlipGrid.  FlipGrid has a nice handout explaining how to set up and use FlipGrid in Canvas.

It is missing a few things that may come up though: 1) what do you need to do when you roll over your course from one semester to another? 2) what if you have more than one instructor/facilitator, and 3) what if you share your course with someone else to use?

This video walks through setting up and using FlipGrid in Canvas, and it addresses those issues at the end:

But as to those 3 issues about using FlipGrid in Canvas:

  1. When rolling over your Canvas course from one semester to another, go back to each of your FlipGrid assignments and create a new grid to use.
  2. If you have more than one instructor/facilitator, click on the FlipGrid link in the course navigation menu and click on "Add CoPilot" to add another person who can administer the FlipGrid grids in the course.
  3. If someone else copies your Canvas course or if you import and use a Canvas course that someone else created and which uses FlipGrid, go to Settings -> Apps -> View App Configurations, and enter your own FlipGrid consumer key and shared secret as explained in the handout and video above.  Then go to each FlipGrid assignment and create a grid to use.

Other FlipGrid Options: Captions and Email Notifications

A couple of things I didn't mention in the video: captions are not enabled by default in FlipGrid, and by default you will get an email notification every time a student posts a video.

To enable captions (which I recommend), click on the FlipGrid link in your course navigation menu, then click the pencil icon, scroll down, and toggle on the "Captions" option.

If you wish to turn off email notifications, toggle off the "Notify Me" option.

Pedagogical Uses for FlipGrid

When I've introduced FlipGrid to teachers and faculty, they are excited about it, and they get some of the obvious uses for FlipGrid such as an introductory discussion or using it in a foreign language course or the like.  But FlipGrid has also been popular in STEM, history, and all kinds of courses.  See for example these resources:

Bobby Pedersen

What's on your plate?

Posted by Bobby Pedersen Aug 9, 2018

Teachers are such busy people. We get pulled in so many different directions during the course of a school day/week/year.


Sometimes engaging already busy teachers with Canvas can be a real challenge.


Perhaps a way to encourage teachers to use Canvas could be by first looking at and acknowledging what is on their plates then looking at the different ways that Canvas can support them in dealing with some of the things that are piling up.


Here are a few examples:


Assessment/Marking - Assessment and the Little People  What assignment types can I create in a course? 

Communication - Communication in Canvas  

Curating – Laura Gibbs is the Queen of curation. Check her out here in the Community. Just one example here. Feedback Resources Padlet in Canvas 

Differentiating - Differentiation and Personalised Learning 

Student well being - Smiling Mind  

Engagement - Sean Nufer is also a great person to follow in the Community. Here are some of his ideas. Embedding Content in Canvas, or: How I Learned to Stop Being Bland and Make My Content Amazing  

Planning - Solution Fluency Activity Planner  

Time to learn new things - Horse Before the Cart. Purpose first, Canvas second. 

Too many meetings! – Perhaps consider using Collaborations to set agendas, keep minutes, or conducts the meeting in. How do I use the Collaborations Index Page?  or Collaborations – Changed my world!  


When pondering what’s on teachers plates and considering what can be done to support them it doesn’t have to be all about Canvas. Perhaps look at tools that improve:

Organisation - The 12 Best Pomodoro Timer Apps to Boost Your Productivity  

Mindfulness22 Mindfulness Exercises, Techniques & Activities For Adults (+ PDF's)  


I’m sure I’ve missed a few. What ideas can you offer to help people with what is on their plates?





Canvas Community what a gold mine! It's so nice to know that we are lucky enough to have access to all sorts of information, tips 'n tricks, and real live people to chat to about all sorts - sharing ideas, problem solving, making connections across the world, and having a good old laugh.


Once a newbie to the Canvas Community has got their bearings they can join groups, read blogs, participate in discussions, and ask questions  etc. I've only recently discovered how to access what's new in the Community. Do people know how to access the Canvas 'News'? It took me a little while to discover this gem. Gideon made an excellent point in a discussion following Questions about ePortfolios.


So here are some hastily cobbled together instructions to change your preferences to gain access to what's new in questions, discussions, blogs...

Click on your profile picture then click on 'preferences'

Then make a decision about where you want to land when you click the Canvas icon

Then when you log in to the Canvas Community you have this banner

Click the Canvas icon to access your preference. I've set mine to 'News'. It's not there to look pretty!


Enjoy all of the recent goodies.

Bobby Pedersen

Ready, steady, Canvas!

Posted by Bobby Pedersen Apr 12, 2018

I love working with teachers as they learn how to use Canvas. Hearing their relief as they realise it's easier than our previous LMS and listening to ideas floating around the room of different ways it could be used makes my job so much fun. 


Sometimes though there is a sense of people being overwhelmed. That's natural. I really feel for them, and can remember so well that sensation when trying to get my head around new technologies.


When teachers leave training sessions with a purpose in mind then it's comforting to know they are on track. But when they leave knowing the basics of putting pages and modules together but without a real purpose in mind it's demoralising for everyone.


Ideally I'd love to be able to have everyone leave with at least one idea they can 'use tomorrow'. eg. announcements, discussions, quizzes. What ideas/challenges do other trainers have up their sleeves for teachers to action the next day? K-12 Priority Services K-12 do you have some nifty ideas to share? 


Michael Welker

Canvas Cast

Posted by Michael Welker Mar 13, 2018

So in order to provide both a passive 'canned' response with resources wrap around to FAQs for our folks as well as a regular item to add into our department's engagement stream of provoking discussions, we are starting a series of "CanvasCasts".

This is our pilot one so any suggestions or feedback is welcomed:

Canvas Cast #1: Accommodations for Canvas Quizzes | 21st Century Teaching 

Others doing anything similar we can learn form as well?


NC State College
Mansfield, OH


Our Department of Education have had the foresight to acknowledge the support schools require when aiming to leverage learning through the use of digital technologies. In my new role as a Blended Learning Leader our team have the privilege of being able to provide this support to schools.


Now that the official end of our previous LMS has come to pass we will be sinking our teeth into using Canvas as a tool to enhance what we already do really well. Last term we spent a lot of time out in schools demonstrating how to use Canvas and highlighting some of the potential it has for teaching and learning.


The new school year is about to start and I am keen to see how Canvas will be used in our schools. I am genuinely excited about the support we can provide and networks we can help build while keeping in mind Creating a purpose and Don't be a slave to your LMS. Make it work for you.  


How have other coaches reached out to schools?

What sorts of support have you provided?

What cool projects have you come across?


As Kelley suggested I never start with, "This is what this tech can do for you." or with "You can do this with this tech." I always start with, "What would you like to be able to do?" Then I show them how it can be done with that tech or some other tech.’


Wise words. Cart before the horse!




Here's a playlist of 4 videos (totaling a little over an hour) that walk folks through the essential features of using Canvas to develop courses: Canvas Essentials - YouTube.  These videos are used in support of our Canvas Essentials course for faculty.


And here are some other Resources for Building Your Course in Canvas in an embeddable H5P accordian widget.  That resource was created in support of our sample course templates in Canvas Commons.

I remember my first introduction to an LMS (not Canvas!) as a primary school teacher. Not only did the product appear to be clunky but I found it difficult to see the purpose of using it. Much time was spent wrestling with it and making a dogs breakfast of it all. It wasn’t until I finally shared the product of my hours of frustration with the class that the real purpose started to evolve. They wanted to use it, offered suggestions to improve it, demanded updates and got their families involved. It was then I realised that I wasn’t going to be the slave of the LMS, it was going to work for me – and for the kids.


Each new year I would begin with a clean slate and rebuild my LMS space. The students were encouraged to share ideas on what could be included. I became braver with what was tackled and the students kept demanding more and more until the LMS naturally became a living extension of our classroom, extending to the students homes and beyond. Laura has many way that she personalises her LMS space and makes it hum. Check her out some time.


Now the Canvas adventure has begun in our state and a new wave of teachers will be going through the same process of discovering their purpose of using this more intuitive LMS. I only hope they use it to work for them and don’t feel they have to be a slave to the technology. I am particularly keen to see how K-12 and K-6 will be using Canvas to work for them.

This is the eighth entry in my Preparing Your Canvas series, documenting NKU's transition from Blackboard to Canvas. If you want to start from the beginning, here's the rest in chronological order:



Once the initial, panicked rush at the start of the Fall semester subsided we had a chance to take a breath. Although we continued our daily training offerings, there wasn't anything new to add to the design team's plate for the transition. Whew. Now that we've passed the midterm I thought this would be a good chance to share some of the digital signage we're using to advertise Canvas! Signs are cool, right?


Before we go on though, a warning: if you're from Instructure's marketing group, you might want to look away. I'm sure this is the kind of stuff that gives a brand manager nightmares. (how fitting for Halloween)


A quote from a professor saying "This is easily the best training I've had at NKU. Ever." Beneath the quote is the link


Let's start with the newest sign - this one is about to go out from Marketing. This quote came from one of the faculty working her way through our workshop series. As soon as she said it, I thought "Dang, this has to go up somewhere for people to see!" Since our training isn't mandatory, building interest in our resources is crucial. However, I think that Kona Jones makes a strong argument for mandatory training in her post Canvas Instructor Training and Student Orientation. Would I make training mandatory? Yes. But I'm a monster.


The logo for Blackboard is partially ripped away like paper, revealing the Canvas logo underneath. To the right is the text "Blackboard goes away this May. Why not take a look at Canvas now?"


We currently have this sign in rotation, and plan to have it up for the entire school year. We want to encourage faculty to move as early as they feel comfortable. We also want to make it explicitly clear that our old LMS isn't accessible after May. Although its been said in emails and announcements, its hard to over-emphasize a critical deadline like this. (I think this sign is my favorite).


A table of statistics about NKU and Canvas. Over 70 Canvas trainings offered. Over 300 faculty enrolled in Canvas 101. Over 670 courses currently being taught in Canvas. At the bottom of the sign is the link


We're getting to the point where we have some good numbers to show for our transition. So let's show them off! Although there wasn't an elegant way to highlight this in the sign, we have 670 unique courses in Canvas. That's not including multiple sections of the same course. Now that I've written this, I suppose I could've just put "unique" instead of "active," huh?



This is the seventh entry in my Preparing Your Canvas series, documenting NKU's transition from Blackboard to Canvas. If you want to start from the beginning, here's the rest in chronological order:



Fall 2017 is here! In the week leading up to our first day of classes emails flew, meetings were had, phone calls were panicked, and the campus network temporarily became a frenzied beehive of preparation for the incoming students. This year is the voluntary year for NKU; faculty have the option of switching at any point, up to the end of May. At the end of May, Blackboard goes away (it rhymes — try it out). However, about 1/4 of all our Fall courses look to be delivered in Canvas, which is great for our first semester. And all of that is really important. But you know what's more important? Buttons.


Its hard to over-emphasize just how much people got excited about making graphics, placing them on Content Pages, and then making them links to other parts of their course. Part of the strong response stems from the relative inability of Blackboard to handle this kind of functionality. This left the design team with a question: how much do we focus on what the participating instructors are excited about, and should we pull time from what they are "supposed" to be learning right now? Do we let participants steer the class, or do we keep them on rails to reach our pre-ordained destination? The temptation, especially when you only have about 20 hours of delivery time at most to work with, is to clamp down. Despotism can be so easy. Without veering too much myself, a lot of my personal growth this past year has been in meditating on the difference between contradiction and contrariety. Contradiction sets up an opposition with no middle:


"We can either learn what you want to learn, or what I have planned for you to learn." 


Only one of us gets to be right. Contrariety takes a different approach; it frames the problem not as an either/or, but as a question of allocation or intensity.


"How are we using our time currently? What ways could we use our available time?"


For me, it was reframing the question in this way that made building a separate course, Canvas-201 make sense. I also think the enthusiasm towards making buttons speaks to the fundamentally creative nature of the instructor. The definition of creativity that I have found the most useful is the ability to connect concepts. We could also say that part of the function of an instructor is to help learners connect concepts. Providing instructors the means to functionally express their creativity was an easy decision to make, then. So, let's (finally) take a look at Canvas-201:


  • Module 1 goes over the kinds of functions graphics can serve in your course: Interactive, Informative, Organizational, Decorative.
  • Module 2 lays out some guidelines for things you should and should not do when making your graphics.
  • Module 3 walks through the process of actually building a graphic and deploying it to a Canvas course. 


In building Canvas-201, we chose to do everything in Powerpoint. We can guarantee all our faculty have access to the program, and they probably have some familiarity with it already through making presentations. In addition to talking about how to make graphics, it was a design goal to have the course model its principles. So every graphic inside the course was also created using Powerpoint. For similar reasons we also chose to pull all the photography from one website — pixabay. Module 3 is what most faculty were interested in, as it contains the actual tutorials for how to make images in Powerpoint. The tutorials try to cover a range of styles, and some of them are... basic. However, each tutorial builds upon the previous, and each provides a critical skill or strategy that can be employed in a variety of ways.


And guess what? If you're interested, you can go through the course, too. Just go to the course homepage and enroll. You will need an account with, but that's free.

This is the sixth entry in my Preparing Your Canvas series, documenting NKU's transition from Blackboard to Canvas. If you want to start from the beginning, here's the rest in chronological order:



I started writing this post over the weekend, intending to finish it before the final SFI started. Oops. In general there's this palpable sense of acceleration as the beginning of the fall semester looms on the horizon. Although interacting with faculty in the intimate setting of the workshops is rewarding, its only one part of our responsibilities. This applies equally to the participating instructors as well; the rest of our duties do not patiently wait while we all set aside this time to dig into building great classes. Part of navigating this transition successfully will involve faculty and staff alike negotiating a balance of their time and resources. 


We spend part of the workshop time thinking about cognitive load in different contexts. For example, how much information is being presented to a viewer at once? Humans can be visually overwhelmed easily. We also expand cognitive load to encompass what students are being asked to do overall. Just like faculty and staff, their behavior as students is a constant negotiation of time, resources, and competing responsibilities. Looking back at our Summer Faculty Institutes, we connected these points with participants while learning about Canvas:


  1. Students attend a class to learn content, skills, and meet objectives.
  2. The more students think about the structure of a class, the less they will think about the content.
  3. Canvas helps improve course design so that students think about course structure less.


These last two SFI's have also offered us new perspectives on the problem of engagement and disenfranchisement. In earlier posts we brought up involving other staff in learning Canvas. Many people besides instructors need to know about Canvas. We also have to respect the needs of instructors who aren't on campus. Online-only instructors, remote faculty working out of other states or other countries — they are equally important in the adoption of a new LMS. To that end, we recorded our WebEx sessions, which I covered more in depth in a previous post. This dips into a larger problem that many institutions face, which is how to provide equity and empowerment to remote faculty and students. Working with online-only organizations previously, I'm familiar with the communication problems that arise for individuals working remotely. Communicating at a distance requires a higher degree of intentionality and follow-through from everyone. You can't just "drop-by" their office or cubicle right when you remember something. The dematerialization of the physical office into emails, WebEx sessions, and phone calls can easily create a feeling of disconnect from the larger system.


Besides holding virtual sessions, sharing the recordings of those sessions, and having the independent Canvas 101 course, what are other ways to support remote faculty and students? I'm curious to see how other institutions have tackled similar issues.


There's still one final group we haven't talked about: the students! The students need to buy into the new LMS just like anyone else. Good things can be ruined by bad introductions. Part of our adoption strategy needs to account for setting a clear narrative for students about what is happening and why. In the past week we've reached out to our Marketing & Communications group to establish a plan of attack for getting the word out. Currently our plan involves 4 stages of advertising, using a combination of digital signage, campus-wide email newsletter, and social media. The advertising strategy performs a couple duties for faculty and students. For students, it makes them aware of the transition, and sets clear expectations for how their education will be changing. For faculty, it will help encourage more voluntary transitions before the end of Spring '18, when everyone must transition. Part of our overall strategy relies on distributing when faculty make the move as evenly as possible.


The summer institutes, and summer in general, are behind us. Canvas is in front of us. In my next post, we'll get to everyone's favorite: buttons!

This will be my first year utilizing Canvas. In the past I had been apprehensive about switching from Google Classroom to Canvas because I teach a lot of EC students. I had felt that Google Classroom was more mainstream and user friendly. What I have found is that it does not offer as much to the student and teacher. I will be interested to see how the transition goes.