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Canvas User Engagement

2 Posts authored by: Tracey Gould

After migrating to Canvas in June of 2015, we have been trying to improve our communication in the new LMS in a variety of ways. We began by identifying the information we wanted to share, and who we wanted to share it with. The first thing we found was that there was different types of information that we felt was important.

  • updates to Canvas every three weeks
  • relevant processes that instructors needed to know
  • fun tips that would benefit instructors
  • information about how to interact with their support people

We decided that this information should be shared in multiple formats given that half of our online instructors don't live within easy driving distance and are difficult to schedule for virtual meetings. We still offer face to face and virtual training, but we needed something more. The answer has turned out to be a newsletter along with a short overview video of the updates.
We named our new LMS LearningZone, and the newsletter is LearningZone News. As the newsletter has evolved, we discovered that some instructors preferred an audio/visual version. So we have added a short video that contains the highlights of the videos as well.

The newsletter update is sent to all instructors, whether they teach online or face to face. All of our classes are web supported, which means that we support every class taught at Hutchinson Community College with our new LMS. We have noticed that our switch to Canvas has caused many non-LMS users to transition to using the gradebook and several other features available to them.

As a result of creating this newsletter we have several pleasant surprises.

  1. We have been able to guide instructors to the appropriate help resources in a pleasant, nonjudgmental way.
  2. Timely information can help instructors at crucial times.
  3. Information about old and new resources can be given over and over.
  4. We can also give tips on how to improve the effectiveness of instruction.

In the beginning there was so much information that we wanted to share we had to be selective so as not to overwhelm instructors with information. Now that we have gotten into the groove of it, we are able to add 2-3 thoughts in each area of interest. I plan to add to this blog with specific topics that we have addressed. Here are examples of our newsletter and newsletter video for your enjoyment.

LZ_HEADERGRAPHIC_FA2015.PNGAfter our first year using Canvas it was time to do a little cleanup. Our College migrated to Canvas from ANGEL on June 1, 2015, one year ago. We basically shut off ANGEL and turned on Canvas overnight. Although it wasn't as simple as it sounds, the process was well organized, and went, for the most part, according to plan. Summer courses went well as instructors adapted to the new LMS. The fall semester was the test, was this going to work? We migrated about 150 unique courses for the summer and another 200 unique courses for the fall 2015 semester with very few hiccups.

 

All was going well until November. Our college was one of the small number of instances that were affected by the queuing issue. While we were in the process of migrating our content, occasionally imports would get stuck in queue. We were told this was normal and to ignore it. Well, as it turns out, it wasn't normal, and on November 13th, an engineer at Canvas found something stuck in the queue path, and removed the item. This caused all of those imports that were stuck in queue to immediately begin importing. Within 12 hours we received reports from instructors that their content had reverted back to the original import, or there were duplicate modules, quizzes, and content. Basically, about 150 of our live courses and 30 of our master templates were a mess. After working closely with Canvas for about 3 weeks we were able to get this somewhat cleaned up, but every now and then we found unreported issues. So for us, it was essential that we get our content cleaned up this spring.

 

With the new LMS, our focus both during the migration and after, was to communicate well with instructors and students. We developed protocol, and guided both instructors and students to proper reporting sites. Our goal was to centralize the reporting of issues in Canvas. Our Instructional Design team has used this information to guide us in what improvements to make in our course.

 

What did you do to recruit them to your informal focus group? When did you hold your meet-up? And how many people showed up?

We didn't have a meet up as many of our instructors aren't local, and those that are teach more face to face courses. We used our LMS help form responses to guide us in what cleanup and changes needed to be done. The recent migration to Canvas has allowed us to improve our communication channels. We have improved our methods of communication and have seen an increase in instructor interaction with the online department.

 

What successes did they have with Canvas at the end of the year?

We have heard from both students and instructors that they felt very comfortable with the new LMS. I believe the most beneficial feature of Canvas is the ease of use. Students and instructors were able to learn the new system painlessly. While our initial training was well attended, instructors began exploring and figuring things out for themselves. I think the greatest success in the use of Canvas was the ease of the transition.

 

What challenges did they experience with Canvas at the end of the year?

I am pleased to report that there weren't any major challenges due to Canvas. We still have some improvements to make on the process of posting grades. We piloted automatic grade posting from Canvas in December 2015, but decided that we needed more programming on our end to make it work more efficiently with our student information system. Our IT/programming people are busy with higher priorities right now, and, as this would be a new feature for us, we are being very cautious.

One challenge that instructors encountered, though many weren't aware of it, was that students were accessing their content from the "to do" list on their dashboard, and not actually entering the course. During the fall semester we received reports of students being confused due to lack of instructions. After looking into this, we found that in many cases, the students were only using the "to do" list, and never saw the course schedule or the list of assignments in each module. We began changing the settings in many courses so that students were required to do things in the course.

 

How did the feedback change or not change some of your resourcefulness around 'spring cleaning' and year-end-close-out in Canvas?

Based on the feedback provided in our LMS help form, we devised a plan to update/cleanup all of our master templates. We began with the master templates used in the summer, and continued with the remaining fall templates. The feedback helped guide us to make improvements to our Orientation Quiz in each course so that students would be guided better in where to find answers about the course. We also added settings in every online and hybrid course which required all students to view the course schedule, complete the orientation quiz, and participate in the Introduce Yourself discussion before they could access any content in the course.

We also used this time to clean up duplicate files, quizzes, modules and content caused by the queuing issue in November.

 

How are you going to party this summer?

As we are just completing our first year with Canvas, we won't be able to party this summer, but I hope to party next fall. We will continue with our spring cleanup for our courses that will go in the fall. We have a large number of courses on our development list that we will need to monitor and make sure that updates are done to them as well. I am just thankful that last summer is over, and our instructors have embraced Canvas!