I have the unique role at my institution of being a teacher and a Canvas Admin. It’s a unique combination which I enjoy. It keeps me connected to both worlds of Canvas. Emily Beckman is truly the brains behind our SIS integration, and I don’t understand all of the ins and outs of officially closing terms. My emphasis is on supporting teachers and getting Canvas to do what we want it to...we complement each other well!
This blogging challenge was perfectly timed for us. It gave us an excuse/opportunity to have conversations with our staff about how they wrap-up things at the end of the year and learn more about their overall use of Canvas -- and the items which will need support next year!
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?
Throughout the school year, I sent a monthly EdTech newsletter in which I shared relevant articles, Canvas updates, cool new apps, and best practices. I initially invited people to share their ideas through email, but I did not have any responses. Because my office in our library sees a good amount of teacher traffic (there is a coffee pot in the office next door), I started interviewing people one-by-one. Although it put people on the spot, it did keep our conversations concise. It wasn’t perfect, and I would have loved to host a roundtable discussion, but I was able to gather some very helpful information.
Last year, at the conclusion of second semester, I hosted two hour-long sessions called Canvas Clean Up. This course was designed to provide teachers with open computer lab time while having in-house Canvas experts available for questions and guided reflections. From a Canvas Admin point of view, it was awesome to see the different ways in which one LMS was utilized. This year, we did not host such an event. However, I think teachers felt more confident with wrapping up courses. Next year, after we add Canvas Commons to the mix - more details about that later - we’ll need more Canvas Clean Up sessions at the conclusions of semesters.
What successes did they have with Canvas at the end of the year?
- Familiarity. It’s the end of our fourth semester with Canvas. Knowing how to finalize grades, leave final comments for students, and to build course evaluations is not a big deal. We’re used to it!
- Comfort. Some teachers like leaving their courses “as is” and selecting the material that they liked or felt was successful and move it next semester. They know the process and prefer to leave an active archive of a class rather than cleaning it out.
- Instant Gratification. In files, the drag-and-drop aspect of organization makes it easier to sift and sort files.
What challenges did they experience with Canvas at the end of the year?
- Patience. Several teachers wanted to move into their new Canvas Classrooms now or during the summer rather than waiting until fall. That way, ideas and reflections are fresh! However, fall courses are not ready yet.
- Treasures. It can be daunting to go back into assignments to find student examples if the collecting didn’t occur throughout the semester. Teachers need to build their file of exemplars as the semester progresses; it’s so much easier.
- Endurance. When the end of the semester is so close, it’s easy to take shortcuts with feedback. It’s tempting to spend more time sorting, cleaning, and dreaming of next year before class is officially completed. Multi-tasking can wait, and avoid trying to do too much at once. You never know when you move or delete something that is linked to a current module.
- Time. I think teachers never have enough time to accomplish everything on their to-do list. The end of the year ticks away at a ridiculous pace, and being able to find adequate time to organize lesson plans and reflect about the past semester or school year is definitely a challenge.
How did the feedback change or not change some of your resourcefulness around 'spring cleaning' and year-end-close-out in Canvas?
As teachers close their “Canvas classrooms”, there is a lot to consider. I think we could offer more online self-paced eWorkshops. In our Staff Resources course in Canvas, we could provide short videos with more insights on various topics. (Think FastTrack Series.) Teachers don’t have a lot of extra time to invest in formal, scheduled professional development, but they do have time for quick questions and self-paced and relevant learning.
It has become increasingly apparent that we need to roll out Commons at our institution next year. Right now, teachers either export their entire course to their computer, network folder, or a cloud drive OR they import content from another Canvas course. It sometimes gets “messy” as teachers who teach the same classes figure out which course is theirs. By uploading to Commons, I think this process could be simplified. Teachers could also share resources and lessons. From an admin perspective, that sounds like a win-win situation.
How are you going to party this summer?
This summer, my “party” is a course building extravaganza! I plan to invest time into our all-student mega course and redesigning our Staff Resources course. I also want to look into ways to encourage collaboration among colleagues and explore ways to roll out Commons building-wide. Technically, I’m supposed to be off, but there’s something magical that happens when you give yourself the time and space to think, design, and revise. (...an occasional inspirational trip to get frozen yogurt doesn’t hurt either.) I think that’s more fun and it’s better than crunching all of that work into a teeny-tiny window come fall when teachers have questions.