On November 30, Kori and I traveled to Austin to attend CanvasCon. Not only was it a fabulous conference with some great breakout sessions, keynotes, and networking, we had the pleasure of presenting on the topic of our Canvas Student Quick Guide “course”, and how we to overhauled it.
Our story is a seven year journey. We are longstanding Canvas partners, and originally created a Student Quick Guide – using a Canvas course shell - as a migration tool to help students transition from our previous LMS. Internally, we occasionally made updates to the quick guide, but ultimately it became clunky and outdated. We determined that there was a need for a redesign. But how much of a redesign? Do we simply fix outdated items? Or do we do a complete overhaul?
Our Google Analytics helped shape the story for us. We had recently set up our Google Analytics so we were able to look at the data to see if our quick guide was even being accessed. While we do not have data from when the guide was first created, I can tell you that in the last year, we have had 137,804 total pageviews on just the landing page of our quick guide (this doesn’t include the individual module pages). That’s around 375 pageviews a day! So, with this data in mind, we determined that our guide was in fact being used, and the course was worth a complete overhaul. It was time to start from scratch.
Before designing a new guide, we continued to look at the analytics and created a crosswalk to find out what page URL’s needed to remain constant. We identified which pages could be removed completely, consolidated into other pages, and what pages had to remain for consistency. Next we storyboarded our new guide with pen and paper by wire framing what the guide should look like, writing down notes, and beginning to write specific verbiage for our pages. Next, we started to design inside of Canvas.
We knew two things about our design – it had to be clean and the pages had to be consistent. No matter what page you were on in the module, we wanted them to feel familiar. We ultimately decided on a basic look and feel with a header image at the top followed by the body of the page. After designing the layouts, we added our content with the updated information. This information was what students needed to know to be successful with Canvas, not information on transitioning from one LMS to another.
After designing our pages and adding the content, we used an accessibility checker from the University of Central Florida called UDOIT. With UDOIT, we found errors on our pages, in our YouTube videos (videos without captioning, for example), and in our HTML. We knew this course had to be accessible, and UDOIT was crucial in ensuring that we meet the needs of our students and anyone else who might look at our quick guide.
After completing the guide, we solicited feedback from key stakeholders across our district. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Probably the best feedback we received was from one individual who provided some Quality Matters suggestions. Neither Kori nor myself are instructional designers by trade, nor are we QM certified, so we gladly took these suggestions and implemented them right away.
Once we received the green light from our five colleges, we set a date for changing the outdated quick guide with the new and engaging quick guide. This process took around two hours and consisted of deleting the unnecessary pages, wiping out HTML and copying/pasting new HTML, and ensuring ALT tags, images, link locations, etc. were all updated. It was a team effort and a special shout out to Yolanda Miller for helping out that morning! Once the guide was live and we felt like the migration was complete, we double checked UDOIT (things were still good!) and made sure the static links worked just fine from the external sources.
We did it! We successfully transitioned our quick guide – and now we have a solid framework to continuously update based on the Canvas release notes (which Kori watches likes a hawk) or with internal requests (these have already happened since going live).
If you would like to check out the course, it is publicly available and can be found at bit.ly/alamoguide. We are proud of our work to reach the three needs we identified for our students – make it engaging, update the information, and ensure accessibility.
For a copy of our PowerPoint (in PDF format) from our CanvasCon presentation, please find it attached below.
Kori and Kenneth
Side note: We would also like to graciously thank our manager, Tracey DeLillo, for her support. She was instrumental in helping us with our CanvasCon proposal and presentation, editing this blog post, and of course leading us during this project. You are the best boss ever, and we appreciate you. We really do.