Laura Gibbs

Strategies for Online Presence in Canvas...?

Blog Post created by Laura Gibbs on Oct 4, 2017

I don't often participate in online discussions at Inside Higher Ed because the comment space sometimes fills up with trolls, but I felt compelled to comment on this article, and the discussion has been useful, so I wanted to share it here:
Coming to Campus to Teach Online.


screenshot of article at IHE


I hope the author will respond too! It's not that I disagree with her about the good things that can happen in face-to-face interaction among colleagues, but it really worries me that she considers face to face interactions to be the "best" ... even though she teaches online. One of the other commenters, who also teaches online, clearly has very low expectations for interaction in his online classes. In fact, it sounds like he has doesn't expect any kind of meaningful interactions online. Ouch.


In my opinion, the element of interaction is essential in online education, just as in the classroom. An online class CAN be excellent, as good as or better than any classroom-based class, but we are being hampered by the low expectations and lack of experience by the faculty who teach online, especially their low expectations for online interaction and their own lack of online presence. Instructor presence online AND student presence online are both essential, and I design my own classes with that mutual presence as a top priority.


I would blame the LMSes, including Canvas, for contributing to this lack of presence. There is no obvious way to build a really lively instructor presence in a Canvas course, and almost no way at all to build persistent student presence. That's why I use other tools to do that, like my student blog network (read more about that at network2017  ), and my own use of a blog for daily class announcements. See for today's announcements — the course is open... always open... with new announcements every day.


screenshot of class announcements


As I see it, the key deficit in Canvas for online presence is the lack of dynamic profile pages. As they are now, the Canvas profile pages are pretty much a dead zone. For some thoughts about that, see this lively discussion that James Sanzin started here:
Is there a way to spice up profile pages? 


So, here is my question for others: what do you do to create a sense of instructor presence inside Canvas? Are there Canvas features and/or Canvas apps that you are putting to good use? And what about student presence...? Share your ideas here!


And to get more ideas, check out the wonderful work that Michelle Pacansky-Brock is doing with her Humanizing Online Courses project; you can find out more at her website and at her @brocansky Twitter:



. . . 


Even the growth mindset cats create their online presence. :-)


two cats staring at a laptop screen in which their images are visible: I'm creating my online presence.