Laura Gibbs

#MyCustomCanvas : How I Use Canvas... what about you?

Blog Post created by Laura Gibbs on Jan 4, 2019

So, my semester was off to a kind of scary start this week when I could not turn off the red labels in the new Gradebook (why on earth my school made that switch to the new Gradebook mid-year is a mystery to me! it was opt-in during the Fall, so of course I had opted out then, and I sure wish I could opt out now) — but after an amazing discussion with people here at the Community, I'm confident that I can find a solution, either a manual solution I implement week by week OR an automated solution with James Jones's API magic... and then, maybe (I HOPE!!!) Canvas will get me a real solution before next Fall.


What I had planned to do this semester here at my Canvas blog was write a series of posts explaining exactly how I use Canvas, since everybody uses the LMS in their own ways based on their own course design, and I was thinking it would be really helpful if people could see how my teaching philosophy, course design, and LMS technology intersect. For every teacher, that intersection is going to look different, and if I can explain how that works for me, it will be easier for people to put my Community comments in context (like my comments about the Gradebook status labels).


So........... since I just got my classes set up and running for Spring, I will start with the most important thing about how I use Canvas: I make all my classes open! Feel free to click and visit; it's all open and available now:


Indian Epics, section 1:

Indian Epics, section 2:


I also design a custom URL in my own webspace for each of my two different classes: and Each semester I update that URL pointer so that it goes to the current semester; that means links I have left elsewhere on the Internet will automatically go to the current version of the classes.


I customize the left-hand menu to reflect what my students need — and yes, I am a foe of the design approach that says navigation menus should be identical for all classes. I am really glad I can customize the menu for my classes. Here is what the menu looks like this semester:


Home: I create a Page with the class announcements blog embedded, and then I designate that Page as the course homepage. I use the same announcements blog across all three classes this way.


Daily News: This is the announcements blog displayed using the Redirect Tool. That eliminates the clunky right-hand menu.


screenshot of announcements page


Blogs: This is the student blog stream, embedded in a Page. So far, there is just one blog... but soon, there will be 30 blogs for Myth and 60 blogs for India, with each new post showing up automatically here: Myth Blogs and Indian Blogs (combined stream for both sections of that class).


screenshot of blog stream

Modules: I take a week by week approach; I'll have more to say about my "microassignments" (6 core and 8 optional assignments per week) in future posts.


Grades: Students do all the grading by means of Gradebook Declarations (quizzes); the Gradebook is for them to use, not me. I'll have lots more to say about this approach in future posts.

Advice: This is a Padlet (via the Redirect Tool) with advice from last semester's students. I'll leave this one up for a few weeks... then, at the end of the semester, I'll put up a new blank Padlet to collect advice from this semester's students for next semester, and so on.


screenshot of padlet with student advice


Syllabus: I don't think students actually use this link, but if they do, there's a syllabus plus a random course image too (new image each time page reloads).


screenshot of syllabus page


Suggestions: This is a Google Form so that students can give me anonymous feedback at any time.


screenshot of suggestion box


So, that's it. Looking for course content? You won't find it in Canvas; I do all my content outside Canvas, relying on the LMS simply as a jumping off place where students can come and find links to what they need AND as a place for consolidation, bringing together student work via the blog feeds right from the start and later being a place to showcase their projects (I'll add Projects to the navigation menu in Week 4 when the projects are up and running).


Meanwhile, I'll have more to say about other Canvas features like quizzes, gradebook, etc. in future posts here. This is just the start of my blog series for Spring 2019! 


And now............ how do you use Canvas? You can write up a blog post here at the Community in either the Higher Ed Community space or the K-12 Community space (or in your own Community blog if you have one here) to share your custom Canvas creation. Everybody does things differently, and I am sure we can learn things from each other by sharing. That's the power of networked learning! About which I have a lot to say in future posts. 


I'll be using this hashtag: mycustomcanvas