Getting an Edge on Student Feedback and Communications

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I am ever grateful for all of the resources, tips, best practices, and tools created by and for the Canvas Community. I do not think any of us could do our jobs at all without the ever-present advice and help of the community.  Many of us who support the platform also teach pretty regularly, and it is for all those who teach – or help teachers – that I wanted to weigh in on a third party Canvas add-on that I cannot praise highly enough.

The product, available from 11 Trees, capitalizes on capabilities of the Chrome add-on and the power of Canvas APIs to provide an amazing tool called Annotate Pro (AP).  Annotate Pro allows you to develop  librar(ies) of comments that you can use and re-use throughout the Canvas platform.  That means that it is not limited to use in grading – but has become my go-to place for storing any content I anticipate re-using.

Initially, I fell in love with with the ability to store the comments I use in SpeedGrader – both to annotate written work – and also to explain point deductions in rubrics and to add summary comments when grading.   Annotate Pro let me create, categorize, store, and reuse all of the comments I use when providing feedback to students. This has cut down the time it takes me to provide feedback by about 50%, in all honesty.  But besides time saving, I truly believe it has improved the quality of my feedback. I have spent a great deal of time working and reworking comments so that they have the most impact and carry the most information to the student.  AP makes that time investment really pay off in student learning.  And I can always modify the base comment to give more insight.

Screenshot of Annotate Pro in action

The values of an AP library for grading are pretty clear, but since I have started using Annotate Pro I have also built up libraries of announcements (you know – the ones you use and re-use – like ”get ready for the midterm this week”), libraries of discussion responses that I tailor to the specifics of the discussion that is unfolding – but also give me a head start as I reply to the ongoing ideas posted by students. The discussion library allows me to create a pathway that supports my objectives – that I can then modify and edit to complement actual student comments and questions.  Again, I have to say that the ability to rework and improve the posts has helped me to get much better results from the discussions – results that show up in student gains in learning. 

One final area that I have been exploring is using AP for writing really helpful nudges. We use Inspire For Faculty, but no matter what tool you use, having really strong nudges that keep students motivated and working toward their goals has improved retention and attitude in my class (not to mention my student evaluations going through the roof since I started building up libraries for all of my student communications.

I know this might sound as if my teaching is “canned.” In reality, having these libraries has given me a good amount of time to work  more directly with students who really need my help. Rather than recreating the same comments over and over, I can use that time to reach out and actually connect with students. I am a major fan of AP, and I hope at least some of you might take a look and see what this little tool could do for you.

Photo credit: Anas Alshanti, Unsplash

1 Comment
Community Coach
Community Coach

Hi Nice Work on sharing this resource with us.

Your explanations were helpful and the reasoning behind why you use it were so sensible.

Thanks for taking the time to put this together. 

About the Author
Nancy began her career with DeVry 25 years ago as an English teacher with a Bachelor's degree in education and a master's degree in English from Arizona State University. In 1985, she became interested in the potential of the Internet for the practice of English teaching, became the webmaster for the DeVry University-Phoenix campus, and then moved rapidly into technology management, serving as Dean of Information Technology at the Phoenix campus. In 2001, Nancy was promoted to the role of Director of Academic Technology Services for the DeVry Education Group’s Information Technology department. As Director of Academic Technology Services, Nancy managed the development and delivery of student lab experiences, as well as various centralized eLearning resources. Notable projects were the development of a Citrix server farm for remote access to student lab applications, development and management of a student software program, system-wide adoption of a centrally managed eLearning platform (eCollege), and management of the Level 2 student technical support team. In this role, Nancy managed the initial research and development of content management processes, project that was awarded an IMS Learning Impact Gold award for research and development in 2010. In 2011, Nancy moved to the Online Services organization. She led a team of instructional technologists, course producers, and multimedia developers. During this time, Nancy oversaw her team’s development of a collaborative tool for faculty input into online coursework, the integration of a new, updated web conferencing system, universal implementation of a new e-book reader, and the development of HTML5-based tools for students to self-assess their knowledge. In July 2013, she returned to her focus on content management, becoming the technical lead of Project Independence, a project that extracted course assets from over 800 unique courses. Her team rebuilt them using web-accessible HTML-based course content templates, and published them to a searchable content management system. She now works with the Course Development Strategic Projects Team, currently focusing on the migration of 1500 Master Courses, about 4,000 faculty, and about 50,000 students to the Canvas LMS in July 2017.