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Community Member

Preparing to Launch Commons

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We love what we've seen so far with Commons and have outlined some interesting ways we're going to use it for courses from templates, but the way Commons copies permissions and the way our institution combines departments has us nervous about launching. Here are some of our issues. I'm curious to know if anyone else is running into the same problems we are.

PROBLEM 1

We have students who are taking master's level courses and teaching lower-division courses as adjunct faculty in the same department.

Why is this a problem?

If faculty share master's level course content, many of their students in the master's program will have access to the content, even though they don't teach at the master's level.

For example, Criminal Justice and the Master's of Criminal Justice are under one department so they share the same sub-account in Canvas.

We pull the department structure from Banner, so proper organization would have to come from the top down and getting departments to switch to new department codes is a difficult process for our institution. At least that's what they tell me. Smiley Happy

PROBLEM 2

Many of our instructors have enrolled students in courses as teachers instead of TAs, but not all students who are enrolled as teachers in courses are TAs. Some are truly teachers.

Why is this a problem?

Once a student has been enrolled as a teacher in a department, the student now has the ability to pull shared content from Commons. We would have to verify thousands of enrollments and compare them with Banner, but even this wouldn't catch all scenarios. Sometimes students are legitimate co-teachers not listed in Banner as the primary instructor.

PROBLEM 3 - Resolved

A handful of departments have requested sandbox courses for students, so historically, we've enrolled them as teachers in sandboxes WITHIN their respective departments.

Why is this a problem?

An example: If a computer science student is a teacher in a computer science sandbox listed in the computer science sub-account, they now have access to content shared within the computer science department in Commons.

I brought this up in another discussion and have been scouring a spreadsheet for weeks, manually moving student sandboxes to specific student sandbox sub-accounts. This is not fun because I have to check any user that is listed as both a student and a teacher in the system and check the courses they're enrolled in to see if they have a student sandbox. The sandbox names are anything but uniform. #eyestrain

What About You?

Have any of you out there wrangled with these issues while launching Commons? How is it going for you? Have any ideas for us?

Thanks!

Mike

1 Solution

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Surveyor

Hi Michael,

I have been doing a little testing with Commons and the only way around problem 1 would be to not use commons or to have the master courses organized in a different sub account then shared to Commons only to the masters level subaccount.

For Problem 2, it is important to note that if students are enrolled as a TA to any course in your Canvas instance, they will also see the import into Commons option and this would allow them to search commons then import it into that course. This means they could potentially access information that they shouldn't be and they could delete what they imported to in the course to help cover their tracks.

You may have worked through this by now, but I'd love to hear how things are going and if you've come up with any other solutions to these problems.

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8 Replies
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Surveyor

Hi Michael,

I have been doing a little testing with Commons and the only way around problem 1 would be to not use commons or to have the master courses organized in a different sub account then shared to Commons only to the masters level subaccount.

For Problem 2, it is important to note that if students are enrolled as a TA to any course in your Canvas instance, they will also see the import into Commons option and this would allow them to search commons then import it into that course. This means they could potentially access information that they shouldn't be and they could delete what they imported to in the course to help cover their tracks.

You may have worked through this by now, but I'd love to hear how things are going and if you've come up with any other solutions to these problems.

View solution in original post

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Lamplighter II

Yikes! I hadn't thought of the TA role having access to Commons. I don't think many of our people use TAs thankful. I see this as nightmare. I reviewed the permissions page and the Commons admin page and there isn't any option that I can see to limit this. I created a feature request. All the more reason to overhaul how permissions work in Canvas. 

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Thank you for bringing this up.

We haven't yet launched Commons because of these issues, though we're working on a potential solution. Here's what we've come up with so far:

Create Commons Sub Accounts for Specific Departments

We'll launch Commons in March 2016 with plenty of "Be Share Aware" messages leading up to flipping the switch. These messages will outline the potential issues we've seen, including the one clong@hbuhsd.edu just mentioned.

Any department that would like to use Commons but wants tighter security will get their own Commons sub account.

We'll run a Banner (SIS) report to pull all users who are legitimate teachers in that department, enroll them as teachers in a closed Canvas sandbox in that new Commons Sub Account, and show them how to share to it.

Any instructors who would like access to the shared sub account course would have to go through their department contact and us.

It's going to be a lot of admin work on our side that we aren't happy about but at least it will give us a sense of security. Unfortunately it still doesn't address our master's level problem.

I'll report back on how it goes. Smiley Happy

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Susan,

Thank you for creating this feature request and for stopping by. I'll keep an eye on the voting window and get in there as soon as it opens!

Mike

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Community Member

Just a quick update here.

Due to the security issues with TAs having the ability to share and import course content from Commons and due to having over 3,000 courses with TAs enrolled, we have decided to put Canvas Commons on hold for now.

We were so close to launching it this month but we feel these security concerns outweigh Commons' benefits.

Our university has busted students involved in cheating rings and they were hired for trusted positions. We can't risk this for TAs.

We've considered recreating our TA role in the system and reconfiguring those permissions, but this wouldn't be an option during an active semester. Plus we don't know if the work is worth the benefit.

Thanks everyone who chimed in and helped us figure this out. I'm very grateful.

Mike

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Learner II

For problem 2, what if you created a new TA role named 'Teaching Assistant,' or whatever, and based it off of the Student role, rather than the Teacher role, and then removed the Instructors' ability to add people to their courses? (You would have to manage adding Teaching Assistants to courses, which is quite a chore at the beginning of semesters, but you would have the ability to ensure that all Teaching Assistants have signed FERPA prior to giving them access to other students' grades).

Anyway, I wonder if the 'Teaching Assistant' role based of the student role would prohibit their access to Commons.

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I agree snugent​, I have not thought about this before! Thanks for the link - will vote now!

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Jason,

We actually considered doing this, but we have so many TAs out there now that this would be a big project for us. Plus we decided to give instructors the power to add students because we quickly became overwhelmed with requests when we locked it down (this was a few years back). I like your thinking but it just wasn't in the cards for us.

Mike

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