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joel_duffin
Community Member

Canvas Pages vs Files

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As part of a Canvas adoption project, we are working with a client to propose new processes for authoring content. We are wondering about the legitimacy of suggesting that they author content using Canvas pages. It seems like faculty and curriculum developers will be questioning:

  1. Effectiveness - Are pages any more effective than files that I author using MS Word or some other tool and upload to Canvas?
  2. Efficiency - Is it going to take me more time to author content in Canvas pages than using the tool I'm currently using?
  3. Reliability - Is Canvas reliable enough for me to trust it to hold the master copy of my content?
  4. Editing Support - Does Canvas pages have the needed functionality to support collaborative editing such as version control, notes, and multi-user editing?
  5. Learning - Is the time / effort to learn to use Canvas pages too big a hurdle for me to change what I'm doing?
  6. Printing - If I need / want students to be able to print course content, will printing content from Canvas be as good as printing my uploaded files or at least adequate?
Part of why I'm asking is because our experience is that many instructors use Canvas files instead of pages to deliver course content. My questions are:
  • What is your experience with how faculty think about Canvas pages / on average, how do you think they would answer these questions?
  • What are your answers to these questions?
  • Have you seen these issues discussed / researched / presented about somewhere?
  • Are there other issues that should be considered when deciding whether or not to use Canvas pages?
1 Solution

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jomontuori
Community Contributor

I second every comment made by Anthony.  And I have just two small additional points.

  1. Pages = ​student efficiency. The use of Pages (over Files) keeps students on track within Canvas. Files require downloads and new tabs or windows. That equals extra clicks, distractions and potential diversions.
  2. Pages can be beautiful and interesting! Change fonts, colors, and sizes. Create links to other materials (yes, files too!) Add graphic images, embed videos. If you want to engage your students, Pages can make it happen. :smileycool:

Screen Shot 2016-10-03 at 9.54.55 AM.png

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3 Replies
abunag
Community Champion

I may not be the best person to answer these, but I'll answer what I can.

1 - I really like pages over files.  Pages allows you to edit as needed, use HTML, embed links, videos, and utilize other plugins your school can get, without having to constantly download, edit, and upload files.  Many faculty however stick with just files.  That does seem to cause more issue with students accessing it, especially on mobile devices.

2 - It takes about the same for equal content.

3 - If you're using hosted Canvas through Instructure, it's extremely reliable.  We've had very little downtime - measured in minutes - over the past year.

4 - It's a wiki page.  So you can see revisions and who did it, but not simultanous editing like you can with something like a google doc.  You can't leave notes directly on the page, however, you can have multiple pages in a course, and some can be visible to students while others are only visible to the instructor(s).

5 - It really depends on what the user wants to do.  I often say in training sessions that Canvas has a huge amount of power and a very deep array of tools, but you don't have to use them all.  One of the features that I really like that you didn't ask about is Modules, which allows organization in the class.  So a student knows exactly what they need to do in what order.  So they start their week with a quiz, then know to go to a reading, then to a video, then to a content page, then to an assignment, all without having to hunt through various menus.  Instead they just click "Next" at the bottom of the page.

6 - Big sticking point.  They're working on it.  Instructure spent several years trying to drag faculty into the 21st century and get away from massive stacks of paper, but I think they've finally surrendered the point.  They said during instructurecon that being able to print off various parts of the course is coming.  Currently you can get an ePub of a course, which isn't as nice, but is printable.

Followup questions

1 - Our population is pretty split.  Our last LMS evolved into nothing but file storage, so some faculty are just taking those same files and loading them into Canvas.  Others are spending the time to really utilize the tools available to them and make a functional online classroom

2 - see above.

3 - Check out the Canvas Engagement Strategies​ area for ideas on this.  I'm not sure I've seen anything specifically addressing pages vs files though.

jomontuori
Community Contributor

I second every comment made by Anthony.  And I have just two small additional points.

  1. Pages = ​student efficiency. The use of Pages (over Files) keeps students on track within Canvas. Files require downloads and new tabs or windows. That equals extra clicks, distractions and potential diversions.
  2. Pages can be beautiful and interesting! Change fonts, colors, and sizes. Create links to other materials (yes, files too!) Add graphic images, embed videos. If you want to engage your students, Pages can make it happen. :smileycool:

Screen Shot 2016-10-03 at 9.54.55 AM.png

A00364575
Community Member

Great comments already.  My answers to the five questions are, of course, qualified by exceptions, but I will speak mainly to what I think is most often the case.

  1. Effective: I believe Canvas pages are more effective than Word docs/PDFs for the following reasons:
    • They offer more opportunities for linking out to other Canvas content in a manner that copies well from semester to semester.
    • They include more options for integrating multimedia from YouTube, Kaltura, Canvas, or elsewhere.
    • They work better on mobile browsers and on the Canvas mobile app.
    • They require only a browser to display rather than another application.
  2. Efficient: This depends. For me, authoring content in Canvas pages is faster and easier to keep up-to-date than using Word documents and PDFs, which require updating separately and then uploading. But it’s a training issue. Faculty know how to use documents at first and have to learn to use the page editor. Once they learn it, they are easier to support because we don’t have to spend as much time helping them figure out how to replace files with updated files in Canvas.
  3. Reliable: Canvas pages are more reliable. It is easy to misplace or lose Word documents and faculty do it all the time. Not only is Canvas cloud hosted, but all pages have a page history and all courses have undelete functionality, so it’s difficult to permanently lose pages or their changes. One exception to this is searchability. It’s far easier to run a spotlight or Explorer search for file contents on a local machine than to search through Canvas courses and pages to find where a certain content page was.
  4. Time to Learn: Canvas pages will take time to learn, assuming faculty are already comfortable with their word processors, and may be more aggravating to get the way faculty like. They are more limited in layout options and pages can be prone to underlying code whackiness. That said, I don’t think they are terribly hard to learn, and this seems to be the case with most faculty.
  5. Print: You can’t control page breaks and you get the browser headers/footers, but otherwise Canvas pages print adequately.

I have found that the longer faculty use Canvas, the more likely they are to begin using pages and use them more regularly, which tells me that they find them to be the more useful and versatile than file management as they become more acquainted with Canvas.

All of this is purely anecdotal and observational, with my own personal observation and experience as the primary source. I’m not aware of any research that shows evidence one way or another.

Hope that helps!

Neal