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Creating a Faculty Training/Resource Site in Canvas

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Deactivated user​ chided me for not sharing this idea/resource so I am trying to be a good monkey (panda?) and share! So here is my now archived training and resource aggregation Canvas site I created:

Context: I teach at San Jose State University (30k students and about 1500 faculty), one of 23 campuses in the CA State University System, in the Department of Communication Studies (750+ students). Our students are generally middle class, highly diverse, in their 20s, working, and many first gen college students. Adjunct and tenured faculty are about 50/50. Faculty development and technical support is tragically under funded and highly Balkanized. After years of conflicts between administration and faculty, moving from Wed CT to Blackboard Web CT to Blackboard to D2L to Canvas in the space of five years (and with the exception of the Canvas roll-out, with little transition support), plus a poorly executed experiment with MOOCs, the culture on campus is rather combative (think Lord of the Flies...) so many faculty were on the verge of hostile when approached about using a new (or any) LMS. In my five years I would up training over 600 faculty in five colleges in about 35 departments. My own experience is teaching classes anywhere from nine to 140 students in research, theory/topic, writing, and practice courses in traditional, hybrid, and online  modes, between three and six classes a semester. I also have developed or co-developed 3 and taught 15 different courses.

While I am not an instructional designer, I play one on TV, or rather, have played one as a faculty consultant for academic technology in several contexts since 2010 first in my department and then at the university and college level (we moved onto Canvas on 2012). As a faculty member and a trainer I have come to realize that (1) faculty are just like students in that they are loath to actually hit the help button or search for resources (2) are unwilling to look too far a field for assistance (3) are more likely to resources that appear to be directly aimed at them because (of course) what they teach in their program is COMPLETELY different than what everyone else is doing (right....). My solution was to create shortcuts using modules (also see Module Madness​) that are built around specific tasks/problems, features, or the interests of specific departments. The idea is from our librarians who create content areas based on discipline areas. Keep in mind, based on the climate, a major component for all this developing trust and re-building morale.

The concept is pretty basic. I combined Canvas guides either linked and/or captured with screen shots, embedded Canvas video, and best practices in single thematic wiki pages and then arrange them in modules. For example, we have a basic required writing course that is taught in almost every program.

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So, I aggregate content based what features and techniques help. For example, in Peer Review I start with the pedagogical rational and the pragmatic benefits. I find that the biggest obstacle for faculty with features is the why they should use it and how it integrates in their design and workflow, so I sell it! This page includes includes examples of my own uses and cross links and tips to related features like speedgrader. Finally, at the bottom I embed guides and video links.

Next, never underestimate how antique faculty processes might be! Many faculty still demand paper (yes, actual physical wood products) from students and are enamored with the ritual of paper and pen grading. Having information on bridging the analog/digital divide is an important intermediate step, since how they can really use many Canvas features if they are still locked into meat-space submissions? Seems super basic (even embarrassingly rudimentary) but this includes why digital is a better option than paper.

Finally, since most faculty have ZERO teacher training, I add in pedagogically sound techniques that I have used in my own classes and provide some evidence of their effectiveness. This leverages the technical training opportunity for improving pedagogical practices.

Other aspects of this project included a monthly newsletter, Ted's Tech Tips, and modules on articles of interest, pro-tips, and sharable resources.

I would add that I developed a fairly robust faculty-to-faculty training program for the entire university with the idea that (1) the ratio of instructional designers and development staff to faculty is almost always low (2) faculty are more likely to access and listen to peers in their general areas (eg. social scientists) and (3) use of assigned-time (a class off) is a relatively inexpensive way to fund positions. Training and reporting were fairly rigorous and as trainers were drilled as much on how to approach different constituents and workshop techniques as much as in pedagogy or technology (all were experienced in online teaching or using technology).  While deemed successful and cost effective it was de-funded in the aftermath of a political shake-up and budget structure revision (could not/would not figure out who would pay for it). Check out the supporting materials in this navigation and introduction page in the associated module: FCAT Approaches and Responsibilities Workshop Overview: COSS FCAT.

Feel free to contact me for further info or context and to use any all materials on this site as long as they are attributed.

with respect,


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