Showing results for 
Show  only  | Search instead for 
Did you mean: 
Community Team
Community Team

Teaching Language in Canvas

Jump to solution

This morning I had occasion to revisit one of my all time favorite Instructurecon presentations - Curt Radford of USU presenting on "Exploring the Efficacy of Online ASL​ Instruction​" and that got me thinking about the challenges and opportunities of teaching language via Canvas in more general terms.   Do you teach language online?  If so, do you use Canvas and how specifically?  Have you heard of online language instruction techniques and examples that are especially effective (or were perhaps distasterous)?​

1 Solution

Thank you, Janel.  I'm looking forward to hearing about your experiences as the summer progresses.

View solution in original post

0 Kudos
13 Replies
Community Member

We have some of our blended/hybrid language courses going online for the first time this summer in Canvas so I will have to report back. Canvas features such as being able to easily submit audio/video recordings as assignments or in discussions, and built in ways to give verbal feedback to students are essential to our language courses. We also can use Adobe Connect or Big Blue button for any synchronous sessions but these courses are designed to be asynchronous. One challenge is that the French & Italian courses use an external site from Pearson (MyLanguageLab) for their textbook so students have to work in two spaces (all of the textbook/workbook activities and tests are housed in this other site that are linked from within Canvas) but it is still another system that students have to get used to and grades are maintained in the Canvas space.

Thank you, Janel.  I'm looking forward to hearing about your experiences as the summer progresses.

0 Kudos
New Member

Bonjour Scott,

Language teaching/learning - and more precisely sign language learning - is exactly the reason why I left Moodle for Canvas.

After using Moodle in 2014 for a sign language (m)OOC with 4 working languages (from which 2 are sign languages [SL]), and after experiencing a lot of limitations and frustrations, I decided to switch to Canvas.

Here are 3 examples of features I use specifically and enormously appreciate for (sign) languages:

- the ability to record videos directly from within a discussion forum and submit video responses/comments/assessments

- have learners video-answer to a quiz question (requires teacher assessment) or chose the right answer between multiple pre-recorded video responses (in a multiple-choice test)

- use code-snippets to add a hidden translation help (unveiled by hovering over the word that is not understood) - either as text translation [tooltip] or as animated gif [pop-up dialog box]

As to the fact of teaching foreign sign languages online more generally, for me I see it as a great opportunity to:

- provide contact and real interaction possibilities with native signers/foster intercultural communication among Deaf learners

- gather Deaf peers to learn together and from each other (a rare luxury in times of mainstream...)

- offer a subject that usually is completely left out (foreign SIGN language & culture)

- address Deaf-specific topics that are usually left out in every foreign language textbook

- exploit all the visual potential of ICT to address the specifically Deaf learning&teaching strategies and create Deaf e-(learning) Spaces (I am writing my PhD about this)

By the way, I am really looking forward to exchange with other people here who create/use signing courses on Canvas - whatever the subject is. Especially of course with the Deaf instructional designers among you 🙂

Hello siglinde​!

I am blown away by your PhD topic! I would LOVE to read the completed draft! I wish you the best as you write it- it's defiantly a much needed topic.


New Member

We've been teaching asynchronous Spanish online since 2012 and have just transitioned to Canvas (offering our first online class in Canvas in January) from Sakai.

With Sakai, we relied heavily on the (free!) rich internet applications from MSU's Center for Language Education and Research (CLEAR).  With their Conversation app, students can have asynchronous conversations with the instructor that will play like synchronous conversations.  We also used to use their audio and video dropboxes because audio recording in Sakai was problematic and video recording didn't exist.

With Canvas, we've been able to simplify that approach with video recording for assignments.  The audio/video feedback option has also been fantastic, especially to increase instructor presence and to give examples of pronunciation.  And just recording video in Canvas for lesson overviews, input, etc. is great.

Our department has worked to develop proficiency-oriented rubrics for both writing and speaking, and they were easy to convert to clickable rubrics in Canvas!

I still use the Conversations app through CLEAR, but two of my colleagues are experimenting with using Conferences in Canvas to have students meet up and record spontaneous conversations.  Being able to download and/or keep these recordings longer than 14 days would be fantastic!   I am experimenting with students recording synchronous conversations in our text's Supersite with a Partner Chat option.  Like Janel, we rely on both Canvas and our VHL site, and "marrying" the two is not always smooth! 

I do find that my language courses have more tech issues than other online courses...  I believe it's because we incorporate more recording technology than most courses, and when there's an update to a browser, Flash, proctoring software, the LMS, etc., it could easily affect what we do in both Canvas and CLEAR.  I tell students (and other instructors) to expect that something will go wrong at some point with the tech aspect...  There will be no freaking out, and we will work through it!

Community Champion

Hey  @scottdennis ​,

Thanks for starting this discussion- I'm so glad you brought this up again. Someone (may have been you) directed me to this presentation and boy was it great to see his work. I'm currently teaching a fully online American Sign Language 1 course completely through Canvas. I developed the course as well.

I have written the course using sound pedagogical approaches from the traditional classroom and used technological tools to create the same effect in the online setting- I was not going to compromise my students learning. For example, while developing their translation skill I "walk" my students through a signed video. I don't like to show a 3 minute video and say "translate it!" I believe in scaffolding the information- using heavy assistance- to pause the video, discuss, and then rewind or continue on. While developing my online course, I thought, "How am I going to do this?" I use a tool, Zaption, to pause video in specific places to allow the student the processing time, development, and/or possible review of vocabulary during these videos.

As hensonlm​ mentioned- rubrics are such a fantastic tool as well. I also like to provide the image of the actual rubric when I assign an assessment- so students can prepare for the presentation with the end in mind. Snaps for Canvas!

I am deep into video based instructional practices. I've learned a lot and am still learning as I go- especially from my students! They have been providing the most valuable feedback.

Thanks again for starting this discussion!


I got to see a Zaption demo a few months back - very cool.  I didn't think of the implications for teaching sign language but can see where that could be a good fit.

I have to admit that I have some ulterior motive in this conversation.  We'd really like to make the Canvas community more friendly for people who cannot hear and who might also not be strong readers.  How cool would that be?

Hey Scott,

That sounds like an amazing topic to strive for. I could see Canvas being a real blessing for Deaf schools all over the country- since everything has video components. The Canvas community, would then, be a place for hearing and Deaf educators to collaborate together. That would be very awesome! Keep us posted on your efforts!

"We must, on pain of idiocy, deny from the very outset the idea that looking at is, by its own nature, intrinsically truer or better than looking along. One must look both along and at everything." - C.S. Lewis

Community Team
Community Team

All, I've shared this ongoing discussion with the Españolgrupo. Smiley Happy

Community Champion

Hi,  @scottdennis ​. I teach Spanish and use Canvas as a platform for course materials.

However, we also have a Portuguese club at school and I don't have enough time to actually teach it to the students. So I used Canvabadges to set up a self-paced course for them. I can't tell you anything more than that, since we won't start until January, unless some of them decide to go at it over Christmas break.

I do think that Canvas could be used for independent language learning, if set up with enough audio/video. A few years ago, some of my students decided to use DuoLingo on their own, for Portuguese, and had some success (mind you, all were already Spanish speakers and Portuguese is Spanish's close linguistic kin).

I agree!

The ability to add an audio or video recording (to everything) is what makes teaching a language in Canvas possible. ASL needs all videos on everything. Zaption is great for informal assessments and tracking. I don't bank on it for any formative assessments. I've found some inconsistencies with the data i.e. my students watch/interact with the video and Zaption doesn't track it. I use it for warm up and wrap ups. And students are able to go back to them for review before an exam.

Constancia- Zaption could be a great tool for your self-paced classroom. Student can be prompted any type of question while watching a recording- they can even illustrate. A very strong imagery tool!


 @stephanie_pope ​, you've given me something to work on over break. Thanks . . . I think!  Smiley Wink

I saw a demo of zaption a few months ago.  It looked very promising.  I haven't actually used it with a class but if I had the opportunity I'd give it a try.