Maximizing the Student Experience


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With the start of a new school year, we often think of ways to make teaching easier but today, I was thinking about the person on the other end of the teaching experience: the student. There are many features in Canvas that can help students maximize students’ time and be more efficient with their learning. Today, I will highlight some areas, from both an instructor and student perspective, that I think will be most useful as students start the school year.


Student Perspective

  • Calendar - this is an incredible area to help keep students in the know of all things like assignments, events, office hours, and To Do Lists. Students have the ability in this space to view different calendars on the Account and Course Level, as well as their own calendar so they can add items only viewable to them.  Additionally, if they want to book appointments with their instructor, they can do so from this space.
  • Card View - is the best way to get a visual of all of the student’s courses for the term they are in. 
  • Grades Space- for a large majority of students, this is the most important place they visit in all of Canvas. The Grades area provides students with information about the status of their assessments, along with feedback, grades earned, and the ability to calculate “What if” grades. This space allows for greater transparency and the ability to communicate with the instructor via SpeedGrader
  • Microsoft Immersive Reader- this powerful tool is provided by Microsoft and lives inside any Canvas Page, Assignment details space, Home Pages, and the Syllabus page. This tool allows content in those spaces to be read aloud to students and translated in their native language. In addition, there are grammar tools, word and picture dictionaries available for students to utilize. It is important to note the Microsoft Immersive Reader will only work for natively built Canvas content. Items like LTIs, files, PDFs, links, etc., cannot be read since they are not natively built in Canvas, so if you see these items in your Canvas course, make a note they will not work with the Immersive Reader. 
  • Mobile App - makes learning on the go easier than ever! Be sure to check out our Mobile App Comparison page for the Student App to see where students can utilize the Mobile App inside of their Canvas course. And as always, share Mobile best practices with your students (i.e., high stake exams should be taken on a desktop, not on the go) to help champion their success. 
  • Syllabus - if enabled by the instructor, this tab is an incredible resource for keeping students in the know on course expectations, assignments, projects due dates, and more. Additionally, if enabled by the instructor, all due dates automatically sync to the Syllabus tab so students are up-to-date on when items are due, no matter where they are in the course. 
  • To Do List-  this space allows students to stay organized and see what is upcoming in terms of assignments, quizzes, discussions, and events. Students can see their To Do List for all their courses via their Dashboard and course level To Do Lists within each individual Canvas course. 


Instructor Perspective: 

  • Appointment Groups- a hidden gem of functionality that can provide students with more options to get help, in-person or online. If you are not offering Appointment Groups inside of Canvas for things like Office Hours, conferences, auditions, and more, consider looking into this tool.  
  • Announcement Organization- while Announcements are a great way to keep students in the know of important information and updates, they can also bog down a Home Page. A way to combat this and streamline student navigation is to limit the number of Announcements on a Home Page to no more than three Announcements on a Home Page.
  • Course Navigation Organization- there are a lot of options in the Course Navigation menu and for a student, some of these items may be a foreign concept to them. So why not drive students only to the places they need to go? It is recommended that only Modules, Grades, Home, Syllabus (if applicable), and the Announcements tabs are visible to students to see. This will ensure students do not get lost in the other tabs and are driven only to their course content, important announcements, and the results of their assessments. Additionally, here is a fantastic resource to help get you started on overall Canvas organizational best practices.  
  • Due Dates and Availability Dates - while it seems like a simple thing to do, I am always surprised at how many assessments are missing due dates. Due dates are a great way to make sure students know when assignments are due and how long they have to work on them. Additionally, due dates sync with the Course Calendar, To Do List, Gradebook, and Syllabus; helping to streamline communication and expectations between the teacher and student. 
  • Microsoft Immersive Reader - while using LTIs, files, PDFs, and links are an easy way to bring in content inside of Canvas, they are not accessible in the Microsoft Immersive Reader and the Mobile app. When possible, work on converting the content to natively built Canvas Pages, Assignments, etc., so students can utilize the Microsoft Immersive Reader and have a more accessible Canvas experience. 
  • Modules Requirement & Prerequisites- these two tools are a great way to keep students on track of course content and proceed in the order in which you would like them to receive the content. It also streamlines the learning experience and you’ll get less questions of “where do I go next” as these tools help to answer that question. 


What else would you say helps to make the student learning experience easier? Share your thoughts and resources below!