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marchermon
Community Participant

Does student data also import from 1st to 2nd semester?

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We are moving to Canvas for the 2021-2022 school year and here is a big question that we are having trouble with finding a definitive answer. I'll use my Physics course as an example. It is a year long course with two semesters. Same students in each semester but most likely in different sections. At the end of first semester their grade is reported out in PowerSchool our SIS. A second semester course is generated in Canvas and then I will import ALL of my content from 1st semester into 2nd semester. My Physics course is a College Credit course and I report only one grade to the college at the end of the year. For that reason, I always just continued their grades for the whole year. This means I would like for the student data and work to import as well from the 1st semester to the 2nd semester Canvas course. DOES IT? If not, is there any way for me to solve this problem and make this happen? We used to use Moodle and built our courses and then each teacher would unenroll and re-enroll students each beginning of the year. Teachers are VERY nervous about the new way of thinking that you just import your course into your new shell each semester. Any help or clarification on this would be appreciated or a link to where this has already been discussed. Thanks!!!

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BrianLester
Community Participant

Hi,

You mention 'importing course into a new shell each semester'.  So you have separate courses for each semester. Course content is transfered in the course import process- but student data is not. Canvas doesn't have an automatic grade transfer mechanism- apart from csv uploads to gradebook.

Year-long courses with semesters as grading periods would be a better approach.

When students are moved between sections in the same course grades are preserved in gradebook - I checked this by grading 2 students in a sample class, then making a new section and moving the students from their original section to the new one. Original grades were visible in gradebook view for the new section.

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10 Replies
BrianLester
Community Participant

Hi,

You mention 'importing course into a new shell each semester'.  So you have separate courses for each semester. Course content is transfered in the course import process- but student data is not. Canvas doesn't have an automatic grade transfer mechanism- apart from csv uploads to gradebook.

Year-long courses with semesters as grading periods would be a better approach.

When students are moved between sections in the same course grades are preserved in gradebook - I checked this by grading 2 students in a sample class, then making a new section and moving the students from their original section to the new one. Original grades were visible in gradebook view for the new section.

View solution in original post

James
Community Champion

@marchermon 

Canvas uses different terminology than people may be used to, so it's important to understand how Canvas defines things. In particular, a typical section from your SIS may be a section in Canvas, but it doesn't have to be. You can have sections that are not SIS sections (but don't use names that reveal information like "accommodations" or "troublemakers" because other students may be able to see those).

Here are a couple of posts that give an overview.

The big view is that content lives at the course level and enrollments happen at the section level. Student submissions and grade information live at the course level and students can move between sections or be enrolled in multiple sections. Students can be unenrolled and enrolled in different sections without losing their grades.

All student activity is contained within a course and does not copy or move from one course to another. When you copy, export, or import a course, you are only working with the content, not any of the student work.

Students may be enrolled in more than one section within a course. When you read the documentation linked above, it mentions that a section is an organizational unit for administrative purposes, but the content is shared among all sections. You could have a set of term 1 sections and a set of term 2 sections. Sections can have dates on them ( How do term dates, course dates, and section dates work in Canvas? ) so you could restrict students who don't take one of the semesters from accessing the data outside of their dates if necessary.

Some schools use grading periods ( How do I use grading periods in a course? ) to separate a course into a date-based structure instead of using sections. This is more of a K-12 thing in the U.S. and I'm in higher education and we don't use those, so I will let someone else who about them talk about them if needed.

We do have some dual credit courses that run two semesters but the students only get our college credit at the end. From our perspective, we set them up as a spring course but open them in the fall semester. It's the same students all year long and we don't have different sections based on the semester. This was necessary so our SIS could report them to the state properly.

I cannot answer any questions about PowerSchool.

GregoryBeyrer
Community Champion

All that I can add to the excellent answer from @BrianLester is a mnemonic I share with other faculty when I train them about cross-listing: enrollment is always and only associated with sections, and content (including student assignment submissions and grades) is always and only associated with courses.

So if a section is removed from a course (like when it's cross-listed), the users will then be "enrolled" in the new course but none of their assignment submissions or grades come over. If the section is un-cross-listed and moved back to its original course, assignment submissions and grades will reappear in the original course. Luckily, discussion posts do not disappear!

marchermon
Community Participant

I'm slowly but surely wrapping my head around all of this. I've been reading and watching videos that James sent. It helps for me to talk it out loud. So we are switching to Canvas because we can set up the automatic import of courses and grade pass back with our SIS PowerSchool. Each semester the enrollments in our sections will be rearranged. Last year the Iowa Dept. of Ed. purchased canvas for all school districts so we had an opportunity to play around with it before deciding to go with it this fall. We discussed the one-to-one and many-to-one ideas and it seemed obvious for us to go with the many-to-one idea. We didn't want teachers to see 6 different physics courses, one for each section.  Only recently have I been researching the whole one-to-one cross-listing concept. It seems very confusing and I'm surprised there are so many out there that are using it so there must be some value to it that I'm not really seeing. The way I see it none of this is a problem for any of our teachers who teach semester courses. Our year-long course teachers I believe pretty much all want the whole year's content in one course. I guess this is not a problem. At the end of the 1st semester they can just import the entire course into the 2nd semester and grades will start over. It's just for the weird teachers like me who want the grades to continue that might have a problem.

Brian, you said "Year-long courses with semesters as grading periods would be a better approach."

This sound like what I would want for my own personal courses but not sure how to set this up. Our SIS needs to generate our courses and sections so our grades will sync back. 

You also said, "Canvas doesn't have an automatic grade transfer mechanism- apart from csv uploads to gradebook."

Does this mean that I could import my course into the 2nd semester shell and then import the 1st semester grades with a csv file? And if so, would this mean that any conditional modules would again be unlocked so students could basically continue on where they left off? If that's the case, I think that would solve my problem.

Sorry this is such a paradigm shift of thinking for me. We've used Moodle for about 10 years developing huge courses and we just reset the courses at the end of each year or semester and then manually enrolled our students at the beginning or just rearranged them in the groups for the next semester. Now that PowerSchool generates our courses it's a new way of thinking. Thank you for your patience with me.

BrianLester
Community Participant

Hi,

I have no experience with Power School, and addressing the question may relate to the SIS (PowerSchool) as much as it relates to Canvas. I mentioned csv grade upload as a possibility, but it's not a great option in my opinion.

One issue s that populating a second semester gradebook with additional data from the first semester would make the gradebook and grade calculation more unwieldy unless some filtering mechanism is provided ( say a zero weighted assignment group...).

You would also need to be sure that PowerSchool wouldn't include these grades in S2 calculations...

Also, student submissions and teacher feedback would not be included.

Would it be possible to continue to allow students to access their fall course? That way they could see submissions etc...albeit in a separate course...In this scenario, students should not be allowed to make submissions for S1 assignments after S1 is finished...

It might be worth asking your IT department about options

James
Community Champion

@marchermon 

I would strongly discourage the creation of two courses and trying to import grades via CSV no matter how promising it sounds at first. It is only going to import grades, not the actual submissions. You are also going to lose any metadata that goes with the submission like submission dates, quiz attempts, and status of the submission (lateness). That might be okay if all that you're after are the grades, but there are better ways to accomplish it like using grading periods or making it a year-long course and using different sections to report out the grades.

I see that Brian ( @BrianLester ) responded as I was writing this. I'm going to go stronger than his "not a great option" and say "forget about it." There are things that you can do with Canvas, but that doesn't mean that you should.

I also agree that PowerSchool may determine how things are done more than Canvas does. Hopefully someone who actually uses PowerSchool can chime in

marchermon
Community Participant

Thank you all for your patience. I think I've learned a lot. There are a lot of trade-offs where I think we will just need to do some things differently in order to have the big positive of auto-syncing our grades to our SIS. I will post back later with what I end up deciding to do. Thanks again!

marchermon
Community Participant

So I'm back re-reading some of these posts after talking to my PowerSchool admin in my district and I think I might be understanding Brian's solution a little better. So my PowerSchool admin can make my class a year long course with all of the grading periods attached to it. That will be imported into Canvas with all of the students divided up in their 3 enrollment sections. So my question which I still can't wrap my head around is 2nd semester there are 3 different enrollment sections with different SIS ID numbers. It seems from Brian's post if I can switch all the students into these three new sections at the semester then I will probably be good? So how do I get those 3 sections into my already created year-long course? I hope to talk to him again tomorrow and further explain what's happening on the Canvas side of things so maybe he will know how to do it. Tonight, I did look more into cross-listing which still is confusing me. (Sorry, I really am not usually this slow! I have a feeling in a year or two I'm going to really be embarrassed by these posts 🙂 Anyway, I went into my 2nd semester shell and cross-listed all three sections of that course into my 1st semester shell. They all went in there and now each student is in the two sections, their 1st semester and their 2nd semester section. I no longer seem to have access to my 2nd semester shell now. This looks like it would work except the fact that this was not set up as a year-long course and all the grading periods would not be associated with it.  Maybe I'm getting closer?

James
Community Champion

@marchermon 

Have your student information system (SIS) create and populate the sections for you so they know where to pull grades from. That's a lot easier than trying to create them yourself and it may be necessary for integration with PowerSchool (or any SIS). Canvas allows faculty to create their own sections unless the Canvas admin for the institution has disabled it (we do at our college so that the SIS knows about everything).

Sections are arbitrary and students can belong to more than one at a time. From Canvas' perspective, there is no need to remove students from the first semester before adding them to the second. There is also no need to cross-list from Canvas side of thing. My understanding of cross-listing is that it is typically done to combine multiple courses operating that have the same same start and end dates. You may be able to change the dates on the sections, but that may be locked down as well so that the SIS has control over it. For more information, see How do I use cross-listing in an account?

Cross-listing is (at least it was in 2012) confusing and I chose to cross-list on my end by enrolling students in different sections from the SIS rather than cross-listing the courses within Canvas. We don't have a professional integration with our SIS (I wrote the code) and so that might require different courses. However, it sounds like cross-listing might be required with PowerSchool for at least some things: Admin FAQ: Canvas and PowerSchool. This is part of a whole guide on PowerSchool that Canvas has: PowerSchool Table of Contents.  I did not find much on the PowerSchool site directly.

I would take a look at PowerSchool/Canvas & a New Semester and read the notes on How do I add grading periods in an account? to see if grading periods might work for you. PowerSchool owns an LMS and the LMS documentation explains how to run a year-long course on a semester system including a mapping of grading periods in the SIS (PowerSchool). That part is separate from which LMS you're using, so it makes it sound like grading periods might be the way to go rather than cross-listing courses.