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kona
Community Coach
Community Coach

Top Instructor/Student Issues

As part of my InstructureCon 2017‌ presentation I'm going to go through some of the top issues Instructors and Students have with Canvas. The catch? They are things that CAN be fixed/avoided! So not bugs or things we would like changed in Canvas, etc. 

I've got a pretty good list going, but was wondering what are some of the top/current issues YOU have seen/noticed? Also, if you come up with something I don't have on my list and that I use in my presentation I'll not only give you a shout-out in my presentation, but I'll also award you a badge and some points (I might have a few I could share... :smileylaugh:).

Let the fun begin!!

Tags (2)
128 Replies
Chris_Hofer
Community Coach
Community Coach

As an admin for our Canvas instance, here are some of the common things I've seen:

  • Making sure a course is "Published" and that the Start/End dates are set correctly.  Sometimes we get calls from students asking why they cannot access their course, and this is the main reason why.  Also, instructors need to make sure that they review the course settings that restrict access before/after a course starts.
  • Making sure that the overall Module is published.  I've come across times when instructors have published all content within a Module, but the Module itself is not published.  Students then ask their instructor why they cannot see the content.
  • How do instructors create Groups in a course?
  • How can I check for bad/inactive links in my course?
  • How can I recover something in Canvas that I accidentally deleted?
  • How can I upload quiz questions into Canvas?  (This one requires that instructors reach out to my team...as we use the Respondus 4.0 software to batch-upload quiz questions to Canvas.)

Nice list, thanks!!

And yes, publishing is definitely tricky!

Can I remove an item from a module without removing it from the gradebook?  I want to remove student access after the due date but not take credit from those that have done it.

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laurakgibbs
Community Champion

That making sure things really are published is definitely a problem that I have heard from students about, not in my courses so much (I don't use Canvas for content), but in response to a survey where I asked them what advice they would give to faculty using Canvas, and also advice to other students. You might find some useful things there; the students would definitely like for faculty to have the whole course ready to go when the semester begins. 🙂

FALL: OU Digital Teaching: Canvas Survey: Week 8, Fall 2016 

SPRING: OU Digital Teaching: Canvas Survey: Week 8, Spring 2017 

Thank you so much for sharing!

Stef_retired
Community Team
Community Team

 @kona , what came to my mind when I saw your question was the matter of links--not broken links, per se, but links an instructor has created that direct to a different course, or to personal files, or to images, or to anything to which the instructor has access but the student would not. These are tricky to pick up when the course is under construction, so I'd recommend that the instructor allocate time after publishing the course to switch to Student View and check every link to make sure her students can see it.

The link validator checks for some of this stuff - linking to different courses, linking to unpublished content - but definitely a good idea to check your course ahead of time! Especially images in quizzes!

So, how do you validate links in quizzes?  The respondus / canvas link is weak, often dropping graphics.  I go through by hand EVERY semester since links are also broken when quizzes are copied from one semester to the next!

kona
Community Coach
Community Coach

The only way I know to check that images are showing up in quizzes is to literally check each quiz. So either using the test student or the preview function.

That is what I do and it is a pain.  Alco, you cannot search the text of your questions if you have more than 50 questions in a test bank.  They cannot be expanded!  So, even though  I keep a list of questions with graphics, I cannot easily find them to fix.  This is a real time-waster for me.  If anyone has a better method, I am open to all suggestions!

Bobby2
Community Champion

Link validator?  @kona I'm going to research that one!

kona
Community Coach
Community Coach

It’s not perfect, but it works pretty good! 

Go go into a course, click on settings, then on the right there is a button to validate links. Click on it and it will take you to another screen. Start the validation and it will check your links. 🙂

mjennings
Advocate

A weird thing that we get a lot is on Assignment submissions. Being a nursing school, many of our students are in clinics or hospitals and have issues submitting assignments (generally notes about what they did while in the clinic). The problem is typically that the computers in these sites are only running IE in compatibility mode which makes the submit button not appear. We are constantly telling students that they may not be able to submit from the clinic since there is no controls over the systems in those locations.

The short version is that they need to make sure they are on a recommended browser.

Hi  @mjennings ‌

Your post points to a more general issue for students, and that is the problem of available and usable technology, and orientation to that technology. Too often we have teachers with expectations that students perform tasks using tech that is not available to the student, or that the student is unfamiliar with.  Faculty need to make sure that tech is available, and  clearly communicate to the students where, when and how that tech can be available. Faculty need to orient students to any tech that the students might be unfamiliar with, and this includes using Canvas as a student.

I always apply a lowest-common-denominator principle when orienting students to tech - I assume that none of my students know anything about the tech, and provide orientation materials and activities appropriate to that level of understanding. The students who do understand the tech can move past that orientation, and those that do not can engage in the orientation at the level needed. Syllabi and course description in catalogs and schedules must prominently and clearly identify any tech used by students in a course, and where the student can get help.

And of course there is my mantra - never use a tech as a teacher that you cannot at least minimally troubleshoot and support for your students (yes, we see that all the time also) - login procedures and credentials, navigation (from the student perspective), assignment/activity processes and submissions, etc., how to contact vendor support when the tech does not perform as expected.

Agent K

kona
Community Coach
Community Coach

Yep, for us it's no IE or Edge! The first thing we check when a student contacts us about this type of issue is the browser they were using! 

kblack
Community Champion

Hi Kona - I don't like to toot my own horn much, but feel free to borrow numbers 3 and 5 from here:  What the Setup Checklist Does Not Tell You .  I'm going to have to rename that blog title soon, though, with the removal of the setup checklist that's coming.  (Besides, it's a good way to toot your OWN horn on number 7, at least until the new quiz interface.  🙂 )

kona
Community Coach
Community Coach

Awesome list! Thanks for reminding me of this blog and yes #7 is pretty important... if I do say so myself! 😉

fox
Community Contributor

Kona,

I second the thought that faculty need reminders every semester about start and end dates AND publishing. That is something that is new for us with Canvas. Also related to access - students frequently come to Canvas support for access to course materials if they have an incomplete. We are often times just pointing them back to the instructor for access.

Another question we frequently get this summer is "how do I give students an extra attempt on a quiz?"

While we talk about the best way to get Help (the HELP MENU!), faculty and students tend to email us with questions that are in the guides, questions for their faculty about assignments, etc. More comfort with the Help Menu would save us lots of time.

I'm looking forward to your presentation!

Laurie

kblack
Community Champion

"But it's so much easier to just call you than it is looking it up online!" - Most often-heard quote by most Canvas administrators anywhere.

kona
Community Coach
Community Coach

LOL... honestly we don't have this problem. I'm not sure if it's the mandatory online training we have faculty go through before using Canvas or the way we promote the different ways faculty can find information/get help themselves, but our faculty seem to do pretty good. Side note, I have a 10 minute rule that I tell faculty about. I tell them to try figuring something out (or looking it up) for 10 minutes. If they can't then PLEASE contact the Help Desk (basically our Canvas Admin's) because nothing in Canvas is that hard that it should take more than 10 minutes to figure out... unless of course you can't do it or there's a bug/issue. Also, when faculty contact us about questions that are easily addressed (from our training material or the guides), I normally tell them, "Hey, great question, if you look in our Instructor training course you'll find that information in Module X under Z." Or something similar and a link to the Canvas Guides and the guide that will help them.

"It is easier to call than look it up online." - wouldn't that indicate that the online search tool has something lacking?  There are times when I've tried the search, and I either get 1000 hits or 0 hits - neither is useful.  Apparently the Help desk has a better search tool, or they know that 99% of the users want *this* when they ask *that* - and by golly it is.  Why not have that answer pop up as #1 in the hit list?  It would save the users a lot of frustration - and let the help desk handle the tough problems.

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dhulsey
Community Champion

Yup. Publishing is one that I have been guilty of as well. I do not do this with individual items as much as I do this with the whole course. I had made a feature request to show publication status on the course card, but the votes were minimal. Smiley Sad 

kmeeusen
Community Coach
Community Coach

Hi  @fox 

You added a great new one - encouraging faculty and students to make use of the Guides!  Both faculty and students come to us for answers they could find in the guides, and find quicker and easier than contacting eLearning.

Yes, one of our roles, and the main role in our perspective, is to support our users and we are happy to do so. After all, it pays our mortgages and feeds our children! However, all of our faculty are required to complete Canvas training prior to being able to teach using Canvas, and start teaching in Canvas with a baseline familiarity that provides them with enough expertise to troubleshoot most student issues in Canvas, and especially if they are willing to take a moment to search the Guides for something they may have forgotten. All of our online faculty are very familiar with the Guides, because we use them for our Canvas training content.

Agent K

cholling
Community Champion

What a novel concept, "all of our faculty are required to complete Canvas training prior to being able to teach using Canvas" .

Don't you just love it, cholling ! It took us five long, horrible years to get that policy approved, but it has been worth it. Aside from the positive impact that it has on student retention, completion and satisfaction; we are a two person department, and it has significantly reduced our support contacts.

Agent K

kona
Community Coach
Community Coach

These are very helpful! We've been using Canvas for 5 years so I've forgotten some of the things that we first had trouble with when we made the switch! Thank you!

kmeeusen
Community Coach
Community Coach

Hi  @kona 

Just three off the top of my head.....................

  1. personalized learning,
  2. interactive learning activities,
  3. gamification.

I hope this help,

Agent K

kmeeusen
Community Coach
Community Coach

Okay,  @kona maybe one more..................

This is related to having your courses published. Besides making sure your courses are published, also make sure your courses include content so that the students can engage in the course when the term starts. Faculty who would never think of not showing up to an on-the-ground classroom on opening day, will keep their courses essentially empty until day three or, unfortunately, even longer.

I think this relates back to  @kblack 's checklist.

Agent K

snugent
Community Champion

Here is my list. 

Publishing course by the first day -  I always have a few faculty who wait until first day or even the second day before they publish a course. This is incredibly frustrating to the student and support staff. In your presentation you should emphasis how stressful this is to students and doesn't allow them to start off the semester on positive note. 

Publishing course vs content - Faculty get confused on this a lot with course publishing and content publishing. This is especially true with modules. Faculty need to have a good understanding of how to publish content and what it can and cannot do. 

Quiz content in Files - I've had a few instructors get burned by this one. This also refers to publishing and restricting content. The instructors used a bunch of images in the quiz but didn't want students to see the image content in files so the content was left unpublished. Needless to say this caused issues when students took the exam. Instructors need to understand what each option in file restrictions does and how they can use it. 

File Organization - It is amazing how many file sections of courses are not organized with folders. It is easy to keep content organized in Files so you could stress how to mange files.  

Broken links - This is probably the number one reason why students create tickets in Canvas and it is super easy to fix with the link validator. 

Importing Quiz questions - This always seems to issue for instructors because publishers are not consistent with quiz content formats. Feel free to use some of the tips from my Importing Question Banks Troubleshooting Guide document. 

Syllabus documents - Several instructors get burned by this one as well. On the syllabus page they have a syllabus document linked that resides in the Files. As a new semester rolls around they copy the content into a new course shell and create a new syllabus file typically with a different name such as syllabus spring 2017. Then in Canvas they go back to the syllabus page and upload the new file to replace the old one. However in files there are at least a dozen different syllabus files and the instructors are confused because they replaced the old one on the syllabus page. This will occur even if the file has the same name. Canvas will just attach a number to the new document. This is confusing for both faculty and students (if faculty allows students to view files).  I encourage faculty to download the current file in Files and to NOT change the name. Make the changes in the document and then UPLOAD directly back into Files. The prompt will allow them to overwrite the current file in Files and this updates the link on the syllabus page without having to edit the syllabus page. 

Copying Content - Most faculty forget the process of copying content since they only do it once a semester so I provide a semester checklist at the beginning of each semester. However this tool is very powerful and allows you select content as desired.This can be useful during the semester when content is created one course that you may need in another course.  Faculty need to be careful when copying content that they only select the desired items otherwise they will have a mess on their hands with duplicate content and duplicate content in a live course is recipe for disaster! 

Importing from Commons - I have had a few faculty import content into a live course and this tends to cause issues since you can't preview commons content. I encourage faculty to import content into a test course so they don't have to worry about students. Imported content usually needs to edited and refined so this works best.  

Old events and announcements - This is another common issue. Most instructors just copy the entire course over to the new shell and all the old events and announcements come along too. In my semester checklist I include information about how to delete events and manage announcements. A lot of faculty often get confused when using events since they display in the syllabus list but can't be managed there. 

Notifications and message attachments - A couple of students and faculty had issues with one. Everyone just needs understand what notifications can and cannot do. 

Differentiated Assignments - I have had a few faculty who have an assignment that already has submissions but has one student who still needs to submit so the faculty will assign the assignment to the one student rather than using the +Add option. This is a huge issue as it messes up the gradebook for all the other students! Faculty need to understand the difference between differentiating by due date vs by student. In this case faculty should use the due date option (+Add) vs one student (removing everyone to add one student). 

I can't think of anymore but I know there are more! LOL

kona
Community Coach
Community Coach

Wow! Great list!! Thank you!!

cholling
Community Champion

I totally agree with  @kona ‌ -- great list and so familiar to me. It's amazing to me how much I take for granted that are like black ink on a black box to faculty.

laurakgibbs
Community Champion

Just to say thanks to  @kona ‌ for starting this great open-ended discussion. I am learning so much from everybody's comments!

I know, aren't they great!! I love conversations like this! 🙂

tdelillo
Community Champion

 @kona ‌ - Do you have the "Use this rubric for assignment grading" box in your presentation? That's one of the sneakiest settings in Canvas. Instructors add the rubric, and go into Speedgrader and start clicking boxes, and can't understand why it's not updating the grade.

snugent
Community Champion

Oh Yes! I forgot that one! That causes issues all the time!

kona
Community Coach
Community Coach

Yes, that's an important (and can be very frustrating) one. We've been using Canvas for so long that we don't see this issue too often, but it popped up at least twice last week in the Community which reminded me to add it to my list!

tellison
Community Contributor

Thank you  @tdelillo ‌, you just answered a question that came up!!!

natalie_norton1
Community Champion

Great topic! Here is my list of top things which have caught out staff and students in the last year:

Agree with publishing confusion - we have so many lecturers get caught out by thinking they have published items, but forgetting to publish the module block! Also forgetting to publish the course...

'Where is my course??' - many of ours also forget to look under 'All Courses' and think because its not on their dashboard they don't have access to a course! 

Forgetting to name groups with the relevant course, so students just end up with lots of 'group 1' with no clue what course it belongs to.

'Why am I getting so many emails?' Staff and students forget to adjust their notification settings. 

Students forget to check for the 'turned in' tick to check they have uploaded assignments correctly (and for digital receipt in Tii LTI)

Students not knowing how to access Tii LTI feedback and sometimes thinking they have no feedback 

Staff forgetting to mute (and adjust feedback release date in Tii LTI)

Students replying to discussion board emails with personal info then copied to all (thankfully they can't do this with announcements any more Smiley Happy)

Confusion for students about where to find things in some courses. Staff should be using modules, and we encourage them to hide Files and Pages from navigation to avoid confusion and 'unauthorised' issues

Knowing what content to select when copying course for a new year (checklist provided!)

We have a whole "modules" does not mean modules ( ie programme units) thing, but that is a UK issue! 

Think that's it for now! 

Wow! Great list! Thank you so much for sharing!!