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erinhmcmillan
Community Team
Community Team

Use the Canvas Guides? We'll reward you for your feedback!

Framework - Canvas Guides.png


At InstructureCon, many of you were kind enough to stop by the community lounge and share your thoughts about the community—and the Canvas guides! But for those of you who weren’t able to make it, we want to keep the conversation going.

We’d like to invite you to share your thoughts about the Canvas Guides. How are you using the guides? What do you like about the guides? What don’t you like about the guides?

Here are two ways we’d love to hear from you:

Discussion Comment

Post your comments about the guides below—we’ll give you 25 points!

[UPDATE: As of September 19, this option has been closed.]

Survey

Take our online survey about the canvas guides and release notes—we’ll give you:

  • 100 points
  • a community badge
  • an entry to win one of 4 - $25 Amazon gift cards*
    i1260.jpg

[UPDATE: As of September 1, this option has been closed.]

We’d love to get as many comments and survey responses as possible by Monday, August 29.


Thank you!

Guides vs. Altoids.png

*To be eligible for an Amazon gift card, surveys must be submitted by Monday, August 29, 2016.

97 Replies
jbrady2
Community Champion

I find myself using the guides once, if not several, times per week.  There always seems to be some new question that a faculty member will pose that I may either need to review or search for new information in order to answer.  I actually just used the guides late last week to research and better explain to a faculty member how course availability and student access to courses works.

In addition to using the Instructor Guides, I have also pulled information from the Student Guides in order to assist faculty in directing their students to the appropriate resources at the beginning of each semester.

Perhaps the only issue I have ever found with using the guides, and the one thing that I believe keeps many of our faculty from using them more often, is that it does not always seem easy to find an answer quickly.  I am not certain how this might be remedied as the search for keywords appears to work well enough, but only if you have a general idea of what you are looking for.

Edit: I forgot to mention when I first typed this that when we designed our Assistance Center for faculty training for Canvas, we provided brief introductions to tools on a page in a Canvas course and then linked out to the Canvas guides. It saved us a lot of time. Smiley Happy

jgosnell
New Member

I LOVE the Guides! We are in the middle of rollout, and they have been invaluable to me as I prepare training for our teachers, as well as to our teachers when they are trying to figure things out on their own. My only complaint this past summer was that every single post started with the "Canvas has implemented a new user interface..." jargon which made it very hard to figure out which posts were the most relevant. That text has thankfully disappeared from most places, but I still run across it. I appreciate that the Guides offer video training as well as text based training with screenshots, so there is something for everyone's learning style.

shane_ohara
Community Champion

The guides have been instrumental for our on-boarding success with Canvas. We use them explicitly and only create knowledge base articles locally for university specific topics. Other than that, we try to use your resources as they are always accurate and up-to-date, plus they cover more topics than we'd ever be able to curate. The search function is simple to use and, so long as you search by the right keywords, you get the intended result.

irishb
Community Contributor

Re: "The search function is simple to use and, so long as you search by the right keywords, you get the intended result."

Yes, "the right keywords" is a good point, especially considering faculty may not know what the right keywords may be to conduct a productive search.

Bridget

Curricular Technology Support to Faculty

DrNufer
Community Coach
Community Coach

I think that one way the guides could be greatly improved is to convert some of the static images to animated gifs. It takes considerable more work to create a gif than to take a screenshot, but some simple options might include:

I should actually clarify this comment too.  I know there are fantastic instructional videos that Instructure provides.  But videos/screencasts, animated gifs, and screenshots are all very different things.  And each is successively easier.  But I think that from a consumption standpoint, the gifs would add particular value to the written guides.  Not every guide would benefit from gifs, but there are some processes that do require a sequence of mouse clicks.  This is where the gif would be an improvement over a static image.  The balance is that we don't want to overwhelm the reader with too many gimmicky bells and whistles.

Hey, Sean,

Point well taken. Gifs are complicated for us though as long as people prefer to have PDFs of the guides. Printing a guide with a gif doesn't quite have the same effect... it's a discussion we have around here frequently, especially when Deactivated user​ is involved. Smiley Wink

Erin

kmeeusen
Community Coach
Community Coach

I love the Canvas Guides and consider them a huge improvement over the previous LMSs that I have used. I am in there many times during the day, every day - mostly in my role as a Community Coach, but also as a Canvas Admin to use as tools for faculty Canvas training and as an online teacher to orient my students to Canvas.

Because they include great diagrams, as well as text, they make a great training tool. And the bonus is that Canvas constantly keeps them updated, so I do not have to revise my training/orientation materials.

I like how well the guides are indexed, and am seeing an improvement in the cross-referencing. I especially love the video guides, as many people are visual learners, and by going to the Canvas Vimeo pages, I can embed the guides onto a Canvas page!

I also very much appreciate that we have an opportunity to comment on the Guides. Nobody else offers this kind of feature, especially not the folks with truly hideous guides.

Some thing that could be improved:

  • These guides do not always explain the result of every setting. For example, the guide for adding details to an assignment. This guide does not tell me that if I don't want one of the existing Assignment Groups, I can add a new one. This has improved in the last year, but there are still gaps, especially in the drop-down menus.
  • I can no longer embed the textual guides since the move to Jive - at least not without getting tricksy. I greatly miss this capability.
  • I can not longer embed videos, unless I follow the video to Vimeo and capture the embed code there.
  • Not all tricky area of the guides include links to further learning documentation, but that is improving. This is incredibly useful.
  • For every textual guide, there should be a corresponding video guide.

Thank you for this opportunity.

KLM

I agree with absolutely all of these comments. Completely. It's like you're in my head. Smiley Happy

Chris_Hofer
Community Coach
Community Coach

How are you using the guides?

I use the Guides quite a bit.  When I am helping people in the Canvas Community, and when I can point them to a Guide for their review, I will do so.  Also, when I am helping faculty and students at our Technical College, I will always refer them to a Guide so that I'm not re-creating the wheel.

What do you like about the guides?

One of the best things I like about the Guides is the version history...and the fact that we can compare versions to see what has changed...even comparing version 10 with version 5, for example.  I also like the detail that is provided in the Guides.  The step-by-step screenshots are very helpful.  Another thing that is helpful is the ability to comment on the Guides at the bottom of any Guide page.  It's awesome to get responses from the Canvas Docs Team when you post feedback on a Guide!

What don’t you like about the guides?

Even though I believe the Guides are fantastic and very detailed...sometimes I am not only looking for the "how" but also the "why".  Sometimes I am looking for an answer in a Guide of "why" a feature behaves the way it does, and I am unable to find an explanation that I'm satisfied with.  I had that situation come up today (and of course now I've forgotten which Guide I was looking at).  I also wish that we could embed a Guide in a Canvas page via this Jive interface.

 @Chris_Hofer ​, I absolutely agree with your What don't you like about the guides? reply. There are so many great things about Canvas Guides, but I would love to know more of the "whys" as well! knowing about a feature and how to make it work is wonderful, but having the reasoning behind the feature so users (or admin) know why it works the way it does would be very helpful!

Stef_retired
Community Team
Community Team

I live and die by the Guides. I use them multiple times every day for training, to answer questions, and just if I need to refresh my memory about how a particular feature works. The Guides are my safety net, because I know I don't have to keep the entire Canvas universe in my head as long as it is at my fingertips.

As  @kmeeusen ​ mentioned, one of my favorite guide features is the ability to comment on them, which is something I haven't encountered elsewhere. (But the comment feature would be useless without the ever-capable and oh-so-unfailingly-pleasant  @CanvasDocTeam ​ that responds to those comments!)

I concur with  @jbrady2 ​ that the search capability could be stronger and more targeted. Especially when a guide is very long, it would be helpful if search results directed the user not only to the guide containing the answer but also to the spot in the guide (subheading) where the answer appears.

cohenf
Community Member

What would be ideal is a point-and-click guide in the course interface. So, for instance, I'm using "Announcements." It would be great to, let's say, right click or wave my mouse, and click on an option for "help" that either brings me to the pertinent part of the guide in another tab or creates a pop-up window of the pertinent part of the guide. The help experience would be more seamless and, I think, would reduce my use of the 24/7 chat with customer support. Right now, it's as easy to chat as it is to search the guides. With point-and-click help, your customer support team may be less taxed. Let me make clear, that the guides themselves are adequately navigable and thoroughly informative.

Hi, Frank,

We've actually been looking into a few options like this and eventually such a tool would be great! Sadly I can't say much more about that at the moment as we'll probably be exploring for a while. So in the meantime we'll just keep working to make the guides even better. Smiley Happy

Erin

Many of us know and appreciate just how hard you work at making the guides even better, Erin!

KLM

Thanks, Kelley! It's definitely fun to have a job I enjoy. And I work with a great group of people who also work hard to make sure everything is up to date and accurate. They do a great job managing all the guide comments as well and I'm very appreciative of them.

Selfishly, I'd say the best part for me is being able to meet a lot of you (when I've been fortunate enough to go to InstructureCon). It's nice to have more of a personal connection knowing there are real people out there who use these resources every day. Thanks for using Canvas!

Erin

snugent
Community Champion

A huge shout out to everyone in the documentation team. The guides are extremely helpful and make my job much easier. Thank you!!!

I use the guides every single working day. This week is the first week of our fall semester I have used them several times with questions that I know it is much simpler to send the person a link to the guide that will tell them exactly how to xyz.

I do have two course sites that house the guides I create. One is for instructors and other is students. On guides I create I create a page for each item I think is important with very simple guides. Each page links to the Canvas guides and the printable guides I create. I also link to the videos the documentation team create as well. I will occasionally create my own videos for certain topics such as the TurnItIn integration or for big updates such as the new UI.

Another way I use the guides is to create a page or blog post here in the Community. I usually do this when I want to link to the guides and the topic is general enough that is is helpful to people at other institutions. Below are some of the documents I have created where I link to guides.

Engaging Students in Online Courses

Importing Question Banks Troubleshooting Guide

I agree with  @kmeeusen ​ about the Canvas guides not explaining what each feature does which is what I do in the guides I create. Faculty in particular need to know the ins and out of each feature otherwise it is easy for them to not understand why something doesn't work. This often happens with the quiz features especially question banks.

Thanks for sharing your Engaging Students in Online Courses page - a lot of helpful ideas there!

jcottin
New Member

I love the Canvas Guides and have used them in all of my training courses and workshops. It would be nice to  be able to filter them a bit more, some search topics come back with too many options and sifting through can be cumbersome.  I love the concept of adding the why, possible uses, and the ins/outs of a feature/option.  I also love the feature of notifying and linking to the latest version without breaking the link. (Making the option to see the newest version could be larger instead of the old version.)

mjennings
Advocate

I love the guides! This is probably the #1 way in which I answer instructor question. The guides are also my entry point into the Canvas Community. I have a quick bookmark on my browser toolbar so anytime I need to grab a link, I just click over find the topic and the shoot the specific guide or two over to the user. There are very few days that go by that I don't need something. The constant updates make my job so easy because I know that they will be accurate to the latest updates!

awarmar
Community Member

I use the guides all the time! We are starting our first semester in Canvas so I am trying to train our Faculty early that they have a wealth of information at their fingertips here in the community. Whenever someone asks me "How do I do X," I go to the guides and send them the link. Not only is this empowering them to find out the answers, it is also saving me hours of typing step by step instructions!

gschultz
Community Contributor

I am constantly looking to the guides, probably more often than I realize.  Especially when it comes to helping other faculty members.

I do miss the ability to embed  the guides as I have seen in countless Canvas Common offerings.  Now that I have to create links, I feel faculty will skip over these items since they are actually linked.  I do not have the time that the Canvas Team does to create these so Kudos to you all.  Especially with the change over to the new UI.

KristinL
Community Team
Community Team

erinhallmark​, you and the entire Documentation Team rock. The time that must be spent fine-tuning and updating all of the guides must be astronomical. Thank you for making the guides so searchable and visual. I like seeing a photo or video that correlates with text. It makes it so much easier to translate the task to my own work.

I use Canvas Guides several times a week, and at the change of semesters, daily! If not to clarify a question of one my own questions, I use Guides to make sure I am answering support inquiries as accurately as possible. If the information I need to get to colleagues isn't a short reply, I routinely send links to various guides...and that's a huge time saver!

kblack
Community Champion

The outstanding guides are one of the reason my institution adopted Canvas several years ago.  The guides are consistently updated with LOTS of screen captures, which are essential for faculty and student alike.  There is hardly a week that goes by that I do not give a faculty member (or a student) a direct link to one of the Guides.  I appreciate the fact that the URLs are "static," so that any updates will remain at that same link.

On the downside, as  @jbrady2 ​ pointed out originally, it is NOT easy to find some material.  Many times I will hear faculty say "I tried the online help and couldn't find anything."  Now admittedly, we do not know how much/if they tried, but I can see their point.  Clicking the link for Search the Canvas Guides from the HELP screen goes to the search page, but there should be a way to immediately (and clearly) set whether one wants to search the Instructor, Student, or Administrator sections of the Guides.  So if someone types in "how do I find comments" (a fairly regular student question, I might add) the first answer is a video on Commons, the second "How do I find my institution's URL to access Canvas apps," and several more that successfully find the not so important keywords of "how do I find" but nothing dealing with comments.  I dare say some of the results could be pared down with the ability to specify which guide to search before inputting the search.

Furthermore, the list of records found do not easily differentiate whether they came from the Student Guide or the Faculty Guide.  The "old" community had this ability, as I recall.  I don't know if some of this is a Jive issue or if can be otherwise solved.  I can sometimes tell simply from the title, of course, but these records should be clearly labelled better as to which Guide they are from before the user clicks on it.

The comments above should not be taken as criticisms of the Guides but rather their retrieval mechanism.  So far as the actual writing and production of the Guides, I frankly would change very little.  But you are sitting on a goldmine of information that faculty and students can take advantage of, but not giving them the proper tools to mine it with.

Ken:

When I follow the link in the Help menu, I am taken to the Guides page where it is clearly organized by guide category as shown below in the screenshot. Are you seeing something different?

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kblack
Community Champion

No, you're right  @kmeeusen ​ - I should have explained better.  Most users see that top SEARCH THE GUIDES window and do not even bother scrolling down further.  (In fact, with the current Instructurecon message there now, it's even a further scroll down.)  But if they click the INSTRUCTOR GUIDE button--as I myself often do--the result is a long table of contents and seemingly no ability to search just the Instructor Guide, specifically.   The average faculty member simply will not bother when confronted with that long a listing of topics.  It's good for administrators or the experience faculty member knowing exactly what to look for, but not your average user.  Sorry for the confusion.  I obviously wrote that in a bit of a hurry during a busy week.

No need to apologize Ken. I also wish there was a search feature for each category of guides. And you are spot-on about inexperienced folks not scrolling.

Another point about the inexperienced, is they do not yet understand Canvas jargon, and so don't really know where or how to look for the info they need.

Still, when I think about some of the LMS guides I have had to use in the past, I am very happy with Canvas', and none of them had ever asked us how they could be improved even more.

KLM

kblack
Community Champion

Agreed,  @kmeeusen ​!  "Customer feedback" is an unknown term for many companies in the education business, even though some will pay lip service to it.  Thank you, erinhallmark​ for giving us this opportunity.

Ken,

To address your first comment, Jive doesn't think about manuals the same way the old site did; it uses Categories to organize the information. Unfortunately, knowing which category you are viewing isn't as intuitive. We're looking to see if we can make that (and a whole lot of other things) better using Jive's resources. Additionally, the guides are actually imported into Jive, so that integration also has some challenges. Rest assured we are up to doing whatever we can despite the limitations. Working with software is fun, right? Smiley Happy

We're talking about removing the banner from the Canvas Guides page to see if that helps everyone be able to see the Table of Contents icons for each manual. And based on feedback we're going to figure out how to make this page generally more user friendly to new Canvas users as well.

Erin

Thanks, Erin--I see the difference already!  But really, kudos to you and to the entire  @jivedocs_unfede ​ for doing such an exemplary job keeping the documentation as up to date as it is. 

I, too, was thoroughly disappointed in the guides.   They seem -- the whole platform seems -- to be designed for people who can devote at least 15 hours a week to it. 

  THe whole "start with things lthat look like they're a path from beginning to advanced and then silently switch to alphabetical" is just the tip of the iceberg. I did the survey but I"m not sure, it might have been past the "get points for it" deadline which I assume would also be past the "anybody will look at this" deadling.

debra_mansperge
Community Contributor

Susan, I'm a bit surprised that you find learning Canvas so time-consuming.  I've used WebCT, Angel, and Loudcloud - and none of them is as easy to use as Canvas.  The written guides can be frustrating because they are so specific.  I usually go to the video guides first when trying something new. Canvas Video Guide  The videos are better as introductions to features and the written guides are more useful if you know exactly what you want to do.  I don't usually watch videos, but the Canvas video guides are short, to-the-point, and very useful overviews.

WElp... I"m not surprised that you're surprised -- people who've used lots of different venues (as experts)... usually are. 

As I've said (rather many times) ... I am not an expert, so ... I don't know the vocabulary for what I'm trying to do and there isn't a path for "here's what you can learn as you go"   -- well, except for some courses I was told about except that a person can't *take* the courses, and well, actually, no, a person can't access the content so ... just one of (many,) many examples of dead end after dead end.

As I've also said, thankfully I get access to lynda.com tutorials through my college and that *does* provide a path.  

THe guides do not.  

I can understand your frustration,  @sujones . It helps me to think of the Canvas Guides as analogous to an encyclopedia. An encyclopedia doesn't  provide a path to training, because that's not what a compendium of resources is intended to do. As such, the Canvas Guides are an adjunct to training resources such as the ones Canvas offers to participating schools, or the ones schools that have adopted Canvas offer themselves, or the ones you've found on lynda.com. Once a new learner has gone through some preliminary training, he or she will have been introduced to the terminology/jargon that a compendium of resources uses to refer to its features.

Since your school evidently isn't a Canvas school, and if I remember some of your past comments accurately, you've been trying to teach yourself how to use Canvas for participation in a course, what you've described is probably what is encountered by Free For Teachers users: those who have decided to use the free version of Canvas and manage it themselves. And if my assumptions are correct in this regard, your feedback on how to provide a clear training pathway (which would of necessity be separate from the compendium of resources that is the Guides) for Free For Teachers users is welcome and valuable.

If I'm wrong about this, please set me straight. Smiley Happy

Hi  @sujones ​:

I understand your frustrations, sometimes having to learn on you own can be very challenging. I would not call myself an expert, but I have been teaching online for almost 20 years and have use five commercial LMSs. We do provide initial Canvas training for the users on our campus, so that helps them get started, and we recommend the Guides as a continuing reference for them. So trust me when I say, Canvas is the easiest of the LMSs to learn to use. Many schools in our state system do not even offer training, but I wonder about themSmiley Wink

I see you have found Lynda.com which is a great resource, but I also wanted to point out the Getting Started with Canvas as an Instructor guides, which are really designed for those just beginning. They include:

Then it progresses through the following chapters:

  • Customize Canvas,
  • Organize a Course,
  • Add Course Content,
  • Work with Grades and People, and
  • More Help

This resource is the kind of progressive training tool I think you were asking for.

I hope this helps,

KLM

 @kmeeusen ​, you took the words right out of my keyboard. The Getting Started with Canvas as an Instructor guides are excellent, and a great place to start. It's also a great place to re-visit when you get stuck. Excellent advice Kelly!!

This looks like a good path Smiley Happy     Now, if I can figure out how to make the path easier & why I found so many dead ends before getting to it... (I think looking for videos...)

Hey, Susan!

We closed the survey and then spent a LOT of time reviewing the responses. So rest assured we read everything you had to say. One of the points that I mentioned a few days ago in the summary I wrote about all the amazing responses we received was that we need to rethink our Getting Started materials. We appreciate your comments in helping us see how the guides can be made better for new Canvas users. Thank you for taking the time to share your feedback.

Erin

Thank you for mentioning that,  @kblack . Not being able to readily determine which guide a particular lesson comes from has been an issue for me as well since we switched over to the Jive-based guides.