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Higher Ed Canvas Users

Community Champion

Add a button in SpeedGrader to assign maximum points to all criteria that do not already have points.


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Looking for resources to level up your Canvas course?


Seeking advice on Canvas best practices and course design? Want some advice from the experts? Our Canvas Instructional Design Team has gathered the best tools to help support YOU in your classroom.

Enjoy and please leave a comment with your thoughts!


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New Member

If you're like me, you have quizzes with dozens of mixed multiple-choice, true/false, matching, short answer, and essay questions. This method allows you to easily review the quiz questions that need reviewing by letting you skip straight to the questions that need review without having to scroll.


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Community Contributor

Many instructors use Canvas to provide digital copies of their slides, and for students they are a key resource in courses.  It is important every student be able to use those digital files including the visually impaired.  But presentations are more than just slides, and the live, in-person presentation should also be as accessible to all students as possible.  Many instructors are experienced lecturers, mixing in humor and humanity to keep their lectures interesting.  Very simple changes in lecturing style can make presentations more accessible, but it takes practice.  In this article I explain how to use the accessibility checker in Microsoft Powerpoint, remind you of the basic accessibility practices for all digital work, and give examples of ways to improve accessibility during lectures.


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We are continually amazed at what the participants in the Canvas Certified Educator program have done to transform teaching and learning with Canvas. Every day, the facilitators and program managers of the Canvas Certified Educator program learn something new from the CCE participants, and we think that is an amazing gift. Speaking of gifts...since it's our birthday, we think some gifts are in order...


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Shareability vs Data Collection 

Considerations for Non-Classroom Courses

Are you using Canvas for Conferences? Professional Development? As a Resource Hub? 

Canvas courses are being leveraged more and more frequently for innovative, non-classroom uses like Conferences, Digital Showcases, Professional Learning, and more. When developing these courses with the Kern County Superintendent of Schools, we learned quite a bit about the importance of more intentionally balancing the need for sharing and access with the need for collecting engagement data and analytics. KCSOS has already made this resource available to the California Canvas Collaborative, a network of Canvas users in California, which made us think-- the whole Community could probably benefit from this overview of course settings and design tips!

Enjoy and please leave a comment with your thoughts and best practices!


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Community Champion

Have you ever wanted to do a live demonstration of New Analytics with a real course but couldn't because of student privacy issues? Fake students in a fake course don't generate realistic usage. New Analytics pulls information from the production instance so you cannot hop over to beta and change the names. Making a video and blurring out names doesn't have the same impact as presenting live. What can one do?

I've written a Firefox browser extension that anonymizes the user's name, email, sortable name, short name, and optionally removes the avatars so that you can give a live demonstration without worry about accidentally showing student information. The extension is loaded temporarily so that New Analytics reverts back to normal after restarting Firefox.


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New Member

Facutly who use Canvas effectively are criticial to improving student outcomes and ultimately student success.


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Here is our article about using Canvas group pages for Wiki projects:



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Here is our article about creating Canvas Groups for Large Enrollment Courses:


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You will learn how to create a group in Canvas for students.


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Canvas allows instructors to give individual students extra time or attempts on quizzes, however, extending time on quizzes for specific students will only work if the instructor has not put an availability restriction on the quiz that does not allow for the extended time. For example, if the quiz is only available from 10-11 am, it will close at 11 am for everyone. Quiz availability supersedes any time extensions made for specific students.


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Users may experience blank or missing content when accessing Zoom or other tools from within Canvas if their third-party cookies are blocked. To resolve this issue, follow the instructions below or see the enable third-party cookies in your browser Panopto article.


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We wanted to share the following article about Developing Program Level Assessment in Canvas:




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The University of Maryland, College Park wanted to share their self-paced tutorial with the Canvas Community.


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Community Contributor

Accessibility is just the work we do.  Here at the University of Minnesota, College of Biological Sciences we are working hard to improve the accessibility of our digital content.  For the next few months we are focusing on closed captioning.  This can be a big lift but with improved automatic captions and simple editing interfaces, anyone can create good captions.  Learn how to make captions accurate, complete, and well-placed.  Learn these basics and you can improve the accessibility of your content for your students, faculty, staff and guests.


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Community Contributor

When the time comes that you are finally letting students submit assignments online rather than turning in papers in the classroom, you may be ready to explore the many other options Assignments have!

This article provides an overview the options available on Canvas Assignments, with links to the specific details for setting up these more complex uses of assignments.


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Community Contributor

These are some of the strategies I use to help maximize time for meaningful student contact. (first mentioned in Saving time teaching online‌ )

The goal is to spend your time and creative presence on teaching. 

The more you can front-load your courses for student success, the more meaningful connections you make with students--and the less time you spend on frustration and tech support.  

  • Use the Quiz tool for more than quizzes.  Think of the Quiz tool as more of an auto-grading tool--especially for low stakes chapter quizzes where the point is to ensure that students read the materials and are prepared for the assignments and discussions, etc. Students are sensitive to busy-work, yet we all know that completing readings and getting some repetition is vital for retention.  Save the teacher's energy for grading that can only be done with expert insight. It is not scalable for a teacher to just take the pain and skip dinner to grade lower-stakes assignments that have a set "right answer." If there is a solid right answer for any question, find a creative way to use the quiz tool (with Proctorio proctoring if the assessment is high stakes.) Students can plow through micro-assignments racking up points without exhausting the teacher's limited time!
  • Implement QM standards. As a nationally recognized quality standard, QM Quality Matters rubric for online courses also maps dozens of trouble-preventing points that immediately improve any type of course.  Many of the user experience UX/HCI errors that derail students in the LMS system can be dealt with in advance to prevent ill-will or frustration that distracts from the topic. This includes explaining what students will get from assignments (what's in it for me) in plain language without edu-jargon. It also includes set-up instructions, help resources, and detailed instructions written for the lowest-level of computer savvy. A week 1 intro assignment where students set-up their computers for Canvas, email the instructor, adjust their personal notification settings to reduce junk mail and get important announcements, etc. reveals any issues before the first assignment is creating pressure. It also makes the instructor real by having immediate contact.
  • Use due dates correctly and pace your courses. Canvas has a nice algorithm to guess due date changes in semester migration of content, but due dates still need careful review by the instructor to make sure everything is predictable and considerate of student needs before the semester starts. Students need to plan and need their curiosity encouraged.  Almost without exception, those instructors who don't understand the benefits of due dates in assignment settings (for the auto-reminders, time-stamps, and to-do list etc.) end up being over-thorough elsewhere and inserting excess information in odd places that waste time. Maximizing what is automated in Canvas prevents--for example--an instructor constantly sending out apologies or correction announcements because students are lost.  It also prevents putting date-sensitive info in Assignment instructions, which don't auto-update. This in turn makes course prep time consuming every semester--or makes courses look unprofessional and awkward. 

Quality discussion prompts lead to quality learning interactions.

  • Maximize Discussions. Quality discussion prompts lead to quality learning interactions. Not only do discussions help the instructor monitor the quality of learning, they also give the students a chance to add value to each others' learning without all of the pressure being on the instructor or content.  Discussions can be primed for creative input by students.  In most subjects, having etiquette/netiquette and discussion expectations made clear at the beginning of the course ensures that the parameters are met (length, politeness, references, professional tone, replies to others.) That's when students start doing more than the minimum for a grade. I recommend grading on content and not grammar in discussions unless it is dire. Then the instructor can participate intermittently. Avoid replying to every post, and also avoid disappearing entirely.  See what develops and only intervene if it seems important--or to round out a late contributor's interactions.
  • Make your feedback meaningful. If you take the time to write feedback or create rubrics, make sure students know what to do with it. That may include rough drafts and final drafts that incorporate feedback, peer reviews (in the PR tool or in discussions) or steps to prepare for big projects or ePortfolio entries. If you are taking your time, it should be for some artifact that the student is perfecting to learn and then remind themselves they've learned.
  • Use the less restrictive settings wherever possible. Modules can be locked-down for every item to be completed in order, but don't use that unless the subject matter requires it (such as competency-based progressions where safety is at stake.) Over-controlling the student's path through the material is usually a sign that the course needs navigation help for student user experience--or possibly that the instructor is old-school and needs to understand the benefits and differences an LMS provides. Example: Avoid available and until dates except on a Midterm and Final Exam. Allow students to click around and look ahead if it causes no harm. Otherwise, you might feel more in control and in return, your students will feel more irritated and treat you to excessive complaint emails and reports that Canvas is broken, etc. Reward student persistence, if possible, by allowing multiple attempts at low-stakes assignments or chapter quizzes where the point is just to get students to engage with the material. Save your energy for the big things. 

Treat course development as an ongoing process.   Take the negatives you experience teaching online and transform them into improvements. 



  • If you get the same question from more than one student, make an FYI general announcement. 
    • Check your announcements for quantity and content. See if they are signaling the need for more logical assignment instructions--or perhaps links to Canvas guides where students can help troubleshoot for themselves. 
  • Include a Get Started set-up section in every course so students can install computer updates, school software, and get help from real tech support before the critical moments of class assignments or webinars. 
  • Consideration lowers stress levels. In webinars, design a Welcome message as the first slide of your PowerPoint and leave it open to welcome the early arrivals--so they know they are in the right place and the software is working. 
  • Allow time: Technology sign-ons and glitches take longer than you think.  Don't try to crowd too much info into a webinar. Spend the first 15 minutes getting each student to message, raise their hand, or otherwise test the equipment calmly, with a sense of humor. Plan for it.
  • Use synchronous webinars as a place to connect and discuss, rather than relaying new information. Use assigned discussions that require students to engage the material and develop their webinar questions in advance. 
  • Trim the fat. Make sure all of your content is meaningful. If students try to avoid busywork, make sure you don't have any. Make assignments relevant and focus on quality rather than quantity. Repeating assignments (rough draft-->final draft--> polished writing sample) may be more meaningful than excess, scattered work. 

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ClicK-12 (free) Webinar series powered by FIU Online

Simple Ways to Digitize Your Classroom

Article by Monica Smith

The live virtual workshops are part of the FIU Online Community Learning portfolio, which stems out of FIU’s belief that lifelong learning should be available to everyone. This series, provided at no cost, includes tips and tools on how to design, deliver and engage students using best practices in online learning.

As K-12 schools face an upcoming academic year with critical challenges, FIU is making it a little easier for educators with its CLICK-12 webinar series. Powered by FIU Online, the webinar series, offered at no cost to participants, will provide educators with simple ways to digitize learning, just in time for the new school year.

ClicK-12 Logo _ Sign Up

Robust remote learning

While there are many expert opinions on what is best for this coming school year, what’s known is K-12 educators will depend on remote learning to some capacity. In response, the FIU Online webinar series will offer K-12 educators the support needed to design engaging digital classrooms.

“As a community partner in education, we want to help through our expertise, by sharing our experience of more than 20 years in the online space,” said Lia Prevolis, interim assistant vice president of FIU Online. “At FIU Online, we know online learning and we look forward to sharing effective best practices through a K-12 lens.”

High-impact workshops

This series, “created by educators for educators,” said Gabriela Alvarez, director of learning design and innovation for FIU Online, features four topics specific to K-12 teachers. The 90-minute workshops will take place between July 22 and Aug. 12. Participants can register for individual workshops or the entire series online. 

“FIU Online learning design team experts will provide their know-how, guidance and evidence-based practices for delivering instruction in the online and remote modalities,” said Alvarez, who will teach a workshop on how to be more resilient with online learning. The webinars will also cover relevant topics including lesson design, use of videos, organization techniques and tools.

“We’ve been there and understand the needs. This series is designed to make procedures easier, so instructors can teach more and struggle less,” explained Karina Ocampo, instructional design manager for FIU Online. Ocampo will teach the best ways to structure a virtual classroom and offer tried and true advice on best practices for simpler organization.

Tools and video

“There are so many tools that can help create more engaging lessons,” said Maikel Alendy, learning design innovation manager for FIU Online. His workshops will help educators learn to use video in instruction, and he’ll also discuss the most relevant and low-cost ed-tech tools that can be incorporated easily.

“We’re all in this together. We want our community of educators to know that we are here for them during this new normal,” Maikel Alendy

Blending, Flipping and Digitizing Your Classroom

Wednesday July 22, 10:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. 

As schools shift to remote, blended, and online teaching, there will be no shortage of logistical questions. What kind of instruction happens online? What happens in person? How do I design lessons to keep my students engaged? While online education is relatively new to the K-12 classroom, higher education has been delivering instruction in this modality for over 20 years. This session shares the best ways to design, structure and flip your lessons and make them more resilient.

Teachflix: Creating Incredible Videos from the Comfort of Home

Wednesday July 29, 10:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.

We all know the learning power of videos: we may forget where we parked sometimes, but always recall an arbitrary scene from our favorite movie. This webinar discusses how you can create impactful, memorable and quality learning videos at home. We will cover the value of crisp audio in a presentation, setting up good lighting, leveraging everyday tools for high-quality synchronous activity, and the concept of cognitive load. Come and discover how you can elevate your video production from the comfort of your dining room table.

Dot Org—Structuring the Virtual Classroom

Wednesday August 5, 10:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. 

As we shift to virtual classrooms, it is crucial to explore delivery options beyond email. This session offers improved means of getting students to quickly access your digital lesson plans, and thereby reduce repeated "Where do I find that?" emails. Join us to gain virtual classroom organization techniques so that you can teach more and struggle less.

Free99: Nine Low-cost, High-impact Ed-tech Tools in 90 Mins

Wednesday Aug.12, 10:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. 

Ed-tech tools promise a brave new world: highly engaged students and teachers learning deeply with just one click. The truth is there are too many tools to choose from, and too small a budget to fund them. Join FIU’s online learning design innovation manager as he shares nine of the most relevant and low-cost ed-tech tools you can incorporate into your classroom today. You will learn what you need to get started with collecting resources, using free and open source technologies, and review common missteps and solutions when leveraging these tools in your class.

ClicK-12 (free) Webinar series powered by FIU Online

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Community Contributor

In creating a course called Intro to Pharmacy Technician, I was privileged to work with the Department Chair who was also the subject matter expert (SME), and the chief instructor. 

My SME was doubtful this PHAR course could ever be taught online. Furthermore, she wasn't sure it was even a good idea to try. After all, she was training the people we would eventually count on to accurately fill prescriptions and deliver medicine in hospitals. It really was a matter of life or death. She liked to look students in the eye and might even refuse to move on until she saw the facial expressions and spark of "light" in the eyes that great teachers watch for.

Here's How We Did It

The course format was fairly typical, including:

  • An approved medical/pharmacy tech textbook. 
  • Weekly, graded discussions with response rubric.
  • Weekly, graded reflection journal.
  • Supplemental self-paced weekly lesson highlighting textbook chapter details, with additional activities like looking up pharmaceuticals on the FDA website or other professional sites relevant to future work duties. (Articulate Rise)
  • Quizlet Flashcards (Canvas-embedded and printable) for key terms.
  • Weekly quiz on key concepts (low stakes) to prep for Final Exam. 

Communication Magic

High impact teaching practices like student reflection and review were leveraged with Canvas tools based on the idea that students communicate differently when they are 1.) writing assignments directly to please the instructor, 2) writing to fellow classmates about assigned topics, and 3.) reflecting on their own learning in a required personal journal. (meta-learning)

Each type of communication provides writing practice and encourages critical thinking, yet with a different flavor. 

Key Ingredient

A key point of difference in the course was making the SME's professional ethics and priorities tangible within the course. The goal was to make this subtle yet crucial feature un-missable.

Challenge: How do we impress on students the seriousness and societal trust required in their future careers without scaring them out of the field entirely?

The stories of early drug errors in manufacturing and FDA intervention for Thalidomide were useful. The most moving personal scenario was suggested by the SME. Emily Jerry's story lives in history as a heartbreaking example of the need for accuracy in Pharmacy technology and preventable medical errors. Youtube: Medication Error in the Hospital Kills 2-year-old Emily Jerry. 

The Youtube video was presented to students first in a Canvas Discussion with a set of questions to answer and a requirement to respond to other students' posts. 

This heartbreaking story and several other examples were referenced in activities and assignments along with multiple other options about which to research. Additional discussions posted followup news articles including legal actions and imprisonment of the supervising licensed Pharmacist who was intended to prevent a lowly tech from making a grave error.  Did the students think this was fair since he didn't commit the error?  What about the technician who had mixed her own IV solution when a pre-mixed option was at hand? 

As the course drew to a close, the topic was revisited again with videos detailing the child's heartbroken father, including his anger and crumbling life, then his newfound purpose in driving licensure, training, and other legislation through a foundation honoring his lost child.  What did students think of this? Did they see the story differently by the end of the course?

The students' writing throughout the course detailed a complete emotional journey documenting how each individual viewed rising to a position of responsibility and sacred trust in the community. 



The "tough cookie" SME was convinced.  Not only did she feel the course was equal to her in-person teaching attention, in many ways it was better.  She could track the change in students, and they could track it for themselves. 

  • The course was fast-tracked as a General Ed. Sciences exploration course for non-majors as well as a program intro.
  • Key strategies and Canvas tools were implemented as improvements in the remaining program courses, whether lecture, online or hybrid.

Added Bonus
After decades as gate-keeper for the program, the SME saw the potential that this course might finally be entrusted to other worthy colleagues because the key components were built-in to the course!  She didn't have to deliver content one-person-at-a-time. She had duplicated what mattered most to her, and the personal-touch of the teaching burden could be shared.

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Community Contributor


My comments may sound critical of teachers, so I want to clarify that I am a higher ed instructor and this the community I strive to serve. I am also an instructional designer, user testing professional, and an unusually experienced student spanning decades of schooling. I've seen higher ed education trends from multiple perspectives for decades and I am committed to supporting teachers in using their influence to benefit students. I get that teaching is a huge calling and a tall order. 


Online, Oh My...

The recent rush to put courses online has caused a lot of confusion between calculated online courses by design and the emergency rush jobs of "how can we keep students busy..." when we haven't front-loaded technology access, set up devices for Canvas, user experience UX tested course navigation traps, fixed confusing file names, or aligned assessments, not to mention the hourly email questions. "Oh, I thought I told you that."


Art and Science

The art and science of online course creation has revealed some uncomfortable truths about traditional lecture/lab classroom courses too. 

  • We, teachers, love to believe we are scintillating and students grasp our every word because we are looking at them.  They don't.  
  • For every communication input we lose in online courses, we gain others--if we know how to use them and maximize the tools.
    • Example: You cannot see body language online, but you can read discussions and observe how well students grasp concepts when they speak to each other, not you. This requires well-crafted discussion question prompts, front-loaded netiquette and expectations (rubrics), and an engaged teacher who is reading for subtlety without controlling the conversation. 
  • We, teachers, have failed to learn what airline pilots know: The more times you repeat a process the more you need to commit to a checklist (lesson plan).
    • Example: You may have taught the course 100 times and could write a textbook. This is the exact reason you will forget to tell this group the key point that makes it all fall into place. That is why you will have a question on the quiz that your best students swear you didn't cover at all!
    • Solution: Modules really are your lesson plan whether you teach online, hybrid or classroom. 
  • You are hired to teach because of information that lives in your head.  Getting it into students' heads is not an automatic process. Some strategies work. Some fail.
    • Online design creatively unpacks the teacher's head before the class starts. It requires every bit as much creativity, and even more commitment and clarity, combined with an accurate anticipation of student needs and opportunities.
  • Being in the classroom may give the teacher a greater feeling of control, but it also encourages "winging it," assumptions, and defensiveness.
  • There is a strong temptation to confuse "academic freedom" with failing to teach content that meets the stated learning objectives. 
    • In a course that meets QM Quality Matters rubric standards for online courses, the objectives determine what is in the course. Every exam question and activity is traced to a clear purpose stated up front in the Syllabus.  No surprises. No bait-and-switch tactics.  


In online courses, creativity is built-in, not absent!  Furthermore, teachers are not absent from well-designed online courses.  In addition to continual creative interaction with online students through feedback and discussion, the teacher's vision and ethics can be infused into online content, multiplying their influence. (example below)


Teachers can be artists, and every artist is tormented by the flawless works that live in their heads. However, the artist can only display what they've committed to Canvas, so to speak. Even if an artist manages to "sell" an idea, a patron will lose patience unless something tangible arrives.  Then, the viewer or critic can evaluate what is committed to the physical world--which is what makes it hard to commit in the first place--but we can do it. We do it all the time. Yeah, yeah.



See:  Design Challenge: Capturing the Essence and Ethics of Critical Topics 

For a view of my favorite online course design success story and how we did it!

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Community Contributor

      Before the pandemic took over, I was fortunate to speak at a conference where I discussed providing feedback to students through technology. In sum, I spoke about how technology can be a win/win for both teacher and student. Students require feedback to learn and teachers are required to provide feedback to students. It is obvious, but is worth stating, that feedback is only effective if it is read and understood by the students. I have been using technology to provide feedback for over ten years and already understood the benefits of not worrying about losing a hard copy of a paper or having a student who could not understand my handwriting. What was even more helpful for me and for my students, however, was when my institution adopted Canvas and I adopted SpeedGrader

      I had heard that Speedgrader was a game-changer so I went in with high expectations and I was not disappointed. In fact, the function exceeded all of my hopes. There are tons of videos by people much more proficient in using Speedgrader than I am, but that is precisely why I want to share this post. I was not proficient in its use and I was slightly intimidated at the thought of using it, yet my experience was a positive one.

      Allow me to explain. All of my students' submissions were waiting for me, in order, in Speedgrader. A simple click brought up my rubric. I had created my own rubric to use for my specific assignment. It was there for me as I read through the paper. As I began my first paper, with the rubric sitting beside the document I was grading, I saw that there were various opportunities to comment on the paper itself. These comments had nothing to do with the rubric so in addition to providing a detailed rubric with comments, I was able to make specific comments throughout the paper itself. I was awestruck. The commenting was easy. It required no training, just a little trial and error that is natural when I use any new electronic tool.There is a way to highlight (and in a variety of interchangeable colors), there is a way to drop a point to suggest something is missing, there is a way to cross out, the way I would do by hand with a red pen and there is a way to box out an entire section if there is something I need to state about a large portion of the work. Every comment is saved directly onto the document and is available when I am ready to return the marked-up version to the student.The students receive these marked-up papers through Canvas once the grading is complete.

      As for the additional rubric that was sitting in a split screen right next to the document, it was delightful to use. I used my rubric to provide additional, more general comments to students. I was able to allocate points to each section of the rubric and Speedgrader automatically added everything up for me. One of the best parts was that within the rubric, I had the option to save my comments so that I could reuse them for future student comments on the same assignment. This is incredibly useful.

      The last benefit that is worth noting is that Speedgrader keeps track of all of your assignments and the grades allocated to each student. Thus, at any time, a teacher can enter the gradebook through Canvas and see each student's overall grades. They are calculated and at the end of the semester, the points are waiting for me to convert into a letter grade.

      Any reason you are letting stop you from using Speedgrader needs to be dropped and you need to give it a try. I think you will be pleasantly surprised by its user-friendly feel and I think your feedback will not only remain as strong as before, but it may even get better. If you try it, please let me know your thoughts on its use. Happy grading and stay safe!

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New Member

El Centro de Desarrollo Docente de la Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile ha generado una serie de videotutoriales para  para orientar el uso de Canvas a los estudiantes de nuestra universidad. Hemos distribuido las herramientas en diversos módulos, según los principales propósitos que posee cada una de ellas:



Estaremos constantemente actualizando este espacio.  

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New Member

El Centro de Desarrollo Docente de la Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile ha generado una serie de videotutoriales para el uso técnico y pedagógico de las principales herramientas de Canvas. Hemos distribuido las herramientas en diversos módulos, según los principales propósitos que poseen para  la generación de una buena docencia. Además hemos complementado este espacio con una serie de recursos que orientan al uso de videos para la creación de clases online. 

Estaremos constantemente actualizando este espacio. Estaremos atentos a recomendaciones de toda la comunidad habla Hispana. 

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Community Coach
Community Coach

This write up is based on a webinar I provided to my institution today.  I am sharing it with the Canvas Community for anyone who would find it useful.  My target audience is traditional faculty who are transitioning from brick classrooms to online classes.  

As faculty across education are rushing to shift from traditional classrooms to online formats, our priorities are to focus on content delivery. As we transition to virtual meeting spaces and digital classrooms, it is important to create a community of online learners through meaningful interactions and social technologies. Keeping students engaged is not only important to foster learning, but it is also essential as we identify and support at-risk student behavior. Supporting students and mitigating attrition is important throughout our transition to online.

This webinar will provide faculty with the theories, tools, technologies, and strategies for proactively engaging students in your online learning environments.

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Community Coach
Community Coach

This write up is based on a webinar I provided to my institution today.  I am sharing it with the Canvas Community for anyone who would find it useful.  My target audience is traditional faculty who are transitioning from brick classrooms to online classes.  


As we engage in campus closures, this webinar will provide tips and resources to help faculty transition their classrooms to online courses. Learn how to leverage Canvas to create a learning space that is engaging and socially interactive for your students.


Has your campus closed or is it preparing to closure? Many of our faculty are very proficient and comfortable teach in a traditional classroom, but may be wary transitioning to a fully online classroom. Fortunately, Canvas incorporates a lot of functionality designed to enable effective teaching and learning outside of our traditional learning environments. This webinar will examine the essential tools and functions of Canvas used in online learning. We will explore strategies to increase student interaction and collaboration, as well as highlight common pitfalls encountered in online education. We will also allocate time for participants to ask questions or discuss concerns.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Explore the basic functionality of Canvas
  2. Design lessons that ensure visible teacher presence
  3. Assess options that facilitate student engagement and meaningful interactions
  4. Discuss concerns and solicit feedback from participants

Presenter Bio: Sean Nufer is the Director of Instructional Technology for TCS Education System.

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Community Contributor

In response to disease epidemics (Covid-19 Coronavirus) many schools are transitioning to online courses, ready or not.  

Ideally, online courses are thoughtfully produced using multimedia, Universal Design (UDL), backward design, and flipped-classroom approaches, with quality assurance tools like QM Quality Matters Rubric ensuring a student-centered result before launch. 

The Show Must Go On
Quick! What do you do when you have one week—or one day—to transition your course to online.
  1. Orientation module template.  Template all of your courses with a consistent Preparation Module to fix issues before they start, including helping students set up their computers properly for Canvas and Webinars. View an example list of contents here: Start Here: Course Materials and Introduction (Includes: How to set up your computer for Canvas; How to get tech help; Introduce yourself Discussion; and practice Assignment with 4 parts--email your instructor, set your Canvas notifications, add a profile pic, and practice submitting online in Canvas.)
  2. Canvas Discussions.  Use them each week (or day) and make them meaningful. Even in face-to-face classroom courses, discussions add instant value. Well written question prompts = meaningful student-to-student learning.  
  3. Powerpoint *done right.  Make the old “groan” lesson-plan sedatives come to life with simplified tools and approaches. (Focus on narration, images, low text density, video format)
  4. Live Webinars.  Time-constrained synchronous online courses are the least common format for good reasons, but tools like Big Blue Button/Conferences, Webex, Adobe Connect, and Google Hangouts provide instant contact for instructor-led learning remotely.
  5. Organize, organize, organize.  Review any area where your course expectations are not clear. Unpack any information that lives in your head until you can see it in the course. 
Online Lesson Idea
Experiment with these tips to make your online lesson fast.
  1. Use an existing or new PowerPoint. 
  2. Allow 10 slides maximum. 
  3. Use slide title lines for your lesson outline. Plan the trajectory visually. Begin and end in 10 slides!
    If this is difficult, save the last  3 slides for 1.)  What do I want students to take away from this lesson and remember a week from now?, 2.) Summary, and 3.) Reference list and/or suggested readings and videos for further exploration. 
  4. Use as little text as possible on slides. 30 point font or larger. One word is great. No words--even better. 
  5. Include links to videos you’ve curated.
  6. Provide context above and below the video.
    (Video embeds make for large files; capture a screenshot image of the Video’s opening slide and turn that into a hyperlinked button instead.)
    Tell students what they should watch for and provide a list of questions in advance that they will be asked after the video. 
  7. Include lots of pictures! Creative Commons search through Pixabay, Wikimedia Commons, and Canvas media. 
  8. Speak! 
  9. Powerpoint allows you to record your Voiceover slide-by-slide. You can practice, rehearse timings, and re-do your bloopers.
  10. Video! Export your PowerPoint with audio and slide forwarding/timings as an MP4 or .wav video, host,  and embed in Canvas. Voila'! 

  • Tips: To avoid sounding wooden or recording long pauses filled with “Ummm,” (since you aren’t a voice artist) make a short outline of bullet points you want to be sure to mention. Speak as if you are standing in front of your class. Speak quickly and enunciate clearly. Spend as much time as you need and forward each slide manually to record again. 

    Caution: Students can listen at about 200-500 words per minute, and you can speak at about 125 wmp, so you are inherently boring. Be yourself, but keep up the pace!
More Favorite Tools
Keep your teacher voice present and personal by providing personalized instructions and multimedia options.
Mobile Phones
  • Enable students to submit video/media assignments. Mix it up from text typing. 
    • Example: Allow students to video themselves solving their math homework. Submit images or scans of work and a video of their process.
  • Link Canvas guides for new users in your instructions. Ensure students know about their Canvas user account Files storage, conversion tools for videos, and any other troubleshooting links. 
Quizlet Flashcards
  • Embeds beautifully in Canvas, directly or using LTI.
  • Works as a gamified, self-test tool via mobile.
  • Printable.
  • Free and inexpensive versions with pictures and audio.
  • If you are tired of your own talking head giving directions, try Vokiavatars. Cartoon people, animals, and fantasy characters can deliver directions to your students. 
  • See VokiAvatars on this Example Online Lesson support page created for K-12 teachers-in-training in the course EDPS 5442/6442 Teaching Sciences Online. 
YouTube Videos
  • Great and terrible content exists on every topic imaginable.
  • Select videos shorter than 15 minutes, preferably 1-3 minutes long. Chunk topics and surround it with context. 
  • Embed on a Canvas page with context. Tell students what to watch for. Create meaningful questions for students to answer on each video to make sure they got the point. 
*Guy Kawasaki’s brilliantly appropriate 10-20-30 Rule for Powerpoint applies to learning as well as idea pitches. 

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When I first began teaching online, I considered using a social media hashtag for class activities and related content. To make it simple and a cohesive conversation, I thought to use the course prefix and number, ie #THE4400. When discussing with a colleague, it was suggested this could potentially violate FERPA. Unsure about this, I researched further.

Often students use social media- different platforms for diverse purposes and at different stages in their life. They share information about themselves publicly. Instructors are seeking to engage with students where they already digitally reside, plus social media a “free” tool to use. Therefore, many are interested in using social media for educational purposes. However, privacy concerns are often raised.


Is social media specifically covered by FERPA? No. Although, if using social media for your classroom activities, should you think about FERPA implications? Of course. Let’s discuss what some of those considerations might be.

FERPA, Protecting Student Records

Universities are required to keep records on students. Directory information is some data that can be released publicly. This includes student names, email addresses, participation in officially recognized activities, and photographs. Most all other student data is educational records, protected by FERPA.

What is FERPA? The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) was instituted in 1974 to provide four rights to students, pertaining to the privacy of their educational records. Students:

  • can see information being kept about themselves
  • can seek amendment to those records, and in some cases, may append a statement to a record
  • can consent to disclose records to others, and 
  • can file complaints with the FERPA office if they feel their rights have been violated.

One of the key points regarding educational records is that it is data that is maintained by the university. Think of examples like social security numbers, grades, class schedules, and medical information. My colleague’s FERPA concern was related to student’s engagement with a course hashtag, thus revealing they were enrolled in my course at that particular time (similar to a class schedule, but less relevant for a fully online class). Canvas messages and university account emails can be considered educational records. However, a WordPress blog or a text message might not because it is not maintained by the university. A safe bet is to always check with your institution regarding FERPA guidelines before using social media for your classes.

5 Tips for Using Social Media in Higher Education

  1. Inform students social media will be used in class and how it will be used. Include a FERPA statement on the course syllabus.

  2. Do not require students to release personal information publicly. Directly let them know that their material may be viewed :smileycool: by others. Students under the age of 18 should get their parent’s consent to post work publicly. 

  3. For those who need or prefer to do so, allow students to use an alias. Provide this opportunity in advance to your students. When possible, offer an alternative assignment.

  4. Include a module or lesson on digital citizenship, digital footprints and internet privacy.

  5. As the instructor, do not discuss student’s grades using social media; instead use a password protected and FERPA compliant tool, like the Canvas gradebook or Canvas Inbox messages.

Read more about FERPA and using social media for education.

Disclaimer: FERPA is public law. All information in this article/post is for general informational purposes and is not a substitute for individualized advice from a qualified legal practitioner.


What best practices do you use or recommend when leveraging social networking platforms in your courses?


This post is part of the "Teaching with FERPA" blogging challenge; have you entered yet?

Keep learning,
Sky V. King

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Community Member

List View shows To Do information plus extras

How students work and what they see

As an instructor, sometimes it’s hard to know what students can do to view their current status in Canvas.  Because we do admin type stuff most of the time, even academic techs can be surprised.

Students live and breathe in the To Do list.  Instructors have discovered that items without due dates won’t show up in the To Do list, and that those items tend to get overlooked by students.  So, the trend is to add dates.  

However, most students have not discovered “List View” which is essentially the To Do list on steroids.

How to see the List View

Canvas by default shows you the very clean and simple “card view” on the dashboard.  Off to the side you see the “To Do” tool. Most people think that’s it. However, if you click the vertical [1] ellipsis (three dots) and select [2] “list view” a whole next level To Do list appears. 

How to get to List View

What can students see?

Here’s a really great document created by the Canvas Doc Team that highlights every single feature:  How do I use the to-do list for all my courses in the List View Dashboard as a student?.  (snapshots are borrowed from that page)  Here are the highlights.  

List View things they can see and do:

  • "To Do" things included
    • Classes
    • Points
    • Dates
  • Extra things on List View
    • If their submissions are missing or late [2] & [3]
    • If submissions are graded, replies, or if there’s feedback [5], [6] & [7]
    • Students can manually mark items complete
    • Students can add their own “To Dos”
  • Extra Bonus on List View (Hidden Gem alert)
    • They can see all of their current grades from all of their  courses on one page! [1]

Snapshot highlights

status indicators

This image shows you communication and submission status indicators

My Grades tool

This image shows “My Grades,” a place where students can see current grades for all of their courses.

There are several more items that may excite those that like to have advanced functionality. As for this blog entry, I’m just promoting that this tool is here, and it’s hidden just under the surface.  It is a hidden gem. I hope you and your students find it useful. 

For a deeper dive into each component check out:  How do I use the to-do list for all my courses in the List View Dashboard as a student?

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Community Champion

The problem: a focus on faculty

I run a successful twice-weekly faculty engagement program called Active Teaching Labs that gets instructors sharing how they use (want to use, fail to use, figure out how to be successful in using, etc.) technology in their teaching. Since we're a Canvas campus, just about everything we talk about we try to tie back to its implementation in Canvas.

This is all well and good. We've developed an environment where people feel comfortable sharing successes and frustrations. Often, they ask about students — what do students think about [x,y,z]? I've been trying for years to investigate this question, but I'm in the "Faculty Engagement" service here, not in Student Engagement [sigh...].

Helping faculty understand their students

The good news is that I've successfully made the case that knowing more about students helps us help faculty, so I'm embarking this semester on a fellowship where we talk to students about their learning habits and practices. We're developing relationships that are somewhat new to our generally-faculty-facing Academic Technology department — to student-facing organizations like Residence Life, the Center for the First Year Experience, and others. Since our goals are to improve teaching and learning, they tend to align with their goals of supporting students, so they're often willing to work with us.

When we're able to identify and connect with a group of students, we survey them with questions like: 

  • What have you learned about learning?
  • How did you learn it?
  • What were your best/worst class learning activities? (and why?)
  • Advice to instructors?

After we survey the students, we meet with as many groups of them as we can schedule to unpack and clarify the results. We find that the survey primes them to think about their learning, and sharing the results back with them gets them talking back and forth. 

What students say

They hate Canvas "Discussions" btw, and mention of the Canvas "To Do" list elicited an exasperated "Murder!" from one of the students in last night's discussion. I find these things fascinating because, while I agree that Discussions is terrible (an online forum ≠ a discussion; calling it that makes people think it should work like one, but it cannot because it has a whole different set of constraints and affordances! But I digress), I would not have suspected a strong reaction against the To Do list.

This isn't a research project by any means, and we won't be publishing or sharing any meaningful results, but rather it's a means to get insight from students in order to learn from them. And yes, we realize that students are not necessarily experts on good learning practices; part of the reason we're asking them is so we can develop useful faculty-created interventions such as Week 0 Modules, and integrating Universal Design for Learning into course design and activities.

How do you get student feedback?

In our faculty development programs we encourage instructors to get formative feedback from students as often, and in as many ways as they can — from reflection elements in assignments and activities like the Muddiest Point (on post-it notes, or in Canvas's graded pseudo-anonymous surveys), to forums in Piazza, to SGIDs or class representative councils — but we know there are many other methods that we don't know about.

  • What do you use? What has worked and not worked? 
  • Have you done any large-scale surveys? (best questions?)
  • How can instructors build mechanisms for feedback into their Canvas courses?
  • Other advice?


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