As we move into our final stages of implementing Canvas in a large University, every day we are faced with more and more challenges when it comes to managing large courses, specifically around Sections and Groups.
We are trying everything, and I wanted to share this experience with you, along with reach out for any feedback/ trials and errors you may have also faced.
Firstly, I mention large course management - but most of what I mention affects our smaller courses too, it is just that users tend to be more willing to find their own workaround for these issues in smaller courses - and we tend to only see the pain points raised when teachers are managing over 1,000 students in a single Canvas shell.
Secondly, I will also mention that large course management is a Khaki 2017 focus area - Though, the only delivered outcomes of this focus group are:
Khaki 2018 delivered the following outcomes for large courses:
- Large Course: Sections/Groups
- Section-Specific Announcements
- Section-Specific Discussions
I will also mention Ideas where some items I mention below are pegged for future development.
So, at our institution, we, like most, have large courses, and within those courses, we use Sections to manage student classes/ break these courses up. These classes are representative of their face-to-face class, and students will move around these classes up till (and sometimes post) timetabling closing/ census date.
Large courses, along with section movement (students moving between sections) has seen us face multiple problems - some of which I have noted below!
Options for management
Group Limitations -
Can only have 200 automatically created groups in a group-set and no ability to 'appendage' Group Sets (or create sub- groupsets). (in the UI)
No search function making it difficult to find students (if needed to make a change)
No ability for batch group management for course roles. (in the UI)
Students cannot be assigned to more than one group in a Groupset.
Difficult to know when in a group area/ or a course area (solved by creating a UI change to include a visual indicator - but not solved by Canvas).
The Universityof Michigan has kindly shared a Course Manager tool (allowing teachers to create and edit sections across courses they are enrolled in, and batch group management) - GitHub -tl-its-umich-edu/canvas_course_manager Though this requires serious development for our environment (its current capabilities do not align with our policies).
UPDATE:@RobDitto has kindly shared a workaround for searching users in a group in the comments below. "Canvas does have a limited way (a workaround, perhaps) to search for students in groups through the UI: go into Student View first, then visit People > Groups. Typing part or all a student's name in the Search Groups or People box will have the effect of "filtering" the list of groups to show just the ones that students belong to."
More granular permissions are needed in order to open up limited section management to course roles. This is in Ideas but has been talked about for years.
We have a conflict between the use of integrated data and course functionality that uses sections, and we need a way to assist course roles to have limited section management so as not to interrupt the integration but allow for full use of the section specific course functionality.
As mentioned in the previous problem item, the Universityof Michigan has kindly shared a Course Manager tool (allowing teachers to create and edit sections across courses they are enrolled in, and batch group management) - GitHub -tl-its-umich-edu/canvas_course_manager - Though this requires serious development for our environment (itscurrent capabilities do not align with our policies).
If a student is present in more than one section in a single Canvas shell, and moves around sections (made inactive in one section/ active in another) it is difficult to know what participation was made in which section. It is also difficult to know which section is inactive via the 'People' page
You need to navigate to the individual user profile to view which section is active/ inactive.
SOLUTION IN PRODUCTION! Speedgrader fails to load in large courses - Speedgrader thresholds are set at 1,500 submissions will cause loading delays and 2,500 will result in failure to load. there is additionally a 60-second time-out.
Update 2020: You can now filter the grade book by section in a course that has a large volume of submissions, and then launch Speedgrader and Speedgrader will only load the requested submissions and not attempt to load all. This means we are not facing the 'load' time or failure to load errors.