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.
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.
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.”
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 canregisterfor 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.
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.
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.
A key point of difference in the course was making the SME's professional ethics and prioritiestangiblewithin 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-mixedoption 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 documentinghow each individualviewed 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 contentone-person-at-a-time. She had duplicated what mattered most to her, and thepersonal-touch of theteaching burden could be shared.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Explore the basic functionality of Canvas
Design lessons that ensure visible teacher presence
Assess options that facilitate student engagement and meaningful interactions
Discuss concerns and solicit feedback from participants
Presenter Bio: Sean Nufer is the Director of Instructional Technology for TCS Education System.
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.
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.)
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.
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)
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.
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.
Use an existing or new PowerPoint.
Allow 10 slides maximum.
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.
Use as little text as possible on slides. 30 point font or larger. One word is great. No words--even better.
Include links to videos you’ve curated.
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.
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.
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.
Embeds beautifully in Canvas, directly or using LTI.
Works as a gamified, self-test tool via mobile.
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.
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
Inform students social media will be used in class and how it will be used. Include a FERPA statement on the course syllabus.
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.
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.
Include a module or lesson on digital citizenship, digital footprints and internet privacy.
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.
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  ellipsis (three dots) and select  “list view” a whole next level To Do list appears.
If their submissions are missing or late  & 
If submissions are graded, replies, or if there’s feedback ,  & 
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! 
This image shows you communication and submission status indicators
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.
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?
How do you do Professional Development of Teaching? With >230 sessions reaching 3400+ educators, the Active Teaching Labs at UW-Madison facilitate teaching & learning development for the price of bagels & coffee. We've honed a one-hour highly-rated, dynamic, and respectful format that consistently draws campus educators without a need for stipends. During the campus transition to Canvas, the focus was on how to rebuild courses in Canvas. Now that campus is all Canvas, the focus has turned to pedagogical involving all sorts of technology, and problem-solving how to make them work well with a structure that is centered in Canvas.
We think we've got a good thing here, but we still struggle with several issues. Maybe you can help us out with ideas?
How to prepare for the questions we don't know about in advance? Inevitably, instructors come to our sessions with a secret desire — so secret that they might not know about it themselves until something in the session sparks it. So secret that they might not share it with us until they fill out an evaluation, disappointed that we didn't answer it.
How to reach faculty too busy to come to professional development sessions? At our R1 university, teaching is (sadly) not valued as much as research, so faculty naturally focus on what earns them tenure.
What titles draw people in? Because we recognize they're busy, we've been balancing "teach better" with "teach faster" — trying to share tips and tricks to be more efficient so they can teach well without spending too much time doing it!
So, this blog post has two goals:
share what we do, and
pick your brain for good ideas we're missing!
WHAT WE DO. Our sessions are:
SHORT: We find that people are willing to come to a 1-hour session (we add 15 minutes to the front on Friday mornings so they can get coffee and bagels), but much more time than that, and they stay away.
STRUCTURED: Single-page paper Activity Sheets provide topic overview, researched solutions, and challenges for Beginners to Experts. The digital version (bit.ly/eliLab) offers links, shareability, and participant-provided resources.
RESPONSIVE: Labs solicit and respond to participants’ specific interests in topics, allowing participants to share their own just-in-time questions, and solutions to each others’ challenges — building community connections across disciplinary silos.
COLLABORATIVE: Participants learn from others' experiences and have structured time to contribute their own resources, ideas, and experiences. Expert participants learn from each other and also from novices through elaborative interrogation.
SCAFFOLDED: Labs flow from a topic overview to shared and individual participant challenges, connecting them to educational research — and because they draw on social learning, result in individualized peer-supported development.
MULTIMODAL: Participants can engage at their comfort level in person or online, and continue digitally afterwards.
EASY: Review some Labs
NB: Rather than provide a “polished” program, we model flexibility, vulnerability, and mistakes. Participants don’t see perfection (realistically impractical for instructors who teach new topics each class), but they see us try, fail, and get better. Our program similarly evolves — 2020 Labs are better than 2015 ones, and we feel some are still pretty bad, but participants love them. See them all (warts and all) in our eText: bit.ly/ATL-ejournal.
We started in Spring 2015 by inviting different faculty each week to share a way they use technology to teach. They prepared a 10-minute overview. Participants dug into the tool for 15 minutes to get some experience. Then it was Q&A. Counter to ID law, we led with the technology, and then sprung T&L research on them — luring instructors in with Twitter, Google Communities, Wikipedia, etc. See our first Lab on Google+ Communities Lab for a good example of this iteration.
As UW-Madison transitioned to Canvas, our focus shifted to address it, and the Hands-on Experience component was highlighted with Activity Sheets that welcomed different skill levels (EASY=no experience; MEDIUM=some; HARD= things we haven’t figured out yet). See the Canvas Navigations Solutions Lab for a good example of this iteration.
When Canvas was familiar, participants wanted to focus more on Pedagogy (WHY) than Technical (HOW), but some still wanted step-by-step directions. We put these in the Activity Sheet (like this one), but now focus sessions on Teaching practice. See the Trigger Warnings Lab for a good example of this iteration.
Recently, instead of inviting individuals to share a story on using tech to teach, we’ve been inviting 3-4 “ringers” to participate on a topic, we ask all participants what they want answered, and we discuss. It’s not a panel (panels= weird power dynamics); they sit with everyone else, and we carefully facilitate the conversation to address the questions. See the UDL and Rubrics Lab for a good example of this iteration.
EASY: Set the Mood. Show you Care. Model Vulnerability.
At UW-Madison Labs, we play Jazz (Pandora Herbie Hancock station) before we start so participants don’t walk into a dead room. The instrumental-only background music creates a welcoming ambience while encouraging attendees to chat with each other. We welcome them when they sign in, and we make sure they make a table tent (or name tag) so others can address them by name. If they come back, we say “Welcome back!” and ask them about their semester, week, etc. We have rolling slides up introducing the Lab, setting expectations, and sharing interesting T&L articles, upcoming events, etc. We have coffee and bagels for morning Labs, and cold brew, fruit, and cookies for afternoon ones. Supplying food suggests we value them.
What do you do to put participants at ease and generate discussion that meets their goals?
MEDIUM: Let go of preconceived plans to follow participant needs.
We’ve found people often come to events hoping to get something specific answered — often not what the event page describes. But they don’t tell us what they want, and they leave disappointed (and tell us on evaluations), so now we ask! When we start, we ask them to introduce themselves and share what, about the topic,they want to discuss. We put that on a white board and check off the questions as we address them. We start with the basic, or most popular questions, and generally ask our “ringers” (or anyone) to share any answers or suggestions they have. We use the Activity Sheet to address the technical and pedagogical questions on the topic that we anticipated. We refer to it when we can, but often find ourselves going in unanticipated directions. There’s a lot of improvisation in this approach, and we rely on people in the room to help us figure it out. We often say “I don’t know. Does anyone here have thoughts?” At the end of the Lab, we ask them to fill out Reflection Sheets (not “Evaluations”) — this, and their initial questions bookend the Lab and subtly remind them of their agency in their learning. When we get unanswered questions, we respond to them on the Recap page.
How do/can you personalize learning in sessions you lead?
How do/can you promote participants’ agency and responsibility in addressing their own learning goals?
MEDIUM: Focus on the folks who most impact campus teaching.
Like many T&L development programs, we initially tried to reach tenure-track Faculty, but struggled to pull them away from research (what they get tenure based on). Recently, we’ve been reaching them through the TAs that help them teach, the support folks they go to for technical questions. We balance better (for students) and more efficient (for instructors) teaching.
CHALLENGE: Try new things. Break rules.
After 10 semesters, 230 Labs, and ~3400 participants (including those coming back multiple times!) We think we’ve got a pretty good framework that we can continue evolving. But each semester we shake things up by trying something new. Starting with technology (Ooh! shiny!) instead of the (boring) educational challenge to lure people in; now we almost always start with challenges. Double-sided, jam-packed paper (the sin of no whitespace!) Activity Sheets became digital (links work — no need to type them in!), and then crowd-sourced (participants now regularly add to the RESOURCES and LAB NOTES sections!). Video recording turned into YouTube live streaming (saves hours of editing/uploading each week) — but we still have not figured out how to live stream effectively (Picture-in-Picture for screen and discussion)
Have you figured out live streaming?
Any advice on engaging both face-to-face and online participants?
I'd love to hear your thoughts! How have you have dealt with these challenges? What are you doing that avoids some of the issues? Other advice?
As designers and teachers, we are on a relentless quest to present the best quality information for our students in the most effective ways possible. We acknowledge we can always do better and our students deserve this effort!
With that in mind, I offer this support to teachers to help each of your students embrace the Growth Mindset and personal commitment to learning.
Rachael's Recommendation for Starting Each Semester
I introduce myself and state my commitment:
"My commitment to you is that I will do my best to teach you valuable information that will make your life better. The sum total of my life's knowledge will be your starting point. In return, I'm asking you to be committed to learning.
Remember, the worst teacher in the world cannot stop you if you are committed to learning."-NRS
Heartfelt credits for the inspiration go to the old-school motivational speaker Zig Ziglar:
“If you are not willing to learn, no one can help you. If you are determined to learn, no one can stop you.”
A misconception about Hot Spot questions is that these questions require students to click on the correct target area, NOT draw a shape. Let's say that in your art class, you want students to discover hidden shapes in the photograph below:
There is one hidden shape in this image. Tap/click on the region where you think it might be.
It only takes one click or tap to answer a Hot Spot Question. This shouldn't take very long to answer, especially on one-question quizzes with a very short time limit (~30 seconds).
The Sky's the Limit (But with Exceptions, Though)
Some people might think, "Oh well, the sky's the limit, let's turn this quiz into a marathon race," so they set the time limit for a very long time (1 month, 3 months, 6 months, even longer). We've converted to the largest possible time limit (from smallest to largest, seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, years).
Less than 1 hour: mm:ss
1 - 48 hours: hh:mm:ss
2 - 60 days: DD days
2 - 24 months: MM months
2+ years: YY years
In this example, the time limit shows 9,993,600 minutes, but we converted it to 19 years for students to see it more clearly.
But that's no longer the case with New Quizzes, where time limits are limited to 7 days (excluding time accommodations). Accommodations will be needed to bypass the limit up to a maximum of 16,800 hours (or 100 weeks).
Availability Dates: Not Just for Taking the Assessment, But Also for Showing/Hiding Student Responses
You know a common question we get is: You thought you can still view your results after the availability date has passed, isn't that right? Wrong. In this case for New Quizzes, once the availability dates have passed, you can no longer take the quiz nor see the items you got wrong, as shown below.
(This has not yet appeared in New Quizzes, but it is a concept...)
A better workaround for this lockout is that in Settings, there should be an item called Disallow Late Submissions. When this box is checked, students can no longer take the quiz, but they will still be able to review the items that they got wrong, provided that the current date is before the Until date (if set).
This will be denoted by the sentence "Late submissions are disallowed for this assessment," as shown below:
Apologies for the mixed fonts here...
Select the group you want to assign to.
Select the due date for the assignment. This will be displayed next to the time limit in the New Quizzes Instructions screen (on the right side).
Select the date and time when the assessment will become available to students. Students will be able to take the quiz and view their results. This is like "Let Students Take the Quiz and See Their Quiz Responses Starting From..."
Select the date and time when students can no longer submit the assignment nor see their results. This is like "Let Students Take the Quiz and See Their Quiz Responses Until..."
Be sure to keep these tips in mind as you continue to build assessments.
We hope you continue to enjoy New Quizzes!
Curious why the New Quizzes text in the banner is pink? That's because it's Valentine's Day today!
Higher ed hosts a bewildering number of professors who 1.) fail to provide examples of completed projects and assignments, 2.) actively avoid examples on the premise of promoting creativity, and 3.) presumably enjoy a comfort zone of non-clarity.
Rubrics and Examples
Rubrics clarify assignment expectations, guiding students on where to spend their energy and creativity.
Rubrics support teachers in grading neutrally, quickly, and clearly.
Examples communicate vast amounts of information about quality, completeness, and acceptable work.
Multiple examples inspire creativity instead of limiting it.
"Two or more vastly different examples of successful A-grade assignments encourage student inferences and higher-order critical analysis. Multiple examples expand creativity rather than limiting it." —NRS
Addressing Privacy/Copyright Issues
Get written permission from previous students to display their work.
Bite the bullet. Start from scratch and create new project examples yourself.
State copyright and ownership of the work clearly the course introduction, including that students may not copy or reuse the examples provided.
Define plagiarism clearly—with examples--and reiterate the school’s policies. Many international students bring vastly different cultural and institutional perspectives on plagiarism, citations, original work, sharing, cheating, etc.
Enjoy this efficient Reading Response formula for encouraging higher-level Bloom’s Synthesis and Evaluation skills in higher ed.
Students invest more effort to glean value from the readings and provide succinct evidence for grading.
Format encourages clarity and expansion for students who write minimally.
Student writers who provide too much length get to practice refinement and brevity.
Instructor gets to grade 4 carefully crafted sentences per student. Done!
4-Part Student Reading Response Format
Reading assignment Title and Author. (May include the full APA/MLA reference for practice.)
Summarize author’s thesis statement. (Quote a single sentence or summarize what you believe to the be the author’s main point in a single sentence.)
Quote the best line from the writing. (Take notes and be prepared to defend your choice in follow-up discussion. Your personal definition of “best” may be based on sentence-crafting, novel ideals, metaphors, key points, convincing arguments, etc.)
Share your response. (State your reaction to the reading. Do you agree or disagree and why? Expand on the topic and share your own opinions and rationale.)
As I am sitting thinking about my proposal for InstructureCon2020, I thought, wouldn't it be a great idea if CanvasAdvocates had space where they can present to other users from a direct end-user perspective! These presentations can stretch from beginner to advanced or even open Q and A panel with a panel of "Canvas Advocates" from varying levels of knowledge, we can bounce ideas off of each other, share experiences and provide much-needed advice to users of all levels. We've all had our struggles and random questions. We can pay it forward in 2020 and lend that helping hand to all users!
If this were an opportunity that Instructure would allow, I'm curious as to what type of workshops you like to see?
The rising popularity of online college courses creates new opportunities for completion and success. Unfortunately, more students who sign up for online courses also fail or wash out! Students and instructors alike benefit from clarifying the skills needed to succeed and the mental preparation needed to prime students for online success.
While the goal is to encourage enrollment--not discourage it--students must be prepared and personally responsible for their online experiences especially if they are fresh from high school or not yet used to the discipline and organizational skills college courses demand.
Ideally, the online courses of today are engaging, relevant, and organized with instructors who are truly present online and student-to-student interactions adding immense value. Online courses also demand a higher level of empathetic user experience design (UX), clear instructions, clear expectations, zero instructor "winging it," and superhuman anticipation of all possible roadblocks that diverse students might encounter!
Advantages of Online Courses
Online courses allow additional schedule options for busy students.
Online means less time and money wasted commuting, sitting in traffic, adding to air pollution, searching for parking, paying for parking, etc.
Online also means less exposure to diseases, epidemics, violence, and the downsides of social crowding.
Online course scheduling may be more feasible if you work full-time or have other obligations.
Some online courses may allow you to work a week ahead, for example, if you have upcoming events or vacations.
Well-designed online courses allow you to review materials--at any time--to gain full benefit.
Review and self-pacing can additionally benefit diverse student populations including students who require accessibility accommodations or ESL assistance.
The online format encourages you to interact with your instructor and other students in writing and discussions even morethan you might in a classroom lecture format.
The online format provides opportunities to practice higher-level reading, writing, and technology skills.
Questions to Ask Yourself in Preparing for an Online Course
Am I prepared to spend the same amount of time (or more) in an online course as I would in a traditional classroom format? Typically, colleges advise students to plan for 2-3 personal hours of homework time minimum for each credit hour during a week. For example, a 3 credit hour class may require approx. 6-9 hours each week for a typical student or possibly even more homework time.
Am I aware that online classes are not easier or faster? For some students, online courses are significantly more difficult. Are the trade-offs worth it for you?
Am I self-motivated and organized with completing my homework and scheduled deadlines even without continual guidance from an instructor?
Am I willing to ask questions, persistently communicate, and ask for help in advance of due dates?
Am I persistent with technology hassles, including reading directions and solving issues?
Do I have continual access to a reliable computer and high-speed internet?
Am I personally responsible for gaining the full value from course materials and finishing what I begin?
I am prepared to focus my attention and gain meaning from written text or videos with or without additional explanation from an instructor?
Am I prepared to complete college-level writing assignments and/or seek assistance from writing centers to bring my writing skills up to expectations?
Am I aware of options to take courses for credit, non-credit, technical training, hybrid mixtures of online and classroom interaction, etc. with a clear understanding of financial repercussions in worst-case scenarios?
A new year and a new semester is a time of renewal. As you refresh and revise your courses for the coming semester, please consider making your content more accessible.
I hope you've heard that word, but here's what you really need to know about accessibility: it's about making your content easy for everyone to understand. Yes, there are laws that require accessibility, before you get a student needing it, for those that are differently-abled. But really, making content easy to understand benefits everyone.
This blog will cover really easy things you can do with the Canvas Rich Content Editor that will make your content much clearer and at the same time, more accessible.
This image below are two images, the current* and the new rich content editor. The 4 circled icons that have functions that will help you create accessible content in Canvas.
Current Rich Content Editor
New Rich Content Editor
Headings are the easiest way to start making your content clearer. In the past, you may have simple bolded the font of a heading and made it large. Stop doing that! Instead use the rich content editor and choose the heading level. What this does it is allows a student that uses a screen reader to interact with the content the same way a sighted student would, all through the miracle of the background coding you don't have to know.
When you want a heading, click "Paragraph" in the rich content editor. In the dropdown, you can choose the heading that fits the level of your content.
You should use the Headings in order - In Canvas, the list starts with Heading 2, because Title and Heading 1 are already used in the standard Canvas layout.
Sample Headings could include: Overview, Introduction, Instructions, Examples, Grading.
When you hit enter after a header, the next line is automatically set to paragraph so you can start entering content.
When you set headings correctly this gives all students:
chunked content that is easily scanned.
a quick overview of the type of content on the page.
a way to organize the content they read so they better understand and retain it.
an easy way jump to the section with the content they need.
It is true, the format for heading 1 comes standard, and it may not be exactly what you want. You can let that go. What you loose in control you gain in consistency and accessibility. (Ok, once you set the heading, you can change its font, but what a lot of extra trouble! Just be sure you set the heading level first and try to be consistent throughout your Canvas site. This is why using the standard font for each heading is just easier.)
To further clarify your content, you should consider if a list is better than a paragraph. When the answer is yes, use bullets for a list with no sequence and numbers for a list where sequence matters. You may have been doing this, but having you been using dashes or asterisks or typing in the numbers yourself? Use the rich content editor instead.
When you are ready for a list
click the list icon that matches your needs
type a list item
Hit enter and continue entering items
At the end of the list simply hit enter again or click the list icon to return to paragraph formatting.
If you have already typed a list, highlight all the list items and choose the bullet list icon or the number list icon depending on your needs.
Here's what lists get you:
Organized, easily read content.
Content that is easy to rearrange. When you move an item in a numbered list, the list renumbers itself.
Automatic indenting for nice white space.
Hit tab while in a list item and the numbering or bullets will change.
Clearly ordered sequences.
Again, using the rich content editor creates background information that will allow sight disabled students to interact with lists in the same way as sighted students, so the lists are useful to everyone.
Images with Alt Text
Ever have an image not load and wonder what it was? Alt text would have saved your day. For some students, alt text is essential. The best time to add alt text is when you are adding images to your content.
Click the image icon in the rich content editor.
Find your image.
Create alt text for your image or designate it as decorative.
Note for the new RCE: Once inserted you click on the image and click the options button to insert the alt text.
In the current RCE: If you already have an image, select it and hit the image icon to add alt text.
Wow, I made that sound easy, but alt text takes practice. The text you put in should answer this question: What is the content conveyed by the image? So it isn't necessarily a description, but the point of the image. Here are some other guidelines:
It should not be file names with things like ".jpeg" at the end. At least remove the ".jpeg".
Keep it under 125 characters. Longer descriptions should be part of the accompanying text.
Do NOT use the phrases "image of ..." or "graphic of ..." to describe the image.
Context matters. Only you as the content creator really know the point of the image, so you get to decide the alt text.
Just know that having alt text is so essential for some students that you should make an attempt. With practice, it will get easier. WebAIM Alternative Text analyzes the same image several ways so you can see some examples that will help you improve your use of alt text.
The last icon circled on the rich content editor image above is the stick person which takes you to the accessibility checker. This will review the content on the page, identify what may need improvement and even give you some guidance on how to fix issues.
A Final Word
Please do not think that Canvas is the only place where you have tools to improve your accessibility; they are in every content creation program! Hopefully you will now recognize the headings, lists, and image icons in everything from Google Docs to Microsoft Powerpoint. Make accessibility just a part of how you work, and your content will be better for everyone.
*Please note that this image is from the University of Minnesota Canvas Rich content Editor. Yours may appear slightly different but should have many of the same features. For more on accessibility, check out Accessibility.umn.edu.
One of the things that I have learned from taking final exams online is the use of the force completion method.
What is Force Completion?
At our institution, which uses Blackboard, our business teacher activates the Force Completion feature. What that means is that once the test is launched, we must finish it. We may only access the test ONE TIME. Although answers are saved periodically as we work through them, we cannot exit and re-enter the test. From Blackboard, the instructions note that the test must be completed in one sitting once started, and we cannot leave the test before submitting it. Without Force Completion, we may save our progress, navigate away, and return to complete the test.
Let's say that if I accidentally close my browser, leave the test page, or lose power or my internet connection, I can't continue. I must contact the instructor and ask for a new attempt.
Teachers may want to reserve the Force Completion option. Instead, they can require us to take a test on campus, connected to an Ethernet cable instead of Wi-Fi, and with a proctor. If issues occur, the proctor can reset the test.
How is Force Completion different on Canvas than on Blackboard?
In order to effectively create a test with Force Completion, it is recommended that you use the +Assignment button, NOT the +Quiz/Test button, to create the quiz. That is because you cannot use Load this tool in a new tab when using the +Quiz/Test button, to hide the Global Navigation bar on the left.
Consider one effective scenario of using Force Completion. Teachers pass out Access Codes to each student for them to enter.
Once entered, students MUST return the codes back to the instructor after entering it.
The test begins as normal.
However, a few minutes later, a student forgets to plug in her charger, and the device shuts down. They will need to reenter the access code to get back in.
In Blackboard, if a student accidentally closes theirbrowser, leaves the test page, or loses power or theirinternet connection, he/she can't continue. He/she must contact the instructorand ask for a new attempt. This is not the case with New Quizzes in Canvas. Starting a new attempt is NOT allowed, even if unlimited attempts are given. While some teachers may be nice and show the access code on the board for the students, others hide the code once the test begins. Furthermore, refreshing the page during the quiz will result in a Loading loop. We strongly recommend that you do not use the Force Completion feature unless it is really necessary.
The element that sets successful online courses apart from old-style correspondence courses is: presence. Well-taught, well-designed online courses can allow students to get to know each other and their instructors even better than in traditional lecture classrooms. Interaction is the key. Online course presence may require instructors to communicate much differently than in their classroom comfort zones. Online communication focuses less—or not at all--on body language and tone of voice.
So, how do you communicate online?
Keep in mind, online courses do not run themselves. Effective instructors leverage clear, frequent messaging and considerate planning. Ongoing instructor availability for timely questions is vital. Instructors must stay engaged daily to keep students progressing and adding value for each other. Online teaching takes as much time as classroom teaching; it just happens at different times and locations. Here are some ideas:
Create a Good Beginning
Create introductory Discussions with detailed question prompts to break the ice and help students connect personally. Example:
"Please introduce yourself to your fellow classmates. Include your name and why you are taking this class. You may also choose to include your major, your personal interests, hobbies, a photo, and something fun or memorable that will help people get to know you. (Approximately 5-10 sentences.) As you reply to your classmates’ posts, ask questions, look for interesting details, and keep your upcoming group projects in mind.”
Shy students who may not speak up at all in classrooms will often write more in an online discussion post.
Clarify expectations. In addition to the official policies in a syllabus, be sure to include separate discussion board etiquette instructions and basic explanations of the course structure. Example: “All materials and assignments are accessed through the Modules link. Discussions are due each Wednesday by 11:59 pm and major assignments are due on Sundays by 11:59 pm.”
Include an Instructor Bio content page with a photo or short, personal video. Avoid reciting information that is already in the syllabus. Reveal what you love about your field, what you want students to gain from the semester, and assure students that you are looking forward to working with them.
Include Week 1 setup assignments for Instructure Canvas LMS system success (notifications, profile, assignment submissions and system requirements.) Include an email requirement for immediate student questions or comments to you as the instructor.
Answer each email personally. Use repeated student questions to trigger your creation of general Announcements and course improvements.
Grade weekly assignments before the next assignment is due. Students cannot improve without timely feedback.
Post due dates for the entire semester on day 1 so that busy students can plan for success. Lack of pacing and direction is counterproductive. Canvas Assignment Due Dates trigger the To-Do List reminder system and populate the student calendar for your course combined with all of their other courses. (To reduce your instructor communication burden, avoid available and until dates unless absolutely necessary. Example: A Final Exam with a solid end date and no re-takes needs anuntildate.)
Be present in your course daily and strive to complete some type of communication with each login.
Aim for twice-daily [minimum] to respond to messages and questions. State your communication policy in advance to inform students who may be used to a 15-second response to messages.
Design for Success
Be clear. Detailed instructions are written for the least tech-savvy students. Make no assumptions. Include info links, definitions of terminology and expectations of writing length. Include links to specific Canvas Guides for Students in your assignment instructions for those who need step-by-step tutorials.
Be sure you understand Canvas and get help from Canvas Instructor Guides to avoid creating navigation dead-ends and frustration for your students. (Example: Make sure that hyperlinks to outside sites are functioning and use built-in modules navigation. Internal Canvas links can open in a neighboring tab. (Use HTML code snippet target="_blank" to avoid links within text that divert your students to another location in Canvas. Students won't finish reading a page if they click a link mid-sentence and land elsewhere.)
Curate multiple examples of successfully completed assignments for students to emulate and surpass. Varied assignment examples will invite deeper learning inferences and creative thinking.
Use Rubrics. Students will know where to spend their energy on assignments and have fewer complaints or questions. Rubrics help instructors give consistent, fast feedback without writing the same comments again and again.
Plan your course assignment due dates and pacing with the Academic Calendar and Holiday Calendar. Many students work during the week and appreciate Sunday night due dates.
Be available for questions immediately prior to deadlines. Clarify your anticipated response times and weekend availability for questions.
Include early course feedback—approximately week 2-3 in a semester—to gather student feedback on the course design, not the instructor! Minor course adjustments and clarifications can create major attitude improvements and student success. Use the Quiz tool for a required survey, grading only the student’s participation and not the answers.
Aim for quality, not quantity. Use the auto-grading quiz tool for low-stakes chapter quizzes to ensure that students read materials. Save precious grading time for the most meaningful projects and writings that require your human touch.
Be flexible. Keep assignment settings unlocked wherever possible so that students can look ahead.
Consider.Many students take online courses specifically for flexibility. Allow responsible students to submit early for holidays, vacations, and personal obligations.
Reward Persistence. Ease student anxiety by using low-stakes quiz settings that allow multiple attempts to raise grades. Allow major writing assignments to be resubmitted after feedback and revisions.
Reward Contributions. Create opportunities for students to locate and share content from current events with each other in course Discussions.
Maximize Student Interactions
Participate with your own instructor comments intermittently for strongest results. Watch discussion spaces and participate subtly to allow students to converse more authentically.
Plan group projects in detail. Include detailed outlines, expectations, and suggestions for group roles that align with grading rubrics. Use collaboration spaces like GoogleDocs and Presentations that allow group members to work asynchronously and visibly.
Offer forums and opportunities for students to answer questions for each other.
Create open peer reviews in Discussions and set parameters for meaningful feedback where students take on the teaching & feedback role for each other.
Experiment with Your Role
Become a coach. Online courses are designed and polished in advance to free instructors for the coaching role rather than being the Sage on the stage.
Distill your life wisdom to re-examine the most efficient ways to think like an expert. Then, add inspirations for creativity and allow your students to add value by teaching you in return. Courses are improved semester-to-semester by engaged students.
Help students create their own tools for life and work.
Help students create proud evidence of what they have learned in the form of research papers, meaningful projects, and creative ePortfolio artifacts.
Keep feedback positive and encouraging, wherever possible.
Be specific when revisions are needed. If your requirements are strict, then assignment instructions and rubrics must match that precision. If your instructions are loose and flexible, your grading should reflect this style of teaching.
Be human. Use a conversational style in your Announcements and assignment directions that balances professionalism and friendliness. Written format is automatically more cold sounding, so account for this in your writing.
* This article is offered based upon experiences as an Instructional Designer, Institutional LMS support staff member, and online higher ed. instructor. These suggestions are not affiliated with nor compensated by Instructure Canvas.
The Dashboard is the very first screen when we come arrive into Canvas after successful authentication. At the University of Minnesota it goes to “Card View” by default, which represents your courses as “cards” but I tend to call them tiles. The cards may have images, or they may simply be a color.
Anatomy of a course card
If you do nothing to your cards
If you don’t customize the Dashboard at all, Canvas decides what is on there, and in what order. Usually it does not do a great job of guessing what courses you want to be in the cards, so it’s best to dictate that yourself.
Customize the Dashboard “Card View”
Customizing the “Card View” is easy, but not obvious.
The first thing you should know it that if you add even 1 course manually to the Dashboard, the default automatic list will disappear. So, once you start customizing you control it all.
Adding & Removing a course from the Dashboard
Use to change the to change the cards in the .
First, click on “Courses”, then “All Courses”
Then click on the star next to each course you want on your Dashboard.
Click a to become at to add a course to the
Click a to become a to remove a course from the
Once you understand this is the way it works, and you are able to remember this again next semester, you are in business. You can change your Dashboard quickly to match your semester.
Remove a course from the Dashboard “using” the Dashboard
You can click on your course card menu, click “move” then select “unfavorite”
Next, Rearrange your course “cards”
Drag and Drop your cards into your order of preference.
Customizing the “Card View” is easy, but not obvious. Once you understand how it works, you’ll be able to make your daily interactions with Canvas easier, more feng shui (digitally speaking).
One of the big hassles with testing accommodations is having students submit a testing request EVERY TIME for each individual test within any course. This is no longer the case with New Quizzes.
Here is an example from Pasadena City College (PCC), our closest local community college, which also utilizes Canvas as their LMS.
Students will be prompted to submit their current Accommodation Plans and let their instructors know that they will take tests under accommodated conditions and that the local Disabled Student Program department will contact the instructors. They will need to have their syllabi ready.
For New Quizzes, the same rules apply. However:
Instead of submitting a test accommodation form for each test, students only need to submit a form only once for each course that they would like to request testing accommodations for. That's because these settings will be applied to all course assessments in New Quizzes for this student, making things more convenient.
Students will only need to resubmit if there are changes to accommodations.
TEST REQUEST FORM AVAILABILITY
Some institutions have various availability times when the request form will be open. Check with your school for more info.
As always, students should submit their requests as early as possible to guarantee a spot, especially during finals.
Updated 3/19/20: Option 2 Ignore the warning did not work as expected for and assignment that had been graded.
Students working in groups to learn just learn better. That is what years of research have shown us. Managing groups can be difficult, and not just during class. Canvas has some group functionality that instructors can use to manage group work:
Go to every future assignment and future discussion.
Edit the activity.
Change the group setting from the original group set to the (Clone) group set and save.
Now you have adjusted the groups and all the future group assignments and discussions will be set up for the new groups.
Unless you missed one. And if you did, once there is a submission, you can't change the group set. Your only option is to duplicate the assignment, choosing the correct group set and asking students to submit again.
Keeps an accurate history of group changes.
It is the option prompted by Canvas.
When you import and copy this Canvas site into a blank course site, only one group set is created and all previous group assignments/discussions are set to that "Project Groups" group set
You MUST change the assignment/discussion settings for remaining semester.
If you want to maintain the group assignments to specific group sets when importing, you must create the exact group sets in the blank course site before importing the course content.
The Other Way - Ignoring the Warning
This way may not work for all instructors because it requires one best practice that must always be done when grading Group Assignments:
Once Group grades are entered, edit the assignment and check Assign Grades to Each Student Individually and save.
There may be reasons you are already doing this. It allows you to change the scores of group members that did not contribute or were absent. The key is that this setting LOCKS IN all the grades as individual grades. That gives you the freedom to change the existing group.
In the warning box, choose Change Existing Group and Submit.
That's it, you are done. Future assignments are still using this group set with the newly modified group. Past graded assignments have the grades locked to the individuals and are not changed.
Unless you weren't done grading a group assignment. That's the only condition; you must have any group grading done and set to Assign Grades to Each Student Individually. And this could be a pain if you have many changes to make.
You do not have to change assignment group settings
The change you were intending to make is made.
You have to be sure to check the “Grade individually” settings of assignments BEFORE you make the group change.
You do not have an accurate running history of group changes.
Which will you choose?
You can imagine that which you will choose will depend on where you are in the semester and what your normal grading practice is for group grades. Because Canvas prompts users to clone the group, that is the easiest, safest solution but the additional work of making the group changes and then changing the future assignments/discussions must be done. If you always change group grades to the individually graded option, ignoring the warning might be for you.
*The CBS-RLT Tech Tip is written by academic technologists at the University of Minnesota, College of Biological Sciences. It may contain references to Canvas settings and integrations that are specific to that institution.
My favorite Ideas for improving groups in Canvas. The ones without links are feature Ideas I haven't found yet.
As a humanities teacher, I loveusing theRSS feed for Announcements. There are some phenomenal news feeds and podcasts that support a variety of my course content and it was awesome to have the announcements automatically appear in my Canvas courses.
My biggest frustration, though, was when I found great resources while navigating the internet that I wanted to make available for my students. I would copy the address, open my Canvas instance, navigate to the particular course, open an announcement, embed the URL with an explanation for my students, and publish it to my course.
What if you're on your phone and find a great link while navigating social media? The steps to posting can be prohibitive. You can set up an external feed and "clip" articles to it!
There are two different methods (that we know of): Evernote Webclipper and OneNote Webclipper. This post will address Evernote, but the steps are similar for OneNote!
Steps for Creating a Customized RSS Feed using Evernote: