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Option to exclude Assignments from Syllabus

Option to exclude Assignments from Syllabus

(2)

It would be good to have an option to exclude the Assignments Summary from the Syllabus page.  Many faculty wish to only have the Syllabus with a course description, lecture schedule, grading, and other policies.  Now if you have any assignments they are automatically put on the Syllabus page - this should be an option only.  Why have an Assignments page if you force a link also on the Syllabus page.  Other ideas describe how some faculty like the assignments on the Syllabus page, so it should be simply kept as an option.

This idea has been developed and deployed to Canvas

For more information, please read through the https://community.canvaslms.com/docs/DOC-18528-canvas-release-notes-2020-03-21 

80 Comments
donna_lummis
Community Member

We have opted to hide the syllabus tool for numerous reasons, one being that it adds assignments automatically. We want to publish courses ahead of their start date so students can preview the syllabus, but the assignment list with this tool is often incomplete or inaccurate if the course isn't completely built out yet. Having the option to hide all or some assignments from the syllabus area would go a long way toward us using it again. 

bwaters
Community Participant

Hi Donna. Like you, we would like to publish section syllabi before classes begin. By giving students a clear view of what they can expect prior to registration, we feel we could reduce the drop rate significantly.


Every PSC course has a "course syllabus" that is always publicaly available, providing very general information about each course offered at the college. However, each section of a given course (e.g., ENC 1101) can vary in terms of assessment methods, reading lists, assignments, etc., depending on who is teaching the class. We view the Syllabus tool in Canvas as a "Section syllabus," and as we can't publish courses prior to the first day of the semester we would like to make each section syllabus a public document for anyone to see prior to registration. However, as assignments are usually in flux in the days leading up to the first day of class, and are tied to the syllabus, we cant' use the syllabus tool. It's very frustrating.

acompton
Community Participant

 @Renee_Carney ‌, stefaniesanders‌,  @bwaters  and mouldera

Students can get to assignments a variety of ways, so allowing faculty the ability to toggle the assignments list on/off in the syllabus tool doesn't leave them "blindsided" by assignment changes. They can go to the Grades link and get to their assignments, but it really depends on the assignment and type of assignment whether or not they can complete it by going that route. I have had many students ask me for help getting started with an assignment because they tried accessing them that way and found they couldn't get to all of the instructions or information provided without going to the assignment itself.

Because students can get to assignments several ways, over time I've found it easiest to cut off as many routes as possible. I disable the syllabus tool (only because of the live links to assignments), modules, assignments, and quizzes. Although I organize my content in modules on the backend for myself, I drive students through the course using pages and provide links to assignments, quizzes, and discussions on the content pages themselves. This also gives them fewer menu items to click around and see how many ways they can get confused.

That said, I would like to be able to use the syllabus tool, but as long as the assignments are live links at the bottom of that tool, I can't do that. Students will take the shortcut if given the chance, and they'll click on the assignments there and skip content if possible. There have been many legitimate reasons given in this thread for why the assignments should be an option to toggle off or at least be made a static list rather than a list of live links. I hope that this will finally make it high enough to get some attention. There are very few faculty at our institution who use the syllabus tool, and the majority who have chosen not to have made that choice because of the list of assignments that appear at the bottom of the tool.

hesspe
Community Champion

Being able to hide the "Course Summary" part of the Canvas Syllabus is frequent request from our faculty members too.  We use the Canvas syllabus as our means of making syllabi available to all members of our community, primarily for "shopping" purposes.  This is done via a Syllabus Search tool developed for us by Canvas Professional Services (more information provided by request).  The Course Summary is doesn't really fit this conception of what a syllabus is, in the view of many.  I sometimes refer to it as "The Canvas version of a syllabus."

robotcars
Community Champion

 @acompton ‌,  @bwaters ,  @Jeff_F ‌, mouldera‌,  @Renee_Carney ‌,  @dlummis ‌

and others...

I read your requests and suggestions...

https://community.canvaslms.com/thread/8283#comment-117430

gramos
Community Participant

I posted an idea request to exclude calendar events from the syllabus: https://community.canvaslms.com/ideas/12153-option-exclude-calendar-events-so-that-they-dont-appear-... 

You may want to look at it & vote it up if it addresses the issue about events.

ruina
Community Member

I use I-clickers.  The individual list of iclicker uses is, by no choice of my own, deemed as important as all of the basic course information?  Kind of ridiculous.   

nsweeten
Community Contributor

Oh Happy Date

*The addition of a "date" field for content pages changes the implications of this pesky, forced-display assignment list somewhat, but not quite to a functional level yet (...not until there is a real Canvas "consistency review" in the visibility and content of the Syllabus assignment list, modules, pages, linked content, Calendar events, etc.)

The "devil's advocate" comment about surprising students with assignments would be relevant if that was actually the problem. Teachers aren't maliciously sneak-attacking students. Rather, Canvas is prioritizing assignments as more important than the modules that contain them or the pages that precede them. (The homepage To-Do list has a similar but less damaging effect and does help remind students--provided the instructor uses the due date in settings. There is a UX problem there too, but I digress. )

Unfortunately, at my institution, we design to avoid the Syllabus tool entirely until this is fixed. It is a clearly-labeled tool solution and we'd love to use it, with the pre-course visibility option, but right now it is just too damaging. 

Why it Matters

The current forced-display Syllabus assignment list:

  • Encourages students to attempt assignments without doing the readings, online lessons, linked materials and everything else we painstakingly design to make completing an assignment possible!
    • Essentially communicates to students that only assignments matter and all other content is disposable busy-work invented by the teachers. Not the case. 
  • Creates a confusing alphabetically-listed mess in our many open entry/exit CBE courses with no due dates. 
  • Violates a general interface consistency of allowing the designer/instructor to choose what features lend themselves to support the course materials and student success. 

*Thanks, though.  Syllabus navigation bar is still helpful in its hidden state to do design quality checks on due dates or to locate forgotten calendar events that are still clogging the list because they aren't visible anywhere in the actual course modules. 

bwaters
Community Participant

Couldn't agree with you more. I just don't understand why it would be so difficult to at a minimum, provide the option to exclude the assignment list when using the syllabus tool. Sometimes I wonder how many Canvas employees have actually taught at the college level.

nsweeten
Community Contributor

A focus group of experienced teachers and administrators could reveal a lot about missing and conflicting features in Canvas. 

Credit where credit is due: Canvas excels at student-centered design. This is great and challenges us as educators to re-think the student's user experience and be considerate. Canvas' initial framework was designed by visionary students who were frustrated with systems that were clunky and inconsiderate of the student experience--so they invented one that is student-centered. The problem is that some of the forced limitations "fight" with the teaching goals, workflow, and wisdom of the teacher. 

 I too believe a few seasoned higher ed. vets with spectacles and gray hair would improve Canvas UX advising. A lot. There are some basic teacher-friendly functions that are missing. (Example Extra credit assignments, full quiz, and single quiz questions.)

JACOBSEN_C
Community Contributor

This idea is 3 years old and has 400 up votes.  I think people want it.

rkiehl
Community Member

I can't believe that this hasn't been taken care of with 400 up votes and few no over 3 years.  Forcing the syllabus to have a list of the Assignments (listed under "Course Summary" at ASU) violates the best practice discussed in the Canvas instructional video of forcing the students to go to the content in the Modules (slides, videos etc) rather than just jumping into the homework without even seeing the content of the homework.  As the very least, the list of assignments should be ONLY text, not links.  - RK

kjohn113
Community Participant

I too harbor an intense dislike for the Course Summary below the syllabus.  I reject the idea that in creating this feature, Canvas "challenges us as educators to re-think", at least in a good way.  I'm not sure I understand why that would be the job of an LMS.  If that is indeed the intent of the developers, I consider it egregious overreach.  While there is a certain amount of "social engineering" (for lack of a better term at the moment) inherent in any LMS, Canvas insisting on a certain kind of "transparency" such that students can see the name and due date (if there is one) of every page or assignment we have stored somewhere in the course is unnecessary and reeks of developer intrusion into domains that should be under the full control of instructional faculty.  I have had students look at that list, see a due date that I have not yet updated from my initial build of the course, and freak out thinking that something is due when it really isn't.  Or they see an assignment or document listed that I have left unpublished because I am still working on it, and they want access to it, or freak out because it looks important and they can't get to it, when it might just be something I've held onto from another term and would like to revise.  If I could just keep future work out of sight entirely this would not occur.  I don't really have much of a need for students to see how the sausage is made.

jew21
Community Participant

I just want to say i wholeheartedly agree. I had a Grad Student yesterday talk to me after class about an assignment due tomorrow which i have not assigned. I think the canvas IT folks are NOT hearing a plea for important changes!

jew21
Community Participant

Since ASU is looking at alternative delivery options, perhaps Canvas is not the right choice

Jeff_F
Community Champion

 @kjohn113  -  my experience with the Syllabus page is that students cannot see unpublished assignments on that page.   I just tested this using the student view and confirmed it to still be that way (using a test course I unpublished assignments and then went the Home page and clicked the student view button).   By the way, I believe this is a flaw or disconnect as the visible content varies based upon the user role (teacher/ student).

I would like to see an icon or other indication on the Syllabus page that tells the instructor which items are not published and therefore not visible to students.

acompton
Community Participant

 @Jeff_F ‌ - This is true about published vs unpublished, but faculty use the available, due, and until dates to control when the assignments are released to students, not whether or not they are published. They shouldn't be asked to discontinue using such a valuable feature like available, due, and until dates (especially since the new grade book will now apply late penalties and grades based on those settings) in lieu of publishing and publishing assignments just to work around this issue on the syllabus tool that could easily be fixed. This would be very time consuming for them to do this for each assignment in every course they teach. Their time is better spent on teaching the content rather than managing publishing and publishing their assignments in order to manage the workaround for the syllabus tool. The assignments links should have the option to either be hidden on that page or made inactive links. It should be possible to use the assignments and their due dates to build a true course outline/schedule to appear at the bottom of the syllabus page that isn't active links to the assignments. 

I apologize if this sounds bitter. This idea has been submitted, supported, and validated for several years now, and it seems to be going nowhere. 

kjohn113
Community Participant

It's true that if a document is unpublished, students can't use the syllabus as a backdoor means to see it.  However, just the very sight of a document there has lead several students to ask anxiously about this due date or that quiz, on pages/assignments I was still working on for the rest of the term.  I could do without that sort of thing, frankly.   I guess I could just cryptically try leaving things like that without a title, so there's no indication of what it might be.  The bottom line for me is that I prefer to be able to do that kind of work "behind closed doors", as it were, only rolling out information, documents, or other course materials when I'm ready to roll them out for viewing by the class.

nsweeten
Community Contributor

If this helps: I've experienced several major LMS systems and Canvas is my favorite so far, as a Student and as an Instructional Designer. Some of the frustrations I experience with Canvas as a teacher are because the system is actually good. It rankles me to see any kind of missed opportunity that could be fixed by micro-adjustments, consistency checks, and non-harmful judgment calls that Instructure resists making, for whatever reasons. 

The good faaaar outweighs the bad. It could just outweigh it even more. 

acompton
Community Participant

 @sweetera ‌ - I agree completely, and I would not want to change to any other LMS on the market.

Similarly rankled Smiley Happy

Andrea Compton

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