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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
clarkbra
Community Participant

Agreed.  This is why I make the syllabus hidden from view.  There is too much on it that shouldn't be... assignments I'm in the process of making, assignments from last term...

Jeff_F
Community Champion

I've previously written that I often wish I had a readme.txt file that details all the reasons why things are a certain way.   For example, I'd like to know why I cannot create more than one wiki page that has a left menu link.  If I had this then I could have the course Home page and also create my own version of the Syllabus page, sans links to the assignments.   Not having this means I could still create my own version of the syllabus page via a wiki, but I'd need to link to it from the Home page, for example.

cdoherty
Community Participant

Jeff, you can use the Redirect tool through Settings > Apps to add additional pages (from the Pages tool) to your course navigation. Just use the direct url in the web address bar for the desired page and choose the option to display in course navigation.

Jeff_F
Community Champion

Awesome tip!!    It seems there isn't anything preventing me from creating my own Syllabus page.  Perhaps one item as a footnote - am I correct in my memory that the redirect tool breaks when copying the course and has to be recreated?

cdoherty
Community Participant

Well, since I entered a direct url to the page, when you copy it to a new course, it will still point to a page in the old course. The system doesn't adjust a relative link, like attachments in a quiz (for example). You would need to copy the page to the new course, then edit the redirect tool to use the new url for the imported page. Or just copy the page and create a new redirect. I'm not saying it's ideal, but it's a workaround I found, since this function isn't built into Canvas.

nsweeten
Community Contributor

As Christine stated above, if you manually enter a Canvas url into the Redirect tool, it will not auto-update.

The Redirect may still be useful.

Example: A colleague of mine links out to a detailed Google Doc or Sharepoint Doc. She also uses the Redirect tool to link to Program-level information that she wants to maintain in one place for every course in that series. (Canvas has some Master-course "push" features available now that would also do this, but her original solution works well.)

nsweeten
Community Contributor

*More Reasons

More reasons *not* to leave assignments unpublished as a workaround to the unwanted Assignments list at the bottom of the Syllabus tool:

  1. Encourage student planning. The student reminder system (To-Do list, This week's upcoming assignments, missed assignments, Calendar) is based on the due dates of published assignments.  This feature directly addresses some of the most common, global reasons why students wash-out of online courses or fail to complete higher ed. on time with optimal grades. By helping students bridge this organization-skills gap for courses, Canvas sincerely leverages technology for student success. What a shame to have to neutralize that just to limit unwanted information. 
  2. Encourage teacher focus. As a teacher, designer, and manager, I've experienced repeatedly that student outcomes are most successful when the Canvas presence of a course is complete and visible on day 1. It allows students to plan ahead responsibly and teachers to focus on teaching, rather than course-building and Canvas tinkering. It is good that Canvas allows continued work behind-the-scenes without immediate student visibility until items are published, however, teachers can get overtasked with micro-managing Canvas. Teachers who are scrambling to develop material as a course is in-progress or tasked with remembering to continually publish tend to finish up exhausted, with a less effective experience all-around. 
  3. Leverage technology. Teachers are like fighter pilots. They don't need more cognitive burden and time-consuming micro-management tasks that could be done better by a robot. They need technology to effectively handle data and busy work in order to free up their human creativity to teach!
  4. Keep Canvas consistent. Throughout Canvas, there are settings that allow options and judgment-calls at the point of use. Suddenly, on the Syllabus tab (something every course in Higher Ed. uses) the options disappear. Page history? Nada. Settings control over the visibility of clever features? Nope.  Overview of all valuable content, including modules? Nyet. Talk about a missed opportunity. 
  5. Implement effective UX Design principles. Experienced Canvas users get used to their school's course navigation choices and potentially confusing features like multiple scrolls on the right sidebar and "non-sticky course Navigation" that scrolls out of view. Unfortunately, we must design as if every course is for a first-time user. 

The Syllabus tool encourages student confusion in its current state. Average syllabus length plus the forced Assignments list at the bottom guarantees that anyone scrolling to the bottom will experience the Navigation menu disappearing from view on the left edge. There is no "Next" button at the bottom or any other reminder of the course map at this point.  (It may be painfully obvious to experienced users, but I challenge any designer to video the excruciating struggles of a first-time Canvas user--even those who are otherwise computer savvy.  You'll see people log out entirely, then return--just to make the menu reappear.) The Assignments list practically forces students to click on an assignment to get free of that Syllabus page. 

*Real life experience: I was a student in a course where, at the end of week 3, over 1/3 of the class hadn't found the actual course content in Modules but they thought they had. 1/3 of the class had clicked on Assignments and Quizzes at the bottom of the Syllabus and attempted them without even knowing there was anything else to see!   Fortunately or Unfortunately, only 1/3 of the good students followed the directions to read the Syllabus first, so only 1/3 were angry and betrayed by the experience.

sarah-canatsey
Community Participant

I think one of the big faults/gaps to the Course Summary is if an assignment has a prerequisite in a module and a student can just open it in the Course Summary. Seems that the prerequisite either needs to stay with the assignment, or the link doesn't activate till prereqs are complete, or a faculty can just disable the links. I think having the list available is a nice reference, but if the links break down the features in the module, then why have the module restrictions in the first place?


sarah-canatsey
Community Participant

What are all the ways a student could access an assignment besides the modules?

- Assignments (if enabled)

- Grades

- Course Summary

- Calendar

If access is restricted in one area (Course Summary) so students are doing the appropriate prerequisites, it seems that Canvas should also be looking into the other areas students will go to circumnavigate any Module restrictions. As I stated previously, best case would be for the link to the Assignment to be tied to any prereqs. If those aren't complete, then the link will say "Prereqs are required before this assignment is available." We need to think about the bigger system gaps and not just plug one hole in the boat. 

dspiel
Community Participant

AMEN!!!!!!

kburkes
Community Contributor

Not pro faculty having this option.  We want faculty, if they use Canvas for assignments, to provide students with a list of due dates.  That is one of the main reasons we switched to Canvas -- to give students more transparency on what is due when - and we love this feature.  If faculty don't use assignments, then Course Summary is blank, which is fine.  But if they can turn it off?????  I know we will have faculty who will turn it off and won't give students a written version of the due dates.  Yikes!

sarah-canatsey
Community Participant

Even if faculty turned it off in Course summary, your students can see due dates in the Canvas Calendar, To Do List, Grades tool, and Assignments (they can order by date) if enabled. The Course Summary is NOT the only way for students to access this information. 

nsweeten
Community Contributor

 @sarah-canatsey ‌, the Syllabus tool's summary presents an additional problem in confusion not necessarily present in those other locations. ( I agree that Modules, pages, and all content items are important--or they wouldn't be there--and all of those tools you mention warrant a consistency check in terms of To-Do list, calendar etc.)

Repeat Post of Real Life Experience:

 I was a student in a course where, at the end of week 3, over 1/3 of the students hadn't found the actual course content in Modules but they thought they had. 

1/3 of the class had clicked on Assignments and Quizzes at the bottom of the Syllabus tool and attempted the Assignments without even knowing there was any other content or reading to see!   Fortunately, only 1/3 of the good students followed the directions to read the Syllabus first, so only 1/3 were angry and betrayed by the experience. 

Content pages can have a date attached now--though I haven't tested that feature through course migrations and maintenance yet.

As an instructional designer, teacher and technologist, I'd say the whole programming approach belies a mistrust of the complete course design or a subtle bias to view anything that isn't graded as superfluous "busy-work" which is not the case.

Some of the contorted design workarounds I've seen include:

  • stacks of zero-point assignments that gunk up the gradebook, presumably so the content will be auto-listed as important.
  • cramming all of the course content for an entire week into the RCE box at the top of a single assignment, thereby creating an entire course that is simply a list of bloated assignments.

Possible Solution:

A simple, friendly Homepage with a huge Start Here button.

Benefits:

  • Meets QM Standards.
  • Makes Module content un-missable. 
  • Makes it easier and more obvious for students to navigate as intended to the module content--making other shortcuts and dead ends less likely. 336912_Screen Shot 2020-02-05 at 5.23.46 PM.png
nsweeten
Community Contributor

If the Schedule of due dates is meant to help students plan, then the Syllabus tool's Summary doesn't provide quite enough information.  

The Syllabus Summary is only as good as the well-designed Modules in a course. The purpose you are hoping to have served by the Summary is served better by the Modules.

What I learned providing Faculty/Student support:

All of these factors matter in creating transparency and trust with students:

  • Consistent, clear naming conventions in modules
  • A well-designed module Overview Page for each week
  • Considerate and predictable pacing of due dates
  • Due dates that leverage Canvas reminder systems without over-controlling
  •  Accessible Syllabus
  • Clear assignment instructions with examples
  • A Tentative Weekly Schedule 

Possible Solution:

 A separate manually maintained Canvas content page with this example format for a hybrid, Semester-based course.

*Tentative Weekly Schedule

Initial Discussion Posts are due by Wednesday 11:59 pm/Midnight each Week.  Discussion responses, Assignments, and Chapter Quizzes are due Sunday night Midnight each week. 

WeekTopic

Readings & Homework 

(Wednesdays)

In Class

Quiz/Exam

(Sundays)

Week 1

January 13-19,

2020

Intro to Geology

Chapter 1

Discussion: Introduce Yourself

Assignment: Canvas Setup (Notification settings, user photo, email your instructor)

Discuss Chapter 1

Syllabus

Schedule

Questions

Introductions

Syllabus Quiz

Week 2

January 20-26,

2020

Types of Rock

Chapter 7

Interactive Lesson: Rock

Discussion: Post your Example Specimen Pictures

Activity: Sorting mineral specimens

Discuss Chapter 7

Chapter Quiz 7 (in Canvas)

Week 3

January 27-Feb 2,

2020

Volcanoes

Chapter 4

Interactive Lesson: Volcanoes Part 1

Discussion: Reading Response for Chapter 4 and Volcanoes Lesson

Begin Group Project, Assign Roles

Discuss Chapter 4

Introduce Reflection Journals and ePortfolio

Chapter Quiz 4 (in Canvas)

Week 4

February 

3-9,

2020

Volcanoes cont. 

Interactive Lesson: Volcanoes Part II

Discussion: Group Project Outline Rough Draft

Group Project,

Outline

Submit Group Project Outline

Submit Reflection Journal 

Week 5

February

10-16,

2020

Week 6

18-23,

2020

etc.

*Benefit, a content page like this can be printed or emailed to an Associate Dean. 

kburkes

Replying to your comment specifically, as you are an Associate Dean.

All of the institutions where I work or have worked require due dates transparently shared with students, as you stated. (For whatever reason, the Associate Deans' offices also keep a copy of each Syllabus with Course Schedule on file--outside of Canvas. Occasionally, I even grab a screenshot of the Syllabus Summary area to limit double-work and retyping. ) The usefulness was to prove to A.D.s that the due dates were displayed in Canvas, not that the Summary tool itself was effectively helping students plan or faculty troubleshoot.

The first big hurdle was convincing instructors to maintain the due dates in the actual Canvas assignments, rather than just posting a WordDoc with everything in one place. I considered the "hidden" Syllabus tool Assignment Summary a bonus and a great help with quality checking course migrations. (Examples: You can see if an assignment is missing a due date or if there is some straggler calendar event from a past year that hasn't been maintained.) Unfortunately, it is a really poor communication tool by itself.

The Syllabus tool's Assignment Summary area is a helpful quality check tool for ID team & faculty, yet even in the 20% of my institution's courses that are comprised of only a list of assignments w/Syllabus and no other online content needed, that summary itself doesn't help students understand their course better. Respectfully, it also doesn't help faculty understand Canvas better or the logical flow of their courses. 

Some course types that focus on one, grand high-stakes assessment are becoming rarer by the moment for good reason. They work just fine with the existing Canvas Syllabus tool. (Example: An Algebra course with one Final Exam and a required score. Homework exists only to help students pass the exam and no amount of homework mitigates a low exam score. All that matters is the Final Exam.)

Canvas can be a great tool for an institution. What makes it work is a UX tested content model that leverages Canvas strengths and avoids its weaknesses.  That Syllabus assignment list is one of the weaknesses. Try taking a course in Canvas as a student (if you haven't lately) and you'll see what I mean. 

Stefanie
Community Team
Community Team
Comments from Instructure

This idea has been developed and is on Canvas Beta. For more information, please read through the Canvas Release Notes (2020-03-21) 

Hildi_Pardo
Community Advocate
Community Advocate

Hi  @sweetera ‌ -- now that this Idea has been Developed and is in Beta (woohoo!!) -- I'm afraid your awesome input on this Idea will go away.  You have posted super valuable information here that I think should be in a Blog post of it's own!

ssimpso4
Community Contributor

Hooray!

Stefanie
Community Team
Community Team
Comments from Instructure

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

kevin_jackson
Community Participant

I was hoping that I'd have the option to exclude specific assignments from the syllabus view, but it looks like it's all or nothing?

kpruynbouley
Community Member

Second this. This new update only allows on/off for the Course Summary. Interested in the ability to select which to include/exclude.