I wasn't sure of the best title to give to this message because there are several things that are on my mind now. I am mostly concerned with the best way to use the Canvas Inbox and/or Announcements.
I have been teaching online since 2004, and I have used many different learning management systems over the years. I always begin each week of my online course by sending out a message to students with important announcements and reminders about upcoming deadlines. Given that I usually have a fair amount to highlight in these messages, I like to be able to use boldface type, underlining, bullet points, indenting, etc., so the messages are structured in a way that is easy for students to read through. I would love to be able to use the Canvas inbox to easily send such messages to my students, but there seems to be no way to easily edit my text to include particular typographical and structural cues, unless I am missing something. Is this correct?
When I discovered this, I decided that I would simply email my students each week through their regular campus email address. My assumption was that students would be checking that email regularly since part of being a student means taking responsibility for email communications. I'm now starting to realize that not all students are checking email regularly, and some have things set up so that email messages to their campus addresses will forward to other email addresses, and that has sometimes led to my communication ending up in a Junk folder. I obviously don't want that to happen, and even though I have a whole section about the importance of email communication on the syllabus, this still tends to be an issue every semester.
I was somewhat hesitant about using the Announcements feature in Canvas because I didn't quite know how it would work and whether students would easily see the announcements or be alerted to new announcements. I'm starting to explore that feature this summer. I'm teaching online this summer, and I decided that I'd post an announcement within Canvas at the start of each week and also send email messages to students' campus system. I am hoping that all students will at least get one of these messages.
This is what led to my post. I'm curious about how others communicate important weekly announcements with their own online students. Has anyone found a good system that seems to work well? Perhaps I need to re-think what I am doing and how I am doing it. I know many students are now using the Canvas app, and I'd like to be able to rely more on Canvas email to reach them, but, again, that system seems limited to me, especially if there are longer announcements I need to make. I also know that Canvas nicely allows us to make video announcements if we want to, but unless I can easily caption those, I worry about relying too much on that either.
firstname.lastname@example.org, before moving to Canvas a little over five years ago, I communicated with my students very much as you've described: I composed a weekly, extensively formatted, message that set expectations for the coming week. Although I was initially flummoxed by the lack of formatting tools in Canvas Conversations, I quickly decided to use Announcements for that purpose. (In both previous LMSs and in Canvas, I deliberately refrained from communicating with students through their external email; I like to preserve all teacher-student communications in the LMS itself.) Announcements give me all of the formatting tools I need for this type of communication. I was concerned that students wouldn't have their preferences set to receive notifications of new announcements right away, so I took the extra step of sending students the link to the announcement in a message! My thinking here is that they're more likely to have their message notifications set to Right Away.
And I provide a thorough explanation of my communication methods in the course syllabus. I want my students to know that they are responsible for staying on top of course developments, and I let them know exactly how to do that.
laurakgibbs takes an entirely different approach; for example, check out how she populates her Canvas course with ongoing content from a blog by using Inoreader: Using Inoreader to Bring Blog Posts inside Canvas . While you're at it, check out all of her content! She has such great ideas.
QC99.tsilvius summarized his methods nicely a little while ago, and I wrote it up here: https://community.canvaslms.com/docs/DOC-8670-how-to-email-an-announcement-to-all-students
I'm looking forward to seeing how others handle this.
Your suggestion to put a link to the announcement within my Canvas email is brilliant! I plan to start doing that right away.
Would you be willing to share the blurb in your syllabus where you explain communication methods with your students? I still feel there is a lot I need to learn in terms of what to tell my students and how to instruct them when it comes to setting things up within Canvas to get notifications, etc. I think seeing more models of how to do this will help.
I'm happy to share my blurbs, email@example.com. This is the language that appears in the course syllabus:
Students are required to customize their Canvas notifications preferences to receive immediate (ASAP) notifications of messages and announcements through the third-party provider of choice (e.g. email, SMS/text). Students are required to log into the course regularly (more than twice a week) and check Announcements and the Canvas Inbox immediately upon logging in to stay on top of developments in the course as they occur.
In addition, I include this statement in my intro video (and I accompany the video with a script to ensure accessibility):
I primarily communicate important information to you through Announcements, so make sure that every time you log into the classroom you check the Announcements tab—or click on the link to Announcements on the Course Home Page—to stay on top of the latest developments in the course.
I also state this important course policy in the first announcement!
Hate to be a stick-in-the mud, but I respectfully disagree. The Inbox application should have a markup capability similar to what I am seeing here. For a program as complex as Canvas, this should be very easy to embed in code. Anytime Canvas provides an opportunity to textually communicate with a student(s), clarity of expression is critical. All these solutions are okay, but they are workarounds for what should not have to be done. When I try to copy and paste a message that does have markups the paste into the inbox text field loses its formatting.
Thanks! (you get the point)
I get what you're saying, firstname.lastname@example.org Welcome to the Canvas Community! The workflow I've described is how I use currently available tools and functionality to communicate with students. If you're interested in seeing more markup options in the Conversations tool, consider adding your feedback and vote to https://community.canvaslms.com/ideas/1044-add-rich-content-editor-to-conversations , which is in Product Radar status.
Thanks for the reply. I hope I did not offend. That was not my intention.
Have a great summer,
Hi, email@example.com! I use announcements when I want to reach the whole class. I use conversations (aka email or inbox) to communicate with students individually or, sometimes, a small subset of students. Students who set up their notifications and / or use the mobile app can receive notifications via text message, email, or directly from the mobile app for both announcements and private messages.
For videos, I use YouTube because it is free and does automatically caption, but, yes, it does need to be checked and occasionally corrected.
I hope that helps!