As we move into our final stages of implementing Canvas in a large University, every day we are faced with more and more challenges when it comes to managing large courses, specifically around Sections and Groups.
We are trying everything, and I wanted to share this experience with you, along with reach out for any feedback/ trials and errors you may have also faced.
Firstly, I mention large course management - but most of what I mention affects our smaller courses too, it is just that users tend to be more willing to find their own workaround for these issues in smaller courses - and we tend to only see the pain points raised when teachers are managing over 1,000 students in a single Canvas shell.
Secondly, I will also mention that large course management is a Khaki 2017 focus area - Though, the only delivered outcome of this focus group so far, is section-specific announcements. I will also mention Canvas Studio where some items I mention below are pegged for future development.
So, at our institution, we, like most, have large courses, and within those courses, we use Sections to manage student classes/ break these courses up. These classes are representative of their face-to-face class, and students will move around these classes up till (and sometimes post) timetabling closing/ census date.
Large courses, along with section movement (students moving between sections) has seen us face multiple problems - some of which I have noted below!
|Problem||Options for management|
|When students move between sections (made inactive in one, and active in another), students are still bound to the assignments (due date, submission area) allocated to them in the first, now inactive section (where differentiated assessment is used).|
We do not have a solution for this, rather have raised with Canvas as a serious issue.
We are currently needing to give extensions to students who are affected, and are viewing the incorrect due date!
|When limiting students to access users only within their section, and a student moves a section (made inactive in one, and active in another), students still have full access to the previous inactive sections users.||We do not have a solution for this, rather have raised with Canvas as a serious privacy issue.|
|Gradebook performance is seriously affected by large courses - Rendering the number of cells of the grade book table within a large course takes time.|
We do not have a solution for this, short of sorting by section - Though you need to load the gradebook to then sort by then section...
|Unmuting an assignment in a large course means the comments/ feedback provided takes sometimes DAYS to be released/ filtered out to students.||We do not have a solution for this, rather have raised with Canvas as a serious issue.|
|Discussion boards do not accommodate section specific non-graded discussions.|
This has been released to Beta, though is yet to make it to production (Just pulled from the most recent production release, AGAIN). This means for courses uses sections to manage students, a group set needs to be created, then a group discussion if it is intended that the students are limited from interaction with another section.
|Group Limitations - |
The University of Michigan has kindly shared a Course Manager tool (allowing teachers to create and edit sections across courses they are enrolled in, and batch group management) - GitHub - tl-its-umich-edu/canvas_course_manager
Course role management of sections is bound by too broad permissions.
Idea document: Canvas Permissions and Granularity Feature Ideas
More granular permissions are needed in order to open up limited section management to course roles. This is in Canvas Studio but has been talked about for years.
We have a conflict between the use of integrated data and course functionality that uses sections, and we need a way to assist course roles to have limited section management so as not to interrupt the integration but allow for full use of the section specific course functionality.
As mentioned in the previous problem item, the University of Michigan has kindly shared a Course Manager tool (allowing teachers to create and edit sections across courses they are enrolled in, and batch group management) - GitHub - tl-its-umich-edu/canvas_course_manager
|If a student moves around sections (made inactive in one section/ active in another) it is difficult to know what participation was made in which section. It is also difficult to know which section is inactive via the 'People' page||You need to navigate to the individual user profile to view which section is active/ inactive.|
|Submitted by Jen Burn|
|Submitted by Jen Burn|
I understand we can submit feature ideas, and push for votes, though this is no guarantee or indication of what will be developed. We have had Batch Group Management, for example, sitting at over 200 votes for some time now.
I wanted to reach out to this group and ask what are you doing now? While we wait for these items to improve...
How are you managing large courses?
How are you managing sections on a large scale?
How are you handling groups on a large scale?
How can we all raise this, and champion to Instructure, that we need more work in this area, we need more focus on large courses and section management!
Do you have any tips/ tricks?
Are there any external tools (limited development needed) that help?
I appreciate you making it this far in this post, and look forward to learning from all of you!