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All Places > Canvas User Engagement > Blog > 2017 > July

Wow, what a busy summer it has been as I wrap up my Summer of Canvas. It has been so busy that I have not fulfilled my plan to write a blog entry each week as my campus proceeds through this summer en route from another LMS to Canvas. I normally do not work during the summers but this summer the college decided to put additional resources into helping us make the transition, so my department got an extra pair of hands this summer. That meant I could not attend InstructureCon 2017 so I had to use one of my photos from InstructureCon 2016 for my banner.


I learned a couple of things the hard way this summer. First, bake in plenty of downtime around all my training workshops, meetings, and one-on-one training appointments so that I could take time to reply to emails and stay caught up with the awesomeness in the Canvas Community (and write blog posts!). And I learned not to take on too many additional projects. I am still working on moving our online student orientation into Canvas. Necessity will make a virtue out of a shorter process. ("What's that? You want a progress report? Er, posting fewer links and less content means our new students will matriculate more quickly and start enrolling sooner."


Another bridge too far was the class I taught, my first distance education history class in the hybrid mode (two weekly meetings in person instead of four with the other time online). My passion is for teaching and history is my field, and since my full-time job is not teaching history I seize any opportunities I can to teach. The benefit to my full-time job is all the LMS experience I get from teaching, though my poor students have to suffer through all of my LMS experiments on them. And boy did I experiment. I squeezed sixteen weeks of teaching into six, over-assigned work for the time that was being moved from in-person to online, and agreed to teach (nay, requested!) an oversize class so I ended up with 87 instead of 40 or so students. I'm glad I'm comfortable designing and (am working on) assessing group assignments.


When I return to campus in August after a short break and begin my regular academic year schedule, I will have just a few months left of helping faculty move into using this new system. With more wisdom that I had for this summer I turned down a history class, so I will have more time to respond professionally to emails like one I received earlier today:

Hey Greg,


Can you send me the links to the Canvas tutorials (if there are any) so I can get a head start? I'm hoping I can figure this out by myself...



The ellipsis is in the original message, which makes me wonder what was omitted. 


The best part of the week before our fall semester begins will be the Can•Innovate '17 conference. In prior years the colleges in my district have hosted a showcase for the creative use of technology to support instruction, and this year we are happy to have the support of Instructure, the Online Education Initiative, and the Los Rios College Federation of Teachers. It will be a Canvas-focused event and will be a great capstone to end the Summer of Canvas. It won't be as majestic as Colorado and I'll miss crossing the Continental Divide on my way from Denver, but I'll still get to spend time with fellow Canvas users exploring the best ways to support teaching and learning success.

This is the fifth entry in my Preparing Your Canvas series, documenting NKU's transition from Blackboard to Canvas. If you want to start from the beginning, here's the rest in chronological order:



Summer is slipping away, and Fall semester is barreling towards us! Next week we will begin our third Summer Faculty Institute out of the four we have scheduled. For the past few weeks we've been continuing our stand-alone workshops. We also completed a cycle of synchronous, virtual trainings. Basically, these were instructor-led versions of the workshops delivered through WebEx. For folks who have been teaching online, what I'm about to say next won't surprise you: delivering content online is very different from delivering in-person. 


What I'm not saying is that online delivery is less effective than in-person delivery; virtual synchronous sessions are just different, and your pedagogical strategies have to adapt to account for that. Because I'm a huge nerd, this reminds me of a concept I learned as an art student: ekphrasis. In short, ekphrasis is the use of one artistic medium to describe a different artistic medium. A poem about a painting, for instance. So how do you translate your pedagogy from one medium to another? Your tools will be different from face-to-face (or brick and mortar, if you prefer) to online (or VILT - virtual instructor-led training).


Now, in a former life I had experience running synchronous virtual trainings. I was pretty comfortable (and in fact required by the job) to reach a minimum threshold of engagement from every participant through chat, audio, and video, and to use collaborative tools like shared documents and whiteboards to enhance the learning experience. Trying to apply that experience to my work at NKU has been a major learning opportunity for me, as I've come to understand just how much of my perception of effective pedagogy is mediated and organized by the tools I'm using. Its a theoretical concept people are familiar with, but delivering this WebEx workshop series grounded it in very practical terms.


I came into the workshop series with several assumptions: I would have access to a public chat where all participants could see each others' responses. I would have an object-oriented whiteboard (meaning I could select annotations and drawings from participants and move them around the whiteboard). I would have a participant list that showed participant status that would automatically refresh. Participants would be able to easily mute and unmute themselves. And each of these assumptions, and others, predicated on my entire online teaching experience being based in AdobeConnect and Blackboard Illuminate. And none of these were valid in WebEx. 


As an aside, participants can unmute/mute themselves in WebEx easily depending on how the virtual sessions were setup. Our sessions had been built so this was not feasible.


Fortunately, the workshop series didn't crash and burn. Also, I was not the only person delivering the workshops. My challenge was in translating the fifth workshop in the series to this virtual environment. This final workshop covered best practices for structuring a course in Canvas. A major part of the workshop revolves around having participants define terms like information architecture, student UX, and cognitive load. Then, we use those terms to have learners analyze how we, myself and the other designers, built a previous module in Canvas 101. We ask participants to critique our design choices as a means to applying the concepts they just defined. Once they've worked through our design choices and analyzed them, we wrap up the conversation by showing them the same module structured four alternative ways, assessing how each option solves or creates design problems.

screenshot of content page in Canvas, showing several examples of how to organize a module


All of that necessitates  a lot of back and forth between participants. My solution was to build a whiteboard with predetermined spaces for learner comments. Remember, they can't see each other's chats, and once they add something to the whiteboard, I can't move it.


screenshot of WebEx whiteboard


So far we don't have any more WebEx workshops planned. We do have recordings of each session to share for people who weren't able to attend. However, we know that the faculty response has been incredibly positive, and we'll want to offer more opportunities for them. Also, as the first semester of our transition careens towards us, we are getting more requests to create resources for students to equip them to use Canvas. But this post is long enough, so that'll have to wait.


Button update: Canvas 201 is finished and live! I'll be sharing material from it shortly. For now, here's the first page of it:


screenshot of home page for Canvas course


Next: Preparing Your Canvas:  All Together Now

Today we as educators should have an easier time communicating with students and parents since we have so many internet resources and Canvas along with Google can be a great way to integrate so that parents and students are in powered in this education process.  I an trying to improved my communication process through Canvas, but this have been a slow process.  I know we have the Canvas app for Android and IOS.  Here are somethings to consider when you want student and parents to be "in-the-know" when it comes to assignment completions, due dates especially for those who miss class time.  Also establish Canvas tools for easier uploading assignments / projects to Canvas


- Put a link for the Canvas App instructions on the course navigation via Canvas External App tool for student access on their mobile devices.

      - Also use this tool for important quick links to web-sites and other electronic resources

- Establish a Google sites web-page with regular assignment updates for all classes and have it link to your teacher

web-site on your school's teacher information page.

      - Create page of current / future assignment due dates for parent quick access since many parent do not visit Canvas on a regular basics.

- Establish mobile communication with all parents to that can link them to Googles Sites web-page

- Use Canvas External tool to establish easy turn-in of electronic worksheets stored on google drive.

How does technology affect dance education? Will it change? Dance depends on a bodily presence which can not be replaced. Technology has created opportunities for YouTube tutorials, dance on film, exploring dance in different areas. Still, these experiences do not compare to a live performance or lesson. I have chosen to embrace technology in dance education. It has only enhanced my classes. The combination of technology and a human presence in a dance class has made my classes even more engaging. My experience with technology in dance has included a variety of different tools. Recently I have chosen to tackle Canvas. The biggest obstacle I face is the lack of templates for quizzes, assignments and class outlines on Canvas for the arts. My goal is to create and share all of my canvas course to provide others in the arts an example of how you can incorporate Canvas in the arts classroom.

This is the fourth entry in my Preparing Your Canvas series, documenting NKU's transition from Blackboard to Canvas. If you want to start from the beginning, here's the rest in chronological order:


This is the week where I got to run some of my first stand-alone workshops. We don't have another Summer Faculty Institute till the end of July, so it's just workshops for the next few weeks every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. We intentionally avoid Mondays and Fridays because we expect low faculty attendance on those days during the summer. The other two instructional designers I work with had already ran a few sessions themselves, so I was interested to see for myself how the experience would change in this other format.


The format of the 3-day institute afforded us a lot of control that we would sacrifice in the open workshop format. We could guarantee that participants started each lesson with comparable knowledge about Canvas. With the workshops, participants could attend or skip whichever lessons they wished. We also had more flexibility with the length of lessons in SFI; its easy to let one lesson take an extra 15 minutes to accommodate participant questions, and then shave a few minutes off a couple later lessons to compensate. Finally, my prior experiences as a trainer had involved enough time where I felt like I could form a meaningful connection with participants. I didn't know the names of their children, or see all of their tattoos, but I felt like I had enough time to build a rapport with people. It would be overly dramatic to say I "struggled" with the workshops, but the lack of rapport was something to which I definitely had to adjust. 


As I've mentioned in other posts, our workshops and SFI are extracted from the Canvas 101 course we built, which is divided into 6 modules. Each module potentially contains multiple lessons within it, and each stand-alone workshop corresponds to 1 module. For 1 workshop, we combined 2 modules to give us 5 workshops total. Why? Part of the reason relates to when we do the workshops: Tuesday through Thursday. If we do 6 workshops, 1 workshop a day, and only on the same 3 days each week, we risk having faculty who will never be able to attend 2 of the workshops. By having 5 workshops, we can cycle them out of sync with the days of the week. With enough repetitions Module 1 will eventually happen on a Tuesday, then a Thursday, and finally a Wednesday.


I want to wrap up this post with a review of one of the workshops I did this past week. I developed Modules 3 and 6, so those are the ones with which I'm most familiar. However, for this week only I helped out by also delivering the Module 1 workshop "Getting Started." The point of the module is to introduce in broad terms the unique features of Canvas, contrast them to Blackboard Learn, and migrate at least one course to Canvas. Module 1: Getting Started is hard. I believed it before I had to teach it, but I'm more convinced of it now. You have to manage this balancing act between introducing a new piece of software and not digging into all the specifics of how to use it (the workshop is only 2 hours long). This is complicated by the fact that the module discusses how to migrate content. Part of knowing the best way to migrate the content is to understand what Canvas is going to do with that content, and to do that you really need to just know how to use Canvas.


Part of me thinks that course migration would be a better topic at the end of the training. On the other hand, we built the 6 modules in an order that roughly lines up with the steps an instructor would take in building their course by themselves. Ugh. Its complex.


Also, button update: the Canvas 201 course about making buttons and images is making a lot of progress. Maybe I'll post some examples from the course.


Next: Preparing Your Canvas: Ekphrasis

Equity is among those topics that I want to include in my Canvas training but is not like including a session on "Discussion" or "Quizzes." I guess I could include a section called "Equity" but would rather integrate this topic within the other sessions. I figure that I am modeling instructional design, presentation skills, and an acceptance for the quirks and vicissitudes of teaching in a technology-mediated environment, so I might as well model equity as well. Culturally sensitive U.S. history is my academic field and from where I speak when demonstrating how to teach with technology, so I hope that equity is thereby infused. (Of course my participants are likely thinking of their own fields when imagining and practicing how to teach with technology and little note or care how awesome history is! )


For Canvas I did not expect to find equity explicitly mentioned in materials or in the Canvas Community, and I was not surprised to find that the equity tag popped up as "would you like to create this tag?" when I tagged this blog entry. However, I was also pleasantly surprised to find culturally sensitive instruction on the program at my first InstructureCon last year. I attended Marc Lentini's session Culturally Responsive Canvas Courses, and it was the highlight of the conference. I sing the praises of the Canvas Community every chance I get, as it so nice to be associated with a software vendor that encourages its users to share our experiences and the creative ways we use its tools.


The Online Education Initiative has equity as part of its plan, and our Online Student Equity workgroup is focused on the twin meanings of "equity" in a distance education environment. One meaning is how the students who are traditionally the focus of equity attention fare when they take online classes, and this is where the bulk of our attention is as we infuse equity principles in the other areas of the initiative. We also have been talking about online students as a whole. After all, online students usually have lower success and persistence rates than face-to-face students, and a discrepancy in success and persistence rates is how groups of students are identified to receive equity support. For the time being our efforts are on infusing traditional equity practices in all areas of the initiative. 


Back on my campus, I tried to use equity as I set my training lab for this summer's sessions. I had eleven laptops and wanted to give each a unique identifier to help with troubleshooting, etc. I could have given them numbers or letters or come up with some arbitrary code, but I wanted things to be a bit more creative. This was bubbling along on the back burner and then an equity solution came to mind. I found out from the U.S. Census Bureau what the top ten languages are that are spoken at home in my college's immediate area, and I gave each computer an Romanized number based on the order of that language's prevalence in our area. I have a total of eleven laptops and the eleventh is a bit different. Well, it was really the first as we received it to explore and make sure we liked the concept. So when I got to naming the eleventh I skipped the eleventh language in our area and instead called it "Spinal Tap." 

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