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Teach Feast 2014: Canvas December 8, 2014

Posted by aquillam in teaching.
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On Nov 21, the Friday before Thanksgiving, the Teaching and Technology Collaborative (TeachTech) hosted a one day series of workshops. These are my notes on the sessions I attended.
The University is planning to go to a vendor supplied LMS soon. Canvas is the planned replacement, and several classes were/are piloting it in fall and winter terms. It is part of the package for joining UNIZEN. Organization-wide learning analytics and object repositories are also part of that, and can be incorporated into Canvas. It is not a replacement for CTools Project sites.

Some basics:

Canvas has features instead of Tools. They are integrated, so you don’t get a choice of which ones to add to your site. However, if you don’t have any content, the students won’t see the feature. You will see all the features, but the ones without content will be light grey. There are also 3rd party plugins, like Piazza, which you can choose to add.
The items, whether it’s an image in a quiz question or an entire learning module, is called an object.
When you first log in to Canvas, you’ll have a chance to update your profile. Part of your profile is your notification center, where you can control what sort of notifications you get, and with what frequency. It has finer control than CTools. You can get back to it latter by clicking on your name in the yellow highlighted links at the top.
The help button in the upper right actually has useful and normally up-to-date documentation. There’s also a link to the user community, which is often helpful. If you think of a feature, you should check there first to see if someone else has also requested that feature. If neither of those solve your problem, contact 4help.
The calendar is global: all your Canvas sites employ it, and all deadlines from all sites are displayed on it. Similarly, Grades lets you (and your students) access the grades and learning outcomes for each course you’re associated with from a central location. The Learning Outcomes can be shared (anonymously) with the other UNIZEN schools, so you can compare your class with other schools. You can also get to those features for each class from within the course site.
Commons is a organization-wide object repository. Instructors from any UNIZEN school, including you, can create and share objects. You can also use any object in Commons, so before building a new learning module or image, check there. It could save you a lot of time.

Course Specific information

Where you create a new course, there will be a “Next Steps” link at the bottom to guide you through the typical things you need to do when creating a course.

People can reply to the Announcements, so it’s no longer a one-way only communication tool. You can attach images, files, video, links to assignments, etc. You can also schedule it to go out at some latter time.

Modules let you organize your content, like the Lessons tool did in CTools (Lessons is still in pilot mode, so you may not have seen it).

Conferences uses the Big Blue Button service to do actual teleconference type of session. It is not as easy to use as BlueJeans, and not as powerful as Adobe Connect, but you can run and record from inside Canvas.

People is where you control things like adding participants and creating groups. The roster will automatically be added for you, so you’ll only add people like observers and assistants. Canvas does NOT support friend accounts at this time.

The syllabus , gradebook, and Calendar are built automatically as you add things to the site.  You can add extra material (like learning outcomes or a grading scheme) but you can’t hide or remove things.

Files is the canvas equivalent of CTools Resources. Pages allows you to create webpages, or embed websites in your Canvas site.

All graded items go into assignments, no matter which feature you add them in. You can control how the assignment is presented and recorded. For file uploads, you can restrict file types, or even the tools (e.g. only accept submissions through Google Drive). You can also have ungraded assignments.

Grading:

Grading can be done from within the assignments tool, in the “Speed Grader”.  It records who wrote a comment, so you or your GSI can have a dialog with the student. You can also record video comments instead of annotating. Students are able to download and view the annotated assignment.
I can’t tell yet if you can import files from someplace like E&E scantron results.
By default, each grade goes to the students AS YOU ENTER THE SCORE. This is really inconvenient for large classes, or complex assignments. When you begin to grade, you can Mute Assignment and it won’t notify students. When you are done, don’t forget to un-mute to have it send the notifications.
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