Posts Tagged ‘canvas_course_design’

What’s so Cool about Canvas?

Monday, June 6th, 2011

Students and faculty alike will love the new course management system. Of course, there will be some minor speed bumps getting accustomed to a new system but there are so many great features in Canvas!

For full training schedule and tutorials visit: http://canvas.umwblogs.org

Canvas has a notification system so you can have important messages sent directly to your cell phone!

Canvas notifications can be sent to your Facebook inbox. (Donb’t worry, the notifications do NOT go on your Facebook Wall and are not seen by others… just in your inbox.)

Canvas has a system for tracking college, departmental, or course learning outcomes.

Canvas has a Speedgrader system by which the instructor can view a student submission, makes comments, and enter a grade all on one page. Then, with just one click, the next student submission appears ready to grade! This is an unbelievable time saver! Just wait until you see this!

Canvas has an integrated wiki system that makes it easy for students and faculty to create web pages.

Canvas has an integrated web conferencing system available to students and faculty for large or small group meetings.

Canvas provides integration with Google Docs, Skype, Linked In, Twitter, Diigo, and Facebook.

Students and faculty can include audio and video (direct from webcam) in a discussion posting (and many other places).

Faculty and students have access to a personal file storage space as well as a separate file storage space for each course and even a separate file storage space for each small group.

Making your Canvas Course Available to Students

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

In Blackboard, instructors had the ability to make their course available to students by going to the Control Panel >> Settings >> Course Availability and selecting the Make Course Available = Yes radio button.

NOTE: In Blackboard, this selection could be made at any time throughout the semester, so that a instructor could take the course off-line temporarily to make some changes while students were not in the course.

Instructors can make a course available in Canvas by clicking the Publish button. The Publish button appears when the instructor goes to the Course Setup Checklist and clicks the link to Publish Course.

NOTE: This is a one-time setting. Once published the course cannot be un-published. This is a major difference between Canvas and Blackboard.

If your Course Setup Checklist is not visible, you can bring it back by going to the course Home and clicking on the Course Setup Checklist button.

Blackboard to Canvas Migrations – Modules Area

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

So what does a Blackboard course look like after it has been auto-migrated from Blackboard? Is it usable as is? Can it be re-worked with small effort and then used as a basis for a future Canvas course?

CAUTION: You are strongly advised to re-develop your
course materials in Canvas starting with a blank course shell rather than attempting to re-work a migrated course. This is especially true if you made non-trivial use of Blackboard with the migrated course.

If your previous Blackboard course made only token use of the Blackboard tool set for a limited purpose, say to distribute files for example, then it might make sense to re-work a past semester Blackboard course and copy that into a blank Canvas course shell to use in a later semester.

This page shows you what to expect in the Canvas “Modules” area.

The example course shown here migrated exceptionally well.  However, notice that the modules are out of order. Modules can be re-ordered easily by simply dragging from one pace and dropping in another. The only tip here is that to grab a module, one must hover over that line and grab the move icon that appears to the left of the line.

Note: In the case that a line in one module really belongs in another, that line can be dragged from one module and dropped into another in a similar manner. Also notice the pencil icon. Click that to edit the module name or the item name inside a module.

In this example you will notice that the due dates are all from fall 2010. Each activity will need to have the dates changed. Click directly on the item itself to edit the edit (rather than just the name of the item).

Blackboard to Canvas Migrations – Files Area

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

So what does a Blackboard course look like after it has been auto-migrated from Blackboard? Is it usable as is? Can it be re-worked with small effort and then used as a basis for a future Canvas course?

CAUTION: You are strongly advised to re-develop your
course materials in Canvas starting with a blank course shell rather than attempting to re-work a migrated course. This is especially true if you made non-trivial use of Blackboard with the migrated course.

If your previous Blackboard course made only token use of the Blackboard tool set for a limited purpose, say to distribute files for example, then it might make sense to re-work a past semester Blackboard course and copy that into a blank Canvas course shell to use in a later semester.

This page shows you what to expect in the Canvas “Files” area.

Blackboard did not give instructors or students access to the underlying folder structure – but Canvas does (which is a good thing). So, when a course that contains lots of files is migrated to Blackboard, many folders are created in Canvas to hold these files. The folders have serialized, non-meaninigful names like “res00043” and “res00179”.

This is confusing to both you and your students. Remember, students can see the course “Files” area and look inside folders (unless the instructor specifically locks them).  So  you may want to consider creating just a few folders with meaningful names and move all the files into these new folders. Then you can delete the old folders with the serialized names.

This screen shot shows an actual course migrated from Blackboard to Canvas. Notice it has 91 folders (only some show). The example shows three new folders created, “Lecture Notes”, “Powerpoints”, and “Quiz Solutions”.  A file is shown being dragged from folder res000145 into folder “Quiz Solutions”.

Canvas Course using Most Tools – Student View

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

This discussion is for faculty designing a course in Canvas, but shows the student view. To learn about how to deploy the various tools, please visit the main UMW Canvas support site at http://canvas.umwblogs.org.

Moving efficiently and effectively from Blackboard to Canvas requires a change in mindset. Canvas is different and works differently than Blackboard. It would be counterproductive  to try to replicate the Blackboard experience inside Canvas.

So the first order of business is to understand the relationship among Canvas Assignments, Pages, Modules, Syllabus, and Calendar.

When the student logs into your course on the first day, they will need some direction. So, you will probably want to set up your course to display the “Front Page“. The Front Page is a web page that the instructor can edit to include text, pictures, and even video. For directions on how to do this, please see First Day Course Design. In this example training course, the home page has been set to be the Front Page:


For many courses (using most of the Canvas tools), the main organizational element will be the Modules tool. This is particularly true if your course is logically ordered into units and students proceed sequentially from one unit to another.

In this example training course, there is one short module, Mary Washington, organized into two areas, “The Person” and “The University”. In this view the user can see a list of items in the module. The icons to the left of each line show a page icon for an internal web page, a world for a web link, an A+ for an assignment, a circle Q for a quiz, and a conversation bubble for discussions. Those items with due dates have the date displayed on the right along with any associated point value.

Note: There are five graded activities listed here; one assignment, two graded discussions, and two quizzes.

The five graded activities shown above can be created (by the instructor) while editing the module or by visiting the assignment area (for creating assignments), the discussion area (for creating discussions), and the quiz area (for creating quizzes).

Important: The instructor can create a graded activity directly while in the process of creating a module. If so, the activity is automatically listed in the module being created. It is also possible to create items such as quizzes, assignments, and graded discussions in those areas. If so, the graded activity will be listed in the appropriate area but not in a Module. These items can be added to the module later.

Here is a view of the Assignments area. In this example course, all the graded activities were created while in the Modules area. The graded activities are placed in the Assignments area automatically by Canvas. Please note that there are five items here: one “assignment”, two graded discussions, and two quizzes. In Canvas, an assignment can be any graded activity. This is somewhat of a departure from the Blackboard assignment which usually involved a file submission.

Here is an alternate view of the Assignments area:

Parts of the Syllabus page in Canvas are also automatically populated. The Syllabus tool has two areas, top and bottom. The top part can be edited by the instructor and any text, images, or videos can appear in this top portion. Many instructors will want to copy and paste their normal syllabus information into this area. Other instructors may wish to upload a syllabus document as a Wrod file and just provide a link to that document in this area.

In either case, the bottom portion of the Syllabus tool is NOT editable by the instructor. The bottom portion of the Syllabus page is automatically populated with items with grades and due dates.

The Front Page is only one (special purpose) page that can be created in the Pages area. This example course has two additional pages, Directions for Module One and Directions for Module Two. These pages are also listed in the Mary Washington module.

The instructor can create any number of pages. All pages (except for the Front Page) can be set so that students can edit them. So they are wiki-type pages. Some instructors may want to save lecture notes here. Another possibility would be to create blank pages and let students fill those pages in with notes that they take.

Another page that is automatically populated by Canvas is the Calendar tool. Note: The calendar is associated with a person. If the person has access to many courses, all dates from all courses will show by default. To narrow the perspective to just one course, the user should un-check all boxes except for the course of interest. In this example all boxes are un-checked save for the Training_Course_100 course.

In summary, there are many ways to organize and design the student experience inn a Canvas course utilizing most of the tools. This page suggests concentrating organizing the course using the Modules tool. While creating the modules, the instructor will also be creating assignments and quizzes, and discussions, and other activities. In most cases, these activities will be automatically placed in the Assignments tool, the Syllabus tool, the Pages tool, and the Calendar tool.

For face-to-face courses not needing to use all the Canvas toolset, please see:

Canvas Course for Submitting Assignments

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

There are some face-to-face classes that use the course management system merely for a place for students to submit their papers (or Powerpoints or some other type of file) electronically. This page discusses using Canvas solely for the purpose of providing students a place to submit assignments.

Step One: In a face-to-face class, the instructor will normally hand out the syllabus on the first day of class. Discussion might happen in the classroom or outside via a blog or some tool other than a course management system. Canvas allow changing the homepage to go directly to a listing of the assignments:

Step Two:Once the home page layout has been changed to point directly to assignments, click on the link to Assignments in the course menu:

Step Three: And click to add an assignment.

Step Four: We want to see all the options for this new assignment, so click on the link to “more options”.

Step Five: There are lots of options. This screen shot is emphasizing changing the title from the generic “Assignment 1”, setting a point value, and setting a due date. Notice that the instructor can decide what format is acceptable for turning in assignments. Here the check boxes are set for file upload and for text entry. The former would be appropriate for lengthy documents that the student would write up in Word. The latter is appropriate for a short submission like a paragraph that could be typed directly into Canvas.

Step Six: This screen shot is showing four assignments. If you have lots of assignments, you may want to group them into some logical organization. To do so, click the link to add an assignment group:

Step Seven:  This screen shot shows the assignments organized by type. The two paragraph assignments are in one group and the two paper assignments are in another group. The assignment group names are in grey bars. Note that you can move the groups and the assignments by grabbing the icon on the left of each line. Just drag and drop.

Course Design Example: Here is an example of a course used solely for assignment submissions. The home page has been changed to point directly to the list of assignments.

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Disclaimer: This example is appropriate in a face-to-face class for which the instructor does everything in class (or otherwise outside the course management system) and uses Canvas solely for the purpose of giving students a convenient place to upload and submit electronic files. A blended or fully online course would likely employ a more advanced design including the use of modules, the syllabus tool, discussions, quizzes, and other tools.

First Day Course Design

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

Here is a suggestion that would be appropriate in a course that is fully online or has a major online component in Canvas.

The instructor can set what kind of page the student sees when first entering the course.  The choices are:

  • the communication (or activity) stream
  • a wiki page (Front Page) designed by the instructor
  • the course modules page
  • the assignment list
  • the assignment list including syllabus

To do this, the instructor clicks on the “Change Home Page Layout” link (upper right):

Click to enlarge

There are several choices, but a good choice for the first day(s) of the semester is the “Page I’ll Design Myself”:

Next, click the Update Layout button.

Now you will need to click the Edit this Page button.

You will be presented with a wysiwyg editor. Create any text, add images, or even videos. This page will be the “Front Page” and it will be the page any user sees when entering the “Pages” area. It is also the page users will see whenever the home page layout is set to the “Page I’ll Design Myself” option.

One possibility for the first day is to create an informational page that tells students what to do. This may not be necessary in a face-to-face class where the instructor is present to answer first day questions. But in an online class this would be recommended. Of course, what you say depends on the class. Here is an example from my EDCI 525 class from summer, 2011:

Example only – first day text varies by course

After the first few days of class, it would probably be best to set the home page layout back to the communication/activity stream or at least rework the “Front Page” to eliminate the “how to get started” info.

Canvas Course for Document Delivery via Modules

Friday, May 27th, 2011

Suppose you are teaching a face-to-face class and you would like to use Canvas for the sole purpose of delivering documents to your students. Here’s one way. See Canvas Course for Document Delivery via Files for an alternate approach.

Step One: You may want to hide all the menu items except for Modules (see Canvas Menus for step-by-step directions). Then enter the Modules area and click on the button to Add a New Module.

Step Two: Enter a name for your module. Notice that you can set some options now (or later).

Step Three: Here is a module titled “Word Documents.” To add items to the module, click on “Add item to module.”

Step Four: Notice that the course designer can add assignments, quizzes, files, content pages, discussion topics, text headers, and external web links (url’s). In this example, we are creating a course targeted toward supporting a face-to-face class and it will merely be a place to distribute documents.

Step Five: Choose the file(s) you would like to add to the module. This example shows adding a “Syllabus.docx” file. You can also add multiple files at a time.

Instructor View: Here is the teacher view of a sample course with two modules.

Student View: Here is the student view of a sample course with two modules.

View of File: There are several benefits from using the modules approach. Here the user has clicked on the “Syllabus.docx” file in a module. Instead of downloading, the user gets to see the document directly in the browser. There is a link to download, print, and view full screen. Navigation links at the bottom of the page allow the user to go to the next item in the module or go to the module table of content.

Another advantage to using modules is that the modules may be created prior to the semester but set to release at dates during the semester. Other release criteria are available as well.


Disclaimer: This course design is not advocated, merely presented for informational purposes. Even in a face-to-face course, it might be a good idea to also allow students to have access to other tools that facilitate communication and collaboration between student and instructor and among students.  If grades are recorded in Canvas, access to the grades area would also be beneficial to students.

Canvas Course for Document Delivery via Files

Friday, May 27th, 2011

Suppose you are teaching a face-to-face class and you would like to use Canvas for the sole purpose of delivering documents to your students. Here’s one way. See Canvas Course for Document Delivery – Modules Approach for a better way.

Step One: Since you are only going to use the Files area, you might want to hide all non-used menu choices (see Canvas Menus for step-by-step directions) to reduce student confusion:

Click to Enlarge

Step Two: Go to your Files area. Click on “Add Folder” to add some organizational folders:

Step Three: Organize your files by creating folders with meaningful names. This example separates Word documents and Powerpoint files but any meaningful organization (such as into weeks or units) would be effective:

Step Four: Now enter one of the folders (by clicking on the folder name) and upload files into the folder by clicking on “Add Files”:

Step Five: Students can access this Files area too. You may want to create a private folder for files you do not want the students to see at present. This example shows a folder named “Private Documents” that has been locked. Student can see the folder but will get an error message if they try to access it.

Student View: Here is the sample course from the student perspective. Notice the only two menu items are Home and Files. Also notice that the instructor has placed an announcement in the course telling the students to look in the Files area.  Even though the Announcement tool has been hidden from student view, the instructor still has access and can post announcements.

And here is the student view of the Files area:

Here is the student view when they try to access a folder that has been locked:


Disclaimer: This course design is not advocated, merely presented for informational purposes. Even in a face-to-face course, it might be a good idea to also allow students to have access to other tools that facilitate communication and collaboration between student and instructor and among students.  If grades are recorded in Canvas, access to the grades area would also be beneficial to students.

Canvas Menus

Friday, May 27th, 2011

Canvas menus have the following properties:

  • Color scheme is set at the institutional level and cannot be changed by the instructor
  • Tools not used are greyed out for instructor and hidden from student view
  • The order can be changed (but why would you bother)
  • Menu choices can be hidden even if implemented
Instructor View Student View
In this example notice that the instructor can see menu items such as Assignments, Pages, Outcomes, Quizzes, and Modules that are NOT implemented in this example course (SP_Discussions). Notice in the student view that any tools not implemented are hidden from the student.

Even tools that are in use by default can be manually hidden from students.To manually hide selected menu items, the instructor should go to the Settings menu and click on the Navigation tab. This next image shows a course (Math for Elem Classrooms) with no menu items hidden. You can tell there are no hidden items because there are no items listed underneath the hiding line (bottom of image just above Save button).

Here is an example course (Canvas) in which many items have been hidden:

Instructor View Student View
Click to Enlarge
In this example the instructor has hidden several items from student view by dragging those items below the line into the hidden area. The student view shows a course with just four menu choices.