Instructional Technology Group

The Instructional Technology Group supports faculty use of technology for teaching and learning.

File naming standards: eliminate future headaches

September 18th, 2014 Paula Damigella

There are a lot of reasons that file naming standards should be your best friends. They are rad, responsible, and reliable. Just like the three R’s of old.

But most importantly – you will not run into problems opening your files on another computer, uploading them to Canvas, or attaching them to an email. The reason? By following the tenets listed below, you have significantly decreased the chances of the file becoming corrupted or unusable. Go you!

Adapted from the University of Stanford’s list, here are some best practices to follow when naming your files:

  • Never use special characters - such as  ~ ! @ # $ % ^ & * ( ) ` ; < > ? , [ ] { } ‘ ” and |. Avoid at all costs! If you’re not capitalizing a letter or generating an underscore, you shouldn’t be hitting the shift key. 
  • Keep it chronological. Using the format YYYYMMDD or YYMMDD ensures all of your files stay in chronological order, for years to come.
  • Keep names as short as possible. Depending on the software, longer file names may not work or be recognized.
  • Use zeros to ensure numerical order. When using a sequential numbering system, using leading zeros for clarity and to make sure files sort in sequential order. For example, use “001, 002, …010, 011 … 100, 101, etc.” instead of “1, 2, …10, 11 … 100, 101, etc.”
  • Do not use spaces. Some software on sites will not recognize file names with spaces. Try using these methods to denote spaces:
    • Underscores, e.g. file_name.xxx
    • Dashes, e.g. file-name.xxx
    • No separation, e.g. filename.xxx
    • Camel case, where the first letter of each section of text is capitalized, e.g. FileName.xxx

Further reading: http://library.stanford.edu/research/data-management-services/case-studies/case-study-file-naming

Across the pond: http://www2.le.ac.uk/services/research-data/organise-data/naming-files


New Canvas Features – June 2014

June 18th, 2014 Christopher Connors

Once again it’s time for some new feature highlights that have been added to Canvas. As usual, the complete set of changes can be found on Instructure’s website, and this feature release is found here.

Grading and Comments, Now Without SpeedGrader Required

One can now make comments and give grades directly from the Gradebook without having to enter the SpeedGrader tool. Here are some screenshots from Instructure showing this new functionality:

Screenshot of Gradebook

Screenshot of Grading Popup

Of course, you can always click on “More details in the SpeedGrader” if you’d like to annotate the submission or review the students’ work.

Total Student Activity At A Glance

Within the “People” section of your course, you’ll now be able to see the total amount of time a student, observer, or TA has spent viewing and interacting with the course.

Screenshot of Total Activity

Take That Mixed-Content!

Finally, a small but very welcome change to us administrators is the ability to have external websites open in a new window from a Module. Previously, websites would fail to load within Canvas if the site was an unsecured site. This lead to many news articles and organizational websites failing to load unless one “right-clicked” and forced them to open in a new window or tab. Now, when adding an external URL, you can force the behavior automatically!

New Window Option

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As always, please don’t hesitate to contact ITG by emailing itg@emerson.edu or by calling 617-824-8090 if you have any further questions or requests.


May 24th Updates to Canvas

May 26th, 2014 Natalie Hebshie

As you may know, Instructure updates and repairs Canvas every few weeks. Here are some highlights from last weekend’s update:

  • Calendar 1, Gradebook 1, and Old Conversations will no longer be available in Canvas.
  • Internet Explorer 9 will no longer be a supported browser.

New Features

Gradebook: Individual View

The Gradebook Individual View allows instructors to assess one student and one assignment at a time. Complete with all features in the Gradebook, this gradebook view is fully accessible to screen readers and improves the accessibility functionality found in Gradebook 1.

In the Gradebook, access Individual View by clicking the Switch to Individual View link. Unlike the standard Gradebook, Individual View does not take up the entire Canvas window and shows the Course Navigation menu. Like all Gradebook tabs, Individual View is persistent and will always display when it is the Gradebook last accessed by an instructor. To leave Individual View, click the Switch to Grid View link.

Gradebook Swith to Grid View link

Individual View contains all the global settings found in the standard Gradebook. Instructors can sort by section and assignments and set any preferred settings options.

Assignment Settings: Online Default

For new assignments, the assignment submission type defaults to online. Additionally, assignment settings are persistent to always remember and display the settings created or edited in the previous assignment in the course. For instance, if an instructor creates a group assignment that accepts text entry and file uploads, the instructor will automatically see those same settings the next time he or she creates an assignment. Note that this feature only applies to settings; it does not include assignment due dates.

Calendar: Undated Events & Assignments

Users can drag and drop undated assignments and events from the undated items list in the sidebar to the calendar month view and create due dates. Conversely, users can also drag and drop dated assignments and events from the month view back to the undated items list.

Calendar view for undated events and assignments

Updated Features

Submission Icons Update

The Gradebook submission icons have been updated to match the same icons located in other areas of Canvas. Icons are also darker throughout the Gradebook.

Profile Pictures

On the profile and settings pages, profile pictures are displayed in a circle. Additionally, the cropping tool in the profile picture uploader also crops in a circle. This change is to make profile pictures more consistent across all areas of Canvas.

Fixed Bugs

Assignments: Google Docs

Restricting file types also blocks Google Docs that don’t contain appropriate file extensions. Additionally, Crocodoc renders any Google Doc that contains an acceptable file extensions.

Explanation: When an instructor restricts file types for an assignment, students have been able to submit Google Docs because most Google Docs don’t display with a file extension. Moreover, Crocodoc can’t render documents with no extension. Canvas code has been updated to include additional parameters in the Google Docs URL and properly identify the file type.

Grades

Student View Scores

Scores generated by the Test Student are not included in Assignment data.

Explanation: On the Grades summary page, test student scores were being factored into the entire course, occasionally displaying as the highest, mean, and lowest scores. Canvas code has been updated to disregard any scores associated with Student View.

Student Detail Page

On the Student Submission Detail Page, students cannot view previous submissions.

Explanation: When viewing a submitted assignment, students could see a link to view the original assignment submission. Because this link is only available to instructors, Canvas code has been updated to remove the view original submissions link for students.

New Conversations: Submission Comments

Submission comments from assignments do not appear in New Conversations.

Explanation: When an assignment submission comment was the last item sent within a user conversation, the submission comments was appearing in the Conversations preview pane. Additionally, deleting all messages inside the thread only created an undeleted submission comment and did not fully remove the thread. Canvas code has been thoroughly updated to never display assignment submission comments in New Conversations.

If you’d like to see all the gory details, check out the complete Canvas 5/24/14 Production Release Notes.


Changes to Publishing in Canvas

May 13th, 2014 Christopher Connors

Changes to Content Publishing in Canvas

This fall, there will be a small visual change, but a BIG functional change to how content in Canvas works. Instructure has implemented a new way to publish individual course content, and in doing so, has fulfilled the number one requested feature to date. While it was always necessary to publish a course for it to be visible to students, faculty can now show or hide individual content. The terminology for content visible to students is “published”, and content that is hidden is “unpublished”. Each can be toggled as one sees fit (with some minor exceptions we’ll broach later in the post). Let’s see what the new interface will look like.

It’s Actually Pretty Easy Being Green

Throughout the course, all Pages, Modules, Assignments, Discussions, and Quizzes will now have a new icon in either their header area or to their right within a list view. This icon will be of a “cloud” with a “check-mark” in it, and will be either grey to mark it as unpublished, or green for published.

Screen shot of new module look.

In the above screen shot, all of the contents within the module are published. If you wanted to hide the Page entitled “Module Workflow”, all you’d need to do would be to click on the green “cloud” icon on the right. If you wanted to hide the entire module from students, you could click on the green icon on the upper right of the course header.

Publish As You Go

If you’d like to make things available to students immediately, it’s still easy to publish individual content as you’re creating it. At the header of every tool editor, you’ll see a button to enable a Page, Quiz, Discussion or Assignment to be published. Below you’ll see a closer view of what this button will look like once your item has been published and made available to students.

New publish button look.

One caveat: once students have begun to interact with a tool, it cannot be unpublished. Examples include: a discussion post with replies, a quiz that has been started, or an assignment with submitted work.

Bulk Publish and Unpublish

Within modules, there is a new feature that will allow you to Publish All or Unpublish All content within your modules.

Publish All and Unpublish All Buttons

 

As of right now, this is only available for the content with modules. This is geared for the beginning of the term, so that you can either create all your content, place it within the modules, and then publish it all at once. Or, if your content has been created, and copied over from another course, say – so the module’s contents is already published – you can go ahead and Unpublish All, and then release at your own discretion.

As always, if you have any questions about publishing content or want to delve deeper into Canvas in general, don’t hesitate to contact ITG by emailing itg@emerson.edu or by calling 617-824-8090.


Read more on the ITG Blog »