Instructional Technology Group

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

Canvas Updates for April 12th

April 11th, 2014 Christopher Connors

Some subtle but amazing graphical changes are now available in Canvas. Marking conversations as read or unread and sharing feedback with students have been given some tender love and care.

We’ve blogged about this before, and it was still a common question going into this semester: How do students find the feedback professors make in SpeedGrader? Before, it was a small, unlabeled icon that resembled a magnifying glass and a piece of paper. However, as you can see in the screen shot below, it’s now labeled in a way that will be much clearer to students. Since not all documents allow for instructors to make annotations using Crocodoc, sometimes the button will simply say “Preview”, but it will lead students to all the comments associated with the assignment.

Screen shot of the new way to preview professor feedback.

If there was something that faculty have been making known to us, it’s that Canvas Conversations should be more like email. With this latest addition, it’s one step closer to acting like an email client. Not only can multiple messages be selected, but they now can be marked as either “Read” or “Unread”. This will help keep the blue dots in the Inbox more manageable!

Screen shot of where to go to mark selected messages as "Read" or "Unread".

If you want to know more about the latest updates in more detail, check out the release notes on Instructure’s website. As always, please email or call ITG if you have any questions about how to integrate technology into your course. We can be reached at 617-824-8090, or by emailing itg@emerson.edu.


Faculty Showcase: Student Work

March 10th, 2014 Christopher Connors

Recently, Walker 416 was filled to capacity with faculty, staff, and pizza; all gathered together for the latest in ITG’s Faculty Showcases. The topic this semester was “student interaction”, and we at ITG were lucky to get three outstanding professors to present: Kevin Miller of WLP, Mary Harkins of Performing Arts, and Paul Mihailidis of Marketing/Communication.

Kevin Miller’s presentation focused on student discussion in his online course “Novel into Film,” which he offers during the summer sessions. He enthused about how empowering the Canvas discussion medium can be for showcasing students’ thoughts and opinions. “I’ve been surprised at the sophistication of many of the online discussions. They can be orders of magnitude more nuanced than is sometimes possible in a regular classroom.” Many have expressed to ITG that students can sometimes be shy about participating in classroom discussions, and Kevin agreed. “Some students I’ve thought were very good in person have absolutely blown my doors off online. I’ve had occasion to write students telling them that they taught me something today.” Kevin also mentioned that facilitating online discussions involves a lot of work, especially as the due date approaches. “When discussions have blown up, I’ve spent many a Saturday night at my computer,” he noted.

Professor Mary Harkin’s presentation focused on her use of video lectures, discussions, and online quizzes. Broken down into 87 individual clips, her “American Clothes in the 20th Century” course relied on online quizzes to test students’ mastery of the material. In her use of the Discussion feature, she took a slightly different approach than Kevin in her discussions, since she required students to post a comment before they could read other comments. This was done to keep students from using the “I think the same thing” response. As to her videos, the secret to her success was a software title called “ScreenFlow”. This allowed her to have a stronger voice within the online class, as she did voice-overs for all of her PowerPoints. One great takeaway was how she broke these larger lectures down into smaller, more manageable chunks for online classes.

Professor Paul Mihailidis’ focus was on the use of the Calendar feature of Canvas and feedback to students in the “Communications, Media and Society” course. The course itself is separated into a weekly lecture and then smaller break-out classes, so synching is was a must among the instructors. Using the Canvas Calendar feature, Paul was able to keep due dates organized among students and coordinate among the other faculty. He also went over how he used the Gradebook in Canvas, especially the Media Recording options. Everything in the course is paperless, as all assignments are downloaded and uploaded via Canvas. “The ‘I didn’t know how to upload’ is the same excuse we’ve all heard before, just a different medium,” Paul said of the online assignments. As for his video feedback, he explained that students could “engage with video better than just reading comments.” His rubrics for each assignment also helped make it clear as to what was expected of the students, allowing more time in class for discussion and less on explanation of each assignment.

ITG would like to thank everyone who attended. To those who couldn’t make it and find the ideas here have piqued your interest, get in touch with ITG! We’d love to help you go further with integrating technology into your class. ITG can be reached via email at itg@emerson.edu or by calling 617-824-8090.


New Canvas Features – March 1st Update

February 28th, 2014 Christopher Connors

Canvas continues its incremental updates with additional faculty-requested features. Let’s start with a small, but welcome addition.

NEW GRADEBOOK CSV FORMAT

Within the Gradebook, when one downloads a CSV file, it now includes your assignment group columns. Here’s what Instructure had to say about it:

Assignment group columns are part of the CSV download from the Gradebook. This feature allows instructors to examine the overall performance of their course related to each assignment group and student scores. Each assignment group in the CSV file displays current points, final points, current score, and final score. Assignment group columns are read-only columns calculated by rules or percentages set in Canvas, and changes made to these columns within the CSV file will not be recognized if the CSV is uploaded to the Gradebook. (source)

Screenshot of the new downloaded CSV.

SHOWING POINTS IN STUDENT GRADE TOTALS

Now to some big news! You can now set student grades to be viewed as point totals instead of percentages. That sound you hear is all of the CC-100 faculty cheering.

If an instructor grades by points in the Gradebook, students will also view their total grade in points. This option only applies if an instructor changes the grading option within the Gradebook total column from percent to points.

Reminder: Instructors can only grade by points if they are not using weighted assignment groups.

switchtopoints1

When students open the Grades page, the total column displays the total grade as earned points compared to total points possible (this view is different than the Gradebook view, which only shows the number of earned points). The hover text displays the percentage breakdown of those points. Both instructors and students still view assignment groups as a percentage. (source)

switchtopoints2

SELECTIVE COURSE CONTENT IMPORTING

Finally, a nice touch has beed added to importing content from a previous course. When doing a selective import, things are now deselected by default. This should make it much more apparent what one’s options are when it comes to moving past content from course to course. Here’s more from Instructure:

The Select Migration Content process has been redesigned within Course Imports. When admins or instructors copy or import courses and choose to select course content, Canvas will no longer select all content by default.

The import screen is grouped by content type. Content types that include more than one item are placed within a group that indicates the total number of content items. To expand the group, click the drop-down arrow next to the content type.

import1

To import all content for a content type, click the checkbox next to the content name. If the content type is a group containing multiple items, Canvas will automatically select all items within the group (no need to expand the group and select the items individually).

To import only a few items from a content group, expand the drop-down arrow and click the specific items to be imported. Canvas will place a dash in the content checkbox, indicating that only a few items are selected within the group.

If a content type should not be imported, leave the checkbox blank. (source)

import2

We hope these new features will be helpful, and as always, please don’t hesitate to contact ITG with any questions or requests you may have. Email us at itg@emerson.edu or give us a call at 617-824-8090. For further information about the other components of this update, click here.


More Faculty Requested Features Now in Canvas

February 11th, 2014 Christopher Connors

Instructure, the company behind Canvas, is always improving its product, and the last few weeks have seen many great new features. At ITG, we wanted to highlight three that have been requested by Emerson faculty that finally made it into production. First, Groups have been redesigned to be more intuitive and versatile. Here is what Instructure had to say:

To allow for a better user experience, we’ve redesigned the Groups page. The new design more closely aligns with the look and feel of other pages within Canvas. The sidebar has been removed to maximize the Groups view, and creating groups within a group set is more intuitive with the new Group and Group Set buttons. Each group has its own gear icon where you can not only edit and delete the group but also access the Group homepage. Functionality remains the same in that you can continue to drag and drop students within groups and collapse and expand the group lists. (source)

Image showing the new group interface.

 

The Gradebook also got a little love from Instructure with the ability to add a new “Student Notes” column:

Instructors can use a Notes column in their Gradebook to keep track of extra information in their course, such as SIS IDs or just general student notes. This feature is the second-most-requested feature by our users, so we hope it helps with your course management.

To show the Notes column in the Gradebook, click the Gear icon in the Gradebook drop-down menu and select the Show Notes Column link. When the column is shown, Gear icon drop-down option will change to Hide Notes Column. (source)

Image of how to access the new show notes feature.

To make a comment in the notes, click the note field for the appropriate student and type into the text box. Click the Save button to save your note. The note field allows up to 255 characters. (source)

Image showing how to add a note.

Finally, with an uproarious cry of excitement, faculty can now select and perform functions on multiple messages within the Conversations tool! Here is more from Instructure:

When multiple or all messages are selected, the right panel displays a multiple conversations message, and users can collectively archive, delete, mark messages as unread, or star or unstar the messages. (source)

Image of multiple messages selected.

As always, if you have any questions about how these work in more detail, or how to integrate these new features into your course, don’t hesitate to contact ITG at 617-824-8090 or email itg@emerson.edu.


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