New “Atomic Search” Tool Arrives in Canvas

Course Search Image

In January 2023, UW System added a new Atomic Search tool to Canvas. This tool allows both instructors and students to more easily locate content within Canvas courses by searching for keywords. In a Digital Learning Environment student usability study conducted by UW System, students expressed having difficulties locating course content, especially when the layout of the Canvas course was not clear and consistent. Adding a search tool to Canvas was identified as a potential solution. 

Instructors do not have to take any action to enable the Atomic Search tool in their courses. The search tool appears both in the left global navigation bar as a “Search” icon and in course navigation menus as a “Search” link. Starting a search from the global navigation bar will search within all of a user’s enrollments; starting a search from the “Search” link of a course navigation menu will search only within that course. The search tool respects all of the access restrictions an instructor can apply to course content items, so search results shown to a student will only include content that the student could find through normal navigation of the course. 

The most important consideration for instructors is that the addition of a search tool in Canvas heightens the importance of making sure that outdated course content is unpublished or deleted. While preparing a Canvas course, removing an outdated Page from a course module but then forgetting to delete it entirely from the course is an easy mistake to make. With the arrival of a search tool in Canvas, students are now more likely to encounter an old page that you have removed from a module but never deleted or unpublished. Especially in those courses in which you’ve been reusing and iterating upon the same base of Canvas content over several terms, we recommend reviewing your course “index” pages—Announcements, Assignments, Discussions, and Pages—and deleting obsolete content and abandoned drafts. 

Course delete page

While cleaning up your course, remember that removing a page from a module does not also delete that page from the course. Likewise, deleting a module does not delete its contents. Items that module contained will still be found among the Pages, Assignments, and Discussions index pages of the course. Fully deleting a content item from your course can only be done while viewing that item or while viewing the index page for that item’s type—for example, the list of pages you can view by clicking the Pages link in the course navigation menu. Anytime you plan on removing an unneeded content item from a course module it is a good practice to first unpublish that item so that even if you forget to follow up and delete it, students cannot find it. 

After reviewing your course and deleting old content, we recommend running your course’s Link Validator to scan your course for any links which point at now-deleted content. Remove or update any broken links found by the validator tool. 

Please also keep in mind that new content and content changes will not immediately appear in search results. After a change is made to course content, the search tool needs to “reindex” the course before it can deliver updated search results. For an active course, this reindexing process happens automatically at least once every 10 hours. 

Additional Resources 

Reflecting on the 2023 Instructional Development Institute

On January 10, 2023, we gathered virtually for the annual Instructional Development Institute hosted by CATL and the Instructional Development Council. This year included attendance and presentations by educators from UWGB, UW System, K-12 schools, and the private sector for the 2023 Instructional Development Institute: Cultivating Student Success. The conference was a huge success, with over 140 in attendance for our keynote session and strong momentum throughout the rest of the day. In this blog post, we will reflect on the Insitute and share teaching resources, materials, and takeaways from this year’s Institute.  

Keynote & Workshop Leaders

2023 Instructional Development Institute: "Cultivating Student Success" Keynote Speakers Dr. Stephen L Chew & Dr. Bill CerbinThis year’s IDI included two keynote speakers, Dr. Stephen L. Chew, 2011 Carnegie Professor of the Year and 2018 recipient of the American Psychological Association’s national award for distinguished teaching, and Dr. Bill Cerbin, the founding director of the Center for Advancing Teaching and Learning at UW-La Crosse and a nationally recognized expert on lesson study and the scholarship of teaching and learning. Dr. Stephen and Dr. Cerbin’s keynote and workshop presentations explore the nine main cognitive challenges of student learning and how we, as educators, can address each of these nine challenges to better support our students.  

We encourage you to watch the recording of the keynote and both keynote workshops to learn more about the cognitive challenges students experience and ways educators can address these challenges. In addition to the keynote presentations, Dr. Bill Cerbin has created a self-paced, self-directed, ungraded Canvas course, Cognitive Challenges of Lectures, that is available for IDI attendees and those who enroll in the IDI Canvas course. The Cognitive Challenges of Lectures course expands upon the keynote’s research and presentation and provides instructors with tangible takeaways to improve student learning and success.  

Presentations, Roundtables, and Panels on Student Success

The theme this year was centered on “Cultivating Student Success,” and presentations highlighted the many ways all university community members support the success of students. Sessions throughout the day covered topics such as using universal design for learning (UDL), information literacy, fostering growth mindset in high-tech classrooms, best practices for handling hot-button topics in the classroom, and reflections on student internship experiences. All sessions were recorded and are available to view from the 2023 IDI Canvas Course. We encourage you to watch the recordings to hear from our presenters and enroll in the Canvas course if you have not done so already! Below are some resources from a variety of different IDI presentations for you to explore.  

The session, “Teaching Students to Evaluate Website Credibility” led by three members of the UW-Green Bay Libraries’ team, Jodi Pierre, Renee Ettinger, and Carli Reinecke included a demonstration on lateral reading and additional resources for instructors teaching an FYS or a research focused course to help students identify credible websites for their research purposes.  

Instructors can use the resources available through the UWGB Libraries FYS Integration Kits which include pre-built learning objects, lesson plans, and simple assignments that can be integrated into their courses to support a variety of information literacy learning outcomes. Additional resources provided are the Civic Online Reasoning website which provides lesson plans, assessments, and videos on evaluating online information as well as the SIFT framework used to evaluate websites. As a reminder, UW-Green Bay libraries offer a wide range of research and information literacy resources, including library instruction for your classes.  

The session, “Inner Tracking: A Reflective Practice for Holistic Learning” led by David Voelker included a discussion on implementing written reflective learning practices for students that help students reflect on how their learning is affecting them as a person. An additional resource from this session includes the Inner Tracking exercise which instructors can incorporate into their course. 

The IDI hosted a special podcast episode of Psychology & Stuff, “How to Build Community” with co-hosts Ryan Martin and Georjeanna Wilson-Doenges. In this thought-provoking discussion, Ryan and Georjeanna discuss approaches to creating meaningful connections and building community among university staff in higher education. Watch the recording to learn more as Psychology & Stuff hosts apply research and principles from urban planning and environmental psychology to the building of community in our workplaces and learning communities 

The session, “Using Universal Design (UDL) to Create Access and Increase Student Success,” led by Lynn Niemi and Alison Gates provided a useful hand-out for instructors to use in their instruction for Further Resources for Universal Access Design for Learning.

Wrap-up & Conclusion

This year’s Institute was a huge success, and we thank everyone who attended our teaching and learning conference and supported all our thoughtful presenters. The presentations and conversations throughout the day offered us some important themes, which CATL director Kris Vespia shares in the wrap-up of the day, that we can take into the spring semester. One is the importance of empathy and perspective-taking, as throughout the day we were asked to put ourselves in a student’s shoes and struggle to understand in new learning contexts. Another theme of the day focused on the importance of communities, whether that is in the classroom to create inclusive environments or building communities amongst faculty and staff. The communities we build in higher education will directly affect students’ paths to success in individual courses and in their educational endeavors. We hope to see you at the 2024 Instructional Development Institute!  

In case you missed it

If you were not able to attend the Instructional Development Institute this year, we welcome you to self-enroll in the IDI Canvas course (select “UW Employee / Faculty / Student”). Enrolling will grant you full access to the IDI Canvas course until May 2023, including the session recordings.  

Call for Faculty College 2023 (Applications Due Jan. 4)

A group of instructors standing in a grassy area near a body of water; the caption reads "Faculty College 2022"

Faculty College is an annual professional development institute and retreat for faculty, instructors, and lecturers in the University of Wisconsin System led by the Office of Professional & Instructional Development (OPID). The 43rd Annual Faculty College will be held at the Osthoff Resort at Elkhart Lake (close to three of our four locations in Sheboygan County) from May 30 through June 2, 2023, and the theme this year is Teaching & Learning with a Social Justice Lens. Back by popular demand as a guest facilitator is Dr. Lisa Brock, Founding Academic Director of the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership at Kalamazoo College in Michigan.

Learn More About Faculty College

Apply

Selected participants will be joined by UWGB’s OPID Advisory Council members and the 2023-24 Wisconsin Teaching Fellows & Scholars program participants. If you are interested in being one of UW-Green Bay’s instructor representatives for Faculty College 2023 (travel expenses will be paid), please send an email to CATL@uwgb.edu with:

  • Your name and department
  • Your commitment/availability to travel from May 30 to June 2, 2023
  • A brief one-paragraph explanation of why you wish to be a part of this team

Applications are due to CATL by the end of the day Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2022.

Questions?

Please contact CATL if you have any questions about the application process. Programmatic inquiries may be directed to Fay Akindes, Director of Systemwide Professional and Instructional Development, UW System, fakindes@uwsa.edu, (608) 263-2684.

Making Impactful Use of Canvas Analytics in Your Course

Like many websites, Canvas collects data from users as they navigate their courses. Thankfully, unlike many websites, Canvas collects this data not for the purpose of selling it to advertisers but for the purpose of presenting it to instructors. Canvas presents collected student activity data in a course page titled “New Analytics,” which contains charts and tables designed to help instructors make use of this data. While New Analytics contains well-organized representations of course data, it does not prescribe specific actions or provide a formula for making use of the data. In this post, we summarize the data available in New Analytics and recommend ways you can interpret it to take actions in your course that can help improve student outcomes. 

Detecting Course Trends 

New Analytics Window

New Analytics can help reveal trends in student achievement from assignment to assignment and student engagement from week to week. After launching New Analytics from the course navigation menu or the button on the right side of the course Home page, you’ll see a series of tabs across the top of the page. The first two tabs, “Course Grade” and “Weekly Online Activity” have data views that can help you identify course trends. The Course Grade tab has a chart which shows the average grade for each assignment in your course. Each assignment in your course will be represented by a dot on this chart. The dot’s position on the y-axis represents the average grade for that assignment. A quick glance at this chart can help you identify the assignments where the class atypically excelled or struggled and help you confirm—or refute—suspicions you developed about performance trends while grading assignments. Thinking critically about why the class might have been more or less successful on a particular assignment can lead to ideas for course design improvements. A close look at a successful assignment may lead to insights on what works well in a course; a close look at a less successful assignment may reveal a need to incorporate scaffolding assignments and additional support. Clicking on an assignment’s dot on the chart will reveal additional statistics, including a grade distribution chart and the number of missing and late submissions. 

Clicking the Weekly Online Activity tab will show a chart of the average page views and course participation actions during each week of the course. Viewing this chart can help you identify whether engagement with your Canvas course is waning, holding steady, or growing. Beneath the chart is a table of course resources which shows how many students have viewed each item, how many overall views it’s received, and how many times a student has participated (a list of the actions Canvas counts as a “participation” can be found in this Canvas guide). You can sort this table by any of its columns to identify which elements of your course get the most and least engagement. If an important resource in your course isn’t garnering as many views as you’d like it to, ask yourself “why?” and consider ways to either guide your students to that resource or phase it out and incorporate its key content into the resources your students are reliably viewing (Clum, 2021). Look at the resources that have gotten the most views and participation and check for commonalities to gain insight on what captures your students’ attention. You can click on any data point in the Weekly Online Activity chart to open a panel that shows activity data filtered for that specific week. The data in this panel can give you an idea of whether students are keeping up with the pace of your course or whether they are still working through older resources. 

Checking on Individual Students 

New Analytics can also help you identify students who may benefit from an intervention from a professional adviser because they have disengaged with your course or never engaged at all. The Students tab of the New Analytics page shows a table with the following statistics for each student: 

  • Current grade 
  • Percentage of assignment submissions made on time 
  • Last date of a participation action 
  • Last date the student viewed any page in your course 
  • Count of total page views 
  • Count of total participation actions 

You can click any column header on this table to sort the table by that column. Looking at this table during the first few weeks of a term and sorting it by “Page Views” can help you quickly identify students who have not engaged with the Canvas course. Students with no or very low page view counts have not engaged with your course. You can issue an ad-hoc alert in EAB Navigate to request that UW-Green Bay’s professional advising team reach out and help set a student on a path to academic success. 

Clicking on a student’s name in this table will open a student-specific data view that shows that particular student’s assignment grades and weekly activity over time. If you’ve noticed a downturn in a student’s performance or engagement, this view can help back up your observations with data. Comparing a student’s assignment grades or activity with the class average can help you contextualize any trends you see. You can view an individual student’s data alongside the class average on the same chart by adding that student to the filter field above the chart on the Course Grade or Weekly Online Activity tabs.

Sending Smart Messages 

Sending Smart Messages in Canvas

New Analytics also makes it easy to send messages to students who fit certain performance or activity criteria. As you explore the Analytics tool in your course, keep an eye out for the message icon that can be found on most of the tabs and panels. Clicking this icon will begin composing a Canvas Inbox message which you can send to students that meet a customizable criterion related to an assignment grade, weekly activity, or engagement with a specific resource. Here are a few examples of the types of messages you can target through New Analytics: 

  • Check-in with students who haven’t yet viewed the course this week 
  • Send congratulations to the students who did well on an assignment 
  • Encourage a growth mindset for students who struggled with an assignment and point them to helpful resources 
  • Remind students who have missing assignments to make a submission 

These quick instructor encouragements and interventions can help your students stay engaged with the course and on-target to reach their goals (Bostwick & Becker-Blease, 2018). Especially in online asynchronous courses, sending these targeted check-in messages can help establish your presence and ensure that students know you care about their success. 

Try It Out!

Coupling the data in Canvas New Analytics with the observations you make while teaching can help you make accurate judgments about what works well and not so well in your course. It can also help you identify when a student needs some additional support, and the incorporated messaging tool makes it easy to follow-up. We encourage you to open the New Analytics page in your Canvas courses, explore the data within, and ask yourself whether what you see aligns with your assumptions of how students experience your course. Try sending a congratulatory message to the students that excelled on an assignment and a friendly reminder message to the students who owe you work. We’d love to hear about your experience exploring and interpreting the data! Please feel free to reach out to us at CATL@uwgb.edu to tell us your story, ask a question, or request a consultation!

References 

  • Bostwick, K. C. P., & Becker-Blease, K. A. (2018). Quick, Easy Mindset Intervention Can Boost Academic Achievement in Large Introductory Psychology Classes. Psychology Learning & Teaching, 17(2), 177–193. https://doi.org/10.1177/1475725718766426 
  • Clum, K. (2021, May 14). Using canvas analytics to support student success. KatieClum.org. Retrieved December 5, 2022, from https://katieclum.org/2021/05/14/using-canvas-analytics-to-support-student-success/ 

Call for 2023 OPID Spring Conference – The Joys of Teaching and Learning: Centering Students (Applications Due Monday, Jan. 9)

The UW System Office of Professional & Instructional Development (OPID) has announced the details for their annual spring conference on teaching and learning! The 2023 conference will be held in person in Madison and via Zoom on Apr. 20 & 21, 2023, and the theme for this year is “centering students.” OPID invites you to participate by submitting a proposal about your teaching and learning experiences, ideas, insights, questions, failures, and accomplishments. The call is open to all UW educators, and proposals are due Monday, Jan. 9, 2023.

Learn More & Apply

Theme

The Joys of Teaching & Learning: Centering Students

Description provided by the OPID 2023 Spring Conference on Teaching & Learning website.

From the classroom to department meetings and from learning management systems to addressing mental health and wellbeing, students are the focus of our professional lives. In the past few years, we have increased our attention to centering our teaching practices around the “whole student.” Re-examining assessment strategies, updating curriculum, exploring teaching methods and modalities while increasing flexibility and compassionate responses to students’ needs are just a few examples.

Centering Students is what we do as educators and is tied to our goals, challenges and the rewards of teaching and learning. As we deal with the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have an opportunity to explore what we have learned, and what we still need to learn, about connecting with and supporting students. How might we consider what we need in terms of self-care and care for colleagues so we can feel a sense of well-being and enable us to better care for others around us? How do we cultivate relationships and create a sense of community with our students? How do we bring student voices into our face-to-face, online, and blended learning environments? What opportunities are there to cultivate connections both within and external to our class environments? How can we meet students where they are, while advising and mentoring them to succeed beyond our learning contexts?

We invite you to contribute to the conversation about centering students by presenting at OPID’s 2023 Spring Conference. Please share your experiences, ideas, insights, questions, failures, and accomplishments so we can collaborate and learn together to explore possibilities for centering students in our teaching/learning contexts.

Read more about the theme and plenary speaker on the OPID 2023 Spring Conference on Teaching & Learning site!

Questions?

Programmatic inquiries may be directed to Fay Akindes, Director of Systemwide Professional and Instructional Development, UW System, fakindes@uwsa.edu, (608) 263-2684.