Presentation: HTML and Advanced Formatting in Canvas (Aug. 20, 11 a.m.–12:30 p.m.)

Join CATL for a presentation and Q&A session Friday, August 20 from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. We’ll be covering the advanced and sometimes “hidden” editing features in Canvas pages, syllabi, assignments, and other areas of Canvas where the Rich Content Editor can be found. We’ll cover layouts, tables, buttons, callouts, linking within and between pages, and doing more with images.

This is a great topic for those who wish to freshen up the overall look and feel of their Canvas site, incorporate new or improved banner images, want to make their content more accessible, are building liquid syllabi, or just want to see more of what Canvas can do!

Click Here to Join via MS Teams

Workshop: Using the Canvas Grades Tool (Aug. 25 and 30)

Need some time with a Teaching, Learning, and Technology Consultant from CATL as we transition into the fall semester? In addition to our virtual office hours, we’ll be holding some presentations and workshops on teaching with tools like PlayPosit, VoiceThread, and Zoom. As always, reach out about scheduling a consultation if these topics, dates, and times do not align with your schedules!

Here are the times for our Using the Canvas Grades Tool workshop:

  • Wednesday, Aug. 25, 8–9 a.m. 
  • Monday, Aug. 30, 9–10 a.m. 

Join a session via Zoom

Call for Participants: Liquid Syllabus Pilot

Looking to spice up your syllabus for Fall 2021? Consider going digital with a liquid syllabus! CATL is looking for instructors to pilot our liquid syllabus Canvas template. A liquid syllabus is a media-rich, web-friendly syllabus written in welcoming, student-centered language. Our template takes these elements into consideration and packages them conveniently in Canvas’s built-in Syllabus page. If you are interested in trying out our template and providing us with feedback, please register below.

Register Here

FAQ

Does the liquid syllabus template meet the University’s requirements for a syllabus?

Yes, the template meets all the requirements on the University’s syllabus checklist.

If I sign up for the pilot, do I have to use the template for my fall courses?

While we encourage you to try using the template for a course this fall, you are also welcome to use it for a course in a future semester or just experiment with it in a sandbox course.

How do I get access to the template?

When you register, we will ask you to provide a link to the instructional course or sandbox course you’d like the template added to. A CATL member will import the template into the Syllabus page of your Canvas course and then email you to notify you when it’s ready to use.

Can I change, add, or delete parts of the template?

Certainly! In fact, we highly encourage you to make the template your own. Our language is there as an example, but it will mean more to your students if your messages are customized. After making changes, we encourage you to check your template against the University’s syllabus guidelines to ensure that your final product still meets all standards.

I need a PDF or print version of my syllabus—what should I do?

We will include instructions on how to save your syllabus as a PDF when you register, but the short version is that in your browser you can right-click on the body of your Syllabus page, select “Print”, and then change the printer destination to “Save As PDF”.

How can I learn more about liquid syllabi or this template?

Our blog post on liquid syllabi is a great introduction to the concept if you want to learn more before you sign up. We also have a session recording where we go through our liquid syllabus template and explain each section in detail. As always, feel free to email us at catl@uwgb.edu if you have more questions.

So You Want to Be Flexible: Canvas Can Help

Article by Luke Konkol

In a time when students might require extra flexibility, it’s important to remember that it should not come at the expense of instructor bandwidth. Providing extensions on student work, alternative assignments, or dropping work can have a positive impact on students, but how can we best find the sweet spot between an inflexible structure and ‘anything goes’? Some answers lie in Canvas features. In this post, I’ll share a few ideas of how you might set up Canvas for your own benefit, in addition to students’.

“I Just Need a Little More Time.”

By default when you make a Canvas assignment, it’s assigned to every student and the due dates apply accordingly. However, you can also get specific and assign different dates to individual students. It’s easy to get lost in a sea of emails asking for extensions, and masses of sticky notes and spreadsheets suggest that no method of tracking them has been totally effective. By updating the assignment dates for each student who gets an extension, Canvas will track this for you and the student alike.

Some instructors also don’t realize how late work shows up on the student side. When work is late, Canvas is overly clear, marking it with a big red “LATE”. This can be off-putting to otherwise achieving students—especially when the work is not actually late. Adjusting a student’s individual due date means their work will only be marked as late if it is submitted past their specific due date.

A Usable Gradebook

An indication of ‘late’ work also shows up in your gradebook. Unfortunately, Canvas doesn’t make their cacophony of symbols and highlights transparent anywhere within the gradebook itself, so those individual cells just turn into noise. This is less true if you can use these features of the gradebook to their full potential. One first step is using individual due dates as described above; when you do, the highlight for “late” work starts to mean something.

Excusing and Dropping

Canvas grading is also not as “all or nothing” as it first appears. What seems like a flaw can work to our advantage: anything un-graded does not count against students in the way a zero would. But it’s sometimes difficult for students (and the future you) to interpret this lack of data. Canvas has thought this one through. You can make it explicit which assignments will not be counted towards a student’s final grade by marking such assignment as “excused”.

Excusing work is a good option if the dropped score doesn’t apply to everyone, but what if you want to discount a graded item for the entire class? You can tell Canvas to drop certain assignments, such as the lowest in an assignment group, by setting up assignment group rules. The thing to remember is to enter those zeroes for missing assignments—otherwise Canvas will drop the lowest scored assignment instead.

Assignment Groups

In fact, there are several tricks you can use so the Canvas gradebook tracks scores but assignments ‘count’ differently. For example, some instructors prefer to manually assign scores elsewhere but still want Canvas to serve as the interface for student work. A rather extreme example (using labor-based grading) can be found here. Whenever you use unconventional grading methods, the key is to be transparent with students about what Canvas (and you) are doing. This guide on group weights is enough to get you started on this advanced topic, but we recommend setting up a CATL consultation if this is something you’d be interested in exploring further.

The Learning is in the Doing “So Far”

These tips demonstrate the way in which, at first blush, Canvas seems to focus its flexibility on the student side of the equation. This is to say, instructor errors (like forgetting to enter a zero) seem to unduly benefit the student. But these effects are just symptoms of a wider philosophy underlying the way Canvas works. Like any learning management system, Canvas is based on the idea that a certain transaction is taking place, but instead of focusing on a raw accumulation of points (like other LMSs) Canvas’s approach to scoring is a reflection of how students are doing “so far”. If a student only does one of ten assignments but does it well, Canvas tracks this as success.

What does this do for us? For me, it clues us into a different way to think about student progress—and one that speaks directly to students achieving objectives. If we want students to be able to X, why have a dozen assignments asking them to do so if they succeed in doing it in two or three? Despite a distaste for ‘busy work’ shared by instructors and students alike, it tends to creep into the online environment. The silver lining is that the boost in remote learning (where the necessity that we clearly articulate the work we expect from students is highlighted) has revealed the craving we all seem to have for objective-centered student work.

A Note on Objectives

So, you want a student’s grade to reflect their meeting objectives instead of a raw accumulation of points. Now what? That’s a good question—and the answer is bigger than we’ve got the space to address here. My temporary answer is a cop-out: keep your objectives in mind as the driving factor for using the techniques I’ve provided above.

But give it some further thought. If this idea of objectives-based grading is intriguing to you, consider that Canvas has a spot for you to create outcomes and that you can then attach these outcomes to assignments.

As if this weren’t enough, Canvas even has an alternative gradebook based on what they call “learning mastery” which tracks this very thing using benchmarks for mastery you set. I didn’t advertise this above because the focus of this post is on practical action you can take now to save yourself some work, but if this is something you’d like to explore further, please don’t hesitate to schedule a consultation!

What Do You Think?

How do you manage flexibility in your courses? What Canvas (or other) ‘hacks’ do you have to share with your colleagues? Let us know below! I’ve also been thinking a bit lately about how some of these practices (e.g. objective-based grading) might be worth keeping around even once things “go back to normal”. I’m curious to hear from you on this. How have your grading practices changed? Is there anything you’ve started doing that you plan on keeping going forward?

Canvas Certified Educator Program Call for Participants (Due Mar. 5, 2021)

The UW System Administration Office of Learning and Information Technology (OLIT) has issued a call for participants for the new Canvas Certified Educator skill mastery certification program offered by Instructure, the parent company of Canvas.

This professional development program for educators includes a series of six courses designed to strengthen knowledge and use of Canvas through hands-on experiences. Accepted applicants will receive a full scholarship to complete the program with a cohort of 37 UW System participants that will launch on March 29, 2021. More information about the program and application instructions are available in the call for participants.

Applications are due Friday, March 5, 2021.