St. Thomas E-Learning And Research - The Intersection of Technology and Pedagogy
Best Practices, Tips, and Tricks, Technology Tools

8 Tips for Launching Your Canvas Course

Each semester, consider these 8 tips for launching your Canvas course.   

  1. Hide unused buttons.  Eliminate confusion and streamline the student experience by hiding any unused left-navigation buttons. You can also reorder the items in the left navigation to suit your needs. 
  1. Post your Syllabus in Syllabus. In the Fall 2018 semester, more than 80% of St. Thomas students clicked on Syllabus in Canvas, expecting to find their course Syllabus. Make finding your Syllabus easy for students by posting your syllabus in Syllabus (found in the left navigation). You can upload a Word document or PDF or copy/paste the text directly into the page’s rich content editor. 
  1. Organize your course chronologically in Modules. Organizing your course chronologically in Modules creates a natural progression through course materials and activities each week and eases navigation. It also helps students manage their workload because the modules can be one-stop shop for everything they need—an overview page to provide context, a list of assigned readings, videos, or links, and assignments. 
  1. Stream course videos through Panopto. Uploading or recording new videos in Panopto (St. Thomas’ video streaming and management system) gives you the ability to embed/link that video directly in Canvas, so students won’t need to download the video to view it, and you won’t need to worry about running out of space with large video files. 
  1. Send course updates via Announcements. The best way to send a message to the whole class is to post an Announcement. Doing so triggers an email, a Canvas app push notification, and a text notification (depending on how students set up their notifications) all of which tell students a new announcement exists. All announcements are also saved in the Announcements tool for future reference. 
  1. Turn files into Pages. Using Canvas Pages instead of files makes your content easily accessible on any device or operating system. Instead of presenting a series of files (handouts, documents, and PDFs) to students, you can use Canvas Pages to present the same information. The power of Pages is that you can present short instructions, long articles, hyperlink to websites, as well as link to multiple documents, all on a single page. You can also increase the visual appeal of your content with page headings, images, color, and much more. 
  1. Publish, publish, publish.  Courses, by default, are not available to students until you publish them. For students to see your course content, you must publish the course, the modules, and the items. Use Student View to make sure that the content you choose to share with students is available. (The Syllabus is automatically available as soon as the course is published.) 
  1. Check your dates. Check your start and end dates in Settings to make sure your course is scheduled to open and close when you want. Remember, students won’t have access to the course (even if it is published) until the start date occurs. Also make sure the dates in your Syllabus match the dates built into your modules, assignment descriptions, Canvas calendar, and announcements.  

This post includes contributions from Katherine M. Nelson, St. Thomas Innovation & Technology Services Communications and Training Manager, and was slightly modified from a Dec 4, 2018, blog (Point Tune-Up) first contributed by STELAR Instructional Designer Darcy Turner. To learn more about the St. Thomas E-Learning and Research (STELAR) Center at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn, visit STELAR’s website or email us at stelar@stthomas.edu.

Accessibility, Best Practices, Tips, and Tricks

Making Your Canvas Site More Accessible

Canvas as a Hub for Accessibility

Glori Hinck and Jo Montie

Glori Hinck and Jo Montie of STELAR recently presented at the InstructureCon 2019 (Canvas) conference on the topic of accessibility in Canvas courses.  It wasn’t that long ago that disability activists were fighting for physically accessible public spaces.  As educators, we need to advocate to make digital spaces, including our online course content, accessible to everyone.  What’s more, all students will benefit from a proactive approach to accessibility, not only those with documented disabilities.  For example, students may have an undiagnosed learning disability or English may be their second language.  Take a few moments to experience web accessibility from the perspective of a student with a vision or hearing impairment or loss of mobility.  Can you zoom your Canvas site to 200% without loss of content or functionality?  Navigate without a mouse?  Understand the content with the volume turned down?  Not sure how to get started?  Review the sites below for more information about accessibility.

Accessibility Resources

Accessible U

The University of Minnesota’s Accessible U website provides a wealth of information on how to make your course content more accessible.  They recommend starting with 6 core accessibility skills:

  1. Headings and Document Structure
  2. Hyperlinks
  3. Video Captions
  4. Bullets and Numbered Lists
  5. Color and Contrast
  6. Image Alt Text

STELAR Accessibility Course Site

STELAR has created a course site for sharing information and resources around accessibility.  Contact us via email at stelar@stthomas.edu if you would like to be added to this site.

Center for Faculty Development

You can also learn more about your role in creating an accessible, inclusive classroom at the Center for Faculty Development’s Accessibility page.

Canvas Accessibility Checker

Did you know that Canvas has an Accessibility Checker?  Simply click on the accessibility icon on the right side of the text editor for an accessibility report on a Canvas page.

 

 

 

 

 

This post was written by Glori Hinck, EdD, an Instructional Designer for the St. Thomas E-Learning and Research (STELAR) Center at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. To learn more about this topic, please visit our website at www.stthomas.edu/stelar or email us at stelar@stthomas.edu.

Best Practices, Tips, and Tricks

More Ideas about How to Enhance Your Online Discussions

This post builds off another post I wrote in May 2018 titled Enhance Your Online Discussions. In that post, I spoke briefly about best practices for writing online discussion prompts and shared some ideas I learned about at a conference. If you haven’t read that article, I recommend you start there and come back here when you’re finished.

In this post, I will highlight a few more techniques I learned about at the April 2019 Online Learning Consortium (OLC) Conference that took place in Denver, CO.

Using Images

This method allows students to share an image either in lieu of or in addition to what they would normally post. For example, in a marketing course, you could ask students to visit a local store and take pictures of a marketing display. They would then share the picture(s), perhaps with a short description or analysis, in the discussion thread. This could apply to any course where pictures of things found in nature, workplaces, schools, museums, or factories would be relevant to the content. Pictures of different types of infrastructure might also be valuable in some disciplines. This method provides variety and allows both you and your students to bring some creativity into the course.

Bringing In Outside Discussions

This method gives students a prompt around a particular topic, and students then discuss a particular viewpoint or set of questions with someone in their life, like a friend, colleague, or family member. These discussions can happen either in-person or over the phone. After this conversation has taken place, students log in to their online discussion board, share a reflection, and consider the ways their views on the topic may have changed during the course of their conversation. This method is a great way to add an in-person element to online discussions and to switch things up.

Role Play

This method works well if you want students to discuss a thorny issue that has many different viewpoints and stakeholders. Before the discussion takes place, students will be assigned to play a certain role as they participate in the discussion. For example, if you want students to discuss vaccinations, they could respond from the viewpoint of a pediatrician, a parent who is morally opposed to vaccinations, a parent with a child too young to receive vaccinations, an unvaccinated college student living in the dorms, or any other relevant stakeholders. This gives students the opportunity to think about an issue from a perspective that may be different from their own or that they haven’t previously considered. It also reduces the likelihood of the “Great point, I agree!” responses that are regrettably common in online discussions.

Fishbowl

In the fishbowl method, the class is split into two halves. One half participates in the online discussion as normal (inside the fishbowl) while the other half watches the discussion as an observer (outside the fishbowl). Once the discussion has closed, the students who did not participate consider what they learned by hearing and reflecting on what they saw their peers share and respond to several reflection questions. They then submit this response directly to the instructor as an assignment.

 

So there you have it! Four new ways to spice up your online discussions and create more variety in your online courses. Feel free to leave us a comment below if you try one of these methods in your course or have ideas other than those shared here.

This post was written by Karin Brown on behalf of the St. Thomas E-Learning and Research (STELAR) Center at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. Please visit our website at www.stthomas.edu/stelar or email us at stelar@stthomas.edu.

STELAR Partnerships with Faculty

Dean Yohuru Williams Visits Media Production Students in OEC Multimedia Production Studio

Dean Yohuru Williams of the university’s College of Arts and Sciences visited the OEC Multimedia Production Studio on May 2 to observe TommieMedia staff producing two segments of their Locker Room sports report program.

TommieMedia production team with Dean Yohuru Williams

TommieMedia production team with CAS dean Yohuru Williams

 

During his visit, Dean Williams offered words of praise and encouragement to the students, saying how impressed he was with their level of commitment to their work and that their commitment shows in the quality of their recordings.

 

Mark Neuzil, Communication Journalism professor noted, “The student journalists were very appreciative of the visit by the dean. Many of them were in new roles for the broadcast, and they did their jobs well. And they didn’t seem too nervous with a celebrity in the control room.”

 

Inside the control room during production

“My favorite memory of his visit was when he joined me during my debriefing after the show.”, said Studio Producer MacKenzie Bailey.  “He shared his thoughts on how well our show ran in comparison with his prior experience in other high-level media productions. I’m glad we had the chance to show him part of what student media is capable of at the University of St. Thomas.”

 

Dean Williams is no stranger to high-level media production.

Chatting with students and staff after the day’s recording

 

Dan Lamatsch, STELAR video engineer and OEC studio manager noted, “It’s pretty neat to know that the dean of the university’s College of Arts and Sciences knows exactly what it takes to make high-quality media.  He’s been interviewed by many media outlets and has recorded several segments for CNN docuseries on broadcast television and on Netflix.”

 

STELAR supports the OEC Multimedia Production Studio in OEC.  TommieMedia is the university’s student-run multimedia news production organization.  It is an immersive on-campus employment option for students enrolled in a Communication Journalism (COJO) degree track including journalism, reporting, graphic design, public relations, media production, videography, photography, or advertising.

 

Watch “TommieMedia’s The Locker Room”

 

This post was written by Dan Lamatsch, Senior Engineer for AV Technologies for the St. Thomas E-Learning and Research (STELAR) Center at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. To learn more about this topic, please visit our website at www.stthomas.edu/stelar or email us at stelar@stthomas.edu.

Technology Tools

Art History in 3D

Virtual reality has been around for about two years now, and new educational applications are emerging every day. In the first image below, Dr. Heather Shirey’s art history class use the ClassVR system to view a 360-degree image of the Temple of Palmyra, in Syria (bottom image), giving students the illusion of standing in the middle of the temple. These detailed, 3-dimensional images become particularly precious as this historical site has been significantly and intentionally damaged by warfare in recent years. The ClassVR system is a group of connected virtual reality goggles that can be controlled from a central location, allowing a professor to send images to all headsets at once, create playlists of related subjects, upload their own 360-degree photos or allow students to explore on their own. When it’s time to leave virtual reality, they can all be shut down at once, too! If you are interested in exploring ClassVR for your own project, come talk to us in STELAR!

ClassVR in Art History

Temple of Bel, Palmyra

Temple of Bel, Palmyra 15.jpg” by Bernard Gagnon (Own work) is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

This post was written by Eric Tornoe, Associate Director of Research Computing for the St. Thomas E-Learning and Research (STELAR) Center at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. To learn more about this topic, please visit our website at www.stthomas.edu/stelar or email us at stelar@stthomas.edu.