Canvas Student Tips
that you have been using Canvas for about a week, here are some tips
that may (or may not) be of help. Some of you are brand new to
any LMS like Canvas while others are here for the first time from
Angel. Of course, I have been using Canvas for a year, so some of
you have been in my other courses as early adopters.
Sure, all the point and clicks are important, but I am more interested
in the experience at this point. It is hopeful that these tips
provide you with a better experience as you navigate through your
Keep in mind, all of your instructors are also in Canvas for the first time. They are learning as well.
You will have questions. Yes, as in any software, there are bugs,
but, for the most part, you will not notice these (or you will find one
that can be reported).
- First of all,
Instructure (http://www.instructure.com) is the company that owns
Canvas. Canvas came live in February, 2011, and has spread like a
wildfire. Canvas is true Cloud Software. There are no
servers at Instructure (in Utah). There are no servers at
Champlain College. The entire software is Amazon Cloud based. So
far, there have been no performance issues, network issues, disk
issues..nothing. This is pretty noteworthy.
- Instructure follows
true Rapid Agile Development. There are no software version
numbers. The software is updated live every three weeks. It
used to be every two weeks. It has happened to me many times, and
it will happen to you. It is what I call: Now You See it,
Now you Don't (and vice versa). There will be times when you will enter
your course, and some functional component (not course component) will
change. This strategy is an excellent approach to software
development. If something looks different, take a few minutes (at
most), and you will figure it out. Better yet, bookmark this
page: http://help.instructure.com/forums/337224-product-release-notes -
these release notes do a great job. Again, changes occur every
three weeks. The last was on May 11, 2013. If you want, you can
subscribe to the release notes discussions.
- One thing you should notice, is that in Canvas itself, there is almost nothing that is more than one click away.
Many of the courses have been designed with content that follows this
approach. Sure, the screen real estate may appear to bee filled,
but remember, you can always compress / collapse each module.
- Ok, I do not know what instructions you were given when you first
were enrolled in a Canvas course, but some of you are logging into
Angel, and then clicking the link to Canvas. FORGET about
Angel. You can go to the portal: http://my.champlain.edu and
select Canvas from the Student menu, or you can go directly to:
http://champlain.instructure.com (probably the best method) - You will use your Champlain College
login credentials. NOTE: as of 5/17, regradless of the browser
you are using, you cannot truely "log out" of Canvas. This has
something to do with the 5/11 software update which altered the way we
accomplish single login credentials. I have reported this.
It will be fixed (or maybe already has when you read this).
This is the usually the first thing all folks
notice. You are in a module. You click on say
Discussions. You go into Discussions, but the breadcrumbs to get
back (top of screen) bring you to Discussions, and not back to
Modules. You have to actually click on the Modules Menu item to
return to a module. This is not an error. This is not poor
design. Keep in mind - Canvas is Function (Discussions,
Assignments, Pages, etc) based. Courses are Module based.
Once you get rolling, you will probably go directly to Discussions for
a Week rather than to the module first. The mobile apps are
certainly (now) all Function based, and not module based. The Modules
pages are designed straight from Angel, except there are no folders in
Canvas. So the real estate in the module screen can get
lengthy. In a 15 week course broken into modules it is even more
lengthy. On the right of each module banner is a collapse banner
which works quite well. Just collapse the module you do not wish
to see. Each time you log in, the way you have collapsed these
modules remains intact.
- This leads us to Mobile - something we all have been shouting
for. Now it is here. Canvas works well in any browser on
any device. But there are optimized mobile apps for both IOS and
Android. Canvas IOS works great on an iPhone. It works even
better on the Ipad. The same holds true for your Android
devices. These products are in an even more of a rapid state of
development. It is highly suggested that you try out these
apps. Of course, for long discussions, you may not want to use a
mobile device. I think you will be impressed with the features..and
keep in mind - they will change rapdily over time.
- All of you should set your profile by either clicking on Settings
or your Name in the upper right of the screen. Enter a
picture. It does NOT have to be a picture of you if you do not want. Enter a Bio. Change how you would like to be
notified of certain events. You certainly can get notified to
your champlain email....OR....to an alternate email, to a text message,
to Twitter, or to Facebook. Sounds great....but do not get
carried away. At bare minimum, you may want to be notified ASAP
for an Announcement, or a Grade Posted, or a communications
(email). The rest..well you will figure it out (but do not smash
your phone in a week. Just turn off the notification). By
having a picture, a Bio, and other enabled services will help pull us
away quicker from the mostly text based communications in courses, and
of course will add the personal touch to a variety of Canvas functions.
- As you may have noticed, in every place you can edit text in
Canvas, there is also the ability to add audio / video. Try
it! Keep them short (lesst than 2 minutes - a minute best). They
work great. You will see your instructors taking advantage of
this feature. You should too.
- Canvas Discussions & Communications: there is no such
thing as "New Post", or "Subject", and some other traditional (and
waning) "features". This will take some time, but Canvas does
follow the communication mechanisms of modern communications
systems. You may be in just a single curse now, but the Canvas
Communication system is like a full email system in itself. I
have many courses, and I can actually send an email to any student or
any instructor at any level in the College. Also, when you submit
an assignment and make a comment, or when your instructor makes a note
on an assigmnet - these notes go to the Canvas Communications
system. If an instructor grades an assignment, and uses the built
in Assignment Mark-up features, you have to view your assignment in
Canvas to see the comments. If your instructor downloads the
assignment, and marks it up in Word, the you have to download their
marked-up assignment (like in Angel).
- Discussions: By defulat (like the rest of the modern world) Canvas discussions
designed to be Unthreaded. Threaded discussions are a recent add
to Canvas. Some (or all) of your course discussions may be set to
Threaded. In MSMIIT courses, the main discussions are set to
Threaded. The surrounding discussions are set to Threaded.
I encourage instructors to test Unthreaded in the Main
discussions. The majority of folks seem to prefer the ease of
"following" Unthreaded Discussions (I guess this is the reason why the
rest of the world uses Unthreaded). Bear with your instructors as
they test / migrate from Threaded discussions (if they do).
- More on Discussions: In order to mark a post as read in Canvas, all one
has to do is scroll past the discussion and it gets marked as
Read. I am sure some of you have logged in to check
discussions. You see you have a ton unread. So you scroll
down the page to take a look. Well, by scrolling, you just marked
them a Read. Just keep this in mind. Unread discussions have a blue
dot next to the post. As you scroll past it, the blue dot runs grey
indicating the post has been read. When you first go into a particular
discussion, you can click the Unread button, and all the Unread posts
will be displayed, but they may not be in context with the rest of the
thread. Hence, you can click on "view In Discussions" to see the post
in context. It is a little different. There are many requests in the
pipeline as far as discussions are concerned. You will see discussions
change over time with software updates. My personal preference is just
to scroll down a particular discussion question to see the Unread
posts. I have tried it many different ways, but prefer just to scroll,
which is actually pretty quick. Of course folks will still base
opinions on "the way Angel did it".... which many folks complained
about anyway. But if you use modern day discussions in social media
today, Canvas follows the protocol (yet is not fully aware of how
chatty some discussions can get in some courses).
as of the 6/1/2013 release, you can now manually mark discussions
as Read ot Unread. Please follow the instructions
- As we move forward an incorporate more Canvas features, it is
important that you keep your computers, browsers, software, up to
date. This is important in general. It is also important
that you keep current your media playing software (whatever that
is). However, many items play / display within Canvas with the
built-in conversion software - like SCRIBD. BE PATIENT as some
videos / pdfs / etc may take a little bit of time to load. If you
are impatient, you can just download the item, and play / display it
locally. Yeah, and some like to print everything. You can
accomplish this quite easily as well. If you would lkie some good
sources / software to save references / links / and more, check these
out: Zotero (http://www.zotero.org/) is one such tool.
Another is Quiqqa: http://www.quiqqa.com.
- With software such as Canvas, there are well over a thousand
feature requests. There are certainly a slew of bug
reports. Be patient. As mentioned above...changes / fixes
are sure to come rapdily. You will probably not notice the bugs.
It is certain you will have a lot of thoughts / suggestions.
- Note: if you call the provided support line, right now, you
are not contacting anyone a Champlain College. You are calling
Instructure in Utah. The service is exceptional, but, I am sure
that the calls will be minimal. Just send a comunications note to
your instructor. Remember, we are all learning, but we are all
committed to the success of the implemention. The summer session
is the first large rollout of courses even though courses have been
taight in Canvas since the start of the Spring Session.
- Submitting Assignments: Submitting an assignment with a
file (most submissions) is easy in Canvas. Basically, you "enter"
the assignment, and on the right of the screen it says: Submit
Assignment. This is where you locate and attach your file.
You can also enter a comment if you would like. In some cases,
there may be a text block where your assignment completion can be
entered there. In most cases, this is not present when the
submission is a file. If the assignment allows for both a file
and / or a text entry, then use both. The text entry is really
not for a general comment. Remember that general comments go to
the Inbox, and are not visible when vieweing the assignment.
- Of course, the converstion from Angel to Canvs is a huge
task. Of course, there will be some errors that may Spring
up. Be paitent. Alert your instructor. It will be
fixed. Most Canvas courses have been created directly from an
Angel export. Other courses, have been created from
scratch. In either case, "stuff" happens. In the first pass
of every course, items will come up. This is expected, but will
hopefully be minimal. Over time, you will see the face of courses
changing as the great features of Canvas are incorporated.
Hopefully, maybe immediately, all those "frustrating" Angel comments on
IDEA evaluations will not be present for Canvas. Maybe there will
even be some positive comments. Remember, the LMS is only 20% of
the equation. The rest of the equation is you, the instructor,
and the course. The hope is to minimize the LMS in-your-face all
the time - to more where the comtent stands out, and the LMS is just
the tool that enhaces learning.
- If your courses have Group work, take the time to use some of the
incredible group features. Certainly you may be provided with a
"seed" discussion. Yet, the powerfule features will see are a great
enhancement to the collaboration potential within courses. The
built-in Web Conferencing feature is great. Use it where possible.