This July I had the privilege of attending InstructureCon (a.k.a. Canvas Conference) along with fellow Vanguard faculty Bonni Stachowiak and Naomi Kasa.
This conference centered around our learning management system, Canvas. Since this conference was more tech than pure academia, it was incredibly fun to feel a different vibe.
The theme of the conference was Mission: InstructureCon, 0017 and they did not disappoint in sticking with the theme. Austin Powers night was especially entertaining, shark balloons with lasers attached, and all! But enough of that, the conference itself was also quite informative.
As the self-labeled “non-techie” of the group, I found it helpful to see all the possibilities of what can be accomplished through Canvas. Here I share a few things I learned that will hopefully help the other non-techies out there!
- Calendar Feature: The students benefit when all professors use Canvas for assignment due dates. There is a beautiful master calendar available for students to see all classes at once. We have so many students who are the first in their family to go to college so helping them get organized is such a wonderful way to support our first-generation students.
- Importing a Class: This saves me time! I can import all that I did in a previous class and then just modify a few things.
- Plagiarism: Unfortunately, there are a number of students who plagiarize while at Vanguard and sometimes they don’t get caught. Canvas has a simple link to turnitin so that we can screen for plagiarism and retain a database of all past papers. This is so important! And all you have to do is choose External Tool under the submission type and then scroll down and pick turnitin. This automatically screens papers in Canvas when a student submits the paper.
- Grade Calculation: One thing I learned from the conference is that students are able to do “what if” grade calculations. If all the assignments are in the grade book and it is kept up to date, students can put a possible grade in the grade book for a future assignment to see how the overall grade would come out. It is a great way for students to stay on top of grades as they go along and not have to ask the professor many questions. So send your students back to Canvas to calculate their own grades.
- Home Page: The home page can be a great place to give students content to what is relevant at that portion of the semester. Rotating the home page or using buttons (to link to content) might keep the general interest of the students.
- Keeping Track of Assignments: I don’t lose assignments this way! I’ve always liked grading on paper but hauling stuff around gets complicated. This keeps it all in one place and I don’t lose late assignments. I accept late assignments for a few things and it plagues me every time. However, if they turn it in on Canvas, it is clear that there’s an ungraded assignment and that it is late in the grade book.
- Canvas Community: For those of you who have a question but aren’t sure how to get the answer, the Canvas Community is a helpful place. Go to the Canvas Community and search topics for help.
A Few Tips
- If you make comments in the speedgrader, students can respond to it, but you have to go turn notifications on in your settings in order to get notified that they responded. I’ve missed a number of comments because of this.
- If you have a course that ends after the set end date (which often happens in Professional Studies), you can go change the course end date in settings so students can still submit assignments.
- Just putting up the syllabus and assignments is really helpful for students.
Attending this conference made me excited for all the ways that I can use Canvas in the future. There are some advanced features in video, grade book, and design that I’d love to use in the future, but for now I am adding one new thing each semester to build a better course.
One person at the conference told me to think of Canvas not as a file dropping system, but more like a website. There’s so much that we can do as we build our courses and it can all be tailored to our own individual teaching styles. That’s pretty cool!