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A Student’s Perspective on Canvas Courses

I’ve used Canvas as a student since my high school days and now at Northwestern, too. Canvas is effective at meeting students’ needs. This is evident from the Fall 2016 Canvas student survey responses, which reveal that most students are satisfied with Canvas (see the chart below for more details).

Yet Canvas has been both a blessing and a curse when I’m trying to manage my coursework. It ultimately comes down to how Canvas is being used. I’ve seen courses in which the instructor prioritized Canvas usage. Other times, Canvas was just used as a place to dump files. But Canvas has the ability to extend the course far beyond the classroom. Here are some simple ways to use Canvas more robustly.

First, take advantage of online assignments. For a student like me, if an instructor uses assignments, it allows me to reliably check my homework assignments and due dates. Canvas also provides an easy way to access submission links because not every student is going to be aware of announcements that are created.

Another thing that is helpful to me is the organizational structure of the assignments area. Separating assignments into assignment groups really helps students to see the division between readings, quizzes, and exams, for example. By reducing clutter, it allows us to work more efficiently. We quickly know what our priorities are.

As more assignments are created, a student’s calendar automatically populates with them, so he or she can easily see what assignments are coming up and where bottlenecks may occur.

One final tip: It’s really nice when the landing page for the course isn’t blank. I find it helpful when this page is a true “home page” full of general information. It’s convenient for students and it also saves instructors time because they won’t have to answer so many emails from students.

A homepage doesn’t have to be as detailed as the above example, but investing some time in the infrastructure of a class may save time in the future. Confusion is reduced and students will spend more time on learning instead of trying to figure out course expectations.

Photo credit: Technology for All 

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