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A Second Canvas Experience

Judy FranksJudy Franks, a lecturer in the Integrated Media Communications program, has taken part in the Canvas pilot twice. In the Fall, she used Canvas for her Media Economics and Technology course, which was taught fully online. In the Winter quarter, she is using Canvas for the same course, which meets face to face. We got together recently to talk about what she’d learned and changed, based on her Fall experiences.

Judy has kept the organization of her course – in modules arranged by class session – the same from one quarter to the next. Each Module includes learning objectives, readings, audio recordings on what to expect in each class, a lab assignment, supplemental curriculum materials, and an interactive practice.  The Module is titled, “Everything You Need to Know” and the students appreciate having all resources in one place. One of Judy’s concerns about Canvas is that the analytics are not robust enough to let her know if students have visited all the items on a single page of information. She wishes that instructors could set tracking on an individual item, like a video, or use the analytics to show who had completed an interactive practice exercise.

The course’s home page is set to a calendar view so that students can see what is due and when. Judy has created audio messages on class days so that students know what to expect in each class session.  The audio messages are quick, easy to do, and the students appreciate having a snapshot of the class experience through a single click on the calendar. Judy also uses the announcements frequently.

Her favorite Canvas tool, she says, is the SpeedGrader, as it allows her to grade an assignment right off the rubric. “Oh my God, do I love the SpeedGrader!” She embeds the rubric in the assignment so that students know what they’re being evaluated on; then she uses it while she grades.

Perhaps Judy’s greatest innovation is her use of media comments. For discussion board posts and group assignments, she turns on the voice recorder and makes comments on a student’s topic, argument, and insight. “I think my CTECs [course evaluations] went way up,” she reports. The students in the fall term liked the individual attention Judy gave each of them, as evidenced by her oral comments on their work. Judy felt that the recording was a time-saver as well.

Judy made positive comments about the rubric, the grading tool, and the media comments. The discussion board, however, was a different story. She is frustrated that Canvas doesn’t allow students to start new threads – she found that discussion posts and replies could spill into the thousands of words and often meandered away from the original topic.

One change Judy has made this Winter is to move the work that had been designated for the discussion boards into lab assignments. She has moved the criteria used for evaluating the discussion board posts into the assignment tool instead.

While Judy has clear complaints about Canvas – including the analytics on student views and the discussion board – she states that the benefits of Canvas far outweigh Blackboard’s advantages and says, “Let me stay in Canvas!”