Student Voices about Canvas: Spring edition

In Fall of this year (my first semester using Canvas), and again this Spring, I did a mid-semester survey of my students that was focused specifically on Canvas. In the Fall I had hoped there would be some kind of survey of students about Canvas, but I was told no mid-semester survey was planned. I don’t know if there was any end-of-semester Canvas survey of students conducted; if there was, I never saw the results. Since I learned a lot from the Fall survey that was useful to me, I decided to do the survey again in the Spring for comparison purposes. You can see all the survey data here:
Fall 2016
Spring 2017


For the numeric ratings, the results were basically the same for both semesters. In comparison to D2L, the students on average rate Canvas “better” and about 1/3 of the students consider Canvas to be “far better” than D2L. Most of the students in my class are seniors so, like the faculty, they have years of experience with D2L, which means they are in a good position to compare the two systems.

I don’t use a lot of Canvas features, so the only features that I specifically asked students to rate were the Gradebook, Calendar, Messages, and Mobile App. In terms of the rating, the Gradebook is most highly rated (3.3 on a scale of 1 to 4), followed by the Calendar (2.8), then the Messages and Mobile App (both at 2.5).

Free Responses

As always, the most useful information is in the students’ free responses. I’d urge people just to read through the raw responses for Fall 2016 and Spring 2017 to get a sense of what they are like. I have a lot of thoughts about all of that, so to keep this blog post under control, I’ll just list 10 responses that come to mind.

1. Asking people to “give advice” on surveys is so productive! The most useful comments come from the two questions where I asked the students to give advice to instructors using Canvas and where I asked them to give advices to their fellow students. Unlike praise or complaints, advice is something actionable: when students give advice, they are oriented towards what people (instructors and students) can actually DO as we move to this new system so that we can make the best of it.

2. Students are driven by a focus on grades. Just speaking for myself, I consider the emphasis on grades to be a huge problem in education (details about my own un-grading here). Students are so focused on grades that they are not focused on their actual learning and how to become active, independent learners as they surely need to be. So, I’m not surprised that the Gradebook is the highest-rated Canvas feature, and if you read through the remarks in response to the question about what students like best about Canvas, it is comments about grades that predominate, as you can see in this word cloud from The fact that the LMS is largely an enrollment-and-grading tool is why I use the LMS very little in my own classes.

3. Email versus messages. There is a lot of dissatisfaction with Canvas messages, and some students said they would just prefer emails (like in D2L). Because of the extremely poor messaging inside the Canvas Gradebook compared to D2L, I send students a mix of Canvas messages and direct email, and I make sure to explain my approach to them. I don’t think students realize that we have no access to their email from inside Canvas (and I know there is faculty dissatisfaction with that also). It’s also clear that some students have either not configured the notifications at all or they find the configurations inadequate (getting too many messages by email or too few). I am very sympathetic to their wanting different settings for different classes, given that different instructors use Canvas in different ways.

4. Roster email. I was surprised to see how many students missed the roster email option; I had no idea students were even using that in D2L, and they have indeed noticed that it is not possible to email the whole class in Canvas. In my classes, I do Daily Announcements and I invite students to share announcements with me which I then include in the overall Announcements. I personally really don’t want students emailing the whole class with their own announcements, but I am very glad to publicize announcements for them as part of the regular class announcements.

5. Modules. Students clearly want course materials organized in modules, and they are frustrated if they have to navigate the Files, Assignments, or other areas to look for content that is not in a Module. There was also a good discussion of this topic at the Canvas Community recently: Faculty having a hard time with Modules (you can view that discussion without even logging in to the Community, which is great; to comment, you need to log in with your OU Canvas account).

6. Published… or not. A recurring student complaint is that faculty think they have published content when, in fact, they have not pressed the publish button. I’ve run into this problem myself; I think it would be a big help if Canvas made it much more obvious to faculty what materials have not been published yet, perhaps with some big banner across the top of each unpublished page. One student suggested that instructors use the Student View more so that they can realize for themselves where there are holes in the course as a result of unpublished materials. And, of course, experiencing the course as a student does is always a good idea; I personally really appreciate the way the Student View in Canvas is much more flexible than the D2L Student View was (you can actually complete assignments and view the Gradebook as a simulated student in Canvas).

7. Ready… or not. Students are also clearly frustrated when courses are not completely configured at the beginning of the semester. They want to be able to see all the content in advance and to use the grade calculator based on the whole semester. If faculty are adding and editing course materials as the semester goes along, students feel confused and/or frustrated.

8. Unused buttons. Several students remarked that instructors should disable course navigation buttons they are not using. Personally, I think it would be better to start out the default course spaces with only the homepage button enabled, and then let faculty ENABLE the buttons they are actually going to use since it is indeed unlikely that they are going to disable the buttons they are not using… although they certainly should do so!

9. Use the grace period. A couple of students recommended to instructors that they “use the grace period” which refers to the way that Canvas allows a soft deadline and a hard deadline for all assignments, which was not true in D2L. I’ve written about that elsewhere, and we had a good discussion about that just the other day in the Canvas Community: Grace Period.

10. Dashboard. Now that students are using Canvas for more classes, there were more remarks about the dashboard. I will write up a new Tech Tip to add to my collection (Canvas Tech Tips) to make sure students know what options they have for customizing the Dashboard. And I keep hoping the color overlay problem will be fixed soon (discouraging lack of updates here), because the Dashboard will be so much better when Canvas does not mess with our course card images. I like having the images, and I am eager to get rid of the overlay by next semester (fingers crossed…).

So, I’ll stop there, but I would encourage people to read the comments from my students or, even better, ask your own students what they think of how you are using Canvas. They might give you some great advice in return! 🙂

Mid-Semester Evaluation and Feedback

Next week (Week 8 of our semester) is a Review Week in my classes. The review is NOT because we have a test or exam to review for, but because reviewing and reflecting are essential for learning. Plus, I need feedback! I’ve written elsewhere about feedback for students (feedback, not grades), but even more important is the feedback that I get from the students about how the class is going. How else can I hope to improve? Like every learner, I need feedback too!

I am guessing other schools at at their mid-semester point right about now too, so I am curious what people are doing for mid-semester evaluations. Do you have institutional mid-semester evaluations? (My school has only end-of-semester evaluations.) In the absence of an institutional mid-semester evaluation, do you conduct your own?

Since I get a lot of value from conducting my own mid-semester evaluation, I thought I would write about it here!

So, in Week 8 of the semester, I replace the usual reading-reading-storytelling assignments that would normally occupy the first half of the week with a different set of assignments; here are all the Week 8 assignments, and these are the three assignments specifically designed for reflection and feedback:

Class Reflections. This is an open-ended blog post where the students reflect on the three types of activities they are engaged in each week: reading, writing, connecting. My hope is that this can encourage students to do some self-assessment, and I also learn a lot from hearing what they say; I read all these blog posts using Inoreader.

Growth Mindset. In this blog post, students look back on the Growth Mindset approach that they learned about back in Week 1 of the semester. Some students have done optional Growth Mindset reflection posts each week; other students have not engaged with it again since the start of the semester. I am really pleased with the chart I created to help students see mindset as a multidimensional construct, and the blog post prompts encourage them to see how their mindset might be different in different classes and in different areas of their lives.

I really enjoy these posts a lot because Growth Mindset is a topic that seems very good at shaking students free from their normal grade-seeking behavior in order to step back and think about learning instead. I usually learn more from these posts than from the Reflections post, but having the Reflection post come first is a good way for the students to get ready to write a really good Growth Mindset post.

Mid-Semester Surveys. Then, after those two posts, there are two surveys I ask the students to complete: one is about Canvas (since Canvas is new at our school), and the other is about the learning activities of the class, which is where I ask them to give me feedback specifically about how the class is going and what I could/should do differently. I used the same two surveys last semester (last semester was our first Canvas semester), and you can see the results here:

  • Canvas Survey: Week 8, Fall 2016. In the Canvas Survey, I got the best results from the questions that asked the students to give advice to other students using Canvas and advice to instructors setting up their Canvas courses. So, for this semester, I eliminated some of the other questions that did not really elicit useful or surprising responses in order to zoom in on this “advice-oriented” approach. I’ve also written about the students’ comments on Canvas here at this blog: Student Voices about CanvasStudent Tech Support for Canvas, and More Student Voices from Fall 2016.
  • Class Survey: Week 8, Fall 2016. In this survey, there are four simple open-ended questions (favorite things, least favorite things, obstacles, things I could do differently as the instructor), plus I set up two grids: one asks the students to rate the importance of the seven different learning dimensions of the class, and the other asks the students to rate their learning in those dimensions. I found these results to be extremely useful! I didn’t run any fancy statistics, but even just as a simple aggregate measure, it offered me some insight that was different from the insight I get from the open-ended questions.

Value of  the mid-semester evaluation:

Designing these activities is very helpful for me because it helps me to think clearly about the different components of my course design so that I can gather feedback about them separately. Yes, there is a holistic quality about the learning experience, but it’s also true that as I work on the class to improve it, I need specific goals to work on, and the students are the ones who help me to define those goals.

This process also lets me show the students that their input really does matter to me. The end-of-semester evaluations are very pro forma and generic, and I suspect the students are (understandably) cynical about their importance. In the case of these custom mid-semester evaluations, the students can tell that the feedback matters to me. I think this also leads to better quality feedback on the end-of-semester evaluations too; because I have shown the students mid-semester that I care about their feedback, they know that I value their feedback at the end of the semester also.

I also really believe in the power of self-assessment. So much about school is focused on rushing to finish things: get the grade, and then move on to the next thing, never look back. I definitely believe in moving forward and making progress, but looking back is an important part of how we succeed in moving forward. So, by reserving part of Week 8 for reflection and feedback, I hope to encourage the students to do something similar in their other classes too, even if it is not something the instructor makes a formal part of the class.

Growth Mindset Cat says: Take some time to reflect. 🙂


Crossposted at Canvas Community: Instructional Designers.

More Student Voices from Fall 2016

Earlier I shared the results of the Canvas survey my students filled out mid-semester, along with an overview of their advice: Student Voices about Canvas. I also explained how I used those survey results to reconfigure my Student Tech Support for Canvas. In this post, I will do a follow-up with more student voices coming from the student blogs in the last weeks of the semester. Those students who chose to learn more about Canvas via my Canvas Tech Tips wrote up quick blog posts with their reactions and impressions. You can see that blog stream here, and I’ve also embedded it at the bottom of this post. (If you’re curious, that’s Inoreader at work: a blog aggregator that can filter posts into streams based on filters and rules and then republish the results as a new RSS stream, also available via HTML as you see here.)

Feedback is essential. For me, getting this kind of feedback is really important; I teach online, so being able to read through the students’ blog posts is a great way to check in and get a sense of how things are going with them, just to gauge the mood as much as anything. I was told that there was going to be a campus-wide survey of faculty and of students who used Canvas in this first semester of our Canvas deployment (when Canvas was still opt-in, before going to opt-out next semester), but so far I have not received a survey. I know I found it very helpful to hear directly from my students this semester, but they are just a small subset (appx. 80) of the presumably thousands of students who did use Canvas this past semester; I hope we will be hearing more student voices, and faculty voices too.

Selected remarks. I’ve selected below some remarks that I think could also be helpful for other instructors using Canvas; you’ll see some references there to the grace period or extension I have set up for assignments, which is personally one of my favorite Canvas features that we didn’t have in D2L. Details here: Canvas Grace Period. All the other comments are general, not really specific to my class in any way. The students’ enthusiasm is very strong, although it’s also clear that actually encouraging them to download the app is important — some had downloaded it before I set up my Tech Tips, but many had not and said that they wished they had done so earlier. I will be encouraging my students next semester to download the app and configure their notifications on the first day of class!

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I honestly with I would have done this Calendar tech tip earlier on in the semester! I typically just type down my to-do list in the Notes on my phone, but having it synched with my own digital calendar on my phone would have been perfect.

I’ve had this app on my phone for the entire semester. So here are some good things. You can pin individual parts of it to a home screen. For instance, I have grades on one page, and assignments on another. The bad news is that it’s slow and clunky. The pins you set-up don’t update like that should. It seems to be incredibly sporatic. I had one freeze for three weeks. It’s a good effort, but it’s not up to snuff from my perspective. My experience is on a Galaxy Note 3.

As of right now the push messages were really easy to set up and thing I will really enjoy this alert next semester!! I recommend every to turn this on especially if you forget stuff a a lot!!

I rally enjoyed this tech tip because I had no idea it did that and enjoyed personalizing my account. I think it is awesome that we could do that because we spend so much time on there it was nice to personalize it so its not so boring.

I think I set up a bunch of notifications at the beginning and now I was able to adapt them a little better to the ones I really needed.

It was surprisingly a lot easier to upload my canvas calendar to the calendar that I use on google so that I could see everything all in one!

I chose to have canvas notifications for this class sent to my OU email. I find with a class that has many assignments, that my email is the best way to get notifications. This is because I check my email multiple times throughout a day, and I only check canvas one or two times.

For me, the canvas app was not my favorite. It was slow and kept denying my user information! I did, though, find an alternative way of having it up on my homepage of my phone- if you go on “safari” and go to canvas’s homepage or login page, you can hit the options button (lower right corner) and select “homepage” and it will make itself into an icon. So neat!

Personally, I think the calendar on Canvas is even better than the one on D2L because it is color coded and has so many different views! You can see what you have due in just one class, all classes, for a month, for the rest of the semester, in calendar format or in list format. The options honestly are endless. It is a great feature! If you don’t know how to use it yet, go look it up! It is amazing!

I really like how you can change the notification preferences on Canvas. It is very helpful and convenient. I changed it to things that were more important to me. I usually get notifications for things that are not as important so one bad thing that I do is just skip over all of them and not pay close attention to the important ones. I have missed important notifications/emails by doing that. It is really helpful and I think this is one of the reasons why it is better than D2L.

I have had canvas set up to email me anytime a grade gets updated for a while now. I find this to be very helpful for times that I am concerned about what grade I got. This is an easy way to get notifications and it keeps me from endlessly checking canvas for grades to be posted. I highly suggest this for this time of year when it seems that everyone has at least one class they are worried about getting a high enough grade in.

I really like how it is able to give you a quick look at what your grade percentage is by just pushing a button! Now that I have downloaded this app I kind of wish I would have done so sooner, because I believe it would have made my life much easier thought the semester to look on my phone for due dates rather then get my laptop out every time.

So I had read about the Canvas app on several others’ blogs and decided it was about time I figure it out. All of my classes are on Canvas this semester so I figured I should hop on board and get used to working with Canvas. At the beginning of the semester I was pretty mad that my last year was when they decided to shift support from D2L to Canvas, but then realized if it wasn’t my senior year it would certainly be someone else’s senior year. The app allowed me to set up notifications on my phone, which was the biggest plus for me. I am not a huge fan of how Canvas has the grading set up, purely because I like to avoid seeing my grades for as long as possible. I am glad to have such easy access to my coursework now though!

I love that you can change your display name on Canvas. As soon as I got it, I took my middle name out. I find this a great way for people to recognize others, expecially those who go by different names. I also added a picture to my profile so that people can see who I actually am.

This week I decided to do a tech tip by downloading the Canvas mobile app. I kind of hate technology so this was a big step for me. Next semester, more of my classes will be using Canvas so I look forward to using the app more then!

Notification adjustments might be more useful if more of my instructors used Canvas in similar ways. When every class is different, there’s no making decisions about notification settings.

I’m a big fan of Google Calendar, especially since it automatically integrates my Outlook calendar–meaning that any time someone emails me with an event, or any time I schedule a meeting with a student or instructor, it appears on my phone calendar without any additional effort.

I will say that the Canvas calendar the easiest place to see which declarations you’ve done for a given week, since it crosses them out as you complete them–a far easier visual than the list you’ll find under modules.

Like many of you (or maybe it’s just me….), I am very resistant to change. I will be honest. When OU switched from D2L to Canvas, I wasn’t happy. Canvas had a lot going on and I didn’t feel like I had time to figure it all out. Once I downloaded the app, I realized it was definitely better. I can see all of my classes and by clicking the “A+” button at the top, it instantly shows me my overall grades in each one of my class–WOW.

I decided to update my canvas profile! I changed my display name from “Kimberly” to “Kimber” since that is what most people call me. Then, I added an avatar photo to my profile. I picked this picture because I think I look pretty normal in it. Normally I like to have profile pictures be a little bit goofy because I feel as though that is how I am in real life, but I figured since this was school it would be a little better to have something I little more professional.

I heard of the Canvas mobile app while doing extra commenting on some people’s posts and decide I would blog about it in hopes more people will discover it. This app takes away the hassle of going to your browser and logging in every time you want to do anything on Canvas.

After having to access D2L through a mobile browser all last year–signing in every time on the teeny, mobile-unfriendly access page (–having an app which keeps me signed in all the time was the first step in guaranteeing my regular usage.

I have updated my profile on canvas and it was very easy! I even put a link to my linkedin account on my canvas profile.

If I make the bad decision of relaxing with Netflix instead of doing the work that is due that night I get an extra reminder at 7 am through email to wake up and do all work within the grace period. Although, notifications do not combat against some of my bad habits or crazy class/work schedule the extra help does not hurt!

I am just a little worried about the professors who are reluctant to switch to canvas. They only make it harder on the student trying to figure out the new system when they do not attempt to learn it as well. I do not know what I would have done if not for the extension you have added on to our assignments. It would make the students live’s so much easier if they had a professor willing to learn.

At first I was concerned about the switch to Canvas as it was an unwanted change because I honestly liked D2L. But after experiencing the mobile app and its capabilities. I am so pleased with the switch.

One of the great things about the Canvas app and having an iPad or an iPhone or anything with internet connection capabilities is its use alongside Microsoft’s Onedrive. I store all my slides that I download from Canvas to Onedrive. I can even submit assignments directly to canvas from Onedrive. I am honestly pleased with the direction that OU decided to take with its technology services!

I think it makes things a lot easier when I am trying to see what comes up next for each class, when the D2L calendar would show things for every class at once. I love that there is a grace period for this class and the assignments which has helped more than anything. There might be times when I forget to do an assignment for this class or have an emergency where I cannot do it on time, and realize there is a grace period the next morning.

At first I was very skeptical of canvas. I was so accustom to D2L and did not want to learn a whole new format on my last semester at OU. To my surprise canvas is very simple and easy to use. I like how when you open it, it shows all your classes and they are color coded.

I especially like the assignment or “modules” part on the app. When you click on it, depending how to professor has it set up, you can then just click on what unit you are on and then all the assignments for that unit are right there. You don’t have to search for them.

Doing assignments/ quizzes is very easy on the app as well. It formats it so they fit your phone and you don’t have to zoom in like you had to on D2L.

The calendar has helped me keep up with not jsut school but school related events. I am able to add all my events to the calendar even though there is not a class for them. The color coding for each class is very cool, and I love how it marks out what has been accomplished.

I have canvas bookmarked in my safari browser on my iPad. Going through safari seems to be the exact same as using the app.

I just downloaded the Canvas app for this week’s tech tip! I didn’t know that there was an option to put it on my phone. I already receive notifications via email so I never thought to look for an app. Now, I can unsubscribe from those emails and have a lot less clutter in my inbox!

I absolutely love the notification system that Canvas has. I am a frequent user of my OU e-mail due to the amount of extracurricular organizations that I’m involved in, and receiving notifications there is really nice.

I wonder why it takes so long for notifications to appear, especially after I submit a quiz to be graded. I usually have to wait at least 30 minutes to get a notification from Canvas telling me that something has been graded. Other than that, I’m grateful for it!

I really appreciate the fact that you’re able to change your name in Canvas… while I am lucky/privileged to go by my birth name, this is especially important for queer people that might not identify with their birth name.

Unfortunately, not too many professors put their entire class schedule online (thanks Laura!) which makes it a little difficult to rely on it in whole. However, it is certainly an effective organizational strategy! Below is a screenshot of my Google Calendar for this last week with the integrated calendar.

I am not a notification fan, so I have everything sent to my email. Now, I get to see everything that is due, has been graded, etc all in one place. I made a specific folder for these emails, so I can check them quickly.

I love how canvas has a list of all things due for all classes in one location- it is great for figuring out which weeks will be busy and which I can work ahead during! Now all I need to do is teach my teachers how to use it correctly…

The app’s view is clear, and the fonts of link are large, which makes it easier to navigate from page to page. In addition, it has many function that D2L app lack or insufficient like the to do list, message page, calendar, and etc. I regret that I didn’t download the app earlier. Everyone should try it out!

I love the Canvas App. I already had it downloaded, and it has saved my butt plenty of times. I love how you can view your calendar with due dates easily on it. One thing that has helped me the most is that you can take your quizzes from the app directly.

You can take quizzes on your phone, but the only downside is that it gives you the score but won’t show the summary of your attempt.

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As mentioned above, here’s the live feed (thank you, Inoreader!) of my students’ blog posts that mention Canvas, which means there will be new posts coming in to this stream starting in Spring semester too. It’s easier to read outside the confines of this blog post: Canvas Post Stream.

Crossposted at OU Canvas Community.

Moving from Marketing to Conversation

Last week I shared here some of the ways I am gathering feedback from my students, including the nifty live feed which collects their blog posts which mention Canvas; I’ve pasted in that feed again below, and here are the relevant posts: Student Tech Support for Canvas and Student Voices about Canvas.

Even though I am an absolute LMS minimalist (I use it only for gradebook; no content, no interaction — for that, I use other tools), this shift to Canvas was a really big deal for me, and I was eager to hear from students what they thought about it. As the semester started, I knew it must be going okay because I was not getting complaints, but feedback means more than just complaints (or the absence thereof). I wanted to find out what the students liked and what they didn’t like so that I could make sure I was highlighting the features of Canvas that they found valuable, as well as finding solutions to any low-level problems they were having. Some students were bound to be more adventurous than others in exploring Canvas’s features, so by asking all the students what they were doing with Canvas, I could then turn around and do a better job of promoting Canvas with students who were less likely to explore Canvas’s features on their own.

Mutatis mutandis, I would say the same is true of faculty: some faculty are bound to be more adventurous than others in exploring Canvas’s features, so by asking all the faculty what they are doing with Canvas, we could then turn around and do a better job of promoting Canvas with faculty who are less likely to explore Canvas’s features on their own.

Yet there has not been any effort to solicit feedback from faculty using Canvas so far this semester, and that seems to me a lost opportunity. Every week, we receive a marketing email about Canvas (here’s this week’s email), but that email never requests a reply from us. There is no survey. There are no faculty stories. There is nothing in the email to turn the top-down marketing into a conversation among faculty who are actually using Canvas.

Personally, I think we need the faculty voices. Just as we need to make sure that there are ways to listen to student voices in our classes, I believe that faculty voices are also important, sharing stories of just how we are using Canvas the ways that we do, and why, talking about what is working for us and what is not working. By sharing our experience and expertise, we can learn more than we would learn on our own. No marketing team is ever going to have the experience and expertise that faculty do. We are the ones actually using Canvas, and we need ways to communicate with each other how that is going.

I’ve been told that there are plans to do a survey at the end of the semester, yet it seems to me that just as student evaluations lose a lot of value by taking place at the end of the semester, the same would be true of waiting until the end of the semester to solicit faculty feedback about Canvas. A semester is four months long, and your experience changes over that time: setting up the courses happened back in August (doesn’t that seem like forever ago?), and then there was the big effort of the first week of classes, then settling down into the regular routine of the semester, and then the hectic flurry of end-of-semester activities (starting about now), all focused on finals and grades. People are stressed and pressed for time at the end of the semester, which is not going to result in the best feedback, and that end-of-semester stress besieges both students and faculty alike.

When that end-of-semester evaluation does come, I hope it will have open-ended questions to collect faculty members’ stories of how they are using Canvas, beyond just asking us to rate the features. When I surveyed my students, the most valuable comments came when I asked them for advice they would give to other students and advice they would give to instructors using Canvas. Open-ended, consequential questions, not just metrics. I’ve shared those comments from my students because I really DO hope my students’ advice to other instructors will reach those other instructors… but will that happen? I’m not sure.

I also hope that the results of a faculty Canvas survey will be shared quickly with all the faculty who are using Canvas so that we could make use of it in preparing our Spring courses, although that’s probably a long-shot given the constrained calendar. Classes start on January 17 (the Tuesday after MLK Day), which means I’ll be releasing my classes to students on January 9. It doesn’t give me a lot of time to tweak my classes, but based on student feedback so far (and ongoing feedback; see below), I do have some ideas about how to do a better job of introducing my students to Canvas. It would be great if I can could also benefit from the learning and experience of other OU faculty members, both in terms of how they are using Canvas and also what they are hearing from their students.

As for those marketing emails, I wrote back to one of them, asking if the OU Canvas Community could be promoted in the emails. And, yes, it did show up in the email after I made that request… and was never mentioned again. There is no link to our OU Canvas Community in the email boilerplate included in every marketing email, and there is no link to the OU Canvas Community in the list of Faculty Resources.

So, I guess I should not be surprised that the OU Canvas Community is a ghost town. But I’ll keep on posting, because hope springs eternal. And I’ll keep on sharing my Canvas “stories,” minimal though they are, here at this blog and crossposting to the Community. Leaving a trail. Digital trails are good. 🙂

And in honor of #Caturday, here’s a growth mindset cat on the power of colearning:

Observe others: the task is possible!


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As mentioned above, here’s the live feed (thank you, Inoreader!) of my students’ blog posts that mention Canvas. I’m hoping to be gathering new feedback from students every week this way, in addition to the midterm survey, as the semester draws to a close. It’s easier to read outside the confines of this blog post: Canvas Post Stream.

Crossposted at OU Canvas Community.

Student Tech Support for Canvas

This is a post following up on the Student Voices post, where I shared the results of the survey I conducted in Week 8 asking students for feedback about Canvas: Student Voices about Canvas. In this post, I’ll explain how I used those results to offer some more tech support for students, based on what I noticed in their comments. And here’s something cool: at the bottom of this post, you can see the live stream of posts from my students’ blogs about their use of Canvas. (The power of Inoreader and iframe at work!)

Meanwhile, here is the support I’m using right now for Canvas:

Canvas Tech Tips. The main way I do tech support in my classes is by offering extra-credit Tech Tips that students can use to learn more about the technology we are using in class. The most popular tips are the ones for customizing their blogs, but I also offer tips on other tools, and after the midterm survey I realized that I needed some tips for Canvas. Here are the four tips I decided to write up:

  • Canvas Mobile App. Based on the limited number of students who reported using the mobile app, I wrote up a tip about that. Although I don’t use a mobile device myself, the students do, and so I wanted to make sure they knew there is a Canvas mobile app and, based on what I’ve heard, Canvas’s commitment to mobile was a big plus in their adoption at my school.
  • Canvas Calendar. This is the Canvas feature that is the most important for my classes, and I really hope students will take advantage of the ability to synch the Canvas calendar with any other calendar the students might be using like Outlook, Google, etc. A couple of students mentioned that in their comments, but my guess is that most students had not explored that option.
  • Canvas Notifications. Although I have mixed feelings myself about how Canvas handles course communications (more on that in a later post), it is still crucial that each user configure their notifications. I could tell from some of the student comments on the survey that not everybody had done that, so this tip is meant to encourage students to explore the notification options to see what will work best for them.
  • Canvas Profile. Admittedly, this was not something that came up in the survey, but I wanted to be sure to include it also because of one of my favorite Canvas features: unlike in D2L, students can choose their Canvas display name! So, for the many students who do not use their first name of record (because they use a nickname or their middle name or some other name of their own choosing), Canvas allows them to set up that display name. In this tip I encourage students to complete their Canvas profile and I also alert them to the display name option.

In addition to these tips, I also put some Canvas tutorial videos in the sidebar of the Announcements blog which is my Canvas homepage, as you can see in this screenshot:


Because students write up a quick blog post when they complete a tech tip, that gives me some additional feedback about their technology use. My feed reader, Inoreader (I LOVE INOREADER), allows me to assign rules automatically to incoming posts based on keywords, and I can then syndicate those results in a new feed, so here is a live stream of student blog posts which mention Canvas! More student voices, and more feedback — direct and indirect — that I can learn from as I try to improve my Canvas support next semester; it’s easier to read outside the confines of this blog post: Canvas Post Stream.

Crossposted at OU Canvas Community.


Student Voices about Canvas

I really want to applaud Adam Croom’s post on student voices at #OpenEd16: Searching for Student Voices at #OpenEd16.

I agree: when it comes to teaching and learning, the students are the ones we need to be listening to. As an adjunct, I don’t get to go to conferences, and that doesn’t really impair my work as an educator: I can live without conferences. That is not a problem.

But without student voices? Without student feedback? Without ideas and inspiration from my students? No way. I could never manage to do my job without that stimulation and support.

At the end of his post, Adam says, “Let’s stop treating them like lower tier citizens of our community and let’s treat them like equals. Because they deserve it. Let’s recognize how we are minimizing their voice in our conversations. And then let’s fix it.”


What’s great is that there are so many easy fixes. And I really mean that: easy fixes. The students have lots to say; all we need to do is to create spaces where they can share their thoughts with us so that we can listen… and act on what we learn.

Since this is my Canvas-related blog, I’ll share something here that I did a few weeks ago: I asked my students about their use of Canvas. I was surprised (really surprised, in fact) that there was no surveying of either faculty or students about our use of Canvas so far this semester; it’s a new system, and we all have lots to learn and lots to say about what we are learning. So, when I found out there were no surveys planned, I added an extra survey to my regular mid-semester review week. It’s not rocket science; I created a Google Form, and asked students to complete it. Of the 78 students in my classes, 75 filled out the survey, and most of them provided comments of some kind on the open-ended questions. You can see the results here: Canvas Survey: Week 8, Fall 2016.

The best part of the survey was when I asked them what advice they would give to other students using Canvas and also what advice they would give to instructors. Just as a general rule, this seems to me a very powerful way to solicit feedback from students. Yes, you can ask them to evaluate something (Canvas, a book, a course, etc.), but it is even more useful if you ask them to give advice to someone else (what advice would you give to someone using Canvas, someone reading this book, someone taking this course, etc.). When you pose the question in that way, so that it is both altruistic and also useful, students have so much good advice to offer!

Below, I’ve pasted in the what they offered as advice to other students and to instructors using Canvas. That can be useful perhaps not just to students and instructors at my school, but also elsewhere. And this is just what I garnered from a simple survey completed by 75 students. Just think how much more we might have learned by asking the advice of all the students who are our Canvas pioneers this semester! You can see more responses from the students to other questions (both ratings and open-ended) at the blog post: Canvas Survey: Week 8, Fall 2016.

There is all kinds of wisdom here… my favorite: Don’t get angry with the computer. 🙂

What advice would you give to INSTRUCTORS who are setting up a Canvas course?

  • Make the assignments portion easier to navagate
  • Just don’t use it.
  • I don’t really know, since this is my first and only class with it.
  • I am someone who hates change and is bad with technology so I was super stressed at the beginning of the semester when I was trying to figure it out. I would suggest having the instructor give a detailed explanation of how to find things and submit things since most students are very used to how D2L works.
  • Having all the assignments available to work ahead is a nice luxury.
  • Learn from Laura Gibbs! She has this Canvas thing down.
  • I would just make sure you know how to use Canvas so that you can better help your students understand.
  • Go all out and use the inbox systems.
  • Use the Notification feature
  • Keep the course as organized as possible, and try to send daily announcements if you can. Also keep the grades updated.
  • Everything Dr. Gibbs has done thus far I have enjoyed and preferred over d2l.
  • Make it as easy on the students as possible. The transition for most upper classmen has not been easy. Tell the students the cool new features they might not be aware of. The students have not had the training the professors should of had.
  • Updates can get lost easily, I like when teachers send messages to your inbox.
  • Put assignments on the calendar as soon as possible.
  • Input all class events at the beginning of the semester so it’s easy to see what students have coming up
  • There are a lot of opportunities on Canvas and they should fully take advantage of them.
  • only set up certain features that needed, don’t need too many categories
  • Be mindful, it’s the glitch-iest thing in the world. Make it as simple as you can.
  • Use every aspect of Canvas in order to really help out students.
  • Try to simplify things as much as possible. Having a lot of different moving parts in your class on Canvas can get wildly confusing and sometimes students can’t find certain things.
  • Use the modules page for documents so that students can see a preview before downloading.
  • I haven’t had any issues understanding Canvas so nothing really. Seems pretty simple.
  • Use the grade book feature, it really helps see where we are at in the course.
  • Just update it regularly when there’s new material.
  • set a picture on the main page
  • To make sure you know what you’re doing before you open it up to your class because if you don’t know and I don’t know, its going to be a rough semester.
  • Keep it simple, but don’t be afraid to make it your own as well. It seems like there’s a lot of freedom within Canvas setup for teachers to customize their online environment for students.
  • Posting things to “Modules” and “files” gets confusing so I would only choose one to use.
  • Make sure there feedback responses (grades, announcements, files) are categorized and organized efficiently; don’t split up stuff and make it hard for students to find.
  • Help the students learn it. Laura was really great at helping us learn.
  • make sure you get people to get the automatic emails sent everytime something happens on canvas
  • use it rather than D2L
  • Make the calendar as filled out as possible.
  • Please adjust the settings of the modules to load the current week at the top. My instructor did this a few weeks into the semester for this course (MLLL-4993) and it has made a great deal of difference in getting to the modules I need quickly and efficiently. We’re covering a lot of material, and I like that the material we are finished with is at the bottom of the page.
  • Make it as organized as possible! My other class is not completely organized so some readings are in random spots under the files tab.
  • Show your class what areas of canvas they need to be familiar with and show them how to use it.
  • Post on the announcements often.
  • Keep in mind that students are still learning and getting used to this new platform so try to make your content and assignments as easily accessible as possible.
  • make sure you have the files that you need published so that the class can actually access them.
  • Include a tutorial for how you yourself set up the class, as I feel that it can be varied.
  • Please have clear instructions in the assignment tab if you won’t be making an announcement about the assignment.
  • I think the main issue I’ve noticed in my classes is making sure content is being published for students to see. I don’t know how it looks on the instructor’s end, but I just got the impression that some seemed to think they had published something but they really hadn’t. So maybe just making sure that when you publish something, check to see that it is marked published. Or you could make an announcement that something was published and if it cannot be seen to notify you.
  • Knowledge of where the assignments or pages that we need are.
  • Learn how to use it…
  • To make sure everything is nicely organized. Cause canvas already has that set up for you.
  • Utilize the calendar, make sure everything opens once you upload it, delete the sections you are not using so that we know where to find things and so we don’t have to click through 20 options to find the syllabus.
  • My instructor for this class is much more familiar with various tips and tricks for Canvas than my other instructors are, and it shows. If all instructors would take the time to get to know all the features and how to apply them to their classes, I think it would be a more efficient experience for everyone.
  • I’d suggest specifying in the syllabus WHERE on canvas you will post certain documents (i.e., readings, things to print, assignments etc).
  • Try not to use too many folders – sometimes I can’t find a file because it’s filed away in multiple folders or in a different tab, etc. Also, I don’t like when instructors send messages through canvass; I prefer an email or an announcement.
  • Use the modules as a week by week guide for what’s going on in the class. Files can be separated by lecture, exam study guide, etc.
  • Make use of the calendar and syllabus sections. Make sure your TAs have access and your students know how to submit files.
  • Do not use canvas as the sole way of contacting students. Use email for important things that need to be seen ASAP
  • Please utilize the module tool for grouping content.  It makes the canvas page so much easier to navigate.
  • I would say to use the calendar as much as possible so students know what is coming and what to expect.
  • Please have instructions for each individual assignment on the assignment’s page itself so that it’s easier to find and I don’t have to search for them elsewhere.
  • Try to make things simple. It would be nice if all the tabs led to the same type material.
  • Organization of course material is key, and I wish it was clearer what was under each tab
  • Don’t set up to many side tabs to separate out the class.
  • Keep it as simple as possible.
  • Get together and choose where you want to put your handouts, lectures, etc
  • Try to make tabs to separate things such as assignments, powerpoint, syllabus, action center etc.

What advice would you give to STUDENTS who are using Canvas?

  • Just check it everyday
  • It’s hard to learn how to use it.
  • Just be patient and take time to go through and look at and learn everything.
  • Don’t stress too much because it really is not that bad. Take a day to just click on everything and see what all the links do/how to find your assignments. Don’t wait until you need to submit something because that will make it a lot more stressful.
  • Make sure to keep up with your assignments using the calendar.
  • Give it time, it will grow on you.
  • Take some time to navigate it and learn all the features.
  • Look at it and play around with the tools.
  • Download the app.
  • Explore it before the class starts so you know how to use it
  • Make sure that you keep up with the assignments and check the calendar frequently.
  • Explore and mess around with it for a couple of days to get familiar with it all before classes start and you arrive confused.
  • Just have to play with it to understand it better…. but who has time to learn an entirely new system???
  • Check grades frequently and always check deadlines.
  • Make sure you check the calendar everyday for your assignments and due dates.
  • Utilize the calendar and to-do list
  • It’s easy to navigate, there’s multiple ways to get to the different sections.
  • play around with it at first and become familiar with it in the first few week of class
  • Prepare yourself, it’s going to take a while to complete an assignment.
  • Click everything. Find out how it works. Download the app
  • Mess around with it for a while before you have to start using it in class. It’s a really great tool, but can take a while to get used to.
  • Contact professors directly through your email instead of the inbox on Canvas.
  • Just look around and get familiar with it and it’s truly not complicated.
  • Download the app and turn notifications on. It’ll tell you if your teacher has sent any messages.
  • Learn to use it or get left behind.
  • use the calendar
  • Spend time figuring everything out
  • Check your notification settings to set your preferences. You can get notified about almost anything on Canvas. Also, the grade estimation feature is pretty cool.
  • Take advantage of the To Do list that pop up if you want to remember to turn in homework.
  • Keep playing with it .
  • utilize the calendar
  • check calendar
  • Make it your homepage
  • There is a total number of points feature at the bottom of the gradebook that automatically calculates your grade as you progress. It’s helpful, take note of it early. (It actually took me a while to scroll to the very bottom and notice it)
  • Utilize the calendar!
  • Don’t be afraid of changes!
  • Turn on the alerts for canvas and reminders.
  • Take advantage of the calendar.
  • Don’t use it on your phone or tablet.
  • Make sure to check it frequently or set up the notifications options so that you would know.
  • Be willing to look and explore.
  • Be sure to constantly be checking your announcements! They are usually full of reminders and assignment information that can be helpful.
  • You should still check it frequently as you did in D2L. It may seem like a lot of new information to learn how to navigate, but it really is quite simple so don’t let it intimidate you.
  • Good luck. Don’t get angry with the computer
  • Use the calendar to your advantage
  • Make use of all of the features.
  • Make sure you check the announcement section. Also don’t mute OU Canvas emails. This is where all the teachers announcements come from.
  • It is pretty user friendly… just ask if you have a problem.
  • I didn’t pay attention to the calendar feature until late in the game, so I missed out on how handy it is for quite a while. It’s a good idea to take a little bit of time at the beginning of the year, before homework gets crazy, just to get familiar with all Canvas has to offer.
  • Really communicate with your instructor and your classmates about how to navigate the class on Canvas.
  • Download the app, too!
  • Explore a lot because professors don’t know how to use it yet and are still figuring it out and may have files/documents in odd places.
  • I mean, just do your thing. You’re digital natives, right?
  • set up the mobile alerts.
  • You can connect the canvas calendar to google calendar or the iphone/android calendar by importing the .ics file.  It’s super easy and you won’t forget about deadlines that way.
  • Pay attention to the calendar and use what is provided to help you learn
  • UI is really easy to navigate.  It’s basically D2L with a different look.
  • Get use to it.
  • Spend a few minutes clicking around each of your classes to see what is where
  • Do the tutorials
  • Give it time. Sit down and find out where everything is at the beginning of the course so that you don’t miss something important.
  • try playing around with it at first, and add all you stuff to the calendar

And, while the growth mindset cats are not able to create surveys with Google Forms, they can probe and poke! It’s how we learn. 🙂

In order to learn,
we must probe and poke.


Crossposted at OU Canvas Community.