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.


2 thoughts on “Student Voices about Canvas”

  1. Thanks Laura for your comments. Two weeks ago I actually did an adapted version of both your surveys for my new class as it’s still coming together. Also IT is planning a campus wide student survey towards the end of the semester. There is a group on campus that manages these kiosks called Fast Feedback (you likely follow their Twitter account). They’ve done a couple D2L vs Canvas questions, both multiple choice and open ended, this semester and increasingly students are liking Canvas more and more. Most of the points students make is that it can be difficult to know how to navigate it since it’s so highly customizable and we don’t mandate a specific navigation format. Advantages and disadvantages there.

  2. Thanks, Adam, and YES, I follow Fast Feedback. In fact, I was wondering if we could make a Canvas-based version of Fast Feedback… what do you think? Are we able to add something to the far left-hand institutional navbar? I was thinking how cool it could be if there were a button there (maybe even with the cute Fast Feedback logo) so that students could click and have an open-ended space to make comments about Canvas AND about their classes (it’s kind of sad that RateMyProfessors is where students go to share comments)… along with whatever the current Fast Feedback survey happens to be so they could do that online too.

    I don’t know if we control the left-hand navbar or not, but I guess we do, right? Adding a student feedback area there would be a big step forward IMO.

    In student view for my courses, the bottom button I see is “Help” which leads to all kinds of stuff, but it’s very Canvas/Tech focused. I think it would be cool if Canvas could also provide a campus-wide platform for collecting all kinds of student feedback, not just about Canvas itself.

    Do you know if anybody has thought about using Canvas in that way somehow…?

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