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Faculty at my institution have been asking for a way to record attendance for Zoom video lectures within a Canvas assignment as attendance makes up a very small percentage of final grades. There is no inbuilt functionality to do this within Canvas so I created a python script that takes a Zoom meeting report, creates a new assignment within Canvas and gives a points score to all attendees. 

 

Caveat: I am not a proficient coder and the script is utilized at the users own risk. We are considering developing it into a production application with GUI or built into Canvas, but have no near term plans to do so - purely a proof of concept at this stage. That being said, I would still appreciate any feedback or information on any modifications you make to it. 

 

Initial Configuration

The script uses the Canvas API to create and grade a new assignment. An access token is required to use the API and this will provide the same level of access as your Canvas account.

  1. In Canvas, click Account then Settings
  2.  Scroll down to Approved Integrations and at the bottom of the integrations list, click + New Access Token
  3. Provide a purpose and expiry date (N.B. Use <2wks to minimize risk. Do not leave the date blank!) and click Generate Token
  4. Copy the access token (When you close this window, you will not be able to view the token again)
  5. Open the python script in your favorite text editor or IDE
  6. Near the end of the script, replace <YOUR API KEY HERE> with your copied access token
  7. A few lines further down, replace <YOUR CANVAS URL> with the URL for your Canvas instance
  8. Save the python script

 

Usage

The Python script does three things: (1) create a new assignment, (2) take the provided Zoom meeting report and extract attendees, (3) add a grade to the assignment for students that attended the Zoom meeting

To use the script

  1. On your Canvas site, go to the Zoom page and click on Previous Meetings
  2. Click Report next to the meeting you want to record attendance for
  3. Click Export as CSV File and save to your computer
  4. Run the Python script. You will be prompted for four things (Variable input does slow down script so you could hard code the course ID and points score) :
    1. Course ID (e.g. 3157 (the four digit number in a URL for any page on the course site))
    2. Name for new assignment (e.g. Attendance 7/27)
    3. The Zoom report file (Browse for the saved CSV file)
    4. Point score for present students (e.g. 1)

If you now navigate to the Assignments section of the Canvas site, you will see a new assignment created with the name provided. In the Grades section (if visible to you) this assignment will be graded for all students that attended the Zoom meeting.

I have been lurking long enough in the Community. I feel like it is about time that I contribute.

 

I am building a virtual Canvas Boot Camp for our district teachers. Each day focuses in a particular skills level: Basic Training, Officer Training, and Field Training.

 

I have started creating infographics for participants to identify some really cool features about Canvas--to provide multiple means & variety of presenting content. There are some many Data tools available in Canvas, so I wanted to create a visual that would clearly delineate each tool (along with Guides supporting that tool). This visual would serve as an overview, and then the rest of the Boot Camp Lesson on Data & Analytics would spend time unpacking each and explore best practices for leveraging the tool for student learning.

 

Here is my latest infographic. I have more and will share soon.

I hope you find it helpful.

 

Monitoring Usage & Impact with Canvas Data & Analytics Tools

 

“COVID-19 didn’t produce any new gaps, it just showed us the true impact of existing gaps.” -Ji Soo Song, Senior Policy and Advocacy Associate at ISTE

 

Tracy Weeks, Executive Director of State Partnerships at Instructure, recently sat down (virtually) with leaders from ISTE, CoSN, SETDA, and Foresight Law & Policy to discuss key components of the CARES Act and how it can best support instructional continuity and equitable access in K-12 education. 

 

We invite you to read Tracy's blog post where you can learn more about the panel discussion, view the on-demand webinar, and find more resources supporting state and district leaders as they navigate the CARES Act. 

Assessment will be more important than ever...

Live Webinar, May 19th, 12:00pm EDT

With twenty-five percent of the previous year's content getting delivered via remote learning, and with no-end-of-year testing scores to reference for student performance, how will districts prepare for Fall 2020? To better personalize learning during this unprecedented time, schools should look to develop a strong assessment strategy that informs teaching and learning at all levels to mitigate learning loss the best they can.

Join this webinar on May 19th, 12:00pm EDT, and learn how schools can: 

  •    Leverage a simple framework for improving communication and assessment processes.
  •    Take a data-driven approach to monitor student learning, while proactively providing intervention strategies.
  •    Support teachers, provide world-class professional development opportunities, and increase collaboration district-wide. 
  •    Streamline the development of curriculum or assessment maps at the district, school or teacher level.

Don't miss out on the opportunity to get your students on track for this upcoming school year.

Register for the Webinar

 

In Part 1 we explored best practices, practical tips, and considerations for creating online assessments.  In this Part 2, we’re focusing on the assessment itself and the provisions that can be put in place to ensure that online assessments run smoothly.

Consideration 1: Will Canvas be able to handle this?

In short - yes!  Canvas can automatically scale to address increased needs imposed by COVID-19 and then again heightened by assessment periods, or indeed by any other situation that might require an increased use of the platform.  From more users, to more assessments, to more simultaneous access, Canvas will scale.  And we have.  In March 2020 alone, millions of users used Canvas around the world, we saw an 85% YOY increase in learners accessing the platform simultaneously, and through it all we maintained 99.9% uptime.

For more information, and solid reassurance on how Canvas will scale, take a look at the following blogs that have been written throughout COVID-19.

 

While Canvas has proved it is up to the task, technology is only as good as its users.  There are important steps we can all take to ensure that students, teachers, and everyone involved in the process are suitably prepared for a successful online assessment context.

Proactive Support 

Empower everyone involved in assessments by clearly communicating both the expectations and support options available to them.  Students need to know where to find their assessments, how to complete them, and what to do if they need support at any point of the assessment period.  Teachers need to know how to create assessments (if they are required to do so), as well as how they can access support with the transition to and management of online assessments.  

 

Once you have decided on the workflows and resources you would like to provide for students and teachers on how they can gain support, communicate this clearly so that everyone is empowered with access to the correct, relevant information.  This could be achieved with a Global Announcement, differentiated by user so that Teachers and Students see the information that is pertinent to them on their Canvas Dashboard.  Additionally, customise the Help Menu to prioritise relevant assessment support available.

 

 

 

When considering support resources, make the most of existing resources to both provide and communicate these support options.  Use the existing Canvas Guides to provide students and teachers with ‘how-tos’ for completing assessment activities within Canvas.  These guides include screenshots alongside comprehensive, step-by-step instructions and best of all, we keep them up to date so that you can have complete confidence that they will always provide accurate information.  

 

You may also have additional internal support resources such as student experience, learning support, or ICT department telephone or email addresses.  For Teachers who will be creating their own assessments, training provisions need to be considered so that Teachers are able to make informed decisions about how to use the available tools.

 

Taking proactive support measures empowers students and teachers with the information they need to achieve a successful assessment experience, and can minimise the need for reactive support at the time of assessment itself.

Practice Makes Perfect!

Provide students with the opportunity for a trial run.  If they will be taking a Quiz, create a practice Quiz and include different Question Types that will be used during the real assessment.  Questions could even be related to the process of how to complete the assessment, reinforcing understanding of the workflow. If students will be submitting an Assignment, create a test Assignment and ask students to practice accessing and submitting the Assignment.   Make these practice assessments available ahead of the real assessment, so that students have plenty of opportunity to ensure they know how to complete their assessment when the time comes.

Consideration 2: Providing Time Parameters 

All assessments require students to complete a given task within a certain time frame.  There are various ways to replicate this on Canvas depending on the type of time parameter required.

Deadline for Submission 

If you have a specific date and time that an assessment must be completed by, add this as the Due Date in any Assignment or Quiz.  Canvas will still accept submissions (for Assignments) and allow attempts (for Quizzes) after the due date, though they will be identified as late to both the student and the teacher.  Adding an Until Date can be a helpful way to replicate any existing policies you may have around late submissions (i.e. late submissions will be accepted for up to 1 week after the deadline with a penalty applied during the grading process).  The Until Date prevents Canvas from accepting any submissions or attempts after this date.

 

 

Timed Assessment

For assessments that have specified start and end times (such as exams), there are two methods for facilitation in Canvas.  For exams using the Quiz tool, a time limit can be applied to each attempt.  For all Assignments, we can add an Available from date, which when used in combination with a due or until date creates a start and end time parameter around the assessment.  Keep in mind that setting an ‘Available From’ date will prevent students from accessing any information added to the RCE or settings applied to the Assignment.

 

 

There may be information about the assessment that you would like students to have access to ahead of the Availability Dates, such as what resources they might require or how long they will have to complete the assessment.  A great way to do this is using an Announcement.  Not only will this be easily accessible to students from within the Course, but it will also trigger a notification via their chosen notification preferences.  The release of the Announcement can also be coupled with a delayed posting, effectively providing a timed release of this assessment information.

 

Scheduled Release of Assessment(s) and/or Resources

Where there are multiple pieces of assessment content that you would like to be released at a specific time, use the Lock Until feature within Modules to schedule the release.  This will allow students to see only the title for each piece of content before this time, providing them with the reassurance that they know where to find their assessment content as well as the exact time they will be made available to them.

 

 

This feature is useful particularly when there are multiple assessment points opening at the same time.  Do keep in mind that if you have added any Files within the Module or RCE that these could still be accessible from the Files tab if this is available to students within the Course.  Make sure to add availability dates to the files that match your assessment if this is the case.

Consideration 3: Exam Integrity 

As with all assessments, we want each student to make an authentic submission.  Canvas has partnerships with a variety of tools that can provide plagiarism checks and proctoring solutions.  Explore how many of our partners are here to support you through these extraordinary times, or talk to your Customer Success Manager for more information on appropriate solutions.  Meanwhile if you are delivering your assessment with a Quiz, take a look at this detailed resource exploring the variety of inbuilt settings available to maximise security.

 

As with in-person exams, occasionally situations may arise during the assessment where responsive action is required.  The Moderate the Quiz panel allows us to monitor student progress during the quiz, as well as give extra time or attempts to individual students should this be required in response to any given situation (perhaps the student had a connectivity issue for example).  We can even manually submit any outstanding attempts should students forget to do this, allowing the grading process to continue without delay.  Though if a time limit has been applied, Canvas will do this automatically once the set time has passed.

Keep In Mind

“The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”

 

As educators, we are all too aware that even the most well planned in-person assessment can be impacted by unforeseen circumstances.  Adverse weather can lead to rescheduling, an on campus event can lead to a distracted cohort, or a forgotten resource can impact a students’ ability to access material.  Technology will never entirely remove the risk of unforeseen circumstances, but we can certainly make ourselves aware of the potential risk factors and mitigate them as best we can.

 

  • Will students have a device and sufficient internet access to enable them to access the assessment? Providing trial runs and practice assessments can help to spot these potential issues.

  • What if something happens to a students’ device or internet connection during an assessment? In an in-person environment, a student would raise their hand to inform an invigilator - provide students with a suitable alternative workflow when they are working in a remote setting (refer to the Proactive Support section for ideas on how to communicate this with students)

  • How will IT staff be able to support multiple teachers and assessments remotely if incidents occur? Consider staggering start times and deadlines to allow internal support to be available and responsive at these key crunch times if required.

Just as you might have policies in place for how to respond to unforeseen circumstances in an in-person context, have policies ready for how you will respond with unforeseen circumstances in an online context.  Share these clearly with students, and as always apply them with parity as best as possible.

Summary

One of the best ways we can respond to change is to embrace it.  The current context is forcing us to adapt in many different ways, from how we shop for groceries to how we effectively provide opportunities for assessment.  Understanding the tools available to us can enable us to make informed decisions about how to best facilitate assessment within the new context that we find ourselves.  The method we use may have to change, but hopefully these blogs have given you ideas for how you can continue to achieve the intended end goal.

 

Contingency Planning

Read More Contingency Planning Blogs

by Michael Freedman

 

The advantages of online meetings are to save travel time, convenience, and flexibility while retaining or augmenting the benefits of group interactivity. For interactivity, we need engagement; for engagement, we need encouragement and trust.  A one-way webinar is not a lot better than a video or a one-to-many lecture. Here are some points to consider in developing and running an interactive online meeting.

 

Development

 

Leverage time together for interactivity and sophisticated communications. Ask your participants to prepare in advance. Be clear on what this means: what they should come equipped with, and what should they be prepared to do.

 

Minimize large group time, maximize small group time. Large group time is for opening comments and announcements, setting the tone and agenda, for sharing results of small group efforts, wrap-up, and follow-up. Replace lectures and one-to-many instruction and guidance with pre-work sent in advance.

 

Group management. Small group models suggest optimum group sizes are 5-9.  If this is a short ad hoc session, try less, perhaps 3-5. Use break-out sessions or hold multiple meetings if that’s what it takes.

Present structured activities and conversations with targeted outcomes; and be flexible if those outcomes evolve as this is the point of having people work things over: to develop the thinking.

 

Provide timeframes for working sessions with the Goldilocks model: not too short and not too long. Provide enough time for all to participate, along with a deadline to drive action. Most of the small group working sessions will have specific tasks that can be addressed in five – twenty minutes.  If the working session agenda is long, use multiple working sessions.

 

Have an end game.  What are you seeking to accomplish, and what will you do with the results?

If you have unstructured conversations, then make that distinction and ask folks to come with some thoughts on the topic to be discussed.

 

Have two leaders: One focuses on content delivery (short and succinct) and the other on the chat and looking at participants to get an idea of their engagement. This person then “presents” next. One can play the role of synthesizing with help from the group.

 

Consider a group participation agreement, formal or informal, depending on the group.

 

Include an opening round-robin so that everyone has a chance to say something – this will “break the ice,’ and set the tone for full participation.  Make sure opening is on topic and relevant, not a timewaster.

 

Plan carefully to avoid time-zone and cultural snafus.

 

Use easy-to-use technology and make sure you know how to use it. Offer to train participants in advance.

 

Operations

 

Be consistent with your start time protocol and start on time. Consider an “unofficial” start time where folks can get set up and say hello.  But start on time.

 

As the leader, show up early and kick off the conversations. Get people comfortable and participating. Try the “one-word” exercise: share a word that reflects how you are and what’s going on.

 

Let the group know your preferences for interaction. Do you want questions as they arise or at the end?  By voice or text?

 

Keep a roster of participants and take notes on crucial contributions, factoids, and follow-ups.

 

Put on a show – prepare a solid opening, make it positive and constructive, if not joyful. Make time for people to add their ideas and modify the agenda. 

 

Don’t overuse technology. Tools should serve their purpose without getting in the way.  A show of hands might be better than an online poll.

 

Seek buy-in where possible. Buy-in engenders commitment and commitment fosters participation.

 

Allow some personal clearing and ideation; these are trust-building and tone-setting activities.

 

The downside of virtual conferencing is the limited ability to read non-verbal cues. Encourage all to use video so that expressions are readable, and to counteract the narrow “bandwidth,” slightly exaggerate your expressions and tone.

 

Wrap up

Follow-up. Distribute the results of the meeting with any action items and clear responsibilities as soon as possible following the end of the session. Keep the momentum going.

 

Thanks to the members of the Right Company for their contributions.


Developing and running online meetings take specific skills to offset cultural, technological, and internal barriers to participation.

 

Learn more about our programs:  Schools - Practical Academics 

The end of the school year is in sight, we can almost see it, just beyond that final assessment period!  Amidst the current context of COVID-19, where we are utilising online tools to enable teaching and learning more than ever,  we may need to take a different route to get there to the one we had planned.

The purpose of this blog is to support you with running online assessments in Canvas. In this Part 1 we’ll look at Creating the Assessment, and in the following Part 2 we’ll look at Facilitating the Assessment.   Wherever your starting point, from making a few adjustments to previous assessment periods, through to upscaling your entire assessment process to online for the first time, we hope this blog will provide you with helpful best practices, practical tips, and considerations to ensure your assessments run smoothly in Canvas. 

Consideration 1: Ease of Access

The workflow for students to access their assessments should be clear and easy.  We want students to be focusing on the assessment itself, and a logical navigation, simple presentation, and well chosen functionality is going to support this. 

Navigation 

Where will you place the assessments? One option could be to add them to a new Module, placing the assessments in the same Course as the teaching and learning occurred.  This could be further signposted by moving the Module to the top of the Module list, or even linked to within an Announcement (particularly useful when combined with the setting that shows recent Announcements in the Course Home Page).

 

 

Alternatively, you could create a new Course purely for assessments.  This could include only the assessments for a particular course, or if students are taking multiple Courses across the institution (for example as part of a larger programme of study), they could be coordinated into a singular assessment Course.  This could provide a secure assessment space for access to and storage of assessment artefacts (should that be required as per any existing policies).  Students would then navigate to the assessment Course from their Dashboard, and a Global Announcement could be used to signpost this workflow to all Students.

 

There are other important considerations beyond a streamlined workflow that should be taken into account when deciding on where to place your assessments:

  • Consistency - if Students and Teachers are participating in multiple Courses, navigation to assessments should be consistent across these.  
  • Communication - decide how will you let your Students (and Teachers / Graders) know where to find their assessments.
  • Grading - ensuring those involved are able to access the assessments and complete their workflows.
  • Existing Integrations - if you have any automations for creating assessments, enrolling users, or data extraction, these will of course need to be considered.

Presentation

As with all assessments, there will be information that you need to share with your students to ensure they are able to complete the assessment effectively.  If your students are going to need access to a resource during an assessment (for example a case study, an article, or a video demonstration), consider embedding this directly into the Rich Content Editor.  This allows the students to access all assessment content in one page, minimising navigation and allowing them to spend more of their time on the assessment itself over navigating between different items.

 

 

Rubrics provide an effective way to present your expectations for the assessment to students.  As well as supporting the grading process, Rubrics are visible to students as part of the Assignment or Quiz information both before and during the assessment.  This allows Rubrics to be used as an opportunity to present your expectations, guiding your students to meet the assessment criteria as best as they can before they submit the assessment.

 

Functionality

Assignments and Quizzes are two tools with functionality that support assessments.  Choosing the appropriate tool and enabling the required functionality that best meets your needs is a key component of successful assessment preparation.  Canvas has the functionality, your responsibility as a teacher or decision maker is to choose the right tool and settings that provide the required opportunity, along with as clear and simple workflow for students as possible. This leads us on to Consideration 2...

Consideration 2: Which Assessment Tool to Use?

The primary assessment tools in Canvas are Assignments and Quizzes Assignments allow students to submit artefacts that teachers can then grade and give feedback on.  Quizzes allow students to answer questions, with the additional functionality of being able to automate the grading and feedback workflow.  With this baseline functionality, there are many ways that each tool can be utilised to provide agency for a variety of assessment formats.

Assessments with specific File Types to Submit 

Perhaps you want your students to submit a particular file type - a PDF, a Word document (doc, docx), or an Excel spreadsheet (xls, xlxs) for example. If so, have Canvas carry through this requirement for you.  By restricting the file upload type, students will only be able to upload the file types that you allow. Reinforcing your expectations while preventing your students from making accidental uploads of incorrect file types.

Assessments with Multiple Artefacts to Submit 

We may need to ask students to provide multiple artefacts as part of the same assessment.  For example, a Music student may need to submit an audio file along with a pdf of the score, a Business student may need to submit a portfolio of case studies, or an Apprentice may need to provide a combination of video and written evidence from a work placement.  There are different options to consider here to facilitate an assessment with multiple submissions required:

 

  • When a variety of ‘Submission Types’ is required, the preferred workflow may be to Duplicate the AssignmentEnabling the relevant Submission Type in each Assignment and using a clear naming convention will support your students to understand what is required for each Assignment.  This option may be preferred for assessments that require video as part of their submission, as the video can be embedded and therefore previewed in the SpeedGrader for ease of grading workflows. It can also allow for a different Rubric and/or grading schemes per submission, should that be of use in the grading process.


  • Quizzes also can also be used to allow for submission of multiple artefacts.  Using a combination of Essay and File Upload question types, a question can be added for each artefact required.  This can provide a clear framework for students, and Quiz functionality such as adding a time limit to the attempt may be beneficial.  However, do consider the implication on the grading process, as the SpeedGrader has less functionality when Files are uploaded via a quiz.

Assessments usually taken on Paper or presented to a Panel

There are, and always will be, aspects of assessment that do not easily translate to an online format.  In Mathematics, the ‘workings out’ are often more important than the final answer itself.  For language, we need to assess the spoken as well as the written technique.  Or in Performing Arts, demonstrating a specific skill visually is often required.  For these cases, remember that Canvas can just as easily accept media submissions.  Using the ‘Text Entry’ submission method,  photographs, voice recordings, and videos can easily be submitted from the browser on a laptop or even the app on a mobile phone.

 

For assessments usually taken as a formal exam, there are many settings within Quizzes that can be used to manage the student experience.  In particular, you may wish to consider adding a time limit, multiple attempts, showing one question at a time, locking after answering, and when the students will be able to see the correct answers.

 

 

Consideration 3: Accommodations for Students 

When conducting assessments there is often a need to differentiate the experience to make sure that all students have fair access.  For all assessments we can use the Assign To box to assign students with different availability dates, due dates, or different assignments entirely.  In Quizzes, we can also give additional time or attempts to individual students.  These accommodations should be set up before the assessments are accessible to students, to ensure that students are aware of the correct parameters pertaining to their own assessment experience.

Practice Makes Perfect!

One of my favourite tools in Canvas is the Student View as it allows us to view and experience our course as our students do.  In the case of assessments, this means that we can check the workflow for our students is logical, functional, and matches the intentions we had when we created the assessment.  Use the student view to test run your assessment, and remember there’s always the option to trial this in the test environment first if you’d prefer to keep content unpublished at this point.

 

These are just a few considerations and suggestions for Creating Assessments in Canvas.  Stay tuned for Part 2,  where we’ll take a look at Facilitating the Assessment.  

 

For now, we’d love to hear from you - what are your thoughts about these suggestions? What are your tips for managing assessments in Canvas?

 

Many teachers have now moved to teaching entirely online with the current COVID-19 situation. We've already discussed the idea of "Maintaining a Connection of the Classroom". What about our teachers who are on a rapid learning curve in the use of technology for distance learning. This article aims to cover ideas on maintaining and promoting a collaborative connection between teachers when working remotely.

 

The Staff Room

Many organisations are already using Web Conferencing tools for social events as well as formal meetings. If you don't already have a shared online area, one of the features that can be useful for sharing information and ideas is the Account-level Groups feature within Canvas. These can be created for specific faculties or departments within an organisation and can be used for staff briefings and notices. 

 

 

Account-level groups include functionality for announcements, discussions, file sharing and conferences. Account-level groups can be set up by your Canvas Admin. 

 

 

The Etiquette of Sharing

If we consider the amount of content that will have been created over the past few weeks, I can't help but wonder how many times the wheel has been reinvented?

 

Canvas includes some great features to help you share content with your colleagues or even across the whole community of Canvas teachers.

 

Let's consider sharing within your organisation, to begin with. Direct share enables you to send a resource directly to another course or teacher in your organisation.

 

 

The resources sent between teachers can be accessed easily from your account in the global navigation.

 

 

You can directly share item banks with other teachers in your organisation as well. One method of doing this is by creating a new item bank and sharing this with other teachers so you can collaborate together and build a pool of questions. 

 

Canvas Commons is a way of sharing content within your organisation as well as outside. It's a place where you can search for resources to add to your own course from other teachers.

 

We should consider some form of etiquette or best practice here. When sharing publically on Commons, we should be aware that it is accessed by teachers from many levels and also may different systems across the world. Although it may take a little more time, it is good practice to fill in all details to make searching easier. We all know it's easy to cook in your own kitchen when you know where everything is. Try cooking in someone else's kitchen.

 

 

  • Is the title a clear indication of the content? Let's consider "Chemistry Quiz" vs "Quiz - Balancing Chemical Equations". 
  • Does the description describe the content clearly? What does the resource include and how is it designed?
  • Have suitable tags been applied? Different countries use different terminology, it's good to use this to help people find resources for specific qualifications. Content will overlap countries though so we should aim to include standard transferable tags. Age range is a simple example but we can't rely solely on that label. Let's include;
    • Subject
    • Topic
    • Year Group / Grade
    • Age Range
  • Does the image represent the content appropriately? When multiple resources appear in a search let's make sure we don't lose a valuable resource by adding an image that doesn't truly represent what you are offering.

 

Another way to organised content in Commons is to use groups. Admins can create these and assign staff as the group manager.

 

I've seen over the past few weeks, under very difficult circumstances, amazing collaborations between educators all over the world. It reminded me of being asked to present at Instructurecon with a topic of "How to get the most out of Instructurecon?"

My response was simple, "Be Like Robin Hood, share the wealth"

 

 

 

 

 

Ok this is a really short post but might be helpful for some of you who have multiple adults and/or kids all doing Zoom meetings in the house and you keep hearing and being distracted by all of the other conversations. 

 

Turn on some White Noise

 

White noise is basically any sort of non-specific sound.  The idea is that you don't notice it much, but it helps drown out other noises coming from your housemates who are also in meetings (or playing FortNite with friends).  If you don't have a White Noise device there are a ton of apps for iOS and Android, and if you have a smart speaker try just yelling out "Alexa, play some white noise", or "Hey Google, play some white noise".  If you accidentally say "Play some white snake, well that might be a little more distracting.  Amazon has a whole selection of devices you can order and bathroom fans also can do the trick. 

 

I didn't do this, but in my house both of our Echo Dots are currently playing White Noise as well as fans running in both bathrooms. 

 

I guess I must be too loud?  

 

#KeepTeaching

The Rickster

 

You may have read my previous blog around maintaining the connection with your classroom. This was written as teachers moved from a classroom situation to teaching online.

 

Link to Blog - Maintaining the Connection of the Class RoomMaintaining the Connection of the Classroom

 

I wanted to write this post as the current circumstances means more and more educators are providing resources online to students who are working under a very different environment. Things have changed very rapidly in the last few weeks. In my role, I'm so lucky, I spend my time with fantastic educators around the world, looking at ways of using Canvas to change and enhance educational delivery. The situation we are presented with today means we need to step back and focus on new users, under pressure and with little time. By this, I mean our students and parents as well as teachers. They are juggling many priorities of a personal nature as well as professional. 

 

After thinking about your level of capability with the tools make a decision on what is really important now

Then let's ask ourselves 3 questions.

 

1 - Can we actually find time to be online together?

Tips

  1. Use Virtual Classrooms as open Q+A sessions.
  2. Don't forget the "Chat" tool.
  3. Use a single-threaded discussion tool to gather questions.

 

When everybody is at home, it may be putting a strain on the people as they spend more time together. We also need to consider it could be putting pressure on the internet and access to devices as well. Will your whole class still be available at the normal time?

 

We can think of what can be delivered in your virtual classroom on a continuous scale.

 

 

If you are not used to delivering online video classes, maybe a simple approach in the time online together will be more beneficial. Consider setting your work in assignments and discussions that can be completed asynchronously. Use shorter webinar times. Do they really need to be run at the same time as the usual school schedule? These sessions can be an opportunity to answer your students' questions or cover a crucial point they've not grasped in the assignments and quizzes. Do not undervalue you explaining a concept verbally.

If circumstances mean that web calls are inappropriate or inaccessible, you can use the chat tool to answer questions and support students synchronously.

 

Discussions can also help maintain the connection of the classroom and could be more accessible to students if they are unable to attend a scheduled virtual class. These to allow students to share ideas but simply keeping one discussion board pinned and open to gather questions can help students ask for help and gain support.

 

 

2 - Will they find their way around my course?

Tips

  1. Use the first module in your list as a box for this week's resources and tasks.
  2. Set due dates or add to the student to-do list.

 

There's no point in setting work that they can't find behind a large number of clicks. The modules page in Canvas is a fantastic way of presenting your resources in a structured manner to your students. Think about your students (consider parents) and their ability to navigate the course. One idea is to put a module at the top of the page with the current work. You can drag and drop, or move the module if need be.

 

 

Canvas automatically creates a to-do list for students. If you add dates and times to your tasks, it increases the visibility for students and helps organise their time.

 

3 - How do they get feedback when I'm not available?

Tips

  1. Use short self-marking quizzes where feedback is given based on a response.

 

When you can't be online at the same time as your students, there's no need for them to wait to get feedback on simple concepts. You can add mini-quizzes and if you use the feedback tools in the quiz students can see straight away if they've grasped a concept or idea.


I hope this discussion blog has been useful and feel free to comment. We see the work and effort you put in during these challenging times. Remember, you can only do what you can do. 

 

Stay Safe!

Jonathan

 

Summary of Ideas

  • Use a single-threaded discussion tool to gather questions.
  • Don't forget the "Chat" tool.
  • Use Virtual Classrooms as open Q+A sessions.
  • Use the first module in your list as a box for this week's resources and tasks.
  • Set due dates or add to the student to-do list.
  • Use short self-marking quizzes where feedback is given based on a response.

 

 

Bob the BuilderHow many of you have seen the show "Bob the Builder"?  One of Bob's mantras is to use the right tool for the job.  This holds true for so many things in life and is not just limited to building things.  It's something we should definitely try to do as much as possible in academic technology as well.  

 

Over the last month or so hundreds of thousands of educators are trying to get up to speed with how to conduct their classes in remote learning mode.  There are lots of tools available and in many cases a lot of overlap from tools meant to do very different things.  I want to focus here on video and using the right video tool for the job whenever possible.  

 

I like to break down the creation of video into three main categories:

  • Solo recorded video: such as a lecture done for people to view on their own time
  • Video Conferencing: a live synchronous event which may or may not be recorded for playback later
  • Group recorded video: a recording that needs to be made by more than one person who are not together.

What I've been hearing a lot recently is "I want to just use one tool for everything" meaning all 3 categories listed above.  And on the surface I agree with that statement, the fewer different tools the better.  And the tools that will do all three of those typically are Video Conferencing tools such as Zoom, Adobe Connect, or Big Blue Button (the conferencing tool built in to Canvas).  But for the first category of Solo Recorded Video, using a video conferencing tool can be overkill pulling resources away from others who need it for synchronous activities, and in some cases providing undesirable results.  

 

There are various tools which can be used for solo recorded video, some for screen capture and some for just plain video.  Examples include VidGrid, Canvas Studio, Screencast-o-matic, Camtasia and even the built in Canvas video recorder or your mobile phone/table.  When you use a tool like these virtually all of the "work" is being done by your device.  Only when the recording is done is it sent over the interwebs to a system to be hosted for viewing.

 

When you use a tool like Zoom to just make a solo recording, (especially a cloud recording) it is having to connect through the internet to Zoom servers to do the work.  That connection is like hopping on the highway with your car AND needing to maintain a speed of at least 45 miles per hour.  If you run into a traffic jam, (network congestion), the recording can suffer because not all of the data can get to Zoom in that constant minimum stream (bitrate).  Plus, just being out on the highway you are causing more congestion for everyone who might be holding a synchronous event. The other issue with some systems such as Zoom when using the Canvas integration; the cloud recordings are made available to your students as soon as they are processed. 

 

In comparison, when a solo recorded video gets sent up to a server over the interwebs, there is no need to maintain a minimum speed.  During times of congestion it may take 30 minutes instead of 10 to upload, but again that is not a problem because the recording has already been made. It just needs to get all of the data to the server eventually so the server can assemble them into a video presentation to be accessed by people on their own schedule. 

 

So obviously there are no hard and fast rules. Do I use Zoom sometimes to make solo recordings?  Yes. Does everyone have multiple tools available? No. So by all means use what you have available.  But if you are in a case where there are multiple tools available to you through your school, consider what the best tool is for the job. In these times of exponential increase of usage of various products, keep these things in mind and know that picking the best tool for the job can help improve your results, and impact work that others are doing as well.

 

#KeepTeaching

The Rickster

With the education landscape rapidly changing, many of us are exploring ways to enable online teaching and learning opportunities to an increasing cohort of students.  This blog will explore best practices to consider when teaching large Courses within Canvas.

Sections 

Sections are a great way to subdivide students within a Course.  Using sections can enable easier facilitation of teaching, communication, and grading processes, as well as the opportunity to provide differentiated content and due dates for students. 

Assignments, Quizzes and Graded Discussions

When creating Assignments, Quizzes or Graded Discussions, they can be assigned to a specific section so that only students in that section will be able to access the activity.  This can be a great way to provide differentiated learning activities should you choose to create sections based on student ability. 

 

It is also possible to set an activity for the entire Course, but with different availability and due dates for different sections - a great solution when sections are created for students who usually have class at different times.  Keep in mind that students will only see the dates that you have set for them, so they will not know that other students in the course may have different due dates.

 

Announcements 

Announcements are a simple way to provide targeted communication to specific sections, meaning students will only receive the information that is relevant to them. Using the ‘Post to’ box, Announcements can be sent to individual or multiple sections.  Combining this with the ‘Delay posting’ option and links to relevant Course content can be another way to streamline admin time, with the added benefit of supporting students to engage with course content.

 

 

Gradebook and Speedgrader 

Using sections as a filter in the Gradebook can allow teachers to more easily monitor student engagement and progress within an individual section.

 

Filtering by Section within the Speedgrader can be another way to streamline the grading process by completing grading one section at a time.  If you have multiple graders within a Course, consider creating Sections based on grader allocation again for ease of filtering.

 

Creating Sections

It is possible for teachers to create sections and enroll students to those sections within Courses.  However for large Courses, using a SIS import for section creation and enrollment is a far more time efficient workflow.  Reach out to your institutions Canvas Admin to action this, and the below guides provide further detail on how to create sections via either of these methods:

 

A few additional considerations for sections:

Groups

Groups provide collaboration opportunities for students to work together.  In large Courses, Groups can provide students with a smaller circle of peers to interact with, which may be more engaging and manageable than interaction across the entire cohort.

Group Area 

Groups are given sub areas within the Course, where students have space to independently interact with each other.  In Groups, students can facilitate their own Discussions, create content with Pages and Collaborations, share resources with Files, communicate with Announcements, submit Group Assignments, and even host online meetings with Conferences.  Groups can therefore be an efficient way to allow for peer-to-peer interaction, as well as student-led learning, even within large Courses.

Group Discussions

Another way to facilitate interaction is to use the Group Discussion tool. With just one additional click, teachers can create identical Discussion topics for each group of students.  When students reply to the Discussion, they do so within their Group environment, allowing simultaneous Discussions on the same topic to be held across all Groups.

Creating Groups

There are many options for creating Groups depending on your teaching preference - allowing students to create their own groups, to self sign-up, asking Canvas to automatically create Groups, or manually assigning Groups as the teacher.  Full guides on these different options can be found in the links below, however there are a two key things to consider with this process:

 

  • For students to be able to sign up to or create their own Groups, they need to be able to access the People tab in the navigation menu of your Course.  If you would like to allow self sign up, make sure the People tab is visible - it can be adjusted in the Navigation menu of the Course Settings.
  • Placing students into a Group adds a tab to the Global Navigation Menu, allowing them to navigate Groups without needing to be in the Course first.  Using a naming convention that identifies the Group as belonging to a specific Course will make it a lot easier (and more likely!) for your students to navigate in to.  

Large Courses Considerations

Canvas courses are optimised for 3,000 - 5,000 enrollments, and will remain performant with these numbers.  As will all online tools, there are implications to be aware of when dealing with larger volumes, particularly with regards to load times and navigation.  It is important to be aware of this, and really consider whether reaching the upper limits of student numbers is necessary in your context, or if other solutions could be found.  Areas in particular to be aware of include:

  • Gradebook - using Sections, Modules, or Groups as filters will help  

  • Discussions - navigation can become suboptimal when thousands of topics are in use, though the search and sort options can be of assistance here

  • Analytics - large student numbers will extend load times, but only up to a minute so hang in there!

These are just a few suggestions of best practices for facilitating manageable teaching and engaging learning opportunities within large Courses. We’d love to hear from you - what are your thoughts about these ideas? What are your tips for managing large Courses?

I've been making some recordings recently on the theme of dealing with with coronavirus shutdowns that so many schools have been experiencing.  I posted one of my episodes earlier dealing specifically with using Zoom to remote proctor a written exam (Using Zoom to remote proctor an exam) but thought I'd create another post to contain all of my recordings and keeping adding to it.  The focus of the recordings is more around questions we are getting asked right now at my school, so if they don't seem well organized and linear, that is why.  But, I figured some people might still appreciate them.

 

Episode 1: Hardware considerations for Zoom and Recording

Episode 2: Scheduling Meetings in Zoom

Episode 3: Notifying students in Canvas about Zoom Meetings

Episode 4: Proctoring a written exam using Canvas and Zoom

            Addendum to Episode 4: Using CamScan and Canvas Student to submit a paper assignment or exam

Episode 5: Embedding Simulations in Canvas (Science type stuff)

Episode 6: Using the Canvas / Zoom Integration to Schedule Zoom class meetings

 

The Rickster

Earlier today, Phil Hill said in a blog post that as teachers respond to mass school closures the initial phase we are seeing is a lot of people wanting to move from synchronous face to face education to synchronous online video conferencing.  Phil theorized that as people begin to become aware of some of the inequalities of relying on video conferencing technology that requires all students to have “high speed internet,” and as teachers become more familiar with the online environment, a second main phase will focus more on asynchronous content delivery. 

 

If you are familiar with finding good content online, and adding it to your Canvas course, where do you go to find it?  Canvas Commons is a global online learning object repository (LOR) with content shared by Canvas users from around the world, designed to let you copy content directly from Commons into your Canvas course.  Not all institutions elect to link their instances of Canvas to Commons but it is available in Free-for-Teacher Canvas.

 

Another place instructors frequently turn to find materials for their courses is the world of Open Educational ResourcesOER Commons  is one example of public digital library of open educational resources.  Educause also has an excellent listing of other OER repositories.  Lumen has an amazing resource site as well. 

 

There are many educationally focused video resource collections to choose from, including Khan Academy (which has a whole section dedicated to homeschooling), or Teachertube.

 

If you know your way around instructional design and course building where do you typically go to find good course content?

 

 

 

 

During COVID-19, all online educational platforms have a responsibility to our teachers and students. I co-founded Instructure in 2008, and I recently co-founded the Derivita online math system with Ryan Brown. As you can imagine, the education community is incredibly close to my heart.

 

Many of you have already felt COVID-19’s impact on your classrooms. If you’re already using Canvas, the change from teaching in a classroom to fully online will be a bit easier.  But teaching math remotely without an online math system can still be incredibly tricky.

 

To aid you in this transition, we are offering the Derivita math homework system for free, Spring and Summer semesters. We will also install it on your Canvas course in under 24 hours, so the disruption you are already feeling will be minimal.

 

See my post introducing Derivita New Math Engine for Canvas 

 

Email us at info@derivita.com, and we will do everything we can to provide you with guidance. 

 

You can also find us at derivita.com, where you will learn how students around the world use our online system to learn math from their own homes. An online classroom does not need to be a lost learning moment for your math students.

 

We are privileged to serve the wonderful education community. We care about you, and we’re here to help.

 

Sincerely,

 

Devlin Daley, CEO at Derivita, Co-founder of Instructure

 

 

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