Lecturing from the screen

Instructional videos can help learners to spend extra time on learning tasks. You have probably seen many of your peers using something called “screencasting” to teach. Screencasting allows you to record what is going on on your screen which you would like to show to students. For instance, you can go through your PowerPoint slides, demonstrate the navigation of your class sites, or show how to use a software your major requires students to learn.

Here are a few options for producing screencast sessions:

  • Keynote on a Macbook allows you to add voiceover on slides and then export the content into a movie.  The benefit of doing so is the ability for you to change your narration one slide at a time.
  • Camtasia is a professional screencasting software which you can use to record. It has really powerful tools for editing. It is not free, but ACU still have a few licenses left if anyone is interested in using it.

  • Jing is a free application which you can use to record screen sessions for up to five minutes. One great benefits of this software is that instantly generates a URL that you can copy and share with students. You can use it to document a problem you encounter and share it with the Adams Center or IT. It may be more efficient than describing the problem in text. We found it to be the most convenient way to record quick demo videos you do not intend to reuse anyway.

  • Screencast-o-matic is another free web-based application that you can use to record up to 15 minutes of content. Its strong advantage is its ability for you to add a video of you talking alongside to add a personal touch. It also offers some basic tools for editing. Its disadvantage is that it is not yet possible to use with Google Chrome. Screencast sessions produced with Screencast-o-matic can then be published to YouTube or downloaded to use locally.

  • Quicktime player also has the option for you to record screen sessions. Videos thus produced can be downloaded locally or uploaded to a host of web storage sites. This is an application you can use right now, as you probably have the software on your computer.

  • Adobe Spark Videos can also be used to narrate over slides that are turned into pictures.  You can also develop your slideshow on the fly, using graphics from the computer or search for them within the app.  Please note that Adobe requires you to keep your talk on each slide very short.


  • Consider limiting the length of your videos. Many screencast services provide free recording for a limited time, such as five minutes or fifteen minutes. However, it is desirable to break down long lectures into shorter units anyway for reasons related to attention span and the possibility of technical issues when longer sessions are produced.

  • Focus on producing sessions around concrete concepts or activities. This will help you to index, categorize and reuse some of these sessions, and help your students to search and retrieve them if you tag or name them based on the content you have discussed. Though this does not seem to be a big deal at the beginning of your use of screencasting sessions, you will soon find that your content adds up and you do not want yourself or your students to get lost when trying to find a particular screencast video you have previously recorded.

  • Find the time and space for recording. Interruptions during recording can be annoying. Try to do so when you have a quiet environment, or find a time when few people are around, or put a note on your office door saying that you are recording.

  • Test before you record. You do not want to get in a situation when you found that the entire 10 minutes of your recording was done while you have not turned your audio or video on. Always start by recording a short test video, and play back to make sure everything works before you record the real video.

  • Prepare your computer for recording. It is a good idea that you stay focused on your recording with minimal distraction from your computer. Before recording, make sure you organize your desktop to move items away from the recording screen. Keep a clean desktop. Move items to a folder that cannot be viewed directly and try to use a clean, non-distracting background. Before recording, you should also close programs that may show pop-up content such as calendars reminders, mail notice and any other programs that may push notifications to your recording screen.

  • Make your video “timeless”. If you intend to produce a high-quality video that will be re-used semester after semester, try to avoid references that are specific to the current semester, references like “last week we discussed…” “tomorrow we will cover…”. Recording a good video takes time and lots of preparation and such investment will bring greater return if you can reuse them in future semesters.

Do you have any other suggestions for screencasting?  We’d love to hear them.  Share your experience in the comments!

Semester Course Template

We have created a Fall 2018 template that you could use to speed up your course development.  The template contains an orientation module with some Canvas tutorial videos for students, and a page to show them how to get help.  There are some additional activities which are unpublished for you to choose to use them. Remove them if you already have similar items. The template also contains modules marked by weeks.

The template also contains some key events from the academic calendar to help you and students to keep track of them.

Additionally, we have created a course homepage which you can customize for your own use. If you decide not to use it, go to course home page, and use “choose home page” to select another course entry method.

To use this template, go to your course’s home page, choose “import from Canvas Commons”, search for “Fall 2018 Course Template” and import it into your course once you have found it.

If you run into difficulty in any of these steps, please contact the Adams Center for help. When requesting help, remember to send the course URL for us to find your course quickly.

Try Canvas New Features

As you probably know, Canvas is a cloud-based application that does not require local users to schedule downtime for upgrades.  Instead, new features are added incrementally.

As you start your new semester, you might want to try some of the new features.  You do so by going to the course settings and then “feature options” to turn on specific features. As you can see, some are in “beta” mode, to allow you to use as early adopters, though these features continue to be improved.  It’s completely up to you whether you want to opt in to use these new features.

Canvas New Features

Here are a few new features that we have tested and enjoyed:

  1. “New grade book”, which gives more options to customize your views, which is helpful if you have many items and students.
  2. “Dashboard image”, which allows teachers to add a relevant image for their course to direct students’ attention to your course.
  3. “Duplicate calendar events”, which makes it easy to copy calendar items.  Please also remember you can duplicate assignments, pages, and rubric criteria, features that were not available when we started using Canvas.

If you have any questions about any of these features, please ask us at the Adams Center.

Adding extra credit

Before adding extra credit to your course, ask yourself what is the purpose of having extra credit.  Read this article for more ideas about the issue.

Once you decide to add extra credit, here are three ways to do that in Canvas:

1. Point method:

If your total grade uses the point system, you can simply create a graded assignment and have the grade contribute towards the final total grade.

If you see your total grade display percentages, you can easily switch to points. Mouse over the “total grade” column in the grade book, click on the settings icon (shown as three dots), and choose “Display as Points”. While you are at it, you might as well click on “Move to Front” to move the total points closer to student names so that you can see who earned how many points.

change display from percentage to points in Canvas2) Percentage method:
If you use percentages for grade calculation, you can create a 10-point extra credit “assignment” with “no submission.” Choose not to have it count towards total grade so that the percentages will not change for those not having earned their extra credit. Then, towards the end of the semester, adjust the final grade manually based on extra credit students have earned.

Extra credit assignment3) Notes method:
In Canvas grade, you can use the notes column to record extra credit and use it to adjust the final grade at the end of the semester.  “Notes” column is under “view.”

You need to have the new gradebook enabled to be able to use the Notes feature.  To enable the new gradebook, go to settings, then “feature options” and turn on “new gradebook.”Add notes column


Add notes

Have Canvas automatically deduct grades for late submission

Deducting grades from students for late submission is not only unpleasant, but also tedious.  You can have Canvas automate the process.  Here is how:

1. Go to course settings.

2. Under “feature options,” turn on “new gradebook.”

Turn on new gradebook feature

3. Click on the gear icon that represents gradebook settings.
Gradebook Settings

4. You can now configure how much you deduct for missing or late assignments.  Remember to click on “update” to save your settings.Missing or Late

Back-to-school list for Canvas

As you get ready for the beginning of the semester, you might also create a virtual classroom by using Canvas. Canvas can be used to share class materials, collect assignments, communicate with students and grade assessments. You may use one or two features, or you may use it extensively based on your specific needs. Here are a few tips to help you get started.

  1. Create a course in Canvas:
    If you have not done so already, request a Canvas shell for each of your courses. To do so, go to MyACU, click on the wrench toolWrench tool in MyACU for your course to request a course to be created. Check detailed instructions here.
  1. Inform students where to find Canvas:
    Inform your students, either in class or by email, how they can access their class sites in Canvas. Canvas is linked to Banner through single sign on (SSO), therefore students can also find their courses by clicking on the Canvas icon Canvas Icon once they logged in to MyACU. They can also go to their Canvas home page by visiting: acu.edu/canvas.
  1. Publish your Canvas course:
    Students will not be able to see your course content until you have published them. You will need to publish your course by clicking on the “publish” button once on the course home page Unpublished/Published Buttonsfor students to get in. Modules and items will also need to be published for students to access. You will need to click on the cloud button Publishing Cloud Buttonassociated with modules and items to publish them. Once published, the item or module will turn green . PublishedYou can go to student view (click on “settings” on course menu and the student view iconStudent view iconis located towards the far right of the page. You do NOT have to publish every module and every item at the beginning of the semester. Just publish those you want them to see.
  1. Add TA to your course.
    To add a teaching assistant to your course, go to MyACU, find the wrench tool Wrench tool in MyACUfor your course, click on “teaching assistants”, and search for the name of the person you would like to add. It may take up to two hours for the TA to see their course.
  2. Include Canvas orientation content in Canvas:
    Some students are new to Canvas and would appreciate some guidance on how to use various functions and features of Canvas. We have shared a series of video tutorials in Canvas Commons for you to import and customize in your course. Check here for instructions.
  3. Import a fall template, if needed: Please also note that we have created a template for you to use.  This template came with weekly start date and some important academic dates in Canvas (see screenshot below). Please contact Berlin Fang or Amy Boone from the Adams Center if you need help importing it into your course, or if you want other assistance with Canvas.


We would also recommend that you bookmark or subscribe to the Adams Center blog as we frequently publish information about Canvas you might find useful. This blog also has a specific section on Canvas you might find useful.

Use Blueprint courses to synchronize changes

If you team-teach a course with multiple sections, synchronizing changes across different sections can be a headache.  Canvas has a Blueprint course tool that allows you to make changes to a “blueprint” course and push the changes to all other sections associated with the course. Please check the following video to find out more:

Check this page for additional Canvas resources.

Canvas and Turnitin Dates

If you hear from students that they cannot submit their Turnitin assignment in Canvas, one likely cause is that the due dates have passed.  Canvas-Turnitin due date conflict could also cause the problem.  To check and change, follow these steps:

  1. Go to the assignment with the problem;
  2. Click on “edit assignment settings”;

Edit Canvas setting

3. Check if the due date has passed.  Change if needed.

4. Save if you have made some changes to the due date.

Save in Turnitin setting

5. Look for Turnitin settings.  Depending on your screen size, it could be collapsed into these three bars, as shown below.

Three bar for Turnitin assignments

6. Click on “settings”.

Turnitin settings

7. Check the start date (when student can start to submit), due date (when assignment is due) and release date (when feedback is given to students) to make sure they are set in a way to allow submission.  Make change as needed.

Turnitin dates

8. If you want to allow late submissions, click on “optional settings”, as shown above.

9. Check to allow late submissions, if applicable.

Allow late submissions10.  Remember to save your change by clicking on “submit”.


If this does not solve the submission problem, please contact us for help.

Making your classroom hospitable for international students

International StudentsIn a recent Adams Center session on making classrooms welcoming places for international students, Lucy Dawson from the Center for International Education, Dr. Carly Dodd (Professor of Communication), Dr. Monty Lynn (Professor of Management) and Dr. Lori Houghtalen, Assistant Professor of Engineering and Physics) and Berlin Fang shared some challenges faced by international students studying at ACU, as well as possible solutions.

We have found that these are the top four challenges international students face.  We will also share a few strategies to help address these challenges:

  1. Learner participation in the classroom:  International students may have difficulty participating in classroom discussions due to language barriers, varied cultural expectations, limited understanding of social norms and lack of prior exposure to group discussions.  Group projects was also mentioned as particularly challenging for international students, perhaps due to the lack of welcome by domestic students and a hesitation to contribute by international students.
  2. Academic integrity: Some international students may have limited understanding of how their professors define academic integrity. Sometimes they lack training in proper citations in academic work.  There is also a concern that some students do not know the boundary between individual work and group work.
  3. Expectations for assignments and assessment: Among international students, there is often confusion on the number of assignments, and confusion about some academic jargon such as “outcomes” and “rubrics”.  Some show frustration over the speed of professors’ speech or the volume of assigned reading.  Participants mentioned international students had not been taught how to “scan” readings, and perhaps had vocabulary to look up, which also impeded reading speed.
  4. The use of resources: There is a lack of awareness of university resources that could be really helpful for international students.  Among these are the Writing Center, the Speaking Center, research help, and the Counseling Center.  Tutoring is provided to students who may be struggling with an academic subject, but sometimes there is variation between tutor knowledge and the faculty’s lecture.

The panelists discussed many solutions, best practices, and tips for faculty to make their classroom more hospitable to international students.  Here are some highlights from this discussion:

  1. Use technology to break barriers:  As some international students have a greater ability to read and write, than to listen and speak, including some discussions online may help relieve the pressure to speak in public in a different language. Some materials, such as the course rubric and reading materials should be shared online as well for constant access.
  2. Develop a relationship with the students outside of class, and use office hours creatively: ACU faculty use many types of “office hours” techniques to build one-on-one relationship with students, which can be especially helpful for students. One professor mandates a 10-minute meeting with every student to get to know them. Some use walking sessions to have a “mobile” office hour around campus. Some have designated a “help desk” at the library to meet with students in a less threatening environment.
  3. Consider offering a specialized orientation for your class.  For instance, provide some training related to reading academic resources (reading strategies). Provide training on using the library website or citation management tools such as Zotero.  Provide training or tours of various university resources such as the writing center, pointing out specific assistance that can be given, and some that cannot be given (for example assistance that crosses into academic integrity violations).
  4. Explain social norms:  It is important to explain classroom social norms, including proper class etiquette, appropriate assertiveness, and social spaces.  The key is to help international students form a good sense of boundaries while still feeling encouraged to learn and socialize.

Please also check out this presentation for further tips and more information about this session.  Faculty and staff are welcome to contact Berlin Fang (bxf13b@acu.edu) or Lucy Dawson (lld09a@acu.edu) regarding international students in the classroom at any time.  

Veronica Whitt, the international student services coordinator, can also meet with students individually to help them find the support resources they might need, so please feel free to refer students to her for assistance (vdw09a@acu.edu).

Additional Reading:

Tools to make scheduling easy

If you constantly email with students for a time to meet for office hours or arrange time for a series of class presentations, please remember there might be a better way of scheduling.

Google Calendar

If both sides know a general time to meet, just create a Calendar invitation which can get the item on the calendars for both you and the other person, if he or she accepts it.  Even if the invitation is not accepted, there is a record on your calendar how many people  (and who) have accepted your invitation. You can also add a notification which will remind both yourself and the other person about the event before it starts.

Canvas Scheduler

For your classes, you can use the “scheduler” tool to create appointment slots.  Here is how:

Go to your course, find calendar for the course, click on “scheduler”, and then “create an appointment group”.


You will then see this page, where you can name your appointment group, select the date and the time range, and specify if you’d divide the time range into equal slots of, say, 10 minutes. Click on “go” and Canvas will automatically create a series of time slots for your appointments. Remember to “save and publish”.Scheduling page

Now, you can tell students to reserve appointments using the scheduler tool.  Ask them to go to your course, find the course calendar from the course home page,  select “scheduler”, and then click on the name of the appointment group.  They will then be able to click on available slots to make reservations. If they change their minds, they can click on the slot they reserved to “unreserve” it.
Student view of schedulerYou can book me:

The Canvas scheduling tool only work for your courses in Canvas.  If you intend to show your availability to others not associated with your class or even ACU, you can use the “youcanbook.me” tool to create a public-facing scheduler for others to see your availability and book your time.

Check the following video for more information about this tool:

Use a semester template for your course

We have created a Spring 2017 template course with some common information you might find useful, especially if you are starting the course as a blank one with no content.

The template include some generic university calendar items including the spring break, holidays, and general grades due dates.

Template Syllabus Page

The template also includes modules corresponding to dates in the semester, starting with Monday of each week. This may help you to populate content corresponding to each week, but you can always edit the names after you have populated the content.

Template Modules

As shown above, the template also has some common resources such as Canvas video tutorials your students may find helpful. It is under “module 0”, which also include some common resources as shown below:

Template resources page

After this template is imported into your course, you can adjust the content as you see fit.

The template is a resource, not a requirement. Use it only if it helps you to get ready for the semester. If you are not teaching the course using this weekly structure, this template may not be that helpful.

If you are interested in importing the template into your course for a quicker start in building your course, please send the URL to me(bxf13b@acu.edu).  Go to the settings page and copy the URL of the page  (Example: https://acu.instructure.com/courses/2067020/settings) and email it to me.

Canvas Semester-end Reminders

As the semester draws to a close, I would like to send a few important reminders as you wrap up your Canvas courses and get ready for the new semester:

  1. Read this post for ideas about calculating final grade.
  2. Remember to check and change (if needed) the end dates of your courses while you have access.  Check this tutorial for details.
  3. Request course for your new semester. Check the tutorial here.
  4. If you haven’t chosen the copy option in the previous step, don’t worry.  You can still copy a Canvas course from another shell after a new course is created.  Check instructions here.
  5. If you intend to crosslist your courses for the new semester, follow instructions here.
  6. We try to put all Canvas tutorials together in this page. You might want to bookmark it for future reference.

ACU Faculty Honored for Using Turnitin

Steve and Karen, Turnitin

Today Turnitin announced their Global Innovation Awards for 2016.  ACU’s Karen Cukrowski and Steve Hare were two of three people to be listed in “honorable mention” for academic integrity in the North America Higher Education category. Turnitin’s press release described how Karen and Steve use Turnitin to enhance student writing:

“First, students will write and submit their rough drafts through Feedback Studio. Three class peers will review these drafts, evaluating against a set of questions similar to a rubric. All students are required to participate as peer reviewers, as it has an impact on their course grade. While reviewing, students certainly mark the papers. However, they are also required to fully respond to the set of questions about the papers they are critiquing, which demand that they write even more. The peer review is not anonymous, and the professors encourage their students to get up and ask each other questions about the papers they are reading. This contributes to the sense of community that is the very focus of the course. In fact, they have seen this process lead to deeper connections between their students. In Karen’s words:

‘It’s not just about the writing; it’s about the people.’ “

For further information, check here.

Congratulations to Karen and Steve. If you want to use Turnitin as well, please check our Turnitin Feedback Studio page, or contact the instructional design team at Adams Center for help.

Encourage students to view your feedback

If you use Speedgrader in Canvas to mark student assignments, remember that some students may not know where to find your feedback. Here is a tutorial to help you see instructor feedback from a student view. Feel free to share the link to the video if needed: https://youtu.be/97QYgFKw7RM

Professors can also tell whether a student has viewed the feedback from the Speedgrader, as shown below.

Feedback Viewed

Common Turnitin Issues

We have had Turnitin integration in Canvas in a while and we have heard of a few issues which I would like to address in the following question and answer format.

If you are a new user of Turnitin, please check this post for instructions on how to deploy the tool in your course.

Question: My students were told that they have to create accounts in Turnitin.  Why did that happen?  Shouldn’t Canvas have taken care of that?  

Answer: Account creation requires first-time users to agree to Turnitin terms and conditions.  Students will need to agree to allow their accounts to be created.  If they have chosen not to agree, they might want to clear their cache and try again, or use another browser or computer to perform this one-time action.

Question: My students were not able to submit their assignments due to error messages about assignment title and dates.  What might be the issue?

Answer: You will need go to Turnitin settings and give the assignment a title, a start date, due date and feedback release date that should be consistent with the assignment dates you assigned in Canvas assignment settings.

Question:  A student claims that his or her assignment has been submitted but I could not see it.  Why?

Answer: The top reason is that the student may not have followed through in the submission process. One last step is to click on a button to accept the submission.  If a student does not do this, his or her assignment will not go through. If an assignment has gone through, a student should see a confirmation message on the screen.  There really isn’t a middle ground between a successful submission and an unsuccessful submission. You can ask the student to resubmit and make sure the button for confirmation is clicked.

Another possible reason is that you might have switched in your submission method from “online” to “external tools” in the middle of students submitting their assignments.  If that’s the case, submissions turned in earlier can be accessed through the Speedgrader instead of the Turnitin inbox.

Question:  Can I use the Canvas Speedgrader and Turnitin only for originality check?

Canvas has now made it possible for Turnitin assignments to be pushed to Speedgrader as well, so yes, it is possible to use the Speedgrader for grades and comments.

Does your course deliver what your syllabus promises?

Creating a syllabus is a daunting task.  Once created and shared with students, does your course actually reflect what you have written in the syllabus?  Having the course one way and allow the course to deviate is like a builder having a blueprint for a house and then you deliver an apartment or mobile home to the customer.  (I am not sure if this metaphor works, but I hope you get the idea.) This is especially problematic when you put content in a learning management system. Here are three main problem areas and some suggestions.


Most syllabi describe a list of topics presented in a particular order.  Make your course reflect that. When using your LMS to organize your course, do not use the course space as a landfill to dump everything without a particular logic to it. Use modules to organize your content in folders.  Arrange the folders in chronological or topical orders as you have described in the syllabus.


In the syllabus you may have a course calendar marking the dates of readings and course activities, but your course may not show some of the due dates, or show old due dates you inherited from the last iteration of the course.  This would almost always cause confusion. I would recommend that you set the dates in LMS for activities that you can assign dates, which will create calendar events, which in turn will be tied with personalized notifications students receive.


Last but not the least, the most frequent problem is the mismatch between syllabus and course in grades. In your syllabus you may have categories for various types of assignments. Each category may be worth a certain percentage of the total grades.  For instance, quizzes will be worth 20%, papers 30%, exams 40%, In many courses online we find that the grade book does not reflect what you say in the syllabus.  You can fix that by creating categories and weigh them according to your syllabus. If you have done that, your grade book will automatically calculate grades (including final grades) for you and the students. This really helps students to keep track of their progress all the time. You will save yourself time by not having to calculate the grades with Excel or calculator.

If you use letter grades, remember that the default grading schema of your LMS may not be what you have described in your syllabus. For instance, your LMS may make 95%-100% worth A, while you have 90%-100% to qualify as an A. Usually you can create your own schema to reflect descriptions in the syllabus. For instance in Canvas, you can define your own schema from course settings.

Once you get these problems straightened out, I promise that you will have fewer housekeeping emails, greater student satisfaction and more quality time with your students.

If you want any help aligning your course with your syllabus, contact the Instructional Team for help.

Adding Teaching Assistants to Courses

Canvas is synced to Banner to make sure student, teacher and TA records are consistent across systems. To add co-teacher or students to a course, you may need to contact the registrar’s office Click here to find how.

You can, however, add a TA to your course in Canvas.  If you add a teaching assistant, do not add him or her in Canvas through the invitation method. Instead, add your teaching assistant through MyACU. Here is how:

Go to MyACU, Click on the course tool icon (the wrench)

Course tools

Click on “assistants” tab, search for the person you would like to add as TA to your class and click on “+add” to add him or her. You can add more TAs after that.Add Teaching Assistants

Once you have done this at MyACU, the information will trickle down to Canvas when it is synced with Banner next time. You may need to wait a couple of hours for this process to complete.

Check this page for additional Canvas resources.

Alternative uses of your voice

If you hear me speaking to myself in my office, it is not a sign that I am getting crazy. I might be “typing”.  Voice recognition technologies have made it possible for us to input by simply speaking. Here are a few examples:

  1. “Type” on a mobile device:
    On your iPad or mobile phone, press the microphone icon to dictate in notes, emails, or other applications. Make sure you check the results later on.  You may need to edit the content. The same applies for other suggestions below.

iPAD Dictation tool

2. Dictate in Google Docs:
Google Docs now allows you to dictate as well.  It is called “voice typing” under “tools”.  Give it a try.  It is fairly accurate.

Google Docs Voice Dictation

3. Generate video subtitles:
If you upload a video to Youtube, Youtube can automatically transcribe your voice into subtitles which you can then improve into more accurate ones. The automatic process saves you at least half of the time compared to doing it from the scratch. However, if you do not have the time for lengthy editing, you might consider using a professional service.

Subtitles tool of Youtube

4. Leave voice comments in Canvas:
When grading student work in Canvas, you can use voice comments to give feedback to students, or use the Speech Recognition tool (works in Chrome) to have your comments turned into text.
Canvas Speedgrader Feedback

5. Take voice notes:
If you use Evernote, you can leave yourself a voice note instead of typing it.

Evernote Voice recording tool

I hope this gives you some ideas of using voice to make input easier and faster.