In March we conducted a Canvas pilot user roundtable session to gather current users’ experiences in using Canvas.  We have a very engaged group of users in Spring 2015, who are making great usage of Canvas in their teaching, including some advanced features.

Our pilot groups are particularly impressed with the following characteristics of Canvas.

  • You can create multiple sections, especially for students who may be in different time zones.
  • You can give extra time or attempts for quizzes for students with special needs, without having to create alternative sets of quizzes.
  • The system is fairly intuitive.
  • The 24/7 Help team from Canvas is fairly responsive and helpful, though few people have needed it.

We asked our participants: what would you say to new users?  Here are some highlights of the discussion:

  • Learn from existing users.  Consult one of your colleagues who are using Canvas now.  If you don’t know who in your department is currently using it, contact Marisa Beard or Lyndell Lee.
  • Ask to schedule a tutorial session for your department.   Contact Berlin Fang if you need to have such a session set up.
  • Make use of the Canvas 24/7 help, especially the chat function, to address issues.  You can click on “Help” on the upper right corner of the page to find help information.
  • Organize with modules.  Use modules to design your courses, which will get your content organized for students.
  • Create question banks before quizzes. If you have tests online, start building them as test banks.  Build quizzes later.  It is easier to build quizzes based on question banks.   It is more difficult to reverse the order, though not impossible.
  • Look around.  When you are building your course content, look around as some Canvas navigation items may be towards the far right side of the page or down at the bottom.
  • Don’t write dates, set them.  You can save yourself a lot of time by not mentioning particular dates in your content pages or files.  Instead, use such language as “check your course syllabus/calendar/assignments” for due dates. Setting dates in discussions, assignments, quizzes and other course items will make it easier for students to see when something is due without having to dig out the information from a   document.  Besides, you will not have to edit these dates multiple times.
  • Articulate tech requirements to students at the start of a class.  If you use apps such as Notability and Polls in class, you might want to mention this in your course.  Create a page in Canvas with the links to such apps.

We also asked:  “What would be some lessons you want to warn other users about?” Here are some responses:

  • As this is a new system, some of our participants do not know whether they are using it “correctly”?  To address such concern, it is a good idea to contact the instructional design team (Berlin Fang and David Christianson) to make sure.
  • Turnitin integration in Canvas is a little tricky.  When you add a Turnitin assignment, do not add “external tool”.  Add “assignment” first, and for submission type, choose “external tool”.  Then click in the blank field under it, and Turnitin LTI will show up as a choice.
  • Multiple answers automatically give people partial credit, without providing an “all or nothing” feature.  Canvas has been notified of the issue.