How to Give A Student Extra Time or Attempt for Quizzes

If you have a student who has a documented disability, you may be requested to give him or her extra time or attempt in a quiz.  This can be done fairly easily in Canvas.

1. Go to the module where you put your quiz, click on the quiz.

Quiz in module

2.Click on “Edit”.

Edit button

3. Now you should be able to see the  “settings”.  Check to make sure you have configured the settings (e.g., the time, attempt and the available time) in ways you have wanted.  If you make any change, click on “save” towards the end to update.

Screen Shot 2015-06-15 at 4.15.36 PM

4. Scroll back to the top, and click on “Moderate This Quiz” on the right.

Moderate quiz

5. You will now see a list of students, their attempts available, time they have to complete the quiz, etc.  To change a particular student’s setting, click on the pencil tool towards the right.

Edit attempts

6. Add attempt or time for the student you selected.add attempts or time

7. Click on “save” to complete it.

Check this page for additional Canvas resources.


How to Avoid Being a Helicopter Professor

This article was originally published with Faculty Focus on June 8, 2015.  Ideas of this article  come mostly from my interaction with our faculty, as well as participation in the “Make it stick” reading group led by Dr. Bob McKelvain.  We encourage you to participate in Adams Center events in which such ideas are discussed.

Professor helping students

For years there has been talk about shifting a professor’s role from the “sage on the stage” to the “guide on the side.” But as some teachers leave the center stage, they may not move to the side as guides. Instead, they may find themselves hovering above students as helicopter parents hover over their children. While a complete lack of guidance is not a good idea, excessive guiding could turn constructivist scaffolds into new forms of crutches.

Here are a few suggestions for providing students with the proper balance of challenge and support.

Allow chaos. Students should learn to tolerate some uncertainty and vagueness in the learning process. “Figuring it out” is part of the learning. While you don’t want to be deliberately confusing, you also do not have to oversimplify some necessary complexity in order for students to learn. Some vagueness can encourage creativity. In our university, some of our professors, such as psychology professor Jennifer Shewmaker, have even started to experiment with what we call “free-range assignments.” With this approach, students are not prescribed a detailed set of assignments. Instead, they get to define what kind of assignments they will hand in, as long as the assignments illustrate their mastery of the learning outcomes.

Embrace desirable difficulty. Desirable difficulty is something that cognitive scientists believe is helpful for learning (Brown et al., 2014). Do not step in too quickly to help the moment a student appears to stumble or starts to complain that something is too hard or they “don’t get it.” Reflect first whether the task is indeed prohibitively difficult, in which case you would need to add some prerequisite training. If the task is appropriately difficult, communicate that to students and expect them to persist in seeking answers.

Increase accountability. There are things students have to learn to do. For instance, if technology is used heavily in class, students should learn to perform some tasks, such as clearing the cache of their browsers. If I argue that students should increase their digital literacy of the type of tools they will likely use in the workplace, most professors would agree. However, some professors may direct students to support professionals at the slightest suggestion of a problem. Eventually these students learn to go to others for answers rather than try to solve problems on their own. The bottom line is: help students, but don’t teach helplessness.

Reduce redundancy. Students sometimes treat the course syllabus like those terms of service agreements that are so pervasive on websites and apps. They accept it without actually reading it. Admonitions that “It’s all in the syllabus” do not help. However, just because students choose not to read the class syllabus does not mean you have to repeat an instruction 20 times in a course. You can post certain instructions (how to participate in discussions, for instance) once, quiz them if needed, and be done with it. Do not repeat the instructions every time there is a class discussion.

Remove crutches. Professors should help students learn the process of finishing a product without having to rely on constant feedback and guidance. One of our professors, Suanna Davis, recently shared with me a brilliant approach for gradually empowering students to do independent work. Davis has six major assignments in her class. Each assignment involves, say, four steps. For assignment one, she asks students to submit their work for each of the four steps so that she can provide detailed feedback to make sure they understand the process. For subsequent assignments, she gradually removes requirements for some of the steps. For the last assignment, she asks students to submit only the final paper, which she grades with a rubric. As she reduces and removes process-related requirements, the steps for the assignments are still included in the schedule until the final project, even though they are not required to turn anything in. By doing so, she teaches students the enabling tasks for completing their assignments, while empowering them to work increasingly independently.

Mix pull and push. There is certain information you want to push to students, but it is also reasonable to expect them to pull other information. You do not have to send students the syllabus again and again when they request it, especially if it creates a distraction for students who have already obtained what you want them to have. Instead, include a syllabus or orientation module online and ask students to download or view such instructions themselves when they need it.

I understand that educators walk a tightrope between supporting students and challenging them to be more self-directed learners. Yet it is not impossible to eventually find a good balance. Like building skyscrapers, you start by having scaffolds, but eventually, you want to remove the scaffolds and let students stand on their own.

Brown, P. C., Roediger III, H. L., and McDaniel, M. A. (2014). Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press.

Requesting Canvas courses for a new semester

Before the start of a semester, you need to request live sections in Canvas from MyACU.   These live sections will include instructors and enrolled students. Once requested, your course shell should be ready in 2-4 hours.

To request live shells, follow these steps

  1. Go to your MyACU ( page;
  2. Select the semester, which will show your courses for the semester.  (If you do not see the semester or your course showing up, it probably means you are not listed in a particular course as an instructor for the semester.  You will need to consult the registrar’s office to verify the record.)
  3. Click on “Tools” tab as shown below;

Course tools

4. If you want to create a new blank shell, click on “+” to request a new shell.  If you want to copy a course that you have previously taught, click on the copy icon, and select the shell to copy from.  Please note that the copying option only creates a clone copy, including the dates.  If you want to remove or adjust the dates, you might want to create a blank new shell and copy the content later on as shown in this tutorial.

Request courses5. Click on “yes” if you are asked to confirm.  If you do not see a course to copy from, select “create” instead to create a blank shell.  You can import content from another course within Canvas.

6.  Once you send the request to create or copy, the task will be added to the list for creation.  In between 2 and 4 hours, your course will be created.

7. Once a course is created in Canvas, you will see a Canvas icon in MyACU for the corresponding course.

Check this page for additional Canvas resources.

Canvas pilot users on Canvas

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.

Migrating Your Courses

In Fall 2015, we will fully implement Canvas, discontinuing support for other learning management systems.  You can request live sections before the semester, or you can get some master shells to work on your content right now.  See this tutorial here for further information about course shells.

Course content from Blackboard/CourseSites, Moodle and other instances of Canvas can be imported directly into Canvas. You will still need to check and edit items afterwards as learning management systems do not always match in their functions.  In some cases it may be just as easy to start from scratch instead of trying to move and match them. However if you would like to import, here are some tutorials:

There is no automatic importing function for OpenClass.  Content from OpenClass will need to be migrated manually.  Though “migration” is an analogy you can use working with Canvas, we would encourage you to think along the lines of redesigning your courses using the new learning management system.   Canvas may provide features and functions that inspire you to do something different this time, or the same things with greater efficiency for yourself and/or your students.   For instance, you might in the past use paper and pencil for tests.  Maybe you can use the quiz tool of Canvas this time.   Instead of using emails to collect student work, think about using assignments, which generates a column in the gradebook, an event in the calendar, and a notification to students all automatically!  The majority of our Spring 2015 pilot team are very positive about using Canvas.   Students also show great excitement about Canvas.   We would encourage you to try it too.


Creating Canvas Course Shells

This video shows you how to create Canvas course shells. Transcript for this video will be included below the video.


Getting an account in Canvas:

You are now enrolled in Canvas!  In this tutorial we will discuss how to set up your course shells.

To begin working in Canvas, go to any web browser and type “” in the address bar.  You can also find Canvas from the Quicklinks menu of MyACU.   If you are logged in to MyACU already, you will be directed directly to the Canvas page through single Sign-on.  If not, you will be shown this page where you can sign in with your ACU username and password. You are also enrolled in a Module 0 course which can be used for student orientation.

Getting started with your courses in Canvas:

To get your course shell, you have two options:

Option A:  Working later in a live section

You can request live shells towards the start of the semester.  Live shells will come with course IDs, names, and registered students as they show in Banner.

This option works best when you will start from scratch for your courses.  For future semesters, you will just copy these live sections to new sections.

Option B:  Working now with master shells

Or you can choose option B to work now with some master shells. If you have much to build or move for your courses, you probably do not want to wait too long.  To avoid unnecessary stress by putting off everything till the last minute. Consider this option instead. Using this option, you will be creating some course shells to work with right now, get all your content ready, and copy the content to live course shells at the start of the semester.

Here are the steps for creating master shells:

  1. log in to using your ACU user name and password;
  2. Click on “courses and groups” on the top;
  3. Click on “view all or customize”;
  4. Click on “create a new course” towards the far right;
  5. Name your courses:  For consistency and retrieval in the future, please name your shells by putting the word “Master” in it to avoid confusing master copies with future live sections. You will also need to include course number and course name in the names.  Here is a sample course name: “Master_BIOL112: General Biology I”.  In other words, the naming convention is Master(Underscore)CourseID: Course Name.  Please follow this naming convention when you create the course shells yourself.
  6. For “Content License”, use “private (copyrighted)”;
  7. Do NOT check “make course public visible”;
  8. Click on “create course”;
  9. Now, go back to “courses & Groups”, and then click on “view all or customize”.
  10. You can now see a list of all courses, including the one you just created.  You can click on the star before a course name to make it your “favorite” course.  When a course becomes your “favorite” course, it will show up directly in the list from the “courses and groups” drop down menu.  If you do not want to see a course anymore, click on the star for it to turn gray.  The course will then disappear from your list of favorite courses, but they are still there.   They have not been deleted.

Congratulations. You have created your own Canvas shells!  You can start to work on them now.  Enjoy!

Migrate Course from another Canvas account

If you previously used a free Canvas account to teach your courses, please take some time to migrate the content to the ACU Canvas environment at Using the campus account will reduce students’ burden of having to deal with multiple systems.

If you have difficulty logging into the ACU account, please let us know.

Migrating content from your individual Canvas account to the ACU account is fairly easy:

First, export your course from your individual account. Check this tutorial for instructions. Once the content has been exported, save it to your desktop, and close the window for this individual account to avoid confusion.

Second, import the exported package into your ACU account.  I could not find a Canvas guide for this, but here are the detailed sub-steps:

  • Log in to with your ACU user name and password;
  • Go to your course (contact us if you need a shell);
  • Go to “settings” Settings button
  • Choose “Import Content into this Course”Import content
  • The next few steps take place on the same page (see screenshot below). You will need to:
    1) Choose “Canvas Course Export Package.”
    2) Click on “Choose File” and choose the file you just exported.
    3) Click on “All content”(or “Select specific content” if desired).
    4) Click on “Adjust events and due dates” which will bring forward another window to ask if you will “Shift dates” or “Remove dates.” Choosing “Shift dates” will require that you set a new beginning date and a new ending date.
    5) Click on “Import”.Import Steps
  • You will then see the import being processed.  Wait till it is done.Import running
  • You will see the Complete buttonbutton when the job has been completed.

The final step is to go through your course page by page and make adjustments as needed.

Teaching by the fireside?

When I lived in Oklahoma, I heard people say: “If you don’t like the weather here, wait a minute.” (Quote attributed to Mark Twain or Will Rogers). I found that West Texas is not immune to such whimsical weather conditions.   When snow and ice prevent you from going to the campus, technology can prevent people from waking up in ditches.

Here are some ways to use Canvas (or some other tools) to make up for instructional time that might otherwise be lost:

  1. Post your lecture notes online;
  2. Use “conference” to conduct a virtual class;
  3. Ask students to discuss a topic using the discussion board;
  4. Post a quiz online;
  5. Record a video/audio lecture and post it in your course so that students can watch or listen to them by fireside.

Got some other ideas, please share with us!

Adding Library Materials Directly into Canvas

Guest post by Dr. Mark McCallon

The ACU Library’s Curriculum Builder LMS Plugin enables you to search for EBSCOHOST articles, e-books, and other digital sources directly from the Canvas system and provide access to your students.  Here is how it works:  You can search our ACU OneSearch directly from the Canvas LMS.  Simply click the button “Add to Reading List” and your selections are saved for your students to view.  Curriculum Builder allows you to annotate the reading list items so that you can provide additional information to your students. You can also share and copy other reading lists that have been created by faculty.

So no more lengthy instructions or URLs for your students to follow to access the EBSCOHOST articles that they need.  Watch this video to see how easy it is.

Check this page for additional Canvas resources.

View Quiz Log

If you give a quiz to student via Canvas, you might sometimes want to find out such information as:

  • When a student leaves the quiz in the middle;
  • When a student resumes the quiz;
  • Which questions students have changed their answers for;

Canvas has a tool called “view log”, which provides a good deal of information about what students actually do while taking a quiz.

Please note, however, the log tool will not show you whether students are checking online, drinking coffee, or having computer difficulties.   The tool tracks mostly click history when students are taking a quiz, and it does allow you to have a fair estimate of how much time students spend on each question,  whether answers have been changed, or whether students have left a quiz and come back.   You do not always have to use the tool, but many scenarios (claims of computer difficulty, possibility of cheating) may make this tool very handy for your investigation.

Last but not least, by going over the quiz log, you have a better chance of finding out which questions still have difficulties with.  This, in turn, may help you to give better feedback to your students, or to adjust your teaching accordingly.

Please view this video from Canvas about the quiz log tool.    We will also be happy to show you how to use it.

Video:  New Feature Screencast (2015-01-31) from Canvas LMS on Vimeo.

How to Grade Speeches, Sculptures, Singing and Dancing… with Rubrics in Canvas

I wonder if you have encountered this scenario before:

Your students are giving presentations. You grade them over their content, their volume, their timing… and you have to have a sheet of paper to grade them with. You have to add up their grades, enter them in the grade book and then somehow share the grades with students. You then return the paper sheet to students for them to check where they can make improvements. Then you forget how you originally graded them unless you have made a copy of your grading sheet. All of these processes create busywork when you could be doing other things that add more value to student learning.

It is easy now to grade student work with Canvas rubric without requiring them to submit anything digitally. As a matter of fact, you can grade almost any student work, including, but not limited to   speeches, art work,  sculptures, singing, dancing… with the rubric tool.  And you can do that on an iPad as well.

Here is how:

  • Create an assignment. Check tutorial here. Choose “no submission” from the drop-down menu when you create an assignment.
  • Add a rubric to this assignment.  Check tutorial here.
  • Open the assignment with Speedgrader on your computer or iPad. When you open this assignment, and see Speedgrader on the right,  launch the Speedgrader.  You will then see that there is no submission for the assignment.  Just click on the button that says “View Rubric”.  The rubric will then open, allowing you to grade with the rubrics, as shown below.
    Grading with Rubrics

Each of the steps above require a number of sub-steps which may vary slightly from assignment to assignment.  We’d be happy to work alongside you if needed.

Check this page for additional Canvas resources.

Canvas Implementation Plan

Abilene Christian University starts campus-wide implementation of Canvas in Fall of 2015.  Some courses have already been offered in Spring 2015, and some in summer 2015 as well.

Here are a few resources you can use to become familiar with Canvas.


  • Adams Center offers regular training sessions about Canvas, including introductory sessions and various uses of Canvas, for instance, how to use Canvas grades, assignments and apps.  Consider signing up for these sessions to learn more about Canvas even if you are not using it this semester. Check here for sessions about Canvas. If your department wants to schedule some sessions in a small group setting, let us know and we can arrange that.

Other resources:

  • You can also learn to use Canvas by watching video on Canvas.  We highly recommend you complete this course before teaching in Canvas.  ACU has a site license for  Check this page for instructions if you have issues logging into
  • Canvas also provides a great variety of tutorials on various topics related to the uses of Canvas here.   If you need help with specific tasks in Canvas, we would recommend you search the guides.
  • Adams Center also develops a Canvas Orientation Course, including some ACU-specific content.  Check here to see the course.  Contact Berlin Fang if you want to be enrolled and participate in course activities as a student. If you participated in one of our training sessions, we might have you enrolled in the course already.

Course design support:

  • The Adams Center instructional design team (Berlin Fang and David Christianson) will work with you to design or redesign your course, or explore options for migration from another system.

Migration implementation support:

  • Please contact Dr. Marisa Beard (extension 2855) if you have any questions related to the implementation timeline and arrangements.


Content Page, File, or External URL: Choosing Canvas Content Types

When you add a content or activity item to Canvas,  you can choose from the following list:

Content Dropdown menu

Many content artifacts can be posted through a variety of tools, but it is important to use the right type of item for your content as students may set up their notification to get alerts only when certain types of content are added.  The course analytics are also largely based on the types of content being published.

Some of these tools, such as quiz, assignment and discussion, require student action.   These tools are self-explanatory in their names.  You probably will not mistake one for another for these tools.

I am going to focus on content types that require mostly viewing:

  • Content page:  Content page is a web page that students can click and it will show the content immediately.  Use this to post short text such as your module instructions.  You can also use content pages to compose a fairly complex web page with links, tables and embedded media.  This is a very versatile tool, allowing you to display many types of content.


  • File: This refers to an attachment you would like students to see.  Usually it is a longer piece of document that does not easily display on one screen.   It could be a PDF file, Word or PowerPoint file.   It will display in Canvas after it finishes the loading process, but usually one page at a time.   You will see arrows on the bottom that you can use to move up or down.


  • Text header:  If you just want some kind of “divider” in a module without any real content in it, I’d recommend you use “text header”.   It is not going to open when you click on it.  See the screenshot below.  “Additional resources” is a text header.
  • External URL:  If you just want to link to an external web page, choose external URL.  Due to security setting restrictions, some pages does not open within Canvas, so it is a good idea to check the box beside “load in a new tab.”  This will ensure the page opens.
  • External tool:  You could include some external tools such as Quizlet and Youtube in a course, but you will need to install these tools first.  Contact me or David for help if you want to do it.

The following screen shows almost all types of content you can add in a module.  Notice the difference of icons that correspond to the types of content posted.

Canvas content types sample page

Check this page for additional Canvas resources.

Finding quality online resources

A number of our professors use Turnitin to check originality of student papers.  Turnitin helps to compare student work with its repository of student papers, as well as online sources.

What if students have cited every source properly, but the sources they cited from are not good sources?

Check the following video made by University of Mary Washington’s New Media Center about the CRAAP test (currency, relevance, authority, accuracy, and purpose) that can be applied to check the quality of online sources.

If you use rubrics in your teaching, it is a good idea to develop a rubric to share this test, and apply the rubric to evaluate their bibliographies.

University librarians should also be able to help students evaluate online sources. Laura Baker, ACU’s Digital Research and Scholarship Librarian provides this helpful page for evaluating online web sites. The library website also has many databases students will find useful.

If you have some additional ways to teach students about quality online sources, please share in comments.

Race and ACU Discussion Group Series

The Adams Center and Charis (the Center for Heritage and Renewal in Spirituality) will be conducting a reading/discussion lunch group this semester focused on issues of “Race and ACU.”

Some of you were involved in the reading group last semester that examined two books that looked historically and theologically at how we have handled issues of race in Churches of Christ. At the end of that experience, everyone said the conversation about these matters needed to continue, but in a way that could lead to some positive and specific ways of tackling the complex layers of how race functions in our lives as Christians.

Carson Reed and Doug Foster will lead the discussion and supply all participants with key documents before each meeting. These range from speeches and reports from two “Race relations Workshops” in 1968, Optimist articles from the 1970s about events on ACU’s campus, to recent drafts of the “Diversity” section of the Strategic Plan and a document with a proposal for ACU faculty hiring practices. These documents will set the context and help us make proposals for how we might help ACU deal in a constructive and godly way with issues of deep-seated psychological separation of the races–what some call racialization–of church, school and society.

If you would commit to being part of this lunch conversation, please reply and let Lyndi Jo ( ) know asap. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to Carson or Doug. The dates for the meetings are:

Race and ACU Charis/Adams Center Reading Group
January 29
February 26
March 26
April 23

How to Embed Google Drive Videos

If you have large video files to use in Canvas (or any other learning management system), ideally you do not include such files in Canvas directly. Doing so would create issues when you copy and back up your courses for future semesters. There is no easy way to replace or remove your videos later on as Canvas videos are handled through a third-party tool.  It is best for handling one-time audio or video with a short shelf life.

You can use YouTube or Vimeo to host your files, and then link to them or embed them in Canvas. Use “unlisted” to restrict access only to those you choose to share with.  For instructions on embedding Youtube or Video videos, check here.

If you do not want to share your proprietary content in YouTube or Vimeo, you could also use Google Drive to share your videos. Google Drive offers some extra protection as you can share content only with those at ACU with the links. In addition, with your educational account, you really do not have storage limits for video content in Google Drive. Besides, you can share and replace these videos in more ways than you could with YouTube or Vimeo.

Here are the steps to share videos from Google Drive.  (It may seem there are many steps, but you’ll become familiar with it once you tried it a few times. )

Create a folder in your Google Drive, and save it.

1. Create folder

Drag video clips to this folder;

Drag video to folder


Change the shared setting of this video to make it viewable by those you intend to share.  Click on “get shareable link” first,

Change share settings

Specify who you would like to share it with and then click on “done” to complete the process. If you do not want to share each and every video every time it is uploaded, make the entire video folder shareable. You can go back to your folder and follow similar steps as you would take with specific files. By sharing the entire folder, all items in the folder will “inherit” your sharing settings.

3.1. Share with MyACU with link

After you have completed changing your sharing settings, double click on the video icon to launch the video;

 Open video
Click on the icon for “popup” window on the top of the page;

Click on popup

In the new window, find a three-dot icon, which will show “more actions” when your cursor moves over it:

more actions

Choose “embed item”;

embed item

Double click in the field below “paste HTML to embed in website”, when highlighted, copy the codes (Control + C if you are using Windows, or Command + C if you are using Mac.)

copy codes

Now log in to Canvas and open your course.

Create a page in your course for the video if you have not already done so. Make sure you choose “content page”;

create content pageContent page
In the edit mode of the page, click on “HTML editor”;

HTML editor

In the HTML editor mode, paste the codes you just copied, and then click on “save”.

code pasted


Now you have a page with your video embedded from Google Drive!

Posting Syllabus in Canvas

Canvas has a specific menu item called “syllabus” for you to add your syllabus items.  You can use this tool to share your syllabus, and create a visual display of all time-sensitive items in your course.

To create your syllabus, click on the “syllabus” link on your course menu, and then click on the icon like this on the right side of the page:

Icon for editing syllabus

You will then be shown a rich text editor in which you can either add a syllabus attachment, link to specific pages, or compose your syllabus directly in Canvas.

Some of our professors are taking advantage of the syllabus tool.  I am going to share three examples.  If you want to learn how to do what they did, please contact the instructional designers (Berlin Fang or David Christianson) for help.

As your syllabus may be a very long document, Dr. Karen Maxwell creates multiple pages for each section in the syllabus, and use the “Syllabus” tool to post links to these specific pages:

Karen Maxwell's syllabus

Dr. Anita Broxon uses a similar approach, by having multiple pages which she calls “shortcuts” to specific parts of her syllabus, while also including a “printable” copy (in Word or PDF format) which students can download and print if they want to.

Anita Broxon's syllabus

Dr. Kim Pamplin creates his syllabus within the “syllabus” using the rich text editor.    It may take a while to edit the page, but once created, students can see the syllabus directly when entering the syllabus page.   Dr. Pamplin’s page looks very good, because he made his page concise in content and consistent in format.  If your syllabus is too long to show on one page, you could use multiple pages and include them as links as Dr. Maxwell and Dr. Broxon did.

Kim Pamplin's Syllabus


Additional tips:

  1. If the only thing you change in a syllabus (I mean the Word or PDF document) is the calendar, you could tell students in the syllabus that you will share your calendar items in Canvas syllabus (I mean the “syllabus” tool in Canvas) ;
  2. Once you upload your syllabus in Word or PDF format, it will also go into “files” of your course.  If further changes are made, simply go to “files”, upload the new version with the same file name.  When asked whether to overwrite it, choose to overwrite it and the new syllabus will show wherever you link to it.

Getting your courses started in Canvas

For professors participating in the Spring 2015 Canvas pilot, this post is meant to help you get started.

For every course you start in Canvas, you will see  a checklist like this at the bottom of your course page:

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 3.04.03 PM

All of them are links.  Click on any one of them, and Canvas will take you where you need to be to make these changes.  Or you will be given some instructions.

Let me go over them and add some additional instructions or advice.  I am going to make this a living document to add more content as new situations/questions arise.

  1. Accessing Canvas: 
    During the pilot stage in Spring 2015, Canvas will not show in MyACU.   You and your students will access it from this URL:
  2. Import content:
    If you have courses in Blackboard/Coursesites/Moodle before, you can export them into Canvas directly.  If you want to migrate your content over from some other platforms, you may need to do so manually.  Talk to me (Berlin Fang) or David Christianson  for advice.
  3. Add course assignments:
    You can either add them all at once or add them as the semester goes.   If these assignments have due dates, they will also show in your Calendar and Syllabus automatically.
  4. Add students to the course:
    You do NOT need to do this.  Students have already been imported for you, thanks to Marisa Beard and Lyndell Lee.  However, you can divide students into groups or sections if necessary.  You can also crosslist courses.   We can show you how to do that if you let us know of your needs.
  5. Select navigation links:
    Hide things you do not need to show students.   Once you have done that these items on the menu will be grayed out, but you can still use them as teachers.
  6. Choose a course home page:
    I strongly recommend you create a simple welcome message to tell students that they are in the right place.  You can add some simple text, photo, or even a video.
  7. Add course calendar events
    Like assignments, you do not have to add them all at once. You can add them as you go.
  8. Add TAs to the course
    You can add a TA yourself by going to “people” to invite someone to be a Teaching Assistant.
  9. Post your syllabus:
    You can just upload your printable syllabus to “Syllabus” in Canvas, or you can re-create a syllabus page, or you can create multiple pages corresponding to various parts of your syllabus to provide some shortcuts to students.  Upload your printable syllabus (in Word or PDF format, for instance) to “files” first, and link it in the “Syllabus” area of Canvas.  This way, you can replace the syllabus in “files” after some changes have been made, without having to worry about changing the same file in various places if you link it elsewhere in the course.  The same is true with other files.
  10. Publish your course
    Everything in Canvas (content items, modules, the entire course) starts as being unpublished, you will need to select which ones to publish.  But eventually you will need to “publish” the course for students to see it in their course list.
  11. Send students a welcome message:
    Send students  a welcome message telling them that you use Canvas for your course this semester, and give them this URL:

    Tell students that they should be able to log in with their ACU user name and password.   Also provide this link to the Canvas student guides for them to become familiar with Canvas:
    You might want to include this link in your course as well in case students need help.

If you have any questions or issues, please feel free to let us know.

“Cul-brid” Learning

Inside Higher Ed recently posted an excellent article for teaching international students, which highlights the need to examine the challenges in classrooms with both domestic and international students in what I would call a “cul-brid” (culturally hybrid) learning environment. From this article as well as my own experience as an international student, here are a few ideas for effective teaching to a diverse class:

Maintain high expectations:

The article brought up the concern that language and cultural barrier make it especially difficult for international students to keep up. Should professors then lower the bar to be “fair”? That is indeed a hard dilemma to deal with. However, lowering the bar will water down the education. It may frustrate domestic students without helping international students in the long term.  It will make people feel bad if they find out you are lowering the standards for their sake.  The trick is to be encouraging and supportive while keeping high expectations.   It may not be a bad idea for a professor to work with an international student advisor to find ways to help international students, or to recommend remedial courses or tutoring for struggling students to catch up. There are many university resources available for students who are international, at risk, or both.  Take advantage of such services.

Assess student background:  

International students are not alike.   It is easy to perceive them as a homogenous bloc while seeing “domestic students” as another bloc, but both groups display vast differences within themselves.    Most Chinese students, for instance are comfortable with standardized tests but struggle with group projects.  From an exit interview for graduating students conducted by ACU’s international office, a student from Egypt said she struggled with standardized tests.  So it is important to acknowledge and address such differences.   Getting to know such differences is often the first step.   Most course evaluations are done at the end of the semester when it is already too late to make a change for that particular semester.  It may help to conduct some formal or informal needs analysis at the beginning of a class, or conduct a mid-semester survey to recalibrate teaching.

Show the norm:  

The article suggests that non-native speakers of English may not know some of the norms in an American classroom, such as “participating in classroom discussions, asking professors a question, engaging in group work.”  Make sure that the such norms and “hidden rules” are brought to light.  Reflecting and articulating such rules is a good teaching practice any way, since domestic students also may not understand them.   As an international student I realized that sometimes professors assume too much of student understanding of the social or class norms.  For instance, I handed in my first paper in America using MLA citation which is what I was taught in China as an English major, when my professor actually expected us to use APA, which had never been mentioned anywhere.   I was caught by surprise.

Mix local and international students:

Left to their own choice, students may go to their own cultural groups.   It is enriching, however, to break that up by assigning students to groups to make groups culturally diverse.  In smaller groups, domestic students and international students may find it easier to open up and exchange ideas.   The Inside Higher Ed article also recommends a great method to deal with domestic-international student confrontations due to backgrounds each bring into the groups.   For instance, have students step into the shoes of “others” for empathy.  I also found it inspiring from the article that one professor broke the Chinese and American ruts of thinking related to Tibet by introducing a third perspective:  asking students to read views by Tibetans.

Creating a hybrid learning space:

I have heard again and again from professors that international students who are silent in class can better express their views online.   Even if a course is entirely face-to-face, it may help to have some online space to 1) post documents that may be briefly mentioned in class; 2) provide an opportunity for international students to ask questions without holding back students who do not have the same questions; 3) provide a discussion forum for international students to express their views if they write better than they speak;  and 4) allow international students to access certain content if more time is needed due to language barrier.  Use a learning management system for such a space.

These are a few of my thoughts.  Do you have any observations or good practices for teaching in a multicultural classroom?  Please consider sharing them with us!