Canvas: Observer Role

It is now possible for an instructor to add a user as an Observer in a Canvas course.

From the Canvas documentation:

Observers can

  • View and read announcements
  • View assignments index page
  • View the calendar
  • Join conferences, if invited
  • Join collaborations, if invited
  • View personal inbox
  • Send conversation messages to instructor and student they are observing*
  • View the dashboard
  • View and read discussions
  • View files unless they are locked
  • View grades, view assignment due dates and comments, and print grades*
  • View modules and see due dates and point values
  • View pages and contribute if the instructor enables the Anyone can edit it setting
  • View profile pictures, if available
  • View syllabus
  • View outcomes
  • View quizzes index page

Observers cannot

  • Comment on announcements or discussions
  • Submit assignments or quizzes
  • View course rosters
  • Send conversation messages to students in the course they are not observing
  • View locked files or folders
  • Join groups
  • View unpublished courses
  • Access the Chat tool
  • Reserve appointment slots in the Scheduler
  • View grade audit trail

* These capabilities are only available if the Observer is linked with another student account. Linking an Observer must be manually completed. Because we are not doing this the Observer role cannot access grade information.

Canvas Q&As

Questions have arisen during Canvas training sessions. I am listing those questions and answers here and will update as questions are added.

What do I do for a student with an incomplete?

We set term beginning and end dates within Canvas. Once the term passes students will only have view access of a course. If the student has an “Incomplete” they will need a way to access the course to submit unfinished work. As an instructor you can allow a student access by setting course participation dates. The course participation dates will override the term dates. Please note that doing so will change the access for all students in the course. You may want to unpublish all else except what the select student(s) will need.

Can I import grades into the Canvas gradebook?

The instructions on this page share the steps to import grades into Canvas.

How do I download and re-upload at once all student submissions?

It is possible to download all student submissions to an assignment.

It is also possible to re-upload student files back to Canvas. You will want to make sure you have not changed the names of the submission files from your bulk download. Canvas will not be able to recognize the files that should be replaced if the file names are different.

Is it possible for me to create an anonymous survey?

Anonymous survey is possible. (Select Survey Type, point 4) One note about the anonymous survey:  
“The anonymous option can be enabled or disabled before or after a survey has received submissions, allowing a user with sufficient permissions to see a student’s identity and responses. To collect fully anonymous survey responses, you may want to use a third-party survey tool.”

How can I import a course from Moodle to Canvas?

Here a link to a video demonstration of how to backup a course in Moodle and import into Canvas.

Why don’t I see any past enrollments on my “All Courses” page?

Whether a course appears in current or past enrollments is controlled by the term dates. If all the courses listed are for Fall ‘21 and beyond, then there will be no past enrollments.

How can I access and manage question banks in Canvas?

Question banks are imported from Moodle courses which contain them. Here is some information about accessing and managing question banks.

Does the Canvas quiz/survey support question branching?

This doesn’t currently exist in the quiz tool or currently in the new quiz engine Canvas is developing. There is a convoluted way you could create something like this in a course, but I don’t know that I can recommend this as a way you should go. One option you might try is using a Microsoft Form to create a quiz with branching.

How can I download all my course files?

I am pleasantly surprised that this is possible for you (and students if they have access to the Files area.)

How do I give a student extra time on a quiz?

This is possible using quiz moderation.

Can I set different due dates for different groups of students within a course?

This is possible. One thing this solution references is sections. Because of the way we are syncing enrollments, faculty are prohibited from creating/managing sections. If using groups does not work for you please contact me and we will investigate how to get this working for you.

Canvas Updates

I routinely receive updates for changes to various aspects of the Canvas platform. To make it easier for faculty to know what has changed I will be listing those changes/updates here. I will also note which roles (FacStaff, and/or Students) are affected by the change.

June 25, 2021

Gradebook Gradebook CSV Column Order


Summary: The Gradebook CSV assignment columns display in the same order as shown in the Gradebook for an individual user.

Affected User Roles: Instructors

When an instructor or other grader customizes the Gradebook assignment columns and downloads the CSV file, the CSV file assignment columns display in the same order as shown in the user’s Gradebook. Previously CSV files were always ordered by Assignment Group ID and Assignment Order. 

Pages Mark as Done Button Placement


Summary: The Mark as Done button for students has been moved to the bottom of the page.

Affected User Roles: Students

When students are required to read a page and mark it as done, the Mark as Done button has been moved to the bottom of the page. The button can be marked more easily after students have reached the bottom of the page. Previously users must scroll back up to the top of the page to mark the page as done.

Canvas: Group Quiz, Multiple Attempts with Penalties

Team-based learning is a well established active learning pedagogical strategy. I am aware of one instructor who is using team based learning at Lawrence. In his course he has students take a quiz individually, then the same quiz as a team. The second team based quiz allows multiple attempts but penalizes the students for each subsequent attempt. The purpose of this is to encourage students to discuss what the correct answer should be before submitting. He invited me and my supervisor to sit in on a class. It was amazing to see how much discussion happened in the breakout rooms. This approach works great in Zoom, and can be equally effective in face-to-face environments as well.

Canvas is currently developing a new quiz engine, New Quizzes. It is currently available in our instance of Canvas, but not the default quiz creation tool. It looks like New Quizzes will replace Classic Quiz in December 2022.

Canvas doesn’t currently support this quizzing behavior. One main mechanism to communicate with Instructure and effect change is the Community Forums. If you find this capability compelling and useful for you or other instructors, please add your voice to this community post.

Perusall Exchange, May 17-28

I was just made aware of an opportunity for anyone who uses or is interested in learning more about Perusall: Perusall Exchange. The event will be held May 17 (today) through May 28.

A banner with the information: Perusall Exchange 2021, May 17-28
Dear Peruser,   From May 17-28, more than 1,200 of your colleagues will participate in Perusall’s first community event: a truly social asynchronous conference. The Perusall Exchange will offer  50+ sessions across a diverse array of disciplines that highlight innovative pedagogical approaches by instructors using our platform. The conference is free to attend. View the program and register today!  

View Program  

Pick and choose from sessions that pique your interest and watch whenever it suits your schedule. Ask questions or chat with other participants synchronously if they are online at the same time as you, or asynchronously if they are not.   At the end of the conference, presenters and participants will gather in live sessions to continue the discussion. The live sessions include: Promoting Equity and Inclusivity with Perusall Maximizing Student Engagement with Perusall Transitioning Back to Campus with Perusall Register today to stay up-to-date and get quick access on May 17th. We hope you can join us to share your ideas and connect.  We look forward to seeing you at the Exchange!   Take care,   The Perusall Team

Canvas Tips and Recommendations

The list of resources below will help you as you begin to learn and work in Canvas. The list will be kept up-to-date as resources become available.

Design Considerations

  • Image Size recommendations (dimensions are approximate)
    • Banner image: 1451×312
    • Topic heading image: 88×88
  • For images within a table: make sure they are all the same dimensions so that the table cells are all the same size and images center the same within the cells
  • Emojipedia: https://emojipedia.org/ – Use this to add images to module titles, assignment titles, or any place you can enter text.

Moodle Support Videos and Links

This post will be used to host links to all the Moodle workshop, support videos, and links. Links will be grouped as best as possible by topic. If there is a Moodle support topic you would like to request, please contact Jedidiah Rex.

Course Design

Grading and Assessment

Tools

Community of Inquiry

In this Chronicle blog post, Rachel Toor writes about the strategies she used in conjunction with Zoom to help build community in her undergraduate courses. The main one about her, “sandbox” discussion thread reminded me about what I have learned from the community of inquiry method (CoI) and social presence. it is also encouraging to know that at least some face-to-face strategies may work in an online environment.

For more about Community of Inquiry (CoI) check out the links here: https://raindrop.io/collection/11425854

Extreme Makeover: Moodle Edition

We are in unprecedented times. The spring term has been a time of triage, of doing what we can to meet students and create any learning experience possible. Many have used our learning management system, Moodle, for the first time (Kudos!) And some are relying on it just a bit more than they have before. According to data being collected by colleagues in the Office of Research Administration, student experience in this new paradigm within Moodle has varied. Some have been able to take it in stride and some have experienced challenges. The purpose of this post is to provide brief design examples and recommendations that an instructor may implement in their Moodle course to help make the student experience as good as it can be.

As an aside I will mention that Shannon Newman and I presented a workshop where we shared strategies for making a course more inclusive with Moodle tools. You may see the slides here.

What follows are some strategies with examples that you may choose to implement in your Moodle course(s).

Strategy 1 – Use Topic Zero With Care

The first topic section in every Moodle course is “Topic 0.” One special characteristic of this section is that it is always visible no matter which course format you choose.

Moodle course page with the first topic section, "Topic Zero," highlighted inside a red box.
Moodle: Topic Zero

This makes it a great place for more static information like a syllabus, office hours, and course description. Care should be taken to only place what is necessary in this section. Keeping the information in this section concise will limit how much the students have to scroll to access other course materials.

Strategy 2 – Use images

Images can bring color and increase interest on your course page. While cliché, there is some merit to the phrase, “A picture is worth 1000 words.” Used in the right way, an image can additionally help bring clarity to a concept or provide commentary on a specific idea. Below (1) is an example of a banner image from Martyn Smith’s RLST 205 course, “Religion and the Biosphere.” The image adds interest and is tied to the course theme.

A Moodle course page showing a banner image of white flowers in front of green leaves and a list of emoji images for students to use on Instragram.
RLST205S20: Images in a course.

The second image (2) is used to convey information to the students about how they can interact in the course.

One note on using images: Best practice would dictate that all images be accessible, containing alternative text (alt text) where necessary. The Moodle text editor provides you direction for entering alt text and/or giving you the option to not include it if the image is decorative. In the above example the banner image is most likely decorative and doesn’t need alt text. The second image would require a description to allow those using screen reading software to know what the image was about.

Strategy 3 – Limit Cognitive Load

Limiting the amount of content that students must consume in an interaction with your course can open mental bandwidth for them to focus on the course content and work that you have for them. There are a number of ways that you can support students in this. One way exampled in both Martyn Smith’s RLST 205 and Shannon Newman’s BIOL 354 course, is that only the most current week/topic (RLST 205,) or all past and current are visible, but future topics are hidden (BIOL 354). Topic sections may easily be hidden by the instructor.

Moodle Edit topic settings menu with the "Hide topic" option noted with a red arrow.
Moodle: Edit topic menu.

Activities and resources may also be hidden/shown to students based on a number of criteria including date, grade, completion of another activity or combination thereof.

Another way to help focus students’ attention is to use an alternative course format. Two useful ones are collapsible topics or weeks. They function as they sound, allowing each topic to be collapsed or expanded as the student needs or desires.

The Moodle course settings page with the Course Format sections expanded and the Format drop-down menu expanded to show the available course formats. These include (in this order from top to bottom): Collapsible topics format, Collapsible Weeks format, Single activity format, Topics format, and Weekly format.
Moodle: Course Administration > Edit Settings > Course format.

We can see an example of this in the image below from Shannon Newman’s Molecular Biology course. There is an option to expand all sections in the upper right. Each section contains an arrow on the left to expand or collapse that section. Two benefits of this format are that 1) it provides a list of the activities and resources contained in that section, and 2) shows a progress counter so that students can see how much they have completed in a section. This supports their executive function.

BIOL354S20: Collapsible topic sections.

One last way to limit cognitive overload is to group information within a Book, Page, or Folder resource. Each of these provide a way to consolidate large amounts of information or files into a single link on the course page.

Strategy 4 – Use Consistent Organization & Visual Design

A Moodle course is an extension of the class environment and in this current circumstance THE class environment. An instructor can provide context for the course materials which will in turn help students navigate, locate, and use those course materials. This is accomplished by using a consistent layout and visual design. An example of this can be seen in Shannon Newman’s Molecular Biology course.

One topic section within a Moodle course page displaying four chunks of information: an overview, lecture recordings, laboratory, and assignments.
BIOL354S20: Consistent topic content layout and design.

In the image above we see four distinct sections within the topic section: an overview, Lecture Recordings and PowerPoints, Laboratory, and Assignments. Each of the subsequent sections in Shannon’s course follow this same format. Doing so provides a consistent structure to help the students find what they need. Creating sub-sections within a topic section can be accomplished by using a Label resource to create a heading and then indenting (“Move right”) the items below the heading.

Where the section structure may differ from topic to topic with additional or less materials, e.g. there is an additional section for “Exam Information” in the second module of Shannon’s course, the order is kept consistent to allow the students to easily scan over the materials and find what they need.

Strategy 5 – Avoid the Scroll-of-Death

Moodle makes it very easy to add materials to a course. It is simple as dragging them from your computer’s desktop or folder into your Moodle course. As a result a course can end up consisting of a long list of documents and activities requiring students to scroll and scroll to see materials later on in a course.

A scrolling Moodle page.

A number of the strategies mentioned above may help combat this (Collapsible topics/weeks, hiding topic sections, using Book, Page, or Folder resources.) Making an effort to limit scrolling is especially important as more and more users access Moodle from a mobile device. By way of illustration during the first four weeks of winter term 41% of users accessed Moodle from a mobile device. During the first four weeks of spring term this number has increased to 53%. Ignoring this trend means creating barriers for users and creating a less inclusive environment.

Using the handful of strategies presented can help make your course more accessible, pleasant, and useful to students. The easier it is for your students to navigate your Moodle course the more they can concentrate on the task of learning. Please reach out to Instructional Technology if you have any questions about the strategies shared here.