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chartsAfter folks have gotten a handle on the basics of Canvas use, the question we in the eLi Department get a lot is “OK –what are the next steps to step up my Canvas courses?!” and or “What is the best place to invest effort in Canvas to support Student Success?”

In honor of the great David Letterman, we have put together a TOP TEN CANVAS POWER TIPS list for you…

  1. Orient Students to Canvas/ Canvas tools You Will Use
    • WHY:
      Student feedback has indicated that an issue is often they are just expected to use Canvas or figure out a Canvas course setup or use a Canvas tool without any orientation, which is causing some frustration and or opting out.
    • HOW:
      A low class time cost option is for the 1st class session save the final 10 minutes for a Canvas/tool demo. Announce that anybody who is thoroughly comfortable with canvas and tools/setup you will be using in it can be excused. Then you have only the folks who are concerned/interested to demo and dialog with.


  2. Use and Show Students how to Customize Canvas Notifications
    • WHY:
      Student feedback is also showing that even students (and faculty) comfortable with Canvas are missing how to setup Canvas notifications to route various notifications where they will be checked. In particular, students or faculty who want to route all canvas notices to email can do so and or get text alerts for specified events. this will ensure communication is not being missed and causing frustration for you or students.
    • HOW:
      You or students Can add additional contact means (beyond the default NCSC email)
      Add Additional Email Accounts
      Add a Text (SMS) Contact #
      You & Students can then specify which specific events you want to get notified of how often where you want them: www.tinyurl.com/canvasnotify


  3. Support Student Time on Task by Giving Them All the Material
  4. Calibrate Expectations for Grade Entry
    • WHY:
      Calibrating Expectations the first class is a teaching best practices. But in particular, with the 24/7 availability of Canvas, and related to the above students will want to know when to be expecting or how to efficiently use their time.
    • HOW:
      Simply the first class emphasize verbally whatever you state in written handouts on “In general, I will post grades in Canvas by x…” Can even take it further and put a boilerplate statement with this on each assignment description in Canvas.


  5. Use Assignment Groups to Offer Running Grade Break Out
    • WHY:
      To motivate & engage students by offering a more transparent, detailed & granular breakout of EXACTLY which categories of assignment are contributing to (or holding back) the students overall TOTAL grade. This also offer you EXCELLENT diagnostic information for you as instructor come midterm time to give feedback to students on exactly how and where the student can improve their grade.
    • HOW:
      1. In the Assignments area of your course, create an Assignment group for each type of assignment you will grade.
        CANVAS assignment prt2
      2. Drag and drop your existing assignments under the appropriate Assignment Group header.
      3. On your first day of class, emphasize and show students (using ‘Student View’) how they can access ‘Grades’ in your course and see the category breakout at the bottom of the grades table.

  6. FULLY Leverage Due Dates & Events for TO DO Reminders
    • WHY:
      As NCSC Students have immense time stresses, anything that can help them be efficient with planning and budgeting time is appreciated. As one student stated in the Flashlight survey: “Canvas really helped me a lot. It made it easier to keep track of what was due for my classes.”  As you add due dates and events to your Canvas site, it will build a running “TO DO” list and “COMING UP” list for students. Likewise it also builds an electronic calendar that students can also pull the feed into their personal calendar programs.
    • HOW:
      1. Add Due Dates to EVERY Assignment (even if they are handing in the work to you in person)
      2. Add Events via the “Calendar” area for any key non-graded class events (project prep, Last Day to withdraw etc.) you want to make sure is on students’ radar to allow them to plan.
      3. Along with #1 on this list, educate and demo to students how you have made this resource available for them to utilize.
        Student Tutorials:

  7. Use Canvas for Formative Quizzes To Focus Class time
    • WHY:
      Increases Prompt Feedback, Supports Time on Task & Active Learning (3 of the 7 Best Practices). You can use low stakes Canvas online quizzes to follow up new material outside of class time, so you can then customize and tailor the in-class activities to address ONLY the areas of the new material students are having difficulties with. This will increase student motivation & engagement with live classes knowing the effort you have put into making the class time as focused & meaningful for their learning as possible. Additionally offers you flexibility to allow individual students to get extended deadline/time/attempts in cases of legitimate work schedule conflict/ other issues you determine merit exception.
    • HOW:
      1. Convert/create concept check Quizzes in Canvas’ Quizzes area
        (NOTE: This can be a tedious process, but once done 1 time you can easily recycle and reuse in future semesters’ Canvas courses indefinitely.)
      2. Adjust your Assessment strategy accordingly to ensure these are LOW stakes but enough points students will do them.
      3. Explain and emphasize the role/purpose and mechanics of why & how these quizzes will be used.
        Student Quiz Tutorial:
        http://guides.instructure.com/m/4212/l/41977-how-do-i-take-a-quiz


  8. Use Canvas to “FLIP” your classroom
    • WHY:
      Building on #7 above, you can go further and record Lecture “Chunks” (10 minutes or less is what research recommends) to move your “unpacking” and explanations of the new material fully Online, with initial low stakes formative assessments mentioned in #7. You can then focus ALL of class time on carefully targeted and designed collaborative interactive Application activities to refine understanding, referencing or referring students to review any of your lecture “chunks” as needed.

      flippedflowmodelImage Credit: U. of Texas Center for Teaching & Learning
    • HOW:
      1. Create text script/ outlines to arrange your material into 10 minutes or less CONDENSED “chunks” on specific topic/concepts.
      2. Use the chunk scripts, a webcam and good quality mic, use Canvas’ Media Recorder to record your Chunks on relevant Assignment/Quiz pages:
        -Recording AUDIO on a Canvas Page
        -Recording VIDEO on a Canvas Page
      3. Post a link to your SCRIPT file on the page with your recording to offer legal ADA law compliance as well as support other learning styles.
      4. Utilize Formative Quizzes as outlined in Tip #7 above
      5. Design targeted collaborative Application activities for in class time, tailored to content in need of clarification based on results of students formative quizzes.
        Based on research of  Michaelsen & Sibley, effective Application Activities will

        • “Increase understanding of course content. Activities cannot be so simple that students are merely repeating information from readings – instead ask students to make decisions and use their judgment. The goal is to develop exercises that create opportunities for different student groups to select a different “correct” answer and support their answer with reasonable arguments based on the course concepts.
        • Increase group cohesiveness for successful development of learning teams. Avoid activities where the logical step would be to divide the work (e.g. a long written report), instead have them focus on reporting their group decision in a concise way that requires forethought, filtering and prioritizing of crucial information.”
          (Michaelsen, Sibley 2009)


  9. Utilize Discussions & Groups to Foster Ongoing Student Teamwork/Collaboration
    • WHY:
      At a Spring 2015 gathering of all NCSC Program Advisory Committees, 30% of local employers cited “Professionalism and Communication” as an area NCSC graduates need additional work (NCSC President’s Office Update 4/10/15). Along with general research showing that college graduates need teamwork soft skills for the 21st century workplace, and promoting structured student-student interaction being a proven Best Practice in teaching (Chickering & Gamson), this is a great element to enhance in our courses.
    • HOW:
      1. Assign & setup class groups/teams
        (Best practice is for the instructor to assign groups, to create stable, accountable and diverse as possible groups)
      2. Develop meaningful out of class group/team assignments (can be prep or extension of in class activities).
      3. In Canvas, use the Groups tool to define and setup class groups in Canvas.
        (note: Any discussion, assignment etc. can be a Group assessment)


  10. Use Canvas for Regular Student Surveys
    • WHY:
      Increasing Faculty-Student Interaction & feedback is another proven Teaching Best Practice that can also aid retention and motivation. Giving students regular, structured ways to give anonymous (or not), informal feedback beyond just the end of term (and hence no way to act on it with this class) eval can allow you to make reasonable adjustments to the class.
    • HOW:
      1. Create Your Survey in Canvas.
      2. Notify Students of a survey availability and any incentives for completion (Can setup as an auto-grading survey to add extra credit on completion or setup a text phrase at the end of the survey they can provide you to manually add extra credit)
      3. Show survey results to the class afterwards & act on student feedback where reasonable.

For Help/Issues, 1on1 Consulting and or further training:
Contact the eLearning & Innovation (eLi) Department:
419.755.4706
dl@ncstatecollege.edu | @goaskeli cropped-eli-2-tone-logo-take-2-banner-mk2-nonncsc.jpg

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2 thoughts on “TOP 10 Canvas Power Tips to Support Student Success

  1. Pingback: Prepping a New Term Courses in Canvas | 21st Century Teaching

  2. Pingback: 10 STEPS TO GETTING STARTED IN CANVAS FOR NCSC FACULTY | 21st Century Teaching

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