Author: tfreeman

CanvasLIVE! webinar this month: Assignments

Thursday, 9/26/2013

Join the Canvas Community Team for a CanvasLIVE! webinar this month. Our primary topic is ASSIGNMENTS.

CanvasLIVE is a free webinar series designed to give Canvas users additional training and an opportunity to share their knowledge with the community. Each session includes a brief tutorial on a Canvas tool or feature, focused demonstration, and a short Q&A with Canvas experts. Join us to learn something new and share your ideas and best practices with other Canvas users.

Find the schedule, more info, and register here:

Respondus 4.0 Training Webinars: March 27 & 28

We’re holding training webinars for creating content in Respondus 4.0 at the end of the month, and I hope you’ll join us.

These free sessions are only 45 minutes long and are a great opportunity for those who are new to Respondus 4.0. They are also perfect for someone who has used the software before but wants a refresher.

Webinar: Creating Content with Respondus 4.0 (45 minutes)

– Wednesday, March 27th at 2 p.m. ET – Register

– Thursday, March 28th at 4 p.m. ET – Register (Repeat Session)

The sessions will cover the following:

  • Overview of Respondus 4.0
  • Using the Import Wizard to bring in questions from other sources, including formatting tips for Word files
  • Copying items from other Respondus files from the Edit Tab
  • Accessing publisher test banks through the Respondus Test Bank Network
  • Using the Retrieval Tab to reuse and/or edit assessments already in your LMS
  • A chance to ask questions

Space is limited so I recommend signing up soon! Feel free to forward this invitation to instructors, instructional designers, or other support contacts who use or are interested in using Respondus 4.0

Access your files anywhere, anytime with Google Drive!

When Michigan Tech made the transition from Huskymail to Gmail, we also gained access to an entire suite of Google Apps.  You may already be using Gmail and Google Calendar, but have you checked out Google Drive yet?  Google Drive lets you store your files in a way that they can be accessed from anywhere. Your files are always available online at

You can also share files with others using Google Drive to collaborate on documents.  Anyone you want to share files with will need to have a Google account.  Google Drive lets you choose exactly who gets your files. Just share your file, folder, or Google Doc from any device.  You can grant others the ability to download and edit files you have shared, or share them in a read-only mode.  If you are sharing a Google Doc, Sheet, or Slide (presentation), everyone can work together on creating and editing the document in real time, and contributions can be tracked for each individual.

Those interested in learning more about Google Apps have several options.  The Center for Teaching and Learning will be offering a new workshop called Google Tools for Great Teaching, which will survey Google Drive and other apps, on March 21 and April 17.  You can also look over Google’s own documentation and instructions for using Google Drive at their Get Started with Google Drive site, and watch a video from c|net® called How to: Get Started with Google Drive for a nice overview of using Google Drive.

The CTL Tip of the Week is brought to you by the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL).  You can see what’s going on there this week, and register for the Google Tools for Great Teaching workshop, at our website.

Instructure Releases Canvas for Android

Students can now access Canvas courses from their Android devices

Instructure has released a new Canvas Android app, “Canvas for Android,” which enables mobile access to the Canvas learning platform from Android devices. Faculty and students can download the app for free from the Google Play store.

“The Canvas for Android app is designed to make it easy for faculty and students to stay connected to their courses, including courses from their institution or the Canvas Network,” said Brian Whitmer, co-founder and chief product officer at Instructure. “We’ve always pushed information to Android devices through our email and text messaging notification feature, but now users can participate in their courses through a native app designed specifically for learning.”

Canvas for Android provides an elegant way for students to access their Canvas To-Do list, Assignments, Calendar, Grades and more. It also enables them to read and compose messages using Canvas Conversations, a secure, built-in messaging system that connects participants in a course.

Since the initial launch of Canvas, Instructure has demonstrated its commitment to native apps for mobile devices. In 2011, the company released SpeedGrader for iPad, a powerful mobile grading app, and Canvas for iOS, an iPhone and iPad app with course functionality for students and instructors. With the release of Canvas for Android, Instructure is taking the first of many steps to bring a native Canvas experience to Android users.

“We recognize that the modern learner is mobile, and we believe a native mobile experience is critical to the learning experience,” said Devlin Daley, co-founder and chief technology officer at Instructure. “We didn’t decide after the fact to build mobile apps because it was a hip thing to do. We made an intentional decision to include mobile apps from the start – at no extra charge.”

To learn more, visit the Canvas for Android page in the Google Play store.

Discussion Boards: More Impact with Less E-mail!

Instructors traditionally use online Discussion Boards (DBs) to help determine student understanding, support peer learning, and encourage participation, particularly among students who are least likely to contribute to classroom discussion.

While DBs are well suited for use in classes heavy in debate and explorative topics, instructors can also use DBs to manage student questions, potentially reducing instructional time dedicated to answering email. If students are encouraged to post questions to a course question and answer DB, the whole class can benefit from both the posted question and the instructor’s response.  This is especially helpful for issues like course navigation, technical support, or peer feedback on projects.  With the right incentives, you may even find students in your class willing to answer questions and direct others to online resources.  Research has shown that this question articulation and peer interaction benefits both the questioner and the responder!  As a DB’s content grows, students gain access to resources and help 24 hours per day, and the instructor gains insight into typical student struggles and outside resources that students are using to address them.

Students may need small incentives like a single redeemed homework point for each post or a minimum posting requirement during the term to motivate them to use a DB.  An instructor may also copy early e-mails anonymously to the DB and respond there – then reply to the students’ e-mail directing the student to the DB for his/her response (and for future use!).   Once students start posting, many will find it so useful they’ll need no incentives!

Canvas contains a built-in threaded discussion tool in every course, which includes the ability to post images, equations, audio clips, and even video.  Instructors teaching problem-based courses may find that the free, seamlessly embeddable Piazza discussion tool, which features a non-threaded answer format and a robust LaTeX equation editor, works even better.

The Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) offers periodic workshops on discussion boards and other instructional topics of interest.  Our next DB workshop is scheduled for Wed. Feb 20, from 2-3 PM.  Check the CTL website to sign up or contact or 487-2046 to schedule an individual consultation!

The Evolution of Clickers: It’s about interaction

Electronic clicker response systems have been in Michigan Tech classes as a pedagogical tool for more than ten years.  These systems collect and tally student responses  to multiple choice questions in real time.  More recently, some instructors have experimented with “low-tech” paper clickers, where students respond to questions by revealing one of four colored letters, and higher tech systems including cell-phone and tablet apps that can gather text, numerical, and other responses.  But, HOW any response system is used in class is very important!  Research on clickers indicates that just “quizzing” students by clicker can actually diminish learning.  The key to using response systems successfully is to focus on two things:

  • Systems should be used to promote interactions between students as they discuss and defend their responses. Richer student responses may mean LESS discussion. There’s debate about whether higher-tech response systems take student attention and time away from “mainstream” class activities, and whether student “multitasking” results in better learning.
  • The instructor should use responses to direct and inform class activities in real time. Based on student feedback, instructors can add or eliminate examples, speed up or slow down, or address common misconceptions.  Several instructors on campus have tried enhanced response systems (including “iclicker 2”), but found it difficult to absorb and parse rich information coming from classes quickly enough to make instructional decisions in real time.

The CTL continues to test and explore a variety of classroom response systems as they rapidly evolve.  We welcome input on these new tools!  In the meantime, if you would like to discuss how a response system might be used in your classroom, consider signing up for one of CTL’s periodically offered clicker workshops or contact the CTL at or 487-2046 for an individual consultation!

Working with Groups in Canvas

Instructors often assign collaborative group projects to help students develop the leadership, management and interpersonal skills they will need to be successful in today’s workplaces. To help instructors and students, Canvas offers group assignment options as well as group spaces for collaboration, management and communication.

When assigning group projects, instructors can use Canvas’ Assignments, online Discussions and wiki Collaborations (of which Google Docs is an option). In addition to these tools for specific assigned tasks, students can work and share together in their own Canvas group workspace, which is created automatically when a group is formed. Each group workspace has its own Announcements, Discussions, Pages, Files, Collaborations, Conferences, and Calendar for real-time collaboration.

Canvas makes creating groups easy.  Instructors can click on People from the Course Tools navigation menu, then View User Groups from the right side bar to create new student groups and see and access those already created.  For more information about creating Canvas groups and using Canvas group tools, please refer to Guides and Resources: – Working with Groups in Canvas.

The CTL Tip of the Week is brought to you by the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL).  See what’s going on there this week at our website. For more general information or help with Canvas at Michigan Tech, visit Canvas One Stop.

Combining Canvas Sections

Instructors at Michigan Tech can use the Combine Canvas Sections tool on the CourseTools page to combine two or more BANNER sections into one Canvas course.  Instructors teaching two sections of the same course can post content just once in a combined section.  Once you have clicked the link to launch the Combine Canvas Sections tool, you can follow the directions provided to combine your sections.

There are some important factors to consider when combining Canvas sections:

  • Almost all instructors should choose to delete the original Canvas course during the combining process.  If the original course is not deleted, students enrolled in your combined section could see both the combined course and the original course on their Canvas Courses menu.
  • Combining sections creates a brand new, blank course so be sure to copy any content you have already created in the original, individual sections before you combine them.  See Copying Content from Another Canvas Course for directions.
  • Only the Official Instructor of Record for any BANNER section will see sections to combine in the Combine Canvas Sections tool.  If two sections taught by different instructors need to be combined, please contact IT-Help to authorize staff to make the change.

You can access Michigan Tech’s CourseTools page directly from inside Canvas by clicking on red Help link in the upper right corner. CourseTools also has links useful for submitting grades, as well as a link to the Combine Canvas Sections tool.

The CTL Tip of the Week is brought to you by the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL).  See what’s going on there this week at their website: For more general information or help with Canvas at Michigan Tech, visit Canvas One Stop.

Submitting grades via Canvas and CourseTools

Instructors still have two options for electronic grade submission.  You can submit grades via Banner Self-Service by going directly into Banner, entering your grades, and then clicking submit.  OR, for those with large class sizes and/or a lot of assignment grades already populated in Canvas, you can submit grades via Canvas by going to CourseTools and using the Grade Wizard to first extract them from Canvas and then submit them to Banner.

If you choose to submit grades via Canvas, you will need to have your grades for submission entered into an assignment column in your Canvas grade book because the Grade Wizard cannot access grades in the Total column.  We recommend that you use the Final column, which has a default grade scheme that accepts all valid Banner letter grades. This scheme will work well if you plan to type or upload letter grades from a spreadsheet. If you want to upload numerical scores from a spreadsheet into Canvas, you may want to adjust the percentage ranges for the Final column’s grading scheme. Refer to Enable, Create, and Edit Letter Grading Schemes in Canvas and upload scores from a spreadsheet into Canvas to learn more.

Then go to the CourseTools page, and click on Submit Grades Electronically via Canvas to use the Grade Wizard, which extracts your grades from Canvas and submits them to Banner. You can review the Guide to Submitting Grades via Canvas to see illustrated, step-by-step directions and links to video demonstrations and additional information.  You may also want to look over the Guide to Submitting Grades via Banner to help you decide which method is best for you.  For more general information or help with Canvas at Michigan Tech, and to register for eLearning workshops, visit Canvas One Stop.