We’ve covered a lot of content in the Canvas blog-a-thon over the course of July 2021. We’ve covered much in terms of accessibility and widening participation. It’s also important to include the Canvas VLE Accessibility statement. This is an overarching VLE accessibility statement but your module still needs a statement to inform students of what is being updated etc.

When it comes to looking at Canvas, please do consider some of the following practices.

Best practices when setting up your Canvas module

When it comes to Getting Started and setting up your Canvas module, we have looked at some best practices to help you. These are listed below.

Use the DEVELOP area

This allows you to collaborate with other contributors when creating your module. This allows for ideas to be tested in a safe environment. Students are not enrolled in a DEVELOP area therefore content won’t be viewable beyond the staff connected to it.

Rolling over content

Canvas’s import course (rolling over content) option gives users the choice of importing a whole course or parts of it. This can be a good starting point when developing and updating content for the next academic year. Content should firstly be rolled over (copied to) the DEVELOP module and updated. Once updates are complete, roll the content over from DEVELOP to your fresh module shell for the next academic year. Don’t forget to check links within the course, external links, videos, files and reading lists to ensure they work and are relevant.

Canvas modules page

Organise your content using the Canvas modules page. Some Canvas course may run weekly with simple navigation and the modules can be labelled week 1, etc. Other Canvas modules may have more complex navigation but do organise the modules page and add in a lecture list which links to the content underneath.

Hide course files

The Files section should not be viewable by students. Files can be embedded onto Canvas pages along with other content, i.e., learning outcomes, links and additional resources. This makes the embedded of the file on the page more relevant.

Arrange your Canvas course navigation

This is the list down the left hand side of the module. You will need to show:

  • Home
  • Announcements
  • Modules
  • Assignments

After that, as module coordinators and contributors, decide what other navigation options you would like students to have. The navigation options which should NOT be shared are Files and People.

Be accessible

When uploading files to Canvas, ensure you have run the items through accessibility checkers before upload. In Canvas, check the Accessibility Report for the module and when you edit pages, do a page accessibility check. There are items in Canvas that may get missed with regards to accessibility but if we all do our bit, we can improve the student experience. Also, Canvas now allows for much content within the module to be offered in different formats AND there’s an immersive reader should anyone need it.

Static links

If you rolled over course content, check links within the module. External links should be OK but internal links (i.e., course links) will break. Do re-link up quiz / assignment pages and remember to do this!

Recordings

At Queen’s, we use MS Stream and Mediasite to host recordings. Both services offer auto-generates subtitles/captions. We recommend any recordings you create are hosted on one of these services and embedded in your Canvas course (also include a direct link to the video for accessibility reasons). Recordings hosted on other services also saves your Canvas file storage but please ensure you apply the right permissions so students can access the recordings.

Scanned readings

The library is the place to go for recommended reading list items. Do NOT provide PDFs of reading items for two reasons. Firstly, the PDF may not be accessible which could mean students are disadvantaged when it comes to learning. Secondly, it infringes Copyright as the file is being accessed but not counted by the Copyright License Agency (CLA). By requesting reading list items via the library, the library will provide an accessible copy of the reading to students which also gets counted by the CLA every time students access it.

Assessment

Ensure assessments / assignments are unpublished at the start of the course. This gives you time to update assessments and double-check dates. Typically assessments apply to the whole class but some students may have additional time regards deadlines. Again, you have time to find out which students need differentiated dates and assessments can be published when this is all set up.

There are also different submissions for different assessment types, these include:

Quizzes

Some quizzes might have question banks attached and be fully relevant to the next academic year. Do check quiz links and set up to ensure the dates / times are appropriate to the learning schedule in the next academic year. Quizzes can be simple quizzes or contain question banks. Question banks can be added to and amended over time.

Contact information

Tell students how they can contact you and set boundaries. For example, office hours and contact via email. Let students know when they can expect a response, i.e., the next working day or within 24 hours. Ensure this is on your Canvas home page.

Publish the module

Remember the live module will have students enrolled and they need access. When the academic year starts, remember to publish your module to give students access to the content.

Announcements

Set a welcome announcement once the module is published. This can be a brief introduction and a link to the Canvas home page. Students will receive this via email. Announcements can be sent to the whole class, groups or individuals.

Student Orientation Course

Do tell students about the Canvas Student Orientation Course and encourage them to work through the content. This is packed with lots of useful information for students on Canvas, for example:

  • Dashboard
  • Navigation
  • Mobile App
  • Profile Info
  • Finding / submitting assignments
  • Viewing grades / feedback
  • Communications
  • Calendars
  • Notifications
Canvas_KeyTopics
Canvas_KeyTopics

We hope you enjoyed reading through this list of best practices when using Canvas.

Next time

Tomorrow is the final day of the Canvas blog-a-thon and we want to give you a checklist about prepping your module for September 2021!

We hope you have a pleasant day. Please do join us then to learn more and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter: @MDBSelearn.


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