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My First Course in Canvas – A Learning Success!

My First Course in Canvas – A Learning Success

As some of you know, I had my first full time course experience using the Canvas LMS this summer. The course I taught was The Criminal Justice Systems (CJ 311), and it was a learning success.

Throughout my first experience, I discovered several need to know tips that are (most likely) covered in the user guides as well as in the help menu, but are probably not as prominent as they could be. I’ll share the list here, with some screen shots.

One of the first things the Canvas instructor needs to know is that there are three (3) different ways to access Canvas courses.
1)     Desktop/Laptop
2)     Mobile version (for mobile devices)
3)     Canvas iPad and iPhone Application

Because this was my first experience, I wanted to make the most of it, so I used all three. As you might expect, the Desktop/Laptop version was the most robust, although many of the same features were replicated in the Mobile version. The least robust were the IOS applications, but even they had a lot to offer by way of interaction.


The difference between desktop vs. laptop for me was the Record/Upload Media function.

Unless your desktop is equipped with webcam and/or microphone, you will not be able to add new media. I attached a webcam and headset and had adequate success in recording both. I didn’t care for the visual look the headset presented (like a telemarketer), so I went with a clip on lavaliere microphone.

My laptop has an integrated webcam, so the video was better, and with the lavaliere microphone, the audio was better, but tended to pick more ambient noises. So I needed to somewhat isolate myself in order to get a quality recording.

1)      For better results, use an integrated webcam and an external lavaliere microphone.
2)     Recognize that you do not have to use video for every response, particularly when audio will do.

Mobile version (for mobile devices)

The “Mobile version” of canvas accessed through mobile devices is different than using the LMS from the desktop, and this can cause some confusion (at least it did for me).
The biggest thing is the Record/Upload Media feature does not work for the IOS devices, because (as noted) Flash is required. I don’t currently have a Flash empowered mobile device to try.

Otherwise, I did not notice any significant difference in using the desktop or mobile version of Canvas.

1)      Use the Mobile version when necessary, such as traveling, or as an alternative when you are unable to access the desktop version
2)     Use the Mobile version sparingly because you limit yourself unnecessarily with regard to use of the media function

Canvas iPad and iPhone Application

Here is where I think the value in canvas rests. With either the iPad or the iPhone, you can make video responses to students (or audio alone) from your mobile device pretty seamlessly. The value I see in this application is that the student can receive your messages on virtually any device they can access the Internet on.

I would suggest you not to record more than a few minutes of video or audio to make the interaction more like engagement and less like a lecture. However, there is nothing to prevent you from “shooting on location.” Specifically if you can tie it to an assignment or even an announcement.

While traveling you could record a short video and later upload it to your Canvas course for students to view and comment on. Short videos (3min or less) render and compress faster and are less likely to have any issue with posting. I did not test to see how long I could record a video.

1)      Bending technology to your will, use the canvas app to extend your communication with your students
2)     Use the video feature to energize your course and bring real-world current events to your online offerings

Canvas Icons Convention/Use

The last point I wanted to briefly touch on is the canvas icons use, specifically the Publish/Unpublish Cloud icon.

In Canvas there are at two places where you must Publish in order for the module or activity to be seen by the student. If you have your activities nested in a Module, you must publish the module by selecting the cloud, which then turns green with a checkmark. Then you must also ensure that the activity is published as well. As a side note, as with most online activities conventions you must ensure that the date Available From and Until are set correctly as well.

Although there were other experiences that I gained through this Learning Success, I really just wanted to make those new (or newer) to Canvas aware of these. If time permits (and if there is any interest) I intend to create a walk-through screen capture for downloading quizzes, exams, and question banks from Moodle and uploading them into your Canvas course.

Thanks for taking time to read through this short guide, I hope you found it helpful and I look forward to reading your comments. I also hope that you will feel comfortable with sharing your successes and challenges in using this remarkable LMS application.
Dr. Eugene Matthews

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