Happy Data Privacy Day!

Keep your messages safe!

January 28 is Data Privacy Day! To honor the day, I thought I would give a little tip to all of you Warriors.

If you are like me, I’m going to guess that you receive countless numbers of email per day. It is likely the most utilized tool for your daily tasks. Statista reported that 269 billion emails were sent and received each day in 2017 and that 293.6 billion will be sent per day in 2019 (Daily number of e-mails worldwide 2017 | Statistic). Though it is an amazingly helpful tool, it needs to be used in the best way possible. More than once, I have learned of personal data via email through the university’s email systems, which sends chills of fear up my spine. Though it may seem like your message goes straight from your computer to whomever will be receiving it, email is far from private.

The best analogy that I can give you to understand the security of email is by posing this question: Would you take your social security number, your date of birth, your contact information, and information for a couple of bank accounts; write it onto a post card; and drop it into a mailbox to be sent to a trusted friend?

I seriously doubt it. Email can easily be intercepted by the least experienced of hackers. Never give any personal, financial, or important information to someone via a regular email message.

You may ask, “So, how can I get this information to someone privately?” Use encrypted messaging!

Our IT Team has set it up so that sending a message using our Outlook service is absolutely simple. Here’s what you do:

  1. Write your message as you normally would.
  2. In your subject line add this before your message’s subject: #secure
  3. Send it!

That’s it! You are done. The recipient will receive an email that has special instructions as to how they can get to the message. Via their browser, they will be sent to a page in WSU’s Outlook account.

Data Privacy Day Bonus!

This is really a reminder for anyone who missed the message I posted for last year’s Data Privacy Day.
You can now never change your WSU password again.

Currently, every six months, you receive a message that informs you that you must change your password to access all the WSU systems (Academica, Wayne Connect, Canvas, STARS, etc.). Then, you rack your brain to come up with something you know you will remember and haven’t used before—blending that perfect amount of lower and upper case letters, numbers, and special characters.

You can now make a password for yourself and never have to do it again.

How, you ask?  Simple. Using the same requirements but make a password that has 15 or more characters in it. If you do that, you’ll never be asked to change your password again.

You ask, “How will I remember a password with 15 characters?”

I suggest choosing random words that are easy for you to remember, add a number and a character. Security experts have learned that using multiple random words (three and up is best) provides a great balance between usability and security.  These types of passwords are actually difficult for hackers to determine.

Next time you are asked to make a password, make one with fifteen characters. It will save you time because you will never have to do it again.

Don’t be a phish, take Google’s security quiz

Phishing graphic

Today I was sent a link by Geoff Nathan, WSU’s former privacy officer. It was a really nifty tool so I thought I would share it with you — Google just released a phishing quiz to test your knowledge on phishing messages. It takes eight minutes; you can finish it quickly.

WSU’s C&IT security team does an amazing job at keeping the majority of email scams out of your inbox, but in the event that you encounter one before we do, it’s best to be prepared. My apologies to any of you who have dreamed of joining the band Phish.

I am issuing a challenge to all of you: take the test.

Take Google’s Phishing Quiz

Vector Graphics by Vecteezy.com

Working with Canvas – Readying for the Next Semester

Though some of you may simply be trying to finish things out for this semester, I know that many of you are readying for next semester.

If you will be teaching a course that you have taught before, it is amazingly easy to copy it for the next semester in Canvas.   It takes seven steps, but they are all very intuitive once you have started the process.

  1. Select the upcoming course where you want information transferred.
    This can be done either in your dashboard or by clicking Courses in your left-sided menu and then choosing the course.
  2. Once you are inside the course, click Settings in the course’s left-sided menu (Figure 1).

    Figure 1: Course Settings
    Figure 1: Course Settings
  3. A new window will open that shows you all the settings for the course.  You may want to explore this a bit; there are many things you can adjust that are beneficial when arranging the course.  However, for now, just go to the right-sided menu and click Import Course Content (Figure 2).

    Figure 2: Import Course Content
    Figure 2: Import Course Content
  4. In the window that opens, you will then use the Content Type drop-down menu to select Copy a Canvas Course (Figure 3).

    Figure 3: Copy a Canvas Course
    Figure 3: Copy a Canvas Course
  5. Once you have selected the option to Copy a course, you will want to tell it which course you want to copy.   A new drop-down menu, titled Search for a Course, will appear on your screen. There, you can select from previous courses. Canvas will  keep the last few semesters’ courses for copying. If there is older content, you can tick the check-box to Include Competed Courses before you use the drop-down.

    Figure 4: Copy from Another Course
    Figure 4: Copy from Another Course
  6. I would assume that a primary reason for copying your course is not simply to have all the assignments, quizzes, and modules copied but also to have all the content copied over.  If you are, you will want to select the radio button for All Content.

    Figure 5: Choose to Copy Course Content
    Figure 5: Choose to Copy Course Content
  7. Next, you’re given the option that is by far the best part of copying a course in Canvas.  Canvas will take all the due dates for your assignments as well as events like test dates, readings, etc. and shift them to match the calendar for your upcoming term.  If you would like to have all the course dates automatically entered for the term, tick the checkbox for Adjust events and due dates (Figure 6: 1).

    Figure 6: Adjust Due Dates
    Figure 6: Adjust Due Dates

    Then, you will likely want to Shift the Dates to match the calendar for the upcoming semester.  Once you have ticked the radio button to Shift Dates (Figure 6: 2), you will want to change the first day of classes to the new term’s calendar.  Make certain that the Beginning Date calendar-drop-down is set for the first day of the semester from which you are importing and  then set the first day of classes for the new semester.   For WSU, you do not need to put in an ending date.

That’s it!  Everything will be copied over from your previous course. If you chose to selectively include content from the previous course, you will be shown a menu to choose what you want in the upcoming course.

I hope this makes things easier for you.  Have a stress-free semester!


Naughty or nice: Beware privacy policies when you gift tech

Holiday season is in the air. Some of you may have just celebrated Hanukkah; others will be celebrating Christmas, Kwanzaa, or Winter Solstice. If, you are sharing presents as part of those celebrations, you may want to more closely examine the gifts you are giving or receiving.

It is predicted that people in the United States will spend approximately $3.8 billion on smart home devices like Amazon’s Echo or Google’s Home. This does not even include other Internet of Things (IoT) and internet-connected devices. These devices provide almost unimaginable convenience and connectivity. However, cyber-security experts warn that there are risks associated with being plugged in all the time.

Every time you purchase one of these devices, somewhere along the way, you will be presented with a privacy policy issued by the maker of the device. We have all seen these; they are cousins to the end-user license agreements (EULA) that people have waded through with software purchases since sometime in the 1980s. These agreements basically are a use-at-your-own-risk warning that ensures the software maker is not held accountable for anything that goes wrong as you use your computer. A privacy agreement is a statement or legal document that discloses some or all of the ways a party gathers, uses, discloses, and manages a customer or client’s data. It fulfills a legal requirement to protect a customer or client’s privacy. If you are like most people, you just want to get to using your new device or app, so you scroll to the end of this lengthy document and click accept.

You may want to take a bit more time to look over those privacy notices, though. Smartphones have really pushed consumers to appreciate convenience and connectivity. With that convenience come some costs. Those costs are tied into privacy policies — if the companies making these devices prioritize privacy at all.

Luckily, the Mozilla Foundation  — you likely know them via their subsidiary, which makes the Firefox browser — has a guide to help people as they make gift decisions. As the organization believes “the internet must always remain a global public resource that is open and accessible to all”, it has been highly active in advocating for security and privacy.

Mozilla’s list is known as the “*Privacy Not Included Guide“. To prepare the list, Mozilla allows users to list items on a scale from “Not Creepy” to “Creepy.” It’s an easy-to-navigate website that shows photos of products, lists them in categories and — most importantly — tells consumers whether they feel the gifts maintain a set of minimum security standards for IoT devices. These standards include whether the products use passwords, manage vulnerability, update for security frequently, encrypt all network communications, and make their privacy policies easily accessible and understandable. 

In this list Mozilla works to answer several questions: 

  • Can it spy on me?
  • What does it know about me
  • Can I control it?
  • Does the company show it cares about consumers?

As a tech junkie, I must admit that I enjoy many of the conveniences offered by some of these devices. I do, however, want to know exactly what information is being used so that I can make a choice as to using the device. An example: Our smartphones use location data; unless you turn the service off, they know every place you have been and can actually make predictions as to what you may do next. I was a bit taken aback the first time my Android phone showed me how long it would take to get someplace before I even asked it. Did I turn location services off? Temporarily. I missed the convenience of being told how long it would take to drive to my next appointment. I have read the privacy agreement provided by Google though and decided that I could accept their having this data. I feel better, though, knowing that they encrypt all the data as it goes to the servers that power this artificial intelligence (AI) technology and that I have to use passwords along with multi-factor authentication to access the information. I am taking that risk. 

You, however, may not want to take that risk. Knowing that an Amazon Echo or Google Home must listen to you all the time in order to answer all your needs may be too much for you. You may not feel comfortable with that Fredi baby monitor, which has been hacked in the past and has a default password of “123”. You may feel absolutely fine with knowing that your Fitbit fitness tracker connects to your smartphone or that the cool Parrot Bebop 2 drone uses an open Wifi network as it follows you around taking photos. All of you likely have varying comfort levels; you deserve to be well informed in order to make your choices. Mozilla helps us along with this. 

In the age of Cambridge Analytica, most of you now recognize the importance of your data. Companies and individuals may have both positive and nefarious usages for it. You deserve to know what you may be sharing. 

I highly suggest taking a look at the *Privacy Not Included Guide as you’re making your gift purchases this year.


Happy National Cybersecurity Awareness Month 2018! Police your Password

It’s October! This means that—along with all those ever-important holidays like “Global Handwashing Day,” “National Feral Cat Day,” and “International Day of the Nacho“—it is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month! Unlike “Sweetest Day” (which I had honestly never heard of until I moved to Michigan), you do not have to buy someone candy to show your affections, you simply need to make certain that you are taking care to protect your online privacy.

As part of NCSAM, I thought that I would talk a bit about something we do not consider much: the password. Many of us realize that they are unavoidable, but consider them a nuisance that has to be worked around in order to do the things we want or need to do.

The average person spends eleven hours connected to the internet every day. From banking to chatting with friends, uploading a paper on Canvas to registering for classes, there is really no limit to the things we do on a daily basis online. Almost every single resource we use—from Facebook to Wayne Connect—is secured with a password. You may choose to better secure yourself using two-factor authentication (which I covered last year for NCSAM) but the first line of defense is always our password.

Sadly, most of the population is really bad at creating passwords. For example, this past week, I happened to watch the first episode of the Murphy Brown reboot, in which Candice Bergen’s character instructs her son to use “password” as the password for a new Twitter account. Amazingly, the IRS was actually discovered to be using “password” for a password for secure systems in 2015.

I find it interesting that we still have lists of worst passwords. In 2017, Time Magazine reported this list of the top ten worst passwords:

  • 123456
  • Password
  • 12345678
  • qwerty
  • 12345
  • 123456789
  • letmein
  • 1234567
  • football
  • iloveyou

These few statistics point out exactly why we cannot take risks with simple passwords:

  • 10,000 of the most common passwords (such as 12345, qwerty, or 123456) can access 98% of accounts.
  • 90% of passwords generated by users are vulnerable to hacking.
  • The average user has around 26 online profiles or accounts, yet they only use five passwords for all of them.
  • In 2014, five million Gmail passwords were hacked and released online.
  • In 2017, Yahoo admitted that the data breach that had occurred three years earlier reached three million accounts.

So, what is important in creating a password?

  1. Make it unique. Do not use the same password for more than one account. If a hacker gains access to one account, they will have access to every account using that password.
  2. Make it long. Longer passwords are simply more secure. You should be using at least eight characters.
  3. Use a phrase. Using more than one word increases its security. Use a phrase no one else would know.
  4. Vary the characters. Combine uppercase, lowercase, numbers, and special characters in your password. This has become a requirement for many accounts. As an example, using this and the last suggestion, if you wanted to set your password as “happy birthday”, write it as “H@ppyB1r+hD@y.”
  5. Avoid personal information and common words. Do not use information that someone could easily find out. If someone can learn your child’s name and the day they were born from a simple Facebook post, you are not choosing a good password.

With those thoughts, I would highly suggest that you consider using a password manager to create and maintain unique credentials for all of your profiles. A password manager is a type of software that creates, stores, and protects passwords. The best of these services should have an app for your mobile device that works in conjunction with add-ons for your computer’s browsers. This allows you to have your information everywhere you go.

Some of the top password managers are Dashlane, LastPass, and Keeper. Though there are free versions of some of these, they are often limited to the number of passwords they will store or how much you can share a password. Given the cost and hassle that goes along with identity theft, these programs are generally worth the cost. Since most of us have many accounts we are juggling in our lives, we would all be best served by using one.

Good news to remember for NCSAM!  I know how much people complain when our Wayne State accounts require us to change our password.  Because we would want to encourage all of the Wayne State family to use better passwords, C&IT instituted a policy where we will never again ask you to change your password if it meets certain strength requirements.

Have a wonderful National Cyber Security Awareness Month! Celebrate by spending a little time making certain that your information is safe both at home and work.

If you’d like some more tips for creating a secure password, see this excellent infographic from Mike’s Gear Reviews below.

Create Secure Password Infographic

Working with Canvas: Setting up for Journaling

By now I’m sure that you are adjusting to Canvas, Wayne State’s new learning management system (LMS)—but you have likely discovered that the new LMS is very different than Blackboard, which inherited many functions from purchased competitors. Canvas strives to have a streamlined user interface with more options rather than functions.

A number of faculty have voiced concern that there is no journal function, but the truth is that Canvas offers several options for you to set up student journals. I’ve outlined three ways to set up a journal, arranged in order of difficulty:  assignment group, discussion group, and a OneNote class notebook.


Assignment Group

Set up one assignment group that you define as Journal–this is by far the simplest way. You then create individual assignments for each journal for students to submit, which can later be given a percentage value in your Grades function.

Go into your desired course and follow the instructions below.

  1. Click on Assignments in the sub-menu on the left side and then click on the +Group button. You will then be offered a box to name the Group and designate a percentage of the final grade.

    Figure 1: Assignment Group: Create Group
    Figure 1: Assignment Group: Create group.
  2. Click on the button in your journal category to add the individual assignments to your journal.
  3. Figure 2: Assignment Group - Create Journal Assignment
    Figure 2: Assignment Group – Create Journal Assignment
  4. You will then be presented with a box where you will create the assignment. Give the journal a name, choose a due date, and assign the number of points for the journal. Clicking More Options will allow you to write a description for the assignment, change grade display options, how the assignment is submitted, allow peer reviews, and change the dates of availability.

Figure 3: Assignment Group - Create Assignment
Figure 3: Assignment Group – Create Assignment

Discussion Group

I’ve found that using a discussion group to have students journal works very well too. Essentially, you create a discussion group of one person for each student in your class. This allows students to see all their journal entries in one place.

    1. Click People on the course menu.
    2. Click + Group Set.

      Figure 4: Discussion Group - Create a Group
      Figure 4: Discussion Group – Create a Group
    3. Enter the name for the Group Set (e.g. reflective journals).
    4. Select the Split students into groups option and set the number to be equal to the number of students enrolled in your course.
    5. Click Save.

      Figure 5: Discussion Group - Setting up individual groups
      Figure 5: Discussion Group – Setting up individual groups
    6. Click Discussions on the course menu.
    7. Click the +Discussion button.

      Figure 6: Discussion Group - Set up the Discussion
      Figure 6: Discussion Group – Set up the Discussion
    8. Give the discussion a topic title and enter your instructions or message in the text editor.
    9. If you wish to make this a graded journal activity, select the Graded checkbox in the Options list.
    10. Select the This is a Group Discussion checkbox.
    11. Select the correct Group set from the dropdown menu.

      Figure 7: Discussion Group - Final Setup
      Figure 7: Discussion Group – Final Setup
    12. Click Save.

OneNote Class Notebook

This final method may require a bit more work, but I highly recommend it. OneNote is a Microsoft  Office365 tool that—once installed on your mobile device(s) and computer—allows you to keep notes that can be accessed anywhere.  It has a nice filing system that is organized with notebooks, folders, and pages. I use this all the time; it took the idea that Evernote began and made it even better.

Office 365’s integration with Canvas allows you to utilize the Class Notebook capabilities of the OneNote application. Via OneNote you can share materials, collaborate, or distribute assignments or quizzes. For the students, a notebook is made for each class with sections for each grouping (collaboration space, quizzes, journals). As a teacher, you will have the folders for each student, sections for each grouping, and then pages will be made for each journal entry. As a bonus, both the online version of OneNote and OneNote 2016 for Windows allow you to directly enter grades into Canvas from OneNote (unfortunately this feature does not work in the macOS version or the Windows app).

Though setup takes a bit of time, it is actually quite simple to follow and most of the settings are default.

  1. Once in your Canvas Class, Click Class Notebook.

    Figure 8: Getting Started
    Figure 8: Getting Started
  2. You’ll be presented with steps to sign into Office 365 and set up your Class Notebook. Click Sign into OneNote and you will be taken to the Office 365 sign-in screen for WSU.
  3. Click Create a class notebook.

    Figure 9: Create a Class Notebook
    Figure 9: Create a Class Notebook
  4. You’ll be asked to give the class a name–I suggest leaving the auto-completed name that is pulled from Canvas. Click Next.

    Figure 10: Name the Class
    Figure 10: Name the Class
  5. Again, Click Next as it shows what will be included in your Notebook.

    Figure 11: Notebook Sections
    Figure 11: Notebook Sections
  6. You’ll be asked to add any other people you would like to be included as a teacher. This is handy if you have TAs. The names will be self populated from WSU’s LDAP directory so you can simply begin typing the name. If you have a problem, use their AccessID.  If you have no one to add, just click Next.

    Figure 12: Teacher Permissions
    Figure 12: Teacher Permissions
  7. Click Next as the students’ names are imported from Canvas.

    Figure 13: Student Names
    Figure 13: Student Names
  8. Finally, you are able to add a sections for each of the students. This is where I added a section titled Journals. Next.

    Figure 14: Notebook Sections
    Figure 14: Notebook Sections
  9. Finally, you can view the setup for both the students and yourself. To see each, simply click the name of the views at the top part of the window. You’re done! Click Create.

Figure 15: Preview Contents
Figure 15: Preview Contents

The Notebook is now good to go. I suggest that you enable the teacher only section to get the most out of the tool. This is an area that allows you to keep materials that only you can view.

  1. In Canvas, go into your Class Notebook section. In the screen that opens, choose Manage Notebooks.

    Figure 15: Manage Notebook area.
    Figure 15: Manage Notebook area.

Scroll to the settings for the notebook you are using and click the text: Enable Teacher-Only section group.

Figure 15: Enable Teacher's Section
Figure 15: Enable Teacher’s Section

Now that OneNote is set up, you can not only use it to distribute guided reflective journals (or let the students simply create their own topics), you can use it to distribute notes, quizzes, or have an area for student collaboration. You will have a folder for each of the students and be able to see into any sections that have been created for them. All the while, a special toolbar helps you manage everything (for the Office 2016 version of OneNote, you will have to download and  install the toolbar add-on). Below are examples of the toolbars in the various versions of OneNote.  If you are a Mac user, you may sometimes want to use the online version, as it has more functionality.

Figure 16: OneNote 2016 Toolbar
Figure 16: Class Notebook Toolbar in OneNote 2016


Figure 17: OneNote Online Toolbar
Figure 17: Class Notebook Toolbar in OneNote Online

Figure 18: Class Notebook Toolbar in the OneNote Windows App
Figure 18: Class Notebook Toolbar in the OneNote Windows App


Figure 19: Class Notebook Toolbar in OneNote for OS X
Figure 19: Class Notebook Toolbar in OneNote for OS X

Which do I prefer?  Honestly, each works best for different situations–that is what is so ideal.

  • Last semester, I was giving my students topics to reflect on, so a Discussion Group was the best choice.
  • This semester I assigned videos for the students to watch and respond to—I used an Assignment Group for this.
  • OneNote is great students who need to keep an ongoing journal for their student teaching or internship.

Just choose what works best for you and your students!

If you need assistance with any of these options, contact the Learning Management System Support team at lmsadmin@wayne.edu. All Wayne State faculty have an Office365 account and may download apps like OneNote–if you have questions about this tool or others in the software, contact the C&IT Help Desk at 313-577-4357 or helpdesk@wayne.edu.

Working with Canvas: Mobile apps, part 1

If you’ve been following my journal, you know that I’ve been writing about my personal experiences during WSU’s transition to the Canvas LMS from Blackboard. If this is your first one, you may want to look at my other journal entries on blogs.wayne.edu/proftech

This is the first of a two-part series dedicated to the Canvas mobile apps for teachers. In this blog posting, I will discuss the various functions of the mobile apps—basically in the order that I find most important and helpful,  and then I will give a few pointers for those functions. In the second part of the series, I will go more in depth with the functions that are related to grading.

The mobile application

Mobile applications are certainly nothing new to the LMS front—Blackboard has an app for both iOS and Android. But I know, after I installed the Bb app on both my iPad and on my Android phone,   I quickly realized it was not going to help me very much. It did not offer many options for instructors, and—it was my experience that—about half the times I tried to use it, I would be prompted to purchase the app, even though WSU was one of the schools that had been set up so that students and faculty could get the app for free!

Luckily, Canvas recognizes the importance of mobility. Instructure actually created three Canvas apps for mobile. One is for instructors and one is for students—giving easy access to whatever functions we need (because Instructure also has Canvas set up for K-12 schools, the third app is for parents).

Download the app

Obviously, the first thing you’ll need to do is download the app for your mobile device. Go to the Play store (Figure 1) or the App Store (Figure 2) to find the app (for the purposes of this journal and making things easier to see, I am using the apps on tablets: an 8” Android tablet and a 4th Gen. iPad). Though they are labeled clearly, make certain that you download the app with the yellow icon.

Canvas in the Play Store
Fig. 1: Canvas in the Play Store

Fig. 2: Canvas in the App Store

Once you have downloaded the app, you’ll find that it offers many of the same options as its web-based counterpart.

Mobile features

Opening the app, you will come to the Dashboard (Figures 3 & 4)  just like you do in the web-based version. You’ll notice that any customization to courses shows up here just like it does on the web version, and you can easily spot your courses. In addition, you can see quick access to your Inbox and To Do list at the bottom of the screen.

Dashboard in Android
Fig. 3: Dashboard in Android

Dashboard- in OS
Fig. 4: Dashboard- in OS

Once you go into a course, you can see the many offerings needed to manage the course: Announcements, Assignments, Quizzes, Discussions, People, Pages, Files and Attendance. Though the appearance is different in the iOS and Android versions, the functionality is the same.

You will notice, however, that the Android version also shows icons marked LTI with various names. LTI means Learning Tools Interoperability; these are the “plug-in” tools that add functionality to Canvas. They have either been installed by our LMS administrator or you have installed them via the System Apps settings in the web interface. If you are using Canvas Teacher for Android, you will be able to access the functions of those LTIs. The iOS version, however, offers a what is essentially a preview pane.

You are able to go into the settings to edit both the name of the course and set what the students’ home screen will be when they enter the course by clicking on the icon that looks like a cog in the upper right corner of the screen in Android (Figure 5) or the upper center of the screen in iOS (figure 6).

Fig. 5: Course Home Page - Android
Fig. 5: Course Home Page – Android

Fig. 6: Course Home Page - iOS
Fig. 6: Course Home Page – iOS

Once in a course, you are able to perform most all of the functions that you that you can from the web client.


Announcements can be viewed, edited or created. In the Android app,  clicking on a particular announcement will lead you to another screen where you are given the option to edit (Figure 7). In the iOS versions, tapping on an announcement  on the left side of the screen will allow you to view it on the right side of the screen; you can edit, mark as read or delete an announcement all by clicking on the three dot menu (Figure 8).  Also, by clicking the plus sign (+), you can create a new announcement that will populate your home page and send a message to your students.

Fig. 7: Announcements
Fig. 7: Announcements – Android

Fig. 8: Announcements in iOS
Fig. 8: Announcements – iOS


The People area of both of the mobile apps allow you to work with the information of individual students. The most helpful function of this section is the ability to see an overview of a student’s  assignments and quizzes—allowing you to identify if they have everything completed and whether it was submitted on time or not.  In both versions, you simply click on the student to get the information (Figures 9 & 10); in Android, you will go to another page which gives all the student’s info (Figure 9a) and In iOS, this shows up in the pane to the right (Figure 10). Although you cannot create student discussion groups, it is possible to filter by the groups that were created in the web interface to see which students are in each group.

Fig. 9: People-Android
Fig. 9: People-Android

Fig. 9a: People Details-Android
Fig. 9a: People Details-Android

Fig. 10: People Details-iOS
Fig. 10: People Details-iOS


Though Discussions is available in Canvas mobile, it does not have the feature set of the web interface. In the apps, you may create, respond to, and edit the general guidelines of the discussion. Creating a discussion can be accomplished easily by tapping the  same plus sign (+) that we see in all sections of  mobile Canvas (Figures 11 & 12). In Android,  editing is accomplished by tapping on the discussion, which will take you to its description; it can then be edited by tapping the pencil icon (Figure 13).  In iOS, tapping on the discussion will show you the description in the right-hand pane; tapping on the three-dot menu icon in the upper right hand corner will allow editing (Figure 14). Though discussions can be created for a class, the mobile apps do not allow the possibility of assigning the discussion to a group or making the discussion a graded assignment; you will have to perform these functions in the web interface.

Fig. 11: Discussions-Android
Fig. 11: Discussions-Android

Fig. 12: Discussions-iOS
Fig. 12: Discussions-iOS

Fig. 13: Discussion Description & Editing-Android
Fig. 13: Discussion Description & Editing-Android

Fig. 14: Discussion Description & Editing-iOS
Fig. 14: Discussion Description & Editing-iOS


Pages, in Canvas, are places where we can communicate information to the students. It is likely that these are parts of modules where you are giving instruction to the student and possibly preparing them for an assignment or quiz. Both mobile apps let you create, edit or delete pages (Figures 15 & 16). As per normal, new pages are created by tapping the plus sign. In Android, you can edit by tapping on the page name; you will be able to delete after going into the Edit function (pencil icon), scrolling to the bottom of the page, and clicking Delete Page. In iOS, once a page is selected, you can simply click the Menu (three-dots) button. One thing to point out is that much of the same formatting can be used when creating a page as you would within the web interface. The apps contain a limited version of the rich text editor that you would find on the web (Figures 17 & 18). For some reason, the iOS app does not allow underlining but, other than that, all the options are the same.

Fig. 15: Pages-Android
Fig. 15: Pages-Android

Fig. 16: Pages-iOS
Fig. 16: Pages-iOS

Figure 17: Pages Editor-Android
Figure 17: Pages Editor-Android

Figure 18: Pages Editor-iOS
Figure 18: Pages Editor-iOS


Our move to Canvas has provided us with a function that was never offered in Blackboard: Attendance. The mobile app makes it simple to mark attendance quickly from your smart device while in the classroom. Both apps function identically (Figures 19 and 20). Once you click on attendance, you are presented with a list of the students. If you have my memory for names and faces, you will find this especially helpful if they have uploaded a photo to their profile.  If all your class is there, you can easily use one tap at the bottom of the screen to record everyone present. If you need to mark people absent or late, there are icons for each individual on the right side of your screen which toggle between no record, present, absent and tardy.

Fig. 19: Attendance-Android
Fig. 19: Attendance-Android

Fig. 20: Attendance-iOS
Fig. 20: Attendance-iOS


If you realize you need files on your mobile device available to your class, you can use the Files function in the mobile app. This allows you to browse through the folders that are created for each course to control its files (Figures 21 & 22). Tapping on the plus sign allows you to add a file in whichever folder you would like. You can also change the description of a file or delete files that you’ve already uploaded by tapping on the name of the files.  If you have browsed around your file structure on a PC or Mac, you’ll have no problems with this. 

Fig. 21: Files-Android
Fig. 21: Files-Android

Fig. 22: Files-iOS
Fig. 22: Files-iOS

Inbox and To Do

Finally, there are two functions that work globally across all your courses, your Inbox and your To Do list. These function the same in both Android and iOS.  However, iOS has an upper hand in the accessibility of these functions—the buttons to access them are persistent throughout every other function. In Android, you must be at the Dashboard to access them.

The Inbox functions similarly to the inbox in Wayne Connect (and other email clients). As you open your Inbox, you will see copies of all your messages or filter by courses (Figures 23 & 24). After selecting messages, you have the standard group of options: reply, delete, forward, archive, etc. Using the tried and true plus sign lets you compose a new message. As you do this, you are prompted to choose the class to whom you would like the message to be sent before you are given options of who in the class you want to receive the message (all students, teachers, individuals or groups).

Fig. 23: Inbox-Android
Fig. 23: Inbox-Android

Fig. 24: Inbox-iOS
Fig. 24: Inbox-iOS

Unlike other list functions you may use, the To Do list in Canvas is populated for you—letting you know when you have items that need grading. It takes all of your assignments or quizzes and indicates if and how many need grading (Figures 25 & 26). Tapping on the item takes you immediately into the Speed Grader function (I’ll describe that a bit more in Part 2 of this entry), so that you can quickly check things off of your course tasks.

Fig 25: To Do-Android
Fig 25: To Do-Android

Fig 26: To Do-iOS
Fig 26: To Do-iOS

I hope that this has offered enough information to interest you in utilizing the Canvas mobile apps. Both options will immensely help you keep up with your work on the go. If you are active, this allows you to do the work without carrying around a laptop. The apps are very similar and neither is really superior to the other: the iOS one may take a tap or two less to get to functions, but the Android one allows you to access your LTIs. Take some time to explore them—you will be glad you did!



Happy Data Privacy Day!

This is a day, internationally, to help remind everyone that their personal data is being processed every second of the day—whether it is through interactions at  work, the health field, public authorities, online purchases , or casual web surfing. On top of all that, if you are a smart phone user,  Apple or Google can likely tell exactly where you are at any minute of the day.

For these reasons, I’d like to offer a friendly reminder to be aware of your personal responsibility to protect your data to the best of your abilities.  The National Cyber Security Alliance offers some sage advice in the title of their online safety, security and privacy campaign:  Stop. Think. Connect.

Basically, the general idea is for you, as a responsible internet user, to always wade with caution into the open waters of the internet.  In the same way that you would not simply leap off a cliff into the rushing waters of a river without taking your personal safety into account, you shouldn’t randomly click every link that comes across your internet browser on your phone or computer.  This is also true of links in your email—even if it is coming from a friend.


If I can offer one action that everyone should do as they browse the internet or check mail, it would be to check the links you are clicking.  Whether you are using a browser or an email client, you have a status bar.  As you prepare to click on a button or web address  (STOP) glance down at the status bar to (THINK) make certain that the address looks legitimate and then (CONNECT) click it to go on to read and/or see more.

Here are two examples:

Figure 1: Checking a URL in your web browser
Figure 1: Checking a URL in your web browser

In Figure 1, you can see my browsing with Firefox to that bastion of good news, Buzzfeed.  You’ll notice that I’m pointing to a link (1) while the status bar indicates the URL where the link will take me if I click it (2).  In that status bar, read the URL address to see if it looks safe.  This works the same if you are using the university’s Outlook web interface (Wayne Connect), Gmail, or any other email provider.

Figure 2: Checking web addresses in Outlook email client.
Figure 2: Checking a URL in Outlook email client.

In Figure 2, While using Outlook to read Today@Wayne, I decide I want to read more about an article on the web.  I’m pointing to a link (1),  a tool tip pops up to tell me the URL that will open up in my browser (2), and the status bar also tells me the URL that will open up in my browser (3). Again, decide whether that link looks reliable.

By taking a few extra seconds, you can protect yourself from malicious code on a website or a phishing attempt via your email.


I am happy to announce that our cyber security team has been working on a project that will make life easier for all university users.

Currently, every six months, you receive a message that informs you that you must change your password to access all the WSU systems (Academica, Wayne Connect, Canvas, STARS, etc.). At that point, you try to come up with something you know you will remember and something you haven’t used before. To make certain it is accepted, you figure out a password phrase that uses lower case letters, upper case letters and numbers.

Well, here’s the good news.

In about a week, you can create a password and never have to make another one again.

How, you ask?  Simple. Using the same requirements, make a password that has 15 or more characters in it. If you do that, you’ll never be asked to change your password again.

Now, the question:  How will I remember a password with 15 characters?

You can choose random words that are easy for you to remember and simply put a space between them.  Security experts have learned that using multiple random words (three and up is best) provides a great balance between usability and security.  These types of passwords are actually difficult for hackers to determine.

So, after Feb. 5, take the time to make a new password. Investing a small amount of time now will save you lots of time later because you’ll never have to do it again.


Working with Canvas: Grades

Canvas is Wayne State’s new learning management system. All classes will be in Canvas by fall 2018. I’m testing out Canvas and sharing my experiences with the campus community. In Canvas, Grades is not a drastic departure from Blackboard’s Grade Center. Making the shift will be a simple transition for anyone who regularly utilized Blackboard’s Grade Center.

The basics

Areas of the Grades center
Figure 1: The areas of Grades

Grades is broken up into three main areas:

  1. The area for controlling the gradebook
  2. Student data
  3. Assignment Data

As you’ll notice, the main grid looks basically the same as it did when you sneaked a peek at your grades over your teachers’ shoulder to see their paper gradebook when you were young. These familiar parts (2 & 3) will react just as you’d expect:

  • Area 2 populates directly from the enrollment of your class with the students’ access code
  • Area 3 will show grades for every assignment, and you’ll be able to horizontally scroll through them

Area 1 is where you really have some control.

  • Click the Individual View (a) button to see either an individual view of students or tests.
  • The Settings (b) dropdown (the button looks like a gear) will offer the most options. There you may choose to hide the students’ names, change the sorting order of your columns and even assign all missing assignments a grade of 0.

As in Blackboard, when you create an assignment of any kind, a column is created in Grades. As demonstrated in Figure 1 (from my sandbox for testing classes) this will look very familiar. You will use the settings button (b) to access the functions that have an overall effect on Grades. This is where you will be able to change the way in which the columns are sorted. You can also mark uncompleted assignments as zero, hide student names and the comments column, as well as view concluded and inactive enrollments.

Bonus Grades Uses for Students

If you are wanting to work with a particular assignment, you will access that from within the grading area by clicking a dropdown that appears once you hover over the assignment name (Figure 2). From this area you can see the details on an assignment (average score, high score, low score), go into the SpeedGrader (read my previous blog post), send a message to students in regards to the assignment, curve their grade or set a default grade for everyone.

This is also where you would Mute an assignment. Canvas is setup to automatically send students a message when you grade an assignment; muting an assignment will allow you to complete grading for the entire class before a message is sent out.

Assignment Details
Figure 2: Assignment Details

I would like to point out two things (Figure 3) that can help you as you use Grades in the picture below.

  1. You will notice   in the Survey Paper column that I have entered grades for all but Student Canvas 03. However, there is an icon that shows that a paper has been submitted; it simply has not been graded.
  2. Another thing to notice is the highlighted cell for the fourth student (blurred). In the upper right hand corner of the cell, there is a small blue triangle that you can click to get more information about the assignment. Clicking this triangle leads you, the instructor, to a very helpful area for further information on that particular grade.

Grade Cells
Figure 3: Grade Cells


Grade Information
Figure 4: Grade information

This area (Figure 4) allows you to quickly add a comment to the student in regards to this particular assignment grade. It is also allows you to insert/edit the grade or see the original document without going into Canvas’s grading functionality. If you need to do more with the assignment, you can open the SpeedGrader function here.

As you would expect, Canvas has importing and exporting capabilities. Your entire gradebook can easily be exported to a CSV to be opened up in Excel or the spreadsheet software of your choice. If can also walk you through importing information into Grades.

Final thoughts

This may actually be the easiest transition for all of us in our move from Blackboard to Canvas. It is really similar and — if anything — more intuitive than the Blackboard Grade Center. It also takes far less clicking to get something done.

Bonus: As I was preparing this, I was acting as a student to upload a file for an assignment that I had created. When I went to the area to submit the assignment, I noticed a tab at the top of the file upload area that said Office 365. (Figure 5) Happily realizing what this was, I clicked to see what it offered. It allows the student to log in to their Wayne Connect Office 365 account and upload directly from there. This means that as long as your students work in the Office 365 that is provided by the university, you may never hear “I forgot my flash drive,” or “My computer crashed and my homework was lost,” again. 

Office 365 login
Figure 5: Office 365 Login