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

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

People

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

Discussions

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

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

Attendance

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

Files

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.

TIP

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.

EXCITING NEWS TO CELEBRATE DATA PRIVACY DAY!

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

Comments

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

Working with Canvas: SpeedGrader

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. Let me know if you have any questions or topics of interest! For this journal entry, I’ll discuss the most talked about Canvas feature (and rightfully so): SpeedGrader.

SpeedGrader will get you through your grading faster. With it you can:

  • Track your grading progress and hide assignments while grading.
  • View submissions in moderated assignments.
  • Use rubrics to assign grades.
  • View submission details for each student, including resubmitted assignments.
  • Leave feedback for your students.
  • Sort submissions by student and hide student names for anonymous grading.

SpeedGrader basically is set up to get you through your grading in the most efficient way possible. Quite frankly, this is the Canvas tool you will most enjoy when you are pressed for time at the end of the semester and need to grade papers as quickly as you can.

The Basics

SpeedGrader has five areas on the page when it is opened in a web browser on your computer.

  1. Student Submission: This is where you can see what your student has submitted. The student may include text, websites, media recordings or uploaded files. Here you may add annotations to their assignment by highlighting, adding, or crossing out text, writing a comment, or even drawing.
  2. Assign a Grade: Here you can enter a grade based on your preferred assessment method (percentage, points, or — if you set it up as you made the assignment — a letter grade).
  3. View Rubric: If you created a rubric for grading when you made an assignment, this will bring it up.
  4. Assignment Comments: Read comments from the student or add your own.
  5. Other Comment Area: You may upload a file or record a media (audio or video) comment.

Toolbar

You may have noticed in the last image that there is also a toolbar running across the top of the SpeedGrader window. This is where you will find all the information you need about each assignment.

In the upper right hand corner, you’ll notice a grouping of four icons. These control functions that affect the assignment as a whole.

  1. Grades: This opens your gradebook.
  2. Mute/Unmute: This toggles an assignment between muted or unmuted. When an assignment is muted, the student will not receive notifications regarding the assignment. Unmuting it will inform them of their grade.
  3. Keyboard Shortcuts: This will offer you some options to use keyboard shortcuts to navigate more quickly.
  4. Help: This will present you with a help menu if you are confused in the SpeedGrader.
  5. Settings: Here you can choose various sort methods or hide the students’ names for anonymous grading.

On the upper left side, you will be presented with the student information for the assignment. This is where you can easily navigate through the students for grading.  You can click on the right-pointing arrow to open the next student’s assignment or click the left arrow to go back to the previous student.

This area also includes a dropdown menu of all the students in the course, allowing you to jump from student to student as you are grading.

Finally, the center section of your toolbar gives you full details about the assignment on which you are working.

  1. Assignment: Title of the assignment.
  2. Submission Details: The date and time when the assignment was due.
  3. Course Details: Course number, reference number and section of the class in which this assignment was given (like we’re going to forget… ).
  4. Number graded: How many of this assignment you have graded and how many total are to be graded (after a long night, this is much easier than flipping through and counting how many papers you have left).
  5. Average: The average total number of points and the average percentage.
  6. Student Number: Where in the list of students you are working.

In Conclusion

Every time assignments, graded discussions or quizzes are created in Canvas, a SpeedGrader will be set up to grade them. The SpeedGrader can be accessed directly from the assignment itself or through the gradebook. I really appreciate that I can get to the SpeedGrader with far fewer steps than I could grade an assignment in Blackboard. Also, the fact that I can do all the grading from within Canvas rather than opening Word makes life far easier.

SpeedGrader is also available in the Canvas app. Look for more details on the app in a future Canvas journal.

I think that faculty here at WSU will really appreciate the SpeedGrader tool. I can see it not only helping me complete the work faster, but also saving me money (fewer bottles of wine will be needed to get through a stack of papers).

Working with Canvas: Getting started

Canvas is coming soon to your classroom and I want to address the first few questions you may have as you get started.

  1. Am I going to be overwhelmed by a new interface?

When you sign in to Canvas for the first time, you will notice that it has far less information cluttering the page than Blackboard. You’ll see a navigation bar with seven buttons and the Dashboard which shows your current active courses, a To Do list and things coming up. That’s it.

You can customize your dashboard in two ways.

  1. View: You can switch the Dashboard from the Card view (showing one card for each course, for easy access) to Recent Activity view (which is a feed of recent messages, submissions and more). Make this change using the gear icon in the top right-hand corner of the dashboard. Check them both out and see which you prefer!
  2. Image: You can add an image to the course card which is shared with the students and stands out better than some of the unwieldy course titles.
Canvas Dashboard
Canvas Dashboard Page
  1. How difficult is it to move my class from Blackboard?

In all honesty, importing a course is pretty easy. As a Canvas tester, I had to move my courses myself. Luckily, our LMS administrators are working to bring your courses over from Blackboard right now, so you will have a head start.

If you do have to move a course, the first thing you’ll do is click on the course in your Dashboard. This will take you to your course’s home page, which jumps you right into the tool to import data from an old Blackboard course (this is also where you get started if you’re building a new course from scratch).

Canvas First Homepage for Course
Canvas’s initial home page for a course

If you look at the photo above, you’ll notice Add Existing Content is one of the two choices in the center of the screen. Click this button to easily import the .zip file from a course in Blackboard (you will have to export the course first). On the next page (below) you will choose Blackboard 6/7/8/9 export .zip file from the drop down and follow the instructions. It’s that simple.

  1. How do I get my syllabus uploaded?

This is where Canvas truly shines. Your syllabus is key to helping your students succeed and it is the first thing they want when they get access to a course.

Like most, I previously created my syllabus in Microsoft Word. Then I would take that syllabus, save it as a PDF and upload it to Blackboard. Yes, you can still do this in Canvas, but there is an easier and even more informative way to do it in the new LMS.

As you open the syllabus area, the first thing you’ll do is click the Edit button (NOTE: Canvas uses the term edit even when you are first creating). You’ll immediately be taken to what is known as the Rich Text Editor, an area where you can type that has toolbars similar to any word processor, blogging tool or CMS. Here you can either type in your syllabus (for the daring ones out there) or paste information that you have already written in Word or another word processer.

Canvas's Syllabus Editor
Canvas’s Syllabus Page

 

You’ll notice that there is an area below your syllabus description called Course Summary. This is where the Canvas Course Syllabus tool really outdoes Blackboard. Course Summary shows an outline of all your assignments, topics, tests, etc. This information can be populated in several ways:

  • Every assignment that you make shows up in this summary on its due date.
  • Every quiz will show up on its due date (NOTE: All tests given via Canvas are called quizzes).
  • Any event you add to the calendar will show up.

As someone who teaches studio courses, I chose to go into the calendar and add an event on the first day of every week that shows what we will be studying that week. ­This can be done simply by clicking on the day of the month, which prompts an Edit Event box to create an event (NOTE: When you view the calendar that it is composed of layers for each one of your courses). If you’ve ever used Google Calendars or Outlook calendars online, it will feel really familiar.

Calendar Editor
Create/Edit an Event in Calendar

Calendar List
Canvas’s Calendar List

You’ll need to make certain that the layer is turned on for the course in which you want to place the event. Do this by clicking on the colored box to the left of the course name in the calendar list on the left of your screen (Above).

Adding every assignment, test and event into this calendar has a huge impact on student success rates. Not only will they receive notifications when assignments are added to the calendar, they will receive reminders as due dates approach.

  1. How hard is it going to be to know every step of setting up a course? It took me forever to learn it when I first started using Blackboard.

As with any new tool, it will take time to learn the ins and outs of Canvas. That being said, there are a few tools that can help get your course exactly how you want it.

  • Wayne State’s LMS team has created a Canvas and Blackboard Feature Comparison. This shows all the Blackboard features you’re accustomed to and their equals in Canvas. Check it out at canvasproject.wayne.edu/features.
  • Canvas has its own invaluable tool to help you get setup. Once you have entered a course from your Dashboard, you will notice a Navigation Bar along the left side — this is a constant while working in Canvas. It shows you a To Do area, things that are coming up, and has a few helpful buttons. One of these buttons is the Course Setup Checklist which is all the steps you need to take to get your course up and running, including: importing content, creating assignments, adding students, adding files, selecting the navigation links you want the students to see in the course, adding calendar events, adding TAs, and publishing the course.

Between these two tools, I’m confident you can become a Canvas pro in no time at all.

I hope that I’m giving you a sense of Canvas’s simplified layout that will make things much more accessible— not only for your students, but also for you.

Instructure (the company that built Canvas) says that they build software that makes smarter people. I can honestly say that they are doing their best to achieve that goal. My fellow Canvas testers and I have all noted that this transition has inspired us to examine the way in which we can use the LMS to better serve our students. Rather than holding us to very set functions, Canvas gives us the flexibility to test new ways of teaching our students.

National Cyber Security Awareness Month: Get to know two-factor authentication

In honor of National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM), I thought it would be helpful to explain three key Wayne State University technology systems that help protect the network and the privacy of employees and students. You may have seen my earlier post on the Virtual Private Network (VPN) — keep an eye out later this month for the final post on secure Wi-Fi!

The second technology I’d like to discuss is two-factor authentication (2FA).

If you have used any WSU self service portals in the past year, you’ve probably encountered 2FA. The question, then, is what exactly is it?

Two-factor authentication adds a second level of verification to an account login by requiring additional proof of identity. When you are entering only a username and password, you are using single factor authentication.

The second factor can be…

  • Something you know: An extra password, PIN or pattern.
  • Something you have: An ATM card, fob or your phone.
  • Something you are: Biometrics like a fingerprint, voice print, iris or facial detection.

Wayne State’s 2FA system uses your phone.

How to use 2FA at WSU

When you log in to a WSU system secured with 2FA, you will be presented with a page that looks like this:

You will be given three options for a second factor of authentication.

  1. Call Me: This option will initiate an automated call to your phone. Upon answering, you will be prompted to push any button on your phone to authenticate.
  2. Enter a Passcode: If you choose this method, you will be sent a text message with a numerical code that you then enter in the blank field on your screen to authenticate.
  3. Send Me a Push: To go this route, you need to download the Duo Mobile app on your iOS or Android smartphone. This choice will send you a push notification that you may quickly authenticate with.

If you choose to authenticate with a call or text, you will be encouraged to download the app.

Once you’ve installed the app, click the button I have Duo Mobile installed to proceed to this screen:

Open the app on your phone, aim the camera at the QR code on your screen, and you’ll be connected to WSU. Click the Continue button once you have finished. You’ll then be asked to sign in to the account and a push notification will be sent to your phone; approve it and you will be connected to the WSU system you are trying to access.

After this first set up, you will be able to use the push notification method whenever you want.

2FA beyond WSU

Privacy is an ever-growing concern and Wayne State is not the only place using two-factor authentication to protect information. More and more sites are using 2FA. Google has an authenticator that can be set up for a number of services, Facebook has several 2FA options, as has Twitter. Check your personal email and social media accounts to activate two-factor authentication and stay in charge of your own data.

Working with Canvas: A Journal of the Experience – Meet Canvas

At this point, I would guess that basically every Wayne State instructor has learned of the university’s decision to migrate from our current learning management system (LMS), Blackboard (Bb), to a new one called Canvas, which is made by a company called Instructure. This semester I was offered the opportunity — along with about 20 colleagues — to be one of the first instructors to teach classes in Canvas. As I learn about Canvas, I’ll do some journaling about my experiences and share them with the campus community so you have an idea of what to expect.

Knowing that change can be hard for a lot of people, a thoughtful and deliberate process to review and update our LMS has been underway for about one year. I have been involved in this process since the beginning and I am confident that the decision to move to Canvas is the best outcome for the university. You can learn more about the process and the decision at canvasproject.wayne.edu/process.

One huge advantage is that Canvas is a cloud based application—meaning that it is maintained by Instructure an Amazon Web Services hosting. This means that we will never have a moment like the beginning of the last academic year when we experienced several days of downtime. With hundreds of universities dependent on this application Instructure must guarantee reliability. They have the capacity to create backups and redundancies that Wayne State simply cannot create alone.

So, what do I actually think of Canvas?

First of all, I like it very much. Has the move over been without hiccups? No. I didn’t expect it to be. I’ve been using Bb for about 17 years and even though it very frequently drove me insane, I had become accustomed to its user interface and the Bb way of thinking. However, I have already found using Canvas to be more intuitive than Bb ever was. I’ve also found that even though the learning curve slows me down, I can do things more quickly than in Bb. Finally, I have to say that my students are far more receptive to Canvas and are having a far easier time with it than they did Bb.

Next semester, we are on schedule to have five colleges/schools using Canvas. University-wide usage will begin in the fall semester of 2018 with Blackboard being completely shut down in September 2018.

This is my first installment of this series of journals. I know I have not gone into any specifics of using Canvas. Don’t fret, they will come. For this entry, I simply wanted to outline our journey to Canvas.

National Cyber Security Awareness Month: Get to know WSU’s VPN

In honor of National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM), I thought it would be helpful to explain three key Wayne State University technology systems that help protect the network and the privacy of employees and students. Keep an eye out all month for this series!

The first technology that I want to discuss is the WSU Virtual Private Network or VPN.

In a recent discussion with a colleague in my home academic department, I was asked: “What is this VPN thing that I’m being asked to use to access STARS?”

Simply put, I explained, once you sign in to the VPN it is the equivalent to being on campus and working on WSU’s network. A VPN provides a secure, encrypted tunnel in which data is transmitted between the remote user and a company’s network. It allows our Wayne State employees to access systems remotely and maintain a secure link to those important systems.

VPNs are becoming more well known since the federal government recently overturned regulations that would have required internet service providers to get your explicit consent before they share or sell your web browsing history and other sensitive information [i]. For this reason, many tech-savvy consumers are choosing to use a private VPN service to protect their identity and online activity. In the same way as described above, this means that no one can eavesdrop or track a user’s online activities.

A VPN is especially useful when accessing public Wi-Fi hotspots that may not be secure or when accessing the internet from another country. They provide you, the consumer, with unfettered internet access, and help to prevent data theft and unblock websites.

As privacy matters are becoming more and more important, secure technologies make certain that the data that we use in our work here at Wayne State is secure. I would also suggest, if you are concerned about your own privacy on the internet, that you consider using these technologies in your everyday usage of the internet. There are many VPN services available to the public and they can do a great deal to protect your information.

The Wayne State VPN has an additional layer of security with two-factor authentication. I’ll share more about how this works next week.

More information

Learn more about the WSU VPN on the Computing & Information Technology knowledge base:

 

[i] http://www.businessinsider.com/trump-fcc-privacy-rules-repeal-explained-2017-4/#is-there-anything-i-can-do-now-to-keep-my-data-private-35