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