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!