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.
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.
- 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.
- Click on the + button in your journal category to add the individual assignments to your journal.
- 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.
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.
- Click People on the course menu.
- Click + Group Set.
- Enter the name for the Group Set (e.g. reflective journals).
- Select the Split students into groups option and set the number to be equal to the number of students enrolled in your course.
- Click Save.
- Click Discussions on the course menu.
- Click the +Discussion button.
- Give the discussion a topic title and enter your instructions or message in the text editor.
- If you wish to make this a graded journal activity, select the Graded checkbox in the Options list.
- Select the This is a Group Discussion checkbox.
- Select the correct Group set from the dropdown menu.
- 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.
- Once in your Canvas Class, Click Class Notebook.
- 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.
- Click Create a class notebook.
- You’ll be asked to give the class a name–I suggest leaving the auto-completed name that is pulled from Canvas. Click Next.
- Again, Click Next as it shows what will be included in your Notebook.
- 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.
- Click Next as the students’ names are imported from Canvas.
- Finally, you are able to add a sections for each of the students. This is where I added a section titled Journals. Next.
- 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.
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.
- In Canvas, go into your Class Notebook section. In the screen that opens, choose Manage Notebooks.
Scroll to the settings for the notebook you are using and click the text: Enable Teacher-Only section group.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 email@example.com.