Canvas first Impression by Karl Borden

Posted: February 24, 2017 12:00:00 AM CST

There were a number of faculty who were invited to migrate one course to Canvas this Spring semester.   I don't have a list of those who participated, but as one of the participants I am most willing to share my (meager) knowledge of Canvas with my colleagues.  

Don, Shala and Jane have been extraordinarily patient with those, like myself, who are technology-challenged, but I do have a couple of unsolicited suggestions for everyone as you make the transition.  If they disagree with any of the below I won't be offended:  

1) Migrate just one portion of your old course at a time. When you export from Blackboard, move just one category of material (say "Content" or "Videos", etc.) at a time,  Import that into Canvas, get it organized under the "files" section, then export/import something else. Don't try to do it all at once.  If you try to bring in everything at once it will just be a big jumble and very difficult to sort out.

2) Keep it simple. Canvas has some interesting features and also some unfortunate feature gaps (it won't, for instance, allow you to "time" the release of a page the way Blackboard allows you to set a date and time for items to appear). Canvas organizes things differently than Blackboard and that takes some getting used to. Don't try to create a whiz-bank super-site all at once.  Start with a simple construction and gradually enhance it.

I started out just creating a simple "Home Page."  Don helped me understand that your Canvas "Home" page functions much like a website -- and that page can then serve as an organizing page from which students can link to other pages that might contain assignments, links to videos or document files, etc.

Eventually perhaps I'll use the "module" organizational system that Canvas provides -- but for now I'm just keeping it simple and ignoring the Canvas "module" system.  I just created a series of links on my home page to "assignment" pages because that was straightforward and easy.

3) Canvas does do a nice job of enabling you to easily link on a page to files, documents, videos, outside URLs, etc.  It's very easy to do once you know the "click sequence" to do it.

4) Canvas has the same text formatting problems that Blackboard has, which is unfortunate.  That is, when you create text on a Canvas page, it is using HTML coding -- which doesn't always produce the spacing, font and paragraphing that you want. It's very frustrating.

My solution has been to create my text in a Word document, and then copy/paste it into the Canvas page.   That way I get the formatting that I want without wrestling with HTML formatting. Anyone who wants to see what I've done is welcome to access my Canvas site for Finance 408.   It's just my simple-minded approach to the system and I'm sure there are much, much better ways of doing it. But I'm happy to share what little I know.

I have "shared" my course in the "Commons" section on Canvas.  Once you have a Canvas account and log on to the system, you can go to the "Commons" area.   Start by turning off the little slide where it says "Show Public Resources" so that you don't get everything that everyone in the world has shared, and you should be left with just those items that have been shared within the UNK community. You should then see my course (Finance 408).

Unfortunately you can't just click on the image and open it.  There are a few more steps.  On the right side of the Commons page you will see a "download" button. Once you download the file, you can then "import" it to your Canvas account, and from there it should be visible as one of your course selections. THEN you can open it up and look at it.

You will immediately see that there's nothing very fancy about what I've done, but it will perhaps give you some confidence that this doesn't have to be a Herculean task.

Perhaps others of the early participant group will do the same so that everyone can see our various approaches to the transition.


By: Karl Borden

Category: Information Technology Services

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