CanvasCon 2016 Highlights

By Christine Scherer

CanvasCon is a regional conference where like-minded educators and technology enthusiasts get together to share the latest innovations and what exciting things are coming next for Canvas and its users. Lucky us, CanvasCon came to Northwestern on August 31, and some of the Distance Learning team had the opportunity to attend and present. Read some of the highlights below.  

Quizzing Engine Highlights – Krissy Wilson, Learning Designer

Jason Philip Sparks, Instructure’s Senior Product Manager for Assessment, walked through Canvas’s next-generation quizzing engine in the first concurrent session of the day, “Quizzes.next: Modern Testing in Canvas.”

What’s on deck? You will soon be able to embed quizzes in Canvas pages to facilitate quick knowledge checks. Concerned about cheating? You will be able to create an honor code that student must accept before starting the quiz. The new engine will also contain some proctoring features, in case you want to check how many times students left the quiz to search for answers online. And that’s all on top of interface changes designed to streamline quiz-building, allow for new question types (accessible drag-and-drop matching), and question assessment (applying rubrics to short answer questions).

The first question from the audience was, “Great! When can I use it?” Sparks revealed that there will be a pretty lengthy wait; these features are expected to launch in the summer of 2017. Branching logic? That will take a little longer. For more information, check out Canvas Studio. If you’d like to try a basic beta version of this feature, contact your Learning Designer.

Quality Matters Highlights – Jessica Mansbach, Learning Designer

Reba-Anna Lee and I had the opportunity to give a presentation on ways to use the Canvas LMS to meet the Quality Matters Standards. After we reviewed the history of Quality Matters, summarized each of the standards, and emphasized the importance of alignment, we showed examples of different strategies SPS Learning Designers and instructors used in their courses to meet the Quality Matters Standards. I enjoyed answering audience members’ questions about how the Distance Learning team at SPS meets the Quality Matters Standards, how instructors respond to incorporating the Standards in the classes they design, and different ways to implement a peer review process for evaluating online courses using the Quality Matters Standards.

Discussion Forum Highlights – Jacob Guerra-Martinez, Learning Designer

Discussion boards in an online classroom can be tricky, especially when students do not interact the way you want them to.Social Studies Teacher Ryan Anderson noticed the lack of participation in his courses, and decided to try incorporating some concepts from social media into his discussions. For example, he would limit students responses to 140 characters (much like Twitter), and would also ask them to post pictures and videos (Instagram/Facebook) in order to create an engaging environment that his students were also familiar with.

One of the biggest takeaways I had from the session was the advantages of using the Canvas Discussion Tool over actual social media platforms.Many students (especially younger ones) take their social media cred very seriously, and will be very hesitant about using their personal accounts for school-related tasks. That being said, many students feel more comfortable posting in a similar style within Canvas, with then creates more interaction.

Discussion Forum Highlights II – Elizabeth Lemke, Learning Designer

An interesting parallel from CanvasCon at Northwestern was rethinking the Canvas discussion board, the focus of high school teacher Ryan Anderson’s presentation, to employ the constraints of social media, particularly Twitter’s 140-character limit.

I am currently assisting in the transition of a graduate-level Healthcare Compliance Regulatory Environment course from on-ground to online. In the on-ground version, the instructor conducted in-class “tweet-offs” using pen and paper. Healthcare laws and regulations can be cumbersome, complex, and dense, so the “tweet-off” was a way for students to synthesize or distill the entire law into about one sentence, forcing them to identify key features and a succinct explanation.

We are planning on creating a similar activity in the online version of this course by adding a few more guidelines. In addition to the character count and to ensure the activity operates at a graduate level, students will explain their rationale for the tweet detailing the process of condensing the complex law into its simplest form and respond to peers throughout the week.

It was interesting to see how other instructors use the rules social media to create fun and engaging classroom activities, online or on-ground and at varying education levels.

Integrations and Innovations – Jackie Wickham, Instructional Technologist

Northwestern’s own Victoria Getis presented on integrating external learning apps into the Canvas environment. As of her presentation, there were 237 external apps available to be integrated into Canvas through the EduAppCenter – there could be more now!

With so many choices for learning apps, it can be difficult to decide which to use! Vicky shared a helpful way to classify learning apps based on the July 2015 article from Gartner, “How to Establish a Learning Ecosystem With LMS Platforms”:

The Emerging LMS ecosystem. At the center is the Core LMS. Next is Recommended software and tools, such as web conferencing, video, and assessment tools. Next is optional software, such as clickers, e-portfolios, and adaptive text book. Last is cutting-edge software, such as badging systems.

At Northwestern, our Core LMS is Canvas. Recommended tools are BlueJeans (web conferencing) and YellowDig (student engagement). Optional tools include various textbook cartridges and the tools on the Learning Technologies page. We are always excited to work with faculty who are interested in thoughtfully integrating cutting edge tools into their courses.



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