UMN Crookston Making Canvas Progress

With one of the biggest jumps in Canvas usage from fall to spring semester, The University of Minnesota Crookston is taking big steps towards the full adoption of Canvas. We interviewed Debi Race, Academic Technology Coordinator, to learn more about their transition.

What is your overall plan for the transition?


After planning meetings with our campus academic leadership and other stakeholders, we started sending out communications to our faculty. We wanted to let instructors who had initial interest and curiosity in Canvas reach out to us. As these faculty stepped forward, we identified and asked a few within every department to be our ‘Canvas champions’ who we could rely on to help drive adoption with other faculty by word of mouth.

We consistently promote our Intro to Canvas Workshops held on campus as well as the online events hosted by the Twin Cities transition team. These events have proven to be a solid way to generate initial interest while providing faculty a quick overview of how to make the transition and learn the basics. Our office also has dedicated workstations for instructors to drop in and work on their sites while having us nearby to answer questions as needed.

After our campus wraps-up the majority of the transition work and learning the basics, we will offer more workshops focused on the advanced features.

How is the transition going so far?


After an active fall and a higher than expected number of faculty moving to Canvas this spring, our next goal is to move 100% of our Summer 2018 courses into Canvas. We foresee all our courses to be in Canvas by Spring 2019.

Our faculty are pretty self-sufficient, so by providing some basic info and guidance, many can take it and run. For others looking for more hands-on help, we’re making it clear that we are available. Overall we’re seeing about 75% of our faculty are bringing over their Moodle course and 25% are building from scratch.

Regarding the Canvas champions mentioned earlier, they have been actively sharing their Canvas experience with their peers, and are a significant reason for the increase in new users this semester. As faculty see how other faculty are using Canvas, they get excited about being able to do the same things in their courses.

What have instructors liked about Canvas?


One of the big things that got our faculty to take a good look at Canvas was knowing that Cengage (a publisher that packages teaching materials such as digital text, interactive multimedia, assignments, tests, etc.) was requested to be integrated with Canvas. In Moodle, there is no direct connection to Cengage, so any scoring done in Cengage had to be manually entered in to Moodle. In Canvas, they can build their course and gradebook with direct links to the publisher material. Once they learned about that, it was seen as a game changer.

Many have also found the Speedgrader app helpful, especially the ability to use the speech-to-text and voice recording features. Additionally, the grading of discussion forums and ability to send targeted communications to specific students based on certain criteria (such as those missing an assignment) is an improvement.

The integration with Google has been an attractive feature for students and instructors. When a student submits a Google doc, it’s a seamless experience for both sides, as the instructor doesn’t even know it’s a Google doc they are grading. Being able to submit and grade any kind of document format makes it easier for everyone involved.

Any learnings to share?


Overall the transition isn’t as hard as we thought it was going to be. For instructors who teach both online and face-to-face classes, we suggest they start with their face-to-face course first to get used to how Canvas works.

When migrating content from Moodle to Canvas we have noticed that it doesn’t come over perfectly in many cases. We suggest that faculty don’t just dump their entire Moodle site into Canvas, especially if it’s been in use for awhile. Now is the perfect time to clean-up their Moodle site before migrating, or reevaluate and build from scratch if possible. If you do convert a Moodle site, you need to go through each section and make sure everything converted as expected, but be prepared to do some manual clean-up.

Instructors should be aware that the Assignments section in Canvas is where to put anything that you intend to grade (i.e quizzes, discussions, and online submissions). This was typically done in the Gradebook in Moodle.  Also, pay extra attention to quizzes and tests that are brought over from Moodle; They all come in as practice tests and need to be manually changed to ‘graded’.

Regarding students, we recommend helping them understand how to find their Canvas courses. It’s a different process from Moodle to learn, but faculty can help by letting their students know when they are using Canvas and how to find their sites. This email must be sent outside the Canvas email application since students will not receive email from Canvas until they have logged in once and accepted the terms of use.