How do I make my announcements appear on the home page in Canvas?

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Many faculty use the announcements feature of Canvas to let their students know about recent updates, reminders, upcoming due dates, etc. However, there is a setting you must adjust to ensure that your announcements will appear on the home page of your course. Luckily, Instructure provides step-by-step instructions for how to adjust this setting to meet your needs.

Announcements may be just one component of the communication plan that you devise for your course. (Virtual office hours might be a part of this plan too!) Like all of the pieces of your course it’s important to be transparent and intentional in your use and explanation of these plans to ensure that students follow the unique guidance and expectations that you have for your course and your virtual course space.

Problem: My syllabus is REALLY long. How do I create hyperlinks to different sections of the content in my Canvas page so it’s easier to navigate quickly?

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It’s important to include a LOT of information in a syllabus so that students can access a variety of information about your course as well as support services available to them. However, it’s also important to make this content easy to navigate on your course site. Although you can perform this function by using HTML anchor tags, the easier and faster method for doing this is by using some new options available in our DesignPlus Tools in Canvas.

To learn more about how to access DesignPlus tools and support materials you can sign up for a flipped learning session on the tool on the DLINQ web site. In addition, if you can’t attend – check out this support doc. (You will need to login with your Middlebury credentials.)

The tool that works best for this functionality is the Accordion/Expander/Tab tool. The video below demonstrates both how this tool functions and how to add it to a page in Canvas using the DesignPlus Tools interface.

Problem: The formatting on my Canvas page is messed up!

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This can often happen when you are copying and pasting content from one location to another. In most instances utilizing the clear formatting option in the menu bar (large italic T followed by a small subscript X) will resolve this issue. Sometimes you may need to reapply a style after clearing the formatting. You can do this by using the drop down menu bar item where formatting styles are listed (paragraph, heading 1, etc.).

>>Learn more about options available in the Rich Text Editor in Canvas.

Helping Your Students to Share Pre-recorded Presentations

A popular request from faculty has been how do I set up a way for students to:

  1. Create recorded presentations
  2. Share them with their classmates

This post will explain how to do this using Panopto and Canvas. However it is important to note that you can allow flexibility for how your students record their presentations based on what they are most familiar with. It is good to have a method for them to use (along with documentation & help) in case they don’t know where to start – but you don’t necessarily have to require them to do their recording this way if they have an idea that would work better for them.

Step 1: Create a Panopto Project Folder for Students to Share their Work

This step will create a location where students are able to upload and share videos with their class. If you have not already created a Panopto resource for your course through the course hub, you should complete that step first. As a refresher, below is a video to demonstrate how to do this.

Step 1A Create a class folder in Panopto

Step 1B Create a Sub folder within the class folder that gives students access to create items in that folder

Communicate to students, either through your course site, or another communication method information about the assignment along with instructions for how students can upload their recordings to your course Panopto – Share folder. We’ve included a video tutorial below to demonstrate this.

Step 2: One option for how students can record their presentations – Panopto

Once the students are familiar with your assignment & its guidelines give them the option to create the recording in any way that they feel most familiar. This will serve to give your students agency to use knowledge that they are already have, and only learn a new workflow if they do not know how to complete the assignment.

Be sure students understand that they all will need to try to share videos using the method described above.

For those who are not sure how to proceed, offer the following steps as a college-supported method that is available for all students for recording virtual presentations.

2A. Download & Install Panopto

Students also have access to download and use the Panopto video recorder. To do this they should:

  1. Open a web browser
  2. Navigate to https://go.middlebury.edu/panopto
  3. Log in with their Middlebury credentials
  4. Select to “Download Panopto”. This option will display in the upper left hand corner of your screen.
  5. Follow the prompts to download and install the application on your computer.

2B. Open and Record in Panopto

  1. Once the application is downloaded students should open the Panopto application on their computer.
  2. Then open the presentation or display window that they plan to record and situate it on the screen to suit their needs. (For example, if they plan to move between different tabs in a browser, pre-load the tabs with the content they plan to use, if they plan to walk through a slide presentation open the file in present mode.
  3. Open the Panopto application and select either their web cam or none in the primary window. In the Secondary window option select the screen they wish to display.
  4. The default location for their recording will be in their My Folder location in Panopto. Ask students to select the project folder that you created and shared in step 1b above.

Below is a video tutorial demo of this process.

Step 3: Upload your Audio/Video File to Panopto (Only needed if recording was not done in Panopto)

Note: Students will only need to complete this step if they did NOT use Panopto to create their recording.

In this step students would need to have their audio or video file saved on their computer. To move it quickly from a mobile device to their computer they may choose to email it to themselves if the file is not too large. (This is another reason to keep recordings short – moving them around gets more difficult the larger they are. )

  1. As a first step students should open a web browser and navigate to https://go.middlebury.edu/panopto and log in with their Middlebury credentials.
  2. Click on the button at the top of the screen labeled “Create”.
  3. Select Upload Media.
  4. A dialog box will open that allows students to select the folder they wish to save the file into (identified by their faculty member) and a selector box where they may drag and drop or select the file they wish to upload.
  5. Depending on the size of the file and the internet connection it could take some time to upload. Be sure to remain connected to the internet during this step. If your internet connection is unstable be sure to share this information with your faculty member so they are aware and can make adjustments as necessary.

Step 4: Sharing a Panopto Recording in Canvas (for Students)

This step will go over how students can embed a Panopto video into a Canvas Assignment or Discussion forum. Both of these items allow students to write in the Rich Text Editor window. For assignments, faculty should just be sure to request the “Text Entry” option to give students that editing functionality. The video tutorial below demonstrates what this would look like from a student perspective.

Embedding Panopto Lecture Videos into Your Canvas Site

This is a workflow that many faculty are using to share lectures with their students. However, it involves multiple steps and utilizing two different platforms so this is my attempt to break that process down a bit into manageable steps.

This post is a work in progress. Please send any suggestions & feedback to hstafford@middlebury.edu for updates. – Thanks!

Step 1: Create a Panopto Folder Via the Course Hub

Why do I need to do this?

Creating a Panopto folder via the course hub enables you to create one location where you can place videos where access is linked directly to your course roster. Consider this a “behind the scenes” maneuver for your students. Although they will see this folder in the course hub and could navigate through your videos for the course here, the ultimate goal is just streamlining access control for your videos.

What does this look like?

Step 2: Install Panopto & Record Your Video in Panopto

Install Panopto

To do this step you need to have installed the Panopto client (or app) on your computer. If you have not already done this you can by completing the following steps:

  1. Open a web browser and go to https://go.middlebury.edu/panopto/
  2. Log in using your Middlebury credentials
  3. Look for an option in the upper right hand corner of your screen that says “Download Panopto”. Click on this option and follow the prompts to download and install the application.

Record in Panopto

See the video demonstrations below to learn how to record in Panopto. Note: When you start recording you need to select the course folder that you created in step 1. But if you select the wrong folder (like I did in this video) you can move your upload after the fact. Scroll to the bottom of this post to see how.

Mac Version

PC Version

Step 3: Embed Panopto Video in a Canvas Page/Assignment/Discussion

This step requires that you have already created a Canvas site for your course through the course hub.

Why do I do this?

By embedding your Panopto video into a Canvas page you are creating a one-stop-shop for your students. If students know that they can find all the information for your course in one location it helps to limit complexity …at least a bit.

How do I do this?

Navigate to your Canvas site (you can do this by visiting the course hub, or going directly to Canvas, logging in using your Middlebury credentials, and using the dashboard to view your sites).

In the example video below I am embedding a Panopto video into a Canvas page, however you can do this in any location where the rich text editor is available (assignments, discussions, quizzes, etc.).

Fixing Problems

I need to move my Panopto recording into a different folder.

The default location for Panopto recording uploads is your “My Folder” location. Unless you change this when you first start recording you will need to move the video once it is done uploading. (I’ve done this multiple times by mistake just while creating this series of tutorials – it happens.) Luckily – it’s easy to fix.

Canvas Tip – Why should I use the inbox in Canvas?

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Perhaps you have noticed the little mail icon labeled Inbox on the blue menu bar on the left hand bar of your screen and though “just what I need – ANOTHER inbox”. This brief post will outline a few ways in which this option (called Conversations in Canvas-speak) might offer you some benefits.

To begin, here’s a video introduction of how Conversations work in Canvas.

Benefits of using the Canvas Inbox:

  • All course related messages are grouped together (not intermingled with other emails)
  • You can filter your messages by course to view conversations only related to that course
  • Students (and faculty) can still set their notifications to receive email messages when they receive messages in their Canvas inbox if they find that helpful

Things to consider: 

  • Using right click (or option+click) functionality you can open the Canvas mailbox in another tab to keep this feature handy while you are doing other work in Canvas
  • Once a course has concluded the messaging function in Canvas can no longer be used for that course.

Office Hours = Connection

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Office hours can be a misunderstood and underutilized opportunity for students. They are often a new concept to many first year students and they are not always sure what office hours are for or how they apply to their needs as students. In the article ““Office Hours are Kind of Weird”: Reclaiming a Resource to Foster Student-Faculty Interaction” the authors suggest the following action items to help students more actively utilize office hours:

  • Make the purpose of office hours explicit. What should they be used for? Provide an example scenario to help students identify situations where they might access faculty help.
  • Create nurturing classroom environments to make students feel comfortable and safe asking for help.
  • Promote your office hours. Don’t just mention them once in your syllabus. Bring up office hours frequently along with how students can sign up for time – which leads to…
  • Use digital technologies to keep students updated as to what times are available and how they can book a time (see below for more logistical details) (Smith, Chen, Berndtson, Burson, & Griffin, 2017, p.24 – 25)

Cognitive scientist Pooja K. Agarwal, Ph.D. (founder of www.retrievalpractice.org) highlights the significance of connection in her blog post about 10 quick tips to make office hours powerful learning opportunities. There are some great ideas here that highlight the principles above as well as some additional ideas. A core focus that Professor Agarwal uses in her suggestions is:

Turn your office hours into connection hours, student hours, and learning hours.

Dr. Pooja K. Agarwal

Of course not everyone is sold on the idea of office hours. While digging around the research I found this article in which a professor attempted to replace personalized email communication for in person office hours. This resulted in 8000 emails with students in five sections of one class over the course of ONE semester. 

This article highlights a tension that can exist between the convenience of digital vs. in-person communications. In the article “Office Hours are Kind of Weird…” the authors directly address this complexity:

“To implement office hours in a more connected world, we suggest that the emphasis should be put on enhancing student-faculty interactions regardless of means, either in-person consultation or brief communications via digital tools. How to maintain quality student-faculty interaction in this increasingly connected world is a challenge facing faculty and institutions.”

(Smith, Chen, Berndtson, Burson, & Griffin, 2017, p. 21)

Scheduling Logistics

So if you’ve decided to encourage the use of your office hours you also need to make it easy for students to find a time to meet with you when you are not already meeting with someone else. Below we’ve outlined instructions for two different options that utilize Middlebury systems. You can also set up a consultation with a member of the Office of Digital Learning and Inquiry if you would like to discuss these options in more depth. Also – keep in mind that these meetings could happen virtually via Zoom which can be particularly helpful if a student is away from campus due to travel, illness, emergencies, etc.

Setting up Office Hours using the scheduler in Canvas

You can set up your office hours using the scheduler in Canvas which will allow students to sign up through the Canvas calendar interface. Important tips to keep in mind are that you will need to enter all of your office hours for the semester at once, or add new ones week by week. You can not generate hours via a pattern. However, if your hours are regularly scheduled on a weekly basis this is not a time consuming process.

Below is a video about the calendar in Canvas. Fast forward to 3:00 to see the specific information about the scheduler.

Ask students to request meetings with you during your scheduled office hours using Outlook.

You can also use Outlook either via the application or the web interface (go/mail) to have your students initiate scheduling a meeting during your office hours via the calendar interface. The best way to facilitate this would be to notify your students of your office hours and explain that they should use the instructions linked below to request an appointment with you. An added benefit of this process is that you can respond to requests on an appointment by appointment basis so if your schedule has changed unexpectedly you can adjust and suggest alternate times. Here’s a guide for how to use the Outlook Web App.

Canvas Gradebook

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As the semester start date approaches we get more questions about grading and how different grading schemes can be configured in Canvas. Members of the Office of Digital Learning and Inquiry are always happy to schedule consultations to discuss this in more depth, however Canvas also provides several resources that faculty can review at their convenience as well. To get an overview of the gradebook in text form you can visit the article “What are Grades and the Gradebook”. In addition, Canvas has a great gradebook overview video that I’ve embedded below. Please note that although the title says that it is outdated – this functionality will be live until 2020. To view what options will be available in the new gradebook in 2020 please view the video at the bottom of this page.

2020 Gradebook

Kickstart Your Canvas Site!

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A very popular question this time of year is ‘How do I get started with Canvas?’ a close second (especially from faculty new to Middlebury) – ‘What do I need to put on my syllabus?’ When the Provost’s office shared information about the basic syllabus and expectations for faculty, we took this information and integrated it into our Canvas templates.

What does this mean?

Specifically, we added an “About this Course” page to our Middlebury 12 week Canvas templates that includes all of the text in the syllabus template. In addition, we added the sample syllabus template .doc file to the Canvas templates. This means that you can replace place holder text with specifics for your course, but the structure for your course content is already in place.

What’s included in the Canvas templates?

You can see what the Canvas template looks like by visiting these links: (log in with your Middlebury credentials to view)

Some of the components included in the template are:

Sounds great! How do I use it?

  1. First you’ll need to create your blank Canvas site through the course hub. Follow these instructions to complete this step. Note: Do not edit this site until you’ve completed step 2. Any edits completed before importing the template will be overwritten.
  2. Then follow these instructions to import the Canvas template into your course site. (Select the option to Import into Course when prompted.)

What did we miss?

Our hope is to continually improve these templates as we get feedback from faculty, students and staff about different ideas that would make course sites better for learning. So let us know! If you have an idea or suggestion to make these better please let us know by emailing dlinq@middlebury.edu. We look forward to hearing from you and hope this helps to kickstart your semester on the right foot!

Reusing Canvas Content

At this time of year a lot of faculty are working on creating course sites that reuse previous semester content. There is an easy way to do this using Canvas by following these instructions.

However the dates of assignments, discussions, start and end dates will all need to be updated. Good news! Canvas can help you with this too! Using the adjust events and due dates option you can:

  • Remove all due dates
  • Shift dates
  • Substitute days

Learn more about the details of this function here.