Category Archives: learning managment systems

Canvas Tips & Tricks – Series 2

To help you maximize the new features in Canvas, the Instructional Consulting office will post a series of Canvas Tips & Tricks. These tips are to help you make use of all the great features of Canvas.

Tip 1: Course Analytics
Course Analytics provides statistics about student activity, assignments, and grades for your course, as well as individual students. As an instructor you can use this information to gain insight into the overall activity and performance of your students. You can also view statistics about how frequently individual student access your course materials in the Access Report area of Canvas.

Course Analytics in Canvas LMS

While Course Analytics offers many different statistics about your course, it can be challenging to interpret what they mean. If you are interested in learning more about the Course Analytics and Access Reports for your course, please stop by the Instructional Consulting Office. We would love to assist you with this aspect of Canvas.

Learn more about Course Analytics in the Canvas Instructor Guide.

Tip 2: Conferences

Conferences is a tool like Skype or Adobe Connect built right into Canvas. It can be used for real-time virtual class sessions, meetings, conferences, guest speakers, and more! You can share presentations or your desktop with your virtual audience of up to 50 people. Conferences can be recorded for later playback.

Learn more about Conferences in the Canvas Instructor Guide.

Conferences tool in Canvas

Tip 3: Pages

Pages in CanvasPages are where you can put content and educational resources that are part of your course but don’t necessarily belong in an assignment, or that you want to refer to in multiple assignments. This is a place where you can include text, video, and links to your files. You can even make links to other pages. Pages can also be used as a collaboration tool where you can create class wikis and set specific user access for each page. Canvas keeps the entire history of the page so you can see how it changes over time.

Learn more about Pages in the Canvas Instructor Guide.

If you have any questions or would like help setting up your Canvas course, feel free to visit Instructional Consulting Office (room 2002) or email us at


Say ‘Hello’ to Canvas

You should know by now that IU has selected Canvas tCanvas newso be the successor to Oncourse. Canvas will be IU’s official learning management system going forward. There will be a two-year transition period and Oncourse will be retired summer 2016. While many features are similar to Oncourse, there are some things that you will need to do differently to manage your classes in Canvas, but our first impressions as an office are that Canvas is very good!  This post will highlight just a few of the new features we like, but we strongly urge anyone interested in learning more about Canvas to stop by the Office of Instructional Consulting for one-on-one consultation with one of our friendly consultants. Additionally, the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning (CITL) will be offering introductory Canvas workshops throughout the summer and fall, and we highly recommend attending a session.

Beginning summer 2014, the registrar is auto-populating courses into both Canvas and Oncourse. In other words, you can use Canvas starting right now for your summer classes if you wish! However, it may be best to familiarize yourself with the tool before switching. We highly encourage all instructors to log into Canvas and get familiar with it. To log in, go to and log in with your existing IU username and passphrase. Feel free to make changes, add tools, etc., as the site will not be visible to your students until you actually publish the site. This allows you to experiment, create practice sites, or even create new sites for research groups as a way to familiarize yourself with Canvas before teaching your first class. For a very brief video about some of the features of Canvas, from our IC QuickTips podcast, check out the following video:

As shown in the video, there are many similarities between Canvas and Oncourse.  Each course taught has its own ‘course’ page and each course can have a unique set of tools, similar to Oncourse. Syllabus, Assignments, Grades, Discussions (more on this in a bit), etc., are just some of the main tools that will likely be used for your classes and that are set up similarly to Oncourse. However, there are some new features you should know about in Canvas. One of the key features of Canvas is that there are several universal features available as part of the dashboard. Canvas BannerThe dashboard appears at the top of your screen and is the same for all courses. On the far right-hand side of the toolbar, you can access your profile information (for uploading a picture or bio information), an ‘Inbox’ where you can manage all incoming and outgoing messages sent to students, a ‘Settings’ tab for changing notification and other settings, a ‘Logout’ button, and finally a ‘Help’ tab. On the left-hand side, there is a series of drop-downs menu items.  The first is for your ‘Courses.’ The universal ‘Assignments,’ ‘Grades,’ and ‘Calendar’ menu items are among our favorite new features of Canvas.  From these drop-down menus, students and instructors can quickly see what assignments they have due for all of their classes, as well as a quick view of their grades.  For instructors, this will even help you track upcoming assignments that you will need to grade. Finally, the calendar can show all events from your many courses. As Canvas Callong as assignments are given a due date when they are created, they will automatically populate in the calendar. This is going to be very handy for students and instructors as well.

There are many more features that we know that instructors and students will enjoy, such as the ability to record video or audio directly to discussion forums, and integrating third-party apps such as GoogleDocs or YouTube videos directly into your class, and we would love for you to stop by so that we can help you with your individual needs. We are here all summer long and would love to help out to make sure that this transition to Canvas goes smoothly. If you need any assistance or have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us at or just stop by our office.

Justin Whiting

Office of Instructional Consulting

The semester is over! What now?

moving box

Archiving your Course

The final exams are scored, papers are graded, and you are ready to enjoy your well-earned break…

Well, before you head out, keep in mind that there is a good chance that you will have to return and teach the same or a similar course again. Considering the time you spent developing the class, it might be a shame to let all your work be forgotten by shelving it in some place that nobody knows about. Instead, think about archiving the course.

If you think there is even the slightest chance that you might teach the course again, the archived version provides ideas and resources for any future installment. Instead of starting from scratch, one has something that is already developed and potentially reusable. Additionally, many universities are now making teaching portfolios a critical component of degree program or tenure requirements. So, why not take a course that is already finished, spend a little time polishing it, and—voilà—completing a significant chunk of a teaching portfolio! Also, if the course is important for accreditation, documenting any experiences now can prevent potential headaches when it is time to assemble a report. Finally, although you might not be teaching the course again, be a good colleague and offer your course materials and any respective insights to the next instructors. People will remember good deeds when you need to call in a favor!

So, instead of “set it and forget it,” here are a few steps that you can do NOW with your course (including potential technologies):

1. Save it!

Review the course resources (e.g., readings, assignments, video clips, tests) and save any electronic files in a permanent storage location (e.g., server, hard drive). Although Course Management Systems (CMS), such as Oncourse, generally keep courses accessible for longer than the duration of the semester, this doesn’t mean resources   are kept for an eternity. When saving course materials, make sure you have access to the files and organize them for easy management in the future.

If you use public websites (e.g., WordPress) for your course, you might want to consider whether you want to make them private now that the semester is over.

Potential Technologies:

  • For files: Portable hard drive, server, CMS, Oncourse Practice Site
  • For URLs: delicious, diigo, Endnote

2. Document your experiences!

When archiving your course, it is a good idea to note your experiences while teaching this course. What worked? What didn’t work? How did students react to various lessons and activities? This kind of reflection is extremely valuable when re-designing a class, but it is hard to remember at a later point in time. Whether you take a few minutes to scribble down notes or compose a full-fledged journal, document your memories.

Potential Technologies:

  • Text editors:      MS Word, Open Office, Google Docs
  • For URLs:             delicious, diigo, Endnote (allow to add notes to URLs)

3. Ask students for permission!

Are you thinking about using your course as part of a teaching portfolio? In order to demonstrate learning among your students, student artifacts are a powerful and helpful resource (especially when combining them with any feedback you provided during the course). Whenever sharing those artifacts with outsiders, ask students for their written permission to address any privacy concerns.

Potential Technologies:

  • Email
  • Signed note

4. Schedule time for updates!

In your course, some topics might require more updating than others. And even if you don’t need to update the content, there are still areas in your course where you might want to adjust or try something else. While memories are still fresh in your mind, schedule some time to explore new ideas, such as courses from other universities. Look for new inspiration while you can, because the next semester (and its commitments) is already looming on the horizon.

Potential Technologies:

  • University courses:         MIT Opencourseware, Open Yale
  • Resources:                          Open Educational Resources (OER), National Repository of Online Courses (NORC), Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching (MERLOT)

For more information and possibilities on archiving and updating your course, check out Dr. Bonk’s video on Ending & Archiving Online Courses or visit the Office of Instructional Consulting.

Google’s New Learning Managment System (LMS)?

Over the past couple of years I’ve been waiting, wondering if Google would step forward and provide an interesting alternative to the lineup of LMSs and CMSs. It seems all the elements were there in the Google suite of tools, we just needed a nice wrapper to put it all together…

Google Apps has been ‘growing up’ over the past year or so and I have been watching and hoping. In recent months the Google Apps team has made significant steps toward the higher education and k-12 arena. The announcement by Google at Educause in October 2006 along with a very successful implementation at Arizona State University, and most importantly, the recent inclusion of Google Sites into the lineup provide a promising glimpse at what Google may be able to offer in the way of a Learning management system. I and my colleagues here at Indiana University are currently conducting a comparative evaluation and exploring the use of Google Apps for educational use.

I can’t help but wonder if, or in what ways, Google Apps will compete with Indiana University implementation of Sakai, their community source learning management system?

SoE- Oncourse Open House Scheduled

The IC will be hosting several Oncourse Open Houses to assist faculty, staff and AIs with getting ready for the Spring 2008 semester. The Oncourse Open Houses are scheduled for the following dates:

* Jan. 4th, from 10:00am — Noon (Fri.)
* Jan. 7th, from 1:00pm — 3:00pm (Mon.)
* Jan. 8th, from 10:00am — Noon (Tues.)
* Jan. 10th, from 1:00pm — 3:00pm (Thurs.) 

The Oncourse Open Houses will be hosted in the Office of Instructional Consulting in room 2002 (second floor off of the atrium). Please stop by ED2002 with any Oncourse questions, and our staff will be ready to answer your basic or most challenging Oncourse related questions.  

We look forward to seeing you!

Happy New Year,
IC Staff

Oncourse CL updates to Sakai 2.3

On December 31, IU updated their Oncourse CL course management system to Sakai 2.3. Of course version numbers don’t mean a whole lot to most people, so below is a knowledgebase article that provides a complete listing of updates to Oncourse CL for the Spring 2007 semester.

View the complete list of updates to Oncourse CL for Spring 2007.

A new way to look at Learning Management Systems?

Most of the current crop of learning management systems (LMS) seem to focus more on providing 1-way interaction for instructors to post readings, syllabus, and other materials, send course announcements, and assess students via testing and grading tools. Of course, these are all necessary and important features of a course, but this focus on 1-way interaction and course management often comes at the expense of active learning and collaboration. Yes, it’s true that current LMSs are incorporating some interactive tools, such as, discussion forums, wikis, chat tools, etc., and this is a good thing, but often these tools are limited in scope and features, and are not often fully utilized.

I have been searching the web for a learning management system (LMS) that focuses more on the creation and support of a learning community rather than on the course management tasks of the instructor. At first, I wasn’t finding anything, however I’ve recently come across and which seem to be on the right track. From it’s inception, it appears to have been developed as a social networking site. But why shouldn’t this be the beginning point of a LMS, rather than course management tasks? Let’s create online learning systems, from the ground up, that focuses on ways for a learning community (students & instructors) to communicate, collaborate, and learn.

I have only just discovered elgg in the past few weeks, and haven’t had time to fully investigate, but I’m hopeful that they may support the kind of teaching and learning that I have been thinking about. I will you posted…