Category Archives: oncourse

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


Creating Accessible Online Courses

Emerging technologies make it possible for students with disabilities to take classes in the online environment. Thousands of students with some type of disability have successfully completed online programs in different fields. However, as an instructor, you can facilitate the process to access and assimilate instructional content to distance students with visual, hearing, or cognitive impairments. Here is a list of suggestions to make your content more accessible:

1)  Contact the Instructional Consulting Office or the Adaptive Technology centers in your department or University. They will provide you with helpful resources and will work with you on making your particular online class more accessible to students with disabilities. Generally, the sooner you involve these specialized centers in the process, the better. In this way you give them enough time to assist you on looking for effective instructional alternatives to deliver your class. They will also help you in making your instructional content more accessible such as closed captioning videos, creating accessible Word and PDF documents, printing Braille documents and tactile enhanced graphics, etc.

Here at Indiana University, you can contact the Adaptive Technology and Accessibility Centers for more information and for workshops related to making online content more accessible.

2)  Find out what features from your Course Management System are not too accessible and use viable alternatives. For instance, the features that are generally inaccessible to students using adaptive technology in Oncourse are:

a) Rich text or “What You See Is What You Get” (WYSIWYG) editors: Even though these editors facilitate formatting text to most students, they tend to cause a lot of difficulties to screen readers thus being  unusable by visually impaired students. An alternative to these editors is allowing your students to attach an external file so they don’t have to type their answer in the embedded rich text editor.

b) Forums: Navigating through the Oncourse forum messages can be very challenging to visually impaired students because the concept of a thread is mainly achieved by adding a visual indentation among messages, which cannot be detected by them. This makes it difficult to know who is responding to a specific message in the thread, especially when there are many students carrying out multiple discussions. in the forum.

3) Add structure to your class resources such as Word and PDF documents and PowerPoint presentations: In an unstructured document, screen reader applications would read the content from beginning to end, line by line. This means that visually impaired students would need to listen to the whole document to get to the “Results” section. By adding structure to the documents, students with disabilities can easily navigate within it. Here are a few recommendations to add more structure to your documents:

a) Use styles to create heading formats (Title, Heading 1, Heading 2, etc).

b) Add alternative text to all included  graphics

c) Do not use tabs and spaces to create a table, instead use the “Table” tool

d) Use bulleted lists to emphasize individual points and numbered lists for a series of steps in a sequence

e) If converted a Word document into PDF, use the accessible options provided by Adobe Acrobat

Additional resources:

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.

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