Dr Scott Mayson teaches in Industrial Design in the Schoool of Architecture & Design, and he is one of four academics from the School who are teaching in Canvas in Semester 2. He shared some of his experiences with Canvas and suggestions for people starting out.
Q: What have been the best aspects of teaching in Canvas?
Previously, I was using a number of different tools to communicate with students: Blackboard, Slack, Facebook Groups, and others. Canvas has provided a single place to combine different resources into an active space for my students.
The module structure has allowed for logical scaffolding of different design projects into various thematics, where I have been able to add dynamic and updatable content like Pinterest feeds, Youtube videos, and Google Drive files, beyond the normal integration of text and images.
The assignment submission portal allows me to have several set file formats so that I can limit submission types to PDF and image formats. Speedgrader allows me to easily review submissions, and record screencasts over these submission as I am reviewing the student’s work. This is then easily uploaded where students can view the video in Canvas and write comments back to me.
Finally, the Conferences tool allowed me to conduct class from off-site, where otherwise I would have cancelled the class. Students were able to have a dynamic conversation whilst viewing the relevant design documents that I shared from my computer at home.
Q: What challenges have you encountered?
The biggest hurdle was understanding the web page style structure that canvas uses. However, once I understood that each page in Modules is focused on a particular week or content delivery, it made sense. I also spent considerable time setting up my Canvas site to be responsive, for viewing on phones, tablets and computers. This required some effort to start with.
Whilst the Conferences tool was really useful, it was also hard to set up and get going. Hopefully, this will improve over time.
However, the biggest challenge I have going forward with Canvas is to get students engaging more with the discussion tools. When, in the past, we used Slack the students really embraced the communication tools and engaged with each other more than they have on Canvas.
Q: What advice would you give to people just starting to develop their course in Canvas, or looking ahead to teaching in Canvas?
Initially, I would take a simple approach to developing a Canvas shell, and then integrate various tools over time as the academic semester passes.
I did find it useful to check the site on my phone and tablet via the web browser to see how various content, images, embedded websites and videos rendered across the different devices.
There is a lot of informative information on the web that relates to integrating different tools and the Canvas support on the web and via phone was really useful in the early days of adopting Canvas.