NLP Post #3: Using Canvas


My goal for this project was to learn how to use my school’s new online management website, Canvas.  Last year, we used Learn by Blackboard, so I had to set up my new classes from scratch. The curve ball was that I could only use YouTube videos and online help forums to support me throughout this project.

I had six major goals to set up  my Canvas course:

  1. Set up master courses for Spanish 1 and Spanish 2
  2. Customize the home pages for each class
  3. Create an assignment complete with notes, embedded videos, and an assessment
  4. Create a calendar event
  5. Familiarize myself with the grade book
  6. Import files and quizzes from Learn (the online management website from last year)

What was easy?

Canvas is very customizable.  It offers many options for setting up the course, showing the menu items you want, and linking items throughout the website for you.  I found many YouTube videos (listed at the bottom) that showed me how to set up a Canvas course.  I easily followed the directions in these videos to add a picture to the home page and add events to the calendar.  I also watched a video to set up “modules,” which are content folders for notes, assignments, and any class materials. I set up two modules for Spanish 1: one module for songs, which I use for warm-ups, that included an embedded YouTube video, song lyrics, and a practice listening quiz, and one module for the “ser” unit that included notes and an introductory story/assignment.  It was relatively easy to add files, videos, and links to the modules.  However, if I had tried setting these up on my own, I would have been frustrated and probably would have taken a trial-and-error (emphasis on the error) approach instead.  It was also nice that the calendar and grade book were meshed with the assignments page.  So, when I added an assignment to the “ser” module, Canvas automatically added the assignment to the course calendar and the grade book.

From the videos, I could not figure out how to create master courses for Spanish 1 and 2.  Since Canvas is so customizable, it was hard to find a video that featured a school who had set up their Canvas site exactly as mine had.  After no luck on YouTube, I turned to the Canvas help forums.  I found a discussion about creating a “Master Course” and followed the steps to making my own. (I even ran into a teacher from my school who went to a workshop offered through the district who didn’t know how to do this!  I will have to pass along the forum!)  Read more about this process in my NLP Post #2.


What was hard? 

Throughout this process, I would watch a video and have a random question or thought (“I wonder what that button does.” “Are there other options?” “Why did Canvas set it up this way?”), but the video would not answer it. It was difficult to find answers to some more specific questions.  None of these questions were causing issues in setting up my Canvas course, but they were some things that I would have asked had I been at a conference or a meeting.

Also, I had troubles exporting and importing files from Learn into Canvas.  I followed directions from a help forum, but I still could not complete this.  I think it is because of how my district set up both Learn and Canvas.  After receiving a third error email, I stopped trying until I can broaden my PLN to other teachers and system administrators in my own school who have transferred files between the two websites successfully.


What did I learn?

I successfully set up classes for Spanish 1 and Spanish 2! I completed all my goals except for the last one which I hope to complete next week.  I feel comfortable with the skills I have learned to enter the new school year.

And… Using personal learning networks is useful!  Most people only think of YouTube for watching funny videos or viral clips, but there are many useful videos as well. In fact just last week my dad just got a Go-Pro camera and could not get it out of the box (it was complicated, okay!?).  I immediately thought, “Let’s YouTube this!” and found various videos to help us.  I don’t know if I would have thought of YouTube that way before this project.  Along with the YouTube videos, the online help forums was a great resource.  I found much more specific information from the help forum than with the videos.  It is also a nice option if I have a question I want to ask other “experts.” Since it can be stressful to adopt a new management website, I will definitely pass these resources along to other teachers at my school or even post a response to a question on the help forum if I find a helpful hint or tool! I will also take the same approach when looking for new ideas or tools to use while teaching.  Online help forums would be a great resource to use when trying to use a new technology tool in the classroom.  YouTube videos can give me ideas on how to flip the classroom as well.



YouTube Videos:

Introduction to Canvas:

How to embed a video:

Creating a Module:

Creating a Quiz:

Help Forums:

Canvas help center:

How to create a master course for each class:


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