Making Effective Use of Canvas Tools and Engaging Students
As we navigate how to transition to a fully online learning experience for everyone, Dr. Ben Wirth and Dr. C.R. Grimmer gave us some helpful tips to guide us along. The guiding questions for this talk helped us think about how we can be most accommodating to everyone, both to students and ourselves as teachers, during such a precarious time while also still learning composition, writing, and teaching styles. We inquired about the pro’s and con’s of a fully asynchronous course or a course where everyone regularly meets via web conferences, or the right balance of both. We also discussed some activities that can boost engagement for both async and through a webcam meeting.
To start, Ben gave us an overview of his fully asynchronous class that is still filled with engaging reflective activities. He makes use of Canvas Groups tool; it’s an underused, yet so useful, student-led collaboration tool on Canvas. This is an easy way to do group work and group grading–– just select it as an option when posting the assignment. This tool helps students build camaraderie even though they may not be working all at the same time. For non-graded assignments that can still use group work (and use a tool that you and students may already be familiar with), Ben also suggests Google docs, as the software has tools that encourage sync or async conversations. Ben suggests “archive building” is a great collaborative or group assignment. Also, check out wiki-styles for other fun group work assignments.
C.R. gave us some advice from how she teaches her mix of async/ sync course. For an engaging discussion board post, she suggests avoiding prompts where canned, scripted responses are possible. You know, like right or wrong answers or just copy + paste from the book (or from the internet, let’s be honest). When addressing the prompt, C.R. has students apply their response to a third external text–– like a Youtube video, twitter post, a story, songs, etc.–– that relates to them in ways they can articulate. This way, rather than providing a textbook answer, they can demonstrate their understanding of the concept in authentic, organic ways, as well as bring in their own interests. C.R. builds collaborative engagement during the class synchronous meeting; she has them in groups, and they discuss, question, engage with each other’s responses. As a class, they discuss the post that piqued their interests, and together they unpack the students’ responses. It’s fun!
In all, we had a great discussion, we all were able to talk with each other about our own classes and the strategies we use to help boost engagement remotely. We bounced around ideas, alternative activities, and interactive assignments. I was happy to be there!