Canvas: Immersive Reader Enabled

A new feature that allows the use of Microsoft Immersive Reader when viewing items in the Modules and Pages tool has been enabled in Canvas.

Immersive Reader icon

Microsoft Immersive Reader aids English reading comprehension, aids people with reading differences (such as Dyslexia), offers translations of the text, allows for color contrast and font changes, and can read aloud text and equations. A summary of the Immersive Reader implementation for Canvas is available in the Canvas Release Notes.

While we currently benefit from this free-trial, we need your help in understanding the value of this tool. Please share your feedback with

Canvas Skills Course: Become the Quizmaster General

Canvas Course Card for Quizmaster General

CIT’s EdTech team just completed the first in a series of Canvas mini-skills courses, “Become the Quizmaster General.” A facilitated session of this professional development course ran the week of January 18th, which included opportunities to connect with the facilitator and other members of the cohort over the course of a week during Intersession. 

Continue reading “Canvas Skills Course: Become the Quizmaster General”

ASSESStivus 2021 – Telling Stories in a Post-COVID World

SUNY Geneseo held its first remote ASSESStivus event January 25 & 26, 2021 via Zoom. The annual event is organized by the College Assessment Council to help the college community embrace a model of continuous improvement, highlight various assessment initiatives, and share assessment results across the college. The two-day remote event was highlighted by a keynote presentation “Telling our Stories in a Post-COVID World” by Dr. Kevin Gannon, director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning and Professor of History at Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa.

Gannon challenged audience members to think about how we can use assessment–done organically, meaningfully, and well–to advocate for ourselves and our students once we return to a “normal” post-Covid landscape. However, Gannon also noted our view of “normal” was not equitable or sustainable for many, and implored us to use assessment to create equitable learning environments for all. “Assessment helps us tell the story of what students know, understand, and can do with their knowledge as a result of their educational experiences. Assessment results are used to improve subsequent learning (Huba and Freed, 2000).”

Assessment is more important now than ever as the “value” of college, especially that of liberal arts colleges, is under rising criticism. Other people are already telling our stories, and their narratives have had a negative effect on the perception of a college education.

Gannon argued we need to take care when designing assessment in order to prevent “weaponizing” it. Are our learning spaces creating an environment of privilege and prejudice? What is the “hidden curriculum” underneath the formal curriculum that unintentionally teach our students lessons of power and authority (Leask, 2009)?

SUNY Geneseo needs to ensure our assessment aligns with our values in order to keep promises made to students. To do this, Gannon took a critical and poignant look at our college mission statement and asked, “what is the hidden curriculum? Are we weaponizing assessment and learning spaces?”

Dr. Kevin Gannon’s edits (in red) of SUNY Geneseo’s mission statement point out some of the hidden curriculum messages that could be implied between the lines.

In conclusion, Gannon inspired SUNY Geneseo to treat learning as transformational rather than transactional with meaningful and equitable assessment. You can view the entire recorded keynote address in the video that follows.

Dr. Kevin Gannon’s, SUNY Geneseo ASSESStivus Keynote Address January 26, 2021

Kevin Gannon is the author of Radical Hope: A Teaching Manifesto, published in April, 2020, as part of the Teaching and Learning in Higher Education series from West Virginia University Press. He is a regular contributor to the Chronicle of Higher Education, and his work has also appeared in outlets such as Vox, CNN, and The Washington Post. In 2016, he appeared in the Oscar-nominated documentary 13th, directed by Ava DuVernay. You can find Kevin online at his blog,, and on Twitter: @TheTattooedProf.

As SUNY Geneseo celebrates Black History Month, Kevin Gannon returns on Thursday, February 25 to discuss racial inequality in incarceration rates in the United States. His talk is open to all; please register online to attend.

Access Coursera Courses for Free

SUNY recently announced that all SUNY faculty, staff, and students have access to Coursera courses at no cost.

Coursera for Campus provides access to a library of world-class learning experiences aligned with the needs of today’s leading companies. Additionally, professional development courses and course authoring tools are available for SUNY faculty and staff. Complete courses and specializations and add your new credentials to your resume or LinkedIn.

Coursera logo

Coursera offers more than 3,800 cutting-edge courses. Until mid-2021, any SUNY student, faculty or staff has free access to these high-quality courses. 

Sign up with these simple steps to get started

  • Click the “Join for Free” link on the program’s home page.
  • Complete the sign-up process with your SUNY campus email address and join the program.
  • Browse the catalog and select a course in which to enroll.

If you have any questions about how to get started, please contact the CIT HelpDesk by calling (585) 245-5588 or visiting our online service desk.

Canvas Community: It’s Due!

The Canvas Community is a treasure trove of opportunities to see how faculty and teachers at other institutions are leveraging Canvas for their students. All Geneseo users have access to the Community with their Geneseo username and password. Check out the limited resource list below for an idea of how to get started.

A self-paced course called It’s Due! was recently shared in the Mobile Users Group Hub. This blog post caught our eye, and we recommend the course if you’re interested in exploring “every single type of submission available for students in Canvas”.

Calendar with Time to Learn note

To join in, simply Self-Enroll. You will need to share your name, email address, etc.  If you would like to explore ways to apply what you learn in your courses at Geneseo with an Instructional Designer, email

Canvas Community Resources

Caption This! Workshop Resources

The EdTech team recently partnered with the Center for Digital Learning and the Office off Accessibility Services in a workshop that discussed captioning options for recorded Zoom meetings and lectures.

Closed Caption logo

Uploading recorded videos to YouTube for captioning is the quickest way to automatic captioning and transcripts. This guide walks through the steps. Editing YouTube’s auto-captions will ensure that your students have the best experience when watching your lectures.

The attached presentation outlines the importance of captioning, including why, what, and when we caption. You may also find it helpful to read this article on how to make your virtual meetings and events more accessible.

For questions about captioning or other accessibility issues, email

Creating Community in an Online Class

Prior to the first day of class, post some information about who you are as a person. Create a text-based page with one or more still photos or develop a video to show students something about your life and interests. Reveal your personality throughout the semester by interacting with students in your authentic voice. Darby and Lang (2019). Small Teaching Online: Applying Learning Science in Online Classes. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Create at least one opportunity for engagement during the online period. For example, you might do this through a live Zoom meeting during your regularly-scheduled teaching time, through one or more icebreaker activities, or through discussion questions in a Canvas discussion forum.

CIT Instructional Designers have prepared an introductory module that can be imported into your Canvas courses. Search for “Engagement Materials” in the Canvas Commons, download the import file from Google Drive, or email to request assistance. The module contains page templates, discussion ideas, and other resources to facilitate community building.

More Community Building Ideas

Canvas’ New Rich Content Editor, First Impressions

The Classic Rich Content Editor that you are already familiar with

If you’ve ever created an Announcement, Assignment, Discussion, Page, or Quiz within Canvas then you’ve already encountered the Classic Rich Content Editor (pictured above) which is the, “…simple, yet powerful, content editor that is available anytime for creating new content” found at the top of the page when you edit any of the elements in Canvas. In January CIT will be launching the New Rich Content Editor (RCE) to all Canvas courses and today I’m going to provide you some initial thoughts on it. Once you’ve read this article, if you would like you can turn on the New RCE in any of your courses (Go to course Settings -> Feature Options -> toggle on RCE Enhancements)

Here is an absolutely captivating five minute introduction to the New RCE from Canvas:

Ok wake up, so I can tell you a bit about what I see when looking at the New RCE.

A screencap taken from Canvas’ Guide to the New RCE to help us walk through the basic components

Below I’m going to walk through the numbered items listed above to give you a feel of the similarities and differences between the New and Classic RCE:

  1. Content area– The large block below the RCE is the portion many of you are most likely familiar with. This area allows you to easily type (or copy&paste) text into it and acts as a preview window for the material you may be entering through the RCE options that follow. This hasn’t changed in any significant way.
  2. Menubar– This little bar has a lot of “can do,” primarily providing one stop shopping for items already found in the Toolbar below it; often with expanded features. Yes, much of this is redundant. However, having options in workflow is always appreciated as we all come from differing technical backgrounds.
    • Edit– expanding this option provides easy access to the Undo/Redo as well as traditional Cut/Copy/Paste features for those of you who don’t prefer to use keyboard shortcuts. For those of you who do prefer keyboard shortcuts, they are provided as nice reminder next to each action in the list.
    • Insert– expanding this option replicates all of the insert options in the Toolbar providing an alternative workflow for those more accustomed to a Microsoft user interface. Dogs of any age don’t necessarily need to learn new tricks with Canvas.
    • Format– Easy access to the traditional Bold, Italic, and Underline are all there, but so are other text formatting options like Strikethrough, Super/Subscript- They’re no longer hidden options! Furthermore additional fonts, text/background color, and things no one asked for, like “Directionality” can be found here as well.
    • Tools– includes Word Count to help you keep yourself honest about how verbose you really are and a nifty plug icon that represents “Apps” or Canvas plugins. I’ll talk more about this in the Toolbar.
    • Table– this last tab provides options necessary for quickly editing any… tables (see, it wasn’t just a clever name) you may have inserted.
  3. Toolbar– here’s where we have immediate access to some of the most commonly used text formatting options. I’m particularly excited that they’ve placed font size and type at the beginning of this line as I hope it will encourage individuals to make proper use of headers within pages. Not only do they increase accessibility, but they make the page flow better for fully sighted individuals. That being said, highlighting the font color being so prevalently displayed concerns me, as individuals may get carried away in a fashion that violates ADA requirements.
  4. Insert options– from these quick tabs we can easily insert:
    • Links– By highlighting existing text and selecting this option from the Toolbar you can easily create a link to an External Site or Course Link. What I like best about the way it is now handled is that after creating such a link, selecting it in the Content Area brings up a “Link Options” tab that allows for ease of editing. Additionally, re-selecting the links from the toolbar gives the ability to edit or remove it- no more unintuitive “break link” options to accidentally be clicked or overlooked when actively seeking.
    • Images– this option allows the easy (drag and drop!) upload of your own images, search of Unsplash for copyright appropriate content, or the linking to of an image via URL. Even more, it gives immediate options to apply Alt Text (descriptive text for screen readers that provides low/no sighted individuals an opportunity to experience your images) as you embed the image. Easy + Intuitive = <3
    • Media– This is where things fall down a little for me. The option to upload media directly from your computer (again, in a simple drag and drop fashion) is the first option in this tab. As video files tend to be large and take up a significant portion of one’s course’s disk quota I am concerned many faculty will find the ease of this to cause them issues later in the semester when their courses run out of space. That being said, the Record option seems to provide higher quality video with a more streamline interface than the classic media recorder- even if the Closed Caption feature is deceptive (it doesn’t auto-caption, you need to provide an appropriately formatted file that you’ve transcribed…) Which brings us to the Embed option. While it is no more difficult to use than the classic media embed option, one cannot simply employ a link from YouTube- you have to know to copy the embed code. This isn’t any more or less difficult, but if you’re not aware of what an “Embed Code” is you may find yourself frustrated at first. Learning curves are real, and often off putting.
    • Documents– finally an intuitive means by which to upload (again, drag and drop!) or insert an already present course/user document that doesn’t leave long time users scratching their heads about how to add the, “Auto-open inline preview.” Another way in which we can limit the amount of time we spend mucking about in Files!
  5. External Tools– this replaces the often overlooked (tiny) blue chevron that held the power to access plugins to Canvas tools. It’s now easily identifiable through the plug icon. The first time in I’d recommend clicking “view all” to see what’s available.
  6. Paragraph formatting– while I am glad to see them visible and easily navigable I’d be lying if I said there was anything overly exciting to see here… unless that’s your thing, in which case far be it from me to rain on your parade you crazy paragraph formatting fiend…
  7. Format clearing– Does just that. Highlight the area you wish to remove formatting from and click this icon. Why is it waaay over there, instead of near the text formatting options? I assume to avoid accidental format clearing during late night Page/Assignment creation sessions. Canvas employs safety scissors like this throughout its design that can often seem a bit non-sensical, until the first time you manage to, inadvertently, circumvent their safety precautions.
  8. Insert Table– as the name suggests this is similar to both the old Table functions of the Classic RCE and what one may be familiar with from other products with similar features such as MS Word, Pages, or Google Docs.
  9. Insert Equation– a handy tool for our STEM colleagues to insert mathematical equations and LaTex. I don’t see any major changes from the previous iteration and I suspect those who loved the old version will still love it, and those who didn’t still won’t.
  10. Embed (cloud icon not pictured above)- Since the original draft of this blog Instructure has added a cloud icon to the Toolbar for quick access to the Embed feature. While this is a step closer to what I would like to see in simplifying the media embed process the loss of the media insertion tool (that previously allowed for media embedding from the URL as opposed to Embed Code) is still a hot button issue for me.

In closing, while the New Rich Content Editor preserves the functionality of the classic RCE its new layout is done in an intuitive fashion that highlights many of the features that were previously easily overlooked. While no new functionality is introduced the highlighting of the drag and drop user interface combined with streamlined icons and feature placement are bound to introduce longtime Canvas users to options they never realized they were missing during the content creation process. Hopefully, the introduction of these features will lend themselves to the creation of richer content and an all around better experience for both teachers and learners.

Canvas Release Notes Highlights: Spring & Summer Updates

Canvas operates on a three-week release cycle through which features are added or updated; feature releases in the production environment take place on the third Saturday of every month. SUNY Geneseo’s EdTech team posts highlights from Canvas’s production release notes, a link to these notes, and other relevant content to our blog a few days before the production release, which usually occurs on Saturdays. Please contact the Canvas Support Team if you have any questions about an upcoming production release.

This blog post addresses the Canvas Release, and Ready Release, Notes from March through August. All features described below are available within Geneseo’s instance of Canvas.

Continue reading “Canvas Release Notes Highlights: Spring & Summer Updates”

Alternative Formats in Canvas: Making PDFs More Accessible

Graph of alternative format downloads by Geneseo users from 8/24 to 9/7/2020

When Geneseo’s Canvas added the accessibility program Blackboard Ally in March 2020, a host of new tools became available for both faculty and students. Over the next few weeks, we’ll explore what new powers you have for making course content both more accessible and more useful.

One new item is Alternative Formats, which gives download options without any extra effort on a faculty member’s part. While it’s primarily intended for student use, it offers clear advantages to faculty, as well. And, as you can see, our Canvas users are already putting it to work.

graph showing how many times the alternate formats window was launched, and how many items were downloaded, each day between 8/24 - 9/7
Two weeks into the semester, Geneseo Canvas users have downloaded alternative formats of course files almost 1500 times.
Continue reading “Alternative Formats in Canvas: Making PDFs More Accessible”