SoS: Start of Semester FYI for Faculty (Ensuring Learners Can Access Your Class)

Enter key

Some of the most common questions that arise at the beginning of each semester center on the learners’ ability, or rather inability, to access their courses in Canvas . Below are three quick steps you, the teacher, can take to ensure that your courses are accessible to learners.

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#TechTipThursday: How Are You Taking Attendance: Roll Call Attendance Tool

Empty Classroom

So you’ve read our post, “Why Are You Taking Attendance?” and remain unconvinced that a non-policy of attendance is for you. Fine… That’s cool. No, really… Allow me to suggest an integrated third party tool that will allow you to satisfy your attendance urge and provide a suggestion on an alternative means for using it as a participation gauging tool.

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Why Are You Taking Attendance?

Hands up

You have undoubtedly heard the old trope, “Good students come to class.” The less frequently spoken second half of that saying is that, “poor students do not.” In your head you know this (and the research on the correlation between attendance and final grades bears this out) and in your heart you remember all the hours you have spent curating your content and crafting your lectures- Students shouldn’t miss this stuff. So, you decide to take attendance, whether through a paper sign-in system, electronic gadget, or the LMS’s Roll Call Tool. But, are you doing it for the students benefit or your own sense of hubris?

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Going Beyond SoFis, Soliciting Meaningful Feedback

Feed Back pictogram

Meaningful participation in the student feedback process can be difficult for some educators, making SoFis a bitter pill for any number of reasons.  Perhaps students aren’t informed about what meaningful feedback looks like. Often students aren’t vested in the process or in providing serious feedback, sometimes because we don’t take the system seriously enough ourselves. Additionally, given the time of year, even when meaningful issues are raised we do not have the opportunity to course-correct and make impactful changes for those particular students. Given these observations one might think I was building a case for less solicitation of feedback instead of more. However, it is exactly for these reasons that I would suggest offering students an opportunity to provide more informal feedback throughout the semester. Doing so is not only a good, best practice but one of the best, best practices. Consider the added potential to increase the effectiveness of your teaching as well as provide a more positive SoFi experience for you and your students.

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#TechTipThursday: Audacious Audio

As we look for more ways to get our learners engaged with our their own education, we sometimes roam from the beaten track of text and into the realm of media creation. Podcasts, for example, can be an excellent means through which to give learners an opportunity to flex muscles they rarely use in academic pursuits. This can be a challenge that brings them (and us!) to new levels of learning. For some it can also be a source of unnecessary frustration if not guided to easily accessible and reliable tools to successfully complete the project. To help reduce that frustration this post introduces two, free, tools to help our learners craft quality audio.

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#TechTipThursday: Your Canvas Dashboard

The Canvas “Dashboard” is the landing page upon which your “Course Cards” appear. Within this post we will discuss how to manage what content appears on your Dashboard as well as how to organize it to your liking. Simple tricks such as providing your course a nickname or changing your course card’s color can go a long way to making your Canvas experience a more effective one.

Student Dashboard
View of a typical student’s Dashboard.

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Canvas Clues

It’s the time of year where you are starting to get reacquainted with your old friend, Canvas. In this post Your Canvas Support Team provides some of our favorite tips and tricks to help get you rolling and reduce potential problems for you and your learners.

Cleanup Course Navigation

navigation example
Default navigation vs Clean navigation

By default Canvas provides a wide array of links within the navigation section to the left of each course. Within most courses the majority of these links will often go unused causing clutter and confusion on behalf of the learner and often instructor. For this reason we highly recommend hiding any unused links.

Your Canvas support team recommends always leaving Announcements and Grades available. Whether you decide to set your Home to a Content Page or Modules will determine whether Modules should also be left available for student access.

As for Assignments, Quizzes, and Pages (some of the most commonly used items within Canvas) we will use Modules to give access to learners them in the order and context we want them to engage these materials.

How do I manage Course Navigation Links?

Use Modules

Modules are used to organize course content by weeks, units, or a different organizational structure. Modules essentially create a uni-directional linear flow of what students should do in a course.

Instructor view of modules
Example of a Module from the instructor’s view

Each module can contain files, discussions, assignments, quizzes, and other learning materials. Module items can be added to the course from existing content or new content shells within the modules. Course content can be added to multiple modules or iterated several times throughout an individual module. Modules can be easily organized using the drag and drop feature. Elements within the modules can also be reorganized by dragging and dropping.

Module from learner's view
Same Module from learner’s view

How do I add Modules?

Lock and add Prerequisites to Modules

Modules also allow the instructors to “Lock” them so that they open automatically at a particular date and time.  Learners will be able to see the module titles and module item names, but they will not be able to access the module items until after the lock date has passed.

Didn't Read the Syllabus Meme
Help reduce the number of unread syllabi by adding a prerequisite to your “Welcome” Module

When you set up prerequisite modules, students must complete a module before moving to the next module.

Publish Your Course

Course Publish button
Be sure to publish your course

Make sure you publish your course. If you haven’t then students won’t have access to the material within it. In the crush of responsibilities leading up to the start of the semester little things can be easily forgotten. This isn’t a little thing. Our Life Pro Tip to you is to publish your course now. Contents won’t be available to the students until the start date of the course.

How do I change the start and end dates for a course?
How do I publish a Course?

Manage Your Dashboard

Often faculty and learners alike are concerned that a course they are in does not show up on their Dashboard. Courses marked as Favorites will appear on your Dashboard. From the left side navigation bar, select Courses and then click on the “All Courses” link. A list of courses will appear, along with a star next to the title. Grey stars indicate courses that have not been “favorited”. Just click on a grey star to make it a Favorite. When you return to your Dashboard, courses you’ve “favorited” should appear.

A much requested new feature was released in Canvas recently, you can now rearrange course tiles on the Canvas dashboard- and it’s as simple as drag and drop!

How do I view my favorite courses in the Card View Dashboard as an instructor?

Link/Embed Files From Google Drive

Your Canvas course is limited to 1GB in files space. This isn’t a lot. Individually. But, for every course at Geneseo it becomes VERY large. Your Google hosted Geneseo account has MUCH more space and many capabilities. It’s for this reason that we recommend you host much of your teaching material on Google Drive and embed it into Canvas Pages.

Using Google in Canvas
Registering the Google LTI

Stay Tuned for an Up-Coming Post on Gradebook Guidance!

Keep an eye open for an up-coming blog on our tips and tricks for managing your Gradebook!

Sources Stolen From:

The Canvas Community

Let us know if you have any questions at


Wrapping Up Your Semester

Red Holiday Bow
Wrap Up Your Semester

As the fall semester ends, faculty have a lot to do!
Here is a checklist of things to help you wrap up your semester in Canvas!

Enjoy your winter break!
Don’t forget that Spring student enrollments will occur January 1

Keep an eye open for any upcoming Canvas training at

As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please, don’t hesitate email!