Some 300 full- and part-time faculty, staff and administrators came to the TLC this summer to ready themselves and their courses for Canvas, the new learning management system (LMS) designed to engage students through interactive communication and multimedia.
Canvas, which replaces ANGEL this fall, is a “next generation LMS,” said English Professor Karen D’Agostino, who coordinated the training workshops along with biology professor Carey Fox and English instructor Dara Evans. “The old ones were built on old platforms and this is built on a new, more interactive and more open platform,” she said.
Among its many interactive features, Canvas allows faculty to record audio and video comments in lieu of hand-written ones on student papers, circle and draw on assignments using colored pens, and hold class discussions through interactive video.
“It’s based on discourse, not delivery,” D’Agostino said.
Students can check out assignments on their mobile phones, choose how and when they want to be notified of things like grades or due dates, connect to their Facebook or Twitter account and even let Canvas figure out how well they need to perform on the next test to earn a certain grade.
“I’ve had students come up to me in the hallway to tell me how much they loved Canvas,” commented Fox, who piloted the LMS in her microbiology classes this past year.
Whereas ANGEL organized class material in folders like a file cabinet, Canvas operates more like an open bookshelf, Evans explained.
“It’s the way students learn,” D’Agostino said. “It’s also the way students communicate; they don’t communicate by looking through folders or file cabinets.”
The challenge has been in facilitating the discovery process for faculty accustomed to teaching on-line and web enhanced courses using ANGEL and supporting them as they transfer their existing courses. Faculty trainers have been holding formal workshops and open labs in the Teaching and Learning Center since May 20. The introductory workshops are designed to provide an overview and let faculty see how students will view their course content and interact with it. The open labs, staffed by faculty liaisons, provide assistance with the transfer or redesign of individual courses.
While some faculty have been working on adapting what they already have, the new CANVAS paradigm has others rethinking their courses and starting from scratch, the training coordinators said.
“We see people coming in apprehensive and leaving excited,” Fox observed.
Teaching the introductory and advanced workshops and staffing the open labs are faculty liaisons. They are, for the Mathematics Division, Math Professor Barbara Tozzi, Math Professor Linda Wang and Assistant Math Professor Oly Malpica-Proctor; for the Science and Health Science Division, Biology Professor Carey Fox and Associate Professor of Nursing Barbara Burk; for the Social Sciences and Education Division, Assistant Psychology Professor Diana Glynn and Psychology Instructor Christine Greco-Covington; for the Business and Technology Division, Assistant Professor of Economics Sarah Leahy; for the Arts and Communications Division, Associate Professor of Speech Dan Leyes; from the English and Reading Division, English Professor Karen D’Agostino, Associate Professor of English Joe Varone, Assistant Professor of English Bob McGovern, and English Instructor Dara Evans; and for the Library and Student Development divisions, History Professor Larry Hartzell, who is also a TLC faculty fellow.
The open labs and workshops, including Advanced Canvas, will continue throughout the fall semester. Besides workshops and labs, faculty liaisons will provide assistance within their divisions throughout the semester.
On the student end, The Teaching and Learning Center (TLC) is contacting those students registering for on-line classes by mail, email and social media to make they attend one of three orientations in early September.
“We have many returning students who are used to ANGEL and we are going to ensure that we have both documentation and people who are available to answer questions, explained Norah Kerr-McCurry, director of the Teaching and Learning Center.
In addition to student training, the TLC is providing technical support. For example, during the Summer III term, Canvas was used in four on-line courses and several web enhanced ones. During this semester, the TLC was busy making sure that Colleague, Brookdale’s Student Information System (SIS), was able to smoothly integrate with Canvas so that information about course sections could be communicated.
One of the benefits of the faculty-to faculty training model has been the interdisciplinary interaction, or “cross pollination of ideas,” D’Agostino said. “You have an increased appreciation of other disciplines and how they teach. I have such an appreciation of others’ work.”
“It gives you an idea of how to get students prepared for other classes,” Evans said.
Kerr-McCurry encouraged any faculty member who needs more help with the changeover to come to another class or seek help at the TLC.
“The TLC is going to be here to support faculty. Their success is the students’ success,” she said. She emphasized that Canvas workshops are not just for faculty, but for all LMS users, including faculty, administrators, learning assistants and staff members.
For more information or to register for a workshop, visit the TLC website.
Featured image (above): Dan Leyes, associate professor of speech and Canvas faculty liaison in the Arts and Communications Division, points out some of the interactive features of Canvas to chemistry learning assistant Gregory Briguglio.