Monday, February 28, 2011

Faculty Training Ideas

I recently got a request from Trivi Nallamshetty at Edison State College about how to train faculty. So, I thought this is a good opportunity to explain how we have done our faculty training.

Keep in mind, we have trained about 20 faculty most of them in small groups of 5 or less. So, doing this on a large scale might require an entirely different approach.

We have two different approaches, one for faculty who will be developing curriculum and another for those who are using pre-created courses focusing on how to grade using learning outcomes. The second session is as much about policy as it is about Canvas.

"How to be a Studnet" Session (usually less than an hour):

Despite Instructure's insistence that they designed Canvas to look identical for students and faculty, there are substantial differences when it comes to grading. So, I find it incredibly valuable to go through the exact same training that students go through. Here are the highlights:
  1. Login
  2. Go to Profile and add email/change preferences.
  3. Point out navigation areas including the feedback button and the calendar.
  4. Navigate to a "practice course" we have already set up with a fake assignment in it.
  5. Navigate around the course- usually done as a 5 minute self guided experience.
  6. Submit an assignment (again, usually this is done without instruction)
  7. We then do two things at once, one person will grade the assignments behind the scenes and another instructor will cover messaging and will go through the process of sending messages to each other.
  8. Students read/watch received feedback on their assignment (we use a rubric so they know how it works). They then see how to resubmit if necessary.
  9. We do not do anything with testing/quizzing, but that is where I would talk about it if we were.
"Creating a Course" Session (usually less than an hour):
Note; I've only done this once, and it was for a group of graduate students who were going to be creating an online course. I spent about 1 hour doing this training, but they picked it up quickly. I did about 15 minutes of demonstration and then they were off and running.
  1. Depending on the way your Campus is set up either the faculty have to do the "add a course" or they need a course created for them.
  2. Talk about course design, and what is going to go into the course. Discuss items such as:
    1. Home Page
    2. Assignments
    3. Testing
    4. Instruction/content pages
    5. Syllabus
    6. Files/pictures
  3. Step by step we go through the creation wizard. I prefer if the faculty are actually creating content that they will really use, so it can slow things down if they don't know what they are wanting to make.
  4. Demonstrate how to create parts of a course. My preferred instructional method is to have them watch me do it all once (no notes, and no following along, just watch). Obviously there are a lot of items that can be demonstrated, but try to keep it to just a few tasks. The tasks I cover are how to:
    1. Change the home page.
    2. Add a syllabus
    3. Add pages that contain embedded pictures and YouTube videos.
    4. Add assignments (don't get into rubrics yet)
    5. Use modules
    6. Upload files/pictures
    7. Create announcement
  5. Let faculty create these parts of their course. This can take 15-45 minutes. Usually thereare plenty of one-on-one question/answers as they try to do everything. If they don't finish in this time, tell them to work on it later.
  6. Review what they have learned to do.
"How to Teach using Canvas" session (time depends on school needs)
This is where it becomes unique for Westminster. We require that our faculty who are using this for our project-based programs grade in a specific way. There are probably a few universal items that are good to talk about. We have found it best to have a pre-populated practice course for each faculty in training. They are already enrolled in the course and the Canvas instructor is enrolled as a student who has submitted an assignment.
  1. Faculty login to Canvas and notice the various locations where they are notified about assignments that need to be graded.
  2. Grade an assignment- we use pre-populated rubrics that we require them to use.
  3. Send video feedback- this depends on the computer lab training is happening in.
  4. Two things then happen at the same time- the instructor goes into each course and responds to the grade they were given and resubmits an assignment. Meanwhile the faculty are then taken to the gradebook and shown how it works.
  5. Faculty are given the chance to re-grade the students submission and most importantly be able to distinguish in the gradebook the difference between a submitted assignment and a resubmitted assignment.
  6. Optional items that we usually don't cover are creating announcements and discussion forums.
  7. Lastly we go to the settings area and show them how to add students and look up data about each student. We also discuss how to change the navigation and pull up reports.
That is about it. I'm guessing this is a pretty ho-hum post for most people. Well, training isn't always the most glamorous, but it makes a big difference in the overall experience that faculty have. Lastly, here are some overall generic thoughts I have on the issue with training:

  • Attitude is everything. Instructors need to create a positive environment and make this as fun as possible.
  • Do not get hung up in comparing the old LMS with Canvas. It doesn't compare very well. Encourage faculty during the training to create a course from scratch and not just re-create the course that they made in the previous LMS.
  • There is never enough time for training. We usually try to keep training sessions to less than 2 hours. Faculty will not remember very much from the training session, it is important to give them an assignment to complete within the next two days and follow up with each faculty individually to see how they are doing.
  • Keep training groups small if possible. If you have to teach 30 people at a time, split them up into small groups and have them collaborate with each other. I prefer to keep groups around 5-10 faculty so that they get the individual attention they all need.
  • I don't like to give faculty manuals to use during training sessions. They end up using that instead of following along and their retention of information goes down. If you have to give them documentation do it after the session.
  • There is more information to cover than what I've listed out. We have chosen to let faculty discover them on their own, or offer advanced courses in the future. If you try to do too much at one time it becomes overwhelming (as if it isn't already).
That is it, good luck with this. I have heard that Instructure is working on getting a wiki up. I'll be sure to try to get this information posted there when it is available.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

ITC Elearning 2011

The Canvas Guys (Ben and Chris) got to go to Florida last weekend and participate in the ITC elearning conference. It was a lot of fun. We presented on using Instructure Canvas to measure learning outcomes. Our presentation went well and we learned a lot from some of the sessions we attended. I particularly enjoyed the keynote by Dr. David Wiley. If you are not familiar with his work, you should look him up and get to know him.

There were two parts to our presentation. Chris presented on the reasoning behind learning outcomes and I presented on how to use Canvas to collect meaningful data.

I've decided to post the Prezi that I used for this. It might not make a lot of sense without my explanation, but maybe it will be useful to somebody. It starts by showing what we use to do in ANGEL and then how simple it is to do in Canvas. Again, no promise that this will make sense, but here it is anyway.

Monday, February 7, 2011

7 Cheers and 7 Critiques

I just read an interesting blog post by Joshua Kim at Inside Higher Ed: Instructure's Canvas LMS: 7 Cheers & 7 Critiques.

Mr Kim has some interesting points, although I think there were several instances where his "cheers" and "critiques" were backward or just said without enough experience to be able to make some of the statements that were made.

An example of this is his cheer #2 (User Interface) and critique #2 (Feature Set). I have found the user interface to be useful and sufficient, but this is an area where I can see Instructure still improving upon. I've worked with faculty who say there are still too many clicks to get to where they need to grade. The home screen needs to have more direct links to parts of their course. It also needs to be more user-customizable. I have had more than one learner come up to me and ask if they can change the "style" of the site. I'm sure in time these features will become a part of Canvas, but for now I'd put it in the critique side.

Critique #2 mentions the feature set which seems unfounded to me. True, Canvas doesn't have as many features as the LMS giants (thank goodness!), which is by design. This is actually a good thing. This is part of their plan to be disruptive in this market. As an instructional designer, and an instructor I welcome the lack of certain features and the appearance of new ones. This provides me with an opportunity to re-think my course and design it with new features. Of course all the basic features are there, which is what 95% (I admit that is a guess) of faculty use anyway. 

Critique 3- Disruption: Mr. Kim worries "that the approach is insufficiently disruptive".  I'm not too sure, how much he has worked in higher education and facilitated a change from one LMS to another. In my employment I would say that any transition to a new LMS is very disruptive and the uniqueness of Canvas certainly puts it at the top of the list. Keep in mind that my school (Westminster) is still an ANGEL campus and it will take years to finalize a change to a different LMS. By looking at the available LMS's out there I don't think there is another product as "disruptive" as Canvas.

Critique 7- Leadership. Mr. Kim writes "I wonder if Coates has enough people around him who will disagree with his ideas and plans?" I'm not sure that Kim should have broached this subject this unless he has spent sufficient time with the leadership team at Instructure. I don't know that I can claim to be the most knowledgeable about there team, but I've spent a lot of time talking business with them and also engaging in convivial conversation. I can say without a doubt in my mind that he has some fantastic people around him. The two co-founders in particular care deeply about the product and will certainly stand up for what is best for the LMS. The business development team (Heather Kane specifically) likewise is strong and is not afraid to give a no when a no is required.

There are certainly more issues I could agree and disagree with, and I applaud Kim for taking a critical look at this tool, but those who read it should read it with a bit of caution because those critiques and cheers look much different after using it for a year.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Open Source Day

Today is the beginning of something big for Instructure. They have announced that they are going to go open-source. Along with that their website and logo have been upgraded. I am particularly excited to see they have a blog. I hope they update it on a regular basis.

So, there are a lot of things to comment on, but I'll try to keep it simple and to the point. The truth is I don't know how this "open source" is going to change the game. I think that it will bring about a change, although it will be gradual.

"The Journal" has an article about it. It is a great article explaining a lot about the company. However, I have to say there is one line that had me laughing: On the second page in the third paragraph it says "Their No. 1 answer was Blackboard, which is what Brigham Young uses." Ha ha ha, I'm pretty sure that Brigham Young despite his vast amount of posterity is not using blackboard.

Feel free to chime in and let us know what you think the result of the open-source announcement will be. Here is what I think will happen:
  • Instructure will get more national attention as an alternative to Moodle.
  • Desire2Learn will spend a bit more time with their attorneys.
  • The Blackboard CEO is going to check their pocket books to see if they have enough money to put an end to this Canvas-movement. Blackboard will continue to lose clients to Instructure.
  • Canvas is going to need to increase support staff, there are going to be a lot of people trying to check out the "free" version and realizing they need a bit of help. IMPORTANT NOTE: open-source does NOT mean FREE.
I'm excited to see how this will change the LMS environment. Like their add says "Change is good."

Youtube Commercial- Change is good

This morning an inside source has sent me a link to the Canvas commercial. It is pretty good, and I enjoyed recognizing some of the people in it.