In a Nutshell: Canvas Announcements

“In a Nutshell” condenses frequently requested instructions into practical, bite-sized chunks. Learn a new tool in the time it takes to drink a cup of coffee!

What’s the quickest way to send a message to your entire class (and be reasonably sure they see it)? Posting a Canvas announcement! This can be useful for announcing homework, alerting students to optional events, or sending reminders.

When an instructor posts an announcement, Canvas sends a notification with the text of the announcement to all students’ Emerson email addresses and/or sends a push or text to their mobile devices, depending on what each student has selected in their notification preferences. This is helpful because, sadly, some students don’t check their email. The message will also remain posted in the course’s Announcements section for students to view.

To create an announcement, go into your Canvas course, then click Announcements in the left-hand course menu. Once there, click the + Announcement button at top right:

The Announcements tool in Canvas, with the + Announcement button marked at top-right.

Create your announcement using the same rich-text editor found all over Canvas (it’s the same way you create assignments, discussions, and pages):

The announcement editor in Canvas. The title, body, attachment, and delay posting fields are indicated with arrows.

Note that you can attach one file to an announcement. You can also set the announcement to post at a later date: when you check the Delay posting box, the Post At field appears, which allows you to choose a date and time.

When you’re ready, click Save at bottom-right. If you have not delayed posting, the announcement will immediately be posted to the announcements section of Canvas for students to read, and it will also be sent to them via notification.

If you have delayed the announcement’s posting, it will save but remain invisible to students. You can continue to edit it until it posts on the designated date. You can also edit an announcement after it posts, but students won’t receive another notification.

Some Important Limitations

  • You cannot designate specific students to receive announcements, though you can designate sections. For private exchanges, use Canvas Conversations.
  • Students aren’t meant to reply to announcements. There is an option to allow students to comment on announcements, but this is off by default; students won’t think to look here for discussion. If you’re looking for interaction, I recommend creating a Canvas Discussion.
  • When you import announcements into your course from a previous course, they will appear posted in the new course’s Announcements section. However, they will not be sent to students via notification. If you want to send an imported announcement to students, you have two options:
    • Copy the text from the imported announcement, delete it, and paste the text into a new announcement. When you post the new one, it will be sent to students.
    • OR, set the imported announcement to post at a later date/time (even if that time is only minutes away). At the designated time, it will be sent to students.
  • An announcement posted in an unpublished course will not be sent to students via notification, even when the course is later published. If you’re creating announcements before publishing your course, I recommend using the “Delay posting” setting to make them post on a date after the course is published.

You can find the full documentation on announcements here:

What are announcements?

How do I add an announcement in a course?

And as always, please reach out to ITG@emerson.edu if you run into trouble, or if you’d like to suggest a topic for this series.

“Pedagogy” in Higher Education

Everyone seems to have a hill they will die on. A (sometimes) irrational fixation on something that will cause eye rolling and heavy sighing among others when one starts to sound off and draw out the artillery to defend such hill. For me, that hill is a word: pedagogy.

A pretty innocuous word, it is a standard Greek word that is to higher education what the word “synergy” is to corporate board rooms. However, words have meanings, and when faculty, administrators, and even students in education programs use the word to refer to anyone outside of high school, I bristle. As the great philosopher Inigo Montoya says, “You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.” The word I use, and hope to get others to reflect on, is “andragogy”. Unlike “pedagogy”, it is highlighted as misspelled by my word processor, which shows just how uncommon its use is. However, what is it and why is it a better way of viewing not just Emerson students, but all students in higher education?

The word was first used in 1833 by a German educator named Alexander Kapp, in relation to the Greek philosopher Plato’s educational theory. Kapp never fully defined it, and it fell in and out of use among academics in both North America and Europe until the late 20th century. In 1968, an educator named Malcolm Knowles wrote an academic article entitled “Andragogy, Not Pedagogy”, but it wouldn’t be until 1980 that Malcolm fully fleshed out his Theory of Andragogy with four assumptions of all adult learners. He added a fifth in 1984. He states that all adult learners share these five characteristics:

  1. Self-concept: As a person matures their self concept moves from one of being a dependent personality toward one of being a self-directed human being
  2. Experience: As a person matures they accumulates a growing reservoir of experience that becomes an increasing resource for learning.
  3. Readiness to learn: As a person matures their readiness to learn becomes oriented increasingly to the developmental tasks of their social roles.
  4. Orientation to learning: As a person matures their time perspective changes from one of postponed application of knowledge to immediacy of application, and accordingly their orientation toward learning shifts from one of subject-centeredness to one of problem centeredness.
  5. Motivation to learn: As a person matures the motivation to learn is internal.

Malcolm then goes on to add that all adult education needs to have four, core principles applied:

  1. Learners need to be involved in the planning and evaluation of their instruction.
  2. Experience (especially mistakes) provides the basis for learning activities.
  3. The subject matter must have immediate relevance to a learner’s job or personal life.
  4. All learning is problem-centered rather than content-oriented.

Now the question is how to apply these core principles to online and face-to-face learning. Here at Emerson, student focus on co-curriculars fulfills all four of the principles, which is why students consistently speak so highly of their experience with them. They are seen by many students as essential to their “Emerson education”. Through working with faculty, I’ve come across some great practices that they use to help engage students, with some particularly great ideas in those “dreaded” general education requirement courses.

One simple exercise, and one that can be used in both face-to-face and online courses, is to have the students help decide “ground rules” for discussion and general expectations of what class behavior looks like. Some faculty even go and work with students to setup individual “grading contracts” that act similar to a traditional contract. Students get to decide upfront with the faculty member what success looks like. One could even build in room for “bonuses” for students who go above and beyond. Like a job review, meeting all your goals often means you’re just “meeting expectations”, so giving some wiggle room for students to become “outstanding” and earn that A could also help with them being actively involved in determining the effort they will put into the course.

Another great example is one that I came across during the Course Spa. A faculty member took my advice from the previous course spa and allowed students to choose the media form of their final project. The professor gave them an option to do a final research project in video, audio, written, or whatever other creative form they felt most compelled to work in. Not surprisingly, many VMA students chose to create a multimedia presentation. Some students created ornate magazine-styled layouts! Giving students the ability to have their work intersect with the “immediate relevance” of their major and their passions created much better work. I’m certainly hoping this faculty member attends the Course Spa again so I can see if the trend is continuing semester to semester. My hunch (backed up by the learning sciences) is that it most definitely is.

Are there any activities that you have in your class that already conform to the principles of andragogy? Any ideas you’d like to run by ITG? As always, feel free to contact us at 617-824-8090 or email us at itg@emerson.edu. We’re always excited to talk teaching!

Emerson.build: Rule Your Domain!

Emerson.build has been building a larger following!

If you haven’t heard of it, Emerson.build is a pilot of Reclaim Hosting’s “Domain of One’s Own” program. It allows any Emersonian to register a free web domain, install content management systems (CMS) in it like WordPress or Drupal, and build websites! The major advantages of .build over other Emerson platforms like Word.emerson are its realism and flexibility. Building a website in your Emerson.build domain is the real deal. You and/or your students can have the authentic experience of building a website from the ground up. For example, if you install WordPress in your domain, there will be no restriction on the themes and plugins you can use on your site (unlike Word.emerson, which is a “multi-site network” with themes and plugins curated by ITG). If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even work with your site’s code and file structure, though no knowledge of coding is necessary to use .build.

Think of Word.emerson as the shallow end of a pool—totally safe but relatively tame—while Emerson.build is the deep end—daunting at first glance, but with much more potential.

Usage of Emerson.build has nearly doubled since Fall 2017. At that time, there were 184 registered domains. Now, there are 396. What, you may ask, are all these domains being used for? Anything and everything! Take a look at this chart for an idea:

This chart divides our collected Emerson.build domains into their purposes or genres.
This chart divides our collected Emerson.build domains into their purposes or genres.

Emersonians have utilized .build to showcase their art, video, photography, reporting, and creative writing. Some have ventured even farther out, building websites to host interactive Twine stories, games, podcasts, and even delicious recipe collections. Despite all of this shiny finished content, one of the platform’s most prevalent uses is to provide a space where students can practice coding (from scratch using HTML) or web-building (with the help of a CMS). Over 40% of all Emerson.build domain-owners use the platform to hone their web-design chops! This is an invaluable experience to give to your students, who can take their skills and maybe even their first professional websites with them into their careers.

The next chart demonstrates that Emerson.build is predominantly used by students; however, faculty have created some impressive projects of their own. Some faculty use their domain to build a course website, or to collect their students’ individual websites.

This chart divides the pool of users who have registered for an Emerson.build domain into their roles at the college or elsewhere.
This chart divides the pool of users who have registered for an Emerson.build domain into their roles at the college or elsewhere.

Emerson.build is a wide-open frontier waiting to be developed…so get building! Want to showcase your magnificent website on our blog? Show it to us by sending a link to ITG@emerson.edu!

To learn how to use Emerson.build, check out docs.emerson.build. You can find tutorials there as well. To register for a domain, go to Emerson.build and click “SIGN-UP FOR EMERSON.BUILD.”

Canvas feature request: Adjust all Due Dates on a Single Page

One of the most frequent start of the semester questions we get is people asking how to adjust the all the various dates in Canvas while they’re importing a previous semster’s course. This is an interesting feature request that might make your lives easier:

Adjust all Due Dates on a Single Page

If you’ve never voted on a Canvas Feature request, it’s easy! Log into Canvas first, then go to community.canvaslms.com and click “Log In”. You’ll have to confirm your profile details, but then you can vote feature ideas up or down and help influence Canvas’s development. If you get stuck, here’s a guide on how to log into the community.