Key Things to Know about Your New Canvas Course

Canvas and D2L have many similarities and overlapping functions — but also some important differences. Here are some key differences you’re likely to come across as you review course(s) copied from D2L to Canvas and prepare to teach. If you have any questions about your course or these differences, please contact the OAI Faculty Support desk.

Grading and Assignments

All graded activities (including discussions, assignments, and quizzes) are automatically added to the Canvas gradebook. Unlike in D2L, you cannot have a Canvas grade item without an associated Canvas assignment.

  • “No submission” assignments are used to create gradebook items without associated Canvas submissions.
  • The Canvas Assignments tool lists all graded activities in the course. For example, if you had weekly graded quizzes in D2L, those quizzes are included in the Canvas Assignments tool. The Canvas Assignments tool is similar to the D2L Manage Grades list of grade items.
  • Deleting items from the Canvas Assignment tool will remove the item from your course.

The Home Page

Your Canvas home page is customizable. The template includes recent Announcements, but you can change that.

Discussions

Discussions appear in order of most recent activity in the Canvas Discussions tool. For migrated courses, this is usually reverse chronological order.

You can “pin” discussions to put them in numeric or chronological order. Look in the lower section of the Discussion tool where your topics are in reverse order. Just to the left of each discussion topic, you’ll notice six dots in the form of a small rectangle. Click or tap, then hold this rectangle of dots to drag-and-drop a topic into the “pinned” discussion area. Repeat as needed to arrange topics in the order you choose.

Student Groups

Student Groups are much more expansive in Canvas than in D2L. Using groups will take some help and practice. A good starting place is to watch this short video guide for students.

Organization

Canvas Modules are containers for content and the main recommended way to organize your course. Modules can contain pages, uploaded files, and links to course tools or external websites.

  • Organize pages within modules. Students will access discrete Canvas pages through the course modules.
  • To display all Canvas pages in your course, click Pages in the course navigation, then View all Pages at the top of the page.

Quizzes

Canvas currently has two quiz tools: Classic Quizzes and New Quizzes. New Quizzes is expected to replace Classic Quizzes eventually. However, use Classic quizzes if you use Proctorio or if you use Question groups to sub-organize question banks.


Course Management Timeline

Instructors have a lot to think about before, during, and after each term. Be sure to accomplish these essential tasks.

Pre-Term
(at least two weeks prior)

Don’t wait until the last minute to get your course prepared for the new term. Before opening your course to students, reflect on the last time you taught. Think about ways to enhance your course for the upcoming term. This guide points to articles about new teaching strategies, as well as steps you to make sure your course is published and open to students on the first day of the term.

University Deadlines to Consider

  • Schedule of Classes available online
  • Priority Registration begins

(Check the PSU Academic Calendar for specific dates.)

Weeks 1 - 3

Early and regular communication with your students is important and this guide offers key contact points and ways to help your students get the support they need before the term even begins. If you’re new faculty, make sure to use your Gmail account at mail.pdx.edu. This is also where you can access the Google Suite of Education applications. If you need help preparing your course, please contact the Office of Academic Innovation as early as possible to schedule a consultation.

University Deadlines to Consider

  • Last day to drop with 100% refund
  • Last day to add with instructor approval
  • Last day to drop without a “W” withdraw on academic record

(Check the PSU Academic Calendar for specific dates.)

Weeks 4 - 8

Being present in your course is key to keeping students engaged, leading to overall student success. This guide outlines a few things you can do to stay connected to your students and help them feel like part of your learning community.

University Deadlines to Consider

  • Last day to change grading option
  • Last day to withdraw from a course

(Check the PSU Academic Calendar for specific dates.)

Weeks 9 - 12

As the term ends, here are a few things to do before you relax and celebrate your course success! This guide highlights steps to share grades with both your students and the registrar, and helps you prepare for the next time you teach the course.

University Deadlines to Consider

  • Deadline for submitting final grades
  • Official grades available online

(Check the PSU Academic Calendar for specific dates.)


Wrapping Up: End of Term Procedures

As the term concludes, you may want to complete the following tasks.

Canvas Gradebook

If you’ve been using the Canvas gradebook, make sure you’ve entered all of your grades, double-checking to ensure the Canvas grades accurately reflect the grading parameters you intend. Then make sure that all assignment grades have been posted for your students to review.

It’s also good practice to download a copy of the gradebook for your records.

Submit Final Grades

The grade in the Canvas gradebook is not official, so you will also need to enter your students’ grades into Banner.

Student Access to Course

By default, students will no longer have access to their Canvas courses beginning the first day of the following term (i.e. Winter term courses will be available to students until the first day of Spring term). If you would just like all students to have access to your course for longer, you can change your Course End date.

If you only want to allow a specific student ongoing access to complete the course, you’ll need to follow the instructions linked below to request access for incomplete students.

Thinking Ahead...

Now that the term is over, take some time to relax and celebrate your course success! In most cases, this won’t be the last time you teach this course. Take a moment to reflect on the past term and think about ways you might be able to enhance your course for future terms. OAI+ has many articles that can give you ideas about new teaching strategies that you may want to try to implement.

This is also the time to start planning your student communication for the next term. Early and regular communication with your students is more important than ever during remote learning, and can start weeks before the term officially begins.


Teaching in Inclement Weather

In inclement weather, PSU may have a delayed start, an early closure, or a full-day closure. Here’s how to:

  • Reduce impacts to class meetings and learning outcomes.
  • Accommodate hardships and safety needs — for yourself and your students.

In Advance

At the beginning of each term, discuss the University Closure Policy and Inclement Weather Procedures (Campus Closure) with your students. Include any alternative plans or instructions in your course syllabus, so students fully understand:

  • How to get closure information before traveling to campus
  • What to expect if classes are cancelled or final exams are impacted

During Inclement Weather

When PSU remains open, exercise normal flexibility and make reasonable accommodations for students who miss class, miss an exam, or don’t submit coursework as a result of inclement weather — including effects from other community closures.

When PSU is closed, don’t require or even suggest that students be on campus. This includes early closures. When a closure occurs during a class or exam, release students immediately.

In all cases, it’s important and helpful for you to communicate course expectations to concerned students. You can send your entire class an email through your PSU Gmail account.

During campus closures, OAI and OIT offices will continue remote support. You can submit a support request or chat with the OAI Faculty Support Desk Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Please direct students to OIT phone or chat support.

Considerations for Online and Remote Courses

Because online and remote courses don’t require campus attendance, they may continue during inclement weather closures — at your discretion. Although your virtual class may remain open, the library and most other university buildings will be closed. Please exercise normal flexibility and make reasonable accommodation for weather related impacts such as:

  • Loss of access to Internet connections and devices, or even electricity
  • Changes in students’ and instructors’ work hours, childcare schedules, and more

Plan ahead for how you might accommodate power outages or other weather-related impacts. This could include:

  • Extending deadlines
  • Rescheduling exams
  • Recording class meetings
  • Not requiring students to have cameras on
  • Alternative learning activities instead of scheduled class meetings

No matter how you approach your remote or online class during inclement weather, remember to clearly and quickly tell students your expectations and any changes. Email and online course announcements (in D2L or in Canvas) are two good options for communicating with students.


Email Templates for the Start of Term

Many students are anxious for information about their classes before the term starts. By communicating early, you can help establish an encouraging online environment and alleviate some of their anxiety.

Use these templates to craft a message you’ll send to students as or before the term starts. Consider also adding a short introduction paragraph or video.

Welcome Email (Faculty to Students)

Dear Students,

Welcome to [term/year]! I am excited to get the term started, but I want to first share some details about how our course will be organized this term.

Course Materials

  • All course materials will be posted online and will be available on [date].
  • I will send you the syllabus on [date]. // The syllabus is attached to this email. // The syllabus will be available online.

Class Meetings

  • The class will meet via Zoom on MTWF from [time] to [time].
  • The Zoom link for this course is [enter link].

Communication

At some points in the term, my inbox gets quite full — but I do want to hear from you. If you don’t hear back from me within two weekdays (not counting weekends), please send a follow-up email. I will appreciate the gentle reminder.

Now for a little about myself…

[add a brief introduction paragraph or video]

For questions related to advising for the undergraduate major (e.g. degree requirements, petitions, graduation), please contact [enter department advising email]

For all other questions related to undergraduate courses (e.g. technology, library, PSU resources, PSU policies, and practices), please contact [department email].

Staff will either answer your question or direct you to the relevant person or resource.

Thank you and I look forward to meeting you all soon.

Faculty / instructor name

Sharing Student Resources (Department to Students)

Consider sending this the first week of the term, to remind students of the resources available to them. Also, consider sending a department newsletter with videos to build community and connection.

Dear Students,

Your instructor will be in touch to explain the details of your course. This may involve using the learning platform, as well as other tools such as Zoom, Google Hangouts, email, and more (all free to students using a PSU Odin ID). Watch for an email from your instructor, and check the learning platform if you have access.

In the meantime, here are some resources available to you.

  • If you are new to Canvas, you can log in at https://canvas.pdx.edu/ and find tutorials by selecting Help from the lefthand navigation bar and choosing “Technology Help for Students”. Also, an introductory Canvas course is available to all students called “Online and Remote Learning Support.”
  • To learn about Portland State’s activities to reduce the spread of COVID-19, visit the Covid-19 Response page.
  • If you need additional accommodations during remote instruction, contact the Disability Resource Center (DRC) at 503-725-4150 or drc@pdx.edu.
  • If you get sick or have mental health needs, you can book an appointment with Student Health and Counseling (SHAC).
    Call SHAC first! Students who have respiratory symptoms and fever should contact SHAC’s Nurse Line at 503-725-2515 or the 24/7 Nurse Advice Line (after hours) at 844-224-3145.
    If you miss an appointment or need to cancel at the last minute due to respiratory and fever symptoms, SHAC will waive the $25 fee missed appointment/late cancellation fee.
  • The Learning Center offers academic coaching, tutoring, and more. Contact them at thelearningcenter@pdx.edu or 503-725-4448.
  • The Cultural Resource Centers (CRCs) provide student leadership, employment, and volunteer opportunities; student resources such as computer labs, event, lounge and study spaces; and extensive programming.
  • The Library is renting out laptops, webcams, and WiFi hotspots (available for pickup and home delivery). Visit the Library from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday through Thursday. (It’s closed Friday and Saturday.)

Also don’t forget to visit the [enter department] website to stay connected!


Start Your Term Right: Essential Student Communications

Early and regular communication with your students is very important. This guide offers key contact points and ways to help students get the support they need before the term even begins.

If you’re new faculty, make sure to use your Gmail account at mail.pdx.edu. This is also where you can access the Google suite of education applications. If you’re new to online teaching, contact the Office of Academic Innovation as early as possible for help preparing your course.

Email Your Students

Approximately two weeks before the start of each term, a Google Group is created for each course in Banner. You can use your class group to email all students enrolled in your course. Some tips to save time and effort:

  • These groups are maintained for two terms — so make sure to select the email address for the correct term.
  • You don’t need to work from scratch. The Office of Student Success has created helpful email templates with information for an initial email, along with a course syllabus.
  • Don’t wait until your syllabus is absolutely final. You can label it clearly as a “draft” and provide as much information as possible.

Include Student Service Links on Your Syllabus

Throughout the term your students may need PSU services. Linking to services on your syllabus is a great way to let students know what’s available. These could include free e-tutoring, disability resources, tech support, library help, and more.

Publish Your Course and Open It Early

You can publish your Canvas course before the term starts. This can help students who may have concerns about course requirements or who are new to online learning. Even if you don’t plan to teach online, it’s where students expect to find your syllabus and course materials.

Post an Announcement and Share Instructor Information

Your home page is the “megaphone” of your course. It’s reassuring for students to know you will post important announcements here, along with your contact information. If your home page is not configured for this, you can get help from OAI Support or modify it yourself.

Learn about Your Students with a Google Form Questionnaire

You can create a Google Forms Survey to learn about your students before the term starts. Along with their academic experience, during remote teaching it’s important to know whether your students have any significant constraints on their coursework.

Schedule an Early Zoom Office Hour Check-in

It can really help students to have a brief “in person” conversation before term starts. This will alleviate anxiety for students who have questions about course requirements or structure. It can also foster engagement and make your first week more productive.

Add a Zoom Check-in to the Google Class Time Calendar

Our Google Calendar automatically generates events for courses you teach. These are shared with everyone on your Banner roster. You can add your Zoom meeting link as a course event so all your students will find it there.