I Just Used Canvas to Coordinate a Hiring Committee

Do you ever have that problem where you’re on a committee or a group of some kind and you just can’t coordinate a live, in person meeting? All the time, right? I just had that issue with a hiring committee I’m on. We met for our first meeting and then decided to send out a supplemental questionnaire. Now we can’t find a time that fits into everyone’s schedules.

Answer: Create a Canvas course with all the participants of the committee. I created a simple landing/home page that tells members where to go and what to do right away. Since we have to discuss different candidates, I created a discussion forum for each candidate with their answers embedded and instructed committee members to read, comment with their thoughts and feedback, and respond to others’ comments. We can even keep from affecting each others’ initial responses by setting the discussion forum so that members have to post first before they can see others’ posts.

Think about this for a department, a committee, a team, advising, a group, a club, an organization…

So, now my question is…What can’t we use Canvas for?

“The More of Me I Put in My Classroom, the More My Students Engage”

I went to an amazing session at the Washington Canvas User’s Group conference (WACUG) right before spring quarter and I heard the MOST AMAZING statement from a faculty. They said, “I found that the more of me I put into my classroom, the more my students engage.” The context was that this was a session about adding video, audio and images to “enliven” your online classroom.

This statement completely blew me away.

Think about what that statement is actually saying.

Consider this. How hard is it to read from a book? Let’s assume there are no literacy issues or at least few enough that reading a book is not a great feat.

Now, ask yourself, how hard is it to teach?

There should be a huge difference between those two answers. People could just pick up a book or do a Google search if all they were looking for was information. People go to school and take lessons from teachers for a different reason. They want to understand. They need to engage with the material. How do you get people to engage? Even better, how do you get lots of different people with different learning styles, interests, and backgrounds to engage in material?

Ok, first off, if you can definitively answer this question, you will have solved a billion dollar question that schools of all grades from all over the world are already clamoring for.

Besides that, think about what engages you as a person. Most people would not say that listening to someone talk in a monotone voice for 50 minutes is engaging. According to this article from Smart Classroom Management, students get bored (aka not engaged) for  a variety of reasons. It lists students sitting too long, teachers talking too much, making simple things complex, and making the interesting uninteresting among others.

According to this guest blog post written by a student on the Teaching Channel blog and website, the difference between “lessons [that] go on forever [and lessons that] fly by…lies in the sometimes vague but crucial concept of engagement. When I am engaged, I don’t even pay attention to the passing time. However, when I am not engaged, it can feel like a class is never-ending.”

If students are just waiting for your class to end, they sure aren’t retaining anything you’ve been teaching, whether you’re teaching online hybrid or face-to-face.

Ok, so we know what has a tendancy to disengage students. Now, what DOES engage students? Is it simply the absence of the things that bore them or is it more? According to this article written by Vito Perrone, Director of Teacher Education at Harvard Graduate School of Education, among the top common elements that students of all ages and levels of academic success identify what engages them in educational settings is “teachers [being] passionate about their work.”

Well, that’s huge. First, and most important, ask yourself. “Am I passionate about what I’m doing? About what I’m teaching?” If the answer is no, then you may need to do some soul-searching as to what would make you passionate.

If the answer is yes, how do you translate that to the classroom? Well, that sounds like putting more of ourselves into our classrooms.

Here are some tips and suggestions on how you can start doing that.

1. People who are passionate are constantly learning more about and immersing themselves in what they’re passionate about.

  • Keep up with current trends in teaching your subject. Have there been new techniques, new theories, reinvented aspects?
  • Listen to and leverage your students. Because there’s only one of you and only so much time in a day, use your students to keep up on trends. Create assignments where they are the ones doing the research on new or reinvented ways of looking at issues in your field. A lot of times students can ask a question or think about a subject in a way that is surprising and a totally different way than we ever could have thought. Embrace that.

2. People who are passionate are excited about their content and can’t help but spill over that excitement to others.

  • Is it obvious when students log in to your online, hybrid, or web-enhanced class, or when they walk into your classroom what they’re going to be learning, why it’s important to them, and that you care a great deal about it?
    • In a face-to-face classroom, if you don’t have a designated class that you can decorate or arrange any way you please, bring props or important items to the classroom.
      • Check to see if you can store items in the class or nearby, or enlist help of students, aids, etc. to help you transport the items.
      • These items don’t have to be huge or complicated. Think about what’s important to your subject. Teach your students that it’s not just a warehouse they’re coming to and that the environment doesn’t matter.
      • Enlist help from your students on ideas as to how they could make the environment more engaging and exciting or what objects or tokens they or you could bring.
      • Don’t underestimate using an online environment to enhance your face-to-face classroom. Even if you’re doing work that you don’t want students to turn in online, you can use an online classroom to set up the environment you wish you had in your face-to-face classroom. Decorate it, provide supplementary materials, provide links to work done in class for student who missed or need to review material. Don’t just throw it in there. Design like you’re passionate about it.
    • Hybrid
      • First, check the tips from the face-to-face classroom above.
      • Absolutely use your online environment and don’t just throw things in there. You need to keep in mind form and functionality. Directions need to be clear, but students also want to be engaged. Give them a reason to engage. Use images, videos, audio files and design elements to get students excited about doing their work.
    • Completely Online
      • More than any other modality, you need to make sure your expectations and how to navigate your online classroom are COMPLETELY transparent. Students should not need outside help to understand how to navigate your classroom.
      • Don’t just throw your content in. Structure it in a way that not only makes sense to you, but elicit feedback from students and make sure the layout makes sense to them as well.
      • Design matters. After you’ve made sure your content is completely functional, don’t stop there. Students in online classes are more likely to feel disconnected and disengaged from their courses, instructors and peers. Designing excitement and passion into your online classroom is EXTREMELY important. Use general design principles, videos, presentations, audio, and images to create a dynamic, exciting and engaging environment. The goal is for students to WANT to log in to the classroom, not do it because they have to.

3. People who are passionate aren’t afraid to show their weird or quirky sides.

  • Use videos.
    • YouTube, Vimeo or other videos to demonstrate a concept in class.
    • Video of the lecture for students to review later or if they missed class. If you’re in an online class, students widely report that having “a real person” on the other end of the computer really helps them engage.
    • Funny videos that punctuate a point or (appropriately) lighten a mood or show a commanality between you and your students.
    • Create and edit your own videos.
  • Use presentations.
  • Use personal anecdotes.
    • Just like comdiens, the material is more engaging to the audience when it comes from a real place.
    • Talk about your own struggles with or ways you learned the material.
    • Bring up funny stories in your life that help convey your point.
  • Use audio files.
    • Audio lecture
    • Audio file of content – an example would be a radio broadcast
    • Audio clip from movie or tv (or elsewhere) to punctuate a point or (appropriately lighten a mood or show a commanality between you and your students.
  • Use images, GIFs, or quotes.
    • To demonstrate a concept
    • To decorate and make the classroom more engaging/exciting
    • To punctuate a point or (appropriately lighten a mood or show a commanality between you and your students.

4. People who are passionate aren’t afraid to do the work to make it right, or do the research to make it accurate, or ask for help if there’s something they need.

Try not to get overwhelmed and ask for help and feedback.

If you would like help or more information on any of these tools or topics, just let us know. We’d be happy to help.

Happy Teaching!




Focus On Apps in Canvas – 3rd Edition

Here’s a list of more apps available in Canvas and how you can use them.

Click here if you missed the first edition, or click here if you missed the second edition.


This is a cloud based application that requires no software to install. It does require an up-to-date version of Adobe Flash. This is an application that allows you to have group conversations asynchronously. You can upload documents, presentations, images, audio files and videos, which creates a slide show of content. Then other users who watch the content can add comments using a microphone, webcam, text, phone or audio-file upload. You can use it to have students comment on each others work, peer review, group projects, presentations, etc.

Adding this app in Canvas allows students to click on a VoiceThread presentation that an instructor has loaded into their Canvas course (like any other media presentation), and allows students to seemlessly comment without having to log in to their own account or register for a new one. The content opens right on the Canvas page without directing the student to another site to complete the work.

You, the instructor, have to create an account, but it’s free (or you could sign up for more premium accounts).

Try this out if you’re interested in a new take on the the asynchronous class discussion.


According to WikiPedia, itself, it is a “collaboratively edited, multilingual, free-access, free content internet encyclopedia that is supported and hosted by the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation.” Wikipedia has become a widely used internet tool across the globe since its creation in 2001, with people accessing it to learn information about anything and everything. While some instructors do not allow students to use WikiPedia as a reference in papers because articles in it can be edited by any user, the cite is one of the most visited sites behind just Yahoo, Facebook, Microsoft and Google. The site has standards and requirements for citing content and is supported by editors across the globe.

Adding this app in Canvas allows students or instructors to click on the icon in the editor toolbar within a discussion forum, quiz or page and search for an article, preview, and then link or embed an article directly into Canvas.


According to our trusty pal, Wikipedia, Wiktionary is a “collaborative project to produce a free-content multilingual dictionary. It aims to describe all words of all languages using definitions and descriptions.” It’s designed as a companion to Wikipedia and has grown to include a thesaurus, a rhyme guide, phrase books, language statistics and extensive appendices. It includes etymologies, pronunciations, sample quotations, synonyms, antonyms and translations.

Adding this app in Canvas allows students or instructors to click on the icon in the editor toolbar within a discussion forum, quiz or page and search for a word, preview, and then embed a word directly into Canvas with its part of speech, definition and link to more about the word.


Vimeo is “a video sharing website on which users can upload, share, and view videos” (just like YouTube). Videos include indie, professional, and novice filmmakers.

Adding this app in Canvas allows students or instructors to click on the icon in the editor toolbar within a discussion forum, quiz or page and search for a video and embed directly into Canvas.

Wiris Editor

ATTENTION MATH AND SCIENCE TEACHERS: THIS ONE’S FOR YOU – According to the description in the Canvas App Center, this is a “visual math editor that allows inserting mathematical equations based on JavaScript technology. It runs on any browser, including the ones in tablet PCs.”

Adding this app in Canvas means you have no more excuses for not putting your Calculus tests in Canvas. It gives the instructor and the student access to icons in order to create formulas.

In case you can’t tell, I’m really excited about this one and HIGHLY recommend it. I’ll be personally sending it to the math and science instructors on campus.

USA Today

Adding this app in Canvas allows students or instructors to click on the icon in the editor toolbar within a discussion forum, quiz or page and search for an article in USA Today using a keyword search and embed it directly into Canvas.


Start adding and experimenting with these apps in Canvas. If you need help, have questions or suggestions, just let me know!

Stay tuned for the next edition of Focus on Apps…

Have suggestions? Post a comment.

How to Survive Summer Quarter!


“Summer-Glasses” by David Sky CC BY-NC-SA 2.0, http://www.seemsartless.com

Phew! The dust has settled and we’ve (hopefully) all survived the first two weeks of summer quarter!

Summer quarter has always been a bit challenging for me because it’s only 8 weeks long and as an instructor, you have to fit the same amount of content from 10/11 weeks into 8. Talk about stressful. Students are stressed out too because of the truncated schedule.

Plus, let’s not forget all that beautiful sunshine that makes it so hard to be good and do what you’re supposed to…like work 40 hours in a week, or grade papers…or write a paper. True confession: I have a paper for my master’s program that I’ve been sort of, kind of, but not really writing for a week and a half.

Since the quarter goes by so quickly and we can get so (ahem) distracted, here’s a couple of helpful hints to keep your summer quarter on track:

  1. If you’re not using Canvas for your gradebook, I HIGHLY recommend doing so. A main benefit is providing students with more immediate access to their grades and being less dependent on you, the instructor. Students call, email or walk in to the eLearning office ALL the time with questions about why their grades aren’t in Canvas for all their classes. Another HUGE benefit of you using Canvas for your gradebook is that it’s easy to share student grades and reports with organizations on campus that need to keep track of student progress as part of eligibility in their program. If student grades are in Canvas, then we can also identify students who are at risk of dropping out or failing, so that we can intervene earlier. If you use Canvas for nothing else, use it for your gradebook. If you would like to explore how to make the Canvas gradebook work for you or would like help setting it up, call, email or come on down to the eLearning office. We’d love to help you!
  2. Be intentional about your gradebook now and don’t leave it for panic time in week 8. If you’re using Canvas, don’t rely on how you set up your modules. Check your “Assignments” in the left hand navigation. Everything listed in your Assignments will be listed in your gradebook. Alternatively, whatever you don’t see in your Assignments isn’t listed in your gradebook. Also, check for duplicate assignments, if all of your assignments are labeled correctly, or if they all have points. Read this blog post to give you more tips on the gradebook and setting up extra credit.
  3. Think about how you’re students are interacting with your content material. If you’re not getting the desired response from students, think about how you could make it more effective in the future. Start with the end. What result do you want? Then, work backwards from there, how could you get your students to give you the desired result? Tweak these assignments in your master class in Canvas.
  4. Do you have a master class in Canvas? A master class is an awesome place for you to tinker and tweak things, to experiment, fail miserably and then try again – without the danger of messing up your students or your grades in your live classroom. It’s also a great place for you to perfect your lessons and assignments based on student feedback throughout the quarter. Then, you simply import your material into your live class when you’re ready. You can create your own master class, as many as you’d like. For help on setting one up, contact eLearning.
  5. Finally, if you need help or your students need help, don’t hesitate to ask! Don’t suffer in silence, whether you’re struggling with technology, instructional design, student engagement, student behavior, accessiblity, etc. Ask for help and encourage your students to do the same.

Have a great summer quarter!

We look forward to serving you!

Congratulations to Faculty/Staff Innovators of the Month – Deborah Shriver, Gene Shriver & Kerry Trethewey

Kerry ImageGene Image - alteredDeborah Image from Facebook - altered

Our three innovators this month come out of the Adult Basic Education department. They were all nominated after their coursework was reviewed by peers who felt they were doing amazing things.

Gene Shriver is an Associate Professor in Reading. He teaches developmental reading and developmental English. Deborah Shriver is an Assistant Professor in Adult Basic Education. She teaches reading, math and study skills and is also the Program Manager. Deborah and Gene developed  High School 21+, a degree program for students 21 or older to finish their high school degree and get a diploma.

Aside from the considerable task of developing 11 (ELEVEN!!) credit courses over a short period of time while continuing to teach their full loads, the pair faced a number of challenges. For one, this brand new program with brand new classes had to be taught right alongside the GED program and work skills program with the same amount of teachers (5) and the same number of classes (8). If you’re trying to do the math in your head right now, don’t bother. It doesn’t come out even.

In addition, the ABE program has continuous enrollment for the first 7 weeks of the quarter. That means brand new students could be showing up in their classes every week for the first 7 weeks of the quarter. How in the world is an instructor or students supposed to be successful in this situation? Here comes the innovation.

Using Canvas and a whole lot of communication, they created magic:

The program is competency-based, allowing students opportunity to demonstrate their skills while acquiring credits. Students complete academic content via Canvas while co-enrolled in critical reading, writing, and math core courses.

Students develop critical thinking in reading and writing skills developing comprehensive projects, analyzing text and media, and interpreting language. Via a supplemental instruction study skills lab, students receive tutoring and one-on-one assistance with academic coursework.

Our CANVAS classrooms are structured for continuous enrollment (across one academic year) allowing students to carry assignment/quiz grades across quarters until all course requirements have been met. All instructors within each content area access the same classroom and materials.  This facilitates consistent curriculum to all of our students. The students now have one classroom for each core course that is not restricted by time offered or instructor assigned. For the instructors, there is more cross-content collaboration. They benefit from the growing library of diverse materials developed by their peers.

Using CANVAS in this way has also allowed us to carry a larger enrollment and more course offerings than was previously possible with a faculty of just 2.33 full-time and 2.33 adjunct instructors. From an instructor perspective, CANVAS has become another faculty member in the classroom with us. From an administrative perspective, CANVAS has become another staff person supporting our program reporting requirements.

Kerry Trethewey is an Associate Professor in Adult Basic Education. She teaches math for the HS21+ & GED programs, but she also teaches in the work skills program. Kerry states, “the work skills students primarily need to bring up their skills for employment or higher level academics. They enter [the] program with lower skills or second language struggles, and often already have a high school diploma.”

It is her course development in the work skills program that earned her the innovation award:

In the past, work skills classes tended to focus on textbook content which repeated quarter after quarter.  The students learned concepts but had trouble problem-solving or transferring that knowledge to real life situations.

The revamped curriculum is all contextualized within career paths;  for example, Careers Involving Plants, Careers Involving Office Work  and Careers Involving Children. The students move through the 10 themes to work on their core skills (reading, writing and math) but all of their assignments are pulled from actual work-related documents and are accessed online using CANVAS (great for developing technology skills!).

For example, if working with math, students will read thermometers (decimals), use wind chill charts (data), and find prices with coupons.  When they do writing, they have a weekly discussion post, fill out intake forms for child care or health assessments, or write a memo to call a meeting at work.  The reading assignments are pulled from current news (how the cold spell affected animals), procedural documents (Food Handler’s Manual), or personal issues (frauds and scams).

Each week, the students collaborate on a project that utilizes the individual skills they have developed. For plants, they created a garden plan and applied for a community grant.  They had to work out the budget, draw up simple plans, and write a convincing proposal. They also work on teamwork skills, such as including everyone in the group, being responsible for their individual part, and taking turns.  Their final project of each quarter is to research a career and do a class presentation (usually with Power Point).

Take Control with Twitter Lists

Erin L. Baker:

Here is a brilliant way to sort through and manage your Twitter feed.

Originally posted on The Daily Post:

Not long after I first joined Twitter, I followed an author I really like, and she immediately followed me back. I did not assume that because she followed me back, she’d actually be reading my tweets. Still, it made me feel really good – it was nice for her to acknowledge, in this small way, that my appreciation for her work actually mattered to her. I decided that I would pay this good feeling forward by following every (non-spambot) person that followed me.

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The Many Ways to Use Canvas

Did you know…Canvas is not just for  teaching and being a student in a class? Canvas has so many options for students, staff, faculty and administrators, the possibilities are vast. Here’s a list of some of the ways you could be using Canvas if you’re a part of Centralia College.


Clubs can have a Canvas page as there central landing page to keep members all on the same page. You can use it to contact members, keep club forms, and edit documents and pages collaboratively. You can use it as a public website to direct potential members or the public to advertise your club, its meetings or its services. Some clubs that are already doing this on campus are CC Veterans Club, Centralia College Rotaract and Forensic Accounting Club.


An organization can use Canvas just like a club would. You can have a central place to communicate with all your members, keep documents, use it as a landing page to give the public information about your organization, embed Google forms (like a “sign up to hear more about us” form, informational surveys, etc.). You can use it just like a website. Some organizations already exploring this are the Writing Center, BFET, Trio and International Sudents.


Do you need everyone in your department to be on the same page? Have access to the same updated forms or information? Do you need a place to send new employees in your department for training on department specific skills? How about a central location for resources like documents, websites, research, reports, etc.? Do you struggle to get all of your staff or faculty together for departmental meetings because of scheduling, adjunct faculty contracts/stipends, etc.? Renton Technical College’s nursing department uses it as a command center to refer all staff, instructors and students to have the most up-to-date information on their department and services.


Do you have the money and time to send everyone in your department to all the training they want or need? Why not put it online? You can have example videos, readings, research, quizzes, etc. in a Canvas class to fill your training needs. Human Resources is already doing this. The State Board uses it for trainings like Canvas and How to Use Open Educational Resources.


Want to give the same message and provide the same materials to all your advisees in one place? Want to have a central place to provide them resources, class availability, opportunities, etc.? Dave Peterson, Penny Martindale and Lisa Carlson are all already doing this.

And from there, the sky is the limit. Where do you want to go today? How can your life be made easier or more organized? Maybe Canvas can do it for you. Contact your friendly eLearning staff posthaste if I’ve piqued your interest.

(360)736 – 9391 ext. 672