Today we’re debuting the second installment in our Canvas Fellow interview series. We joined Dr. Megan Brown from the School of Education for this chat. Check out the recording or read the transcript below.
Lauren Eissler: Today I’m talking with Megan Brown from the School of Education and one of our Canvas Fellows. Megan, thank you so much for chatting today.
Megan Brown: Of course.
Lauren: So to start off, can you please briefly describe your role here at Cedarville?
Megan: So I’m an assistant professor of education, I specifically teach the literacy courses, children’s literature, the methods courses. I also teach some special education courses as well because of some of my background.
Lauren: That’s a really cool various group of things that you get to do. And before we started, I was admiring all of your bookshelves here, and I’m just going to say again that I absolutely love them. Your office feels so cozy.
Megan: It’s nice, it’s a nice place to be.
Lauren: It’s so cozy in here. So to transition a little bit: we swapped to Canvas, so when you’ve been working with Canvas, what features or tools have you and your colleagues gravitated toward?
Megan: I personally love SpeedGrader. I’ve been using it for a number of years: I used it at a past institution and now I’m using it here. I love being able to grade right in the Canvas system and not have to download things to my computer. I always felt strange about having (student work) on my desktop and keeping track of all those files, so it’s nice to be able to shift through, and I give a lot of feedback on lesson plans and so my colleagues do as well. It’s nice to do right in Canvas without having to have a lot of different documents to pull in. My students then can pull up that feedback and they can resubmit, and I can reevaluate based on the rubric that’s right there that I’ve used through there. So that that’s a piece that I’ve seen, and I’ve seen my colleagues sort of pick up on a lot is being able to grade right in the system, have everyone all in on one place.
I love having that TurnItIn feature with that SpeedGrader, so I’m not doing any extra work. It’s just automatically turned on to have there, so that’s something I’ve been trying to promote in our department as well. So in terms of grading, absolutely that piece and for the students to see if something late, and it will automatically go to the Gradebook, all of those different pieces have been really nice. And to see the different drafts that the students have submitted, so I can shift between the two and look at different drafts is really quick and easy to navigate.
Lauren: Do you typically work with a lot of various drafts with your students because that’s something I haven’t necessarily seen when I’ve been talking with people across campus.
Megan: Yeah, so, because I do lesson planning, I often will grade it – their very first one, they hand in actually three times before they teach ever in the classroom. So they’ll hand in a draft, and they’ll hand in another draft after that feedback. And my feedback stays on the side if it’s in a rubric, so I can see it, but I could also shift back and forth (between the drafts). But then every lesson plan they hand in for me, they hand in one, and then they’re allowed to hand it back in if they want to earn half credit back just to see their edits, and they’ll underline what they’ve changed. So I use it to be able to toggle between the two (drafts) which is nice to see what’d I say on the document before, what are they handing in, how does that affect the grade. And the toggle keeps track of when I’ve changed the grade, so if I’ve updated, I can keep track, yes, I have indeed updated their grade based on the feedback that they edited.
Lauren: And that sounds like great instructional strategies, that you can see that they’re seeing your feedback and then applying it immediately to that same piece.
Megan: And I’ve adjusted that over time. Like I’ve tried – thought – “well I’ll just toggle it, I could keep track,” but I have thirty students writing lesson plans every weekend, so it’s been nice when they resubmit, they underline or highlight so I can see those changes but then to be able to read the rubric on the side. I use the one that has open comments, and I am very specific with them about how they lost those points. But the open comments lets me see the the main things I was looking to see them update.
Lauren: That’s all great feedback for your students. So we’ve talked a lot about SpeedGrader, but on a slightly different note, what features or capabilities within Canvas have been particularly useful within your discipline, within the entire School of Education?
Megan: So people have really have gravitated toward Modules. They really like being able to organize. We all organize them differently, but they’ve really liked having that organization. I think that was a nice transition from Moodle. I think people were able to see that transition very easily so a lot of them, some of them organize it by PowerPoints and extra resources and that sort of thing. I do mine by week, and about half of our department does it one way or another. But I think that was a nice way to transition from Moodle from what I could tell for the rest of the department. I’ve also seen them gravitate toward the Grouping (feature) – that’s been causing some good conversations. But having more of the groups so that we can grade in groups online – that a lot of them are liking that piece either that students can assign themselves into a group or (the instructor) can randomly choose the group which is nice because we do a lot of collaborative grouping projects here in the department. So it’s nice to have one person have to submit an assignment for everyone and making sure they can get the same grade – or to grade them separately based on participation. So being able to have that flexibility is nice.
Lauren: That’s really good flexibility, and it’s really interesting to hear that you guys are diving into some areas of Canvas like Groupings and really making sure that you leverage it for what works with you guys.
Megan: And some people in the department have picked up more than others depending on the structure of the class. I think that’s really, we have a lot of, we have some lecture classes, we have some more, you know, the interactive discussion-based classes, so it really will depend on the class itself, but people have started to use it. This semester I think they’ve added more than they did last semester, thankfully, so we’re gonna slowly add more things as we go.
Lauren: So how has Canvas saved you time throughout the school year?
Megan: Oh, well, I have actually never taught at the college level without an LMS like Canvas. My last institution we had something like Canvas, and we went to Canvas. And then I came here and we were transitioning into Canvas, so I just I don’t know actually the other side of it, what I would do without it. Sort of thinking through having the grading (in Canvas) be able to be secure and right on my computer, and I can access it at home as well as here, just pick up where I left off, being able to share PowerPoints with my students right on Canvas instead of an additional file drive, being able to actually reference the feedback I’ve given my students weeks later. I had a plagiarism issue at one point and being able to use Turnitin and download that piece and be able to have it as a reference for a conversation instead of hoping that a student brings their paper back with them, or that I’ve have to keep track of a paper in my office. It just seems more secure. It’s given me a lot of opportunity to have that piece accessible constantly when I’m trying to teach and give examples and that sort of thing.
Lauren: That is one of the great benefits – that if you have everything in Canvas, it truly lives in Canvas, and it can be easily found by you, by your students, by anybody who needs that piece of information or that data.
Megan: Yeah and I can reference it at the beginning of class, I often do that when I’m going over a new assignment. Instead of printing something out and handing it to all my students, I just open up the assignment right in Canvas. I have icons right in there so it breaks the assignment apart, and it has the rubric right in there, and then I can use that to grade. It just seems so much easier; it’s a lot less paper. I’m a paper-lover, but there are some things that aren’t worth putting on paper if you can show all your students at the same time, and then I know they have access to it as well, so that accountability is there, too.
Lauren: Mm-hmm, it definitely is. So you mentioned that your faculty members have dived into Canvas in varying ways and in varying levels. What would you say to one of them or any faculty member on campus who’s a little hesitant about diving deeper into using Canvas than just the basics?
Megan: Well what I’ve told my department is try a new thing every time. So if you always have papers that you just have submitted, then you have bare bones. Maybe next time try adding one of your rubrics in and try creating that with the rubric instead of having a paper rubric. So just, I think part of the process has to be pretty slow, like try little things. Do the minimum, and then try little things and see if it will replace something that you’re already doing. And in my department it’s been a lot of extra work for us to implement Canvas. A lot of them, almost all them, were using Moodle already, but to make that transition, it’s a lot of extra work, especially with rubrics and quizzes and that sort of thing. But I’ve tried to encourage them like one at a time, one small thing at a time each semester instead of trying to do it all at once every time and revamp an entire course.
Lauren: Just iterations, make it better every single time, and one day it will be there.
Lauren: That’s a really encouraging thing to hear that it’s easy and effective to just take small steps and make progress in that way. So with how you have been using Canvas in your courses, how has it helped your students learn efficiently and effectively?
Megan: Well the feedback process has been really helpful for my method students, especially with the lesson planning and to be able to give them feedback over the weekend. So I don’t love grading over the weekend, but because the way lessons work and their field experience, I have to do that. So they don’t have to wait until Monday to get that feedback from me. They can get it on Friday night, Saturday morning to be able to use their weekend effectively so they have that time for learning and growth.
Other assignments, things like children’s literature, I am able to put a lot of different resources on there that they then can access all semester long. My art class we used to do paper binders of all the art projects and all the papers they need to keep. I now don’t print anything out and just have it on Canvas and say “download it right into your your file” instead of this huge binder, so using that piece.
Also for accessibility having the PowerPoints be able to be posted before class for some of my students who need that, and then they can take notes right in there and any other document for accessibility. One semester I needed my student’s – all of her documents need to be in larger font, and so being able to put two versions on Canvas instead of always printing out an additional version in a larger font was faster and more practical for her to be able to learn the material in the same way. And to link articles right from the library right in there has been helpful for readings and that sort of thing as well.
Lauren: I love that you brought up accessibility because Canvas makes it easy in so many regards especially, I don’t know if you’ve seen it but in every place that there’s the Rich Content Editor – there is an accessibility checker that Canvas will use to help you make sure that anything you’re typing into the system is available for any student who may need it; but also the ability to upload multiple copies of something to fit the needs for all of your students.
Megan: We actually pointed that out. Our exceptionalities class that’s like an intro to special education, the students were uploading an image and we encourage them to try the Rich Content Editor out, just to even know what it’s for, to explain the image that they were putting up. We didn’t grade them on it because it takes a lot of training to do that really effectively, but at least to get them their feet wet with “how do I describe this in words instead” for someone who couldn’t see it visually, so it’s nice to have that resource for us but also students who are uploading images as well.
Lauren: It’s a great thing for everybody to think about because it’s not something that’s going to go away any time in the future.
Megan: Absolutely and it shouldn’t.
Lauren: It really shouldn’t. So thank you so much for your time today. It was great chatting with you.
Megan: Yeah, thank you.