The way we teach is changing before our very eyes. Remote learning has become a hot topic as the current global pandemic is forcing changes across all industries, including higher education. In order to create the best learning experiences for students, faculty must adapt their teaching styles and leverage available technologies.

As you work to create an online learning environment and transition your courses to a remote setting this quarter, it is important that we uphold UCI’s tradition of fostering high-quality and inclusive learning spaces. 

To help you accomplish this goal, we turned to the UCI Division of Teaching Excellence and Innovation (DTEI). Brian Sato, Associate Dean for DTEI and Professor of Teaching in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, and Megan Linos, Director of Learning Experience Design & Online Education, brought their best ideas together to share five evidence-based practices for your courses and specific ways that you can leverage Canvas features to improve your classroom experience.

1) Offer a well-organized course structure and easy-to-navigate course space for learning material

In a remote learning environment, organization is everything. Organizing your course materials to create a clear study roadmap will help students stay on track.

Canvas Tips: Faculty can use Canvas’s module function to organize course content and student requirements. Modules can be used to arrange course content by weeks, units, or a different organizational structure. Modules create a one-directional linear flow of what students will learn and do in a course. By creating assignments within weekly modules, faculty can ensure that students meet requirements and stay on track with ongoing projects. For more detailed information on creating modules and module assignments, click here and/or here.

2) Integrate learning content and instructional videos on Canvas

If students need to upload materials, review each other’s assignments, or join discussion groups, show them exactly how to do so with detailed explanations, images, or videos.

Canvas Tips: Faculty can create instructional videos to help students navigate their Canvas sites using YuJa. YuJa is a video capture service that faculty can use to record course materials for students. Using YuJa’s screen capture option, faculty can create informational videos on how to navigate their Canvas course space. Additionally, faculty can use YuJa to record course lectures for their students to watch on their own time. For more information on downloading YuJa and integrating this software on your Canvas site, please click here.

3) Provide ongoing communication and presence

In the current situation, you really can’t overcommunicate. So, in addition to listing deadlines on the course site, try sending out weekly overview emails using a warm, supportive tone (and maybe a photo of yourself in your new “classroom”).

Canvas Tips: Faculty can create announcements in Canvas to share important information with all the users within their courses. To ensure that your students receive updates and notifications in a timely manner, you should encourage your students to reset their Canvas notification configurations. You can also adjust your notification preferences, so you receive notifications for the announcements you create as well as for any replies you receive on the announcements. For more detailed information on changing your Canvas notification settings, click here. For more detailed information on creating Canvas announcements, click here.

Faculty can also customize their Canvas sites to feature the course syllabus as their main homepage. Doing so highlights upcoming projects, deadlines, and course subjects. For more detailed information on changing your Canvas course homepage, click here

4) Help students connect with each other 

Think of ways that you can encourage your students to connect, such as through a collaborative project, online chat space, Google Doc with collaborative note-taking, or breakout rooms in Zoom.

Canvas Tips: The Canvas discussion forum provides a chat space where all course users can post questions and replies. Creating a Q&A discussion forum is a great way for faculty to address student questions, and you can also encourage your students to reply to each other to create a more collaborative learning community. For more detailed information on Canvas Q&A discussion forums, click here.

Faculty can also encourage student engagement and interaction by creating discussions. Within a discussion, students can post, view their coursemates’ posts, and reply to these posts. Canvas also allows both text and video discussions, so students can post an asynchronous voice chat on Canvas using a webcam or a smartphone camera. For more detailed information on Canvas’s discussion forum feature, click here.

Canvas also has a collaboration feature that connects to UCI’s Google Apps and allows faculty to invite students to collaborate on group projects together. For more detailed information on Canvas collaborations, click here

5) Offer clear grading guidelines

Show students how  to check their grades on Canvas and explain grade information and how they might use it.

Canvas Tips: Faculty have the ability to adjust how grades are posted in Canvas. You can choose to make assignment grades visible to students as soon as they are entered in the gradebook, or choose the manual posting option which will hide student grades until you choose to make them visible. To ensure that your students have accurate information regarding your grading policies, determine how you would like to post grades ahead of time. Once you have chosen your preferred grading policy, you can explain how students can access their grades and how they can use this information to improve their learning. For more detailed information on choosing a grade posting policy in Canvas’s gradebook, click here.

In Conclusion

Having so much technology at your fingertips can be overwhelming. However, with help from   the remote teaching consultants at DTEI, leveraging Canvas’s various capabilities can enable you to create a welcoming and engaging classroom environment for your students. For additional assistance with creating and managing your Canvas course space, the DTEI team is offering daily virtual office hours via Zoom No appointments are necessary, and faculty are served on a first-come, first-serve basis. You can also reach out to the DTEI team via email at DTEIsupport@uci.edu.

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