Faculty Story: Canvas for Land and Food Systems

Read about a UBC example of using Canvas, featuring Patricia Hingston, Assistant Professor of Teaching, Faculty of Land and Food Systems. Patricia uses Canvas to create an engaging and social course for students.

UBC Canvas Example for Land and Food Systems

Patricia Hingston How did you use Canvas in your course and what made you decide to do this?

I use Canvas for all of my courses, varying in class sizes and mode of delivery.

I currently teach FNH 313: Food Microbiology, which is a multi-access delivery course with 220 students; FNH 325/326: Food Science Laboratory I/II, which are lab courses with 20 to 30 students; and FNH 425: Food Science Laboratory III, which is an industry research project course with 20 students.

What has been your experience so far?

I like using Canvas to effectively organize course content for students.

On the homepage, students can easily access my class Zoom link, sign up for office hours, view all course modules, and see the complete schedule for the course with embed links for every assignment and module.

Office hours with Canvas

To schedule office hours, I have a Canvas page where students can sign up for an office hour time slot, indicate if they are attending in-person or virtually, and say whether they are open to other students joining their session.

Lectures with Canvas
Canvas is also useful for facilitating multi-access delivery courses, specifically the Zoom integration. All of my Zoom lectures are recorded and available within the Zoom function that is integrated in Canvas.

Discussions with Canvas
For discussion posts, I require students to first post before they can read other student’s posts. In creating discussion groups, students can self-enroll or I can assign them (randomly or intentionally). For example, in my FNH 313 course where there are 225 students, I have 14 groups and each TA is responsible for grading 2 groups.

By having smaller discussion groups on Canvas in a large course, students get to know each other better, making the course feel less large and more like a tight community.

Assignments with Canvas

For assignments, I use a quiz format for some assignments so that I can embed the answer guide for both the TAs and students to see. This helps enhance transparency in my courses. Once the TAs finish marking, students can see exactly how they were graded and what the correct answers are.

I also have regular assignment submissions where I use the Canvas rubric function to create and utilize rubrics when grading assignments. This makes grading simpler for TAs and provides guidance to students when completing their assignments. The rubrics are posted from the beginning of the year, so students know how they will be evaluated on all assignments that are submitted as assignments (instead of as quizzes).

Assessments with Canvas

For quizzes, I sometimes use Canvas “Mastery Paths”, where I require students to obtain 100% on a quiz before they can submit an accompanying assignment. The purpose of this approach is to provide students with the opportunity to practice their newly learned knowledge and skills before submitting for evaluation. Consequently, students end up making fewer errors on their assignments.

For final exams, students complete these in person but on Canvas using LockDown Browser. Using Canvas for final exams has various benefits:

  • Allowing many questions to be automatically graded.
  • Avoiding paper waste and the possibility of losing an exam.
  • Avoiding having to decipher a student’s writing.
  • Embedding the answer guide for easy grading by TAs.
  • Reducing risk of making mistakes in adding up the marks obtained for each question.

By creating assignment groups in Canvas, you can assign assessments different weighting, and this allows students to track their progress in the course. It also makes calculating final grades at the end of the term easier.

What are some challenges or successes in using Canvas in your practice?

The challenges in using Canvas in my practice were the following:

  • Forgetting to actually publish a course and wondering why students hadn’t started on my course introduction tasks.
  • Having incorrect settings on quizzes, so students could see the answers when I didn’t want them to.
  • Changing the quiz answer guide (answers that I input into the quizzes) after a student has already submitted; TAs were only able to see the answer guide that existed at the time the student submitted.
  • Not clicking “Submit” before moving on to the next assignment when grading, and losing all of my previous submission grading.
  • Making a copy of the quiz for students to use to study for the final exam, but by importing a copy of the quiz with the same name, it overrode my previous quiz results and I lost grades.
  • Grades being hidden from students when I intended for them to be visible.

However, the more years I use Canvas, the more proficient I have become and the fewer issues I encounter.

What is your advice for new users of Canvas?

Take advantage of features that can simplify and enhance your teaching, such as creating and using rubrics in grading.

Remember to publish your course and modules, and get familiar with the integrations available in Canvas, e.g., I really like to integrate Zoom and Piazza into my Canvas courses.

Finally, consider using a “Page” template for your homepage instead of “Modules”. The template will make it easier for students to navigate your course items and is also more visually appealing than looking at the vertically listed modules.

Faculty and staff looking for Canvas support, please contact us at the LT Hub.

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