Faculty Story: Canvas for a Highly Interactive Course

Interview with Robert Russo, Lecturer and Adjunct Professor, Allard School of Law, University of British Columbia

Robert Russo, Allard School of Law, UBC How did you use Canvas in your course and what made you decide to do this?

I have taught courses at the Allard School of Law as a Lecturer and Adjunct Professor for over a year. I had used the Connect system as an online resource for my students. I liked the ability to store and update information online and provide online answers to legal issues related to my various courses and assignments. However, I found I needed a more user-friendly platform when teaching a completely online course. I developed LAW 503E (TORTS LAW) for the law school and was teaching it for the first time.

I wanted to use Canvas to provide a truly interactive and user-friendly learning experience for my students.

What has been your experience so far?

So far the experience has been largely positive. As with most law courses, the subject matter lends itself to a great deal of exposition, i.e., creating an online environment that is very text-intensive. I wrote the course so that the modules build on each other with practice quizzes and discussion activities following most modules. There are also weekly assignments that make good use of the discussion forum platform.

I have received very good feedback from students who have found the layout of the course to be very easy to follow.

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

As with most online courses, I feel that I could’ve anticipated more of the initial difficulties with getting familiar with the online platform. Another challenge involved some technical difficulties with images not showing up properly in the platform. In the future, I would divide up the discussion forum into some sub-categories to allow for more discussion between fewer students on particular issues they wanted to follow up on.

One of the big successes has been the platform’s success in conveying the module information in an easy-to-follow format.

What is your advice for new users of Canvas?

The Announcement function is one that I used regularly and would urge its use as a means of regular communication with your students. I would also take advantage of the Course Statistics option. It allows for easy categorization of things like individual student participation in a discussion forum, viewing student’s attempts at quizzes, login times for individual students, and many other useful functions.

I would encourage new users to take advantage of all the new features that Canvas offers.

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