Web Annotation With Hypothes.is In Canvas Training Session

This post is being used to document and distribute materials associated with a training I'm giving at the University of Oklahoma, which covers collaborative web annotation as a tool for engaging students.

“Writing in the margins” of books and journal articles (or any other texts) in collaboration with others is one way instructors seek to enhance learning experiences. Using collaborative web annotations, faculty on our campus are seeding their course discussions and engaging students in collaborative scholarship. Here’s an example of course that is using collaborative web annotations:

Website using hypothes.is to annotate Byron Readings

Tool Showcase

We’re going to dive deeper into collaborative web annotation as it’s one technology that’s being used across many disciplines. Here are several pieces of literature that are being annotated collaboratively by students:

If you’d like to create a Hypothes.is account and start collaboratively annotating the web, signup here.

Here’s a student blog post you can practice annotating now.

Additionally, here is what Hypothes.is looks like integrated into Canvas:

Canvas Course displaying hypothes.is content.


  1. Why use collaborative web annotation in the classroom?
  2. What documents might be annotated by students?
  3. What does an assignment look like using web annotation? (Current ones)
  4. What other assignments could benefit from web annotation?
  5. How does feedback to student change with web annotation assignments?
  6. Why engage students in annotating materials publicly?
  7. Any other thoughts/ideas?



Instructor Blog Post: Using Hypothes.is in the College Classroom


(Technical resources from here.)

The featured image is provided CC0 by Anastasia Zhenina via Unsplash.

How To Integrate Websites Into Canvas

I wanted to walkthrough one of my favorite Canvas integrations. Originally, I discovered this integration and used it in one of the early professional development courses I led for faculty transitioning (from D2L) to Canvas back in May 2016, which you can view here. My discovery of this integration was driven by the desire to replicate what Adam Croom had done with his PRPubs.us course website in D2L.

Anyways, this is the type of website integration into Canvas I’m referencing:

Mobile Blogging & Scholarship Canvas course shown with a Domain of One's Own website integrated inside the Canvas Course.
View from Canvas of an integrated website.
Canvas app on an android phone displaying the redirect tool+website integration.
View from Canvas App of the same integrated website.

What You Need

1. Website you control – If you have a DIY website through a web hosting company or use website companies like WordPress.com, then you are off to a great start. I use Reclaim Hosting for my website needs as Reclaim specializes in education. (Technically, any website can be used, but the one’s I’ve tried using have been hit or miss. Thus, I believe a website you control is ideal and should work perfectly.)

2. An encryption SSL certificate for your website – Your website will only be displayed within Canvas if the site is encrypted. In other words, your site needs to function using a https:// address (instead of http://). There are many ways to obtain an encryption certificate. I use Let’s Encrypt SSL which is offered for free by several web hosting companies (including Reclaim Hosting). Alternatively, you can use a service like Cloudflare to acquire a SSL certificate for your website.

Please note that many website companies like WordPress.com furnish https:// versions of websites to their users by default. In such case, you don’t need to acquire a SSL certificate for your website as it’s already present. If you’re unsure about whether your site meets this requirement, try visiting your website with https:// at the front of the URL (like so: https://example.com) and see if it loads normally.

3. Canvas Course – Use your institutions page to login to Canvas and create a new course or use an existing one. If you do not currently have access to Canvas, you can acquire a free account by selecting “Build It” on this page.

4. Redirect Tool – In your Canvas course, under “Settings>Apps” is the Redirect Tool (the best app!)—make sure it is available for your course. Refer to the screenshot below, under Step 1, as a guide.

Setup Steps

Step 1 – Navigate to Canvas course settings and find the Redirect Tool in the Apps Tab:

Image showing how to access the redirect tool in a Canvas course.

Step 2 – Click “Add App” to add the Redirect Tool:

Image showing how to add the redirect tool in a Canvas course.

Step 3 – Configure the Redirect Tool with your Website Name (will appear in Course Navigation), the https:// URL, and check “Show in Course Navigation:”

Image showing my configuration settings of the redirect tool in a Canvas course.

Zoomed into my configuration settings for the Redirect Tool:

Zoomed in image showing my configuration settings of the redirect tool in a Canvas course.

Step 4 – Refresh the course by clicking “Home” to see the fruits of your labor:

Image showing successful integration of the redirect tool in a Canvas course.

Image showing successful integration of the redirect tool in a Canvas course.

Step 5 – Enjoy:

Image showing successful integration of the redirect tool in a Canvas course.


If you’re experiencing any issues, they are typically caused by one of these two problems:

Problem 1 - Redirect Tool Configuration
Problem 2 - Don't have https:// URL for the Website

Integration Examples

I recently submitted proposals that included this website integration to the #Domains17 conference. As I shared then, I believe the best examples of this integration involve a course blog or research/course website.

Course Blog – The course blog in Canvas is a fantastic use case of the Redirect tool combined with the FeedWordPress plugin to bring all of the students’ posts from their own websites into Canvas. This setup is inline with the POSSE publishing model and can be utilized to bring students’ course reflections into Canvas for easier access and to promote peer-peer scholarship.

Cours Blog inside of a Canvas Course using the Redirect Tool

Research/Course Website – If you have course contents published on websites outside Canvas, you can use this trick to bring those materials into your courses. I’ve used this to bring my Canvas Camp curriculum into Canvas courses, but you could use it for course wikis, Drupal or Omeka research websites, and beyond.

Canvas Camp website displaying a lit campfire inside of a Canvas Course

Anonymous Blogging Inside of Canvas – When I ran the Mobile Blogging and Scholarship Canvas training back in May 2016, I used all of these tool in addition to the AccessPress Anonymous Post plugin to allow instructors to blog directly within Canvas. Here’s some more information of the tools I used to accomplish this course design.

Canvas course with AccessPress Plugin configured to let students blog directly within Canvas.

There are many more use cases beyond what I’ve presented here, but I hope this post gives you the guidance and inspiration to integrate websites directly into Canvas.

The featured image is provided CC0 by Corinne Kutz via Unsplash.

Our Most Important Canvas Training

Last week was the 19th Canvas Camp hosted at the University of Oklahoma. Looking back on its evolution from May 2016 to today, the dozens of courses developed by participating instructors, and the feedback I’ve received, Canvas Camp is an ongoing success.


Canvas Camp is intended to teach instructors how to use Canvas while they are producing their first Canvas course. Most of our time is spent exploring notable features, developing courses, and problem solving how to design courses in Canvas. All levels of expertise are welcome because Canvas Camp is flexible enough to scale and adapt to suit everyone’s needs—there’s always something to learn in our open-ended sessions! That being said, although this training is meant to teach several components of Canvas, there are many more pieces beyond what we introduce.

Canvas Camp occurs face-to-face in 2-hour sessions over 4 consecutive days. Demonstrations of Canvas, exploration of features, and discussions of course design all take place during this training, however the main focus is the development and completion of participants’ courses!

Before I jump into the design of this training, be aware that my curriculum for Canvas Camp is openly shared using a Creative Commons license and you are welcome to take, adapt, use, repurpose, etc. all of the materials without permission as long as you abide by the license. Additionally, feel free to reach out to me on twitter or via email—I’m always up for a video chat.

Canvas Camp website annotated Gif of home page

Canvas Camp Design

Canvas Camp was built around five main components:

  1. Teaching the technical skills to use Canvas
  2. Engaging faculty in course development
  3. Producing Canvas courses
  4. Reflecting on why the University switched to Canvas
  5. Learning Canvas as part of a community

1. Technical Skills

As with any new tool or software, there are varying degrees of digital literacy and technical expertise of the Canvas Campers. For individuals who possess high technical skills, the Canvas Camp website aims to empower them to progress through the Canvas Camp curriculum at their own pace. For participants who have just started to learn Canvas, the face-to-face sessions provide them with a safe space to ask questions, learn, and experiment on their own or in community with others (including the facilitator).

Canvas Camp is intentionally flexible in design to serve the needs of a wide range of technical expertise.

2. Course Development

Working with instructors over several days offers the opportunity to engage them in course design and discuss the pedagogical implications of their Canvas course decisions. This aspect of instructional design is intertwined with learning the technical skills of Canvas as the camp facilitators explain and discuss the ramifications of decisions made while developing courses. Depending on the feature or design in question these interactions might occur on a one-on-one basis, however there also opportunities to draw on the collective expertise of the instructors present—this often yields rich discussion.

As an example of how course development takes place, a significant shift in organizing course materials has occurred, in part, due to the popularity of Canvas Camp. I see many more instructors organize their course materials chronologically than topically like they did in the previous learning management system (LMS). Granted, both types of organization offer their own benefits and shortcomings. However, now faculty are being more intentional in this design decision. They are engaging with each other and the camp facilitators to pursue what is best for their students. For example, most of the faculty that participate in Canvas Camp opt to use the Modules feature of Canvas to arrange their content by week, unit, chapter, etc. This chronological presentation of material is intended to give their students greater levels of context for the materials they are studying during the semester.

3. Producing A Course

The notable draw to Canvas Camp is the promise to come away with a course, built and finalized. In most cases, we see faculty members complete 75-100% of their course. Sometimes instructors have completed more than one course during this professional development. Regardless, this is heavily marketed to bring people into Canvas Camp.

4. Why Switch To Canvas?

Arguably the most important aspect of Canvas Camp is engaging in discussion with the participants throughout the week. For example, after faculty members have wrestled with Canvas—learned and experienced its strengths and shortcomings—we ask them to tell us why they think the University decided to switch to Canvas. Inevitably, someone always brings up the monetary aspect, but after several minutes of discussion, faculty often suggest the change was made because “Canvas is better for the students,” “easier to use,” and/or “nicer to look at.” All of these reasons are recorded on the whiteboard at the front of the room to highlight positive aspects of Canvas. This reflection is crucial. If you hope to change perspectives about Canvas, give instructors meaningful experiences with the tool and follow up with reflection and discussion. In other words, Canvas Camp also functions a primer (and potentially a model) to tackle larger digital literacy questions related to educational technology and learning management systems.

5. Learning Canvas Together

Training is always more fun together! Canvas Camp benefits from diversity of disciplines, types of teachers, and the people present. The community aspect of this training is integral since participants must turn to one another when they have questions or need recommendations. In particular, this occurs when the facilitators are assisting other attendees. Overall, Canvas Camp is a wonderful learning environment to engage faculty in technological and pedagogical practices of Canvas, but this training shines when it empowers faculty to become both students and teachers to one another.


The reason Canvas Camp is our most important training at the University of Oklahoma is not only because it’s our most comprehensive, face-to-face training, but because it’s our most fun.

I know that sounds weird. I realize building courses can be tedious and far from fun. There’s just something special about Canvas Camp that I hope to bring into every other training program I build/facilitate. The comradely of learning Canvas in community paired with the feelings of accomplishment from completing courses is fun. The energetic discussion and informal instructional design that occurred during each session is fun. The creative challenge that coincides with building engaging courses is fun. There’s a lively spirit present with each cohort of instructors at Canvas Camp, and yes you guessed it, that makes it fun!

Beyond the fun of Canvas Camp, this professional development strives to do more than teach software. Canvas Camp aims to shift the culture of the University. Yes, there are many more components to such a process than a single training, but as of January 12th, 143 instructors now have greater confidence to build courses in Canvas (and you have to start somewhere)!

The discussion that happens on the final day of Canvas Camp is crucial for shifting culture. During every Canvas Camp, participants openly express their apprehension and frustrations with switching learning management systems. Giving instructors time to interact with Canvas and see how their courses look and behave in the system affords them the opportunity to naturally grow knowledgeable and comfortable with the change. Highlighting this perspective change during discussion while reflecting on the week of Canvas Camp, emphasizes and reinforces the cultural shift.

There are plenty more aspects of Canvas Camp I could touch on, but this is enough from me for now (feel free to reach out with questions). Instead, here’s a few testimonies from the participants of Canvas Camp:


What was the most valuable/useful aspect of this session?

gaining familiarity through doing.

Overall, the camp was terrific. I enjoyed engaging with faculty from other departments.

Very hands on and practical–lots of time to work directly on courses.

The balance of some delivered content, and some ‘free time’ for us to explore Canvas and explore our own content in it. But the free time had the facilitator present to answer questions. That was very helpful.

The most valuable aspect for me was learning the basic mechanics of Canvas. It is overwhelming for anyone trying to self-teach. I also like that the canvas instructors gave specific recommendations for how to optimize course use (ex: enter rubrics directly to use Speed Grader instead of uploading files, etc.)

No doubt: it was the instructor. A truly exceptional educator. He took his time, making sure everyone was able to keep up, yet kept things moving along. Very nice, articulate delivery, good organization.

The featured image is provided CC0 by Carsten Thomsen via Pixabay.

Snow Day! – Canvas Camp?

This post was originally published on the Canvas Camp website.

Since we missed our final session of Canvas Camp, I’ve recorded a video as an overview of our session. At times, I move through some of the content quickly, so feel free to pause and watch at your own pace:

Additionally, I encourage you to refer to the other materials on the Canvas Camp website as needed. Here are a few items I want to highlight, in particular:


Complete your Canvas Course – Finish adding and organizing all the contents and assignments of your course in the Modules section. Ideally, all course content appears in at least one Module. Additionally, make sure to complete the Syllabus, double check all due dates in the Calendar, and review your course materials are correct.

Add TAs to the course – In the People section of your course, add your TAs.

Publish the course! – The final step! Make sure all of your content is in the “Published” status by referring to the green, check-marked clouds next to each of your materials in the Modules section. All content that has a gray, x-marked cloud is currently in the “Unpublished” draft form and not visible to students. Lastly, on the home page, change the Course Status from “Unpublished” to “Published.”

S’more ( Abbreviated, refer to day 4 page for full list)

Grades – The Canvas Gradebook is automatically generated from the Assignments in a course. First, checkout this overview video:

Then read through this guide to see how to interact with the Canvas Gradebook. You can set default grades (i.e. zeros for missing work), curve grades, and message students who make certain grades from the Gradebook. Additionally, I recommend muting assignments while grading if you prefer to release all grades and feedback to students all at once. Otherwise, students will receive notifications as you make changes at your grading pace. Lastly, you are able to download and upload scores to the Canvas Gradebook using CSV files if you prefer.

Use Speedgrader – The easiest way to grade assignments in Canvas is the Speedgrader. This video introduces its power when grading in Canvas:

The Speedgrader supports documents (.doc/.docx), slides (.ppt/.pptx), and PDF files, media recordings, website URLs, and more. This guide demonstrates the specifics of using Speedgrader, including how to enable anonymous grading, leave feedback for students, and use a rubric in Speedgrader. Additionally, you can grade Canvas assignments from the Speedgrader app on a tablet if desired.

Submitting your Grades – Our University aims to make submitting grades through Canvas simple. Checkout either the video guide or the text guide to learn how to complete this task at the conclusion of your semester.

Messaging students using the Canvas Inbox – You can communicate with your all of your students through Conversations in the Canvas Inbox. This feature allows you to message individual students, your TAs, or the entire class. This video guide is a great place to start learning how to use this tool in Canvas.

Publishing Content – In the Modules section of Canvas, you can use the published state of contents to hide materials from students as needed. Unpublished materials are in a draft state and will not be accessible to students. Before you finalize your course, make sure all the content you want visible to students is marked as Published with the checkmark/green cloud icon.

Crosslisting in Canvas – You can combine sections from multiple courses into a single course. Before you do this, read this entire guide and view the cross-listing video because you want to make sure you understand how this works. I recommend experimenting and practicing with nonofficial Canvas courses first.

Get Canvas Assistance – The first place I go to get Canvas help are the Canvas Guides, in particular using the search bar on this page. The broader Canvas Community is a great place to get ideas and interact with other Canvas Users from across the world. Our University has its own Canvas Group on the Community website if you’d like to join us. Finally, there are more materials available for instructors on our campus ranging from OU’s Canvas Tutorials, to the resources on the Center for Teaching Excellence’s website.

If you’re hoping to get feedback on your Canvas course, I recommend asking the students in your courses and being open with them about trying new things. Students will be able to give you great feedback on how Modules are setup, etc. At the end of the day, we are all in this Canvas learning process together.

Happy course building, campers!

10 Notable Ideas From InstructureCON 2016

I’m aware that this post is overdue since InstructureCON concluded two months ago, but I wanted to share a few ideas from the conference. If you prefer a breakdown of the sessions I attended, I recommend checking out John Stewart’s eleven posts linked in his concluding reflection.

EdCamp – InstructureCON Un-Conference

1. Canvas Mentor Professors: This idea capitalizes on transforming both the early adaptors and heavy users of Canvas into becoming mentors of other instructors across campus. The goal is to crowdsource the Canvas support system for faculty and showcase examples of ideal Canvas implementations, giving instructors context for how Canvas might be used in their own courses.

2. Student Feedback Of Courses: Have students provide anonymous feedback on the structure and design of courses to help faculty improve their designs. Too often, we make course design decisions from the perspective of an instructor rather than a student. This pragmatic approach is an opportunity to enhance our courses to best meet the needs of our students.

3. Educating Teachers & Students On OER: One of the practices I heard from other institutions, was using Canvas trainings as an opportunity to engage both faculty & students in learning more about copyright, open-educational resources (OER), and media literacy. Teaching faculty about Canvas Commons and OER in tandem aims to empower instructors to incorporate open materials into their curriculum and know what that means for their courses.

Sample Canvas Commons content, some of which is OER
Sample Canvas Commons content, some of which is OER

4. Canvas Camp Via Email: One idea with similar intentions to the Canvas Camp trainings we host was broadcasting daily Canvas challenges via email. This aims to engage faculty in learning a little more about Canvas everyday. If faculty complete all of the challenges outlined in these emails during the week, they would end up producing an entire Canvas Course. With the right amount of scaffolding (instructional videos, written guides, etc.) the reach of this type of self-directed training could be significant.

InstructureCON – Day 1

5. Student Information Systems (SIS) Are Not Always Necessary: I understand this is a heated topic, but I witnessed one person replace the functions of a SIS using Google Apps Scripts and the Canvas API. Student data was housed in Canvas and the operations of the SIS were performed using a few lines of code and Google Forms. Interestingly, this setup was both efficient and easy to use since interactions with the student data were simplified to a few forms. Feel free to explore a Canvas course that outlines how this was accomplished or read more about the session where this idea was shared.

6. Moving From API To LTI Integration Can Be Detrimental: I have to pick on TurnItIn for a second since this is a perfect example. Here was the API implementation of TurnItIn:

Screen Shot 2016-07-28 at 2.00.51 PM

What is great about this is the discreet implementation of the TurnItIn service. In other words, the API integration made it easy for instructors to enable this feature. Additionally, instructors could enable TurnItIn in conjunction with “Media Recordings,” “Website URL,” or “File Uploads” assignments through Canvas. However, the new LTI implementation looks like this:

Screen Shot 2016-07-28 at 2.04.08 PM

Not only is this less accessible as a service, but it also makes Canvas less functional. For example, when the TurnItIn “External Tool” is enabled, it takes over the Submission Type. Meaning if an instructor wants to use TurnItIn for a paper in tandem with a video of a student presentation, the teacher will have to make two assignments to receive both of these pieces of content. In this case the TurnItIn LTI effectively dissuades people from using more that traditional written assignment types—another example of how educational technologies impact the design decisions in our courses.

7. Build with Accessible Tools: One irritation I had during a couple of the sessions were these beautiful courses that were build using (HTML) pages in Canvas. Design-wise they were excellent, but functionality-wise, they always seemed to ignore the mobile accessibility of their course. To me, sacrificing the mobile experience of a course does not benefit students. Not to mention the exorbitant amount of extra work this involves.

InstructureCON – Day 2

8. Live API Lowers Entry Barrier to APIs: If you have not already seen the Live API page on your instance of Canvas, you should view it now. The URL to access the Live API requires your school’s Canvas domain as follows:


Alternative, here’s a generic preview of the Live API:

Screen capture of Canvas LiveAPI website

9. Educating Teachers About Online Instruction: Similar to how Canvas professional development is infused with opportunities to teach instructors about OER materials, there’s room to engage faculty in what it means to teach online. This was apparent during InstructureCON, but I’ve seen evidence of this more and more. For example, I’ve witnessed a shift in organization of content in the LMS. Instead of distributing course contents by topic, instructors are now choosing to order their materials chronologically to simplify the presentation of their Canvas courses.

Bonus Idea

10. Making Internet Accessible To All Students: I have to share one idea that was presented during the Pack Light for Performance session. The presenter was in a district that used Kajeet Smartspots in conjunction with Chromebooks to give all students access to the web. This equalization of technology access meant that teachers were confident their online assignments were available to all students. Since, I’m passionate about overcoming socioeconomic barriers and am constantly explore the validity of low cost technologies in the classroom (1, 2), I was ecstatic to see the cellular hotspot approach to making internet accessible to all students!

Please Note

I wanted to take a moment and let you know that post has been difficult to complete. I started writing it during InstructureCON and intended to publish it shortly after, but family matters kept that from happening. Anyways, I just wanted to note that much of this content deserves more in-depth explanations, so if you have any questions, please let me know. I would like to revisit many topics, but at this moment, this blog post is as much a highlight of my Canvas Conference experience as it is a scar that needs to reach conclusion.