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.

Troubleshooting

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.

Canvas Training Roundup

These last few weeks have been intense work-wise. I’ve been developing and hosting multiple Canvas courses for instructors at the University of Oklahoma. This has been especially nerve-racking because I am (also) learning how to effectively use the tool I am teaching. Fortunately, at the end of the week I will participate in official training from Canvas experts. In the mean time, I will continue this rapid prototyping process that is keeping me afloat. 🙂 Anyways, I wanted to give a brief overview of the training programs I have been spearheading these last few weeks (please note this is not an exhaustive list as these trainings are only the ones I have been involved with):

Introduction to Canvas

Screen-Shot-2016-06-01-at-8.40.51-AM
Keegan’s Intro to Canvas Course Homepage

This is the basic overview of Canvas. It’s an hour long session that’s about 20 minutes of demonstrations and 40 minutes of discussion and Q&A. With this session, I want to introduce faculty to Modules and course organization within Canvas while highlighting the notable features. This presentation is conducted using an example Canvas course rather than just a slideshow. I released these materials to the Canvas Commons for other to use and titled them Keegan’s Intro to Canvas.

Image of Keegan's Intro to Canvas Course in Canvas Commons.
Canvas Commons Page for Keegan’s Intro to Canvas

How to Learn Canvas

The idea behind this training is to empower people to capitalize on the many resources in the Canvas Community to facilitate their own learning. In other words, I hope to produce fishers rather than give away Canvas fish. During this session, I walk people through the workflow I use to explore and learn from community.canvaslms.com. This allows me to highlight different features of the community such as the CanvasLIVE events and community groups. When attendees already possess some knowledge of Canvas and have the intrinsic motivation to teach themselves, this session is poised to equip them with the tools to succeed.

Community.canvaslms.com Home Page
Community.canvaslms.com Home Page

Office Hours

This session is both informal and open-ended. The content is directed by the attendees and their inquiries. From Canvas navigation to specifics about grading and course design, this session aims to provide teachers with any and all answers to their questions. I like to equate this experience to group and individual consultations because when there are multiple people present, the participants get to hear the ideas from their peers in addition to my responses. So far, these sessions have been successful in terms of tailoring assistance to faculty and since they require minimal preparation for the facilitator, they are easy to conduct.

Mini Courses

This is my favorite training at the moment. Mobile Blogging & Scholarship (MBS) is the first Canvas Mini Course. MBS is meant to indirectly introduce people to different features of Canvas as they focus on the topic of blogging from a mobile device. Other Canvas Mini Courses will be hosted in the coming months and will also be fully online 4 day experiences centered around a topic to give instructors the experience of being a student in Canvas (while also participating in professional development). These trainings can range in topic depending on the facilitators interest. Overall, Canvas Mini Course are intended to be a minimal commitment to experientially introduce faculty to Canvas.

One of the notable features I am using to conduct MBS is the Redirect Tool. This Canvas app allows me to embed full websites into the course. Since I can setup a WordPress website to accept blog posts from users without accounts, I have enabled my students to participate in blogging without the overhead of creating a WordPress account or learning the WordPress software—the focus is on the MBS content! You are welcome to read more about this setup here (and an official writeup will be coming soon). Also, MBS is a public course that you can explore here or add the contents to your own course(s) through the Canvas Commons.

Blogging Within MBS Canvas Course
Blogging Within MBS Canvas Course

Canvas Camp

The goal of Canvas Camp is to have faculty build and finalize a Canvas course in four days. This face-to-face training means to simultaneously teach best practices of using Canvas while giving instructors time to development their own courses, incorporating what they learn during each session. Thus, at the conclusion of this pragmatic training, attendees have produced a course to use for an upcoming semester.

Each day of Canvas Camp covers a different topic. Day 1 and 2 are about importing and (re)organizing content within Canvas, while Day 3 and 4 are geared toward interacting with students and the steps remaining to finalize a Canvas course. Whether an instructor wants to build a course from scratch or import contents from a previous class, they are welcome to this training. For those that do not complete their content related to the daily topic, they will have to work outside of the allotted course time to finish developing their course.

Features Speed-Dating

There are many features in Canvas that were not available to faculty in the previous learning management system (LMS). To introduce the multitude of features in an efficient manner, we (the Center for Teaching Excellence) have conceived of a program that is being branded as “Speed-Dating for features.” Faculty will spend a few minutes learning and experiencing the affordances of a Canvas feature before rotating to the next. This program is still in development, but the main idea is that features in this Speed-Dating program are being developed as interchangeable modules that could be used to give a Feature Speed-Dating sessions different flavors depending on the audience. Since this training is still in development, this is all I can say for now. 🙂

Other (Beyond Canvas)

In addition to all of the Canvas trainings, I’ve also been hosting other professional development:

WordPress Office Hours – Like the Canvas Office Hours, this is a come-and-go session that was intended to facilitate group consultations and answer individual questions informally. This style of training is ideal for me at the moment since it requires minimal setup, allows me to address random questions, and let’s me build relationships with faculty while we are learning together. This session was a huge success and I plan on offering more of these during the summer, especially since I got this piece of feedback from an instructor:

I’m very, very, irrationally excited about the progress made on the website this morning.  Thanks for the office hours!

OU Create Training – This introduction to OU Create is intended to give an overview of OU Create while walking participants through setting up a WordPress website. In fact, typically every attendee ends up with a functional WordPress site in under one hour. For more information about this training check out this video walkthrough:

Look Forward

There are so many exciting trainings going on at the moment. My focus moving forward is expanding programs and coordinating with the newly hired Canvas Graduate Fellows to also host trainings. Although this summer is intense, I am looking forward to the next year of building curriculum and facilitating professional development. 😀

The featured image is provided CC0 by Chester Ho via Unsplash.

How to Blog, Develop Curriculum, Microblog, & Discuss in 50 Minutes

Last Friday I had the pleasure to present at OU’s 5th annual Academic Technology Expo with John Stewart. Since our “presentation” was more of a hands-on workshop, titled Mobile Blogging, Scholarship, and Cultivating Student Success, we had participants blog, develop curriculum, microblog and discuss applications of mobile blogging in their classrooms. It was phenomenal, and here’s how we accomplished everything in 50 minutes:

Minutes 0-10

First, John and I started with a Paper Tweet microblogging exercise, asking participants to name and describe their favorite classroom activity in 140 characters or less. Individuals shared some of their examples before we engaged them in a followup discussion.

“Why blog?” and “Why blog using a mobile device?” were the initial questions we posed to the group. And with each inquiry, John and I wanted to establish reasons why instructors might employ blogging and mobile blogging in their classrooms.

Minutes 10-30

Next, John and I asked participants to take their favorite classroom activity—the one from their Paper Tweet—and modify this activity to include a blogging component. We requested participants record these responses as a blog post to let them experience the nuances of writing a post. In other words, we were asking participants to develop curriculum while simultaneously documenting this content as blog posts.

This exercise was the primary logistical challenge of our workshop. For individuals that had their own blog, we encouraged them to use their own digital space to publish responses. For other, John and I brought several tablets to be used to accomplish this task. Following several minutes of collaborative and individual curriculum development, we heard many excellent classroom activities that now included new blogging components.

For example, some responses included having students blog about articles they had to research for assignments. Other examples included having students respond to photographs as blog posts or “live tweeting” during classroom presentations. All that too say, there were several, viable new pieces of curriculum that were outlined and shared in this short period of time.

Minutes 30-45

At this point, John and I led more discussion about mobile blogging. We wanted to know what participants had to say about “how the nature of an assignment is changed when blogging is introduced?” and “how could student success be determined as a blog?” These are a few of the questions that we used to develop the concept of how mobile blogging could be applied in a classroom.

Minutes 45-50

Lastly, John and I spent a few minutes presenting our thoughts on Mobile Blogging. Some of which included:

Reflection

Overall, this experience was excellent. Many participants where introduced to mobile blogging and experiencing it for the first time, while others had attended related training.  During our workshop, John and I wanted to make sure everyone got to discuss mobile blogging applications in the classroom and generate a piece of curriculum that could be used in their courses. We designed this workshop to be hands-on and give participants an opportunity to produce something valuable—and to accomplish all this in 50 minutes was an exciting challenge!

What’s In Store for Spring 2016?

I am really looking forward to the trainings and presentations for the upcoming semester. In particular, I am excited about hosting GOBLIN for the first time (more details below). In addition to GOBLIN, here’s a list of trainings I am offering this semester through CTE (descriptions, schedules, and sign-up links provided where available):

Mobile Blogging & Scholarship

MBS Blog Image

Mobile Blogging & Scholarship (MBS) is about teaching the nature of blogging from a mobile device. Starting with tablet fundamentals and progressing through blogging elements including text, video, and graphics, participants will experience and demonstrate their understanding of each of these topics. In particular, attention will be given to instructional and professional use-cases of mobile blogging to provide participants with content that will be immediately applicable.

A couple days ago, I finished facilitating Mobile Blogging & Scholarship for the 3rd time! I had an awesome group of faculty who where fun to work with and gave me some great feedback on this professional development.

Schedule: January 11 & 12

Academic Technology Expo

Blog Image Banner 3

Academic Technology Expo (ATE) is tomorrow! This year, John Stewart and myself will be presenting over Mobile Blogging, Scholarship, & Cultivating Student Success. Our presentation will be hands-on and center around discussion and interaction. So, come prepared to participate! 🙂

Schedule: January 15 @ 10:00AM

OU Create Training

OU Create Blog Image

OU Create Training, like previous semesters, will take place multiple times during the semester. Each session will be dedicated to getting participants setup within create.ou.edu and on their way to producing their own website. Specifically, users will be introduced to domains, cPanel, and installing and using WordPress on their OU Create space. Each of these trainings is identical and I suggest attending only one.

Schedule:
January 20 @ 9:00AM
January 27 @ 1:00PM
February 5 @ 9:00AM
March 23 @ 1:00PM (Online)

GOBLIN

GOBLIN

Games Offer Bold Learning Insights Nowadays (GOBLIN) is an interactive adventure game that is, first and foremost, a vehicle to experientially teach pedagogical concepts. GOBLIN aims to synergistically combine professional development, storytelling, and a role-playing game into a memorable, engaging learning experience for instructors. Over the course of GOBLIN, topics ranging from scaffolding and overcoming failure to team-based learning, game-based learning, and gamification will be discussed and experienced firsthand.

The remainder of GOBLIN is under wraps for a little while longer. John Stewart and I have been working on this training since last semester and plan to release more details soon!

Schedule: TBD (February - March)

Professional, Instructional, & Advanced Series

This semester, I will offer several series of trainings from various perspectives: professional uses, instructional uses, and advanced uses. Instructors may participate in one session from each topic or all three as desired. Each training will cover different information that is connected but not prerequisite. The following topics will be part of these three perspectives:

WordPress Training will be offered to supplement OU Create training. The Professional Use session will focus on e-portfolios and professional blogs. The Instructional Use session will cover engaging students with blogging. And the Advanced Use session will emphasize plugins and WordPress functionality.

Schedule:
January 20 @ 10:30AM (Professional Use)
January 27 @ 2:30PM (Instructional Use)
February 5 @ 10:30AM (Advanced Use)

Google Hangouts on Air Training, like the WordPress training, will be offered in three flavors. The Professional Use session will aim to provide participants with the knowledge to participate and host a Google Hangouts on Air. The Instructional Use session intends to teach participants how to utilize Google Hangouts on Air in the classroom, potentially as a solution to conduct online office hours, etc. Finally, the Advanced Use session will cover using some of the built in features of Google Hangouts on Air (Cameraman, Control Room, etc.) to demonstrate the full potential of this broadcasting tool.

Schedule: TBD (February - March)

Twitter Training will also benefit from three perspectives. The Professional Use session will focus on Twitter as a networking and communication tool. The Instructional Use session will emphasize how to incorporate Twitter into the classroom. And the Advanced Use session will introduce Twitter visualization like TAGSExplorer.

Schedule:
March 21 @ 1:00PM (Professional Use)
March 30 @ 9:00AM (Instructional Use)
April 8 @ 9:00AM (Advanced Use)

Summer Planning

After all of these trainings take place, I will shift my focus to summer (and likely fall) professional development planning. At the moment, I am considering a Faculty Learning Community that focuses on the skill required to participate in a professional development MOOC (such as CLMOOC), but nothing is finalized yet.

Regardless, 2016 is poised to be a very promising year and I am excited for everything to come!

Growing, Thankfully

I am thankful for many things in my life (wife, family, work, Star Wars, etc.). However, I want to write about two things that have been a significant part of my life over the last year.

Teaching

Some of the biggest projects I have been working on include a Mobile Blogging & Scholarship Workshop Series and a Lynda.com Course Integration Faculty Learning Community. Both of these were professional development programs that I got to design, build, and facilitate through my work at the Center for Teaching Excellence at OU.

And rather than outline the details of these projects, I want to express why I am grateful for them.

I am thankful because I love teaching and these trainings allow me to grow, refine, and practice my craft. I have taught high school chemistry and physics, english as a second language, and am now able to teach educational technology at OU. Each of these experiences have pushed me and my understanding of instruction to become a more effective educator. I am grateful for these opportunities.

Additionally, I have started creating web resources that accompany each of my trainings. These materials have been helpful to me, my students, and others individuals across campus (and the world). I am thankful I have been encouraged to develop resources that can easily be shared online because it is amplifying my impact as an Educational Technologist.

(I am currently building another professional development course with my colleague John Stewart. This project may be the biggest yet! If you are interested in what games have to teach us about learning, look for our training next semester!)

Japan

From September 2014 to March 2015, I got to live in Japan with my wife while she studied abroad. This experience was fantastic. Living in another country is one of the best ways to learn about life because it is a chance for exploration, reflection, and self-discovery.

I am thankful I got to live in Japan alongside my best friend—my wife. We were presented with everyday problems and experiences that have cultivated a deeper relationship between us. Not to mention, I feel more self-confident as a traveller.

If you are ever given the chance to live abroad, even for a short period of time, I highly encourage you to take the opportunity. There are no substitutes for such a learning experience.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

After reflecting today I realize I am grateful when I am given chances to grow and develop as a person or a professional. Also, I am thankful for Thanksgiving hamsters eating tiny pies. 🙂