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.

DIY Instructional Video Consultation

In the spirit of John's recent post-per-consultation (PPC) to broadcast valuable information from our consultations at the Center for Teaching Excellence, I am writing my first PPC.

I just met with Mark Norris, a professor of linguistics who recently participated in John & I’s eXperience Play faculty learning community. (Check out the game Mark created here!)

Anyways, Mark is interested in creating instructional videos for his students. Specifically, he wants to show students his problem solving process and explain the reasoning behind every step. This sounded like a fantastic opportunity to provide extra instruction for students who need to focus on certain concepts.

I was excited to see Mark had already experimented with instructional videos, because this helped me understand what Mark wanted to produce for his students:

In the name of features and consistency of quality, I recommended Mark consider digital annotation for his instructional videos. Such tools offer the ability write on documents, expand the annotation space at will, and streamline the video editing workflow. After some discussion, and checking what equipment was available for checkout, I offered Mark two methods for producing digital whiteboard videos: (1) iPad Pro with Apple pencil and Explain Everything Classic, (2) Surface tablet with stylus and Open Sankoré. Mark chose the former and we started exploring what annotated instructional videos would look like when produced from an iPad Pro. Combined with a high-end Blue Spark Digital microphone, Mark now has all the tools he needs to produce some excellent resources for his students.

Working with Mark was phenomenal because I love interacting with faculty who are passionate about teaching and are always exploring how to best engage their students. In other words, I’m excited to see what Mark produces in the coming months!

OLC Innovate: Reflections on Virtually Attending

Recently, I had the pleasure to attend OLC Innovate. Well, not in the traditional sense. Rather, I participated through the available digital mediums at the conference. Twitter was a large portion of my engagement, but I also joined a couple conference sessions hosted by Virtually Connecting and even remotely played games with several attendees. All in all, I connected with many awesome people and participated in several fruitful conversations that I am exited to share.

Virtually Connecting

My favorite part of OLC Innovate was the opportunity to attend two virtual sessions. These meetings were well executed, let me connect with others, and helped me join in dialogues from the conference.

Session 1 – xMOOC & cMOOC in HumanMOOC

Matt Crosslin presented over the dual-layer model of mixing xMOOC with cMOOC in HumanMOOC. In particular, he outlined the technologies utilized, design limitations, and challenges experienced while facilitating the course. After his quick presentation, Matt provided four discussion prompts to solicit ideas about the dual-layer model present in HumanMOOC. Following several minutes of group dialogue, everyone came back and shared the ideas they had generated in their small groups.

My group focused on the fourth prompt, “How do you grade assignments that come from such different modalities?” I was excited to tackle this question since I had been thinking about it recently. The main idea we generated was requesting student input on the assessment of their assignments. For example, if a student wants to create an instructional video as a project, they need to help establish the expectations and rubric of the intended assessments before embarking on producing the video. That way, students have the flexibility of learning any way they want while instructors are able to provide some structure to facilitate this open-ended approach. If you want to hear our discussion, check out the following video (starting at 13:32):

Virtually Connecting Experience

This was my first time to participate in a conference virtually and there were several factors that contributed toward making this a positive experience.

1. Our Onsite Buddy, Autumm Caines, was excellent. She helped make conversations feel natural by angling the camera toward Matt Crosslin or other speakers at appropriate times. Additionally, Autumm helped facilitate the discussion for the digital participants when it was time to break off into groups.

2. The presenter engaged with the virtual participants. Matt made a point to engage our virtual group. This allowed us to contribute toward the overall discussion of the session and Matt made me feel like a person rather than a computer screen.

3. Home grown and accessible technologies make me want to do this again. Google Hangouts on Air was the tool used to virtually connect to this session. Since it is freely available, anyone can use it to reproduce their own virtually connecting style session. The nature of this DIY technology setup resonates with Indie Ed Tech ideas that excite me.

4. My colleagues were attending this session in person. This session was more fun because both of my colleagues, Adam Croom and John Stewart were also in attendance. Sharing this experience made participating in the conversations more meaningful.

5. Technical limitations made the session intimate. Although we did not breach the user limit of Google Hangouts, being confined to ten participants is a good limitation for a virtual session. This restriction yields a small enough group size to allow everyone to engage in discussion.

6. Documentation makes conceptualizing roles easier. There’s a great webpage on virtuallyconnecting.org that outlines the various roles of a Virtually Connecting session. Reading over this gave me a good representation of the different personnel that compose a session.

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 6.28.11 PM
My computer screen while participating in a virtual session—using Google Hangouts & Tweetdeck.

Session 2 – Digital Redlining

Chris Gilliard, Kristen Eshleman, & Hugh Culik facilitated excellent discussion on digital redlining, privacy, and information access. I have been thinking about these topics recently, but I had not heard the term “digital redlining” before OLC Innovate. I am thankful for attending this session because it introduced me to a new perspective on a familiar topic. While I have focused on socioeconomic barriers and how personal technologies play a role in university education, I have not been addressing these issues at their systemic levels. Now when I consider mobile devices as more financially accessible productivity devices, I will think more broadly about the problems facing students. Using affordable mobile devices as an example, how does the variance of cellular data prices versus broadband internet impact students?

There is much more to be learned about these topics, so I recommend checking out the available YouTube video from the session:

Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes

In the middle of March, as GOBLIN was coming to an end, I connected with John Robertson as he was looking for volunteers to help with a gaming event he was hosting at OLC Innovate. John and I bonded because we were both planning on engaging faculty using the game Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes (KTaNE). Little did I know this would lead me to volunteer at OLC Innovate a month later!

John’s event, #PlugIN Gaming Session, was a combination of several games. My colleague John Stewart led a game called Artemis while I was setup in another room playing KTaNE. I was excited for this opportunity. How often do you get to remote in to a conference to play a video game with the attendees? In all seriousness, it was an excellent test case for this type of online engagement.

If you want a quick laugh, I am trying to explain how to disarm explosives in this video:

Being involved as a volunteer remotely was a positive experience for me. I got to meet some more outstanding people and connect with them through a game focused on accurate communication. It was a fun way to be involved at OLC Innovate and I want to thank John Robertson for facilitating!

Twitter

Twitter functioned as my main communication channel during OLC Innovate. More than that, it catalyzed my involvement with the @VConnecting group and the #PlugIN gaming session. Even though I was located in another state, Twitter allowed me to asynchronously engage with the content and hold multiple “innovative” conversations at once. I am grateful to all those that live tweeted during sessions (big shoutout to Laura & Mark) and fortunate to have met so many awesome people online!

TAGS Explorer

During OLC Innovate, I setup TAGS Explorer to collect all the tweets containing #OLCInnovate. Originally, I was only interested in the various hashtags used at this conference. Overtime, my interests quickly evolved as others started engaging with the dataset. Now I want to give others the opportunity to play with and analyze the tweets from OLC Innovate. If you are interested, see my post on accessing the open Twitter data from #OLCInnovate.

What Now?

If you are interested in more perspectives from OLC Innovate, here are my recommended posts & podcast (in no particular order):

Also, I invite you to explore the open Twitter dataset from OLC Innovate that I recently posted. Lot’s of interesting information is waiting to be uncovered!

Finally, thank you everyone for making my first OLC Innovate conference delightful! Even from afar, between the virtual sessions, Twitter, and volunteering in the #PlugIN gaming session, I felt as though I was truly present!

The featured image is provided CC0 by Jay Mantri via Unsplash.