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.

Domains17 Conference Proposals

I’m already anticipating the #Domains17 conference slated for June 5-6th this summer. Much of my excitement is a direct result of the folks who will attend this conference as #Domains17 will be bring together many of the minds focused on Domain of One’s Own (DoOO) projects and beyond. Individuals like Martha Burtis (headlining!), Jim Groom, Tim Owens, Adam Croom, Laura Gibbs, John Stewart, and more!

Yet, #Domains17 is centered more broadly around domains as an educational technology. Since I largely approached domains from the DoOO perspective, I’m looking forward to growing as I experience new domain projects and applications outside my DoOO mental framework.  Domains are a fantastic technology because of how versatile, how open-ended they can be, and I’m looking forward to learning more from all of you at #Domains17!

In preparation for this conference, I’ve been constructing a few proposals I’m interested in seeing at #Domains17. Here are the drafts of some of my initial ideas (and since I’m groovin’ to Silence Magnifies Sound by The Six Parts Seven as I write, I hope you’ll give it a listen as you read.):

Proposals

Domains Professional Development – Roundtable

Tweet Abstract – Deep Domain Dives: Professional Development Roundtable – Share, learn, and brainstorm about professional development around domains.

Full Proposal – This session aims to be an open discussion about supporting usage and exploration of domains through professional development. All are welcome and should plan on sharing their current/future offerings of professional development involving domains, divulge their dreams for engaging students and faculty, or listen to ideas to take back to their own campuses. The facilitators of this roundtable have content available to share to spark discussion but hope that participants bring any and all ideas related to engaging students and faculty with learning domains. A valuable brainstorming session is the goal.

Canvas Integration – Demonstration and Discussion

Tweet Abstract – Domains Inside the LMS?: Bring your course website/blog into a Canvas course to engage students. See demonstration & join open discussion.

Full Proposal – Integrating a course website/blog into your Canvas course is an opportunity to showcase and share student work within a classroom. Whether students are blogging, contributing to a research website, building a course textbook, generating a wiki, or creating some other web materials, these resources can be integrated directly into a Canvas course using a domain. (Please note, this applies beyond Canvas as other Learning Management systems include similar features like D2L’s “custom homepage.”)

This session brings together a demonstration of the setup process, highlighting the requirements to accomplish this integration, along with a discussion that seeks to brainstorm possible domain-LMS relationships with participants and answer their use case questions. Attendees will have the opportunity to engage with the reasoning behind using this strategy and what domains in the classroom can mean for their curriculum.

Mobile Blogging & Scholarship Canvas course shown with a Domain of One's Own website integrated inside the Canvas Course.
A domain has appeared inside this Canvas course!

OU Create Onboarding – Presentation and Discussion

Tweet Abstract Onboarding Student Domains: An “in class” presentation to demonstrate our engagement of students in Domain of One’s Own for their 1st time.

Full Proposal – One of the first steps when engaging students with their own domain is to walk them through the setup process. This presentation seeks to inform instructors, administrators, and technologist about the setup of domains in OU Create. Specifically, the demonstration will focus on Domains, cPanel, and introducing WordPress in a classroom setting. Paired with this presentation will be some discussion and the opportunity to answer questions about our steps and recommendations. Our goal is to help other institutions understand what’s involved to support the initial onboarding of students into Domain of One’s Own so they may provide the best experience for their own students.

Professional Development with Domains – Showcase

Tweet Abstract – Open Publishing with Domains: Showcasing professional development curriculum facilitated at University of Oklahoma with domains.

Full Proposal – Over the last couple years, several professional development programs at the University of Oklahoma gained websites as a point of engagement, means to document work, and as a way to share and distribute materials. This use case of domains reinforces our belief of open-sourcing materials. Yet, many questions are associated with publishing open work: Why use domains? How does one start sharing? What’s the formula? Why even publish professional development websites? Are there repercussions?

This showcase aims to engage people in open publishing with domains, the backend of professional development websites (including themes, plugins, etc.), and inspirations for how domains can be used in professional settings to further learning and access to materials. The facilitators will be available to answer questions and discuss strategies and recommendations with everyone.

Screenshot of the eXperience Play website.
eXperience Play professional development website hosted on OU Create.

Other Ideas

Faculty Using FeedWordPress – Panel

I’ve worked with several instructors over the last few years who have used the FeedWordPress plugin to syndicate student writing to a central course blog. I’d love to have a panel at #Domains17 focused around these experiences and hear the feedback these instructors could give to others.

An example FeedWordPress site showing student blog posts syndicated to a course blog.
A FeedWordPress style website, hosted in OU Create.

Global Engagement Fellows – Panel

Speaking of students, I’d love to highlight some of their work on their domains and have them talk about what drives them to publish. In particular, I’d love to hear from the students involved in the Global Engagement Fellows program at the University of Oklahoma. These are students that get funding to study abroad twice during their undergraduate career. Since they blog about each of these experiences, these students possess one of the most interesting perspectives on domains, study abroad, and learning.

Global Engagement Fellows website showing students blog posts from their study abroad experiences.
The Global Engagement Fellows website combines student blog posts.

Creaties – Panel

Much like the Global Engagement Student Panel, I’d enjoy hearing from some of the students who were nominated for Creaties awards including best portfolio, best short story, and more. Learning what drives these students to use their domains in this way would be worthwhile testimony in support of the value of domains.

Preview of the Creaties website.
The Creaties are the awesome awards for OU Create users.

Domains Instructionally – Demonstration & Discussion

I felt this idea overlapping with some of the other proposals I wrote, so I didn’t include it. Still, I was thinking about a session with a more general approach to using domains instructionally that would include examples like the domains-LMS integration outlined above.


I’m not sure how many more proposals I will work on at the moment. I just wanted to throw a few ideas out there as I felt compelled. Feel free to leave me any feedback you have. Did you like my recommended jams?

The featured image is provided CC0 by William Iven via Unsplash.

Hacking My Apple TV

Sometimes I have way too much fun. I recently acquired a 1st gen. Apple TV and wanted to breath some new life into it. So, I decided to remove its extremely outdated operating system (version 3.0.2) and replace it with something that actually allows media streaming. I decided to start with OSMC and followed this excellent video guide:

The installation process was smooth for the most part—I only had one snag during setup. The most updated version of OSMC from November was not installing properly, so I repeated the steps outlined in the video using the October build of OSMC and succeed. (I tried to update the October version to the November one later, but that update failed so I’ll stick with the older version for now.)

November built of OSMC failing to install properly on Gen 1 Apple TV displays a white sad face on blue background
OSMC Installation Failing 1st Time
OSMC linux operating system installing on Gen 1 Apple TV
OSMC Installation Succeeding 2nd Time

At this point, most people stop with an awesome Kodi enabled Apple TV but I wanted much more from this Debian 8.6 Linux computer! In accordance with the recommendations from the aforementioned video guide, I installed LXDE as the desktop interface. It was at this point that I started dreaming of all the things I could do with my new linux computer!

Apple TV As A Computer

First, I installed a web browser. Learning to use the “apt-get” command from forums, I installed Firefox ESR and explored my first text-based web browser, Lynx. It was a spectacular experience to see what the web looks like when images, videos, and advertisements are stripped away and words are all that remain.

OU Create loaded in Lynx text-based web browser shows only words of the website
OU Create in the Lynx text-based web browser

Next, I built a Twine game from my Apple TV and used the notes from eXperience Play to add some style to my simple game. Once it was built I decided to upload and host the HTML game on my OU Create domain.

ATV game built in Twine and hosted at atv.keeganslw.com
Twine game made on Apple TV now available at atv.keeganslw.com

Eventually, I decided to load office software onto my Apple TV to create some documents. To install LibreOffice, I had to learn how to setup backports by creating text files in the command line using:

nano /etc/apt/sources.list.d/filename.list

But after some tinkering and patience, I was able to install LibreOffice onto the Apple TV. With this software, I composed my first document from the Apple TV.

LibreOffice running on Apple TV.
LibreOffice running on my Apple TV

After playing around with Debian Linux for a few hours, I started to push my goals even further. I wanted to see what it would take to turn my Apple TV into a web server. 🙂

Apple TV As A Web Server

There was a phenomenal guide on setting up a LAMP environment in Debian that I followed to transform my Apple TV into a server. However, I had trouble getting MariaDB MySQL to install properly. Since I wasn’t determined to install any web apps that used MySQL, I didn’t sweat this problem and turned my attention towards the more crucial Apache2 and PHP5 and started getting more ambitious.

First, I discovered I could host the Apple TV-made Twine game on the Apple TV itself by placing the HTML file in the web root directory that Apache had generated (in my case /var/www/html). THIS WORKED PERFECTLY. In other words, files located in the computer folder “html” (that is located in the folder “www” that is located in the folder “var”) on the Apple TV were now accessible to other computers on my home network. This meant I was able to navigate to the IP address of my Apple TV using my iPad to access the Twine game.

ATV game built in Twine and hosted on the Apple TV
Same Twine game now hosted on the Apple TV

In fact, any device on my home network can navigate to http://10.0.1.30/twine.html and access the html file that was being hosted by my new LAP (Linux, Apache, PHP) server. Yet this game was only simple HTML and I wanted to take the Apple TV even further.

So, I started exploring web apps since some flat-file CMS like Grav don’t require MySQL to operate, I started exploring what it would take to run a Grav website from my Apple TV. I spent a while reading and researching the requirements like editing the apache2.conf file to allow .htaccess to function and installing different PHP components. However, after I looked at my watch and saw 8 hours had past since I started this adventure, I decided it was time to take a break… 🙂

What’s Next For The Apple TV?

I want to finish getting Grav running on my new web server, but I’ll need to do a bit more research before another Apple TV journey. Also, I’m exploring a firewall exception and mapping port 80 in my router to grant users access to my Apple TV web server outside of my home.

Finally, I’m considering installing node.js and trying to get a copy of Ghost running. This may be feasible as opposed to running something like Sandstorm.io or Gitlab, with the measly 256MB of RAM on an Apple TV.

WHY? Why Not?

If you played the Twine game I keep referencing, you’ve already witnessed me questioning my intentions. Why the heck did I spend all day turning a media player into a computer and then into a server? I may sarcastically reply with “why not?” but the real reason is for the fun of learning. Today, I taught myself loads of awesome stuff! From heavy usage of the Debian command line to Apache2 as a web server to how the web works at a file and IP address level—these days of experimentation, building, and re-building help me understand technology and its role in our lives. For me this was more than an exercise in learning, this was an opportunity to discover how and why I’d bring the web into my own classroom.

The featured image is provided CC0 by Ilya Pavlov via Unsplash.

My Vision (and Search) for a Connectivist Graduate Program

For the last year, I’ve been contemplating graduate school. I’m still researching and evaluating various programs around the world, but I wanted to take a second and reflect on what I desire from a graduate program. I have many answers to this question, but let me expand upon this idea:

I want a graduate degree program where students teach some of the courses in the curriculum.

I don’t believe this is too outlandish since I’m looking at programs in the field of education, possibly within instructional design. But I’ve had no luck uncovering such a program. So, for now, I’m going to dream. What would such a degree program look like?

Anatomy of a Connectivist Graduate Program

I envision a program founded upon connectivist learning philosophies and comprised of two components:

  1. A core set of curriculum that every student must complete. This is crucial for standardizing instruction for degree components like research methodologies and models/theories of the discipline.
  2. An additional set of courses led by students based on their own expertise. These are intended to be open-ended in regards to content and practice and would vary year to year based on the student body.

To me, a connectivist program necessitates a particular anatomy and entails thoughtful design. As an example, a degree like this would require a set cohort of students that progress through the curriculum together. Such a cohort would need to be comprised of diverse individuals from different backgrounds, possessing a variety of skills. To ensure such diversity, there’d need to be an application process that not only considers expertise, but also establishes cohesion in terms of student backgrounds within each cohort. In other words, this entire process requires careful design considerations.

If it was possible, there would still be several challenges to overcome.

Challenges

The skills to thrive and succeed in a connectivist degree program are not the same skills present in typical educational environment. For instance, I anticipate humility would be a critical element of a connectivist degree for everyone involved. There’s a significant discomfort about not knowing the exact direction of a program as a student or as a teacher; and overcoming these feelings would require a strong emphasis on community and active, inclusive communication between all parties.

Additionally, I foresee accreditation being a serious stumbling-block. In fact, I proposed a “core set of curriculum that every student must complete” as a solution to this challenge. Program viability depends on the consistency of educational quality and rigor from year to year for each cohort. Accreditation is a conversation well beyond what I wish to tackle in this post but it remains a significant challenge. (Not to mention, I don’t have the answer to accreditation anyways.)

With these two challenges, I hope that I’ve illustrated the complexity of design for such a program to exist—intention and care in developing a connectivist graduate degree are imperative. Still, I am determined! If we are to produce the next generation of educators, critical instructional designers, etc., we need to utilize the educational philosophies we champion in the designs of our programs themselves.

Disclaimer

Since I’m still dreaming here, I want to explore a couple of my favorite questions.

What courses would I want to teach?

This is one of my favorite questions in the context of a connectivist graduate program!

One course that I’d love to facilitate would involve exploring productivity using affordable. I know this may sound a little out-there, but I imagine a course where everyone is limited to $300 worth of technology and must participate with minimal computing devices—including designing instruction to operate on inexpensive technologies. Specifically, I’m interested in engaging others in curriculum around $100 laptops, $50 phones, or $50 tablets? What does a Domain of One’s Own project look like under these parameters? A portion of this curriculum would focus on socioeconomic barriers and issues related to digital redlining.

Another course I’d love to teach would focus on interests that I’ve explored in both GOBLIN and XP—I’d love to teach a course about digital storytelling, game design, and what games have to teach us about learning. I see many opportunities to engage others with information literacy, media literacy, and various digital literacies while participating in experiential learning and exploring creative expressions. Ideally, part of this course would involve developing games and discussing them as transformative experiences with opportunities to pursue action research and/or academic research.

What courses would I want to take?

On the flip-side of teaching in a connectivist graduate program, there are many topics I’d love to explore.

For example, I’d love to learn more about practical use cases of APIs in the classroom and beyond. From personal workflow automation to manipulating sets of data across the web, a practical API course sounds phenomenal. I’d imagine course projects would range from building APIs to utilizing public APIs and engaging in the conversations of the future of APIs in education.

Also, I’d love a course on “crowdsourcing” and how it can be implemented instructionally into courses and/or research. Topics like large scale community driven problem solving and hosting crowdfunding campaigns for social work. These projects would make for some spectacular curriculum in my mind. Crowdsourcing as an instructional tool is not typical and I see a lot of potential around a such a course since there are a multitude of directions and applications for the idea.

Looking Forward

I know this post presents small and specific examples as part of gross oversimplifications of larger ideas. But I write because I see value in a connectivist approach to graduate education. I provided examples of student-led courses because they demonstrate to me the strength of connectivim and highlight where traditional curriculum falls short. Student-led courses can be built on personal passions and current conversations. A dynamic program might be tailored to the participants, current technologies, and cutting edge scholarship; not to mention, scaffold greater transference of connectivist (etc.) theories to practice!

At the end of the day, the core of my dream—what I value most in my education:

  1. The opportunity to be viewed as an aspiring scholar, rather than just a student;
  2. A program that practices what it preaches, instead of defaulting to lecture and discussion of readings;
  3. The promise of growth and not feeling indoctrinated into standardizations of thought;
  4. Connecting with a community that involves and cares about everyones struggles, development, and experience.

That is why I’m envisioning a degree program constructed with connectivist learning philosophies because we should make our programs reflective of the educational ideas we champion.

Before I close, I want to take a moment and shoutout to Martha Burtis & Sean Michale Morris for their recent talks on Critical Instructional Design:

Although the topics from their presentation does not necessarily relate to the content I cover, their words were an “inspiration catalyst” for me to finish writing this post, which began a few months ago.

Anyways, what are your thoughts on a connectivist graduate program? Is it possible? What are the risks? What are the benefits? Am I crazy? 🙂 Let me know.

The featured image is provided CC0 by Baim Hanif via Unsplash.