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.

eXperience Polish

If you are interested in participating in eXperience Play (XP) remotely, I am going to provide a to-do list of items each week. These to-do lists will include a variety of tasks such as playing games, reflecting, blogging, and portions of game development. If you complete all five to-do lists, you will produce an educational text-based game in five weeks. For more information on this professional development, read this blog post, visit the eXperience Play website, or contact me via Twitter or email.

This post corresponds with the fourth session of XP.

Part 1 – Game Development

1. Review the following Twine Syntaxes and guides:

Add Media (Etc.) With These Twine Syntaxes
Change Your Twine Game's Appearance with CSS
Free Images, Additional Guides, & Resources

2. Using the above syntaxes, guides, and everything you have learned in the past few weeks, continue working on your game until it’s complete.

For reference, here’s an example Twine game from a participant of XP:

Example Twine Game, units, made by an XP participant

3. Find someone to play your completed game and give you feedback. Use this opportunity to make more revisions. Again, I’d recommend getting reviews from individuals in your vicinity since your game is stored locally on your computer for now.

Part 2 – Professional Development

4. Write a blog post about your experience building your game using the following prompt:

Blog Prompt
  • Document how your game has changed from last week. I encourage you to include a screenshot of your final product.
  • Reflect and write about how peer-review and feedback has impacted your game’s design.
  • Research and define “Peer-Peer Learning” in your own words.

Get your Twine game as closed to complete as possible by October 3rd.  Share screenshots of your progress with me via Twitter or email or reach out with any questions.

The featured image is provided CC0 by John Hult via Unsplash.

Not Another Reason to Update Your Operating System!

It is easier to learn incremental changes in an Operating System (OS) than wait 12 years and be overwhelmed by drastic differences.

Let me put some context to this thought: Last weekend I was talking with an extended family member, who was describing his update from Windows XP to Windows 8.1 and being disappointed with how slowly he was learning the new OS. Rightfully so—a lot had changed in 12 years. And when I thought about it, coming from Windows XP, he had never experienced my favorite feature of Windows.

The Windows Search functionality was introduced in Windows Vista (following Windows XP) in 2007. I remember this feature was a game changer in terms of how I accessed my files since I could reach them directly from the desktop through the Start Menu. And with each iteration of the OS, Windows Search became even more integral into my digital workflow.

And this is only one example—without the knowledge of Windows Vista and Windows 7, the transition from Windows XP to Windows 8.1 was all the more painful for my relative.

To ease this transition processes for yourself, I suggest updating your OS more frequently, so that the variations from version to version are not quite as extreme. Yes, this does mean you will struggle through the learning process for each OS release, but in so doing, you will gain a better awareness of the constantly evolving landscape of technology and be better prepared for the future of computer interfaces and productivity workflows.

This year, there will be many opportunities to update your operating system(s). We will see the release of Windows 10 (for free!) in addition to the usual Mac OS X, Android, and iOS updates. And I encourage you to consider updating to current versions of these operating systems. If not for security improvements, additional features, or device compatibility (etc.), then to stay current on ever evolving digital workflows that come with each new update.

Preferably, there’s not another reason to update your operating system!

Featured image by Craig Garner, no copyright.