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.

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.

Background

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.

Reflection

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:

Testimony

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.

iPadpaloozaOU Proposal

I am looking forward to iPadpaloozaOU this fall! iPadpaloozaOU is a local conference being cohosted by the Gaylord College of Journalism and the Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education at the University of Oklahoma and is being organized by my friend and colleague, Anne Beck. What sets this conference apart for me is that it seeks to engage both pre-service teachers and K12 educators from around the state. This opportunity to engage both education students and teachers in iPad edtech is part of the reason I wanted to submit a proposal. And of course, anything related to mobile device productivity invigorates my passion in edtech!

While I was brainstorming topics I wanted to submit to iPadpaloozaOU, I kept coming back to some of the professional development I have done with mobile devices and blogging. Having focused on socioeconomic accessibility of mobile devices and equipping students as creators over the last year, these  subjects are close to my heart. Eventually, I decided engaging participants in these topics would be best in a workshop format and this led me to submit the following proposal:

Session Title

Student Creators: Cultivating Success & Amplifying Voices with Mobile Blogging

Session Description

Mobile blogging can be used inside the classroom to increase student engagement. This workshop seeks to both raise awareness of the variety of applications of blogging in the classroom and provide hands-on guidance demonstrating the ease of blogging from a smartphone or tablet. Working in small groups and using personal mobile devices, participants will experience how blogging can be seen as an equalizing technology in a classroom by allowing all students a voice.  Both traditional writing and student engagement are transformed with the utilization of cameras, touch screens, and the streamlined app workflows of mobile devices. As we demonstrate the practicality of mobile blogging, participants will also discuss how blogging can be used to increase understanding to yield student success. Between applications in the classroom, research, and academia more broadly, this professional development workshop aims to provide a comprehensive look at what it means to blog in the context of cultivating student success. For more information about mobile blogging and scholarship and to preview this workshop’s content, visit mbs.keeganslw.net.

Workshop Technology

Assuming my proposal gets accepted, one thing I am looking forward to is introducing a blogging workflow I started using this week. It entails having individuals submit posts to a WordPress website without the need for an account. This workflow will allow me to engage participants at iPadpaloozaOU in blogging without any required setup. In other words, I am looking forward to demonstrating how a “low barrier to entry” technology can be used to engage students. If you want to see what this workflow looks like in practice, check out the Canvas course I am running this week over Mobile Blogging & Scholarship.

If you are interested in submitting a proposal to iPadpalooza, there is still time! You must submit here by June 1st.

The featured image is provided CC0 by Timothy Muza via Unsplash.

Chromebook: Manual for Mac User – 2016

I’ve been exploring the current state of Chromebooks this past week and I wanted to document all of the analogous softwares and workflows I use to be productive on a Chromebook if you are coming from a Mac. From word processing to photo editing, here is my list of recommended software alternatives if you are switching from a Mac to a Chromebook:

Mail

Chromebook: CloudMagic

Mac: Mail

CloudMagic offers similar functionality in terms of adding multiple accounts and sorting emails to their respective inboxes and folders as the Mac Mail client. On my Chromebook I added Gmail, Yahoo Mail, iCloud, and Office 365 emails to the CloudMagic app in a couple minutes. So far, I’ve been really pleased with the performance of CloudMagic, not to mention it is a nice looking app to use for reading and writing email.

Calendar

Chromebook: Sunrise Calendar

Mac: Calendar

I needed a way to access my iCloud calendars, Google calendars, and work Exchange calendars from one app on my Chromebook and Sunrise Calendar allows me to easily do this. However, first you need to sync your calendars from another device, and if you need to use iCloud calendars, you have to install the Sunrise Calendar app to an iPhone, iPad or an Android device first (this will not work from the Mac version of Sunrise Calendar). Once, you overcome this syncing hurdle, Sunrise Calendar works well and looks great for organizing meetings and events. Unfortunately, this solution may not be viable in the future as the team behind Sunrise Calendar is now working for Microsoft and does not plan to provide updates to their Sunrise Calendar product in the foreseeable future. For now, it is my recommendation, but be aware it may not be a permanent calendar client solution for Chomebooks.

Office Suite

Chromebook: Google Docs Suite –> Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Slides

Mac: iWork –> Pages, Numbers, & Keynote

My go to office software on my Mac is Pages, Numbers, & Keynote. Although you can use iCloud.com to access these apps, the Google Docs suite loads much faster for me on Chromebook. If you prefer using Microsoft Office, you are also able to use office.com on a Chromebook if you have an Office 365 subsription. However, the Google Docs suite still loads faster for me and benefits from the Google Drive integration that is part of the Chrome operating system. All that to say, you can always export documents, spreadsheets or presentation slides to their most universal formats (.doc, .ppt, .xls) with any of these aforementioned office suites on a Chromebook.

Music

Chromebook: Google Play Music

Mac: iTunes

If you are not already using Spotify (or another music service), I recommend Google Play Music on Chromebook. Before you move from your Mac, use the Google Play Music Manager app to upload all of your iTunes music into Google Play Music. Once complete, you are able to stream all of your music to your Chromebook from music.google.com. As an added benefit, from this point, you will be able to stream your Google Play Music to your Android phone, iPhone, or any computer that can access music.google.com.

Photo Storage

Chromebook: Google Photos

Mac: Photos

Since Chromebooks have very limited amounts of internal storage my suggestion for storing photos is Google Photos. Similar to the process of uploading your music to Google Play Music, there is a way to upload all of your pictures from your Mac before you move to a Chromebook. Use the Google Photos Uploader software to store all of your pictures in Google Photos for free. Once your images are uploaded, you will be able to access them from your Chromebook (or any other computer) using photos.google.com. In fact, this is a great solution to combine your library of photos from all of your computers and mobile devices into one place!

Photo Editor (Simple)

Chromebook: Canva

Mac: Preview

For basic editing beyond what Mac Photos and Google Photos offer, Canva is my recommendation. Canva can be used to alter the pixel dimensions of a photo and is robust enough to be used as an alternative to Photoshop for basic photo editing. Not to mention, Canva is way easier to use than a traditional photo editor. Just be aware Canva requires signing up for an account before you start creating memes and other graphics from your Chromebook!

Slack

Chromebook: Slacky

Mac: Slack

I use Slack at work to instant message my coworkers from my phone or laptop. It is a great alternative or supplement to email when having online conversations. I prefer the Slacky app to the regular Slack app in the Chrome Web store because Slacky displays Slack within its own window. This makes it is easier to separate Slack messages from other work I am doing on my Chromebook since I can minimize Slacky.

Twitter

Chromebook: Tweetdeck

Mac: Twitter & Tweetdeck

Simply add the Tweetdeck app from the Web App store to your Chromebook and you will have similar access to Twitter as you would on your Mac. The only difference is that Tweetdeck on Chromebook is used through the web browser versus its own window like the app that is available on Mac.

Trello

Chromebook: Trello External Window

Mac: Trello Website

Trello has been my main app for tracking of projects and to-do lists for the last year. I recommend using the Trello External Window app on Chromebook for the same reasons I prefer Slacky to the regular Slack app, it has an external window interface. This makes it easier to separate Trello content from other web browser work.

Feedly

Chromebook: Feedly

Mac: Feedly Website

To access RSS news feeds, I have used Feedly for a long time. It keeps me up-to-date with education blogs and technology news outlets I follow. Like with Tweetdeck, add this app to your Chromebook and you are ready to access news the same way you would have on your Mac.

Ending

This list of 10 Chromebook recommendations covers many of my major productivity needs and workflows that I am accustomed to on my Mac. I hope it has been helpful to you! Also, I am happy to continue this list if you are interested in more suggestions, just let me know.

The featured image is provided CC0 by Tran Mau Tri Tam via Unsplash.

Technology Enabled Learning – GTA Seminar

Tuesday, I had the opportunity to lead a seminar at the Graduate Teaching Academy (GTA), which is a program hosted by CTE that “seeks to promote and maintain a standard of teaching excellence amongst graduate students at the University of Oklahoma.”

This seminar started with everyone brainstorming their favorite classroom activities as Paper Tweets. Together, we generated a great list of engaging and memorable learning (and teaching) experiences. From building interactive and media-rich timelines to great icebreaker activities involving toilet paper, there were many great instructional examples to contextualize the rest of our seminar.

'Accurate' portrayal of Toilet Paper Icebreaker Activity

From this point, we shifted focus to our three topics of discussion: mobile devices, choice in assignments, and crowdsourcing resources.

Seminar Discussion

Mobile Devices
Choice in Assignments
Crowdsourcing Resources

Closing

The final assignment for the participants of this seminar was to think about how to adapt one of our topics of discussion—mobile devices, choices in assignments, and crowdsourcing resources —to their favorite learning experience they outlined in their Paper Tweet.

Presenting at GTA was a great experience. If you are interested in sharing your expertise with the next generation of researchers and university instructors, please contact the Center for Teaching Excellence at teach@ou.edu and schedule a session!

Also, for those interested, here are my slides and the annotated whiteboards from this event:

IMG_20160308_181454