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.

Changing Domain For A WordPress Website in 3 Steps

Today, John and I moved the eXperiencePlay website from xp.keeganslw.com to experienceplay.education. I was worried this process would be cumbersome but I was pleasantly surprise when we succeeded after a few minutes of research and work.

Prerequisites

Before initiating the domain change process, I registered experienceplay.education on Namecheap, pointed the Name Servers at my Reclaim Hosting (OU Create) account, and used the “Addon Domains” section of the Reclaim Hosting cPanel to add the experienceplay.education domain and directory to my account. Let me know if you need some guidance with these preliminary steps.

Step 1 – Change the WordPress Address & Site Address

Screenshot of General Settings highlighting WordPress Address and Site Address fields

Under the Settings>General tab of your WordPress website are the WordPress Address (URL) and Site Address (URL) fields. You will need to change those fields from your old domain to your new domain. From our research, we referenced the “Via WordPress Dashboard” section from this website and the “Method II” section from this website.

Step 2 – Move All WordPress Site Files On Server

Folder view of my web server showing the eXperience Play Website files.

Next we moved all of the folders and files located in the xp.keeganslw.com directory over to the experienceplay.education directory including all of the .php files.

Notably, we didn’t have to alter the WordPress MySQL database. In fact, we never touched the database! 🙂

Step 3 – Disconnect & Reconnect Jetpack (& Other Cleanup)

eXperience Play website with new experienceplay.education domain.

To finalize our site transfer, we followed Jeremy Herve’s recommendation from this forum, allowing us to transfer our Jetpack site statistics from xp.keeganslw.com to experienceplay.education. Otherwise, the only remaining cleanup required was updating a few URLs to point to experienceplay.education and establish a redirect from the old domain to the new domain.

To upload additional images to your website, you’ll need to change the Media directory under Settings>Media. The field is titled “Store uploads in this folder” and needs to be replaced with file path for your new domain and directory. Here’s what that setting should look like:

Screenshot of Media Settings highlighting the directory where uploaded files go on a WordPress website.

Final Thoughts

This process was much simpler than I anticipated and I’m excited to maintain the eXperience Play website visitor statistics. Originally, we set out on this process to separate my domain from the eXperience Play program in preparation for OLCInnovate and to encourage other individuals to use our curriculum (similar to GOBLIN). Now, I’m trilled to have learned how effortless it is to change a WordPress website domain!

The featured image is provided CC0 by Денис Евстратов via Unsplash


Edit: Another paragraph and screenshot were added to step 3 to describe changing the media directory before you can upload additional photos to the website. This issue was discovered after this post was originally published.

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.