Canvas Production Release: April 1, 2017

Canvas operates on a three-week release cycle through which features are added or updated. Courseware Support posts highlights from Canvas’s production release notes, a link to these notes, and other relevant content to the Canvas at Penn a few days before the production release, which usually occurs on Saturdays. Please contact Courseware Support at canvas@pobox.upenn.edu if you have any questions about an upcoming production release.

4/1/17 Production Release Highlights:

  • Course Content Export: Canvas supports exporting course content into an HTML format for offline viewing on a computer. This feature supports courses that use complex HTML or dynamic linking to downloaded files. Exports are based on modules, so instructors must allow students to view the Modules page to export course content. Even if a course does not include modules, Course content export packages include all course files, pages, and embedded files as long as the user has permission to view them.
    • More Info: Content is exported as a ZIP file and downloaded to the user’s computer. The file is essentially a snapshot of how the course existed at the time of the content export. Users can only interact with course activities when online, such as submitting an assignment, taking a quiz, or replying to a discussion. For more information about this feature, please view the full release notes. This is an account- or subaccount-level setting that applies to an entire account. If there is interest in enabling this feature, please let us know.
  • Course End Date and Past Enrollments: In the Courses list, the Past Enrollment section displays courses that include a course end date in Course Settings. This update applies to all user roles and helps resolve past courses that Canvas never considered to be concluded unless they were concluded by term dates or the course override participation checkbox. Now, if a course includes a course end date, the end date applies to course enrollment status regardless of the participation checkbox setting. Therefore, when a course end date is included in Course Settings, the course displays in the Past Enrollments section once the end date has passed. For clarification, the “users can only participate” checkbox restricts users from participating in the course, such as replying to discussions, submitting assignments, etc. If an instructor is using course dates to override term dates and prefers the course be placed in a read-only state after the course has ended, the “users can only participate” checkbox should be selected. Otherwise, students can still participate in the course after the course end date.
  • There are also several updates to the following features in Canvas, which we currently do not have enabled for Penn: Multiple Grading Periods, Chat (enabled for Wharton only), and Student Context Cards. If there is any interest in enabling these features, please let us know.

For a complete production release update, please see:

Canvas Production Release Notes: April 1, 2017

2017-04-01 New Feature Screencast from Canvas LMS on Vimeo.

Please click here to view the transcript for this video.

Faculty Spotlight on Instructional Design: Genevieve Hollis, School of Nursing

Person in lab-coat sitting a computer.

The following interview is with a faculty member who received instructional design assistance from Courseware Support. If you would like instructional design assistance, please email canvas@pobox.upenn.edu.

Genevieve Hollis

Genevieve Hollis

Genevieve Hollis (MSN, CRNP, ANP-BC, AOCN) is an Advanced Senior Lecturer-B in the Adult Oncology Specialty Minor/Post-Master’s Program at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, as well as a Nurse Practitioner at the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine. She is the Associate Course Director for Advanced Practice Nursing For Oncology Care (NURS 664). Professor Hollis participated in this interview on behalf of her and Professor Amy Moore (MSN, RN, ACNS-BC), Course Director for NURS 664, who also partook in the instructional design experience.

What prompted you to seek help from instructional designers? How were you connected with an instructional design team?

In Spring 2013, the Adult Oncology Specialty Minor/Post-Master’s Program decided to move the majority of its coursework online. Professor Hollis explains that the decision was due both to the varied focuses of students in this program, as well as the unique complexity of oncology-care education, saying that “oncology care is increasingly team-based and requires strong and knowledgeable partnerships between primary care, inpatient and outpatient specialized oncology, home care, and hospice providers.”

Seizing the opportunity to teach online, the NURS 664 faculty engaged in an intensive content-development period for a Fall 2013 course launch. While these faculty were devoted to developing a high-quality online learning experience, time constraints and limited experience with the technologies that were to be used proved challenging.

Consequently, Professor Hollis notes, “students evaluations were markedly lower than when the course was offered solely on campus.” This experience and the School of Nursing’s interest in expanding its online course offerings led to the formation of an online-teaching task force. The outcomes from this task force included the redesign of NURS 664 and the use of this redesign process as a real-time opportunity “to identify steps involved and resources needed to roll out online courses on a larger scale.” To achieve this end, the NURS 664 faculty were paired with instructional designers from Courseware Support at the Penn Libraries.

What were you hoping to get out of the instructional design process?

Motivated to make the most of revamping their course, Professor Hollis says the NURS 664 faculty sought the following from the instructional design process:

  • “An overall, more polished, high quality course format that promoted student engagement, learning, and satisfaction
  • A structured, efficient process for enhancing faculty command of online pedagogy
  • A structured, efficient process for exploring online teaching strategies/technologies that matched course objectives
  • Increased faculty comfort with managing and trouble-shooting online teaching technologies
  • Increased students comfort with online learning and their ability to trouble-shoot technology
  • Help establishing a framework and identifying associated necessary resources to be used in the revision of other online courses, transitioning other on-campus courses to an online format, and developing new courses directly in an online format”

What did you find surprising about the process?

Professor Hollis was surprised to find how much of her and her colleagues’ previous attempts at online teaching–“through trial and error/baptism by fire”–yielded valuable insights that were confirmed through their work with instructional designers. Additionally, Professor Hollis was happy to find that “exciting opportunities existed with online learning for students to be more responsible for their own learning.”

As for working with instructional designers from Courseware Support, Professor Hollis was pleased with “the knowledge, competency, and professionalism of the instructional designers,” specifically in how they “elicited faculty concerns; listened well; and took a concept, made a suggestion, mocked up an example, beta tested, and presented to faculty.” She adds that the instructional designers were “confident, self-directed problem solvers.”

Nurse standing next to patient receiving an MRI.

If you were starting over with the instructional design process, what would you do differently?

“I would develop a strategic plan with clear priorities for revisions over time,” Professor Hollis says, noting that the “initial priorities eventually morphed into high-impact items such as chunking content, ‘look and feel,’ organization, and navigational aids.”

Thinking to future iterations of NURS 664, Professor Hollis says that “future priorities will be webinar structure, inter-activeness of PowerPoints, quality of videos, and increased inter-activeness of homework through gaming.”

What is one piece of advice you can give to anyone who is thinking about re-designing their course?

Professor Hollis advises anyone interested in a course redesign project to “develop a partnership with instructional designers and take time to understand each others roles,” adding that “faculty are the course content experts, and the instructional designers are the technological experts.”

Want to help from an instructional designer?

Please email canvas@pobox.upenn.edu!

Intermittent Issues Affecting Canvas Tools

Instructure, the makers of Canvas, report that users have been experiencing intermittent issues in Canvas with the following:

  • logging into Canvas
  • using Turnitin
  • using the Canvas Media tool to view/record/upload content
  • document-previewing in SpeedGrader
  • importing/copying content between sites

Updates on these issues will be posted to Canvas at Penn and on Instructure’s status page:

http://status.instructure.com/

We apologize for the inconvenience these issues may cause. Instructure is working to resolve these issues as soon as possible. Please direct questions to canvas@pobox.upenn.edu. Updates will continue to be posted as they are received.

Canvas Production Release: March 11,2017

Canvas operates on a three-week release cycle through which features are added or updated. Courseware Support posts highlights from Canvas’s production release notes, a link to these notes, and other relevant content to the Canvas at Penn a few days before the production release, which usually occurs on Saturdays. Please contact Courseware Support at canvas@pobox.upenn.edu if you have any questions about an upcoming production release.

3/11/17 Production Release Highlights:

  • Discussion Attachment Edits: If an instructor enables discussion settings to allow students to add attachments and edit discussion replies, the Edit option allows students to remove a file attached to a reply.
  • Peer Review Discussion Completion: When a student completes a peer review in a graded discussion, the discussion page indicates that the peer review for a specific student has been completed. This change aligns consistency for students in peer review assignments.
  • Sidebar New Page Links: Rich Content Editor sidebars in the Pages and Syllabus once again include functionality to add a link to a new page, which already exists in other sidebar feature areas. This link is located in the Links tab in the Pages section.
  • Unmute Assignment Warning: When an instructor unmutes an assignment, SpeedGrader displays a warning indicating that the assignment will be visible to all students. This change matches the behavior when an instructor unmutes an assignment in the Gradebook.
  • Navigation Link Width: If a navigation link includes a long name that expands past the default menu width, the name wraps in the navigation menu.
  • File Extensions: When a user renamed a file, Canvas preselected the entire file name, which caused users to completely remove the file type extension. This behavior caused the file to be downloaded as a generic system file. Canvas code has been updated to preselect only the file name and omit the extension.
  • User Names: When an admin edited a user’s name and saved the page, no change was visible. This behavior also affected email addresses updated through any method (UI, SIS, or API). Canvas code has been updated to retain changes made to user attributes. This should resolve the problem we saw where admins could not edit the “Display Name” of users in Canvas.

For a complete production release update, please see:

Canvas Production Release Notes: March 11, 2017

2017-03-11 New Feature Screencast from Canvas LMS on Vimeo.

Please click here to view the transcript for this video.

RESOLVED: Canvas Access Restored (AWS Outage)

Instructure, the makers of Canvas, have confirmed that the Canvas service disruption resulting from today’s Amazon Web Services (AWS) outage has been resolved. Amazon reports that uploads to their service should be working again, and Instructure has confirmed that there does not seem to be any lingering issues that affect Canvas functionality.

It is recommended that you perform the following actions before attempting to access Canvas again:

  1. Clear your browser’s cache (instructions for PC and Mac).
  2. Log out of Canvas and close your browser.
  3. Open a new browser window and log back into Canvas at canvas.upenn.edu with your PennKey username and password.

By performing these steps, you will have removed from your browser any data that might have been stored during the outage that would give the appearance of the outage persisting.

We apologize for any inconvenience this issue caused. If you have any questions, or if the issue still seems to affect you despite performing the recommended actions, please email canvas@pobox.upenn.edu. Thank you.

UPDATE: Canvas Recovery Progressing (Limited Functionality)

Instructure, the makers of Canvas, have sent the following update:

“Canvas performance and service recovery continues to progress quickly. Although many users should now be able to access Canvas, there may still be areas of impaired functionality as we work through remaining issues.”

Please note: Although recovery is underway, users report that they still cannot perform actions like uploading files or submitting assignments.

We apologize for any inconvenience this issue has caused. Please direct questions to canvas@pobox.upenn.edu. Updates will continue to be posted as they are received.

UPDATE: Canvas Service Disruption Continues (AWS Outage)

Instructure, the makers of Canvas, have sent the following update:

“AWS is still working through their recovery process. Unfortunately, the number of Amazon services that have been impacted has grown in the time it took to find the root cause, and it will be a significant effort on their side to recover all of the services. They are understandably starting with the most critical ones. Since Canvas depends on so many of their services, a full recovery may still take some time.

On our side, our DevOps team has moved on to other ideas about how to get from a ‘service disruption’ state to a ‘degraded performance’ state in Canvas. We are also discussing the plans for addressing similar circumstances in the future, though our options are limited due to the perniciousness of this incident; but we are considering all options at this time.”

We apologize for the inconvenience this issue may cause. Please direct questions to canvas@pobox.upenn.edu.

UPDATE: Root Cause of AWS Outage Found

Instructure, the makers of Canvas, have made the following update:

“Amazon has informed us that they have identified the underlying root cause of the issue and they are beginning the remediation process. Our internal DevOps team continues to explore options to facilitate faster recovery.”

Thank you for waiting while Instructure continues to work with Amazon Web Services on a resolution too this issue. Please direct questions to canvas@pobox.upenn.edu.