Intermittent “HTTP 500 Error” Issues Affecting Canvas

Instructure, the maker of Canvas, reports that users may see intermittent page and “HTTP 500 Error” messages when attempting to access Canvas as of 11:48 a.m. EST.

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.

Turnitin Maintenance: Saturday, December 3rd, 10am-2pm

stop sign with a hand-symbol instead of an "o"

On Saturday, December 3rd from 10 am-2 pm, Turnitin will be unavailable due to scheduled maintenance by the vendor. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

Instructors who use Turnitin are encouraged to modify assignment due dates either before or at least several hours after the scheduled maintenance window. Canvas and all other integrated tools will be available and unaffected by this maintenance.

Please direct any questions to canvas@pobox.upenn.edu.

Canvas Production Release: November 19, 2016

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 blog 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.

11/19/16 Production Release Highlights:

  • Mastery Paths: The Canvas MasteryPaths feature allows instructors to customize learning experiences to students based on student performance. Instructors and course designers can identify activities for each learning path and decide whether an assignment should be required or optional. They can also allow students to choose their own content and assignments within a specific path. MasteryPaths requires the Mastery Paths feature option in account settings, which can be enabled by any Canvas admin. When allowed at the account level, the feature can be enabled on a course-by-course basis. When enabled for a course, MasteryPaths affects Modules and items in Assignments, Discussions, Quizzes, and Pages. For more information, please see: https://community.canvaslms.com/docs/DOC-8492. If there is interest in enabling this feature, please let us know.
  • LTI Add and Edit: The Permissions page includes the LTI Add and Edit permission, which allows admins to decide if users in a specific role can manually install or edit LTI tools. By default, the LTI permission at the account level is enabled for account admin roles, while the LTI permission at the course level is enabled for instructor, TA, and designer roles. When enabled, this permission allows users to install external apps manually as well as through the Canvas app center. However, if the permission is disabled, users can only install approved apps via the Canvas App Center. When users attempt to manually add an app, Canvas displays a message that the action has been restricted. Additionally, for any existing LTIs, users cannot edit the configuration but can still view placements and delete the app.
  • Concluded Courses & Analytics: Instructors with analytics permissions can view analytics in concluded courses. The course analytics button displays on the Course Home Page.
  • To Do List and Submission Terminology: In the student Dashboard, No Submission or Not Graded assignments with a due date display in the To Do list as Complete the assignment instead of Turn In the assignment.
  • Week and Agenda View Updates: The Calendar Week and Agenda Views have been updated to simplify the look and feel. No functionality has been affected. In Week view, the day of the week and the date are more prominent at the top of the page, and the horizontal gridlines have been removed from the background. In Agenda view, assignments and events are displayed in one line, with the event date or assignment due date left aligned in the page.
  • Wiki Terminology Update: To help with consistency throughout Canvas, Pages terminology has been changed from wiki to page(s) in the following locations: Course Settings, Modules & Permissions.

For a complete production release update, please see:

Canvas Production Release Notes: November 19, 2016

2016-11-19 New Feature Screencast from Canvas LMS on Vimeo.

Please click here to view the transcript for this video.

Current Pilots at Penn

Want to be among the first at Penn to test out new Canvas tool integrations? Volunteers are needed to participate in Fall 2015/Spring 2016 pilots for the following tools:

Click on the table below to learn more about each tool and decide if participating in one or more pilots is right for you.

Updated Pilot Descriptions

Ready to participate? Review these steps to learn how to get involved and what is expected of pilot participants, then contact your school or center’s Courseware Advisory member to get started.

Creating Custom Canvas Homepages

Giant panda in tree

You’ve done your part: Canvas site requested. Content uploaded. Assignments and quizzes created. Course site published.

But maybe that basic Canvas site could use a little something extra, a little visual interest . . . a little glitter and glam, if you will.

The solution, asserts Jenn Steplowski, an instructional designer from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, is to create a custom homepage for your Canvas page. The following tips can help you get started:

  • Before you start designing, consider the mood of your course. What kind of atmosphere do you want users to experience while in the course site?
  • When choosing imagery, quality and consistency are key. Select images from the same family or apply the same filters/effects so they look more uniform. To prevent pixelization, start with larger images and scale them down as needed.
  • Try to limit the design of the page to one or two colors, plus black and white. Variations of one color promote harmony. Flat, colorful design (no gradient or shadows) is very popular right now. For a harmonious course site, choose a color theme and stick with it throughout all pages.
  • Pick a focal point. The eye usually gravitates to the top left corner of the page, then moves toward the center.
  • Create adaptive headers by putting images in a 1×1 table at 100% width. This allows the image to adjust with the screen size. Choose a header that is attention-grabbing.
  • Maintain uniform spacing and respect the background and white space of the design.
  • Avoid using more than two fonts on a page.

For free design ideas and tools, check out the following resources:

Designing Your Canvas Site for How Students Learn

hammock on the beach

Ah, summer. The perfect time for enjoying trips to the shore, napping in hammocks, and of course, planning your Fall course sites.

Sure, you know how to upload a syllabus and add assignments in Canvas. But how do you plan a course site to help students learn more effectively?

At this year’s InstructureCon conference, Canvas users from the University of California at Berkeley presented a workshop called “Designing in Canvas for How the Brain Learns.”

UC Berkeley’s approach to course design focuses on humans as social creatures, who need the combination of motivation and active learning to achieve learner engagement. One way to do this is to create a sense of community within a complex and relevant learning environment.

The following ideas from UC Berkeley are five ways to design in Canvas for how the brain learns:

  1. Create a social presence. Steps like completing a user profile and recording a welcome video add a personal touch.
  1. Include opportunities to share information, expertise, and personality. This can be done by including professional and personal experience in the course, sharing opinions and interests in discussions, choosing student-selected projects, and using the discussion forums for class feedback.
  1. Create a “safe” classroom by establishing rules and norms. In order for participants to feel comfortable sharing opinions and their work for feedback, it’s important to establish trust, goodwill, honesty, openness, competence, reliability, and respect.
  1. Build a common space and use tools that promote community. Brand the space–whether it’s a page or blog or group portfolio–with images and language. Include open forums and use synchronous tools, such as chat and video conferencing. Ensure that the course site is accessible for all users.
  1. Focus on collaborative learning. Include games and negotiations, group debates, group research with wikis or pages, group projects and presentations.

How will you apply these ideas in your course? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Meet our new Canvas support team member!

Becky Moulder

Becky Moulder

Hi, I’m Becky Moulder, the newest member of the Canvas courseware support team. I’m excited to join the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center staff in assisting Canvas users and incorporating technology in education.

While my background is in professional writing, I have been very interested in the role technology plays in learning for some time. I earned a B.A. in English/Professional Writing from Kutztown University and an M.S. in Instructional Technology from Chestnut Hill College. For the past 8 years, I worked as a medical writer and editor for ECRI Institute, a non-profit healthcare research agency based in Plymouth Meeting, Pa.

Working in higher ed is a change of pace for me, but one that has already proved to be very fun. How many other people can say they work in a library housing an incredible collection of rare books and surrounded by a vibrant, buzzing community of students, faculty, staff, and visitors? And let’s not forget the close proximity to so many great food trucks!

In the coming weeks and months I hope to share some of my interests in instructional design, online learning, social media, and Web 2.0 tools. Be on the lookout for future blog posts and workshops on these topics! And if you see me around in Van-Pelt (most likely lost), please stop and say hi!