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Home > Canvas User Experience > Using Canvas to teach during university closures
Using Canvas to teach during university closures
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Some emergency university closures may not be related to infrastructure damage or outages. In these cases, if it is safe to do so, you can continue to teach your classes online in order to avoid losing valuable class time. We strongly recommend taking a proactive approach to ensure that your face-to-face class can easily be continued as an online class. This article will help you to quickly convert your class to a fully online course even if you are starting from scratch with a blank Canvas course site.


Where to start if you have never logged into Canvas before

If you have never logged into Canvas before, you will first need to gain familiarity with Canvas's most basic functions. Watch the video below for a general overview of Canvas and review our Getting Started resource for instructors detailing how to log into Canvas, get Canvas help, and basic how-to tutorials. If you only have time to focus on a few skills, then the most important things to learn are:

You will be able to access your courses from your Canvas Dashboard. If you don't see your desired course on your Dashboard, you will find it on your All Courses page: Simply select Courses on the global navigation menu on the left of the screen, then select All Courses.


 Feel free to customize the courses your Dashboard displays.

Step 1: Set up your course content & university resources in Canvas

Put all graded assignments and important files in your Canvas course site if you haven't already done so

This includes your course syllabus and schedule, adding any other files that are neededquizzes, written assignments, and exams (see more about exams below).

Import FSU's Canvas Emergency Module into your course if you haven't already done so

Another item that can help you in the event of an emergency closure is FSU's Canvas Emergency Module. This module contains several items to help facilitate clear, quick communication between you and your students. The "Instructor Overview" page details how to use the module items and contains sample messaging that is easily adapted as needed so that you can communicate quickly and efficiently with your entire class via Canvas course announcements. Though you may find that you do not need to utilize every component of the module, it is helpful to have this resource in your course in case you need it!

Publish your course site and everything in it

Your students can only access your Canvas course site once you have published it. Similarly, students can only access the individual items in your course site that you have published as well, so make sure that you publish everything you want students to access. Publishing your course also means that you can now communicate with all your students via Canvas announcements. When teaching online, communicating with students via regular course announcements is crucial to keeping everyone on the same page and encouraging students to remain engaged in your course.

Exam Arrangements

Depending on the length of the university closure, you may need to reschedule your exam or make alternative testing arrangements

Step 2: Determine how you will be delivering course lectures

Would you like to deliver lectures asynchronously (i.e., creating a video that students can watch at any time), or would you prefer your students be "present" and engaging with your lecture in real-time?

There are two options available for asynchronous lecture delivery:

If you wish to have your students "present" during your lecture, then use the Zoom web conferencing tool. We recommend recording all your Zoom sessions just in case some of your students are unable to be present during the original session.

Keep in mind: We do not recommend using Canvas Conferences (BigBlueButton) 
Canvas Conferences are much more limited than Zoom; Conferences will retain recordings for only 14 days and we do not have any way of downloading these recordings out of Canvas, so even if you record your session it will essentially be lost.

Step 3: Consider creative ways of converting offline activities into online activities

You will have two options available: synchronous (real-time) online activities, and asynchronous (time-delayed) online activities. When choosing the types of activities to use, think also about the type of interaction the activity facilitates. Which type of activity you choose will depend on what you feel will best serve your course objectives and the type of interaction you want to facilitate: instructor-student interaction, or student-student interaction.

For example, if your students were originally going to participate in in-person discussions, you could use Canvas's Discussion feature to facilitate asynchronous discussions. If your students were originally going to give presentations, they could record a video and upload it to Kaltura Media to share with you and their classmates. Or, you could opt to use the Zoom web conferencing tool for real-time presentations and discussions. 

Asynchronous Activities and Tools

  • Canvas Discussions
    Students can participate in a discussion forum and both interact with one another and respond to your discussion prompt. You can also use a discussion form as a place for students to post their general course questions so that you can share answers to those questions with the entire class.
  • Canvas Quizzes
    Canvas Quizzes can be used as small, relatively informal homework assignments or can be a more formal unit exam depending on your instructional needs. Open-book, take-home exams on Canvas can be a great option for replacing high-stakes exams with multiple, lower-stakes tests in the event that proctored testing arrangements are not available. For important quizzes, keep these quiz best practices in mind along with our tips for maximizing quiz security.
  • Canvas Assignments
    Similar to Canvas Quizzes, Canvas Assignments can be used to facilitate submission of written assignments ranging from relatively informal homework assignments to important research papers. If desired, you can use Turnitin assignments to check student submissions for plagiarism. You can also create peer review assignments so that students can give each other feedback in addition to your instructor feedback.
  • Canvas Collaborations
    Canvas Collaborations allow students to collaborate on an Office 365 document or a Google Doc. Keep in mind that we do not recommend this option for large classes (more than 50 students).
  • Having students watch or create videos and other multimedia items
    You can easily have students watch instructional videos on YouTube or watch videos that you create for them via Kaltura Media. Students can also create videos and share them with each other and you via Kaltura. Creating advertisements, photo albums, or audio-narrated slideshows are a few more ideas for student activities.
  • Have students engage in research using FSU library resources or watch instructional videos hosted by FSU's Library
    FSU Libraries offers online resources for writing assignments as well as workshops that can be counted as instructional time. You can also integrate FSU library resources with your Canvas course to make it even easier for your students to access library resources while off-campus.

For more ideas, see our Online Alternatives to In-person Proctored Exams.

Synchronous Activities and Tools

  • Class meetings via Zoom web conferencing are available. Consider some example scenarios when deciding whether web conferencing is the best option for your instructional needs. If you do opt to use Zoom, be sure to record your sessions and to follow these web-conferencing best practices for the smoothest experience.

  • Virtual office hours and one-on-one meetings with your students via Zoom web conferencing. When scheduling a one-on-one meeting with a student, make sure to schedule the meeting through your own individual Zoom account. Then share the meeting's "join URL" with only that student via an email or a Canvas Inbox message.

If you experience trouble or have questions, please feel free to reach out to FSU ODL Technical Support via a support ticket or our [email protected] email. Our phone line will not be operational during official university closures. Please keep in mind that during university closures you may also experience a longer response time than usual.

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