Online courses are no longer synonymous to self-taught, isolated learning environments. Canvas offers an array of options that allow for engagement and interaction with your students in online settings. Take discussion boards as an example. Traditionally, discussion boards have been used to try to simulate in-person discussions and interactions; however, this goal is rarely achieved. Often, discussion boards become overwhelming with the flood of content and responses. Rarely do students read and reflect on their peers’ ideas. To eliminate this overwhelming element of this tool, Canvas allows you to group students into smaller sections. Doing this allows students to read a few of their peers’ ideas and provide feedback on them, opposed to attempting to read 30+ posts.
Another useful tool is the conditional release approach. Conditional release provides structured guidance, as well as feedback, which is useful to students’ development as they move along in the course. An example of conditional release is requiring students to take a brief quiz or write a reflection on a module before being able to move onto the next one. These assignments will not only help students reflect on the material they have learned, but these assignments will also help you as an instructor to gauge student progress and provide feedback where necessary.
Adding content and engagement to your course does not need to be challenging. Consider how you might interact and engage with your students in an in-person course. Now, consider how you can do this but in an online environment. Aside from discussions or conditional release, this can also be done through synchronous meetings via Zoom or short video lectures (students tend to lose interest in videos after 6 minutes). Once you decide on the ways in which you want to engage with your students, my role as an Academic Technology Scholar will be to help you implement these ideas using the tools available to you in Canvas and across the web.