Q&A Week 1: Questions Answered

  • admin 

ReFocus Online Q&A Week 1 - Round 1 (6-17-20)

Below are the synthesized questions and answers from the ReFocus Online Q&A that happened June 17th, 2020.

Canvas Communication and Structure Questions

Modules provide a structure to organize and present information to students. Modules can contain links to all elements of a Canvas course: 

  • Pages with text, audio, and video content 
  • Files 
  • Assignments and Quizzes 
  • Discussion boards 

Modules create a linear progression of information and can be designed so that students complete or review specific information or tasks before moving forward. Modules can be designed to provide the heading and listing structures that make information more accessible to students. Modules also allow you to ‘chunk’ information into more manageable and searchable segments. Think of Modules as a virtual file drawer. 

Pages are like webpages. A Page can be built with embedded content and links to other information (including links to assignments, quizzes, and discussions in Canvas). Building a course with Pages does allow for a less linear design. However, Pages are intended (and best used) for small amounts of information (e.g. Weekly reading guide for an assigned chapter, assignment hints and strategies, etc.). You can technically add a module’s worth of information to a single Page, however this creates a less navigable and searchable ‘landing spot’ for students. If you use Pages for course organization, you also need to pay attention to document accessibility—bolding, highlighting, and other font changes do not convey organization or importance via screen readers and other assistive technology. Accessibility guidelines for webpages and documents would need to be applied to your Page design and organization. 

We recommend building an online Canvas course using Modules. If you wish to organize a course with Pages, we recommend you have online teaching experience using Canvas and working fluency with document and webpage accessibility strategies. 

There are a lot of tools that integrate with Canvas so it is hard to give an exhaustive list of what is available and how they integrate because each one is different. Some you can install on your own in each course and some require  integration at the institutional level that only a Canvas Admin (a staff member in DLS) can do. This guide on LTIs goes through and explains what an LTI is and how you can find what ones are available.  

It provides another way for you to organize and make available to your students videos you have made and uploaded to the Screencast-O-Matic server.

For more details see the integration in Canvas Screencast-O-Matic's guide.

We have been looking into Respondus for Canvas – not the “lockdown browser,” but a service that will allow you to create quizzes outside of Canvas and then import them.  There are some technical issues that need some investigation (like will it work with Canvas New Quizzes) as well as figuring out funding.  We hope to have an answer on this in the next few weeks.

At this time, the university does not have plans to make Panopto available on Canvas. Other captioning options are available—consult with DLS and ODR for ideas and strategies

UMW is in the process of purchasing an enterprise license for Zoom that will include licenses for every employee and student.  It is anticipated that this will be available in Canvas by the time we start classes, but this is dependent on successful completion of the Procurement process

This information will not be available ahead of the semester. We encourage you to survey your students about their technology access based on the platforms and strategies you plan to use in your course

You can set all your Canvas notifications from your Account page. From your Dashboard: 

  • Click on Account (top of vertical menu on left side of screen) 
  • Click on Notifications 
  • Scroll down to Conversations 

screenshot of canvas notifications

  • You have 4 notification options: 
    • Notify Me Right Away (check mark) 
    • Send a Daily Summary (clock) 
    • Send a Weekly Summary (calendar) 
    • Do Not Send Me Anything (X-mark) 
  • Click on your preferred option. Selected options will be highlighted in green. 
  • Note: You can set notifications for multiple email accounts and via text notifications. The default email in Canvas is your UMW email account. You can add additional contact information via Account>Settings 

The Syllabus function in Canvas is a chronological listing of assignments and due dates in one centralized location. It is not a syllabus document like we think of when we hear the word. You can add a link to your syllabus document as a File link at the top of the Syllabus page. The Syllabus page is good for students who need a simple semester overview of assigned work. 

Other UMW-Supported Communication and Structure Tools

No, you must have a UMW laptop or computer and access to the VPN to use Jabber. 

Non-UMW-Supported Communication and Structure Tools

Padlet is an interactive ‘bulletin board’ where you can post content and comments using text, audio, and video. It is similar to Flipgrid in its purpose and function. Check out the recording about using Padlet from the concurrent session during Week 3: Round 1 of ReFocus.


Yes it does, here is a guide about how live captioning works in PowerPoint on Windows, Mac, or the Web. You’ll notice that the presenter features are still available.  

Communication and Structure Strategies

It is easy to let online teaching become a 24/7 occupation! However, that is not sustainable over a semester and with multiple classes. A few strategies to create open and manageable communication channels: 

  • Identify a select number of communication tools and their purposes. See the Week 1 webpage for ideas! 
  • Communicate early to students how you will communicate with them, when you check messages, and how quickly they can anticipate a reply. Be reasonable and follow your plan—the key for success is predictability.  A portion of a sample communication statement is below: 
    • I will be using Canvas Inbox for all individual and small group messages. I check Inbox twice a day (usually 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.), Monday-Friday and you can expect a reply within 24 hours. However, if you send a message on the weekend or during a university holiday, you can expect a reply on the next working day. Each week I’ll post a class newsletter using Canvas announcements—look for it beginning Sunday evenings around 7 p.m.! I will only use Announcements for newsletters or if there is an emergency/sudden class update. Announcements will not be deleted so you have them for reference throughout the semester. I encourage everyone to check in every few weeks using Class Chats. Class Chats are 1:1 meetings where we can talk about your progress, questions you have about the class, or just to connect. Class Chats can be scheduled for Zoom or by phone—whatever works best for you! See the Class Chat schedule in Canvas for available times. 
  • Block out time daily in your calendar to maintain presence in your course. Presence in an online course can include feedback, participation in discussion boards, and responding to messages. This daily time is relatively quick (30 minutes or so) and helps you ‘temperature check’ how the class is progressing. Schedule other blocks of time for assignment feedback and meetings that are more focused and individual.  

We are going to explore this topic in Week 4: Engagement, so stay tuned! However, some strategies were shared in the group chat during the Virtual Q&A (showing a whole different level of group participation during a large Q&A!): 

  • Using chat features during synchronous meetings to encourage questions and comments 
  • Breaking larger classes into smaller groups for synchronous meetings 
  • Brainstorm with your class ideas to encourage participation—it may look different in a class where students know one another versus a class of ‘new to each other’ people