Learning management systems can help instructors tailor instruction to their tech-savvy students’ needs — but only if they know how to use them to full effect.
Three-quarters of college students agree that internet-connected devices have a “positive” or “significantly positive” effect on their academic success. However, for students to enjoy the full range of benefits delivered by a device-driven education, instructors must ensure that their lessons, course materials, and day-to-day communications are optimized for the digital world.
This imperative has been one of the driving forces behind the increasing popularity of learning management systems (LMS) on college campuses. A good LMS can help boost both student achievement and engagement, but only if instructors understand how to leverage its full capabilities.
At Hoonuit, we’ve created a comprehensive library of training modules designed to help higher education professionals develop the skill-sets required to inform, instruct, and inspire in the digital age. One of our most popular modules covers everything instructors need to know about Canvas, an LMS that is as customizable and reliable as it is mobile-optimized and easy-to-use.
In a series of 43 videos broken into eight skill-oriented sections, module author Heather Slee demonstrates Canvas’ breadth, sharing tips and tricks that every instructor should know. Here’s a taste of what users can expect:
One of the distinguishing functionalities of an LMS like Canvas is the flexibility it affords concerning crafting digital assets. For instance, in addition to writing their syllabus in Canvas’ built-in text editor, an instructor also has the option of uploading a prewritten syllabus (usually one drawn up in Word) or linking to a syllabus already hosted online (perhaps in Google Docs). If, however, the instructor does decide to create their syllabus within the Canvas platform, they can embed images and video clips, hyperlink to helpful learning resources, and customize every last aspect of the document’s appearance.
This customizability extends to course content, as well. As Slee point out, “Content can be anything from an article you want your students to read to a video to an infographic; any kind of information you want them to consume.”
Easy, Consistent Grading
Canvas makes grading assignments easier — and fairer — than ever. Using the LMS’ “Rubric” function, instructors can create assessment criteria, assign each of them a distinct point value, and share the final grading guide with course participants, guaranteeing that expectations are crystal clear from the get-go. Once a rubric is finalized, it’s filed away in a “bank” from which an instructor can draw when evaluating future assignments.
Instructors can also use Canvas to orchestrate blind peer reviews. Whether an instructor prefers to assign grading partners manually or let Canvas assign partners at random, it takes but a few clicks of the mouse to give students the chance to assess the approach taken by an anonymous classmate — often the best way to expand a student’s way of thinking.
An LMS like Canvas makes it incredibly easy to manage student activity, both through observation and communication. Canvas automatically generates Student Interactions Reports, giving instructors information on student interactions (with course content and with each other), real-time grades, outstanding assignments, and fluctuations in course enrollment.
What’s more, Canvas’ multimedia capabilities revolutionize instructor-student communications. Beyond writing traditional text-based messages, instructors can record audio or video content with their device’s webcam and microphone. “Sending audio or video messages can add some variety to your communication with your students,” Slee explains. “It can be useful when communicating with students who are ELL or perhaps have different learning disabilities. Or it can just be a nice way to make a kind of personal connection with your students.”
The Tools for Success
These features barely scratch the surface of what a good LMS can do, but after completing Slee’s Canvas Instructor Series, instructors will feel confident in their ability to create an engaging and easy-to-use course optimized for modern students’ needs. Tech can be a powerful tool inside and outside the classroom, and with learning modules from Hoonuit, instructors have everything they need to stay on top of the latest edtech trends and best practices.
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