Protecting your Development Investments with Canvas Commons

In this post we’ll look at a brief case study of a USask Department who, working in collaboration with the Distance Education Unit (DEU), invested quality time in the full instructional design process to develop a set of strategic online courses that aimed to permit several certificates and a three-year degree program to be completed entirely at a distance. We’ll look at how these courses serendipitously served the department during the emergency remote measures of 2020-2021 and how the courses are now stored, administered and maintained through a private departmental Canvas Commons group.

Strategic Online Developments

The Department of Political Studies (POLS) has invested a substantial amount of time and efforts into working with DEU to develop a strategic suite of quality online courses. Initially POLS had a number of strategic goals for developing these online courses and planned on being able to offer two certificates and a three-year degree program completely at a distance to increase flexibility and enrolment. These pre-pandemic developments played a serendipitous role during the emergency remote measures and continue to provide flexible options for on-campus students, to access quality online learning while limiting their on-campus activities, and to off-campus students, who might not otherwise enrol at USask due to geographic or socioeconomic realities.

Canvas Commons Course Storage

Recently, having invested the time and energy into collaborative instructional design and development processes for these online courses, POLS and DEU reviewed and uploaded these “course masters” into a Department specific Canvas Commons area.

Users of this private Commons are administered by the Department and instructors can copy the content from these courses into their empty Canvas course shell at the start of term. Edits can then be made to that copy of the course without affecting the original. In this way, different instructors are able to update readings, add different discussion topics or even change the assessments to suit their personal teaching styles and strategies while leveraging the navigational, organizational, and pedagogical design decisions that we made during the rigorous instructional design process. If the class is assigned to a new instructor the next term, the original “course master” is again available from the Commons as a starting point. This concept ensures instructors are able to add personalized enhancements to an already rigorously designed student experience without starting from scratch each term and lends itself well to a consistent experience for students within a given program amidst turnover of lecturers.

DEU works collaboratively with colleges and departments to develop long-term strategies for effective online development and delivery of your courses and programs to local, regional, and international student audiences. Our services are offered in-kind at no additional cost to your college or department. Whether it be at the graduate, undergraduate, certificate, or non-credit level, DEU has the expertise and experience in online and distance education to support the development and delivery of your long-term online goals. Let us know what long-term goals you have for serving your students at a distance or start the conversation with one of our Program Managers today.


Image by Jagrit Parajuli from Pixabay