Hide and Reveal Content in Canvas Pages with this HTML Trick

Generally, the ideal page layout for course materials in Canvas is to have the information readily visible and in hierarchical order. Making use of styles such as headings makes the page more accessible both visually and for assistive technologies. In addition to the hierarchy, other visual elements introduced in our previous post can be used to signal different messages to students.

Today, we have another tool for your page layout toolbox, collapsible content, sometimes referred to as an accordion. When I say accordion what may come to mind first is one of the most fun musical instruments to play and listen to, but what we are talking about in this post is a menu that is “a vertically stacked list of headers that can be clicked to reveal or hide content associated with them” (Loranger, 2014). Usually, these will reveal content under one header while hiding content in the rest. We can get a similar effect using a simple HTML tag, details.

Hi I’m Details, click here to see more great content.

The content here is hidden until you click the details summary. If you click it again, this content will disappear.

Continue reading “Hide and Reveal Content in Canvas Pages with this HTML Trick”

Using Synchronous Sessions: Learning in Real-time

In discussing online learning broadly with faculty, instructors, students, staff, and the public, it becomes evident very quickly that there are as many different interpretations of what it means or can look like as there are people to talk about it with. In higher education in particular, it is quite common for online learning to seem like it is an asynchronous (anywhere anytime) setting. Live real-time classes have existed in a variety of formats over the decades, from classes broadcast over television and radio networks, to closed network screens, and now through the use of web conferencing tools such as Zoom and Webex. This post includes just a few ideas for using synchronous strategies in your online class as a first step.
Continue reading “Using Synchronous Sessions: Learning in Real-time”

Hidden Gems – H5P


Leslie Langham has taught most of their courses online at least twice now. They put in long days, evenings and weekends developing content for their courses – choosing readings, finding relevant videos and images, crafting assignments – and interacting with students providing feedback. Leslie feels confident in the courses they put together and deliver online, but also feels like a little something is missing. Sometimes students seem to miss the most important points made in the videos, or pick up on some key concepts but miss others.

In their face-to-face class, Leslie is used to using a student response system and other activities and technology to check for student understanding, but aside from using the Canvas Quiz tool, doesn’t know how else to support students by providing interactive opportunities to self-check their new understanding and practice their new skills. After consulting with an instructional designer they settled on incorporating some H5P activities into their online course.

Leslie now has a variety of interactive learning activities throughout the course, providing students timely, relevant, and specific feedback on key concepts automatically. This includes interactive videos where students can check their understanding as the video is playing, check the outcomes of their decisions with branching scenarios, test their knowledge with digital flashcards, analyze images with interactive elements, and more. All of these activities are presented right in the course content, allowing students to engage with it straight away rather than going away into some other platform requiring yet another login.

Continue reading “Hidden Gems – H5P”

Creating and Sharing H5P Activities from WordPress and Pressbooks

If you haven’t tried H5P yet, or don’t know much about it, you can read the article Hidden Gems – H5P for Interactive Content, which describes the tool generally and gives a pretty good overview of why you might use it. For more articles about H5P, check out our entire category of H5P related posts.

What this post will help you learn
  • how to create an interactive activity with H5P  using WordPress and Pressbooks.
  • upon creating your activity, how to embed that activity in another website, including Canvas.
Learning Technology Used
  • WordPress (USask Sites) – Authoring & Publishing
  • Pressbooks (OpenPress) – Authoring & Publishing
  • Canvas – Publishing

Continue reading “Creating and Sharing H5P Activities from WordPress and Pressbooks”

Creating and Sharing H5P Activity Without a Website

If you haven’t tried H5P yet, or don’t know much about it, you can read the article Hidden Gems – H5P for Interactive Content, which describes the tool generally and gives a pretty good overview of why you might use it. For more articles about H5P, check out our entire category of H5P related posts.

What this post will help you learn
  • how to create an interactive activity with H5P using the Lumi desktop application.
  • upon creating your activity, how to get that activity into your Canvas course.
Learning Technology Used
  • Lumi Education – Authoring & Exporting
  • Canvas – Publishing

Continue reading “Creating and Sharing H5P Activity Without a Website”

Hidden Gems – Multimedia Presentations with Microsoft Sway


Jamie Jameson is teaching a combined 400/800 level course this term and the final project is a group presentation of their students’ work as a digital poster. In previous years Jamie’s assignment was often submitted as a PowerPoint presentation. This year they wanted to try something new, enabling students to create and curate multimedia into the presentation, as PowerPoint always made this feel clunky; as well as asking students to create something that is shareable not only in a remote learning context but is also easily shared with a broader audience.

Jamie considered continuing to use PowerPoint, but having students work in groups would sometimes result in multiple versions and led to confusion about which draft to present to the class. Sharing of the PowerPoints was also a problem. If PDFs were shared, the presentations felt static and lacked the multimedia elements that enhance the presentation. Visually rich presentations resulted in very large file sizes and could become increasingly difficulty to distribute, not to mention that viewing them on different devices could drastically alter the perception of the presentation. Jamie also considered asking their students to create a website, but concluded that their own comfort level with teaching their students the intricacies of web design could detract from the purpose of the assignment, the students’ research.

After consulting with an instructional designer about the project, Jamie settled on the final assignment submissions by way of Microsoft Sway. Their students created responsive Sway presentations of their research collaboratively online, presented it to the class, and they were also able to post their Sway projects to the class website.These presentations were brought to life with pull quotes, animations, student created video as well as YouTube videos, and images. Finally, students were able to include their work in the e-portfolio they assembled over the course of their program. Continue reading “Hidden Gems – Multimedia Presentations with Microsoft Sway”

Don’t have a Scanner? Submitting Assignments with a Mobile Device

Much of the work we produce in online classes takes the form of discussions, and assignments. Most of this is done online, using a computer (either desktop or laptop), and using applications such as Word, PowerPoint, SPSS, and more. However, there are times were we might have work to complete “off-screen” such as illustrations, graphs, charts, calculations, musical notation, etc. In these cases you might have a document or paper you’ve written on, and need to submit that work. There are a few ways you can use your mobile device to scan and submit these documents. Continue reading “Don’t have a Scanner? Submitting Assignments with a Mobile Device”

7 Things You Should Know About Canvas Commons

This topic does not appear in the EDUCAUSE series, but we think the format is useful so have applied it here… see more from the 7 Things You Should Know about series for other Ed Tech related themes and tools at EDUCAUSE.


Jamie Andarson is teaching an online introductory course next term using Canvas. They have prepared most of their syllabus, selected articles and other readings, and have most of the assignments outlined but not detailed. They are still looking to fill some gaps in their course, so they reach out to their education specialist to go over their course plan. Ezra Eban, the educationalist, suggests they search Canvas Commons to see if there are any Open Educational Resources – freely accessible, openly licensed text, media, and other digital assets that are useful for teaching – that would work for the course.

Jamie and Ezra find some rich content that fits nicely with the third week’s theme, an assignment that is actually very close to the one Jamie had in mind, but unfortunately no quizzes that would work for this course. Using the import from Commons feature, they copy the content into their course and place it within the week three module. Next, they imported the assignment and began editing it. They added details that were specific to the University of Saskatchewan, and also added a rubric for grading and feedback purposes. Finally, together they created some quizzes intended for practice for students prior to the midterms and final exam.

Ezra mentioned to Jamie that with Canvas Commons you can also submit your course materials for others to use. They consider the license on the original assignment, choose a new Creative Commons license for the updated assignment and share it back to Canvas Commons. They also look through the quizzes and decide on another Creative Commons license, and share it to Commons for the rest of their department to use. Continue reading “7 Things You Should Know About Canvas Commons”

How Much Should I Assign? Estimating Workload in Asynchronous Classes

Over nearly ten years of designing and developing online classes at different Higher Education Institutions in Canada, one question I have found consistently in all contexts is, “how much content should I include in my online class?” Now that we are looking at remote teaching in the fall, that question has become a lot more frequent, so let’s take a deeper look at the question and hopefully provide some useful resources. Continue reading “How Much Should I Assign? Estimating Workload in Asynchronous Classes”

Creating Engaging Learning Activities

In order to cross over from passive content consumption into active learning, you will need to make real-life activities the focus of your course content (Hayes, 2015). Activities can be discussions, interactive activities, project or problem based assignments, blogging, and curation assignments – or could even involve learners themselves creating content and activities such as editing Wikipedia.

Connecting Activities to Your Course Design

Planning activities while creating your Course Design Plan is not a very complex concept once you have examined all of the foundations, but many people will create online courses without putting much thought at all into it, and then wonder why they do not even come close to getting the results they desire from their courses. Your instructional designer will assist you in planning using five basic steps:

  • Determine the Main Design Model for the Course (Independent Community, Guided Community, Networked Community, etc). Ask yourself “What is the main reason for the model I selected?” and “What other approaches could also possibly be part of the course design?” It is okay to have mixtures of others, but thinking through that may make you reconsider the main one.
  • Determine the Main Teaching Philosophy for the Course (Pedagogy, Andragogy, Heutagogy, etc). Ask yourself “What is the main reason for the philosophy I selected?” and “What other philosophies could also possibly be part of the course design?” Again, it is okay to have mixtures of approaches, but thinking through that may make you reconsider the main one.
  • Make a List of Interactions and Communications You Think Would Be Utilized in the Course. This may be a short list (even a list of one) or a long list. Then, next to each type of interaction or communication, identify the design model and teaching philosophy you want to use with each. Use this list to re-evaluate numbers one and two.
  • Create a Map of the Activities You Would Like in the Course. Start listing the activities (or activity ideas) that you want in your course. The fine details of the activity or the specific mechanics are not absolutely necessary at this time. Then connect those with a the design model and teaching philosophy for each item in the list. This process may cause you to revise previous steps, or even the map of activities. Finally, match your activities to your learning objectives (and make sure there are no gaps), order the list, and begin plugging it into the Course Design Plan.
  • Identify the tools and basic mechanics of the learning activity. The final step is to select the tools you want to use in your course. Often times people start with this step, which is not necessarily incorrect, but caution should be used. If beginning with this step ensure you revisit steps one through four. This process may cause you to revise previous steps, or choose a different tool. A brief introduction to types of tools is included below, and your instructional designer can help with this process as well.

As you can see, this process requires a lot of looking at different parts and revising as analysis reveals missing elements or incorrect identifications. For example, a list of assignments may reveal that you desire to have mostly heutagogical networked activities where you previously identified instructivist pedagogical student-instructor interaction as your course structure. This should lead you to reconsider the overall structure of the course (or to redesign the activities to match the existing structure).

For a more detailed look at this process, as well as a helpful worksheet for the steps listed above, see “From Instructivism to Connectivism: Theoretical Underpinnings of MOOCs

Learning Platform-Specific Tools

Most course platforms have several categories of assessments and tools that range from standard online activities to innovative technology-driven interaction. The exact tools you have access to will vary based on the one you are using, in our case Blackboard Learn. Becoming familiar with these activities before you design will help you actively imagine where they could be utilized in your class. Your instructional designer can assist you in selecting the best tool for your activity and in designing the activity for the online learning environment.

Student-Student & Student-Instructor Interaction Tools

  • Discussion Board: The term discussion tends to conjure images of classroom based activity, or a traditional online format of “post once reply twice”. While these formats can be effective uses of the tool, there are many different ways this tool can be used to engage students by choosing different activity structures or formats. You should become familiar with how some discussion activities are different in than the typical threaded discussion.
  • Peer Assessment: While the tool in the LMS is called Self and Peer Assessment the value of using this tool is in providing opportunities for formative feedback. Students’ quality of writing tends to increase when they are writing for broader audiences as well as when they are required to provide feedback to their peers. You should become familiar with how different peer review activities could play a role in your could assignments.
  • Wiki: The wiki tool in the LMS can be either a class wide collaboration tool, or a group based tool. It allows students to contribute to a central location rather than distributing ideas and content across multiple discussion threads. It also provides a convenient space for students to coordinate activity, such as a sign up list. Note that any content added in wiki pages in the LMS are deleted in the course copy process.
  • Journals: There may be certain activities where students are working on term long projects, or need a space to reflect on their activity in your course. The journals provide an opportunity for students to collect reflections, share them with the instructor, and receive feedback without the content being available to other students in the course.

Student-Content Interaction Tools

  • Quizzes/Tests: These tools often have different names, but the general idea is that they are basically online test questions. These are in a separate area as a standard “test.” These can also be used as informal or ungraded polls to gauge learner interest or feedback. For example, if you are using the DEU Module Template, then this tool is very useful for the Review Questions, and Self-Test sections.

External Tools

Of course, you are also free to use blogs and other external tools in your course as either the main focus of connectivist learning or as a supplement to the content you create. Your instructional designer should also be familiar with using these tools in an online course. A few examples include:

WordPress: Either a course site can be created as an activity hub for the class, or students can create their own blogs as a place to create and maintain assignments, reflections, etc.

Confluence Wiki: Although wikis were mentioned in a previous section, this UofS hosted wiki platform will retain information created in it from term to term. If you plan to have students contributing to a central knowledge base from term to term this might be the tool for you.

Academic Video (Panopto): You can use panopto to deliver, stream, or create videos for use in your course. You can also use it as an assignment or activity tool for students to submit their own videos. For example, if you have an introduction discussion forum, you may ask students to submit a brief video introducing themselves to the class.

There are many more tools that can be integrated into your course than can be listed here. See DEU Digital Learning Tools and Ideas for an up-to-date list of tools and samples for more.

How to Choose From Various Similar Tools

[Adopted from “The Confusion Over a Little Thing Called Blog” by Matt Crosslin, published in the former MoodleZine Online Journal, July 2006]

When looking at the various tools that are available to you in a course, you will notice that there are many similarities between various tools. For example, when it comes down to it, many tools like blogs, journals, and discussion boards are all forms of personal publication that have similar core components: Genesis, Input, Interface, and Feedback.

Ultimately, the differences between various tools may not matter for your desired assignment, or it may mean the difference between a confusing activity and a successful activity. The important take away from this section is to think through exactly what you want to accomplish with any given activity, and then find a tool to match your intended goals.


Hayes, S. (2015). MOOCs and Quality: A review of the recent literature. Retrieved from http://eprints.aston.ac.uk/26604/1/MOOCs_and_quality_a_review_of_the_recent_literature.pdf


This post is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommerical 4.0 License and contains content from a variety of sources published under a variety of open licenses, including:

Continue reading “Creating Engaging Learning Activities”