Creating a Custom Course Template: A Canvas Commons Case Study

Program administrators often desire a feeling of commonality and a cohesiveness of the learning experience across the various courses of their program. However, when each course might be designed, developed, and taught by a different instructor, this can be tricky to achieve. This post will offer an example of how Canvas Commons can be used for building shared elements across the different courses of a program, and how even entire online courses might be built in a similar manner through this tool.

Note: Make sure you are logged into http://canvas.usask.ca/ to check out all that Canvas Commons has to offer!

At a Glance: Specific Program Needs

In Fall of 2020, a new fully-online Health Professions Education (HPE) program was launched by the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Education. It consists of the Masters of Education (M.Ed) in HPE, and two related graduate certificate programs (the Certificate in Quality Teaching In HPE and the Certificate in Improving Teaching and Learning in HPE). In these related program streams, the M.Ed and certificate students learn alongside each other, and a student may begin studies in either of the certificate programs and then later ladder into the full M.Ed. degree.

A big part of the vision for the various courses (13 in total) of the HPE program, according to the members of the interdisciplinary steering committee, was a “common look and feel” (something that Instructional Designers hear a lot!). In addition, a major assessment strategy of using longitudinal ePortfolios, meant to demonstrate student achievement in an established set of competencies, was identified at the program proposal stage.

The College of Education reached out to the Distance Education Unit (DEU) early in their program planning for help designing both program-specific elements and  also individual courses that would help them deliver on these goals. As an Instructional Designer working on this program, this meant designing a solution for the following program needs:

  • Regardless of which course they begin their program with, students should experience similar on-boarding, and see the same orientation materials to help them understand not just the individual course-level requirements, but also the program-level requirements.
  • At the course level, students starting in either the M.Ed or the Certificate programs will have a common experience regardless of their program stream.
  • The longitudinal ePortfolio needed to have consistent requirements across all of the courses, to ensure students were collecting their work (projects and learner reflections) in a similar way with each subsequent course, so that students would exit their programs with a cohesive and well-organized ePortfolio, aligned to program competencies.
  • A common layout and arrangement of the online course materials would help students navigate each new course quickly, so that they aren’t stuck with learning a unique course layout for every course.
  • Shared visual elements, such as banners, headers, and images should be used, as they will contribute to a consistent, polished, and professional-looking aesthetic experience.

Designing a Program-Level Course Template

One part of the solution to the above program needs lay in the creation of a program-specific Canvas course template. This takes the approach used with the generic USask Canvas Course Template — providing the initial “framework and just-in-time instructions to guide you through your basic course structure” — and takes it to the next level, by customizing it specifically for a particular program.


The template was built first in a Canvas “development shell” (a working space with no students). It included the following features:

  • A common landing page, with program-specific images and branding.
  • Several pages of program-specific information (e.g., a page describing ePortfolio requirements that students in all courses will need to see).
  • Spaces for instructors to customize the template by adding their own course info and welcome messages.
  • Empty (but structured) “module shells” for instructors to start building their actual course content.
  • Optional elements that instructors can choose to use, or to adapt to fit their needs, if they want to (e.g., a rubric for assessing Discussions).

When the template was ready and approved by various program-level stakeholders, I was then able to take the course template and “Share to Commons“; The following link offers more guidance on that step:

Once it was made available in Canvas Commons, anybody from USask who goes into Canvas Commons and searches for “HPE template” (or something similar) will find the template there. I could also link instructors directly to the template in Canvas Commons. Now, any future instructors or course developers working in this program can “Import” the template into their own course, and are ready to hit the ground running by adding their own customizations and course content. They have the choice of importing the entire course template, or just pieces of it, to suit their needs.

Going forward, the template can be updated as needed (e.g., to reflect program changes) and the new version updated in Canvas Commons. (However, note that those same updates still need to be made in individual courses;  i.e., updates are not pushed through to courses that copied the template).

Need Help Developing a Course Template?

If your program or college is wanting to develop your own custom Canvas course template, the Instructional Designers at the Distance Education Unit (DEU) can help! This is a great step to take early in the design/development of a new program, or during the current transition period while your entire program/college is working to move into the new LMS (Canvas). Message deu.support@usask.ca to set up a consultation and get some guidance and help!

 

Photo by bongkarn thanyakij from Pexels

Offline Activities in an Online Class

For many students, a completely online fall term will be a major change. Aside from the obvious challenges of getting comfortable with the learning technologies they’ll be presented in each of their classes, students will be challenged further with screen fatigue. Taking a full load of courses online is not a common strategy for most students and the amount of time they’ll be in front of their computers will undoubtedly be a little draining.

But does everything we design for an online course need to be online? The simple answer is no. Many of the online courses developed at the Distance Education Unit at the University of Saskatchewan include active learning opportunities away from the screen from observational data collection to kitchen supply science experiments to interviews and photo assignments there are many ways we can help get students offline and learning on their feet. Let’s look at a few things you might consider when designing your remote and online courses for this fall.

Data Collection and Observations

A great way to get student outdoors and out of their seats is data collection. In PLSC 350: Agricultural Entomology, we helped develop an insect collection assignment into an online guide which gave students everything they needed to go out and begin their own insect collections. These collections were then shared back with the class in the learning management system (LMS) and provided the content for discussions and analysis.

Photo Essays

Photo essays can be a great way to get students out of the house and moving around. Challenge them with weekly photo activities connected to the content in your class. These photos can be shared in the discussion forums and provide content for conversations.

Interviews

Not all offline activities have to include the outdoors. Have students find someone to interview about topics related to your course. This is a great way for them to engage with the professional community they’re studying to become a member of and to build their networks. Interviews can be done by phone or in person when appropriate.

Writing/Journaling

Not everything students write in a class needs to be online either. Consider having students keep a physical journal or notebook to complete reflective exercises in. Students can scan or photograph selections from their notebooks for assessment purposes. Working offline on these types of writing activities allows them the freedom to write anywhere without the need for laptops, batteries, or screens.

Here is a link to a few more Ways to Integrate the Offline World into Your Online Course.

Image Credit: CC0 Photo by Ola Dapo from Pexels

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.

First, the question about “how much content” tends to lead to the broader question of, “how much time and effort are students expected to put into a single class?” When we teach face-to-face, in flipped classrooms, blended classrooms, or even in synchronous online classes (those with webinar like sessions), we have a proxy for how much time students spend on our classes based on the assigned class time. We expect that students will come to class (e.g. three 1-hour lectures per week) as well as complete readings, assignments, or other activities out-side of class time.

What does this mean for asynchronous classes? Every class will be a bit different, based on the country, province, institution, Faculty/College/School, and department norms. It will also depend on the level of the class, expectations for 100-level classes are different than 400-level classes and graduate level classes. There is no hard-rule about number of expected hours, but this post will hopefully provide you with some tools to look critically at your course and manage expectations for your students as well as for your own workload teaching remotely.

Overall, we can assume that for a course that was comprised of three 1-hour lectures per week can be the baseline to start with. At the top end of our estimate we might consider a 2:1 ratio of “out of class time” to “in class time”, so about 9 hours per week. Note that students may be taking a number of classes, so if every week was at the top end of this range and a student was taking five classes they reach 45 hours per week very quickly. Many of our students are also working, have classes that also have lab components or tutorials, co-curricular activities and other commitments which should be in the back of our mind while we are planning out a course. Most of the time your course will be more work in one week, and less work another, depending on the topics you are discussing and assignments you have in place. The main takeaway here is that we will work within a range. It’s worth mentioning here that DEU has found that students report spending on average about 6 hours of on task time for online classes including reading, watching videos, completing learning activities, engaging in discussions, and working on assignments.

Take an Inventory of Your Course Activities

This is one way the course design plan really shines as a planning tool. Using the design plan as a guide, you will have a high level view or everything you’re asking a student to review and engage with in a given week. If you’ve selected a textbook chapter, you’ll be able to see the page count. Including websites, articles and other documents here will give you an overall picture of the reading required each week. Next, the media such as podcasts or video can be accounted for based on the segments selected or the total run time. As you fill out the course design plan you might start to get something like this:

Week Module/ Topic Objectives Readings Media Activities and Assessments 
1 Introduction to the discipline

differentiate our topic from similar areas of study

identify conceptual approaches used in our topic

describe examples our topic in the real world

list traits associated with our topic

differentiate these three concepts within our topic

Textbook, chapter 2, pages 21-38 (17 pages)

Lecture Video (5:39)

YouTube video (3:49)

Films on Demand (45:13)

Quiz (15 questions)

Discussion Forum (chain discussion format)

Calculator

Wake Forest University has developed a second version of an online workload calculator which can assist you in estimating the workload of your class. The calculator does not provide any descriptors, so for further detail expand the relevant content below:

Course Duration
The number of weeks the class is offered. Note that if you are trying to calculate your course at a week by week level, set this to one week and only include information from that row in your course design plan.

Reading Assignments

Using the page count listed in your course design plan you can make more specific adjustments to the reading estimate:

Density (words per page) Difficulty Purpose
450 e.g. paperback book pages, or 6″ x 9″ pages of journal articles No new concepts students have enough background knowledge to immediately understand the ideas Survey students scan the reading an possibly skip entire sections
600 e.g. academic monograph pages Some new concepts students are not familiar with the meaning of some ideas expressed Understand students read to understand each sentence in the text
750 e.g. textbook pages that are 25% images, or full-size pages of two-column journal articles Many new concepts students are not familiar with the meaning of many of the ideas expressed Engage students answer questions or complete tasks related to the reading

Videos
The calculator matches the time you put into this field (i.e. if you add one hour of video, it calculates as one hour of effort). While the calculator assumes a 1:1 ratio, DEU recommends increasing this value by 25% (e.g. a one hour video actually takes 1 hour and 15 minutes for students to work through). The reason for this is to account for any active note taking, rewinding and reviewing, or pausing students will do while they watch the video. For example, if you include a series of questions students should be completing  while watching a video, they will need additional time to complete that work.

Writing Assignments

In addition to the number of pages of writing your students will complete, there are other variables that are tabulated as well:

Density (words per page) Genre Drafting
250 e.g. Double-Spaced, Times New Roman, 12-Point Font, 1″ Margins Reflection/ Narrative e.g. journal entries, reflections,  or response format essays requiring little planning No Drafting e.g. a draft essay or paper
500 e.g. Single-Spaced, Times New Roman, 12-Point Font, 1″ Margins Argument e.g. journal entries, reflections, or essays requiring deep engagement with content Minimal Drafting e.g. an essay or paper that was revised at least once
Research e.g. journal entries, reflections, or essays requiring detailed planning an further research Extensive Drafting e.g. an essay or paper with several revisions

Discussion Posts
Discussions come in all shapes, sizes, and formats. Keep in mind that the estimator assumes the more traditional online discussion of “post once, reply twice” format. Alternative discussion formats are available. One notable elements included here is that a 3 minute audio/video recording is calculated as an hour of students activity. If you’ve recorded short learning videos before, this should not come as a surprise.

Exams
Once your syllabus is set, you will know how long students will have to write their exam. As students prepare for the exam, you can add that estimate to the calculator as well.

Other Assignments
For assignments in your course such as group presentations, your best guess is what can be used here. Generally speaking, consider how long it might take you to complete the task, and then multiply that by three or four if this is one of the first times students are completing this type of assignment.

Class Meetings
Most of the online and remote learning courses offered will be asynchronous so this field will generally be empty, but if you have informal synchronous meetings or happen to be planning for one of the synchronous course offerings then this field can be filled out based on your class schedule.

What are my options if I’ve asked my students to do more than I assumed?

Now that you have an estimate of the workload for your class you have a high level view of weeks that are more work and those that are less work. For cases where you have a lot more work than the upper range discussed at the beginning of this post you have a few options:

  • Revise the reading list or the expectations of the readings. For example, if the key takeaways for a particular reading are on select pages you can let students know where to focus their attention or write instructional material that weaves portions of a single longer reading together.
  • Let students know the expectations. For example, if they are just meant to survey a reading (as you input into the calculator) then make that clear. If they are meant to engage deeply with the reading, provide guiding questions well in advance.
  • Reduce or consolidate assignments. For example, if students are asked to create a journal entry every week for submission you might consider having students submit a synthesis drawing on several journal entries. While students would still be encouraged to create the journal entries, this would allow them to focus on expressing ideas rather than on the formatting and function of a formal assignment.
  • Provide opportunities for students to check their understanding. If there are key takeaways from a particular video or reading, providing students an opportunity to check their understanding with feedback can help them to focus their attention and promotes learning. This is more effective for learning than having students review material over and over again without an opportunity to practice.
  • Prioritize the types of activities students will do in a given week. If one week the focus in on a discussion, consider moving any readings or videos that are not directly related to that discussion into a “supplementary resources” area in your course. Distinguish for yourself, and for your students what elements in your course are directed-study and which are self-directed study.

The above are just a few suggestions. As always, if you would like assistance with your course planning and development contact the instructional designers at the distance education unit at deu.support@usask.ca.


Attribution

Pile of open books flickr photo by bjwhite66212 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

Additional Resources

Brysbaert, M. (2019). How many words do we read per minute? A review and meta-analysis of reading rate. Journal of Memory and Language, 109, 104047.

Bjork, R. A., Dunlosky, J., & Kornell, N. (2013). Self-regulated learning: Beliefs, techniques, and illusions. Annual review of psychology, 64, 417-444.

Koedinger, K. R., McLaughlin, E. A., Jia, J. Z., & Bier, N. L. (2016, April). Is the doer effect a causal relationship? How can we tell and why it’s important. In Proceedings of the Sixth International Conference on Learning Analytics & Knowledge (pp. 388-397).

McDaniel, E. A. (2011). Level of student effort should replace contact time in course design. Journal of Information Technology Education, 10(10). “Time on Task in Online Courses” by Michael Starenko, Rochester Institute of Technology is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Powell, K., Stephens‐Helm, J., Layne, M., & Ice, P. (2012). Quantifying Online Learning Contact Hours. Administration Issues Journal: Education, Practice, and Research, Vol. 2, Issue 2.https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1056395.pdf

Samuels, S. J., & Dahl, P. R. (1975). Establishing Appropriate Purpose for Reading and Its Effect on Flexibility of Reading Rate. Journal of Educational Psychology, 67(1), 38.

Why Asynchronous Modules?

As you consider how to deliver your course remotely for the fall term you may be weighing the pros and cons of synchronous vs. asynchronous content. In this post we hope to persuade you towards a mostly asynchronous course design that will help ensure equitable access to materials and a more flexible environment for students to work with. After all, remote learning is not only new for faculty and instructors, but many of our students as well.

Consider the Infographic below

Requirements for a synchronous lecture can often inhibit active participation by some students. Technology factors alone can contribute to a gap between students who have and those who have not, but there are many reasons why synchronous meetings can be tough. Consider a student who

    • does not have a computer equipped with a camera or microphone
    • has spotty internet or is using WiFi hot spots from cafes or their phone’s data network to connect
    • is a single parent with young children at home
    • shares living spaces with numerous roommates
    • is in a different timezone from the lecturer
    • is working a full time job while trying to complete their studies.

These students can be adversely affected by a required and scheduled, streaming, online, synchronous, delivery method.

Asynchronous delivery strategies create a more flexible environment for students to organize their time within. Giving students weekly modules of content in which to work through and providing asynchronous opportunities to connect with peers and instructors through activity-based discussions and group work will keep them connected to the course community and provide them with the support they need to succeed. So how can you design and develop your lectures and course materials into effective asynchronous learning modules?

Let’s take a look.

First, think about the content of you lecture and try and identify the specific topics you discuss.

  • For each topic write a short introduction in a conversational tone to get students familiar with the major concepts.
  • From there you might provide an embedded YouTube video to further explain a concept with some visual aids.
  • Remember to write a short introduction to the video to explain why it’s being included as learning material and how it connects to the topics and concepts.
  • Now provide some context about your topic or concept that might give students a sense of real world applications or connections to current world events. How is this topic relevant today?
  • Finally let’s make sure that students have an active opportunities to test their knowledge and apply their learning. Discussions, web quests, reflections or at the very least some review questions and answers will provide them with the formative self assessment they need to know they’re on the right track.

Repeat this process for each of the topics within a module until you have what you feel is an adequate learning experience for that week.

The structure of this prototype module can now be followed for each week worth of content creating modules for the full term.

Resources to help guide the Module development process:

Don’t forget to provide clear ways for students to connect with you and their peers. Asynchronous DOES NOT mean building a course that should be completed in isolation. It simply means allowing for the student to have flexible control of how and when they engage with the materials, discussions and activities you’ve designed.

See a previous blog post for ideas on connecting with students throughout the term.

Class Communications at a Distance

And how to promote peer to peer interactions within your asynchronous course.

Promoting Peer to Peer Participation

The New LMS is here! The New LMS is here!

 

Copyright Dr Neil Clifton and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons License. CC BY-SA 2.0

It’s official! USask is moving away from the Blackboard Learning Management System (LMS) to Canvas by Instructure! But what’s the hubbub? Why did the University choose to make this change to the Learning Technology ecosystem? In the 10 years since Blackboard was first launched at USask, university teaching and learning has evolved, and so too has the learning technology marketplace. Institutional research, institutional priorities in learning and teaching, and feedback from faculty, instructors and students indicated that Blackboard was not meeting our needs. The decision to begin a review process was also prompted by our current contract with Blackboard being up for renewal. The version of Blackboard we are currently using was almost at the end of its life cycle, and replacement was necessary. You can visit the Learning Management System Renewal project pages for more details on how and why the LMS review took place at USask on your own time, but for now, let’s take a look at some of the major upgrades this LMS has to offer under the hood!

5 Reasons to be Excited for Canvas

When reviewing the LMS RFP’s the review committee used the 8 principles, research supported characteristics of effective digital learning spaces that prepare students for work and life that are aligned with Our Learning Charter, to help determine the best fit for our learning technology ecosystem. Below are several principles where Canvas excelled and the features that support that excellence.

1. Designed for Accessibility

Accessibility Checker – Insuring equitable access to online course materials has not always been an easy task. Knowing all the standards for accessible web design is not an option for most faculty. With Canvas Accessibility Checker building compliant content within the pages of your course is all part of the process. The Accessibility Checker will not only identify elements within your page that do not follow Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1), but will allow you to fix the issue within the same Accessibility Checker window. This just-in-time tool ensures all your students are gaining equitable access to course materials with just a few clicks. See the Accessibility Checker in action in this video from the Distance Education Unit at Santa Rosa Junior College.

As a bonus here’s a link to a great little blog post outlining how to use the tools in the Text Editor to create great accessible content within Canvas.

2. Designed for reflection and growth

MasteryPaths – MasteryPaths allows you to customize learning experiences for students based on performance. You can enable MasteryPaths to automatically assign coursework based on the score achieved for a previous assignment. This provides multiple opportunities to show and achieve mastery in a course.

DocViewer – Canvas DocViewer is a tool that allows annotations on online assignment submissions in Canvas. You can use DocViewer to view files and assignments in SpeedGrader. You can view when students view annotated feedback in the assignment details section of the sidebar.

Video and Audio Recording – The ability for you and your students to record video and audio within Canvas as a form of Feedback, Response, Reflection, or Journaling makes it simple to increase the human presence within an online course.

3. Designed for students who are remixing and/or creating

Ideally, the role of a student within an online course is greater than a passive observer of content you’ve provided. Active and engaged learning activities require students to have some tools available that let them curate and share, remix and create. Aside from the video and audio tools already mentioned above, Canvas has several tools available to get students adding content to your course making them an active participant in the online learning community.

Groups – Many of the available creation tools for students can be found in Groups. Here students have the ability to create discussions, upload and share files, start an Office 365 Collaboration, create a conference, and create Pages. Pages allows students to create and collaborate on simple webpages within their groups to build content in a variety of ways.

ePortfolios – Simple ePortfolios are also available in Canvas and allow students to take control of their learning by organizing and reflecting on their progress.

4. Designed to enable connection

Enabled connection in a course has several meanings. First it’s about being able to connect to the course materials in a variety of ways and being able to connect what you’re doing in one course with what’s happening in another.

Features like groups and ePortfolios can all happen in a more global environment than an individual course itself. This allows students to create groups outside a particular class and connect with peers in their program or in cross disciplinary activities. The LMS is a hub that helps students and educators connect to the experiences, concepts, people, and ideas that they need.

5. Active and social

The active and social learning tools in Canvas provide a hub for learning constructed with others. It is an intentional, deliberate system that easily supports learners in connecting to others, and making sense of learning for themselves, within and beyond class groupings. Many of these tools have already been featured above, but here’s a few more.

Chat – The Chat tool can be used for real-time conversation with course users. Any user in the course can participate in a chat conversation. All content in a course chat can be viewed by anyone in the course.

Mobile Apps – The Canvas Mobile Apps’ functionality is impressive. Unlike the squished full size browser on your phone that we’re used to, Canvas has created responsive apps for both students and teachers allowing course participants to increase their access on the go. Available on both Android and iOS. Below are some links to the feature sheets of these apps and you can download them at Google’s Play stores as well as Apple’s App Store.

Teacher App features

Student App features

What tools are not available on the Canvas by Instructure mobile app?

  • Conferences
  • Collaborations
  • Outcomes

What features have limited or no support on the Canvas by Instructure mobile app?

  • Peer review assignments
  • View assignment annotations
  • Certain quiz question types (Essay, Multiple Choice, Multiple Answer, Fill in the Blank, or True/False questions are supported)
  • Certain quiz settings (one-question-at-a-time quizzes, quizzes with passcode restrictions, or quizzes with IP address restrictions)
  • What-if Grades (Android only)

 

Get up to speed fast with the new Canvas LMS

The new Learning Management System (LMS) is reason to celebrate. But transitioning to new learning technologies can also be a little daunting. Although DEU, GMCTL, and ICT will be working hard to develop professional learning plans that merge teaching and learning practices with technical skills, and will be designed to support a change in either or both within the new LMS, you may want to take some time on your own to orient yourself with the LMS update. USask training will take place throughout the summer for early adopters and into the fall and beyond for those transitioning for winter term. Keep an eye out on https://training.usask.ca/ for these and other opportunities as they come available.

In this post, however, the Instructional Design Team at the Distance Education Unit has curated a few resources from Canvas to get you familiar and even, up and running in Canvas, quickly and easily.

Set Up Your Canvas Course in 30 minutes or Less

Fortunately, Canvas offers lots of great self-help resources along with their LMS to get you up to speed no matter your level of familiarity. One of the great collections of resources they offer is a 5 part video series designed to get you started with an overview of Canvas, how to build and manage a course, and how to create and manage course content. Follow the link below for these introductory videos.

Set up your canvas course in 30 minutes less

Instructor Guide

Another great resource from Canvas is the Instructor Guide which provides an alphabetical table of contents (TOC). Each topic/tool in the TOC links to a database of FAQs. Each FAQ takes you to the full documentation and guide which answers that question. When you’re not sure what questions to ask this type of resource can be very useful in helping you navigate your learning. Follow the link below.

Canvas Instructor Guide

Canvas Community

Finally we’d encourage you to explore the wider Canvas Community. Canvas Community is a forum for Instructors, Designers, Students, and Administrators who all share knowledge and support one another across the globe. The common thread is that they are all Canvas users and they all started out knowing nothing. Lot’s of great conversations, but also links to videos, guides, and samples available here.

Follow the link and find the Canvas Community.

Canvas Community

USask Updates and Opportunities

For more support and information about the transition to Canvas keep an eye out on the following sites for updates and opportunities.

LMS updates, training, project and technical details are all available online.

deu.support@usask.ca is always a great option if you just need to talk to an instructional designer whose been there before.

Remote Teaching with Video

Keeping your course fresh and interesting throughout the term can be challenging in an online environment. Especially if you’ve had to rush to prepare a remote teaching version of an otherwise live course. One of the many ways we can keep things interesting is with the use of video. Students will appreciate the opportunity to break-up their readings with some media.

Here’s a few creative ways you might use video in your remote or online class yet this term.

Course Trailers & Intro Videos

What is it?
You have likely seen movie trailers; those short videos that are designed to capture the interest of the audience to get them interested in seeing movies. You may want to consider creating your own course trailer. Create a short video that would give learners a quick glimpse of your course and the connections you hope to make throughout the semester.
Why Consider This?
“It’s not the technology. It’s not the way something looks. It’s the story.” – John Lasseter, PIXAR

In the course trailer video you can introduce yourself, the course description, the course objectives and topics. For this particular video type you might consider completing some, or all, of the following statements:

  • Do you like…
  • Are you interested in…
  • Are you concerned about…
  • Do you want to…
  • By participating in this class…
  • We will look at…
  • Join us as we investigate/explore…

A course trailer would be an opportunity to introduce yourself to learners.  Sharing course outcomes could also be done here.  Think about inviting learners to participate and become part of this learning community.

Think about including campus and classroom footage as a way for distance learners to gain a sense of connection to the institution. You may also want to have a final statement that invites learners to participate, create and explore.

Tools for the Job

We can help!

If you are interested in creating a trailer for your distance course, contact your instructional designer at DEU.

Take the plunge!

If you would like to create your own trailer, a few of the following tools might be helpful:

Camtasia– This nonlinear digital video editing software is somewhere between entry level and professional levels. You can splice together audio and video as you need, insert graphics and titles, as well as a few other interactions. Available for both Windows and Mac OS. Camtasia Tutorials

Screencast-O-Matic– This software is available for both Windows and Mac OS, and has a free as well as a Pro version. At the push of a button you can begin to record right from your webcam, what’s on the screen, or both. When you’re done recording it can export the video to your desktop or even straight to your YouTube account. Screencast-o-matic Tutorial 1 Tutorial 2.

GoAnimate – This online animation tool offers a wide range of assets to create comprehensive animations. They offer paid plans and a 14 day free trial. Tutorial

PowToon – This popular online animation software offers both free and pro versions. It comes with a series of sample music and images you can use for creating engaging animations. Tutorial

Explain Everything – This mobile app is available for iOS, Android, and Windows. Record voice and animations using the assets provided or insert your own! When you’re done simply export the video to upload to the LMS or your Website. Tutorials

Educreations – This mobile app is available for iOS. Record voice and animations using the assets provided or insert your own! When you’re done share the video with classes, embed it in a website, share it on Facebook or Twitter, or export it. Free and paid versions available. Tutorial

Tips and Tricks

A Few Practical Guidelines

Creating a Storyboard
After drafting your storyboard review the topic(s) and learning outcomes. If everything adequately presented? Is there anything present on the storyboard that is not explicitly related to the topic(s) or learning outcomes? If so, why is that content present and would it be missed if omitted?

Audio
Speech – narration does not necessarily need to be written word for word on a storyboard. However, providing more detail will make the recording process much easier, even if you do not repeat it word for word. Attempting to “wing it” often results in multiple takes and wasted time. For more information about recording audio see Tips for Recording Narrations.
Sound bites can add realism, generate emotion, define space, depict identity, set the pace, symbolize meaning, and unify transitions. However, they should not be overused as they can distract the learner and increase cognitive load.

Visuals
Imagery should be self explanatory, simple, at the learner’s level, match it’s purpose, and be relevant to the scene/objective/narrative. In your storyboard you might simply provide a short description,  sketch, table or figure number or title, or a copy of the visuals that are to be on the screen. For more information about selecting types of visuals see A Picture Is Worth 1,000 Words: Using Visuals.

Video
Is most effective when the combination of audio and visuals is carefully considered and planned. Storyboarding will help you to identify if there is too much information being presented to the learner at one time (through audio or video) and avoid cognitive overload. Consider the pacing (rate of information), and transitions between ideas and what the learner is seeing and hearing. A general guideline for length is to keep the videos in your course around 6 minutes in length. However, this may vary slightly depending on the purpose and content of the video (e.g. a narrative story may take longer than 6 minutes to complete, but can still be engaging for its entire duration). The key is to make sure the video is no longer than is needed.

USask DEU Examples

Guest Lecture Videos

What is it?
Inviting a guest speaker into your class might be an effective strategy to bring an author’s first hand experience into your class, to discuss a recent development in your discipline with another leading expert, or to bring in alternative perspectives on a topic.

  • You might consider inviting:
  • a guest with a specific field experience to share with the students
  • another faculty member or researcher
  • graduate student(s)
  • someone currently working as a professional in the discipline
  • an author
Why Consider it?
Inviting a guest speaker goes beyond demonstrating collegiality to your students, there are a number of reasons you might consider inviting a guest speaker. Guest speakers can:
  • provide alternative perspectives to topics and issues in your course
  • bring insights from the field into the classroom
  • demonstrate a skill or process
  • provide further expertise on specific topics
  • share key findings from a project or initiative they have worked with
  • supplement and enhance resources available in the course
  • co‐teach a case study
  • provide feedback on student work via a Judging Panel
  • just-in-time information and skills

However, you should keep in mind that making the most of a guest speaker in your classroom requires careful planning. One of the first decisions you will need to make is how you would like the guest speaker to participate in your class (e.g. as a presenter, a discussion facilitator, a recording, etc.)

Tools for the Job

  • WebEx – The University of Saskatchewan has a site wide license for this web conferencing application which allows you to: stream live audio and video, use chats and collaborative whiteboards, and share presentations.
  • Skype – This is a free* and commonly used mobile and desktop application
  • Google Hangouts – For instructors and participants who have a Google account, Hangouts allows up to 10 participants to conference with live audio and video, chat, share screens, etc.
  • YouTube Live – For larger groups with less interaction from the audience YouTube Live allows you to stream audio and video, record sessions, and share the live broadcast publicly or to specific people.
  • Screencast-o-matic – This free* desktop application allows you to record audio and video to a file. This tool works well for recorded lectures which could be used repeatedly. It can record the presenter’s screen, the presenter, or both.
Tips and Tricks
Preparing your guest

Consider discussion the following with your guest prior to their session or recording:

  • what are the learning objectives for the module and for the session or recording?
  • what are your expectations for the format and duration of the session or recording?
  • are handouts required/will students need a copy of the presentation?
  • what instructional strategies could the guest employ?
  • what setup or support is required?
  • will the session be recorded? (why or why not?)
  • provide adequate lead time
  • obtain a bio for the guest
  • describe your class size and characteristics
  • determine roles and responsibilities
  • can/should students be able to contact the guest ahead of time or after?

Preparing your students

Consider discussion the following with your students prior to the session or viewing the recording:

  • what are the learning objectives for the module and for the session or recording?
  • what are your expectations for the students?
    • e.g. prepare questions, check for understanding, related task
  • how will you facilitate discussion between students and the guest?

Student Made Videos

This video was created by students for a Distance Education offering of Women and Gender Studies (WGST) 210.3. It went viral and to date has over  4,000,000 views and even had an article written about it at ominocity.com .

What is it?
You are likely already familiar with video technology. You may already enjoy making video recordings of personal events in your life. For a digital analysis, online presentations, or other assignments, you may be producing your response as a short video. Knowledge and skills in the domain of digital literacy are critical here, so we have provided some resources to help you on your way.

It is important to also mention that for these types of assignments, knowledge and skills around copyright, open licensing, information sharing, digital footprints, and managing your online presence should be well understood by anyone creating, adapting, using, or contributing to, creative works via the world wide web.

Using Licensed Materials in Your Work
Often when creating videos and presentations we are inclined to include quotes, images, audio and video clips, and other media that we did not create ourselves. There are a variety of ways that students can include third-party work in their videos and presentations, but it is critical to consider copyright and intellectual property implications of doing so. The following links provide some support in navigating the rules and guidelines for using third-party materials in your work:

Creative Common Licenses Explained
Canadian Copyright Act
U of S Copyright Information

Applying Open License to Your Work

Open Licensing Resources

Where should I publish my Open Content?
Creative Commons publishing communities by content format – http://wiki.creativecommons.org/Publish

How do I mark my work with an Open License?
Creative Commons Licensing and Marking Your Content

Choose a License that works for you
Creative Common Licenses Explained – http://creativecommons.org/licenses/

Tools for the Job

Desktop and Laptop

Panopto – USask supported video production and post production tools on campus. Check out this blog post from GMCTL about student videos using Panopto https://words.usask.ca/gmcte/2020/03/17/panopto-for-student-presentations/

Camtasia – This nonlinear digital video editing software is somewhere between entry level and professional levels. You can splice together audio and video as you need, insert graphics and titles, as well as a few other interactions. Available for both Windows and Mac OS. Camtasia Tutorials

iMovie – This is Apple’s entry level video editing software and is available for both Mac OS and iOS. If you’re new to video editing you may want to get your feet wet by trying this software first.

Screencast-O-Matic – This software is available for both Windows and Mac OS, and has a free as well as a Pro version. At the push of a button you can begin to record right from your webcam, what’s on the screen, or both. When you’re done recording it can export the video to your desktop or even straight to your YouTube account. Screencast-o-matic Tutorial 1 Tutorial 2.

PowerPoint – A little known secret about PowerPoint is that you can record audio and creating a timed video slideshow without any other software. If you want to get started on voiceover slideshows, don’t want to spend any money on software, and don’t have time to learn a nonlinear digital video editing software this might be your best bet. Written Tutorial Video Tutorial

Keynote – A little known secret about Keynote is that you can record audio and creating a timed video slideshow without any other software. If you want to get started on voiceover slideshows, don’t want to spend any money on software, and don’t have time to learn a nonlinear digital video editing software this might be your best bet. Tutorial

Windows Movie Maker – This is Microsoft’s entry level video editing software and is available for Windows. If you’re new to video editing you may want to get your feet wet by trying this software first.

GoAnimate – This online animation tool offers a wide range of assets to create comprehensive animations. They offer paid plans and a 14 day free trial. Tutorial

Voki – A little camera shy? Not to worry, with Voki you can create an avatar and use their text to speech software for narration. Don’t like the robot voice? You can also upload audio files or record straight into Voki. Free and paid plans are available. Tutorial

PowToon – This popular online animation software offers both free and pro versions. It comes with a series of sample music and images you can use for creating engaging animations. Tutorial

Mobile

Explain Everything – This mobile app is available for iOS, Android, and Windows. Record voice and animations using the assets provided or insert your own! When you’re done simply export the video to upload to the LMS or your Website. Tutorials

ShowMe – This mobile app is available for iOS. Record voice and animations using the assets provided or insert your own! When you’re done simply export the video to upload to the LMS,your Website, or the ShowME community. Tutorial

Educreations – This mobile app is available for iOS. Record voice and animations using the assets provided or insert your own! When you’re done share the video with classes, embed it in a website, share it on Facebook or Twitter, or export it. Free and paid versions available. Tutorial

Clarisketch – This application is available for Android and Chrome. Record voice, images, sketches, and annotate as you go. When complete, it does not create a video file, but instead a small media format that can play in any browser. You can share your finished clarisketch via social media, email, and more. Short tutorial. Longer tutorial.

Planning Resources

A Few Practical Guidelines

Creating a Storyboard
After drafting your storyboard review the assignment instructions. Is everything adequately presented? Is there anything present on the storyboard that is not explicitly related to the assignment? If so, why is that content present and would it be missed if omitted? Sample storyboard template

Audio
Speech – narration does not necessarily need to be written word for word on a storyboard. However, providing more detail will make the recording process much easier, even if you do not repeat it word for word. Attempting to “wing it” often results in multiple takes and wasted time.
Sound bites can add realism, generate emotion, define space, depict identity, set the pace, symbolize meaning, and unify transitions. However, they should not be overused as they can distract the learner and increase cognitive load.

Visuals
Imagery should be self explanatory, simple, at the learner’s level, match it’s purpose, and be relevant to the scene/objective/narrative. In your storyboard you might simply provide a short description, sketch, table or figure number or title, or a copy of the visuals that are to be on the screen. For more information about selecting types of visuals see A Picture Is Worth 1,000 Words: Using Visuals.

Video
Is most effective when the combination of audio and visuals is carefully considered and planned. Storyboarding will help you to identify if there is too much information being presented to the learner at one time (through audio or video) and avoid cognitive overload. Consider the pacing (rate of information), and transitions between ideas and what the learner is seeing and hearing. Video durations may vary slightly depending on the purpose and content of the video (e.g. a narrative story may take longer than 6 minutes to complete, but can still be engaging for its entire duration). The key is to make sure the video is no longer than is needed.

Lecture Videos

Perhaps you just want to make some lecture videos to send out or add to your Remote Teaching course materials. Here’s a link to a previous blog post we did to help you think through the process and get the most out of your lecture videos!

So You’d Like to Make a Lecture Video …

Organizing Course Materials for Online Delivery

To avoid dumping your course materials into a virtual shoe box and having students sift through the materials, struggling to infer context and connections you may consider this quick guide to how we at the Distance Education Unit typically organize our materials within the Learning Management System. Templates, samples and checklists for these processes are linked to below the video.