Canvas,  Instructional Strategies,  Remote Teaching

Elaborations on Canvas collaborations

The transition to remote learning has been in progress for almost a year now, with many instructors grabbing the Canvas bull by the horns and learning how to use the different Canvas tools to provide their students with the best learning experience possible.

With what feels like the whole world working remotely right now, collaborating with peers and colleagues is a necessary skill that we can help students develop and refine. Learning to work collaboratively is important because it not only helps to prepare students for careers but it elegantly highlights that it is often easier to succeed at tasks when working in a team. Canvas gives you the ability to create groups to streamline these collaborations – How can I facilitate students working collaboratively in groups?

Canvas leverages collaborative technology to allow multiple users to work on the same document at the same time. This functionality was popularized by Google Docs and Microsoft Office 365. At the University of Saskatchewan collaborations are supported through the use of Microsoft Office 365; this means that all collaborations, whether that is a Word document, an Excel spreadsheet or a PowerPoint presentation, will be accessible from each collaborators’ OneDrive. Creating collaborations is a simple process-How do I create a Microsoft Office 365 collaboration as an instructor?

Organizing students into groups and providing opportunities for them to work collaboratively can also help mitigate feelings of isolation and promote social learning–  When you set up groups in Canvas, each group is given their own workspace, they can use this space to share documents or notes and to work on group projects. But did you know that you can also turn the collaboration (e.g., Word document) into a Canvas assignment?

First you need to set up the collaboration and then you need to create an assignment to add it to.

Setting up a collaboration

  1. Go to the Collaborations link in the course navigation menu
  2. Select Start a new collaboration

  1. Select the type of collaboration you would like to start (Word, Excel, PowerPoint)
  2. Name the Document (include the name of your course so that students can easily identify between the different groups they are in, and the name of the assignment)
  3. Add a description (you might include that this collaboration is part of an assignment, indicate which module it is part of and the date which it is due)
  4. Choose between the People or Group tab to add the collaborators to the document. (Note groups should be prepared prior to this step – How can I facilitate students working collaboratively in groups?). Remember to hit save.

Creating an assignment

(Note: setting the collaboration up as an assignment will put a column in the Gradebook for you and allow you to grade it in Speedgrader)

    1. Go to the Assignments link in the course navigation menu
    2. Select + Assignment

  1. Add the Assignment name
  2. Include a description of the assignment (make sure that students know that this assignment is marking their collaborative document)

  1. Set up your points for the assignment
  2. Select File Upload as the submission type. Remember to hit save.

Once the collaboration has been set up as an assignment, students will be able to access it from the Assignments link in the course navigation or through the module to which you added it.

In summary, collaborations provide an active learning experience for students to learn together, share ideas and create content. This skill is even more relevant during the pandemic as many companies and institutions have had to find a way to work together whilst apart. The desire for this skill isn’t going to go away.

If you are interested in exploring implementing local or global collaborative opportunities in your courses, consider Riipen or COIL.


Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels