Week 13

I am now in Week 13 of CECS 5510. Only 4 more weeks left, and I’ll be done with this class and this master’s program! At this point I have finished a draft of my course in Canvas, and all I have left to do for the project is to review the course to make sure I didn’t forget anything and make final revisions based on feedback that I receive.

As I mentioned in a previous post, the most challenging part of the project has been paying attention to the details. It’s making sure that I have a rubric for each assignment, and that I have the “Use this rubric for assignment grading” box checked. It’s making sure that wiki pages have both teachers and students selected for who can edit the page. I just clicked through all the rubrics, for example, and saw that I had forgotten to select that “Use this rubric for assignment grading” box for about 10 different rubrics. There are so many different parts and options to consider that it can be difficult to keep track of them all. You just have to do the best you can do and reassure yourself that anything you miss, the students can point out to the instructor or you for course improvement. It won’t be the end of the world.

Fortunately, I was able to meet my timeline for completion. In fact, I actually beat it, since after reading about and completing assignments, I soon realized that the timeline I had drafted at the beginning of the semester did not align with the due dates of certain assignments (e.g., We had to have our entire course completed by last week, so that our assigned peer could review it this week). (So, for any future students of CECS 5510, keep that in mind when you’re drafting your timeline in Week 2!)

Being able to find wonderfully appropriate YouTube videos made by awesome teachers for my lessons helped a bunch. I am so grateful that I did not have to make those videos myself from scratch, because these teachers did a much better job than I could have done in my given timeframe. Why reinvent the wheel when you don’t have to, right?

The course structure of CECS 5510 does not have us implement and evaluate our designed course as part of the project, but I do hope to be able to implement and evaluate one day. Because my full-time job is in the corporate world, I will not be able to be an instructor for my designed course with an actual 9th grade class, but I do plan on sharing my course  in Canvas Commons, in hopes that a teacher will one day be able to benefit from it!


Wrapping Up Week 7

I have just completed week 7 of CECS 5510. This is the week where we are to have the first ¼ of our course reviewed by a peer and revised accordingly. My peer review partner provided some very helpful feedback. He provided a strategy that might hook some reluctant readers in the course introduction. He recommended that I include an introduction in each of my lessons that emphasizes how the skill being taught will help in understanding the novel. And he pointed out a place where I could have the students share their work with one another. I liked all of his suggestions and applied them in my improvements the course. Building a course in Canvas requires a great attention to detail, and I’m grateful to have that second set of eyes to help me catch some of those details.

In addition to revisions based on peer feedback, I have also made some revisions to my design based on the structure of the Canvas LMS. Because of the online structure, I realized that students will have to do quite a bit of writing even though the focus of the course is on reading literature, not writing. As a result, I went back to my syllabus and included a section on “Writing Practice and MLA Format.” I used this section to emphasize to students that even though the class is not a writing course, it will help them practice their writing and require them to write in paragraph format and MLA format. According to The Writing Lab at Purdue University, “MLA (Modern Language Association) style is most commonly used to write papers and cite sources within the liberal arts and humanities” (Purdue Online Writing Lab, 2014). As a result, I decided to enforce the style in this online course to help prepare students for literature courses in college. Unfortunately, this also meant that I had to go back through the already existing pages to ensure it followed MLA style. (My studies in this master’s program have made me used to APA style, making my MLA style knowledge a bit rusty.) The work was worth it, however, and I now believe the course has an even greater potential to help students hone their skills for college and the real world.

Overall, the constructivist design model that I’ve chosen for the course continues to work well for me. I think students will enjoy learning from each other through the collaborative activities and seeing what they can accomplish together, and I’m a little disappointed that I won’t be able to implement the course and witness its effects. Perhaps I’ll be able to share the course in Canvas Commons so that other teachers may benefit from what I’m creating.


Purdue Online Writing Lab. (2014). MLA in-text citations: The basics. Retrieved from https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/02/

Developing in Canvas

For CECS 5510, my colleagues and I have begun building our courses in Canvas.  The entire process has been going well for me so far. Because my development is centered on the constructivist learning theory, I’ve tried to incorporate collaborative learning as much as possible. Students will construct their own knowledge and skills through discussion boards, wikis, and blogs. According to M.U. Paily (2013), “This emerging technology which is characterized by greater functionality, interoperability and connectivity helps in knowledge creation through open communication and collaboration” (p. 39). The Web 2.0 functionalities incorporated in the Canvas learning management system facilitates student reflection, communication, and collaboration so that knowledge can be constructed.

I was particularly relieved to learn that Canvas had wiki functionality built into its interface. It took some time for me to find it, but by creating a page and selecting the option “Teachers and students can edit this page,” students have the ability to edit the contents of a page and view the page history, so that knowledge can be constructed together.  Howard Community College has some training modules to assist its faculty in building courses in Canvas, and one of its pages explains how the wiki works (Howard Community College, 2011). With sources such as this to help me in development and Canvas’s user-friendly interface, I haven’t experienced many issues.

The most challenging aspect is paying attention to the details and the big picture at the same time.  For example, right away, you have to consider the big picture of how students will be assessed, what the assignment categories should be, what percentage of the grade should go to each category, and how many points are designated to each category. Then you have to think about each individual assignment in itself, how many points each assignment should be worth, how each assignment should be graded (i.e., rubrics), etc. Then, for each assignment, not only do you have to create instructions, materials, and the space for the student on how to complete the assignment, you have to create instructions and the tools for the teacher on how to facilitate the assignment.

There are so many little things to consider, that it can be difficult to keep track of them all. As a result, I have several little spreadsheets to help me keep track of everything, and I’ve learned to appreciate all the thought and work that has gone into all the online courses I’ve taken thus far!


Howard Community College. (2011). Using wiki pages. Retrieved from https://howardcc.instructure.com/courses/32484/pages/using-wiki-pages

Paily, M. U. (2013). Creating Constructivist Learning Environment: Role of “Web 2.0” Technology. International Forum of Teaching & Studies, 9(1), 39-50.

Blackboard vs. Canvas

This semester has allowed me to learn more about learning management systems. In transferring two courses from Canvas to Blackboard, I was able to experience firsthand how courses are built and learn more about the pros and cons of each learning management system.

Both Canvas and Blackboard have an intuitive user interface, making it simple for an instructional designer to figure out how to build a course on the platform. Combining my knowledge of working in Blackboard as a student with other real-world experiences and standard user interface conventions, I was able to quickly figure out how to set up the course in Blackboard and transfer course content from Canvas to Blackboard.

Now that I’ve finished and know a little more about each LMS, however, I’m a bit surprised that the assignment was to transfer the courses from Canvas to Blackboard, as I would much rather build/experience the course in Canvas. Like Microsoft Word, Blackboard tends to create HTML that is more complex than it needs to be:


So I found it necessary to go into Canvas’ HTML Editor to grab the simpler HTML and copy that into Blackboard’s HTML Editor:


In addition, Canvas offers the ability to link directly to another page in the course.


For example, you can reference an assignment drop box and link directly to that drop box. (Blackboard does not have that capability.)

Another thing I like about Canvas is that it automatically makes hyperlinks open in a new window.  Blackboard requires you to select that option for every link.


Small useful functions like this add up.

Looking at some news articles, it looks like I’m not alone in my thinking. Although Blackboard is still the market leader, its share of the market continues to decrease, and according to this article, the University of Texas is one of the institutions phasing out Blackboard in favor of Canvas.

There is always room for improvement, however. Neither LMS offered the ability to search course content or the ability to view all text in the course at once. In editing the course content, I had to make the same fix in several different modules, and clicking through each module to get to each point was tedious. There were also times when I could not remember the exact locale of a certain link or resource. The ability to search all course content would have saved me a great deal of time.

For more information on the differences and similarities between Blackboard and Canvas, check out this page.