Teaching large courses can be challenging, with many students to engage, assignments to grade, and TAs to manage. Thankfully, Canvas has some great tools to help lighten the load. This article outlines best practices for using Canvas tools in large courses, covering efficient organization, fostering student engagement, communication, optimizing assessments, and seamless grading.
When you're setting up your course, Modules are your best friend for lecture-related content, and Section Groups are perfect for section-specific material. TAs can use these for section-specific announcements, discussion forums, and more. Canvas for TAs - Tips and What You Need to Know has neat tips for organizing Section Groups.
Concerned about getting everyone engaged during lectures? Canvas has solutions. IClicker is handy for checking understanding and promoting active learning. It can even help with attendance.
Want to build a strong community? Assign online group discussions between small groups to encourage engagement with a smaller cohort and alleviate concerns about excessive posts and responses. Also, peer review activities boost interaction. You can build peer reviews in Canvas Peer Review or EliReview
Looking to boost interaction? Large class sizes might intimidate students and discourage questions. To overcome this, create a short Check-In Survey for students to complete before or after class for questions or concerns related to course content. Make sure to address those questions during class time.
In a large course, keeping communication active is key. Set up a discussion forum for student questions to prevent repeating answers. Bulk messaging is super useful – use New Analytics or Gradebook messages to target specific student groups with messages, such as those students who did not submit their assignments, scored more or less than a specific grade, or haven’t been graded yet.
Online assessments are a lifesaver for large courses. They make grading easier and offer quick feedback. You can set up group assignments for collaborative work and longer assignments. For low-stakes assessments, Canvas quizzes are a go-to. They can be automatically graded or assessed on a complete/incomplete basis. Remember to use New Quizzes for easy DSP accommodations and be able to easily randomize questions.
Save time and provide timely and pertinent feedback to students by adding automatic feedback to quizzes (instructions for Classic Quizzes and New Quizzes) and using rubrics (available in Canvas assignments, Google Assignments, and Gradescope.)
Use Gradescope to collect any paper-based assignment. This eliminates the risk of losing a student’s submission and facilitates grading. Gradescope accommodates numerous graders, rubrics, flexible point adjustments, and "horizontal grading," enabling the assessment of individual questions or sets sequentially.
When you're in the grading zone, use SpeedGrader filters for specific sections. And hey, if you find yourself giving similar feedback, save those comments in the SpeedGrader’s Comment Library for quick reuse.
Managing grades? The Gradebook filters can help you find exactly what you need. TAs might want to save Gradebook filters of their sections. If you've got students with similar names, consider adding extra details like their PERM numbers. Don't forget about the Default Grade option to handle non-submitted assignments. You should enter a grade for all students to ensure the assignment's score factors into their final grades. Leaving a “-” in a student’s grade might alter the student’s final grade.
So, when you're all done grading, make sure to export those grades from Canvas and get them into Egrades.
For even more comprehensive tips that work for all courses, check out the UCSB Checklist. Happy teaching!