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Canvas Updates January 2018

Welcome back to a new year and a new term. The Macomb CTL is here to support you in developing productive and rewarding courses for your students.

Let’s take a look at the Canvas releases of January 6 and February 3.

The New Gradebook

The major change is that the New Gradebook is now available for instructors to turn on in your courses. This can be done from the Settings page in the left-side course navigation menu. Then click on the Feature Options tab to see the New Gradebook toggle switch (see image below).

Some of the differences in the new gradebook include:

  • New menus for more settings and sorting options.
  • Late and missing flags with automatic deduction policies.
  • More filtering options.

new gradebook

Do be aware that if you turn the New Gradebook on and then turn on automatic grading for late or missing assignments, you will not be able to return to the “old” Gradebook unless you deactivate the late/missing automatic grading policies.

We invite you to test out the New Gradebook and familiarize yourself with its look and feel before it permanently replaces the current gradebook. We’ll continue to update you well in advance of the launch date as we get more information from Canvas. The New Gradebook will officially launch in the second quarter of 2018. At this point, the old (current) Gradebook will be retired.

More information about the New Gradebook can be found at:

Additional January 6 Updates

Please see the New Feature Screencast for a video demonstration of the updates in the January 6 release:

The Release Notes contain a complete documentation of the release.

One notable update is the ability to add extra credit points to your rubric criteria in SpeedGrader.

Rubric extra points

You may find this method useful for adding extra credit to assignments that use rubrics.

Additional January 27 Updates (delayed to Feb 3)

See the screencast of new features below, and also see the full documentation in the Production Release Notes. 


There’s also a change in the DocViewer mode of SpeedGrader. Now you can make free-floating annotations anywhere on the page, with either a white or transparent background.

Docviewer Free Text

The next Canvas release after February 3 will be February 17, and it can be previewed on the beta server starting February 5.

We wish you the best for the Winter semester. Please contact us at 586-226-4774 with any questions you may have, and don’t forget to look over the CTL Winter 2018 Professional Development booklet for any workshops that may interest you.

Canvas Update December 9

Canvas was updated to a new version on Saturday, December 9. Here we’ll highlight some of the noticeable changes.

First, you’ll see a new Move Contents menu item under the Assignment Group Settings menu:

New Move Contents option for the assignment group Settings menu

Selecting this option will bring up a sidebar menu where you may specify the Assignment Group where you’d like the assignments moved.

Move Content option with drop-down placement menus

This is analogous to the Move Contents function which was recently added to the Module Settings Menu:

Module settings menu

You can still use the dots on the leftmost side of the module item or assignment to drag and drop individual items within and between modules.

Another update is that the student Groups page will now show the “inactive” label for any inactive students.

Groups inactive status

Previously, you would have to view the People page to identify inactive students. Students can be inactive for a variety of reasons such as no show, drop, or unpaid tuition, and typically are set as inactive at the SIS level (Datatel/Colleague.) With the inactive status now viewable on the Groups page, you can more quickly identify and remove inactive students from Groups.

This change only affects instructor view – student view does not show inactive students.

Watch the New Feature Screencast for a walkthrough of these changes:

Full release notes are available on the Canvas site. The next beta release will be available on December 18 (see Macomb Canvas beta server), and the next official production release will be on January 6.

The Center for Teaching and Learning has also released the Winter 2018 Professional Development Brochure. We have a full lineup of workshops, courses, and Lunch & Learns prepared for the new semester, so please look over the booklet to see what interests you. Printed copies should be available in early January.

Canvas Production Release – October 7

Get ready for the new Canvas release, which premieres on Saturday, October 7. As always, you can preview the release before this date on the Canvas beta server.

The main update is the missing and late assignment labels have been removed from the student-facing submission details and Grades page. These labels were introduced in August and caused some confusion among students and debate among instructors on the definition of a “missing” assignment and the level of control instructors had over these labels. Instructors’ SpeedGrader view has not changed and will still show missing and late labels for online assignments.

Another new feature is the option to enter point ranges for the criteria of your rubrics. This option can be activated by clicking the Range checkbox under a criterion:

Rubric Range Checkbox

Rubric criterion ranges have also been available in Blackboard, and allow more flexibility and precision in assigning points to rubric-graded assignments.

Please see the Production Release Notes for a full description of all updates and bug fixes.

The New Feature Screencast gives a video presentation of the above changes:

The next Canvas production release will arrive on October 28 and can be previewed in beta mode starting October 16.

Please contact The Macomb CTL at 586-226-4774 if you have any questions about Canvas or other instructional technologies. We still have plenty of on-ground and online workshops lined up for the Fall term, so please see our Professional Development brochure and sign up for one today!

Tools of Engagement

Last month’s blog focused on The Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE). The survey was administered at Macomb and other community colleges nationwide. Results are being compiled and analyzed by the survey organizers. Specific results for Macomb Community College will be shared at an upcoming FDD.

That leads us to the topic of this month’s blog – Engagement.   Student engagement, whether online or on-ground, can be enhanced with polling, gamification, and videos. Let’s take a look at some of the tools available.

For an on-ground class polling is great way to query students to determine what areas of course content they have mastered and what areas may need some additional clarification. In the spirit of the election year, here are some examples of free, cloud-based polling solutions in which students can use their phones to respond:

While not limited to an on-ground course, polling may be more practical for an on-ground course. However, there are other tools that could work in an online course.

One option is to create a game to provide a quick check on student understanding. Not only does the Jeopardy Labs website have free software to create a Jeopardy game, it also provides the ability for you to create other games and practice tests/quizzes. For more information visit –

Another tool for online and on-ground courses that may be beneficial is the Future Me tool which enables students to send an email to themselves at some future date. This can be used to for reflection on past activities or a motivation message to keep the student focused. See for more details.

Finally, incorporating a video into your online course can help to enhance student engagement. While not limited to use in online courses, incorporating them into an online course helps to add variety to the instructional materials and create a more personal connection to the students.

There are a couple of possibilities available. One is to stream one of 12,000 videos from the Films on Demand catalog available through the Macomb Library portal (

Another possibility for adding a personal connection to students in your online course is to record and stream videos yourself using TechSmith Relay. Relay enables you to screen record content and then stream it from your own personal server channel. Visit their website to find out more about Relay from TechSmith. A college-wide license was purchased so there is no cost to you for this solution. Workshop information is available via the Professional Development Brochure or by contacting the CTL. You can register for training via WebAdvisor.

Remember that whether you include games or videos, both must meet accessibility standards.

Enjoy the beautiful spring weather and feel free to contact the Center for Teaching and Learning for assistance with integrating any of these technologies into your classroom.

Stay tuned for our next post when we will highlight other methods and tools that can be used to engage students.

What Is Student Engagement?

The CCSSE (Community College Survey of Student Engagement) will be administered to Macomb students between Monday, March 28 and Wednesday, April 13. The CCSSE is celebrating its fifth year in ground-breaking efforts to promote institutional transparency and reporting on student learning. We, at Macomb, are proud to be part of these studies and use the feedback we receive to examine our educational practices and continuously improve them

What are the key findings about engagement and some related questions asked of students that can help us improve our teaching and learning at Macomb?

Active and Collaborative Learning:
During the current school year, how often have you:

  • Asked questions in class or contributed to class discussions.
  • Made a class presentation.
  • Worked with other students on projects during class.
  • Worked with classmates outside of class to prepare class assignments.

Student Effort:
During the current school year, how often have you:

  • Prepared two or more drafts of a paper or assignment before turning it in.
  • Worked on a paper or project that required integrating ideas or information from various sources.
  • Come to class without completing readings or assignments.

Academic Challenge:
How much does your coursework at this college emphasize:

  • Analyzing the basic elements of an idea, experience, or theory.
  • Synthesizing and organizing ideas, information, or experiences in new ways.
  • Making judgments about the value or soundness of information, arguments, or methods.

Student-Faculty Interaction
During the current school year, how often have you:

  • Used e-mail to communicate with an instructor.
  • Discussed grades or assignments with an instructor.
  • Talked about career plans with an instructor or advisor.
  • Discussed ideas from your readings or classes with instructors outside of class.

Support for Learners
How much does this college emphasize:

  • Providing the support you need to help you succeed at this college.
  • Encouraging contact among students from different economic, social, and racial or ethnic backgrounds.
  • Helping you cope with your nonacademic responsibilities (work, family, etc.).

Student engagement means motivation, curiosity, attentiveness and interest that a student has for a given class. A student who is “engaged” is a student who has invested themselves in the class beyond getting a good grade. Student engagement also refers to the methods and tools that are used by educators to reach their students and their effectiveness.

To get a sense of some of the information that CCSSE aggregates, here are a few sample questions that are asked of faculty members:

  • How often do students ask questions in class or contribute to class discussions?
  • How often do students skip your class?
  • How often do your students discuss ideas from their readings or classes with you outside of class?

Students are surveyed as well to gauge their learning experiences and these are a few of the questions that are asked of them:

  • In your experiences at this college during the current school year, about how often have you asked questions in class or contributed to class discussions?
  • About how often have you participated with other students on projects during class?
  • About how often have you worked with instructors on activities other than coursework?

CCSSE is a nationally recognized tool, which is intended to aid institutions in improving their educational practices to provide more engaging learning experiences. To learn more about CCSSE and their standards for student engagement, by visiting their website at:

For a current editorial on engagement, read the Glossary of Education Reform:

Be sure to check out next month’s blog post for more on student engagement!

Helping Students Belong

If you attended Faculty Development Day recently, hopefully you listened to an insightful presentation by our guest Keynote Speaker, Dr. Terrell Strayhorn, from Ohio State University. The focus of Dr. Strayhorn’s talk was on the topic of strategies that will help students feel a sense of belonging in the classroom.

When a student first enters your class, they are not only there to receive an education but they want to feel like they belong there by both their peers and their professors. If a student feels alienated, either by a language barrier, economic factors, ethnicity or some other situation, the chances for a given student’s success are diminished.

After hearing Dr. Strayhorn’s talk, we thought it would be helpful to expand a little bit on his concepts or thoughts and provide a few ideas to help your students feel like they belong.

Belonging is a basic human need. When many students don’t know the culture and vocabulary of higher education, how do we help them establish a sense of belonging? Here are a couple resources you may find useful.

“Being there” for your students is as integral to their success as it is to provide challenging and engaging courses. Sometimes it may not be possible to be present after class as much as you would like, or there may be a language barrier to overcome. It’s important for your students to feel valuable to their classroom community.

This document might be helpful to your students in getting the help they need outside of your office hours:

Helping students navigate higher education – .pdf document

This document shares a number of practices, which specifically apply to the success of black male college students:

Convey high expectations, teach academic success skills, and nurture confidence – .pdf document

If you didn’t have the opportunity to see Dr. Strayhorn in person at FDD, check out this TED talk where he further discusses the concept of belonging.

Inalienable Rights: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Belonging: Terrell Strayhorn at TEDx Columbus   – YouTube Video

Welcome to the Canvas Community!

CanvasCommunity-01While you were enjoying your summer vacation, you may have heard that Macomb Community College recently acquired a new Learning Management System – Canvas by Instructure. Canvas has improved functionality, an intuitive interface, more features and deeper support.

Canvas joins ANGEL in delivering online, hybrid and web-enhanced courses for the 2015FA and 2016WI terms. We will say a final farewell and thank you to Angel for nine years of faithful service in May 2016.

Wait! Before you shake your fist at us for changing everything, let us assure you that CANVAS truly is going to make managing and publishing online content quicker and easier than ever before. Plus, CANVAS was built with mobile access in mind, so you and your students can more easily connect with your course on the go via phones and tablets iOS (8.0+) and Android (4.0.3+) devices.

“But who will teach me to use this new technological marvel?” You ask. Why the friendly folks at your local Center for Teaching and Learning of course! [] Our instructional technologists at both Center (C-127) and South (J-211) campuses have been putting in extra time to develop training courses such as our “Canvas: Getting Started” and “Angel to Canvas” online and on-ground workshops, as well as getting intimately acquainted with the LMS so we can answer any question you may have.

Additionally, help fill any gaps in our knowledge, and keep up with ever-changing updates to Canvas, the folks at Canvas offer the Canvas Community [], Here you will find a vast repository of information, covering all aspects of Canvas functionality.

Under “Find Answers” you will find a wide array of tools to help you find…well, answers, such as “Canvas Guides”, which contain downloadable guides, streaming videos and manuals about the LMS. Or “Canvas Commons” where faculty can find, import and share content and resources with colleagues from all over the world.

The “Share Ideas” column gives you a direct line to the Canvas developers where you can submit your ideas and collaborate with other educators to help continually improve Canvas for everyone!

Finally, the “Join Groups” section, enables you to find a diverse online community to connect with so you can keep in touch and see how other educators are using Canvas for their courses, and share your own tips and ideas with them.

We know sometimes change can be scary or frustrating when all you want to do is continue to run an engaging course. That’s why the CTL and the CANVAS Community are here to make the transition as quick, easy and painless as possible. Contact the CTL any time at 586-226-4774 or email us at and we will get you on track quickly.

And to keep informed about all of the CTL’s workshops and instructional technology initiatives, keep an eye on this blog and our monthly newsletter!