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Northwestern University

Survey Says...

As dedicated members of the Weinberg faculty, you spend substantial time preparing for your teaching responsibilities each quarter. While most faculty and instructors spend time updating the course syllabus, selecting readings or practice problems, and planning for assessment, students would ask that you also set aside some time to plan your Canvas course site.

In TLT's two most recent Canvas student satisfaction surveys, conducted in Spring 2021 and Fall 2021, we included questions about what students prefer to see in faculty usage of Canvas. We wanted to get feedback on what's helpful to students and how faculty can best spend their time when setting up a Canvas site for a course. With over 800 respondents in Spring 2021 and 1600 in Fall 2021, these results offer meaningful insight into student sentiments regarding Canvas.

Specifically, students were asked: "We often hear that students want their instructors to organize their Canvas sites consistently. Which of these elements do you feel would help with that organization?"

Ranked from most to least helpful, here is how students responded:
Canvas Action % of Respondents Rating Action “Very Helpful”
Listing topics, contents, and assignments week by week 90%
Posting grades in Canvas 88%
Adding assignment due dates so that assignments appear in the syllabus tool 84%
Posting course materials in pages or modules 83%
Having a downloadable version of the syllabus 77%
Using Announcements to post course information and updates 70%
Filling in the top area of the syllabus tool with information about the course 67%
Reducing the number of items in the left navigation 52%
Posting course materials in the files area 47%
Communicating via Inbox (Canvas internal email) 34%

The results for this question were nearly identical in both Spring 2021 and Fall 2021.

These insights were shaped by the remote learning period, during which students and faculty relied heavily on Canvas to maintain academic progress. Still, the wishes of students for faculty usage of Canvas continue even with the return to in-person learning. Students have seen the power of Canvas as an organizational and pedagogical tool. As they juggle the assignments and deadlines of their multiple courses in addition to their other commitments, Canvas can be a valuable tool for staying on top of their academic work.

Specifically, students appreciate Canvas being utilized for its two primary functions: organization of course content and communication about progress and updates in a course. Here are some resources to help you build an organized Canvas course site and use it for key communication tasks:

The Teaching & Learning Technologies team is available to consult with instructors on their Canvas courses. Whether you are starting from the beginning of your building process or needing help with the final details, we can help you build a Canvas course that students will enjoy using. Request a consultation.

Time spent building an organized, robust Canvas course will pay dividends over time. Since instructors can import content from one course to another, and even send content to colleagues in cases of collaborations or changed teaching assignments, the investment in building course content in Canvas benefits you and your students now and in the future.

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