Improving Accessibility in your Canvas Courses

 Articles for Faculty, General Information  Comments Off on Improving Accessibility in your Canvas Courses
Jun 122014

Transitioning from ANGEL to Canvas has vastly improved the accessibility of our online courses because the platform is developed on open web standards that allow assistive tools like text readers. One of the reasons why ACIR recommended Canvas was because the  National Federation of the Blind certified Canvas in 2010 (click to see announcement) .

In order for these accessibility features to work, faculty and instructional designers must ensure that content developed or uploaded into Canvas use these standards. This Canvas Guide article on Improving Accessibility in your Courses can help.

Special care must be taken in uploading content that was scanned from the original source.  Essentially the challenge is that copiers typically scan documents to an image file. This means that when you open the file you are actually viewing a picture of the scanned document. Electronic readers cannot read image files. Copiers with Optical Character Recognition (OCR) capability are better because they can actually capture the text during the scanning process so these documents are readable after upload to Canvas.

Some PDF image files can be converted with Adobe Pro and other tools before uploading to Canvas. This video shows a demonstration of readers we have on Avila common shared computers and gives a couple of methods for converting PDF image files.

Disability Services has a copy of Adobe Pro and can help faculty with conversions of content. Instructional Design services in Carondelet can also help.  Contact Sharon Depperschmidt or Mark Eaton for more information.


Tips & Tricks on Creating Video Presentations

 Articles for Faculty, Articles for Students, General Information  Comments Off on Tips & Tricks on Creating Video Presentations
Jun 052014

Whether you are faculty or a student, you may eventually need to create a video presentation in Canvas for an assignment at Avila University. Let’s look at a few ways you can do this using some basic techniques.

Creating or Uploading Videos in Canvas

WebcamFirst you need a webcam either built into your laptop or one that you purchase separately and connect to your computer through a USB connection. If you have more than one webcam connected to your computer, take care to identify which webcam you are using when recording the video directly into Canvas. Most webcams have built in microphones but you may need to add a separate mic depending on how far away you place the webcam for the presentation. Again, you need to make sure Canvas or the recording software knows which mic you are using. Create a few test videos to make sure your setup works.

You can either record a video directly into Canvas or upload a video you created using a video editor like Windows Live Movie Maker (a simple editor you can download from Microsoft for free). While it is easier to record directly in Canvas, you risk losing your work if your Internet connection is disrupted half way through the assignment, but for quick video assignments, recording online is easier.

All rich text editors in Canvas whether in assignments, discussion forums, wiki pages, or announcements allow video recording using this step-by-step procedure (follow this link to access the video comments post in the Canvas guide).  Here is a video demonstration of the process.

Now that we have an idea of how to actually record a video (or upload one), let’s take a look at effective low-budget ways of presenting. In all these techniques you will want to make sure your webcam or video camera is far enough back that it captures the presenter and visual aids. The further back you place the webcam, the more care you will need to take with lighting. Experiment with ordinary household lamps until you have what you want (see the diagram at the end of this post for setting up lighting).


Using a Flip Chart

One of the easiest methods is to use a flip chart but many shy away from this technique because they feel uncomfortable writing or drawing in front of a camera. Check out this video on how you can prepare your flip chart before recording the presentation that will make you look like a pro. It is low-tech but very effective.

Using a Large-Screen Monitor

With a second computer, you can display your slides on a large screen monitor but there are challenges:

  • The webcam and monitor angle must be adjusted to remove glare.
  • The brightness and contrast on the monitor needs to be adjusted so that slides are easily seen.
  • The theme of the presentation tool should provide a dark background with contrast between it and the text.
  • Use lots of images and very little text.

In this video I did a quick setup in my office with an external webcam on a laptop and a large-screen monitor on a desktop. I placed the webcam and monitor to remove glare. I looked for a Prezi template that was viewable. I combed my hair and did this with one shot and just a little editing in Windows Live Movie Maker.

Using a Whiteboard

If you can overcome the glare that is typical in whiteboards, you will find this to be an easy setup and effective presentation technique. First watch this video on the actual presentation this person gives. Then watch the next video on the instructional approach.

Now watch this video where the presenter explains the approach. What makes this work is to create the content on the whiteboard before recording the video. Then simply highlight key aspects of the visual during the presentation. Nicely done.

Using  a Blank Wall and some Editing

In this example I recorded the video off-line (not live in Canvas) so I could add captions later as visual aids for my presentation.  Captions are added using a free video editor like Windows Live Movie Maker.  This example was recorded with a webcam set back far enough to capture the presenter and a blank wall. I am far enough away from the wall to not cast a shadow. Here I used no additional lighting but this is always a challenge. If time permits I will use fill-in lighting. I did the recording directly in an editor and then added captions before publishing the video presentation.

It is important to note that editors create “project” files which are only viewed in an editor. Instructors will not be able to view the presentation if this is the file you submit. So be sure to “publish” or “export” the presentation to a video file format like mp4 before submitting the assignment.

Using Lighting

For most of your assignments, normal lighting is sufficient. Professionals use studio lights which have a dramatic impact on the video quality but most of your assignments can be satisfied with normal lighting. You can make some improvements by using ordinary house lamps if you are not satisfied with the ambient light available. This image shows how to place three lamps to help improve your video assignments (click the thumbnail on the left to enlarge the image).

Light Floor Plan

What’s the right thing to do?

Which method you use depends on how much time you have, the purpose of the assignment, and your skills. Most short presentation assignments in your course can be satisfied with live recording in Canvas using simple low-tech visual aids like a flip chart. If you have more time to experiment and want to expand your technical skills consider recording off-line, editing, and submitting published videos. If you want the quality to be professional, add backdrops and lighting.

Okay, so you want your videos to be professional but you don’t have the equipment professionals use. You would be surprised at how much quality you can add with devices you may already own. Let’s close this post with one last video example on using an iPhone to create stunning videos.

Academic Honesty

 Articles for Faculty, Articles for Students  Comments Off on Academic Honesty
Dec 202013

The policy of Avila University concerning cheating and plagiarism will be strictly followed in class and online. The University Policy defines cheating as: “stealing an exam; collaborating on projects where not allowed by the instructor; copying during exams; exchanging information during exams; using un-allowable information as designated by the instructor; and buying, selling or stealing copies of exams or other projects.” The University Policy defines plagiarism as: “taking ideas from another and passing them off as one’s own. Included would be the practice  of incorporating portions from a printed or online book or article into a paper and not acknowledging the source; copying a hole paper or report directly from a book or article; securing a paper or report  from another person or an online source and submitting it as one’s own work.” If you are  caught cheating or plagiarizing, you may be dismissed from the course and receive an “F” for a final grade.

Nov 052013

We have seen inconsistent results in uploading media to Canvas through the rich text editor. Click the images below to enlarge the view.

Upload Media Icon

Depending on your browser or its configuration you may receive an error message when using the Upload Media tab.

Here is an alternative method for uploading your file. It requires that you have permissions to use the file tab. Only instructors have permission in a course but students also have permission in Canvas groups.

The first step is to go to the files manager using the file tab in the course or group.



This will display the file screen where you can upload files. Click Add Files and select the file to upload.



After you upload the file then you can go to any content item (page, discussion, assignment, etc.) and use the rich text editor to link to your file from within the content item.


Google Maps and other External Tools in Canvas

 Articles for Faculty, General Information  Comments Off on Google Maps and other External Tools in Canvas
Oct 252013
Globe in Hands

Revently Avila University activated an number of external tools for faculty and student use. Tools are accessible through the blue V button in the rich text editor for any Canvas content item like pages, assignments, announcements, and discussions.

For example you can embed in your content an interactive Google map of any location in the world as shown here. While we have not tested all of these tools, we have activated them for faculty interested in trying these innovations in their courses. Please contact the Center for Transformational Learning if you would like help in using the tools pedagogically.

Canvas External Tools


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