Graphic by Oden Taylor

Disorganized Canvas pages impede student learning

Professors should be required to do Canvas training
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by Oden Taylor

It’s Friday afternoon. Your friends are going out tonight and you want to make sure you’ve completed all of your homework for the week. You check your Canvas “To-Do List” and see you’ve completed everything, so you decide to go out and party.

The next morning, you get a notification on your phone: “Assignment Graded– 0/100.” The familiar rush of anxiety and dread fills you from your head to your toes, and you sink to the floor wondering, “How could this have happened?”

If you can relate to this, you’re not alone. Navigating Canvas at Cal Poly Humboldt can be a real nightmare. Because there is no set standard for how professors’ Canvas pages must look, and Canvas training is not mandatory, many class Canvas pages are not designed in an efficient or accessible way.

When I started my first term as a Cal Poly Humboldt student this semester I was shocked by the state of my various class Canvas pages. At the community college I attended previously, all Canvas pages were required to follow a very specific format that prioritized accessibility. 

Professors had to complete mandatory training on how to properly use all the functions of Canvas, and had to have all of their lecture materials created before the semester started. Professors were required to ensure that their materials were accessible for students who are deaf, hard-of-hearing, or low vision. The way that Canvas pages are set up can also significantly impact students with learning disabilities or those that lack prior tech experience.

Fortunately the solution to this problem has a simple fix. Professors should be paid to do mandatory Canvas training, and all Canvas pages should follow a clear set of accessibility guidelines.  

To start, professors can upload all of their materials directly into Canvas before the semester starts. Students deserve a clear picture of what the semester looks like and should never be waiting on professors to upload their class materials. 

Professors should be sure that all of their assignments show up in the To-Do List portion of Canvas with due dates. Making sure to use modules for each week’s assignments can also help to clarify expectations for students with regard to course pacing.

Professors should hold themselves to the same standards that they expect of their students when creating class materials. Students can’t give feedback in the same way a professor can, which puts the impetus on the administration to survey students’ needs and make appropriate changes.

Standardizing class Canvas pages will not only prevent frustration and missed assignments, it will also minimize the amount of confused emails teachers receive from their students. With a clearer understanding of what is being asked of them, students will do better in classes.

Implementing these small changes works. I have seen it done, and it saves everyone a lot of trouble in the long run. Cal Poly Humboldt pays thousands of dollars per year for students and faculty to have access to Canvas—shouldn’t we use it properly?

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