Canvas & Distance Education Update – Feb 2016

Here are just a few reminders to help you with online, hybrid or web-enhanced courses this term.

February Fun Facts

  1. February was named after the ancient Roman purification ritual ‘Februa’.
  2. Until 713BC, the Romans had no names for January and February, on the grounds that the winter months did not deserve them.
  3. Until Julius Caesar’s changes in 45BC, February was the only month with an even number of days.
  4. In Old English, February was called ‘Solmonath’ (mud month) or ‘Kalemonath’ (cabbage month).
  5. ‘February’ is an anagram of ‘bare fury’ (if you are feeling angry) or ‘bury fear’ (if you are brave).
  6. February is the only month that can pass without a full moon. This last happened in 1999 and will next happen in 2018.
  7. Much Ado About Nothing is Shakespeare’s only play naming February: “You have such a February face, So full of frost, of storm and cloudiness.”
  8. Because of calendar change, Sweden and Finland had 30 days in February in 1712.
  9. In the French Republican calendar introduced in 1793, the month from about January 21 to February 19 was called ‘Pluviose’ meaning ‘rainy’.
  10. The US White Pages phone directory lists 57 people with the surname February. Of all months, only September (also 57) has so few


  • Each instructor is required to drop all students who become nonparticipants by the census date. In a regular 16-week class the census date is usually Monday of the third week of class. (For all other courses, see the official policy to determine the census date or contact the Registration Office.)
  • After the census date and before the final drop deadline for the class, each instructor has the option of dropping students who, in his or her judgment, become inactive in class.
  • Prior to the final drop deadline, a student may drop a class by submitting the approved form in the Registration Office, or by using the telephone or on-line registration system.

Your role as a mentor and instructor includes discerning your learner’s knowledge, their zone of proximal development, and then guiding and channeling their experiences to grow in knowledge and skills, including the awareness of how to effectively get in synch with others, one characteristic of knowledgeable and effective leaders.
Reminder: It’s a best practice for you to keep your own copy of grades from the CANVAS grade book at the end of each term. To learn how to do this, check out the How do I download scores from the Gradebook? link from the CANVAS guides. View a screencast on exporting your Gradebook here, or check out the End of Semester Checklist TIP Sheet (PDF)

Canvas is getting a Makeover!

Announcing that a few months from now, some changes will be coming to the Canvas user interface.

First, we want to emphasize that there WILL NOT be any significant changes to the functionality of Canvas. This is primarily a cosmetic overhaul, much like any web site redesign. When you are working inside of your Canvas courses your experience will be nearly identical.

This change is currently scheduled to take place on May 14th. This is a Saturday that falls between the end of spring term and the beginning of Summer Intersession.

The most significant change is that the links and toolbar that currently run horizontally across the top of our Canvas system will be shifted to the left side of the page. This will allow for more room on the page to display content inside of your courses. Most of the buttons you see on the left (Account, Dashboard, Courses, Calendar, etc.) correspond with links currently found at the top of the Canvas system.

Another significant change is that the Dashboard feature, pictured above, will have large color-coded icons for each of your courses. The courses listed here, as well as their colors, are all customizable, and you can also choose to view your courses as a text list if you prefer.

We will be sending out regular notices with more information over the coming weeks. In the meantime, for more information about this upcoming change please refer to the following resources from Instructure, the developers of Canvas:

If you would like to get some hand-on experience using the new interface, we are happy to give you a tour here in the Distance Education office. Just send an email to and we will contact you to schedule a time.

As usual, you can always feel free to contact us at with any other Canvas questions you may have.

Open Educational Resources Month

About Open Education Week

March 7th to 11th, 2016 – Open Education Week’s goal is to raise awareness about free and open educational opportunities that exist for everyone, everywhere, right now.

Open Education Week is a global event that seeks to raise awareness of free and open sharing in education and the benefits they bring to teachers and learners. Coordinated by the Open Education Consortium, the event showcases projects, resources, and ideas from around the world that demonstrate open education in practice. The open education movement seeks to reduce barriers, increase access and drive improvements in education through open sharing and digital formats. Open education includes free and open access to platforms, tools and resources in education, including learning materials, course materials, videos, assessment tools, research, study groups, and textbooks, all available for free use and modification under an open license. Learn more

Check out the videos to learn more about open education and why it’s important to communities around the world. Then find what interests you, and explore. Join a webinar, see what projects are going on around the world, or attend a live event. You can tweet a question or comment (#openeducationwk), or contact us at


Check-out February webcasts and more from our friends at WCET, as they look at promising practices and funding opportunities for furthering Open Educational Resources (OER) adoption and introduce tools for finding and managing OER initiatives across states and systems..


  • Smarter Measure Readiness for Education Indicator is a web-based, diagnostic tool that gives students immediate feedback about their strengths and weaknesses as they relate to online learning.

Suggestions on how to use SmarterMeasure –

There is now a SmarterMeasure link in the left navigation in ALL courses, and when you access it as a student you automatically begin the readiness quiz. When you click the link as an instructor, it shows you a summary of the quiz activity in the class.


Make it an assignment in your Online Course –
Using SmarterMeasure as an assignment in an online course can be effective means of understanding students before term start and helping student succeed throughout term. Copy the directions below and put into an Announcement or use the tool as an Assignment in your class.

Send student to our Distance Learning Website – Current students or potential students can take SmarterMeasure as a self-evaluation tool at

Take the SmarterMeasure Assessment Test

The SmarterMeasure assessment measures six areas of readiness:

  1. Life Factors
  2. Individual Attributes,
  3. Learning Styles
  4. On-Screen Reading Speed and Comprehension,
  5. Typing Speed and Accuracy, and
  6. Technical Competency Skills

The assessment takes about 25-30 minutes to complete. Students can log out and resume at a later date if they are unable to complete in one sitting.

Student login
First Time User Login – Log in with the following username and password if you are a first time user or are starting a new assessment.

Username: PCC
Password: lancers

When prompted, enrolled students must enter their PCC e-mail address. If you are not a PCC student yet, use your personal email.

Use this option – Returning Users – if you want to look up a previously started or completed assessment.

  • ASPIREEDU Dropout Detective identifies students that are at risk of dropping out of or failing an online course – before it’s too late to help them. Dropout Detective tells you which students need immediate outreach and why they are struggling. This is done by analyzing data on every student’s Canvas grades, missing assignments and course access dates. Done automatically – no manual flagging necessary – and every day. This gives you an easy way to find those struggling students so you can better help them succeed.

ALL online courses automatically have Dropout Detective available to instructors (and instructors only) to use. If there are any hybrid or face-to-face/on-ground instructors who use Canvas and who want to try Drop Out Detective, please contact the Distance Ed. Office and we can create an account for you.


Appointments for faculty (CA119) please make an appointment via email at

CANVAS 101 online training coming soon!


If you have a burning CANVAS issue, don’t forget that CANVAS 24/7 help is always available! You can reach CANVAS support through:

  • Chat. Click the blue Help link in the upper right hand corner when you are in CANVAS.
  • Phone. Call CANVAS toll free 888-829-0627
  • Email. Send a message to


Course Design 101

We are offering training in house Online starting Monday, February 29, 2016 at 9:00 AM – Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:00 PM (PST), Course Design 101 Online Training – Interested in learning the basics of designing an online course? Want to know more about best practices & assessments for online instruction? Check out the Distance Education’s 4-week fully online Course Design 101 course where you will learn about the following topics:

  1. Active Learning
  2. Assessment
  3. Creating a course outline
  4. Creating a course plan (this will help if filing a Form D with C&I)

If you want to register please go to – event URL is

@One Distance Education Training

@One courses: the cost is 65.00 we reimburse upon completion of the course and you just needs to send me the certificate (which will be emailed). Then we will use the receipt to process payment.

  1. Introduction to Online Teaching and Learning
  2. Assessments
  3. Accessibility
  4. Building Online Community with Social Media

@One is offering a new condensed course that will address all training needs. The cost is 330.00 that you will need to pay up front. We reimburse upon completion of the course and you just needs to send me the certificate (which will be emailed). Then we will use the receipt to process payment.

Online Education Standards & Practices 
1/22/18 – 4/14/18
Online Education Standards & Practices 
2/26/18 – 5/19/18
Online Education Standards & Practices 
3/26/18 – 6/16/2018


Early in the term – ask for informal feedback on “How is the course going?” and “Do you have any suggestions?” Course evaluations have been called “post mortem” evaluations as they are done after the fact, and nothing can be changed to increase satisfaction or facilitate learning. Early feedback surveys or just informal discussions ask students to provide feedback on what is working well in a course and what might help them have a better course experience. This early feedback is done early in the course so corrections and modifications can be made. It is an easy opening for students who might have comments or suggestions or questions.

Prepare Discussion Posts that Invite Questions, Discussions, Reflections and Responses

Discussions in an online course are the equivalent of class discussions in a face-to-face class. A key difference, of course, is that these discussions are asynchronous, providing time for thought and reflection and requiring written /and or audio responses that become part of a course archive.

Discussions might be designed for one of the following purposes (Painter, et al., 2003; and Goodyear et al 2003, cited in Grogan, 2005):

  • Provide an open question and answer forum
  • Encourage critical or creative thinking
  • Reinforcing domain or procedural processes
  • Achieve social interaction and community building – have the students get to know each other personally and intellectually
  • Validating experiences
  • Supporting students in their own reflections and inquiries

Here are a few hints for discussion postings culled from many conversations with experienced online faculty.

Quick One-Liner Hints

  • Create open-ended questions that learners can explore and apply the concepts that they are learning
  • Model good Socratic-type probing and follow-up questions. Why do you think that? What is your reasoning? Is there an alternative strategy? Ask clarifying questions that encourage students to think about what they know and don’t know.
  • Stagger due dates of the responses and consider mid-point summary and /or encouraging comments
  • Provide guidelines and instruction on responding to other students. For example, suggest a two-part response: (1) what you liked or agreed with or what resonated with you, and (2) a follow-up question such as what you are wondering about or curious about, etc.
  • Provide choices and options for students. Providing choices for students in questioning follows the principle of providing options for personalized and customized learning for students and a way of validating and affirming knowledge and skills. Working professionals are often grappling with many issues – providing choices and options makes it possible to link the learning more directly with their work experiences and needs.
  • Don’t post questions soliciting basic facts, or questions for which there is an obvious yes/no response. The reason for this is obvious. Once one student responds, there is not much more to say! Very specific fact-based questions that you want to be sure that you students know are best used in practice quizzes.
  • Reminder: Log in to your course at least 4 times a week – answer email, monitor discussions, post reminders, and hold online office hours.

You may also want to peruse some of the hints about questioning from other ecoaching hints available at (Ten Best Practices for Teaching Online, Quick Guide for Online faculty, J. V. Boettcher, Ph.D.)

11 Instructional Design Truths According to Cat .gifs By Edmond Manning, Senior Instructional Strategist – If the Internet has taught us anything over the last twenty-five years, it’s that every single event in the history of all humanity can somehow be represented by adorable cat videos. Why fight it? We present some common instructional design truths best illustrated by, you got it—those furry little monsters Read More

The Chronicle of Higher Education presents a multi-part series on small changes that faculty can make to their teaching to improve learning in their courses. The second article in the series focuses on four easy strategies for the first five minutes of class and appears in today’s edition of the Chronicle.

The author, James M. Lang is a professor of English and director of the Center for Teaching Excellence at Assumption College, in Worcester, MA. His new book, Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons From the Science of Learning, will be published in March of 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @LangOnCourse.

Small Changes in Teaching: The First 5 Minutes of Class

4 quick ways to shift students’ attention from life’s distractions to your course content

By James M. Lang JANUARY 11, 2016

“Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.”

In a conversation I had with Ken Bain, my longtime mentor and favorite education writer, he cited that quote — the first sentence of Gabriel García Márquez’s novel One Hundred Years of Solitude — as one of the great openings in literary history. It’s hard to disagree: The sentence plunges us immediately into a drama, acquaints us with a character on the brink of death, and yet intrigues us with the reference to his long-forgotten (and curiosity-inducing) memory. That sentence makes us want to keep reading. … Entire Article

Last Updated on: December 21, 2017 @ 12:29 pm

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