An interview with professor Duy Tran on teaching math in Canvas

What did you teach in Canvas?

I was one of the instructors who piloted Canvas before the decision was made to go to Canvas. I taught during Interterm 2019, Spring 2019, and Summer 2019. The courses I built out were Math 109 (Business Calculus) and Math 111 (Calculus II). My students were mostly first and second-year students. I had an average of 32 students per class and approximately 120 per semester.

What do you like about using Canvas?

The Gradebook. It’s very easy to organize and assign weights and percentages in the Gradebook. You can just click and drag it where you want it to go. When you have a lot of assignments it’s also easy to check and see if everything is in the right section. Blackboard always took so many clicks to get anything done. It’s much easier in Canvas.

Video feedback. Sometimes it’s better and faster to insert video feedback instead of written comments.

Rubrics. Grading homework goes much faster once Rubrics are created. They are easy to create when you create the Assignment, or you can add them later.

Navigation. It’s easy to hide unused navigation tabs so the students don’t see things they don’t need. It keeps everything simple.

Integration with MyMathLab and WileyPLUS. The integration is seamless and it’s easy to sync grades to Canvas.

What do your students like about using Canvas?

Canvas Student app. The students really like and use the Canvas Student app. They can do pretty much everything in the app and don’t even need to bring out their laptops.

Did you move content over from your old Blackboard course or did you start from scratch?

I decided to start from scratch. I had prior experience with Canvas so I already knew that it’s easier to start from scratch than to try and move stuff over. Starting from scratch allows you to add new elements and get everything organized. It’s faster and easier than transferring content and then trying to reorganize it.

What do you use the most in Canvas?

I use Quizzes, Assignments, Discussions, Speedgrader, Feedback (in the Speedgrader), Announcements, and Weekly Modules

Any last tips or tricks you’d like to share?

  • You can store lecture notes for yourself in Canvas. Create all your notes on a Page, but don’t publish the page. As an instructor, you can see it, but your students can’t see if if you don’t publish it.
  • I always use Student View to check my course. I use it frequently to make sure I know what my students can see and what they can’t see in my course.
  • The Gradebook has an individual student view. You can look up one student’s grades without having to look at the entire class. That way you can review grades with one student without having to worry about them seeing anyone else’s grade in the course.
  • I used a tool called Civitas to see the students’ engagements in the course. The system will display who has high participation in the course and with the corresponding grades. This way you can easily identify who is participating in the class discussions, viewing class materials, and whether you should send a reminder to that particular student to check on them.
  • If you are teaching math using McGraw Hill Connect, then Canvas has a deep integration, while Blackboard does not. It makes things so much easier to integrate third-party platforms to Canvas rather than Blackboard.

Duy TranDuy Tran is an Instructor in the Schmid College of Science and Technology.