Around Campus

ITS EdTech and CFE team up for Canvas training

As they make the transition from Sakai, faculty benefit from campus expertise in tech and teaching.

Two students sitting in lab room discussing with their laptop open.
Marla Sullivan and Kate Moss of ITS Educational Technologies work at the back of the classroom until Marissa Stewart of the Center for Faculty Excellence is ready for them. (Photo courtesy of UNC ITS)

Carolina faculty are preparing for the deadline to teach all courses in Canvas following the spring 2024 semester. The University’s multiyear transition to Canvas from Sakai has provided ITS Educational Technologies and the Center for Faculty Excellence with an uncommon opportunity to train faculty jointly.

“We don’t change learning management systems very often, so it’s somewhat unique,” said Bob Henshaw, who serves as the ITS liaison to CFE.

EdTech began by hosting virtual training, recorded Zoom sessions and office hours on how to get started with Canvas. But in May 2023, ITS and CFE teamed up to offer the Canvas Snapshot series, mostly in person.

Marissa Stewart, CFE’s interim associate director for teaching and learning, leads the in-person training. She introduces Canvas and its advantages from a pedagogical lens and talks about ways to use specific functions and features.

EdTech’s Kate Moss and Marla Sullivan, both learning management system support specialists, are in the back of the classroom, ready to answer tech questions on the spot. If an answer to a technical question would benefit the entire group, they broadcast the answer to all attendees.

After Stewart’s two hours of active instruction, “we actually stay for an additional hour, just in case somebody else has questions,” Moss said.

‘Full-on partnership’

This partnership allows faculty to get many of their course design and technical questions answered in the same session. “This is a full-on partnership,” Moss said. It’s “a really cool jelling together of the thought process.”

Participants have provided mostly positive feedback for the Canvas Snapshot series. Snapshot attendees said they appreciate having their questions answered in the moment both from the EdTech team members and in the full-group conversation.

“We’re big believers that we can accomplish more by collaborating across campus than we can on our own and are always open to discussing opportunities to work together with other organizations,” Henshaw said.

Migration to Canvas creates opportunity

The longstanding partnership between CFE and EdTech is based on the belief that instructors should know not only how to use campus-supported technologies but also how to use them most effectively. This two-pronged goal already informs much of the two organizations’ approach to faculty support.

Part of CFE’s mission is to help UNC instructors think about technology use in the context of their larger course goals, Stewart said. The campus migration to Canvas represents an opportunity for instructors to revisit decisions about how their courses are structured and presented to students through the learning management system.

“Rather than just copy over their courses from Sakai to Canvas, many instructors are interested in using this time to question some of their earlier decisions,” Stewart said. “In some cases, the way Canvas works is also encouraging them to approach things a little differently.”

The transition to Canvas, she said, also provides “a great opportunity for faculty to consider how they can create a supportive learning environment based on how students interact with their instructors, course content and their fellow students outside of a classroom environment.”

The joint training has sparked ideas for additional ways that CFE and EdTech can collaborate on Canvas.

“We’ve already begun discussing a lunch and learn series that would focus on lesser-known features of Canvas,” Henshaw said. “CFE staff would focus on the pedagogical rationale and best practices for using a Canvas tool, while EdTech staff would talk about how to access and set up the tool in Canvas.”

Check for details about upcoming training sessions.