In the afternoon session at the #InstCon Unconference, I attended the Professional Development in Canvas session.

I sidetracked the PD discussion at the very beginning into a discussion of student orientation into Canvas. The consensus seemed to be that most schools set up a module for student orientation and share it with their faculty in the Canvas Commons. The faculty can then import that module into their course to provide a Canvas offers a number of written guides and videos in the online Canvas Community. At OU, we have built a similar module and hope that faculty will include it in the introductory section of their courses. I did not know about the videos though, so I’m going to have to go back and integrate those into our module.

For instructors, the Canvas Community has built a course called ‘Canvas Instructor Orientation,’ which is available in Canvas Commons. Some K-12 schools have built Canvas into their new teacher training, and some colleges have built it into their new faculty orientation. However, it doesn’t seem to be required at most schools. Everyone recognized the point that there needs to be some sort of motivation or recognition for time spent learning Canvas or any other educational technology. At the K-12 level it seemed like this was a more commonly recognized requirement of new teacher training. I think that the scale of Higher Ed and the freedom of instructor’s in developing their own courses makes it less common at that level.

New student and new faculty orientation were seen as perhaps the largest factor in introducing people into Canvas. However, this needs to be supplemented by ongoing refreshers, orientations, special topics, deep dives, etc. A weekly podcast called IT Weekly in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area has made two of the instructors local celebrities for ed-tech. InstCon could be used as a giveaway to reward faculty training and accelerate the development of faculty leaders.

Several schools are also running extended Canvas Academies/Camps that run for 4 or 5 days and provide hands-on, projected oriented PD that both help faculty to internalize the material and also produce what they need to produce for their upcoming courses. The promise of completing a course / readying a course rapidly over 8 hours is enough motivation for many. These camps can have a collaborative component where instructors from different disciplines can share ideas, methods, or even materials for their courses.

Scheduling was a big hurdle common to all levels. To combat this, many schools are trying video conferencing including Facebook Live, Google Hangouts on Air, and other live and recorded streams to make accessing the training materials more flexible. Big Blue Button, the default conferencing tool for Canvas, was also discussed. It’s useful in that it’s built into Canvas, but it’s less discoverable and sharable than some of the bigger social media tools. It’s also Flash which limits viewing on mobile devices during that mythical ‘downtime.’