05 Nov 2017

Using Canvas for Communication

It’s amazing the insight you can get from candid conversations with students.


This past week, I sat down to help a student who was having some issues tracking down a document in their Google Drive. We went into his Gmail and to my shock and horror, the student had 1,300 unread messages. Glancing over the messages, I saw a number of emails from teachers intermingled with Canvas notifications and other inbox clutter. When I asked the student about it, he basically just said, “I can’t keep up. So I only go to my emails when directed by a teacher or when I need to email them.”


The student I was talking to is a productive, hard-working, and academically successful student. But when it came to organization and communication, he could use some help.


This conversation illustrated something simple we’ve probably all been thinking for years: email just isn’t a great form of communication. Canvas has tools you can use to communicate more efficiently. But first, we need to relieve students from the email flood.


Step 1: Edit Canvas notifications.

The default notification settings for Canvas are a little much for anyone’s inbox. Students can and should edit their notifications so they receive only the important ones. Most settings can be changed to “Send daily summary” instead of right away. See the screenshot below for some suggestions. (Side note: students can also use text messages as notifications.)



Step 2: Use Canvas Announcements.

Announcements are a fabulous tool for sending messages to students. For one, the Canvas inbox is limited to messages between teachers and their classes. That means there won’t be any clutter to sort through. Another benefit is that many students use the mobile app for Canvas and therefore get push notifications that alert them to new messages. Announcements function exactly like a page in Canvas. You can embed content, links, files, and images. You can also edit them in case you make a mistake. Lastly, you can delay when they are sent so you can draft them up and then send them at the end of the school day for example.


Step 3: Use Gradebook in Canvas for messages.

One last way you can use Canvas for sending messages is kind of hidden. Using the Canvas gradebook, you can send messages to students that haven’t completed or submitted an assignment or got a certain score. For example, you could send a message to students who need to retake a quiz or better yet, you could send a congratulatory note to students that did really well!

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