Canvas Sketches - Fall 2018

Canvas Sketches


  • Students Save Money with Open Education Resources (OER)
  • Canvas “Zooms” Ahead
  • There’s an App for (Some of) That

Students Save Money with Open Education Resources (OER)

Finances are a serious concern for community college students, and the high cost of textbooks and publishers’ materials is a big part of the problem. A 2016 survey conducted by Florida Virtual Campus’ (FLVC) Office of Distance Learning and Student Services found that over half of all students in associate degree programs did not purchase the required textbook due its high cost.

We can do something about that, and Open Education Resources (OER) are part of the solution. OER are course materials such as modules, textbooks and even entire courses that are available for free to use in your courses.

OER is being used successfully at Community College of Philadelphia to the benefit of both students and instructors. A student in a MKTG 131 course that uses OER reports, "My not having to purchase a textbook for your class helped me by allowing me to save those funds for items I needed for my household.” Professor Nick Molnar of the History department finds that, "OER resources have helped eliminate issues related to students acquiring textbooks for the courses I teach, allowing me to focus my attention to the other important matters that inevitably crop up for teachers at the beginning of each semester.”

Many pre-built OER courses are already in the Canvas system in the “Canvas Commons.” To browse the Canvas Commons for a course that fits your teaching style and subject:

  1. Go to Canvas Commons by selecting the “Canvas Commons” icon Commons icon
  2. Enter your search terms. You can enter your subject along with OER or OPENWA (Washington state OER resources).
  3. Select TYPE. (You can select “Course” or any of the course components.)
  4. Select “Grade Level.
  5. You will see a list of OER materials.
  6. Select a resource that interests you.

You should see a Creative Commons symbol like the one below in the bottom right corner of the resource page that you select:

Creative Commons Icon

Note: If you see the word “Copyrighted” instead of the Creative Commons symbol, you can’t use the resource without permission.

For more information on the varieties of OER and how to use them, please see the College’s Library Guide at OER LibGuide or contact Carol Seufert in the Office of Online Learning.

Canvas “Zooms” Ahead

You have probably noticed a new “Zoom” tab on your Canvas screen. Zoom is a powerful video conferencing system that is very easy to use. It provides unique opportunities to add an interactive, synchronous component to your courses, and to involve your students in new ways. It helps make learning more accessible, relevant and exciting.

Using Zoom, students can share projects, give presentations, and have a live discussion among themselves and with you, using video, voice, chat, screen captures, images or a combination of all of them. Additionally, Zoom sessions can be saved for later viewing.

Please contact Vaishali Sharma in the Office of Online Learning to learn how to use Zoom in your online or hybrid classes.

There’s an App for (Some of) That

Be honest, how do you feel about your students using mobile devices to access your course space? Probably not good, right? And there is good reason to feel that way. Students risk losing their submissions when they use the Canvas mobile app to take quizzes or submit assignments. You should definitely warn your students to submit their work on laptop or desktop computer, not on a mobile device.

But, we all know that students will use their mobile devices because it’s so convenient, and the truth is, there are some activities that can be done safely on a mobile device, such as checking messages or grades, or reading smaller items such as discussion posts.

The following course design tips will make life easier for students who are using mobile devices for the things that can be done safely on them:

  1. When directing students to a navigation link, be aware that screen sizes differ. So instead of saying “Click on Modules on the left”, you might just say “Click on Modules.”
  2. Chunk materials so the content can be read/viewed in 5 to 10 minutes: “Mobile is what you do between doing other things.”
  3. When possible, use Pages rather than Word, PDF or PowerPoint files. These are easier to read on mobile devices.


Peter Margolis, MA
Director, Online Learning
Room B2-26