“What you’ve all been waiting for!” (I seriously doubt it, but I can indulge in this delusion.)
What do I do if I don’t use Canvas? (I’m referring here to face-to-face courses, and some hybrids. While you could apply some of these techniques to online teaching, obviously not all are applicable).
In nutshell, here it is:
1. I use paper everything (almost).
Every assignment, every announcement, every handout… anything I would put on Canvas I give to students in paper format. “Hard copy.” Our print shop is great–timely and efficient (they even deliver close to my office!), so I can produce paper copies almost as efficiently as I can post stuff on Canvas. This accomplished several things: *I know my students actually SEE the assignments or materials. *They can manage these things in a real, physical way (it seems to be slightly harder to ignore something on paper than in the Canvas shell).
2. All assignments are turned in “hard copy” in class. I get between 30-100 emails a day (some of then junk, but I still have to delete them). I spend a lot of time each day on the computer just managed “stuff” outside my courses. When I don’t require things turned in on paper, I find students frequently use the “email option” to turn in papers late, etc. (Then I have to have strict policies, etc., to help students be responsible.) I find students turn in more assignments on time when it has to be in paper at the beginning of class. And students are forced (theoretically) to pay more careful attention to their work, rather than banging out something on the computer and submitting right before class. Granted, it doesn’t work perfectly. I still get “my dog ate it” and “my printer ran out of ink.” But it seems to breed a bit more conscientiousness. Two advantages I find in grading: 1) I can be more “creative” in the way I mark papers–can circle,
highlight, make frowny faces, write comments between the lines, etc. And students comment that this seems more “personal” than typed comments (although, admittedly, Canvas has some nice grading features). 2) My grading is more portable. I don’t have to have my laptop or desktop computer to grade. I can sit by the lake and contemplate the wisdom of my students. I can grade a paper or two when waiting for a meeting or appointment. My “office” becomes portable without my computer.
3. I use Excel to post grades. Ok, so I’ve taken a little bit of heat for this by some (not students). I use the last four digits of students’ Y numbers and have a running total of their grades. It’s very easy to read. Yes, students can see how others in the class are doing (not by name, just the grade). It let’s students know how they are doing relative to others. I’ve had no complaints.
4. I use a course website (actually a blog site) as a repository for course documents. Students are never “required” to go online. They could successfully complete the course without ever going to the website. However, everything I give out in class–including PowerPoints and videos I use (which I don’t give out as paper copies) are all housed on the website. If students lose the paper copies, I direct them to the website, where all the course materials (including assignments) reside. I either link things like videos directly to the site, or I upload them in Google Docs and provide links on the course website (students never have to go to Google Docs). There are lots of privacy and link options that I didn’t find difficulty to learn how to manage. One big advantage is that the material doesn’t disappear, ever, as it tends to do in Canvas. Students have access to it (theoretically) forever. I try to keep it simple. An actual live example of my course website is https://soc142fall2017.blogspot.com/.
My primary motivation in this is to limit the dependence on technology while increasing human interaction in my classes. I am grateful that other faculty are immersing students in more of the technology–it’s definitely a skill they need to know. But in my disciplines–Psychology and Sociology–which are all about human behavior, I choose to emphasize the human-ness. And at the same time conduct my own mini-rebellion against sameness. A rebel, I like to think, with a cause.