Online Office Hours in Instructure Canvas

Jun 25, 2012 by

UPDATE: Unfortunately, the video chat service provided in Canvas was turned off in Fall 2012. It has now been replaced with a Text Chat that is built in to Canvas, but no video.

I have been incredibly happy with the online office hours that I’ve been holding in Canvas this semester (see previous post on SAVI tools in Canvas here).  Day after day, students are showing up for office hours to ask their own questions, hear other students’ questions, and just kind of hang out while they work on problems.  It’s lovely to SEE my online students regularly and I feel a much greater connection to this summer’s students than from any prior semester.

I’m quite sure that the difference is the ease of use of the Canvas Chat tool.  There are no logins, no scheduled sessions, and there is no separate software to install.  To get into the online office hour, the student (and the instructor) simply has to click on Chat.  To share camera and/or audio, they click “Start Broadcasting” and follow the prompts.  It really does not get much easier than that.

Images of Instructor and Student Guides for Online Office Hours in Canvas. Click on image to enlarge. Follow links in blog post for actual documents.

To make it easier for other instructors to implement the practice of online office hours, I wrote two guides:

The instructor guide contains tips on:

  • Webcams: Should you require or not?
  • Scheduling sessions: When and how?
  • Syllabus considerations
  • User Limit to Chat
  • Sharing a YouTube video, with an interactive whiteboard, or a screenshot
  • Sharing a document through the link to a Canvas page
  • Taking attendance
  • Students with low bandwidth
  • Troubleshooting technical problems
  • Reducing the “echo” effect that commonly plagues SAVI tools

If you’re going to share these with colleagues or students (which is fine), please share through the hyperlink so that if I update the documents in the future, you’ll always have the current version.  Hope these are helpful to you!

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Google Hangout + TED Talks = CONNECT

Jun 8, 2012 by

The catch phrase / motto / vision of TEDx is “Share. Connect. Act”

We hold these TEDx events all over the world, so I’d say we’re pretty good at sharing. The TEDx Action Team is working on some “recipes” for making action easier (and I’ve written about my own idea for Turning Ideas into Action). So, I’d say that the next thing to do is recreate the awesome “liquid network” that we experienced at the TEDxSummit on a year-round basis – to find a way to cultivate connections of people around ideas.

Imagine this world … You go to to watch a new video. Next to “Play” there’s a new button: CONNECT

When you go to TED to watch a video, you’d get the option to watch with others, to CONNECT. (click on image to enlarge)

When you click on “Connect” you get placed in a waiting area in Google Hangout.

Now you’re in Google Hangout, waiting for your fellow “Connect” viewers to arrive. (click on image to enlarge)

Once a few others from the queue get added to your “Hangout” the video begins. Viewing as a group means you can see the reactions of others and make comments as you watch.

Now watch the video with others and see their reactions. (click on image to enlarge)

And when the video is over, you can have a conversation about it with those other viewers from all over the world.

And then have a conversation about the TED video you’ve just watched. (click on image to enlarge)

As our conversations around ideas begin to include those people with very different perspectives, maybe we’ll all learn to respect and value the beliefs, cultures, and values of others.

Well, I can imagine it, I wonder if someone at TED can build it?

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Web Tools to Enhance Learning

Jun 1, 2012 by

Here’s a new mindmap containing my recently organized collection of great sites and tools for learning and teaching.  The collections are:

  • Google Sites and Apps
  • Video Collections
  • Synchronous Communication Tools
  • Asynchronous Communication Tools
  • Mindmapping Tools
  • Data Visualization
  • Scheduling, Appointments, and Information Collecting

Mindmap: Web Tools to Enhance Learning

To see more digital mindmaps, go to Resources: Mindmaps.

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Seamless SAVI Chat in Instructure Canvas

May 22, 2012 by

UPDATE: Unfortunately, the video chat service provided in Canvas was turned off in Fall 2012. It has now been replaced with a Text Chat that is built in to Canvas, but no video.

Can your LMS do this? What did student have to do to join me? Click on the Chat button, then click to share their webcam. Seamless. This is what I love about Instructure Canvas. There are no extra accounts to set up, no appointments to schedule, and I don’t have to be tech support to get the technology working. Some of my students were using the built-in webcams on their computers for the very first time. The look of surprise when the technology just started working was priceless (it does ask them before activating the camera).

You can click on the image to see a larger view.

Four of us meet in the Tinychat plugin to Instructure Canvas for an online help session in Online Calculus.

By the way, SAVI = Synchronous Audio Visual Interaction (a term we coined at LAK 2012).

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How to give a (good) webinar

Jan 21, 2010 by


If you’ve been to two webinars, chances are you’ve seen at least one that was not very engaging.  I don’t mean to pick just on webinars – chances are if you’ve been to two conference presentations, you’ve seen one there too.  However, most people won’t walk out of a boring conference presentation.  In a webinar, participants can remain “in the virtual room” without actually being anywhere near the computer or presentation.  As a webinar presenter, how do you ensure you don’t end up speaking to a ghost crowd?

If you’re going to give a good webinar, you first need to make sure that you actually design your presentation for the webinar format (don’t plan to just do the same presentation that you normally run in person).  You need to know what kinds of tools are usually available in the webinar platforms, and how to keep the audience engaged when you’re missing those facial cues you normally get from a live in-person audience.

Presentation design is a whole other topic in itself (I taught a 9-hour course in digital presentation design last fall), but I can help a bit with the details of how to redesign for a webinar format and how to be prepared for all the details.

I wrote an article for eLearn Magazine (just published today) called Tips for Effective Webinars.  In it I go through a “Before, During, and After” set of tips for giving a good, effective, and engaging webinar.


Here’s topics list for the tips that appear in the article:

  • Recording and distribution
  • Presentation design
  • Engage often
  • Animation
  • Hyperlinks
  • Video clips
  • Trial run
  • Arrive early
  • Clear directions
  • Desktop sharing
  • Webcam sharing
  • The echo
  • After the Webinar

Head over to the full-text of the article Tips for Effective Webinars at eLearn Magazine.  When I gave my first webinar, the folks at the UW Extension office were nice enough to give me some training and advice, but not every new webinar presenter gets that.  So please, forward the article to anyone you know that could use a little training on how to give an effective webinar.

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eLearning Tools for STEM

Oct 6, 2009 by

For anyone who has ever had trouble convincing your administration to give you the proper tools to teach online, I give you this little gift: eLearning Tools for STEM, published today in eLearning Magazine.


The tools for STEM eLearning

  1. Tablets
  2. Recording & editing software
  3. Jing
  4. Equation software and training
  5. Synchronous communication system
  6. Online homework system

Other head-turning resources for STEM

  • Wolfram Demonstrations
  • Digital libraries (a lengthy list)
  • Video collections (another list)
  • TI-SmartView

Other tips (about accessibility, computer labs, etc) can be found at the end of the article.

You can read about all the tools, and why I recommend them, by going to the article, eLearning Tools for STEM.

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