Faculty member online

Faculty member, Melissa Melby (Evan Krape / University of Delaware)

If you have been asked to teach online or have been considering the possibility, this post is a brief review of several tools within the Canvas Learning Management System (LMS) that can be used in designing and developing an interactive and engaging online course. Like your face-to-face course, you still need to set goals and objectives for your course, define criteria enabling you to assess when students have met these goals, and design learning activities and relevant assignments providing learning opportunities for students to master the content or develop the skills. Where an online course differs is discovering what the “online” environment provides in new teaching and learning opportunities. You will want to add to what you already know by using new tools and techniques especially suited to teaching online. Canvas has some tools to assist you with your teaching.

On a side note, if you are a current user of Sakai, it doesn’t mean you cannot continue to use Sakai for your online teaching. We simply have a preference for a few tools that Canvas has included with the LMS that work really well when teaching online.


If you have not tried using the Speedgrader™ tool with Canvas, you are missing an opportunity to streamline your grading time. SpeedGrader™ allows you to view and grade student assignment submissions in one place (most importantly, without downloading files in most cases) moving from one student to the next without a lot of additional clicking.  Canvas accepts a variety of document formats, including URLs, media submissions, and Google Docs. Some document submissions (i.e. doc, docx, pdf, ppt, pptx) can be marked up for feedback directly within the submission using built-in annotation tools in your web browser of choice. It is possible to grade assignments using rubrics that can be as simple or complex as you make them. You can also provide feedback to your students with text or media comments.

Embedded media elements

In an online environment, using media can help to personalize your course, making you more than just text to a student, but a real live person (audio or video). Canvas provides a ready tool, allowing you or your students to easily make a quick audio or video file as a submission, feedback, instructions and more. It is integrated with the Speedgrader tool allowing media comments. It is part of the editor allowing for media to be included in pages of content, discussions, announcements, instructions, quiz questions, and peer review.


The conferences tool within Canvas allows you as the instructor or your students to initiate a video conference. Conferencing can be used to meet with your students for office hours, to teach a particular lesson, to share a guest lecturer and more. You can have as few as two people in a conference or up to 50. Students can use them to work in groups. They can even be recorded, and are stored online for up to two weeks.


The Modules tool allows you to set up a framework or sequence of activities for your students to know how to progress throughout the course. There is flexibility in setting prerequisite tasks, linking to assignments, discussions, quizzes and your content pages. Sakai has a Lessons tool which serves a similar purpose, but we believe the Modules tool has a clear edge in user-friendliness. You can look at the modules and have a sense of how the course is organized. If indentations are used, it is like having an outline of what you need to do in the course. One caveat, there is only one modules tool in Canvas which can be set up with any number of modules. In Sakai, you can have one or more Lessons pages, which some faculty really like.

Peer Review, Peer Evaluation

Here at UD, you have a couple of options for Peer Review. There is a built in Peer Review tool enabled through the settings for any assignment. This tool allows for anonymous or non-anonymous peer reviews. Assignment rubrics can also be used by the peer reviewers along with the other Canvas commenting features. There is also a Peer Evaluation tool which can be enabled within Canvas. This tool was developed here on campus and is intended for anonymous peer evaluation. Canvas rosters, groups (by category) and outcomes (by group) can be imported directly into the Peer Evaluation tool. For those users of Sakai, it is possible to use the Peer Evaluation tool as a stand-alone system.


Although there are other features within Canvas to help enhance your teaching, we have just picked a few of our favorites. Check out what Canvas has to offer, if you are thinking of teaching online. Remember teaching online is not the same as teaching face-to-face, but there are many rewards and satisfying experiences that can happen online!

What has been most encouraging and rewarding to see as we work with faculty teaching online is how faculty are carrying over what they learn to their face-to-face courses too. Working through the process of designing, developing and teaching an online class has helped them become good online teachers, and has enhanced their face-to-face teaching too. Consider exploring what the online environment has to offer in your teaching!

We, in Academic Technology Services, are always available to help. You can find us at the Faculty Commons (116 Pearson Hall, 302-831-0640, ats-info@udel.edu).