CO-COVID-19 COLLEGIAL CAMPUS CO-OP™️ #academictwitter #COVIDcampus #remotelearning: sample simple set-up using Canvas with WordPress as backup


FREN 102-205, O’BRIEN

(Updated after class with a practical note on short video clips. And updated 2020-05-04 with screenshots of accompanying UBC Blogs course site.)

1. MAKE …

Consider this the application of some of last week’s readings, a selection of which are collected at

This class was already on Canvas. Syllabus, notes, and assorted other documents are stored in a shared Dropbox folder where students can download them (just using a generated URL, not doing email invites and suchlike, being FIPPA-compliant). I usually post synopsis notes / slides after class, that include photos of the board and any extra questions, digressions, etc.; students also have a plan beforehand (syllabus > schedule) but from next week through to the end of the teaching term—this is now week 10 so we have 4 weeks left—I’ll add a short lesson-plan sort of synopsis. There may also be videos, depending (see a few paragraphs down for that “depending”).

Using Dropbox: it centralises all my stuff (plus backup). The shared folder also means that studentz can access materials if after a course has finished—and access to the Canvas course site ended—they’re revising before taking a next French course. Or indeed one elsewhere, or if they’re no longer at UBC.

The course is a large one in multiple sections, not all taught by me (much as I would love to have half a dozen clones running around the place), and I’m using a UBC Blogs site (a.k.a. WordPress) to centralise common stuff for all sections, and password-protected areas for the course’s instructors. I’ve added two new areas: one for our COVID-19 changes (for the team), one for my students (as a back-up Plan B): UPDATE (2020-05-04): I also added an area for students, so that they could keep track of our correspondence and reorganisation—as things moved fast, frequent Faculty- and University-level changes accompanying frequent government changes responding to COVID-19 changes—and changed the landing-page completely. I’ve used UBC Blogs sites a lot in teaching over the last ten years, using features like discussions in various ways (see: teaching).

(So I haven’t changed or built much that wasn’t already there. Most of what you see in this post is old work.)

I may change set-up depending on how students answer this questionnaire

and depending on how things work out in active practice.


Some suggestions:

(1) Waive in-person class attendance requirements and change that on the syllabus a.s.a.p. UBC having moved classes online, we need to do this anyway. Students must be able to stay at home (some have family to look after), all health organisations are recommending self-isolation and social distance. Some students are worried. Worry is not good for immunity, health, wellbeing. Some students are now at home elsewhere, and that may be in a different time-zone, so classes cannot necessarily be expected to be synchronous (in the sense of the term being used online over the last week or so; there are other ways of perceiving and being in time, but their discussion would be a digression at the minute). Call this New Flexible Time or something. In The Learning Zone. Anyway.

(2) Collect student questions. You can add them to departmental and institutional FAQ pages. Encourage students to ask questions: they can help, inc helping with how best to organise FAnswers. Students are intelligent wise thoughtful people and part of our mutual-aid collective of collegiality (a.k.a. fellow-members of the university).

(3) Remember academic freedom for faculty (here in Canada, and at UBC; legal terms and conditions will vary in other places). No-one can be forced to teach in the same way, including on Canvas and including lecture capture (and storing it there). I’ll be using Canvas as my students are used to it, but I’ll be posting video elsewhere (UBC Blogs, YouTube, etc.; short videos taken on my phone or tablet, punctuating student work in Canvas discussions). In my case that’s for later: see that crucial “depending” further up.

(4) This kind of emergency “onlinised”—as distinct from online—class cannot replicate the kind of teaching and learning that happens in real life classrooms. I will probably not be using Collaborate: mainly as students don’t all necessarily have the connectivity for it. I’ll mostly be using simpler tools, and all in one place (Canvas, with links from outside / storage opening within it). This is not a moment to play with new tools and show off about what you can do with them, nor to make beautiful films, but to think of students. Try to keep things simple for them.

(5) Ditto, and even more so, for instructors on your teams. Especially graduate student TAs, who may be very lo-tech. For next week, for example, I’ll be using minimal tools and simply, so that the most inept / least ept and least-equipped person on my team can manage too. Technology is an equity and access matter. It may intersect with other inequities and precarities.


Here’s the Canvas basics in hand-annotated screenshots:

Main organisation is through “Modules”: were I setting this up right now from scratch, I’d not do that. (Alas that navigation items like that can’t be renamed.) Given that we’re navigating via this home page as the actual centre of the site. But hey.

Also, don’t use Canvas Inbox. I did use it, way back when, thinking that I could centralise all my teaching communication that way. Email is easier and easier to use, organise, and manage: my own folders and filing, out of office replies when out of said office. This thing here is set up for 25/7 customer service bots. Without the back-end that you get in chat/comms systems. If anything symbolised the worst abusive evils of the capitalocene Inhumanities dressed up as pseudoliberalism, it’s the Canvas Inbox. (I did say “don’t ask.” You really don’t want to.)

Back to navigating.

As you’ll see, the first class is VERY bare bones. Announcement at start of day:




Office hours a.k.a. open-door student hours:


Our first full class on Discussions:


4. GREAT …

UPDATE after class/non-class (we’re not teaching any new material while we set up) today …

I’ve ascertained by trial and error (and a poor internet connection today) that the fastest easiest way to record and upload video—and it’s still not exactly speedy, and in 10-min-max clips, and I’m going single-take no edits—using an iPad (+/- iphone) is as follows:

1 record video using inbuilt camera

2 upload to YouTube (setting up a channel is fast and attached to gmail & google stuff: I’ve set “unlisted,” no comments, CC licence, suitable for children)

3 link or embed in Canvas

(confirmed by colleagues)

Tomorrow’s experiment will be using Collaborate Ultra in office hours (for a different pace and feel vs class).
Wednesday: screencasting via ipad control centre (via settings)

(the poor Kaltura video is still doing this to the best of my knowledge; I gave up on it and moved on, filming a new short on ‘phone)


Longer form links to UBC Learning Hub online tutorials and step-by-step guides plus my personal <10 top immediately useful resources:


For colleagues whose institutions use Canvas, and for UBC colleagues who don’t necessarily usually use Canvas—our official institutional “Learning Management System“—but are looking for quick set-up.


A selection of immediately-useful items:

Sensible and humane advice via Facebook:

Via Twitter (threads):

5. … AGAIN!

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