As Penn State gears up to transition from ANGEL to Canvas, Canvas liaisons have been a great resource for faculty across Penn State’s campuses.

“The liaisons can help direct faculty to resources (conversion help, training, etc.) and organize training,” said Brian Young, Canvas liaison coordinator and IT project manager with Penn State Teaching and Learning with Technology.

Canvas liaisons are responsible for facilitating the Canvas transition for faculty, which includes identifying courses for conversion support and prioritizing them based on complexity, coordinating training and communications distribution, responding to faculty concerns and needs, and keeping track of the inventory of courses that have been moved into Canvas at each location. Currently, there are 62 liaisons at 15 colleges and 22 campuses across Penn State.

Faculty sit seated listening to trainer

Several full-time and part-time faculty members attended a Canvas workshop on July 14 at Penn State York.

Across the eastern and western campuses, training sessions have been going quite well. The Penn State Fayette and New Kensington campuses agreed to collaborate on a series of four summer training sessions that are open to faculty from both campuses, according to Cheryl Tkacs, Canvas liaison and instructional designer for Penn State Fayette. These sessions have received positive feedback from faculty, who seem to appreciate the relaxed atmosphere of the sessions.

“We are not rushing faculty through the material; we’re trying to keep the pace to fill their needs and allow plenty of time for questions,” said Tkacs. “I think faculty are feeling less apprehensive about the change to Canvas and are embracing the opportunity to look at their courses and use the time to rethink and possibly redesign some of their courses.”

Tkacs is collaborating with Penn State New Kensington Canvas liaison and instructional designer Deborah Sillman, and they have offered training sessions in May, June, and August, with the last summer session to be held on August 17.

At Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, Canvas training sessions in the form of day and a half-long Canvas crash courses, have been really helping faculty as well, according to Qi Dunsworth, Canvas liaison at Penn State Behrend.

“The Canvas crash course was extremely helpful in learning the relevant functionalities of the system as well as the differences with ANGEL,” said Ash Deshmukh, department chair and professor of accounting and MIS. “We also experimented with importing a course from ANGEL and associated issues. I can now confidently use Canvas and also know where to go for help.”

Professor sits at computer

Ash Deshmukh reviews Canvas resources during the June 22 training session at Penn State Behrend.

Deshmukh said he was concerned about setting up discussion boards and quizzes, along with recording lectures and understanding the gradebook in Canvas, but he said the training gave him a solid start in those areas. Thanks to the training, he has been working on setting up three online courses and one residential course in Canvas.

Bill Lasher, professor and department chair of mechanical engineering, said he was only planning to use Canvas to post course material, but after taking the training he plans to use it more often.

“It was relatively quick and thorough,” Lasher said. “I do think it is really helpful (and necessary) to spend at least several hours learning how Canvas is set up and ‘thinks.’ Once you get that, I think it is pretty easy to use.”

According to Dunsworth, these crash courses were offered in three rounds over the summer during May, June, and July, and the courses may be offered again in December after final exams. Jessica Resig, director of eLearning and Canvas liaison at Penn State Behrend, has also been working closely with online and blended learning instructors to help prepare them for online teaching using Canvas.

Faculty sit in computer lab during training session

Jessica Resig (left, seated) helps professor David Loker during a June 22 Canvas crash course.

In addition, on May 9, Penn State Behrend hosted a Canvas Day with two tracks of presentations: a hands-on “how to” track and a “faculty experience” track. In the fall, Penn State Behrend faculty will also have the options to attend a series of Canvas training sessions and to use Canvas Office Hours for individual appointments.

In the eastern campuses, Penn State York has been offering a few day and evening training sessions to help faculty move into the realm of Canvas. According to Suzanne Shaffer, Canvas liaison and instructional designer at Penn State York, she has been offering various hands-on workshops, one-on-one training sessions, and remote sessions through Adobe Connect. She said feedback has been positive.

Professor sits at computer

Harry Payne (seated), a Penn State York instructor in astronomy, works on a Canvas task with Chulapol Thanomsing, an instructional designer in the Penn State College of Medicine.

“Attending the Canvas training at the York campus was exceptionally helpful in understanding the new system, tools, resources, and how to best use Canvas with our students,” said Leigh Ann Myers, assistant director of Transfer Admissions. “Being able to have guidance from the faculty and student perspective has helped eased my transition from ANGEL to Canvas.”

Joan Smeltzer, an instructor of mathematics, participated in an online Canvas training in January and then repeated her training at the Penn State York campus in May.

“While I appreciated the online training I received, it helped me to get started in Canvas in my World Campus class, and taking this training really solidified the specific questions I had after a semester of work in Canvas,” said Smeltzer. “I especially appreciated the fact that at each ‘live’ Canvas training Suzanne could ‘shift on the fly’ and adjust her presentations and focus to meet the needs of the participants. We are so very lucky to have such a patient and generous instructional designer at our campus.”

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