Designing Your Canvas Site for How Students Learn

hammock on the beach

Ah, summer. The perfect time for enjoying trips to the shore, napping in hammocks, and of course, planning your Fall course sites.

Sure, you know how to upload a syllabus and add assignments in Canvas. But how do you plan a course site to help students learn more effectively?

At this year’s InstructureCon conference, Canvas users from the University of California at Berkeley presented a workshop called “Designing in Canvas for How the Brain Learns.”

UC Berkeley’s approach to course design focuses on humans as social creatures, who need the combination of motivation and active learning to achieve learner engagement. One way to do this is to create a sense of community within a complex and relevant learning environment.

The following ideas from UC Berkeley are five ways to design in Canvas for how the brain learns:

  1. Create a social presence. Steps like completing a user profile and recording a welcome video add a personal touch.
  1. Include opportunities to share information, expertise, and personality. This can be done by including professional and personal experience in the course, sharing opinions and interests in discussions, choosing student-selected projects, and using the discussion forums for class feedback.
  1. Create a “safe” classroom by establishing rules and norms. In order for participants to feel comfortable sharing opinions and their work for feedback, it’s important to establish trust, goodwill, honesty, openness, competence, reliability, and respect.
  1. Build a common space and use tools that promote community. Brand the space–whether it’s a page or blog or group portfolio–with images and language. Include open forums and use synchronous tools, such as chat and video conferencing. Ensure that the course site is accessible for all users.
  1. Focus on collaborative learning. Include games and negotiations, group debates, group research with wikis or pages, group projects and presentations.

How will you apply these ideas in your course? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Last Updated: 29 Jul 2015

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