SXSWEdu Highlight: Bring Personalized Learning in Your Classes

SXSWEdu Conference

The pedagogy of personalization referenced in this post was presented by Alix Horton (New Tech Network-Literacy Coach), Drew Schrader (New Tech Netwotk-Dir Assessment), and Paul Curtis (New Tech Network-Dir of Platform Dev) in the summit session of SXSWEdu 2017.


What is Personalized Learning?

It entails school culture, pedagogy, available resources and all that might influence the shape of the learning environment. In the 2016 National Educational Technology Plan: Future Ready Learning: Reimagining the Role of Technology in Education (NETP) and the 2017 NETP Update, both define personalized learning as the following:

“Personalized learning refers to instruction in which the pace of learning and the instructional approach are optimized for the needs of each learner. Learning objectives, instructional approaches, and instructional content (and its sequencing) may all vary based on learner needs. In addition, learning activities are made available that are meaningful and relevant to learners, driven by their interests and often self-initiated.”

Personalized learning usually leverages digital tools and applications to customize learning for each individual and ensure students can close the skill gaps, achieve mastery, or gain advanced knowledge in the concepts taught. Personalized learning provides instruction that is meaningful and contextualized for the students, and consists of the following (SXSWEdu 2017):

  • The pace of learning is adjusted and self-paced.
  • Learning objectives, approaches, and content are optimized for each learner.
  • Learning is motivated and driven by learner interests.
  • Learners are given choice in what, how, when, and where they learn.
  • Learning is often supported by technology.

To allow true personalized learning, faculty utilize technology to make it easier to transform courses that support individualized learning. In this post are some strategies in support of personalized learning. Continue reading

Tech Failure!? Now What?

FailFor about 3 1/2 hours on Tuesday, Feb. 28, because of a large-scale event with Amazon Web Services (AWS), Canvas was unavailable to faculty and students. The outage lasted from around 11:40 a.m. to 3:10 p.m., and coincided with disruptions to other AWS-hosted services at St. Edward’s and across the country.

In general, our increasing reliance on cloud-hosted services results in much greater reliability, but incidents like this can still occur and cause temporary outages. For reference, Canvas’ overall uptime over the last 12 months is 99.98 percent, which is difficult to beat.

Canvas Support responded quickly to this outage, posting updates every 15 – 30 minutes on their status page . They have committed to working to limit our exposure to any future, similar events, but there is no foolproof way to prevent these situations.

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Intellectual Property for Faculty and Digital Course Materials

In Fall 2015, the Faculty Senate asked Rebecca Frost Davis, Director of Instructional and Emerging Technology, about the issue of intellectual property for faculty and digital course materials.  Her reply was shared with all faculty members with the Faculty Senate Agenda for the meeting on January 29, 2016 and is reproduced below.  This text is intended to provide information about common practice in higher education and is not a legal opinion.

I believe that there are two areas of ambiguity in intellectual property for faculty around the digital assets of their courses. In particular, I am speaking of what we call the “course shell,” which is essentially all the material and the course layout in the learning management system, e.g., Blackboard, Canvas, etc. Because course shells can be exported from one system and imported into another (even between institutions), the issue of ownership is called into question. The two areas of ambiguity are 1) low-residency, hybrid or online programs and 2) courses taught by multiple instructors, especially including contingent faculty members.

1) Low-residency, hybrid or online programs

The first area of ambiguity comes with online or low residency courses because their course shell is so much more substantial and often requires that substantial university resources go into course construction. While we have no way of knowing how much time a faculty member puts into constructing a typical face-to-face course, I do know that for online or low residency courses where an instructional designer designs the course shell, the instructional designer typically puts in 150 hours of work (this does not include faculty labor). For this reason, we advise those programs considering hybrid, low-residency, or online programs to create contracts with faculty clarifying ownership of the course and its assets.

The new low-residency MBA program provides a good example of this issue because courses are designed to be taught by multiple faculty members for the program. Faculty designers knew this from the beginning, signed contracts to that effect, and are actively designing the courses for reuse by others. For example, courses include videos from multiple university community members to better represent the Munday School of Business rather than just the course designer. Nancy Schreiber would be the best person to ask about these contracts.

Contracts that clarify intellectual property are best practice in this area; typically, the university retains ownership of the course shell, especially where they supplied substantial resources for design and creation of the faculty member was contracted to design the course for reuse by others. In effect, this does not mean the faculty member cannot teach the same content at another university (that would be difficult to monitor), but it does mean they should not be exporting the course shell, video content, etc., and reusing it at another institution without permission. It also means that the university can reuse these digital assets even if the original designer has left the university.

2) Courses taught by multiple instructors

A second area of confusion comes with courses taught by multiple instructors, like many of our required courses for general education or courses required for certain programs that are taught by multiple faculty members, especially contingent faculty members. Instructors at St. Edward’s routinely share course materials, pedagogical approaches, and teaching ideas. That is part of our vibrant culture of teaching and learning, and I would hate to see that end because of concerns about intellectual property. Once again, however, because technology makes that sharing even easier, it can also lead to abuses.

It is common practice for instructors to request that their course be copied for use by another instructor. Instructional technology also gets requests from new or contingent faculty for a copy of another instructor’s course shell. This practice is an extension of the practice of sharing syllabi with new faculty. For example, when I taught Latin at UT, I was given multiple syllabi from former versions of the course as a model for my course. I don’t have exact numbers at hand for how often each of these happens at SEU, but I would be happy to ask my team to look into it. In either case, our practice is to only make copies with the permission of the instructor or, if the instructor is no longer available, with the permission of the department chair or someone else with authority over the course.

Canvas offices a promising new functionality that will clarify ownership and sharing. Canvas Commons allows instructors, departments, and schools to share materials, assignments, course elements, and even whole courses. These can be shared with departments, schools, the whole university, or the general public. Those who share are required to label their material with a license, which can range from “Copyright, All Rights Reserved” all the way up to the most open Creative Commons License. This is a great solution for making transparent the sharing that goes on between instructors and within departments, programs, and schools at SEU because it puts control of the material in the hands of the faculty creator. You can find out more about Canvas Commons here:

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Student View of Assignment Feedback in Canvas

Canvas has several ways to provide student feedback on assignments they have submitted online. Faculty can provide text comments as well as use the SpeedGrader and Crocodoc annotation tools to markup submitted papers with additional feedback and comments. If using TurnItIn, faculty can use Grademark to annotate and comment on student assignments.

When students need to view feedback, it’s important that they know where to go in Canvas in order to view ALL feedback, not just text comments entered on the initial assignment grade screen. In order for student’s to view ALL feedback provided by the instructor, they should follow these steps:

  1. Log into the course and click on the ‘Grades’ link.
  2. Find the assignment and click the assignment name.
  3. Click on ‘View Feedback’ to view all feedback including comments and any additional annotated comments made on the submission.

View and share the video below with your students for more details about the student view of assignment feedback.

Effective Strategies for Online Disscussions in Your Course

Planning Your Online Course v2 -Giulia ForsytheOnline discussions can serve as a great opportunity for your students to reflect on the ideas presented in your course and allow them a safe place for challenging academic discourse. This blog post shares a few starting points for thinking about the format of your discussions, the roles students can play in the discussion space, and ways you can assess and incorporate the online discussions back into your face-to-face class. Illustration by Giulia Forsythe

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Integrating Digital Material from the Library into your Course

8137660881_846c3012f6_qInspired by this Friday’s presentation “Killing the Course Pack: New Methods for Providing Access to Course Readings” co-sponsored by The Center for Teaching Excellence, Instructional Technology and the Munday Library, we wanted to share some information to assist you in integrating digital supplemental course material (and course reserves) into your Canvas or Blackboard course. Photo Credit: Mariusz Kluzniak’s Lincoln’s Inn Library. Continue reading

Getting Started with Canvas

CanvasAre you planning to switch from Blackboard to Canvas this fall?  We’re here to help!

Workshops are scheduled throughout the month of August:


Monday, August 10 1:00pm – 2:30pm Introduction to Canvas Library 115
Tues., August 11 10:00am – 11:30am Introduction to Canvas Library 115
Thurs., August 13 10:00am – 11:30am Assessment & Grades Library 115
Tues., August 18 5:30pm – 7:00pm Introduction to Canvas Library 115
Weds., August 19 1:00pm – 2:30pm Introduction to Canvas JBWS 361
Weds., August 19 2:30pm – 4:00pm Assessment & Grades JBWS 361
Friday, August 21 10:00am – 11:30am Assessment & Grades Library 115

If you can’t make a workshop or need additional assistance, please schedule a one-on-one appointment with any of the Instructional Technology staff by emailing or calling 512-464-8804.

We also have curated lots of Canvas resources online in our Canvas Training Center .  The Canvas Community also has the answer to just about any question you might have about Canvas.

Canvas Selected as New LMS for St. Edward’s University

On April 24, the Task Force for Learning Management System (LMS) Evaluation voted in favor of a  recommendation to switch from Blackboard, our current LMS, to Canvas. The LMS is an integral part of our St. Edward’s learning ecosystem that expands learning beyond the classroom by allowing students to interact with their instructor, fellow students, and course content outside of face-to-face course meetings.  Based on this recommendation, the Offices of Academic Affairs and Information Technology (which had jointly charged this task force), have decided that St. Edward’s University should transition from the Blackboard Learning Management System to Canvas beginning in Summer 2015 with all courses migrated by Summer 2016. 

Why Canvas?

The task force chose Canvas based on its service reliability, its design for digital learning, and its potential for serving future learning needs of St. Edward’s University students and faculty. Faculty input played a major role in the creation and evaluation of criteria used in making this decision. The task force included faculty from every school, drew on input from faculty surveys in 2010 and 2013, and evaluated data on current faculty use of the learning management system. Furthermore, eighteen faculty piloted Canvas in spring 2015 (including two teaching the same course in both Canvas and Blackboard) and their feedback gathered through three surveys and two course demonstration focus groups was a valuable asset in the task force recommendation. The task force also held vendor demonstrations, consulted with OIT staff who support Blackboard, and heard from other staff who support the academic mission.  The full recommendation report, which details criteria and data, is available online: Final LMS task force recommendation

You Choose When to Move to Canvas

Canvas is available to all faculty now, and courses for summer and fall 2015 are already populated, but faculty can choose to move when it is convenient to them at any point during the next academic year. Courses will be automatically set up in both Canvas and Blackboard for the fall 2015 and spring 2016 semesters. Beginning in summer 2016, active courses must use Canvas for their learning management system.  To see Canvas, go to and log-in with your SEU username and password.

You Choose How to Learn Canvas: Visit

To help faculty make this transition, Instructional Technology is offering a range of training options:
  • Introduction to Canvas Workshops: All courses are scheduled in the Library Training Room (Munday Library 115). Introductory workshops will be offered weekly in May and June, with additional workshops at all levels offered throughout the summer, in fall 2015 and spring 2016. The first available workshop dates and times are below.
    • Tuesday, May 5th from 1-2:30pm
    • Wednesday, May 13 1:00 – 2:30
    • Thursday, May 14 10:00 – 11:30
  • Do It Yourself with the Canvas Training Center—it’s a public course, so you can join anytime.  Go to and log in with your SEU username and password.
  • One-on-one consultations: Instructional Technology Staff can help you back-up your materials from Blackboard and set up your courses in Canvas.  Open times in the Faculty Resource Center (Premont 110) will be from 10 am – Noon on Wednesdays and Thursdays and from 5:00 pm – 6:30 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Appointments may also be scheduled with Instructional Technology staff by emailing

Canvas and Cupcakes: Brought to You by OIT

 On May 4, 2015

Join OIT on the Ragsdale Lawn

from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.

We will have free cupcakes and a blank canvas in need of your artistry to promote our adoption of Canvas (a new learning management system like Blackboard).

Not to mention, you deserve a free treat during finals week!

Check out our Twitter, Facebook or OIT Blog for more details.

Twitter: @StEdsOIT


OIT Blog:


Task Force for Learning Management System Evaluation Votes for Canvas

The Task Force for Learning Management System (LMS) Evaluation has voted to recommend that St. Edward’s University move to the Canvas learning management system.  This recommendation has been submitted to Mary Boyd, Vice President for Academic Affairs and David Waldron, Vice President for Information Technology, who will make the final decision.  This recommendation report outlines the reasons, as well as a proposed migration plan:  Final LMS task force recommendation

FAQ about Evaluating the Learning Management System

Blackboard and Canvas LogosMembers of the Learning Management System Evaluation Task Force have received many questions about their work.  This blog post is a round up of questions and answers.  To see more information about the task force and its activities, check out the other blogs posts tagged with “lms” on this blog:

1. What is the process?

  • The Office of Information Technology supports and monitors technology platforms for the university.  Based on their knowledge of the Learning Management System (LMS) marketplace, they recommended an evaluation of our LMS.
  • The Office of Academic Affairs and the Office of Information Technology jointly charged a task force composed of faculty representing each school, level of student, and delivery mode for courses, as well as related staff to evaluate the LMS.
  • The task force began meeting in Fall 2014 and has promised a decision by April 24. If a change is recommended, instructors would have until Fall 2016 before they had to move from Blackboard to Canvas.
  • The task force has met to review information about learning management systems, has gathered data on use of Blackboard and pilot use of Canvas, has hosted demos from vendors and by Canvas pilot faculty, has decided on criteria for evaluation based on all of those activities, and will make a recommendation based on those criteria.
  • Mary Boyd, Vice President for Academic Affairs, and David Waldron, Vice President for Information Technology will review the recommendation and make the final decision.

2. How long does it take?

  • The LMS was last reviewed in 2010 by a subcommittee of the TLTR which had vendor demos attended by faculty, surveyed faculty about the LMS, and made a recommendation to move to Blackboard 9 rather than Moodle.  That committee was convened in October 2010 and made its recommendation in January 2011.
  • This task force has taken longer for its review to allow for in-depth exploration of a potential new LMS by having faculty pilot it for courses.  Pilot faculty are representative of every school, level of student, and delivery mode for courses.

3. How can I find out what the task force did and what they decide?

4. Why Now?

The Office of Information Technology (OIT) recommended an evaluation of the learning management system for the following reasons:

  1. It is a regular process to review technology platforms to ensure the best solutions for the university.
  2. There have been ongoing support and reliability challenges for supporting Blackboard. While OIT has reduced the amount of down-time that impacts the campus, cloud hosted solutions promise greater reliability (greater than 99% up-time).
  3. OIT has a strategy of choosing cloud-hosting for reliability.  The impact of upgrades is also reduced because there are many tiny upgrades without taking down a service.
  4. There has been a change in the web since the university last chose an LMS.  In particular, there has been a growth of social media, increased use of easy audio and video, more intuitive interfaces, and the growth of mobile use for web access.
  5. The university needs learning tools that meet students where they are, e.g., with free mobile access and personalized communication choices.
  6. There has been a change in the approach to the learning management system since the university last reviewed the LMS.  The new approach focuses on integrating more external tools through the Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) standard and views the LMS as part of a larger ecosystem rather than a walled garden. (To find out more, see Carl Straumsheim. “The Post-LMS LMS.” Inside Higher Ed 18 July 2014. Web. 13 Oct. 2014.)

5. Would switching the LMS require too much change given faculty workloads and other changes on campus?

  • It is true that there is a lot of change on campus, but there may never be a time when that will not be true.  For example, a new general education curriculum is scheduled to be in place by 2018, with substantial work by faculty to create new courses in 2017.  Any new LMS should be in place before those courses are created.
  • The proposed migration plan lets faculty pick 1 of 3 semesters for a move: Fall 2015, Spring 2016, and Fall 2016.  Instructors can pick the time that best fits their work load.
  • Canvas is intuitive and offers a wide range of do-it-yourself resources.
  • There are ways to export/import content from Blackboard to Canvas.
  • Instructional Technology will provide extensive support and training for migration.

6. What about contingent faculty? How would they make the change?

  • Yes, Instructional Technology has thought about contingent faculty and are including support for their migration in their plans. Some contingent faculty already have experience with Canvas from other universities.  For example, UT uses Canvas.

7. What about students?

  • Students were surveyed about their preferred LMS features and their use of Blackboard and Canvas.  There is a student representative on the task force.

8. What is Blackboard’s future? Why don’t we wait for their new offering? 

  • Blackboard’s new version is not yet available for testing, but in demonstration it seems to copy Canvas.  Availability is still more than a year off.  OIT has concerns about Blackboard’s ability to implement this drastic change, especially based on previous versions.  Either way, however, faculty would be faced with a changed interface.
  • Although Blackboard is promising a cloud-hosted version, past experience with Blackboard support makes OIT question their reliability for cloud-hosting.

9. Why is the task force looking at Canvas?

  • Canvas is the industry leader for this new type of interface and is rapidly gaining market share from Blackboard.
  • Canvas is approved by Internet2, a higher ed IT consortium of which St. Edward’s is a member; 252 US universities, 41 regional and state education networks, 82 corporate partners (service providers) are members of Internet2.  One of the benefits for members is consortial pricing and validating services, with a rigorous process (functional, technical, contractual, legal evaluations). Canvas is a general availability product, which that means is that it has been tested, piloted, and proven to be a reliable service.

10. Which is better? Blackboard or Canvas

  • The task force has gathered data on LMS usage, especially what features the majority of faculty use (communication, file repository, collecting assignments, gradebook).  They are using this data to help determine which platform–Blackboard or Canvas–has features that best meet the needs of the majority of faculty.
  • The task force is conducting a pilot of Canvas and surveying faculty about both Blackboard and Canvas to see which LMS has features that best meet the needs of the majority of faculty.

11. If we move to cloud hosting, will someone in the Digital Infrastructure department lose their job? 

  • No. Digital infrastructure staff support other platforms besides Blackboard.  There is no staff member who only works on Blackboard.  Cloud-hosting, however, would give Digital Infrastructure staff time to implement more tools like Box or a new email and calendaring system.

12. If we change LMS platforms, what about the people in Instructional Technology who support the LMS?

  • Instructional technology staff will continue to support the LMS, whether it is Blackboard or Canvas.
  • Canvas does offer some features that might allow instructional technology staff to focus on more innovative uses of technology and complex instructional design rather than more basic tasks for supporting Blackboard.  For example, it is easy to see how to publish courses (make available to students).  Also, faculty members can add their own TAs.  Canvas also has easily available online guides and a vibrant user community.
  • Instructional technology looks for tools that will empower faculty so they do their work without having to wait on instructional technology.

Have more questions?  Reply to this blog post, contact one of the task force co-chairs, Amy Burnett or Rebecca Frost Davis, or one of the task force members, listed here: