WebFest was built around five main components:
- Teaching the technical skills to use web servers
- Engaging faculty in web design
- Producing a website
- Reflecting on why the University switched to Canvas
- Learning web publishing as part of a community
As with any new tool or software, there are varying degrees of digital literacy and technical expertise of the Canvas Campers. For individuals who possess high technical skills, this website aims to empower them to progress through the Canvas Camp curriculum at their own pace. For participants who have just started to learn Canvas, the face-to-face sessions provide them with a safe space to ask questions, learn, and experiment on their own or in community with others (including the facilitator).
Canvas Camp is intentionally flexible in design to serve the needs of a wide range of technical expertise.
Working with instructors over several days offers the opportunity to engage them in course design and discuss the pedagogical implications of their Canvas course decisions. This aspect of instructional design is intertwined with learning the technical skills of Canvas as the camp facilitators explain and discuss the ramifications of decisions made while developing courses. Depending on the feature or design in question these interactions might occur on a one-on-one basis, however there also opportunities to draw on the collective expertise of the instructors present—this often yields rich discussion.
As an example of how course development takes place, a significant shift in organizing course materials has occurred, in part, due to the popularity of Canvas Camp. I see many more instructors organize their course materials chronologically than topically. Granted, both types of organization offer their own benefits and shortcomings. However, now faculty are being more intentional in this decision. They are engaging with each other and the camp facilitators to pursue what is best for their students. Most of the faculty that participate in Canvas Camp opt to use the Modules feature of Canvas to arrange their content by week, unit, etc. This chronological presentation of material is intended to give the students greater levels of context for the materials they are studying during the semester.
Producing A Course
The notable draw to Canvas Camp is the promise to come away with a course, built and finalized. In most cases, we see faculty members complete 75-100% of their course. However some instructors have completed more than one course during this professional development. Regardless, this is heavily marketed to bring people into Canvas Camp.
Why Switch To Canvas?
Arguably the most important aspect of Canvas Camp is engaging in discussion with the participants throughout the week. For example, after faculty members have wrestled with Canvas—learned and experienced its strengths and shortcomings—we ask them to tell us why they think the University decided to switch to Canvas. Inevitably, someone always brings up the monetary aspect, but after several minutes of discussion, faculty often suggest the change was made because “Canvas is better for the students,” “easier to use,” and/or “nicer to look at.” All of these reasons are recorded on the whiteboard at the front of the room to highlight positive aspects of Canvas. This reflection is crucial. If you hope to change perspectives about Canvas, give instructors meaningful experiences with the tool and follow up with reflection and discussion. In other words, Canvas Camp is a primer to tackle larger digital literacy questions related to educational technology and learning management systems.
Learning Canvas Together
Training is always more fun together! Canvas Camp benefits from diversity of disciplines, types of teachers, and the people present. The community aspect of this training is integral since participants must turn to one another when they have questions or need recommendations. This occurs when the facilitators are assisting other attendees. Overall, Canvas Camp is a wonderful learning environment to engage faculty in technological and pedagogical practices of Canvas, but this training shines when it empowers faculty to become both students and teachers to one another.