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Canvas Tips to Start the Year Off Right!

Want help with learning technologies, digital media, assignment/course design, or hybrid/online learning? Go to our LT website to book time with us or ask us a question!



Did you know? You can send a private message to your professor or classmates through Canvas. All you need to do is click on Inbox in the top right hand corner of your Canvas window. Click on compose a new message, then select your course and the professor/classmate you want to communicate with. This tool is incredibly useful for asking your professor or classmates questions, or even talking to members in your group.



Did you know? You don’t always need to log in to MyUW in order to access Canvas. All you need to do is type in canvas.uw.edu and you will automatically be taken to the login page for Canvas. No need to navigate through your MyUW page to find the Canvas link.



Did you know?  You can change what courses and groups appear under the Courses and Groups tab on your Canvas Homepage. All you need to do is hover over the Courses and Groups tab, then click on View all or Customize


in the top right hand corner. From there you can star which courses you want to appear on the dropdown menu. This can save you the time of searching for your course every time you need to access it.


Did you know? You will always have access on Canvas to the courses you have taken, long after the course is completed. You can look at assignments you turned in, grades you received, files and readings you were assigned, and much more! You can use previous courses as a resource for courses you will take in the future.




There is a known issue in the Canvas system that sometimes causes a discrepancy between students who are enrolled through MyUW and those who show up as enrolled in your Canvas course. To resolve this issue, send an email to HELP@UW.EDU with the course title and quarter and request that they update your Canvas course enrollments.



Remember that you can build your course in Canvas before the quarter without the students seeing all of the changes. Once you are prepared for students to interact with your Canvas course site, you must make sure to publish it. To do so, follow these steps:

  1. Go to your Canvas course and click Home
  2. At the top of the page under the heading THIS COURSE IS UNPUBLISHED click the link published.
  3. Finally, click the Publish Course button that shows up near the bottom of the page.


To reduce confusion for your students, we recommend that you remove links in the course navigation that you are not using. For example, you might remove the Outcomes, Conferences, and Collaborations links in the navigation, if those tools are not being used in your course. Here’s how to do this:

  1. Click Settings in your course navigation
  2. Click the Navigation tab in Settings, near the top of the page
  3. Now drag and drop items that are not needed below the line that reads Drag items here to hide them from students.
  4. Click Save at the bottom of the page.


Note: removing the links means that students will not see them. However, as an instructor, you will still see the grayed out links, and you are still able to access them.


Recently, UW implemented the Canvas Draft State feature. Draft State allows content in Assignments, Quizzes, Discussions, Pages, and Modules to exist in an unpublished (draft) state. By default, any newly created content remains in an unpublished (draft state) that is not visible to students until you publish them. For more details on Draft State for the individual content areas, view the Canvas Lessons:


For more Canvas tutorials – check out the Learning Tech Canvas website!

Free Online Courses: A Positive Experience

Yes, free online courses are now being offered by universities. Karen Harpp, a professor at Colgate University, has opened her course, “The Advent of the Atomic Bomb,” to university alumni and others who make a special request to join. Harpp believed it would be hard for today’s students to imagine living in 1945, experiencing a world war, or for most, serving in the military. With online classes, alumni have the opportunity to share their experiences, which can lead to class discussions getting more interesting.

The first time the online course opened Colgate hoped to enroll 238 students, but it surpassed that goal with 380 alumni. Another course that was offered, “Living Writers”, had 678 alumni enrolled. Ms. Harpp noticed that alumni who had graduated after 2000 were very interested in having access to the course material but less interested in engaging with the students. Older alumni from the Class of 1980 and earlier were most excited to talk with current Colgate students, challenging them on their thoughts and opinions on nuclear warfare. Colgate calls its class and others like it “fusion” courses because there are in-person courses for Colgate students with an additional online component that brings in alumni. The goal of these classes is not just to involve alumni, but to also invite the community to engage with students through online technology.

Now more universities are using free online courses as a form of engaging students with personal experiences that deal with the course content. Harvard University began offering such courses to graduates last year and the University of Wisconsin at Madison plans to offer six courses for their alumni. Now courses are being opened to the community and to various book clubs. With the help of technology and open dialog students receive a new and convenient way to promote “lifelong learning” while incorporating the community.

For more information on this topic visit the link below.

Fabris, Casey. “One Reason to Offer Free Online Courses: Alumni Engagement.” The Chronicle of Higher Education. N.p., 12 Jan. 2015. Web.

Connecting Start-Ups with Higher Education to meet their needs

In an article written by Goldie Blumsenstyk on the Chronicle of Higher Education, she highlights a company and ed-tech entrepreneur who believes he knows the solution to a few common problems in higher education.

Paul Freedman’s company, Entangled Ventures, is working towards building a solution to the many problems that higher education faces. In order to do this, he hopes to convey these issues to start-up technology companies. He believes that there is a translation issue between what higher education needs and what companies build. The focus is to build solutions, not products that serve the needs of colleges.

The key philosophy of his company is to get involved early in pilot testing by these start-up companies. He believes that he can be the “translator” for higher education and get their needs met by building a relationship between the college and start-up company. He wants to convey the issues that colleges are having to start-up companies to allow them to build around them and adequately target the needs of the college.

This not only benefits the college but also the start-up company that is looking for a break into the technology industry. It would allow for these companies to test out their products and be supported by a higher education institution. Most companies rarely get the ears of someone at an institution. They would also be providing a product that would be used readily.

Companies such as Entangled Ventures not only help to build relationships between higher education and start-ups but they also invest in young companies. By investing at such an early stage, they also have a much larger financial stake.

For more information on this topic visit the link above.

Video-Recording Studio Boom

Now more than ever colleges and universities are providing video studios for general academic work rather than just for film majors or student news organizations.

Pennsylvania State University has created a simple setup that they call the “One Button Studio.” This room allows students and faculty members to simply plug a flash drive into the studio’s computer and press a button rather than dealing with complicated cameras and different editing software. The button controls the green screen, the lighting, and the video recording. Once the user is done, they just push the button again and retrieve their flash drive, with their new video saved. Penn State noticed how popular the One Button Studio was with faculty and students now they provide 19 One Button Studios across its multiple campuses.

Ohio State opened their studio just last fall and an instructor used the room to record a video of herself experimenting with liquid nitrogen and a blowtorch. Other universities, including Abilene Christian and Notre Dame, now use the model for their own in-house studios. Dartmouth College opened their studio called the “Innovation Studio” in May. Instructors can sign up to reserve the production rooms and can bring their own equipment or borrow some from the college’s media center. The rooms are used for a variety of different educational purposes. For example, universities such as Harvard have interviewed guest speakers in their studios to film the interview, so it can later be shared with classes. Other professors have used the studios to prerecorded lectures for students to watch when class is canceled. Now students don’t have to miss a lecture due to bad weather.

Professors are engaging more with tech-savvy students to provide more digital learning material for higher education.

For more information on this topic click here.

Engaging Students to Learn Through zyBooks

Textbooks can often be long and boring to read, making it difficult to keep students engaged. Now there’s a new web platform ‘zyBooks’ that creates a new way to learn from textbooks. ZyBooks mixes learning activities such as question sets and animations with written content. ZyBooks wants professors to use the web-based platform as a new way to help students engage with course material along with helping students perform better.

Students oftentimes have to reread passages in textbooks to actually understand the content. Frank Vahis, the founder of zyBooks in 2012, wanted to create a platform where students could retain more information while giving students an alternative to the wall of text traditional textbooks have. Vahis explains that the company wanted to avoid having “book” in the products name because the word would inaccurately describe what they were trying to do, however eventually they did keep it. Yes, digital textbooks are hardly a new idea, but the ‘next step’ Vahis argues is for textbooks to provide engaging material that helps students collaborate with other classmates while assisting students retain more information. A study done on students using the platform found that students tended to perform better on quizzes and other actives. Students also reported that they felt more engaged with course material when using zyBook products than using a regular textbook. The product also provides professors with a tool to track students’ progress in the course.

Currently, professors in 250 universities, primarily in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics courses, are using zyBooks. Not to mention that zyBooks products cost $48 each, which is cheaper than the average cost of a new textbook. Originally the platform was intended to focus on courses such as computer science and other STEM fields, but now the group hopes to move onto other topics, such as finance, accounting, and sociology.

For more information on this topic click here.