By MARTY LEVINE
While there’s no way for Pitt to tell how many faculty members have yet to finish converting all their courses to Canvas for the fall, University officials say they are busy assisting individual departments with discipline-specific tip sheets and tutoring videos.
Being asked to help faculty members pass on subject-oriented knowledge and tricks is a good sign for the fall, said Michael Arenth, director of educational technology for the University Center for Teaching and Learning, and Dave Atkinson, service owner for student systems (including Canvas) at Pitt IT.
Today, about 800 summer courses are using Canvas, and the teaching center has seen 1,100 people take approximately 3,000 Canvas trainings. More than 25,000 courses from six most-recent semesters have been transferred to Canvas — some offering a smooth transition from the previous learning management system Blackboard and others requiring faculty members to re-load their classes from scratch.
Whether a faculty member can adapt a course or decide to start over “depends on the complexity of the courses,” Arenth said, and what parts of Canvas they choose to use.
“This is a great opportunity to re-evaluate what you are doing in your class,” said Atkinson, pointing to Canvas features that will help with the part-remote, part-in-person Flex@Pitt model of teaching required this fall, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They include Canvas’ integration with Zoom’s calendar and its note function in the gradebook, as well as Canvas’ employment of Office 365 and Lab Archives, a digital notebook for labs.
Looking to the future, he said, “When (faculty) do move to campus they will have a new set of tools and a new set of opportunities.”
“For the folks who are struggling,” Arenth said, “we have been and continue to ramp up our staff resources” in both the teaching center and Pitt IT. “We don’t want any folks to feel they have been left behind or that they have an insurmountable burden … We are here to help.
“None of us know what the fall term is going to bring,” he said. However, “we know that Canvas is the better system. We are well down the path now, and we are in a position to succeed.”
Marty Levine is a staff writer for the University Times. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-758-4859.
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