Working with Prerequisites and Requirements in Canvas Modules – Social Work Field Education Preparation

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With the implementation of Canvas across the University, program teams in DSC have been exploring and experimenting with the modules function to better design and deliver important content to students. More specifically, the use of “prerequisites” and “requirements” in modules to manage the adaptive release of content.  Three programs in Social Work, the Bachelor of Social Work, Master of Social Work and the combined Bachelor of Social Work and Psychology teamed up to develop a series of modules containing information and activities to prepare students  for field placement.

The Problem

The Field Education Team noticed that students were not necessarily reading all the material required in preparation for field placement.  This meant that students were risking their level of readiness to complete placement successfully simply because they were missing out on vital information. This information pertained to topics such as  rights and responsibilities, a code of ethics, expectations, as well as assessment requirements.

Solution – Part 1

The solution was a long process, comprising of several steps over several weeks.  The first step was to use individual Program Shells in Canvas for the three programs involved, in order to make the material available to students across the program.  The second step in the process, and one that took a lot of planning and time, was to design and structure the modules. To assist us in the design, we approached the task as if we were writing a textbook. We developed an index of chapters, where each chapter was given a specific title.  We then moved onto identifying the subheadings for each of the chapters; eventually each chapter became a module in the Canvas shell and each subheading became a content page within each module. Once the structure was complete, the team moved onto step three, which consisted of compiling the material (already developed in previous years) to be used in the content pages.  While gathering this information, the team was also able to identify any existing gaps, prompting the team to write new content and update existing one. By this stage, we were ready to tackle step four – building the modules and content pages with text, images, videos and graphs. A total of 11 modules and over 50 content pages were created.

The Field Ed Team raised concerns about the potential increase in students’ workload.  To minimise a possible increase in the workload, careful consideration was given to the amount of content provided in each page.  The underpinning principles were for this information to be relevant, concise but thorough and accurate.

Solution – Part 2

The second part in building a solution looked at finding a way to ensure that students would read the material as well as demonstrate an understanding of the content read. To achieve this, we decided to apply prerequisites and requirements to each module. The prerequisite  was set to require the completion of every requirement applied to the preceding module, in order to unlock the following one. The requirements were set to lock every single content page in each module until a student had read each page sequentially, marking each page as complete as they went on.  The second requirement involved the completion of a quiz and or activity based on the content for the module. Students are required to achieve the maximum score in the quiz and/or submit the activity before being able to unlock the next module.

Modules Requirements

Solution – Part 3

The final step in this process was to find the most effective and efficient way to view a student’s module completion rate; as only those students who had 100% completion rate were able to proceed with the placement allocation process. In other words, completion of the modules was a hurdle requirement for every student.  Having placed this requirement raised the following questions: “Can Canvas generate a report for us?”, “How do we know where students are at?”  

This is where the reporting capabilities in Canvas let us down.  At the moment, teachers do not have access to Canvas Data, and even if they did, extracting the data and making sense of it isn’t a straightforward task.  Therefore, the team was looking at doing this is a very manual and time consuming way, this meant going into Modules, clicking on View Progress and the clicking on every student name to see their progress.  Although helpful, it certainly was not the most ideal workaround.  An automated solution was needed, and this is what we found. There is a huge Canvas community of users around the world, and this has become an incredible source of information and solutions.  A Canvas user and developer – Japp Stelpstra developed and shared for all of us to use an Excel Spreadsheet which is able to download data from Canvas using Get API calls.  When the report is ran, it generates a progress report of all students in a course with modules to which requirements have been added.  For more information on this read Jaap’s blong on Automated progress report of students in modules.  The Field Ed Team has been using this automated solution very successfully to run reports and identify students at risk of not meeting placement requirements.

Snapshot of Report

What is next?

The feedback received from students has been very positive, however the Field Ed Team is currently looking at developing a questionnaire that would be sent to all students across the three programs seeking their feedback.  The data collected through this questionnaire will assist the team in making changes for 2019. Another project currently in the pipeline is to apply the same solution for the design and development of a series of modules to be used by Field Educators and Supervisors.  It is anticipated that the content to be developed for these modules will be aligned with the content provided to students. 

Another task for exploration for 2019 is to be able to generate within Canvas an alert or confirmation message that notifies students that they have successfully completed their modules.  

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