Helping faculty get courses ready for remote delivery

Thursday, June 24, 2021

UNT System IT assists CLEAR in preparing Canvas early for faculty to build fall 2020 remote and blended courses to meet UNT Provost’s plan for continuity of teaching.

As the University of North Texas and UNT Dallas begins a limited, phased reopening of campuses, faculty continue to make positive advancements in the preparation of fall 2020 online and blended delivery courses. This is part of a transparent academic plan developed by Dr. Jennifer Cowley, UNT Provost, to mitigate the known and anticipated impacts of the novel coronavirus while supporting the academic mission of the university by asking, “How Can We?”

Dr. Jennifer Cowley“How can we operate to maximally advance the intellectual development of our students and support their success? How can we operate in ways that support our goal of advancing as a research university? How can we continue to demonstrate that we are a creative and caring community?” Dr. Cowley asks as part of her May 1, 2020 update.

A week before Dr. Cowley presented her plan, she requested Dr. Ruthanne “Rudi” Thompson of UNT’s Center for Learning Experimentation, Application and Research (CLEAR) make the Canvas learning management system ready early to support fall 2020 course builds.

“The provost asked that we have everything ready early and that we embed our own version of a course-in-a-box,” Dr. Thompson explains the project’s scope.

“Jennifer (the Provost) really wanted faculty to have the opportunity to start early and before they left for the summer. So, then we could provide training,” Dr. Thompson continued. New templates created by CLEAR needed to be placed inside Canvas so faculty could build their fall courses early. Once completed, CLEAR would provide virtual training and support faculty in creating their courses.

With a little more than a week in which to complete these changes, Michael Sanderson of UNT System IT worked with Dr. Thompson and Mary Speight from CLEAR to place the new templates within Canvas. In addition, Michael rewrote the Canvas codebase, making it modular to support both the UNT and UNT Dallas campuses. All changes were complete and tested prior to the provost’s May 1, 2020 update.

“We provided training for a little over 200 faculty members on how to use the template.” Dr. Thompson described the initial virtual training course from CLEAR.

“What was good about it is, because we pushed it early the faculty could have it open since it was a virtual meeting. Of course they could be looking in their own shell while we were showing them tips, tricks, and techniques. We heard really great feedback from faculty that they liked having the opportunity to begin working in it and they liked that they could do that with us being mentoring on the side at the same time.

“It really made a significant difference because we were able to spend the time on training and explanation and help on those shells and now we can turn our attention on the online courses.

“We couldn't have done it without you.” Dr. Thompson complimented Michael’s assistance.