Instructor Insight is a resource that all faculty can access in Canvas that we are piloting in Spring Quarter 2020. Faculty at University College have been using Instructor Insight for years and have generously shared their experiences below.
Instructor Insight is a pivotal tool that provides all kinds of useful data, but viewing it simply as a data source or report engine is short-sighted. In a remote environment, it empowers you to virtually replicate some of the things you take for granted – things you organically do when you are in the classroom with your students. In sum, it allows you to objectively evaluate your presence with your students: the frequency and types of impressions you are making with them as the course progresses. I customarily check in with this resource once a week because I want to ensure my perceptions of how engaged I am have some basis in reality. It also helps me identify participation gaps or lapses in a timely manner so I can take action proactively. Balancing my presence as equitably as possible among all my students is important to me, and Instructor Insight helps me to do that.
I have found Instructor Insight very helpful over the years to make sure I am being equitable with my engagement from week to week. One of the things Instructor Insight shows you is an aggregate of how many discussion posts you do in a week. It is easy to get hung up on responding or redirecting just a few students who have steered off course and then feel like you have spent a lot of time responding to the group as a whole. When you look at your weekly discussion post engagement you can see how many students you responded to (or didn’t!) in a quick snapshot view. Having a solid and consistent presence in your weekly discussions is something your students tend to remember at the end of the course. While you might focus on giving a few really substantive posts, sometimes students just need a quick nod of acknowledgement or encouragement. Similar to how you might say “you’re on the right track” or “yes, and have you thought about it this way…” when you are teaching face to face. Those little bits of affirmation or redirection are critical. Instructor Insight helps to raise my awareness to when I might have overlooked those opportunities for the light touch needed to let the students know I am there, paying attention to them, and encouraging a deeper discussion.
Dr. Michelle Kruse-Crocker:
Instructor Insight provides me with a snapshot of the peaks and valleys within a course. It can be used to help with lesson planning and to illustrate when students are more engaged. Knowing when students are more active can help focus the delivery of content. If you note that activity is occurring more on a particular day of the week or in one week, you can pivot to make sure you have provided all the information they need prior. This can also help direct your follow-up timing in discussions. It takes some getting used to looking at the dashboard. But, the data becomes helpful the more it is used. Also, the summary at the bottom of the dashboard of your commentary can be really helpful to determine if you are being repetitive with responses to questions. Then, you can change your instructional materials to pre-empt questions the next time you teach or to change your instructional notes/materials.
Dr. Molly Smith
I appreciate that the Instructor Insight tool allows me to see how my actions have a real-time impact on the way students engage in my course. For example, when I started engaging in the online discussion boards on Tuesdays (as opposed to Wednesdays), I saw an increase on the “Average Student Discussion Posts” graph for the week. It was helpful to see how a small change on my part made a difference in the way my students interacted with each other and the weekly content. When I first started teaching online classes, the “Peer Average” data in Instructor Insight helped me get a sense for what I could reasonably expect from my students. For example, I was able to see that students in other classes were posting, on average, 12 times per week in the online discussion boards. When I noticed that my students were averaging just 5 posts per week, I was able to reach out to encourage more engagement with the confidence that my expectations were reasonable.
The Activity Insight tool in Canvas is something that I use continually in my teaching practice. The tool has allowed me to enhance my view of student engagement and performance in my courses, and to also reflect on my teaching at University College. In an online environment it can be hard to have a pulse on the overall engagement in a course since you can’t actually see students interacting. Activity Insight gives that “pulse” via data! This overall view of the course helps inform my teaching methods as it gives me a sense of how students are interacting, and how I can be most effective at engaging with them. In addition to the overall view of student engagement, I use Instructor Insight to assess overall performance and to identify students that may be at risk. The dashboard provides a quick and easy view to allow me to identify student issues quickly. One final benefit that I have noticed from using Instructor Insight is that it adds to my teaching pedagogy. I find it helpful to be able to measure my performance against other peers, and to continually assess my effectiveness in the online classroom. If you haven’t yet used Instructor Insight to enhance your teaching practice…you should!
At one time, I thought the Canvas “Last Activity” date and “Total Activity” time functioned as the only engagement data available. I would stare at the screen, desperately trying to make sense of the numbers as compared to what I observed in class. Instructor Insight has empowered me with specific, actionable information for student (and professor!) engagement and performance. Three of the top things I appreciate about Instructor Insight:
- Data. Instead of me desperately staring and guessing, Instructor Insight provides quantitative facts off of which to base decision making.
- Balance. As a professor, I have at times struggled with knowing how much time to invest but also knowing that the time invested adds value to students. I appreciate the opportunity Instructor Insight provides to compare my activity to that of other professors.
- Value. Instructor Insight offers individual and comparative student performance information that I can use as a basis for connecting with struggling students.
I would encourage you to check out Instructor Insight today to consider how it can support your course in serving as an effective, dynamic learning environment for students!