Tips for taking advantage of all the Canvas resources


Keri Kelly

A screenshot of Canvas’s help tab.

By Ben Blakney, Reporter


EWU students are no strangers to the web program Canvas, but are EWU students using Canvas to its full potential? 

The Easterner spoke with James Johnson, senior director for Eastern Online, as well as Instructional Technology and Design for EWU, regarding some tips and tricks for perfecting Canvas.

Johnson said he recommends students use multiple browsers.

“It’s always good to have another browser you can back up to and work on,” said Johnson.

Certain web browsers are more compatible with Canvas than others. By utilizing multiple browsers, EWU Canvas users can circumvent the issues one browser might have with Canvas in favor of another browser. For example, students who use Firefox usually do not encounter the same errors as students who use Chrome, and vice versa. 

Through the use of various browsers, students gain the benefits of avoiding the unique issues of each browser.

Panopto is a tool available to all EWU students. Now that distance learning is the new standard, Johnson feels EWU students should become familiar with the system.

“We have tools inside of Canvas that will help students be able to record and edit their videos if they need to.” -James Johnson, senior director for Eastern Online

“Another skill, and this is from a technology standpoint, is being able to record and edit a video using Panopto,” said Johnson. “We have tools inside of Canvas that will help students be able to record and edit their videos if they need to. They can use Panopto for updating or submitting as an assignment.”

Particular applications of the Panopto software include presentations, demonstrations, group work and creation of visual aids to go alongside an assignment. Panopto is provided for free to all EWU students through Canvas.

One of the most important new aspects of the “college” classroom is time management. Now that students are forced to work from their home environments, creating an effective schedule is crucial.

“If a grounded classroom is going to take you, including classroom time, 15 hours a week to stay up on the studies, the papers and all that, an ongoing online class will do that as well,” said Johnson. 

Johnson elaborated on the importance of creating a study plan.

Kailani Kennedy and Andrick Carroll studying for finals in the LLC pre-health lounge. (Karlee Van De Venter for The Easterner)

“You may have to find a space where you can study,” said Johnson. “You can clean it out and do that where you’d have minimal distractions. Especially in today’s pandemic period, having time to yourself or when you’re in a family situation, it’s going to be rather difficult, but it’s something that you really need to try to do, to be able to focus and study all those courses.”

Some students have vocalized issues in the past regarding uploading documents to Canvas. This can occasionally be attributed to a Canvas-side malfunction, as discussed in a May 11 article in The Easterner. Regardless, the knowledge on effective uploading is important to all Canvas users, especially EWU students.

“Another thing in Canvas is knowing how to create and attach documents, using Word primarily,” said Johnson. “All students have access to [Word through] Eastern, to the [Microsoft] Office suite. Learn to use some common shortcuts, such as on a Windows machine, you can use Ctrl + C as a copy and a Ctrl + V as a paste. [Students can then] copy the document they’re writing and [paste it] into Canvas, either as a discussion or as a post.”

“Checking a class three or four times a week minimum, make sure that anything that’s due has been posted.” -James Johnson, senior director for Eastern Online

Johnson also vocalized the importance of communication between EWU students and professors using Canvas.

“Our instructors are working with classes, they’re not always on [top of] being able to use all the technology,” said Johnson. “Staying in contact with your instructor [is crucial]. Checking a class three or four times a week minimum, make sure that anything that’s due has been posted. [Make sure] you’re familiar with what’s going on.”

If an EWU student is looking for some extra Canvas help, Johnson has provided resources for those students.

“The first step always is with the help desk. [Students] can submit a document request to the internet using the web page,” said Johnson.

Finally, Johnson provided his closing thoughts:“One of the things, for academic success as an overall topic, would be you get those books early. Read the course syllabus; know what it says. Some of them are pretty long and convoluted,” said Johnson.

Johnson implores students to ask questions of their instructors, and to keep engaging with their coursework and classmates.

“If [students] do have an accessibility issue, to contact our disability support services, to have an evaluation done to see if there’s anything that we can do to help them be better students,” said Johnson. “Do not be afraid to ask for help. Students will refrain from asking the faculty for time to help them out with a question or to work on them. [Subjects]  like math and science [are departments where] the faculty really wants to be able to help. They want all students to be successful, and then to be grounded online. So ask for help. And we’ll try to do it for you – not do it for you, but we’ll be able to give you the help you need.”

Johnson is a manager of the Instructional Design sect at EWU, and is still providing the M-F, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Zoom sessions to aid with EWU online issues. Both students and faculty are welcome.