New Role in Canvas: Peer Instructor

Many faculty have requested a way to add undergraduate teaching assistants, or peer instructors, to their Canvas course so they may interact with students. Although we have a TA role in Canvas, it isn’t suitable for these peer instructors as they could see student grades/submissions. This new role allows you to add a peer instructor to the course who can help message students, message groups, and post to discussion boards. To add a PI into your course, follow the help for adding a TA, but choose “Peer Instructor” instead of “TA.”


now available, the peer instructor role in the drop down list


Peer Instructor Permissions

Peer Instructors have additional abilities over observers, including the ability to:

  • Message the entire course using the conversations tool
  • View and post to discussion boards
  • View the students in the course and the student groups
  • Create student collaborations


Peer instructors cannot view student submissions, grade assignments, or view the gradebook. A full list of permissions is available on the Canvas Roles page.


Let us know what you think!

Canvas Roles Feedback

Faculty Showcase Spring 2018

Incorporating instructional technologies into your course can enhance student learning. But with so many options out there, it can be overwhelming to select a tool(s) that works best for your goals. Below is a sampling of the faculty who participated in the Showcase Showdown of Spring 2018. We hope their innovative use of instructional technology will inspire all of us to rethink both the tools we already have and the tools emerging in academia.

Using the Zoom App for Active Learning
Kodithuwakku Indika (College of Sciences and Mathematics)

Zoom, Panopto Video

This presentation demonstrates using Zoom meetings to share the iPad screen during lectures. This allows the instructor to walk around the class and write on the screen from anywhere in the room. Zoom can be set up within a minute in any classroom with internet, without special requirements or prior preparation. Students can see what is written via their computer screen if needed, and even can participate in the class from anywhere in the world (with internet).


World Climate Simulation
Karen McNeal (College of Sciences and Mathematics)

World Climate Simulation, Panopto Video

The World Climate Simulation is a role-playing exercise of the UN climate change negotiations for groups. This interactive computer model rapidly analyzes the results of the mock negotiations during the event. This technology can be used to build climate change awareness and enable our students to experience some of the dynamics that emerge in the UN climate negotiations. All the materials and tools for World Climate are available for free at the World Climate Website and many are available in multiple languages.


Teamwork Skills Inventory
Paris Strom (College of Education)

Teamwork Skills inventory, Youtube video / playlist

This presentation will explain the purposes and process for using the Teamwork Skills Inventory to assess teamwork demonstrated by each student in a group of 4 to 6 members. The system is web-based and is being offered for use for free to Auburn University faculty to be used with their students in courses that make use of periodic team-based learning, cooperative learning, and similar approaches.

For more information, Auburn Faculty may contact Paris Strom at or read more information online at the Teamwork Skills Inventory website.



Gradebook Tips and Tricks

Course Grading Scheme

A grading scheme can be attached to your course to show your students if they received an A, B, C, D, or F. If you’re responsible for Early Alert / Midterm grades, this is crucial in sending grades from Canvas to Banner. If you have questions on setting up the gradebook in Canvas, please contact Biggio Tech.

enabling course grading scheme from settings

Auburn has provided two common grading schemes for you to use, but you’re welcome to customize it however you wish. If you feel generous, you can even change an A to 89.5!

changing the default grading scheme

Help on setting up the grading scheme


Hiding Grade Totals

If you post your grades but don’t rely on Canvas to calculate them, or if you want your students to calculate their grades on their own, you can turn off both the Assignment Group totals and the grade Total. Students will see each score for their assignment, but Canvas will not display any calculations. This is particularly handy throughout the semester if their scores won’t be completely accurate until the end. Under More Settings, you can also hide the grade distribution to prevent students from seeing the averages.

hiding the totals and distribution from students in course settings

Help on hiding your totals


Mute Assignments

Sometimes it may take a while to grade a particular assignment, and you don’t want Abigail Adams to have access before Zack Zulu. By muting the assignment, you can work on entering your grades without students receiving any notifications. All they see in their grades is an icon indicating that the instructor is working on the grades.

muting an assignment hides student notifications

Once muted, your students will see a notification that you’re working on their grade.

student view with grade totals hidden and a muted assignment

Help on muting assignments


Set Default Grade

You may have over 1000 students in a course each receiving a bonus for attending class before Spring Break. Or you have entered all your grades for an assignment and want to enter 0s for the students who missed the assignment. To help with either scenario, you can set a default grade for all students at once. Enter all your grades, then set the default grade to 0, for example, to fill in the gaps without having to go through each missing grade. Note: Ensure you do not check the “overwrite grade” box, otherwise it’ll replace every grade with 0.

setting treat ungraded as 0 in the gradebook only affects the instructor view

Help on setting a default grade


Regarding “Treat Ungraded as 0”

Related to giving students 0s: Canvas ignores an assignment until a grade is entered. A slightly misleading option is “Treat Ungraded as 0s.” Although this is accurately reflected in your gradebook, it does not affect student grades. If a student receives a 0, then you must enter a 0 manually or using the above “set default grade.”

setting a default grade of 0


Feeling Adventurous? Try Out the New Gradebook!

A new gradebook is available with features such as missing/late penalties, advanced filtering, and other enhancements. Please keep in mind this is a Beta, which means it may not work as smoothly as you hope. If you’re interested in trying out, please let us know how it works for you!


try out the new features

Although the new gradebook looks similar, it has many improvements with more coming in the future.

the new canvas gradebook beta

As always, please contact Biggio Tech if you have any questions!

A Step by Step Guide to Customize Your Canvas Dashboard

All your current, past, and future courses appear under the Courses page (click “Courses” on left then “All Courses” within Canvas). Since Auburn has no plans to remove Canvas courses, after almost seven years, some faculty may have numerous courses. The large number of courses can make searching for a specific course difficult. To assist in quickly finding your current courses(s), you may Star individual courses so they appear on your Dashboard. Please note: Only open, non-concluded courses can be Starred for the Dashboard.

View All Courses and Customize Your Dashboard

1. Within Canvas, click on Courses on the left to expand the Courses menu, then click “All Courses”.

expanding the courses menu, then choosing all courses

2. This is your full course list, which includes current, past, and future courses. Click on the star to add a course to your dashboard– please note, only current courses may be starred. Courses with an orange star will appear on your dashboard, courses with a white star will be hidden.

Orange starred courses will appear on your dashboard

3. Click on Dashboard to return to your dashboard. Your orange-starred classes will now be displayed.

The dashboard, only the starred courses will appear

Customize Course Image

The card displayed for your course on the Dashboard can be customized to show an image that you choose. This helps students quickly find your course while adding a splash of color and interest to your course.

1. To change the image, select the course you would like to customize. Click on the course to open that course page.

expanding the courses menu, then choosing all courses

2. Scroll down and select “Settings” from the menu on the left.

expanding the courses menu, then choosing all courses

3. On the top of the Course Details page, click the “Choose Image” box.

expanding the courses menu, then choosing all courses

4. You may now select an image from your computer by dragging into into the top box, or use the search box to select an image from Flickr. The Flickr images may be used without fear of copyright as they are part of Creative Commons.

expanding the courses menu, then choosing all courses

5. Once you have selected an image, scroll down and click the “Update Course Details” button on the bottom of the page.

expanding the courses menu, then choosing all courses

6. Your image is now loaded. Your course’s custom picture will be displayed on the Canvas Dashboard for both you and your students.

expanding the courses menu, then choosing all courses

A Step by Step Guide for Using Duo

Auburn is protecting your data

To provide additional protection against phishing scams and related cybersecurity threats, the Office of Information Technology (OIT) is in the process of implementing 2-factor authentication on all Auburn systems with access to sensitive data. This coverage has been expanded, and you may have noticed some AU Access applications now prompt you for a Duo Security authentication.


Why Do I Need 2-Factor to Protect My Data?

You will be prompted for a Duo login to access sensitive services

By having an additional authentication check on your login, your password alone is not enough for a criminal to gain access to your account. A device is used to verify your identity when you attempt to login. You may already use 2-factor with other services such as online banking, retail, or social media sites. With recent high-profile data breaches like Equifax, this additional security helps safeguard your sensitive information at Auburn including your gradebook, course content, tax information, bank information, and email.


How Do I Setup Duo?

Your password + proof = access

To use Duo, you will need to register a device at The most common authentication method is using a smart phone, however there are other alternatives such as a phone call, text message or a security token purchased from OIT. The Office of Information Technology has a complete guide to setting up 2-factor with Duo. If you have any questions on configuring Duo, the OIT HelpDesk at 334-844-4944 will be glad to assist you.


Canvas Adds Accessibility Checker

Canvas released an update that includes a few new features for faculty, such as a basic accessibility checker, an option to duplicate discussions, and streamlined comment viewing in DocViewer.

We’ve highlighted these new features in the post below. For the full update notes, please see the Canvas Production Release Notes (2017-10-28).


Accessibility Checker

When editing a page in the Rich Content Editor, click the “Check Accessibility” icon (the stick figure on the top right) to launch the Accessibility Checker tool. The checker will find common accessibility issues and assist you in correcting any it discovers. Be sure to click “Apply Fix” to apply any changes.

choose the accessibility checker icon to begin checking your page

The basic accessibility checker will assist with table headers, table captions, headings, alt text, and text contrast. For help building an accessible course in Canvas, please see the Accessibility Within Canvas guide.


Discussion Duplication

Many faculty have weekly discussion with similar discussion prompts; these discussions can now be duplicated in Canvas. From the Discussions page, click the settings icon (small gear) to the right of the discussion you wish to duplicate. From the drop-down menu, select “Duplicate”. An unpublished copy of your discussion will be created with the name, description and options settings from the original discussion.

navigate to your discussion, choose the settings menu for that discussion and then select duplicate

DocViewer – Expand / Collapse Link

While annotating documents in SpeedGrader, multi-line comments in DocViewer are now collapsed by default. To expand a comment, click on the ellipsis (…) – if a comment has replies, the replies will also be expanded. The delete icon for annotations is now hidden by default. To delete a comment, click the comment to select it, then click the trash can icon.

select the ellipsis to expand the comment and view the full comment and replies

Students Misuse Conversations Feature in Canvas

You may have heard of students misusing Conversations in Canvas to send offers of for-profit note-taking services. This is a violation of the “Appropriate Use” policy at Auburn University, specifically the clause that “access to Auburn University IT resources [i.e., Canvas] is for your individual activities that support the university’s mission, not for commercial purposes or personal gain.” Because these note-taking services often pay the student to submit their notes, the student is using an Auburn resource for personal gain.

Aside from the policy violation, the benefit from these third-party notes is unclear. The actual act of note-taking helps students learn and retain knowledge — downloading the notes online does not mean the student has learned the content.

As Dr. Gulley in Political Science expressed:

No student should feel that to succeed they need help beyond my teaching, their reading and studying, and their peer interactions. I’m not doing my job if they need that, and I would rather drag students kicking and screaming through my courses if for no other reason than to show them they are masters of their own success.

Although we are unable to prevent these advertisements in Canvas, we do recommend making a “caveat emptor” announcement in class (or in Canvas) to remind your students to beware of note-taking services free or otherwise (even those notes taken by colleagues in the same class).

You may also wish to take it a step further and invite students to work together outside of class to review for exams. Several large study spaces are available in the Mell Classroom @ RBD for this purpose (please login with your Auburn credentials).

Please call or e-mail if you have any questions. Also, please let us know if you’ve encountered success empowering your students to be better note-takers, and not note-bystanders.

Interested in Student Feedback Throughout the Semester?

We ask our students to provide meaningful feedback at the end of the semester through course evaluation. Although this feedback helps enhance your teaching for next semester, it has limited impact on those who are giving the feedback in the current semester. The Biggio Center is happy to announce a way for students to provide timely, anonymous feedback right through Canvas! The Feedback Box is an LTI integration that you can be enable in your course, providing students a simple, direct way to submit feedback while they are learning.
Once enabled, students click “Feedback” on the left and then start typing! This feedback is completely anonymous and immediate. After submission, the text will be available to you through the same link.

Canvas Feedback Box, Student View


We are working with oVote, the creators of Feedback Box, to add a few features that will expand the usefulness of this tool, such as the ability to reply, to opt-out of e-mail notifications, and to report/block abuse. We are helping shape the Feedback Box experience for you and your students, which means we want your feedback on Feedback Box!

Canvas Feedback Box, Teacher View


We are looking for faculty who are interested in allowing students the opportunity to provide feedback throughout the semester. Since this is a pilot program, we want faculty to know there may be a few hiccups during the experience. However, we believe that empowering students results in better learning.

Biggio Tech is offering two workshops on the tool, covering how to use it while also providing guidance on how to receive meaningful feedback from your students. If students give feedback throughout a semester, then they are prepared to answer the end of semester evaluations more thoughtfully, leading to a better learning experience for everyone.

Canvas Adds New Native Document Viewer

Rolling out June 20th, Canvas is updating the tool used to display documents in SpeedGrader. No longer using a third-party service, Instructure built “DocViewer” in-house with accessibility and scalability in mind. Although DocViewer should behave just as Crocodoc, the previous tool, a few differences are apparent.

More information regarding the new tool is available through Canvas Release Notes

Documents should display the same way as before, but the big difference is the annotation tool in Speedgrader.

Old annotation tool:

Annotation tool used in Canvas

New annotation tool:

New annotation tool used in Canvas

Instructure says the change enhances the user experience with “fewer clicks” plus the ability to add more features down the road. Please be aware, however, that annotated downloads for students won’t be available at launch, but will be implemented soon after.

If you have any questions, please contact the Biggio Center at (334) 844-5181.