Canvas Training Resources

A variety of training and support resources are available for all instructors and students.

1. Canvas Help:  24/7 chat, email and phone support from Canvas is available for all students and instructors. Canvas helpdesk agents can assist instructors and students with their live courses, answer how-to questions, and troubleshoot any problems. To access Canvas help, click on the Help button on the bottom left of the dark blue navigation bar in Canvas. Note: you must be in your Canvas account to contact Canvas help.

2. General Live Training via Zoom:  Starting in June, Touro Training Team will be offering regularly scheduled general training sessions via Zoom. These sessions will be open to all faculty. You can see all currently schedule training sessions on the Touro Canvas website. Each session will be 1.5 hours – about 45 minutes of presentation and 45 minutes of questions and answers. The following topics will be covered during these training sessions: 

  • accessing and navigating Canvas
  • viewing rosters
  • adding course files,
  • using the Canvas Syllabus
  • adding an Assignment
  • previewing the course as a student
  • making the course available to students
  • messaging students
  • using the course calendar
  • grading assignments with SpeedGrader
  • viewing the Gradebook and student mastery
  • using different course layouts.

These training sessions will be offered multiple times throughout Touro’s transition to Canvas.  To see a schedule of these sessions:

  • go to the TouroOne Portal and under Canvas click on Touro Canvas Website then select Training Calendar, or

3. Self-paced Training Courses in Canvas: All new students and instructors are automatically enrolled in Canvas training courses. These courses will help you get oriented and learn about some of the most commonly used Canvas features.

4. School-specific Training:  The Project Team is working with Touro schools to schedule school-specific live training, either in person or via Zoom. To find out the live training schedule for your school, watch for Canvas training announcements from your school or contact your Dean or Director.

We will be announcing our own local training sessions in the next week or so.

Please note that all of these methods of learning Canvas (i.e., the Zoom sessions from TCUS, the online course in your Canvas dashboard, and the local training sessions that we will be scheduling) will cover roughly the same material, so we encourage you to take advantage of whichever method or methods best suit your own schedule and manner for learning a new tool.

If you have any questions please contact me at

Michael K. Barbour

A Great Resource: Suggestions For Better Pedagogy

The University of Central Florida provides a fantastic resource for those interested in building blended courses called the Blended Learning Toolkit.

This Blended Learning Toolkit is a free, open resource for educational institutions interested in developing or expanding their blended learning initiatives.

The website includes: a blog where people share ideas, a detailed section focusing on the process of building a blended course, model courses, a section on effective practices, evaluation resources, and a section on current research.

Take the time to visit this website for some great ideas as you build-out your courses on Canvas.

Questions or comments are welcome.

Jim O’Connor

Suggestions For Better Pedagogy

Provost Alden forwarded this timely article to me this morning, which I found to contain numerous evidence-based suggestions for improving pedagogy.

As we move from BlackBoard to Canvas, rather than just transferring materials from one student learning platform to another, consider trying out some new practices, such as
those included in this article.

Questions or comments? Feel free to contact me.

Thanks for taking the 10 minutes to read this important document.

Jim O’Connor

Blackboard Transition To Canvas

As has been communicated in previous announcements, TUC and TUN will begin to transition from Blackboard to Canvas as the TCUS Learning Management System (LMS).  Blackboard will still be available for instructors to access courses and necessary content information until June 30, 2019.  To help facilitate the transition to Canvas at TUC and TUN, a TWD Transition Task Force (TTF) has been established with Drs. Michael Barbour and Jim O’Connor as co-chairs.

Over the course of the next year, the co-chairs will be responsible for the following general tasks at both TUC and TUN:

  • Dr. Barbour has had significant experience in converting courses from Blackboard to Canvas, as well as in developing the instructional design of courses using both of these LMS’s. He will provide coordination, training support, and general assistance with instructional design. He will also coordinate TWD activities with those of the TCUS transition team.
  • In his dual roles as co-chair of TTF and as TWD Director of the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning, Dr. O’Connor will work with faculty of TUC and TUN to introduce new pedagogical approaches and the preparation of enhanced learning materials using Canvas as a LMS.
  • The co-chairs and the TTF members will also plan and coordinate training and create timelines for transition activities with college and school Canvas champions on both campuses.

In addition to the TTF, there will be a group of Canvas champions that will be designated in various colleges, schools, and programs at TUC and TUN.  The champions will act as points of contact for their respective units, and will also be responsible for the following:

  • Attending regular Champion meetings via Zoom;
  • Attending a one to two day Canvas training in May/June (dates and times TBD);
  • Assisting faculty with the use of Canvas in their respective programs;
  • Sharing pertinent Canvas related information with faculty, students, and staff in their respective programs; and
  • Reporting any issues and/or challenges regarding Canvas to the transition task force.

The deans have identified the following individuals to serve as college Canvas champions: Debbie Millican will serve as the Canvas Champion for CHHS and Assistant Dean Jutta Guadagnoli and Ms. Tina Lindquist will serve as Canvas co-Champions for COM.

During the Summer and Fall semesters, Canvas workshops offered will target outreach to TUC and TUN faculty and students. The transition task force and the local champions will work collaboratively with the TCUS Instructional Technology Canvas team to design, and conduct trainings for both students and faculty.  Workshops/trainings will be offered in the following formats:

  • Synchronous sessions via Zoom and in-person;
  • Self-paced orientation and training courses available in Canvas;
  • Asynchronous exploration of the Canvas community (guides, Live!, and discussions); and
  • Self-paced Touro-created student and faculty guides.

These training opportunities will be announced shortly.

In the meantime, if you have any questions please contact Jim O’Connor ( or Michael Barbour ( directly.

Ray Alden
Touro University Nevada

Universal Design for Learning

A brief introduction and resources for understanding the Universal Design for Learning.

According to the website Universal Design in Higher Education,,

“Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a set of principles for curriculum development that give all individuals equal opportunities to learn. UDL provides a blueprint for creating instructional goals, methods, materials, and assessments that work for everyone–not a single, one-size-fits-all solution but rather flexible approaches that can be customized and adjusted for individual needs.”

For those of you designing new courses or new curricula, or if you are planning on revamping your course when the campus transitions from BlackBoard to Canvas, Universal Design for Learning is a great place to start. It provides a series of guidelines and strategies for organizing both instruction and assessment.

A great resource is the text entitled: Universal Design in Higher Education: Promising Practices edited by Sheryl E. Burgstahler. This book uses evidence-based best practices to guide higher education instructors in effectively designing or redesigning courses.

The University of Washington’s Center for Teaching provides a PDF for this book at:

Interested? Let me know how I can assist you.

Jim O’Connor

Are You Using Innovative And Effective Teaching Strategies?

TUC and TUN Colleagues,

Are you using innovative and effective teaching strategies in your teaching?

If so, the Center for Innovative Learning and Teaching would like to share what you are doing with your colleagues across both Western Division campuses, as well as throughout the TCUS.

If you feel you have something that you would like to share, please reach out to me so we can discuss how best to do this.

Thanks so much.

Jim O’Connor

Thoughts on Student-Centered Learning

Some ideas to consider.

Student-centered teaching is a philosophy of teaching originally shared by Dr. Carl Rogers in his book entitled Freedom to Learn (1969). Aspects of this philosophy were also put forth even earlier by other famous educators including John Dewey and Maria Montessori.

You can see a brief Prezi presentation on Rogers’ ideas by clicking on:

Briefly, Rogers believed that the most important aspect of effective teaching was the development of trust between the teacher and the student. Trust could be built when the teacher demonstrated empathy, unconditional positive regard, and genuineness towards her or his students.

A 2014 study published in the International Journal of Medical Education (Int J Med Educ. 2014; 5: 157–164)  entitled “The evaluation of student-centredness (sic) of teaching and learning: a new mixed-methods approach” by Ana R. Lemos,John E. Sandars,Palmira Alves, and Manuel J. Costa. (See focused upon the  development and consideration of  the usefulness of a new mixed-methods approach to evaluate the student-centredness of teaching and learning on undergraduate medical courses.

The authors describe the the Bologna Process in Europe, which states “student-centred learning (SCL) is an approach to education, which aims at overcoming some of the problems inherent to more traditional forms of education by focusing on the learner and their needs, rather than being centred around the teacher’s input.”

Simply put, the philosophy of student-centered teaching suggests that the teacher be a “guide on the side rather than a sage on the stage”. I further distinguish the student-centered approach to teaching by suggesting that there is a significant difference between presenting information to students and assisting students to learn. Student-centered teaching focuses on the students taking responsibility for their own learning with the teacher serving as a facilitator of learning.

Consider reflecting upon your teaching as related to these concepts of student-centeredness. Remember, we can give a dynamic lecture and present information to a wall, but is there any learning taking place?

For further information about student-centered learning, feel free to contact me. As well, feel free to share any comments about this e-mail posting.

Let me know how I can assist you in improving the quality of your teaching, and student learning.

Thanks for reading this.

Jim O’Connor

Suggestions On Effective PowerPoints

Many of you use PowerPoint as part of your instructional strategies. What makes an effective PowerPoint presentation?

Below is information which came from Vanderbilt University’s Center for Teaching website.

Research about student preferences for PowerPoint

Laura Edelman and Kathleen Harring from Muhlenberg College, Allentown, Pennsylvania have developed an approach to PowerPoint design using Baddeley and Hitch’s model. During the course of their work, they conducted a survey of students at the college asking what they liked and didn’t like about their professor’s PowerPoint presentations. They discovered the following:

Characteristics students don’t like about professors’ PowerPoint slides

  • Too many words on a slide
  • Clip art
  • Movement (slide transitions or word animations)
  • Templates with too many colors

Characteristics students like about professors’ PowerPoint slides

  • Graphs increase understanding of content
  • Bulleted lists help them organize ideas
  • PowerPoint can help to structure lectures
  • Verbal explanations of pictures/graphs help more than written clarifications

According to Edelman and Harring, some conclusions from the research at Muhlenberg are that students learn more when:

  • material is presented in short phrases rather than full paragraphs.
  • the professor talks about the information on the slide rather than having students read it on their own.
  • relevant pictures are used. Irrelevant pictures decrease learning compared to PowerPoint slides with no picture
  • they take notes (if the professor is not talking). But if the professor is lecturing, note-taking and listening decreased learning.
  • they are given the PowerPoint slides before the class.

Advice from Edelman and Harring on leveraging the working memory with PowerPoint:

Leverage the working memory by dividing the information between the visual and auditory modality.  Doing this reduces the likelihood of one system becoming overloaded. For instance, spoken words with pictures are better than pictures with text, as integrating an image and narration takes less cognitive effort than integrating an image and text.

Minimize the opportunity for distraction by removing any irrelevant material such as music, sound effects, animations, and background images.

Use simple cues to direct learners to important points or content. Using text size, bolding, italics, or placing content in a highlighted or shaded text box is all that is required to convey the significance of key ideas in your presentation.

Don’t put every word you intend to speak on your PowerPoint slide. Instead, keep information displayed in short chunks that are easily read and comprehended.

Resources for making better PowerPoint presentations

One of the mostly widely accessed websites about PowerPoint design is Garr Reynolds’ blog, Presentation Zen. In his blog entry:  “What is Good PowerPoint Design?” Reynolds explains how to keep the slide design simple, yet not simplistic, and includes a few slide examples that he has ‘made-over’ to demonstrate how to improve its readability and effectiveness. He also includes sample slides from his own presentation about PowerPoint slide design.

Please feel free to contact me for a consultation related to your teaching.

Jim O’Connor

The Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning opens on both the TUC and TUN campuses

I am pleased to announce the beginning of the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning (CILT) on both the Touro University California and Touro University Nevada campuses.

CILT was conceptualized in response to recommendations made during the last WASC accreditation visit,  and was a critical element in the TUC 5-Year Strategic Action Plan. CILT will provide support for faculty who want to improve the quality of their pedagogy  and increase student learning. As the newly appointed Director of CILT, I am currently meeting with campus administrators and faculty to best determine the needs on each campus, as well as how to best support faculty in their quests to improve their teaching. A faculty advisory committee from each campus with assist in providing direction for the Centers. In the meantime, I am happy to meet with any interested faculty. Please contact me by email at:

Jim O’Connor