University News

Updated course website launched

Unregistered students can now access course information on Canvas during shopping period

By
Staff Writer
Thursday, January 24, 2013

A new course website was launched this semester in conjunction with the finalization of the University's transition from MyCourses to Canvas.

A new version of the website courses.brown.edu was launched this month, enabling students to access syllabus information from courses for which they are not registered.

The remodeling of the website, which was launched by Computing and Information Services in conjunction with the Office of the Dean of the College, is part of the larger project to transition from MyCourses to Canvas.

Patricia Zudeck, manager of the Instructional Technology Group at CIS, and Catherine Hays Zabriskie, director of academic technology at CIS, said the updated website will provide new opportunities to students, especially during shopping period.

Zudeck said the goal was to “provide data as best as possible and be as stable and solid as possible.”

Christopher Keith, director of information technology at the Office of the Dean of the College, said the “big new feature” is the ability to access a course’s Canvas page without being registered for it. The addition of this feature allows professors to use Canvas as a tool during shopping period so that shoppers are able to participate fully in the class.

Keith said at the end of shopping period, students will automatically be removed from courses on Canvas if they have not registered for them through Banner.

Students and faculty members also played a large role in the remodeling. Zabriskie said she and her colleagues received feedback and input from students throughout the project. She said they were able to receive information from the Undergraduate Council of Students’ Academic and Administrative Affairs Committee about students’ interests, and they also met with a focus group of 20 students in the fall. Additionally, student developers worked on some of the code behind the site.

Dean of the College Katherine Bergeron feels every syllabus should be available because it is a crucial component of any course, Zudeck said.

Bergeron asked faculty members to post syllabi before the beginning of this semester, Keith said.

By 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, 566 requests to access Canvas courses had been made by 294 students on courses.brown.edu, Zudeck said.

Jessaca Leinaweaver, assistant professor of anthropology, uploaded her syllabus to the website over winter break. “The more information the students have, the better, and advisers could also find more information (about classes) useful,” she said.

Keith called the project a “community effort.” He added that the transition to Canvas was an effort to “rebrand the way academic technology is presented to the campus, and (courses.brown.edu) is a representation of that.”

The ultimate goal is to release a third version of the website this summer that will integrate Academic Gateway, the website currently used by faculty members, into courses.brown.edu, Zabriskie said. “The vision is to have all the information under one interface,” she said.