How To Handle the Semester Transition

Whether it is starting a new school year, or attempting to straddle the transition from one trimester to a new one, there are important administrative and curricular things to consider and pay attention to when starting up a new term. With our switch to Canvas, and the move to a separate course for each term, it is more important than ever to understand what will happen at the term transition and what steps you need to take to ensure a smooth transition. Below you will find a variety of resources and guides that walk you through different aspects of transitioning.

Setting Up a New Course

Starting in 2021, a new Canvas course will be created for each term. This is a departure from our previous iterations of Canvas, in which year-long classes had one course created in Canvas. Consequently, every teacher now has to go through the same process they did in August to set up the new Canvas courses. Each new course requires a number of different settings that need to be adjusted by a teacher including things such as adding your syllabus, setting your course home page, choosing a grading scheme and adding assignment groups with weights (aka categories and weighted grading.)

While each teacher makes different choices about exactly how their courses are set up, we recommend you use the resources below to guide you through the process and to learn more about how you might speed things up a bit.

Resources

Canvas Term Transition Checklist

Canvas Term Transition Slide Deck

Gear Up for the Course Transition

Course Shells and Sandbox Courses

Having to work through that entire checklist for multiple course, multiple times a year, can be a real time suck. Fortunately, with a little planning, Canvas makes it so you can take a few shortcuts and get onto more important things.

Most of you have learned about creating a course sandbox as a place to create and develop assignments, quizzes, discussions and modules. You can then easily copy those assets into your real courses and deploy them when you are ready. We strongly encourage you to continue utilizing your course sandbox. They are great for building a library of assets to easily deploy into new courses.

If you want to quickly roll out settings like your grading scheme, weighted assignment groups and more, a course shell is a great option, to help you get up and rolling quickly. Course shells are a little different than a course sandbox though. Think of a course shell as the negative for a photo you want to print. If you make up a course shell for each different course you teachm when the new term comes around, you can simply copy that entire course into your new course, and most of your settings* will be set up and ready to go.

*You will need to change your Front Page to the front page you import. This doesn’t happen automatically on an import.

Resources

How to set up a sandbox course

Setting up a course shell

Video on setting up a course shell

Managing Grades Across Two Terms

When planning for term transitions, one important thing to consider is how to handle assignments/grades that span across terms.

For example, consideration must be given to a project that is started in first semester but is not due until second semester. What is the best way to handle this?

That depends on your project, and how you want students to engage the content.

You might consider putting up project details and resources on a page or as an assignmnet with no submission. Then put the same details and resources in as an assignment in the new term.

You could also consider putting one aspect or step of the project as an assignment in the current term and then putting the remainder of the steps as an assignment in the new term.

The key here, is to consider when you want to collect/score student work and make sure it is available and in the correct term. Try to avoid giving students the option to submit in either term. This will make it hard to account for in the gradebook and might lead to more work for you.

Creating Assets to Be Used in Multiple Terms

While many of the things you do in your Canvas course are tied to the same term, you may find yourself having assets such as resource pages that will still be useful in the upcoming term.

Many of these assets are portable and can be easily copied to new courses.

One exception to that is Pages. Unfortunately, Pages can only be moved one at a time if you are using the Copy To function. However, a little hack is to put copies of all the pages you want to copy to your new course in a module (maybe call it Class Resources or something like that) and then use the Copy To function to move the module to the new course. This will bring over all of the pages at once.

Using Modules to organize your assets (whether they are pages, assignments, quizzes, etc.) is actually a great way to help you stay organized and reduce the friction of moving, so you might consider other modules that can pull those assets.

Adding To or Changing Grades After Term Ends

This year, starting at 11:59 PM on January 28, first semester Canvas courses will change to Past Enrollments for students. This means that they won’t be able to interact with things like assignments and quizzes in the course. If you are allowing students to submit work past that the end of the term, you will need to have a plan for handling that work (since students won’t be able to submit work.)

Since teachers will have full access to the Canvas courses until February 4, you can collect works from students in alternate ways such as on paper or by email and then enter the grades into the Canvas gradebook. Be sure to communicate this alternate form of submission to students/families so they don’t end up trying to submit through Canvas.

Helping Students Access Old Content

Even though a canvas course is concluded, students will still have view-only access to that content. As a result, you might choose to not move some content. Instead you can point them back to this content by embedding links to the content or adding a link back to the course in your new term course.

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