Aug 26, 2022

5 powerful apps you can plug into Canvas, according to our superusers

Aug 26, 2022
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When you’re in a pickle with your teaching and learning, often you just want someone to say, ‘I’ve got just the app to plug in and play for that!’. 

External apps are third-party tools that can integrate with a learning management system (LMS). Learning Tools Interoperability is an integration standard, and the acronym LTIs has become a shorthand for external apps.  

They add functionality to a course in an LMS to boost engagement, help make knowledge stick. Think flashcards and mini quizzes, etc. But how secure are they? Will your system administrator allow you to use them? How can you be sure?

Your starting point could be the EduAppCenter, the public catalogue of external apps you can plug-in-and-play safely on the Canvas LMS either at course or account level. Having a standard is important, and with more than six million concurrent users, Canvas can vouch for the roadworthiness of LTIs compatible with our LMS. 

There’s a huge choice of useful apps on the EduAppCenter. So, we handpicked a group of superusers for their recommendations about the most powerful LTIs that help make their day-to-day work a breeze. 

Grade Guardian

Grade Guardian is a real-time tool to address the high risk of students dropping out or failing courses . Philip Callil, Director of IT & Digital Learning, says his school, Yarra Valley Grammar in Victoria, has been using this app since 2018.

“We wanted a one-page snapshot for each subject and tutor that could display the overall progress of each student.  By analysing student performance and behaviour across all subjects daily, Grade Guardian simplifies the tracking of academic progress through Canvas,” says Philip.

Grade Guardian will also show if a student hasn’t submitted an assignment and if a teacher hasn’t enabled a grading scheme, nor marked, recorded, and released assessments. These anomalies result in incomplete data, negatively impacting tutors’ accuracy when commenting on and making decisions about student learning, says Philip.

The app has an ‘email all teachers’ button that allows messaging with an individual student’s educators. It also gives visibility about students across a whole year level for year-level coordinators and school leadership. 

Yarra Valley Grammar tackles its risk identification “solely with the data in Canvas”, Philip says.

“Using Grade Guardian through Canvas helps show swings in student performance and correlate that with what else may be going on in a student’s life. It lets you better organise and use the data that’s in Canvas.”

Canva

Paul Harmon, the Digital Learning Leader at Sydney Pre-K to 12 school Barker College, says he’s been using Canva for years. However, until the end of 2021, only the Canvas admin team was using it to “develop buttons and images as part of our course design”.

Since then, Canva has opened up its professional suite to the education sector for free. Now all teaching staff and students can access it to develop, design, and produce graphics from their school accounts, says Paul.

“The Canva app has opened a range of excellent learning opportunities using the amazing design capabilities. Having recently been part of a year 5 task where students had to design a brochure, I could see first-hand the benefits the integration offered.

“The teacher was able to scaffold the task by creating the template in Canva, and the results were simply amazing; a much higher quality piece of work was produced much to the great satisfaction of the students.”

Barker’s teachers and students use the LTI for a single point of access to the Canva design suite. Teachers can create templates and assignments using those tools and then submit them directly to a Canvas task.

H5P

H5P, short for HTML5 Package, is a JavaScript open-source platform to create, share and use interactive HTML5 content through a browser. Kerry Buttery, VETNexus’ Director & Designer says, “it’s the best – I try to get as many clients onto it as possible”. Queensland-based VETNexus offers compliance and eLearning support for registered training organisations.

Kerry has been using H5P since it launched in 2018, as well as its predecessor, H5P, then a WordPress plugin. The latest H5P plugs straight into Canvas and is “much more streamlined for creating content”, she says.

“Using H5P, you can make content more engaging and alive by adding in drag and drop, hot spots, or memory games, etc. – a whole range of different content types, that is, ever-expanding. It can take your course from passive intake of information to active learning through interaction.”

Canvas Badges (Badgr)

Our Lady of Fatima University (OLFU) is a private autonomous university in the Philippines that has used Canvas since 2018. Dr Michael Joseph Diño, the Director of the university’s Research Development and Innovation Center, says the real test of an LMS is its functionality for learning assessments. 

“I’m teaching undergrad and post-grad courses and using a lot of assessment tools from Canvas, and I find the data analytics very helpful. We have an escape room to make learning, collaboration, and engagement more fun. I’ve even set up an online Easter ’egg’ hunt, using gamification to infuse joy in learning and for students to earn digital awards via Canvas Badges (formerly known as Badgr) for completing a module in a course,” says Dr Diño.

That LTI and a suite of others, such as Labster, Lecturio, and Respondus Lockdown Browser, have helped OLFU boost its client satisfaction scores by 25% and lifted students’ learning outcomes by 30% compared to pre-pandemic, he says.

Cidi Labs Design Tools

By enrolments, BCITO is the largest educational organisation supporting on-the-job learning in New Zealand’s construction industry. It works with 9,000+ employers of building and construction apprentices. Nicki Alori, BCITO’s Digital Learning Product Owner, says her organisation continues to customise its portal with LTIs. 

It’s worked with Cidi Labs Design Tools to build an app to give apprentices a one-page view across different standards to access their market assignments, photographs, training advisor comments, and course progress. The information is colour coded to match sections in their printed resources.

“At a glance, they can see a dashboard with all learners assigned to them, what percentage they’ve completed their qualification, how many engagements they’ve had in the past 30 days and see summaries of those,” says Nicki.

“An LMS allows us to have more regular engagement with deeper learning conversations and track that.”

The app developer, Cidi Labs, makes plugins for Canvas and offers them in the Cloud via a software-as-a-service. It’s a partner of Canvas.

You can find out more about other LTI tools that also integrate seamlessly with the Canvas LMS. 

Here’s a link to the Canvas guide for LTIs and how to use the Canvas App Center to find the above apps to get you on your way.