Students Honor Innovative Use of Canvas LMS at Northwestern University

Quote overlays blue background: Faculty are reaching out to our team saying I really want to get nominated.

Identifying and acknowledging where educational technology is helping to make a difference in teaching and learning is perhaps most validating when students are the ones advocating for the courses and tools that impact them the most.

That’s certainly true for Northwestern University. This year, the university inducted its third cohort of instructors into the Northwestern Canvas Hall of Fame at its annual TEACHx conference, which highlights innovative efforts in teaching and learning through technology. 

Connor Bain, Assistant Professor, Department of Computer Science, Northwestern University, winner in the Northwestern Canvas Hall of Fame Most Innovative Course category, 2024

Connor Bain, Assistant Professor, Department of Computer Science, Northwestern University, winner in the Northwestern Canvas Hall of Fame Most Innovative Course category, 2024 (photo provided by Northwestern IT Media and Technology Innovation team).

The Canvas Hall of Fame was created in 2022 at Northwestern University to honor instructors who go above and beyond to create engaging learning experiences for their students using the Canvas learning management system (LMS). The best part? Nominations for this honor come entirely from Northwestern students.

In its first year, the university thought they might receive 30+ nominations and instead received upwards of 650 nominations, and that number has only grown. Recognizing the efforts of instructors in creating student-friendly coursework that is innovative, interactive, and inclusive delivers a win-win experience for students and faculty at Northwestern.

Each year, students nominate courses across three categories, including:

  • Most Innovative Course Site – given to the instructor who best exhibited an innovative approach to the delivery of their course in Canvas
  • Best Use of Video – recognizing faculty who use Zoom or Panopto to deliver or supplement lecture content in an engaging and, where possible, interactive way
  • Excellence in Diversity, Equity, Inclusion (DEI)/Accessibility – honoring faculty who have successfully integrated the principles of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility into their Canvas site

To be eligible, courses must be nominated by at least two students. Reviewers look at each of the nominated courses, scoring them across a rubric of factors to identify the top two or three per category. Winners are then chosen by a committee, ensuring every nominated course gets equal attention and consideration.

“We get hundreds of nominations each year, and instructors are clearly paying attention, reaching out to learn how they, too, can enhance their own courses,” said Victoria Getis, Senior Director of Teaching & Learning Technologies at Northwestern IT. “Faculty are reaching out to our team saying, ‘I really want to get nominated for the Canvas Hall of Fame – can you help make my course better?’” 

Both students and faculty are incentivized to participate in the Canvas Hall of Fame: 

  • Students who nominate any of the courses selected as winners enter in a drawing for a $10 Starbucks gift card or a $100 Visa gift card.
  • Instructors of the winning courses are publicly recognized at TEACHx and receive both a physical certificate and a cash award. 

“With Instructure’s partnership this year, we’ll be able to give a sticker to each and every nominee for the Canvas Hall of Fame that has the year and the fact that they were nominated, and we hope that we’ll see these on instructors’ office doors or laptop cases,” Getis said.

While the program offers tangible prizes for the Canvas Hall of Fame participants, it’s the feedback from students that educators value most.

“When instructors are notified that they’ve been nominated, we include a snippet of what students had to say about their course, and that means a lot to them,” says Anna Luce, Lead Learning Engineer at Northwestern. “It’s been a very successful program and we’re really happy with it.”

As a testament to the program's success, a nearby university has modeled and adapted Northwestern’s Canvas Hall of Fame approach to honoring faculty for their innovative course development efforts.

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