Making the teaching & learning experience better - Yale and beyond

December 13, 2018

The holidays are a time for giving back, and in that spirit, Yale is sharing several homegrown Canvas integrated applications with our peer universities. In collaboration with the Poorvu Center (formerly known as the Center for Teaching and Learning), Ismail Orabi, a developer in the ITS Student and Academic Support Systems team, built several applications using the Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) standard; these tools are getting attention from schools around the world.
 
LTI applications, are built to integrate directly and seamlessly into Canvas and other Learning Management Systems (LMS). Individuals can access a variety of tools directly within Canvas without the need for custom integrations. LTI applications also use a specific authentication framework, making them more secure and able to consume roles set in Canvas for student, instructor, teaching fellow, etc. More information on the LTI standard can be found here.

After hearing about an integrated Placement Calculator tool from a colleague at Yale’s Math Department, Stanford University contacted us to learn more about our LTI application. Ismail built the application based on requirements from the Poorvu Center; the application allows the math department to create custom rubrics that will take numeric scores from placement tests taken in Canvas’s native Quiz tool and convert them into course recommendations available immediately for students. This tool works together with the Post’Em tool to allow instructors to bulk upload individualized comments feedback for students via a .csv file format. Instructors can download the placement recommendations from the Placement Calculator in a Post’Em-ready format where they can add text comments to students. We will share both tools in a public GitHub repository.

When the university transitioned our LMS from Classes*v2 to Canvas, the Poorvu Center identified several critical gaps that would need to be closed in order for faculty to fully transition their courses. One such gap was the ability to create appointment blocks for students to sign up for office hours. Yale had previously developed a Sign Up tool for Classes*v2 that it had shared with peer universities, revised, and reshared with the community. Oxford University has been a great partner, adding enhancements to the tool which they commit back to the GitHub repository.
 
Finally, after initially using a vended tool, the Poorvu Center asked ITS to build an Anonymous Feedback tool. The LTI application allows students to submit written feedback to their instructors and teaching assistants, and allows instructors to view that feedback directly in Canvas or download via a .csv file. This fall, the tool will be modified to gather mid-semester feedback – a provost-level initiative that seeks to increase student feedback. The tool will contain an optional set of questions and allow instructions to add custom questions. Students will be prompted to answer these questions mid-way through the semester, rather than only evaluating their courses at the end of term. This tool will be shared at the request of Georgetown Qatar, who contacted us after unsuccessfully investigating similar vended options.
 
Many of the applications that ITS is now able to share with our peers are the result of past collaborations and tools built and shared with us. The close partnership with the Poorvu Center team, who interact directly with the faculty and students these applications serve, ensures that we are building useful and meaningful tools that making the teaching and learning experience better – both at Yale and beyond.