Senate Assembly debates implementation of Canvas

Monday, April 18, 2016 - 7:39pm

Chair of SACUA Senate Assembly Silke Weineck speaks at a SACUA meeting at Palmer Commons on Monday.

Chair of SACUA Senate Assembly Silke Weineck speaks at a SACUA meeting at Palmer Commons on Monday. Buy this photo
Marina Ross/Daily

 

Members of the University’s Senate Assembly focused on the University’s transition to Canvas at Monday’s meeting, during which guests from the University’s Information and Technology Services, the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching and the faculty at large were in attendence. The Senate Assembly raised concerns about the transition to Canvas, a learning system through which teachers can interact with students and post syllabi, assignments and information about their classes. The University has been transitioning from Ctools to Canvas since fall 2015. Currently, approximately 64 percent of courses have moved to Canvas from Ctools.

Sean DeMonner, executive director of teaching and learning in ITS, said all courses will transfer to Canvas in fall 2016.

“We have roughly two-thirds of the faculty’s courses being delivered through Canvas,” DeMonner said. “That represents pretty good news in terms of the adoption. The more challenging news is that there’s still a third to go. We’ve got until September, and there’s still on the order 1,500 faculty who needs support to migrate to the new system.”

Ronit Greenberg, an instructional consultant at the CRLT, shared with the Senate Assembly feedback the Center had received from faculty members regarding Canvas. Faculty were asked whether they agreed that Canvas is an easy-access and applicable tool. Greenberg said there has been a decline in faculty preference.

“We’ve seen a bit of a drop in terms of the overall preference from the instructors,” Greenberg said. “We see more people in the ‘neutral’ and ‘disagree’ categories than we do before.”

According to DeMonner, possible reasons for this decline could be the amount of people joining Canvas and the decrease in excitement about a new interface.

“Initially, what often happens with new technology is something new comes out, and there’s a huge explosion of hype,” DeMonner said. “Canvas is going to do everything for you that you could possibly want it to do. You get a huge peak of expectation.”

For the migration process, DeMonner said ITS will be there for faculty to help with the process. The department will have one-on-one student help, workshops, office hours and other tools for faculty members.

“We will be reaching out with a friendly hand to encourage folks to take advantage of the resources that we have,” he said. “Our ability to help with that migration is going to be much stronger and much more effective the more wait time we have, so if people get engaged and connected over the summer, we’re quite confident we can meet all those needs.”

Business Prof. Nigel Melville provided a faculty perspective on transitioning to Canvas. He said many activities remain unchanged but occur on an improved platform.

“We’re doing things we’ve always done, but in a much better way,” Melville said.

Melville added that one unique tool of Canvas he enjoys is the ability to capture video directly from Canvas to tell students about assignments and reminders.

“Students are overloaded all the time; they get so many signals by the minute,” he said. “I find video to be useful.”

The Senate Assembly responded to guest speakers with heated discussion about the implementation of Canvas. Several faculty members voiced concern over what they feel is minimal support or help to set up the website. Many faculty members stated they would have prefered continuing to use Ctools.

DeMonner said Ctools no longer provided the tools that students and faculty need in this day and age.

“Ten years in Web years is an awfully long time, and there’s things that we’re able to do in Canvas that just wouldn’t have been cost-prohibitive had we attempted to do those things in Ctools,” DeMonner said.

The Senate Assembly also addressed the ongoing debate about the Office of Institutional Equity and Standards Practice Guide — a set of rules for the faculty to follow. The OIE is the office that investigates the possible violation of these rules and reports on the sanctions for faculty members who have breached the terms of SPG.

Silke-Maria Weineck, the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs chair and a professor of comparative literature, said the current SPG Professional standards are vague and leave a large space for interpretation.

“If OIE investigates you for discrimination or harassment, and the OIE finds no violation of any policy, that does not mean you are in the clear,” Weineck said. “Your dean might then decide to sanction you under the Professional Standards SPG.”

Weineck announced that University Provost Martha Pollack has agreed to change wordings in SPG Professional Standards policy to clarify the rules.

“This is a big success,” Weineck said. “We did not get everything we wanted, but this is where we are.”

Despite a success with SPG, Weineck said issues still remain with grievability standards within OIE.

In March 2015, a committee within SACUA released a report citing three OIE investigations related to the adequacy of due process protections in OIE procedures. Though some changes to the OIE processes have been made, SACUA continues to fight to change the grievability standards.

“You cannot grieve the findings of an OIE report,” Weineck said. “You cannot say, ‘this report is mistaken, has factual errors, is unfair,’ in appealing the report itself.”

Under the new sexual misconduct policy which goes into effect in July, students have the ability to appeal both sanctions and findings. Weineck said she felt faculty should have the due process capabilities that students have.

In response to SACUA’s concerns, the Senate Assembly voted unanimously on a set of recommendations to the Provost about OIE grievability. SACUA member John Lehman, a professor of biology, said he saw no reason for faculty to oppose this recommendation.

“In the three cases that we investigated, there were really no findings of misconduct against the faculty members that were written in those reports, and in some cases we couldn’t even find charges that these people were supposed to respond to,” Lehman said. “It’s a very fatally flawed process. The point is there were sanctions anyways.”

In addition to OIE discussion, Senate Assembly also elected a fourth new SACUA member. During elections for new members at the March 21 Senate Assembly meeting, two faculty members tied for the position.

In a run-off election during Monday’s meeting, Social Work Prof. Robert Ortega beat Chemistry Prof. Neil Marsh for the fourth spot on SACUA for the upcoming year.