Answer: Only the good ones are. But don’t worry, we’re only talking about making good use of our classroom student data. Part of effective teaching is having an adaptive classroom that adjusts to meet students where they are at in order to maximize the time they spend in the zone of proximal development. But as anyone who has spent time as a classroom teacher knows, finding the time to really dig into the data can seem daunting, if not impossible.
Fortunately, Canvas provides some built in options for a mid to high level view of classroom data in real time. This won’t be a replacement for analysis of individual student responses on formative assessments. But it can be used to identify patterns in student performance over time.
“View Course Analytics” can be found on the right hand side of the main course page. The first graph shows activity by date based on page views. Page views, which are grouped by day, measure how many times students navigate to any page within your course. Often times working on an assignment in Canvas can result in several page views. Consider this, do you see a flurry of page views right when a big assignment is given? Or do the page views spike right before the due date? How many page views do you get for your class over the weekend? Looking at the patterns in page views can give us insight into our students’ work habits.
The next graph on the Course Analytics page is titled “Submissions.” For each individual assignment it will show you what percentage of the class turned in the assignment on time, late, or not at all. A common pattern observed is that from the beginning to the middle of a Trimester there is a steady decline in the percentage of students turning in assignments on time, or at all. The initial excitement of the course has subsided and the students aren’t yet feeling the pressure of the impending end to the grading period. Perhaps you implement a classroom intervention in attempt to stem the tide of apathy to homework. The Submissions graph can give you quick insight into whether your efforts are bearing fruit without having to choose between “going with your gut” or wasting your planning period calculating submission rates across several assignments.
The “Grades” graph will give you some quick stats for each individual assignment, including highest grade, median grade, low grade, and the range between the highest and lowest score. A median score close to the high score may show that there were just a few students that really struggled with this assignment, whereas a median score closer to the low score may show that a large portion of the class struggled with this assignment. The wide blue vertical bar in the middle shows what the middle 50% of the class scored. A longer bar here shows a wider distribution of scores whereas a shorter bar shows a tight clusters of scores in a small range. Consider this, could a short middle bar indicate that students scored similarly because they had misconceptions about the same concepts?
The last thing on the Course Analytics page is a table of all these statistics broken down by individual student. You can sort the list by Page Views, Participations, or Current Score. When diagnosing why a student is struggling in the class this table can add some insight. If the student with a low score in the class has a high number of page views it may indicate that they are working hard but still struggling with comprehension, whereas if a student has a low score and small number of page views it might point to an issue with engagement with the course material. This can be extrapolated to the whole class as well. Is there an correlation between page views and scores? If so, there may be a large group of students who are struggling to be engaged with the course content. If there is no correlation between score and page views or participations the larger problem might be with comprehension or with the accessibility of the content for the students.
There is a lot to digest here, but thankfully course analytics isn’t going anywhere so it will be available when you are ready for it. For those of us who struggle to find the time to dig into the data, this can be used for a quick “at a glance” option to take the temperature of how the term is going. And if you are able to use it to get ahead of any downward trends, all the better. Good luck!