Posts tagged: philosophy teaching

Teaching Upper Division Philosophy in Canvas – What I’ve Done

I expect that most philosophers and other academics will be thrust into online teaching in the coming weeks. I’m currently teaching a course (PHIL 3170: Philosophy of Religion) in the classroom that I’ve already taught online six times. So I thought I’d put together a post on what I’ve found works. Unfortunately, only some of what I’ve said here will help people whose universities do not use Canvas. Also, I assume throughout that you have the bandwidth and storage space to do as I’ve done, and that you’ve already prepped the readings, your notes, and course discussion topics.

(1) Record Lectures: I put together Powerpoint slides and then record lectures where I talk through the slides. I have used different programs to record lectures, and the one I’ve found most useful is AceThinker Screen Grabber Pro. It records your voice and your monitor screen at the same time, and creates nice, neat MP4 files. However, the program has a limit in how large its files can get, so most of my lectures have three separate MP4 files. That’s fine, though, because students appreciate shorter videos that they can digest in stages.

(2) Create a Page then a Module: I then create a page in the “Pages” tab where I upload the videos, and then a module in the “Module” tab. I then add the relevant “page” to the Module, then I upload the slides into the module.

(3) Create a Discussion: to facilitate student involvement, I then create a Discussion, which I add to the Module. I don’t know how to create an optimal discussion, but here’s what I’ve found to be useful. I require each student to offer at least a 100-word question or comment, and a 100-word response to another student’s question. I award participation points based whether students actually do this, and based on the quality of their comments. I will then add my own comments in the discussion in order to correct misunderstandings or to incentivize students to focus more on a thread I find of particular use. This process doesn’t always work, but I’ve found it creates a good balance between the number of threads and the number of comments in each thread. I know my approach here could be improved, however.

I do find that upper division philosophy students handle the discussions pretty well. I don’t know how lower division students would handle this process in general, though I did teach Intro Ethics one summer on Canvas and the discussion requirements didn’t work very well at all. The nice thing about upper division philosophy students is that many are pretty self-motivated.

(4) Assign Times and Due Dates: you will also need to specify when the module is available, when it stops being available, and when assignments within the module are due. Once you do this, just make sure the module has the right titles and feel.

(5) Complete Module and Repeat: Once you’ve finished one module, repeat these steps until you have all the modules you need.

I also assign papers through the assignment tab, and I provide comments on rough drafts and final drafts electronically, but y’all know all about that.

Feel free to ask me any questions through Facebook, Twitter, or the comment section below.