Announcements! The word itself indicates a message that is so important that it is SHOUTED! So, if announcements are so important, why do they seem to be relegated to the corner in Canvas? For our Blackboard power users, the Canvas transition has produced some confusion around announcements because of the slightly different way that they are set up, migrated, and shared with students within our new LMS. Here are a few facets of Canvas Announcements that you should be aware of and, where possible, some ways that you can work around them.
How do I Make my Announcements Stand Out?
By default, in Blackboard the course announcements were the first thing that students saw when they entered a course shell, making them a great place for faculty to deliver information about course navigation, important deadlines, or vital content. In contrast, the Canvas default settings place students into the modules area to view the content when entering the course. Though you have the ability to choose a custom home page in Canvas, the options are limited, and the announcements area is NOT one of the possible options!
You CAN, however, choose to display a fixed number of the most recent course announcements above the course homepage content (kind of like having the best of both worlds—students see the course content AND your announcements on the same home page).
To enable this feature, visit the settings page in your course by clicking on the last link in the course navigation menu. Ensure that you are looking at the course details tab, then click more options at the bottom of the page, as shown below.
Then, you will see the options shown in the image to the left. Check "Show recent announcements on course home page” and select the number of announcements that you would like to display. When you have finished, click “Update Course Details”.
Now, students will be able to see BOTH your chosen home page AND our most recent course announcements when they access your course.
Why is there a U where my Picture Should Be?
Have you noticed a U with a circle in it where your picture would normally be in some of your announcements? That “U” indicates that Canvas thinks that this announcement has been posted by an “unknown” author. This leads me to some surprising news—attribution of authorship for announcements does not transfer from course to course in Canvas. So, when your course was migrated over from Blackboard (or when you copy it from term to term in Canvas in the future), your name and picture will disappear from your announcements.
If you are among the majority of our instructors and like to copy announcements from course to course to save the time of re-typing messages that need to be sent out each term, you can either leave your announcements unattributed (keep the U) or manually copy and paste the announcements from your old course into brand new announcements in the new one, as explained in this Canvas Community post.
How do I make my Announcements Disappear?
When creating new announcements in Canvas, you have likely noticed the “delay posting” option (shown to the left), which allows you to set up announcements to be released to your students in the future. It is very useful to be able to make your assignments appear on a certain date, however, the existence of this post option has led many professors to ask how you set the announcements to disappear on a later date, as you could in Blackboard!
If you are one of the many professors at FSCJ who like to keep the announcements area focused for your students by releasing one announcement a week by utilizing pre-determined post and removal settings, this cannot be done in an equivalent manner with Canvas.
You can, however, use the instructions above to display a limited number of announcements at the top of your course homepage (possibly just one for that week) and then hide the announcements link on your course’s side navigation so that your students cannot use it to view past announcements, as explained here. This can help you to maintain a focused experience for your students while keeping a record of the course announcements for yourself in the announcements index page.
Can Students be Notified that a New Announcement has been Posted?
When creating announcements in Blackboard, instructors were presented with a handy checkbox to send a copy of the announcement as an email to enrolled students, as shown below. There is no equivalent option when creating announcements in Canvas, however, by default students receive emailed notifications of all announcements that are posted in all courses immediately. It is good to know, though, that students (like faculty) have the ability to alter their notification preferences by changing the frequency and the destination of Canvas notifications, as explained here. This can be done in the notifications area of all users’ profiles, and can allow users to receive emailed or texted notices of common course actions daily, weekly, or not at all. It may be a good practice to let students know of your expectations for notifications at the start of the course so that they can adjust any preferences that may have been altered to meet the requirements of your course.