Online education relies on discussion boards to simulate classroom conversation by asking students to read a text and post a series of responses, both original and in dialogue with peers. While discussion boards can be extremely valuable, they can also be frustrating for teachers like me to work with because of their hierarchical structure, making it necessary to click and scroll from one thread to another and from one discussion to another, to see who has responded to whom and to what degree. Not only do you potentially miss important user trends, the time it takes to perform all this clicking and scrolling is a disincentive to your own active engagement with discussions. while SpeedGrader presents the comments of individual students, these are disconnected from their context.
Canopy solves this problem for Canvas users by presenting a cross-tab view of the entire discussion landscape: a row for each student, and a column for each discussion board instead of long chains of conversation. I now have at my fingertips more and better data about students’ engagement with one another and with the subject material and, crucially, the ability to respond from an interactive spreadsheet-like view of activity.
Canopy saves time, reduces frustration, and gives me immediate insight into classroom discussions in a truly innovative way. Canopy also provides summary counts and word counts along with analytics that identify students who excel and students who struggle. Moreover, Canopy presents information that allows me to ask questions impossible to ask otherwise—or at least not without hours of manual calculation and homemade spreadsheets. If you rely on discussion boards in your online classes, you need Canopy. I cannot be more enthusiastic in my endorsement.
Jim Benton teaches at Eastern Oregon University. He holds an MFA and MA in Creative Writing and before joining Eastern Oregon University, he worked as a sailor, an electrician, a nuclear engineer, a bill collector, a retail clerk, night janitor, rock musician, bank executive, and private investigator. He may have glossed over one or two minor enterprises.
His poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction and book reviews have been published in Oregon East, Calaveras Station, Poetry Now, Convergence: an Online Journal of Poetry and Art, Word Riot, Raintown Review, Ragazine.cc, Concord Vol. 3, Flatmancrooked, The Possibility Place, Mixer, Rattle, and other journals. He is the author of Sailor, a collection of poetry.