Friday, September 2, 2016

Spreadsheet versus the LMS

When is a spreadsheet not a spreadsheet? When it is inside an LMS...

The whirlwind of the semester starting hasn't left much time for blogging and documenting, but there are so many things I want to write up, esp. because of the switch to Canvas this semester. I'll just have to tackle things one at a time, and since I was just now making good use of my Class Roster spreadsheet (Google Sheet), I thought I would say a few words about why the Canvas Gradebook faux spreadsheet does not work for me, and why I use my own spreadsheet instead., just as I did with D2L. Here's a screenshot of part of the sheet; details below:

* Sort by classes. Yes, I teach two "separate" classes, but my overall workflow is what I need to manage, and I need to see both classes at once. I do that in the spreadsheet; I can sort by Myth-Folklore or Indian Epics as needed, or mix them, and I color code those rows because, at least right now, I am still learning which student is in which class. Sometimes I want to organize my day based on both classes combined, sometimes I want to do one class at a time; the spreadsheet lets me sort either way.

* Sort by weeks. Students are on their own schedule, some having already finished Week 2, and some even working on Week 4 project assignments. I need to be able to see that at a glance. The Canvas Gradebook is a nightmare; I cannot do anything to configure the columns in there (I can't even select which columns do display; I can only smush them to make them thin: argh). This way, I can quickly sort to see who is ahead, who is behind, and just what I can expect to come in from any student. (I need to know that to manage my own daily quota of work.)

* Sort by assignment stages. I often send reminders to students based on what assignment they have due in the current week. The students are all on individualized schedules that diverge more and more as the weeks go by (based on type of project, revisions, etc.). So, I need to be able to sort both by week and by assignment.

* Access email. See previous note. I send reminders based on conditions that Canvas cannot understand (it apparently can only message students based on a single assignment condition...?). This way I can sort and filter as needed on multiple conditions, and then grab the resulting email list, either for both classes together or separately.

* Sort by "the stack."There is where I can quickly see what project assignments are waiting for my comments; I can also quickly alphabetize that list to put in the public Google Doc where I let my students know that I have received their project, and it also alerts them when they should have gotten an email back from me with detailed comments.

* See preferred name. Yes, Canvas lets students display their preferred name in some areas of the course... but not in the grading area. I want to be able to see preferred name, first name, and last name, and be able to sort on them as needed.

* Blog address. I need immediate access to my students' blogs; this gives me a clickable link for each blog.

* Color coding. Yes, it's just me, but I really rely on color coding, including conditional color coding that is so easy in a Google Sheet. Canvas marks late submissions red, but it doesn't let me control that or any of the other kinds of conditional displays I would like to see (like flagging students who are not currently passing the class, which is an important factor in whether or not I send email reminders).

Okay, back to work - there is lots more I could say about my workload management and communication with students. Suffice to say that even though lots of data in Canvas could help me to do that, the faux spreadsheet that is the Gradebook doesn't let me function efficiently. I need a real spreadsheet to do my job. :-)

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