Monday, 25 April 2016

Canvas and the Honeycomb Framework

At some point last year I was printing in OGGB. This is pretty normal. I spend a lot of my time printing in OGGB because I have readings we have to print ourselves and assignments that are nearly all typed. What is also fairly normal is finding other peoples' discarded off-prints. One of those was about The Honeycomb Framework (Kietzmann, Hermkens, McCarthy, Sylvestre, 2011). I suspect this was a marketing paper's tutorial (maybe even assignment) sheet. I don't know. It could be Infosys or something else. The simple reality is that quite a few business courses have cause to discuss advertising and social media and the piece of paper, which now lives in my folder, says nothing about the course of origin.

The point? In a moment of boredom (madness?) I decided to try and analyse Canvas through the Honeycomb Framework... or, at least, what I could understand of it from this single sheet of paper. Most of the below was written in late January based on my experiences in summer school. The concluding remarks are from the time of publication on this blog. If you're confused, Canvas is an online course management system in the vein of CECIL... well, it replaced CECIL.


As far as I can tell, it is impossible to know who is online (whether staff or student).


Several features enable relationships -- I don't think they are used or will be.

  • There's a PM thing, however that works. (Even now, this was written during summer school, I've had no interaction with this functionality.)
  • In fact, I think that only works on a course level (i.e. I couldn't use it to PM with friends of mine doing none of the same papers as me.)

Well, we know who is staff and who is student and the implications thereof.
  • Also possible to get something akin to provenance re: content.

Highly stratified -- default is ordering into "groups" (i.e. courses). Limited inter-group potential (none? prob. vis a vis History 2XX/3XX?).
  • Further potential to create groups (incl. by students, I doubt it will be used).

User communication seems limited based on experience of Stats 301 and the relative popularity of the Facebook page (and, indeed, we've gone off platform with Piazza for three of my courses this semester; although, to be fair, Piazza is integrated with Canvas).


Exchange/distribution in a one-to-many fashion related to the reputation and group functionalities (i.e. staff to students).
  • I don't really expect much student to student sharing.
  • Canvas appears to theoretically allow for this.

Real names and course details (insofar as "you know X as a fellow student in Y" = course details) are revealed by default (and based on some remarks I heard from a staff member, this may well be something the University/that Department would like gone).
  • Opportunity for more revelation exists (e.g. profile picture or bio).
  • Based on casual observation - use of profile images is largely extended to "images not of self" and other opportunities are not taken up.
  • And most courses don't reveal (but cannot block access to) the People tab (blah blah /users in the url) the list of students and staff in the course anyway (probably another likely candidate for what said staff member said they wanted to get rid of).

Concluding Remarks:

Lecturers often talk about how Canvas was designed for students, by students. If that is the case, it was not by students very similar to Auckland's. The People Tab mentioned above is cool and stuff but the general view is that it is "creepy" (based on conversation with two, male, friends of mine). There are also too many different ways of doing the same thing... discussions, embedded Piazza and, to an extent, chat (which I have never seen used: and may be a way of seeing who is online).

It is this last feature which seems to be causing the largest number of issues. None of my current courses (or Stats 301) have had online quiz components so maybe that works better than was the case in CECIL (the old in house system), but if it is true, that would simply be because the staff have a handle on things. As things stand, I have several well organised courses, one not so organised one and another utterly disorganised course. The trouble is that the well organised courses are organised differently... the same features do different things or use different things to do the same thing. The less said about the other two (it seems departmental: and possibly an issue of support for one course's teaching team) the better.

There are several things which are straight out inferior to CECIL. For instance, marks are purely classified by course (unless they appear in the grades window until they're read and I read them too diligently?). CECIL used to release new marks into a separate joint folder: one didn't have to keep checking individual courses to see the marks. Likewise with announcements... except when you do use the list view (which has them all in one place) it doesn't auto delete on reading (which is how I have 57 in there, despite having not read, on Canvas, only 6... I read them as emails). It's possible that CECIL had this issue too but I just never noticed.

Most irritatingly, the stats aren't so good. Min, Max and Mean: no median, LQ or UQ. Just a box and whisker plot... so no density information. Useless.

Bring back CECIL.

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