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February 11, 2013

A Heads Up for Creating Peer Review Writing Assignments in Canvas

Below is a guest post from Gary Lawrence, adjunct English faculty member teaching online and hybrid at GCC. He shares his experience with doing peer reviews using Canvas and points out one minor flaw in Canvas that everyone should be aware of to help out this process. If you have any questions, let me know and I’ll pass them on to Gary.

This is the way the peer review process works in Canvas: As part of a draft assignment, I usually let Canvas assign the peer reviews automatically. The cleanest way to do that, I think, is to “lock” submissions, so you don’t have a bunch of late contenders to deal with.  So under the draft assignment, I give a due date, and then  I select “more options” (shown in blue box below) and check “require peer reviews,” “automatically assign peer reviews,” pick the number of reviews per student, tell Canvas when to assign the peer reviews (default = assignment due date), and then “lock submits after (date)” to keep it clean.    I also happen to restrict inputs to .doc or .docx files so students can use “track changes” features of MS Word for line comments.


The issue:  Setting up new assignments is fine.  Be cautious using this “lock” function: When the assignment “locks,” the students literally don’t see any more text except the assignment title/due date et al and the words “assignment locked.” The text of your assignment disappears to them.  But you still see it in full.

The main issue is when you copy a course from one semester to the other.  While (I believe) the due date and date for peer review assignments carries over to new dates, the assignment “lock” date DOES NOT — it remains the original assignment date.  So a spring 2013 draft assignment (Jan – May) had an assignment lock date of December 2012, because I copied the contents from a Fall 2012 class.

These occurrences are hard to discover but easy to fix — they are often discovered during class presentations (LOL).  To the instructor, the entire text of the assignment is still there — but there is a little note at the top saying, “Assignment locked December XX,  2012 at 12:01 am”).  To the students, the entire assignment is blank, no text, nothing more than the assignment title, due date, and points.

The fix?  Go in to the assignment, click “more options, and manually CHANGE the “assignment lock” date to sometime AFTER the “reviews assigned” date/time.  My assignments are all due at 11:55 pm, so my “lock” times are 12:01 the next morning.

Requested Fix from Canvas: Make “locked” dates change along with “assignment due dates” and “peer review assigned” dates.   This is currently a manual function to fix and as noted, easy to miss.

To learn more about how to create your own peer review assignments in Canvas, read the next post that shows you how to do that. Gary has a video that I share with you.

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