Canvas policy receives criticism from students
Pensacola State College’s (PSC’s) eLearning department implemented a new policy for the fall semester denying students access to Canvas until completing evaluations for each of their instructors. Due to the complications that could arise from this, many students are not pleased with the new policy.
The logistics behind the policy make it sound a little friendlier than it is. Instead of locking students out of Canvas, the new policy only removes, at a specified time and date, the “save for later” button that allows users to bypass the survey.
In the past, students were able to forgo teacher evaluations without it being held against them. Some teachers would entice their classes with extra credit if they completed the evaluations, but nothing compared to the consequences now faced by those who don’t want to complete a survey.
No one can deny that the evaluations help the school and teachers improve. However, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a student who is willing to sacrifice their grade, or that of their peers for better teacher feedback. This is the slippery slope we are approaching.
As it stands, the eLearning department set the lockout date and time at 11:55 P.M. on Dec 5. At that time, students could not access courses until the survey was completed or the opt-out option utilized.
E-mails were sent by the eLearning department reminding teachers to tell students about the lockout or to call the eLearning department to opt out. This, paired with a Canvas message, was believed to have informed all students.
When a student opts out, the eLearning department removes that person from the list of evaluations that are needed and they regain access to Canvas without filling anything out.
This procedure works in most cases, but not for everybody. Some students were ill-informed of the upcoming change and even fewer students were aware of their ability to opt out of the evaluations.
In a few cases, students were informed of this policy by only one of their instructors, and nearly everyone in these classes was surprised when told.
Students waiting until the last minute with an assignment due after the eLearning department’s business hours would be out of luck and forced to make a choice should problems arise while filling out the survey.
If students felt strongly enough about not filling out a survey, they could face a late grade or even receive a zero.
These are not the types of problems the eLearning department wants to create. As Dr. Bill Walters of PSC’s eLearning department says, “If we do this again, we will put the deadline at a much more reasonable time.”
Regardless if the policy is changed or not, with finals approaching and projects being due, the extra stress placed on students could not come at a worse time.
Whether or not the school foresaw this problem, a less detrimental approach to incentivizing students to provide feedback could have been implemented. PSC’s students pay for each class, and access to Canvas should not be revoked if a student does not comfortable filling out a survey.
It is a good idea to get better feedback from students, but not with consequences that could end up hurting grades. Instead, a policy such as the University of West Florida’s (UWF’s) would work better.
At UWF, students have to complete the surveys to view their grades. They can still opt out, but no matter what they do with the survey, their grades do not suffer from it.
Sometimes the best way to test an idea such as locking student access to Canvas is to throw it into a crowd like a hand grenade— unless you’re the one getting blown up.