INTO Student Community through Canvas

Stephen Grinsell, Director of Studies & Student Experience

INTO Newcastle University

What did you do?

Created a student community on Canvas to initially support student orientation and induction weeks, but to also give a home to INTO Student Support and its various elements.

Screenshot of Canvas page with clear signpost links to key information

For orientation and induction we needed a space to host information on a range of topics including how to navigate Canvas, getting to know Newcastle via virtual tours, the purpose of the likes of NUSU and the Language Resource Centre, information about INTO and the University via live and pre-recorded presentations from key INTO Newcastle and Newcastle University personnel, access to important documents, and skills development sessions that were not in the general curriculum.

Canvas course – INTO Newcastle Student Support Community

Students – 577 INTO students


Screenshot of canvas page with induction timetable clearly labelled and colour coordinated

Who is involved?

Stephen Grinsell, Director of Studies & Student Experience INTO Newcastle University

How did you do it?

Set up the basic structure for the Canvas student community where the home page (which changed from orientation to induction after orientation week had finished) linked to everything else. For student induction there was a need to ensure all messages prior to study on the 18th January were delivered to the students.

The intention going forward is that the community will be developed in accordance with the way that students use it on a day to day basis. This will create a Canvas community that is informal and relaxed, and specific to what the students want. Then hopefully students will start to take the community over and run it for themselves. However, there will be a formal element for anything that needs to be communicated by INTO, but feeding into in the community rather than controlling everything that the students see.

Screenshot of Canvas welcome page with links to key information

Everything that needs to be conveyed to the students can be found via links from the homepage. Any accessible links are kept wherever possible to one level rather than multiple levels. It was also important to make the page content visible without scrolling.


Why did you do it?

Other than to ensure a successful orientation and induction programme – to host information on the INTO Newcastle support teams (Student Experience, Student Progress, Student Wellbeing etc.) and importantly for the Student Experience team, to have a space to promote the relevance of extracurricular activities, the events themselves, and thus to increase student engagement with them.

The Canvas community allowed the Student Experience team access to all students from the beginning of day one, and controlled what the students needed to see and do for both orientation and induction, and from there drip feed important information when it was required. This prevented  overwhelming students with too much information, but allowed them to see a clear structure to the weeks, and gave them access to some content which they can read and digest in their own time.

Previously the Student Experience concept had to contest with a range of bureaucratic and intensive induction week activities for their attention and focus, with no “buffer” week pre-induction where we could engage with them as they were registered. The Canvas community now puts Student Experience at the forefront of the students’ “arrival”. As the academic year continues, it will also be a space that makes it easier for teaching staff to signpost students towards extra-curricular events and activities, as Canvas’s course structure does not easily allow cross-course communication.

Does it work and Student Voice

Students have really engaged with the community since it going live on the 4th January. The induction homepage has been accessed by all 570 plus students and has been accessed over 5,000 times. In addition, issues with accessing Canvas, the academic courses and the range of the usual IT questions have been reduced to a minimum.

Comments from students

“It felt was very detailed and everything was very well explained. Helped us a lot and cleared all our queries.”

“It was perfect and so helpful, I knew a lot of new stuff. I appreciate your efforts to deliver the information in the best way possible. I wouldn’t ask for anything else to be done or changed.”

“Introduction week was very insightful and really helped with getting a hold of information we really needed! I can’t wait to start classes next week and thanks to you and your team I feel ready.”

“Thank you for the introduction and guidance which are really helpful. thanks for everything that you and your team have done, providing us with a pleasant and satisfying start, and I’m looking forward to learning in the future. Very detailed and everything was very well explained. Helped us a lot and cleared all our queries.”

Graduate Framework

This approach develops the following attributes:

  • Engaged
  • Resiliant
  • Creative, innovative and enterprising
  • Future focused
  • Confident

Colleagues can find out more about the Graduate Framework on the University intranet.

Useful Resources

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