Supporting students off-campus

Photo by Andrew Neel
This blog post explains some of the ways GSA staff can continue to support students off-campus.

Tutors can communicate with students and provide access to many types of learning materials via Canvas and other integrated tools.

Detailed information about the methods listed below is available on the GSA Canvas for Staff guide. For further help or advice please contact

Communicating with students

Maintaining good communication with your students vital.
The easiest way to communicate with your entire class is to post an announcement from within Canvas. Students will receive an email notification (if they have not changed their notification settings), and will also see the announcement when they log into Canvas. Here is a useful Canvas guide to making announcements.

Online conference tools

There are two options available to staff at GSA for web conferencing available within Canvas: Virtual Classroom and Canvas Conferences. Both these tools are easily accessible from your Canvas course pages, so students will already be enrolled in their correct course groups.

Virtual Classroom (Collaborate Ultra) 

Screen shot of Collaborate Ultra virtual classroom
Screenshot of Collaborate Ultra being used in a virtual classroom scenario

‘Virtual Classroom’ is the name used at GSA for Blackboard Collaborate Ultra. This tool allows you to share your screen, poll students, live-chat, and open breakout rooms for smaller discussions. These sessions can also be recorded for those that cannot attend a class in real time. 

Contact to turn on Virtual Classroom for you in your course.

Chat: Canvas Real-time Chat tool

For simple, text-based chat with students, consider taking advantage of Canvas’s Chat feature. With Chat you can answer student questions in real time and facilitate a discussion. Canvas also keeps a record of chat history so that you can refer to it later. To activate, you’ll need to move chat from the hidden area of the navigation to the active area of your Canvas course.

To do this Click on Settings, then click on the Navigation tab at the top and drag Chat into the upper area. Here is the guide for managing course navigation links in Canvas.

Planet eStream – Create a ScreenCast or Webcam recording

Consider using Planet eStream to quickly create and share videos with your class or create video assignments for your students. Here is a guide creating video content, and here is a guide on how to embed Planet eStream content into your Canvas course.


Engage students by setting up discussions. Discussions can be for a class or group, with students sharing their posts with the other students, or discussions can be set up as private journals visible to the teachers and student only. Here is a Canvas guide to creating discussions as an instructor.


You can also use Padlet as a discussion tool – it embeds nicely into Canvas and is more engaging than an ordinary Canvas discussion. It’s free to set up. Here is information on using Padlet as a teaching tool.

Canvas Survey

Creating a Canvas quiz or survey can be a great way to engage students. Here is a guide to creating quizzes and surveys in Canvas.

Course Download

Students can download whole courses if required, due to travel or limited internet connections. All content will be available but the student cannot interact or submit assignments, or access embedded content. Here is a guide to downloading courses.

Need Help? Contact Us!

GSAs Learning Technology office is available to assist you in developing your Canvas course. Please contact us at or for 24/7 Canvas specific support you can click on ‘Help & Links’ within the Canvas navigation menu.

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