Multitasking is a constant challenge in higher education, but our Canvas Course Templates offer one concrete way to help mitigate some of that.

In the lead-up to each semester, one of the most time-consuming tasks on an instructor’s plate is creating their course site on Canvas. Often, it involves creating new material (if it’s a new class or has new components), importing material over (if it’s a class they’ve taught before), and updating any existing material from that import. On top of all that, you also have fit it all together in a package that is accessible, attractive, and organized enough that learners use it correctly—and that’s just the “building” side of the course development! That doesn’t even begin to take into consideration the background labor and work that goes into planning the course, making sure the objectives, activities, materials, and assessments are all aligned before you build them in Canvas.

It’s a lot. And it’s a task that, itself, involves multitasking as you bounce from course element to course element and process to process.

Gloria Mark and Multitasking

Multitasking is often familiar, well-trod territory for faculty. In a recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, “Multitasking is the Enemy of Academic Productivity,” professor of informatics Gloria Marks leans on her background in researching multitasking to discuss the ways in which faculty often feel pressured to multitask.

Mark notes that faculty are in a unique professional position that demands attention in impossible, often divergent, ways. Between the responsibilities of teaching, service, and research, instructors are often caught being pulled in three directions—even if they’re fortunate enough to have those areas overlap.

She goes on to outline some specific challenges that this creates for faculty, most problematic of which is that this leads to more fragmented work, creating additional stress and contributing to the erosion of an instructor’s work-life balance.

Ultimately, multitasking in academia is a persistent and, at times, unique challenge, and while Mark offers suggestions for broadly addressing it, what can be done about the specific multitasking involved in getting your course site ready for the semester ahead?

Get new posts by email

Enter: Canvas Course Templates

Instead of having to plan a course and build the course in Canvas, consider using one of our Canvas Course Templates. Designed with Transparency in Learning & Teaching (TILT) and Quality Matters (QM) at their core, our Canvas Course Templates are built so that their structures best set faculty up for success.

The template includes empty templates for modules, learning guides, assignments, discussion boards, and more, allowing faculty to fill in or copy and paste their course information into a pre-built, mindfully designed structure. While the content requires adapting or massaging when placing it in the template, the tedious, labor-intensive work of building the course site from the ground up is taken off instructors’ plates.

Additionally, one of our templates (the Enhanced Template) is built using our Beautiful Canvas Pages Made Easy design elements. This means that the built-in Canvas design elements have been modified or swapped out with cleaner and more visually attractive design elements. Not only can you have a mindfully designed, pre-built structure to work within, but that structure can feature design elements more well-suited to engaging your learners.

Module #: Learning Guide, Instructor Editing Note, Module #: Topic/Title, Module Overview, Module Objectives, Major Project Due at End of Module
Our Enhanced Template includes Beautiful Canvas Pages Made Easy design elements.

Now, make no mistake, using a template will still likely involve a healthy dose of multitasking—it’s a pretty inherent part of designing and building a course. However, using a course template simplifies the overall process, lessening the multitasking burden.

Think of it like this, if a Canvas course site is a house, the template allows you to begin building that house with the foundation and framing in place, rather than starting with just a patch of bare dirt.

Concluding Thoughts

Teaching is difficult, especially in higher ed where our individual three-legged stools of teaching, service, and research constantly threaten to topple over if we don’t stay balanced. But there are ways that the multitasking that comes packaged with our professional lives can be reduced and simplified (again, you’ve got to read that Mark article), and, as a unit, we in Teaching Innovation are here to help with that. 

While our Canvas Course Templates are one concrete way we can help, they certainly aren’t the only one, so if you’re feeling overwhelmed when it comes to teaching, reach out to us, and let’s see how we can help.

In what ways do you find yourself often multitasking through the semester? After reading this post and the Mark article, are there ways some of that multitasking can be alleviated?

  • John Carter

    John Carter joined the Division of Online and Strategic Learning in August 2022. With a background in composition and creative writing pedagogy, he has a particular enthusiasm for the role of communication in pedagogical processes, whether that be oral communication via class discussions, written communication via course documents, or visual/electronic communication via document design and instructional technologies. His graduate work focused on poetry, the environment, and sustainable agriculture, and, because of that, he has a keen interest in and awareness of the value of interdisciplinary work. When he isn’t thinking or talking about pedagogy, he can be found at the edge of a cornfield, writing about this strange, in-between region that is the Midwest.