As the COVID pandemic has shown us, EdTech platforms can be useful for keeping instructors and students connected. While using EdTech platforms can make learning and teaching easier in some ways, these platforms also come with challenges. In my first article for FROGED, I explained my experiences with EdTech and ways I thought these platforms could improve their customer’s experiences. I recently sat down with my economics professor, Christopher Makler to discuss his experiences with EdTech, where we dived into how professors are adapting to EdTech.

What EdTech platforms do you use?

Makler said he uses many of the same platforms I use such as Zoom, Canvas, and Gradescope, but he also uses He said “because I wanted something where I could embed my own interactive graphs because PowerPoint and Google slides won’t do that. So I needed something that I would be able to use for a presentation that would also allow for live content to be embedded via iframe so that’s how I chose slides.”

What is the learning curve like for these platforms for you? Is it usually pretty intuitive?

Three takeaways for Canvas

  1. Canvas is mostly intuitive. However, he said that on Canvas it is hard to “tell what my actions trigger and sort of what the student experience is of things, so the most common thing that I get is, ‘can you post such and such?’ And nine times out of 10 I have posted such and such it’s just not visible for some esoteric reason, but for me it has a little green checkmark next to it.”
  1. When he imports an assignment from a previous quarter, “It sends an email out to everybody saying this assignment has now been assigned and half the people click on it before I’m even able to remove the old homework and add a new homework right because you can’t import it without it being visible to the students immediately.” How can you except students to adapt these new technologies, when it is difficult for the professors to adapt
  1. In addition, he said, “You know if I make a change to office hours it sends out 30 emails about all of the different days that office hours are going to be. And I only find out about that later when I’m seeing like you know what is that, so the biggest beef that I have with education technology things is while they all have a see the student view thing they don’t have a this is the email that we just sent out to your students.”

Is there anything else you’d like to change about it other than knowing exactly what is being shown to the students?

Makler said, “…you can ask a question in Canvas that has randomized numbers in it, but you can’t then ask a follow up question on it that uses those same numbers.” He also explained that he has used Canvas, Gradescope, and Google Forms for tests “…because Canvas doesn’t have a way to ask multiple questions about the same set of numbers.” He’s working on “a random homework sort of server that would be able to have multiple questions about the same set of random numbers.” He commented that oftentimes a platform “doesn’t do what I want it to do, so I need to make something that does what I wanted to do.”

We use so many different platforms like Canvas, Gradescope and Google Forms. Do you feel there is a way they could be better integrated to help professors adapt?

Makler replied that “Really they’ve actually managed to get pretty well integrated with one another.” He said the tricky part is with “regraded” assignments. He can create an assignment on Gradescope and easily publish those grades to Canvas. However, “If there’s a regrade and it’s regraded on Gradescope that doesn’t trigger an automatic republish to Canvas, and so we always end up with one or two students whose Canvas grade is not the same as their Gradescope grade.” He added that this was a minor problem and that “it doesn’t come up all that often.”

He also said he is not allowed to add just any external tool to his Canvas courses. The university feels “…like they need to double-check to make sure that it has good security and things like that. That means that our available applications that we have for us are somewhat limited.” Stanford wants to make sure they are not “…Opening up the keys to the kingdom into some nefarious third-party site. So that’s altogether appropriate.”

Why did you adapt lecture videos to Panopto, instead of Canvas or Zoom?

“It’s actually automatic.The way that they have Canvas set up is that if you have a zoom meeting that’s through Canvas the recording automatically gets uploaded to Panopto. This is actually helpful because once it’s in your Panopto library you can not only use it in a future course but it’s also editable which zoom meetings are not, so if I make a mistake…I can edit the video. My guess is that zoom charges a certain amount for data storage and we might have a different contract with Panopto so that we can, you know, destroy their cloud recordings but keep the Panopto recordings.”

Why did you create EconGraphs?

“If you think about today’s lecture, prices change and raising prices changes one thing here, and the other thing goes there….if you draw that, like the couple times that you saw me drawing it like this, the slide gets super busy super fast. So there’s two purposes, one is, I wanted to have things that I could use in a lecture to demonstrate what happens when something changes, potentially in two different graphs at the same time. So that’s very difficult to draw, right? It’s also very difficult to draw things, precisely so I wanted so basically, I wanted to say, you know I wanted to be able to ask the class when I change this, what do you think is going to happen. So the second goal is to allow people to play around with things and to sort of learn by playing…because that is how people learn.”

What did you use before EconGraphs?

“I actually developed EconGraphs before I came back to teach, but before…I would just write on the board. I almost never used powerpoints. I would just have lecture notes and write on the board.”

EdTech Needs to Connect the CX Dots to help Professor

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the student perspective when it comes to EdTech. It seems that my professor’s experience with EdTech is not too far off from mine. We adapt to make the technology work for us, but tech problems are a huge daily challenge. I often have to change my settings for each class or email my professors to discuss glitches or work around problems. Professors are adapting to EdTech, by becoming tech support and often have to troubleshoot or, in the case of Professor Makler, come up with creative solutions. Usually, we can get around these challenges, but to win both students and instructors, EdTech platforms require thoughtful CX to alleviate the difficulties that come with online and in-person learning. Since we are using multiple solutions often for one class, it seems that EdTech companies have a long, long way to go in a short time.