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Frequently Asked Questions about Alternatives to Canvas

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Using Stanford Box for Class File Sharing

How do I access Stanford Box? 

Go to Stanford Box and login with your SUNet ID and password. Your Stanford Box account contains unlimited storage space, so large files like photos and videos could be uploaded here.

What can Box do for me that Canvas cannot do?

Box offers greater storage space capability than Canvas does, so for uploading large files, like video and audio, Box is a better choice. Box also allows for easier file sharing capabilities than Canvas does. So, for example, if you'd like students to share documents with all of the members of the class in one space, you can create a class Box folder where students can upload and download everyone's work. Some similar functionality can happen in Canvas using the Groups tool, but the file sharing capabilities are smaller.

You can also add quick notes to documents uploaded to Box and sync your Stanford Box files with your personal laptops/desktops so that your most recently saved version is always available from any machine.

What about FERPA and student privacy?

You can share folders individually or with a group so that you can create both private groups and individual folders for particular users.

Where can I learn more about using Stanford Box? 

Visit the Using Stanford Box support page from Stanford IT to learn more.

Using Wordpress to Create a Course Website

How do I access WordPress? 

You can create a free blog with WordPress simply by going to wordpress.com. Note that you can create a wordpress site for free, but if you use the free version, your course website will include ads. If you pay $30.00/year, you pay for an upgrade that makes your WordPress experience ad-free.

What can WordPress do for me that Canvas cannot do? 

WordPress is a customizable blogging space where you can have a lot of control over the design of your course website. Unlike Canvas, you can decide where students will access particular tools. Because WordPress offers a user access to the back-end of the website too, HTML and CSS can also be customized. Outside apps can also be more easily integrated into WordPress than Canvas, so if your course relies heavily on reading RSS feeds and social networks or exploring photo-sharing websites, like Flickr and Instagram, WordPress may offer a more seamless user experience moving between those sites. Further, WordPress is designed to be a public-facing blog, so it can help students think about audience and experiment with different types of writing.

What about FERPA and student privacy? 

You can adjust the privacy settings to make the blog either public or private. You can also protect individual pages so that some content is public and other content is private.

If you'd like to make all of the content in WordPress public, you should ask your students to sign a consent form adn think carefully about how you're asking them to share online and what kind of content you're asking them to share online. If you continue using your site across quarters, you'll need to take into consideration that future students might seem some of the blog posts produced by prior students and talk to your students about that.

Are there any examples of WordPress sites created by Stanford PWR instructors? 

Yes! You can check out:

The Rhetoric of Climate Change

The Rhetoric of Gaming

Containment Rhetoric

The Rhetoric of the Experiment

Where can I learn more about using WordPress? 

Visit the WordPress support site.

**FAQ adapted from a September Sessions 2016 handout by Christine Alfano.