People will often times tell me that I am a “great resource”. Whether directly, or through appreciative comments, such as “Wow! You always have the answers to my questions!”. It is a very kind thing to hear, yes, but it is also very important that I bring myself down to Earth for a moment and exercise some humility by disclosing the real reason for that. What is the real reason? Google. Yes, you read that right. The truth is that I’m very good at Google-ing things. I am the king of using Google to find the answers to my questions. It works extremely well. A big part of my daily work is finding solutions to not only my own questions, but questions asked by my fellow FCLT team members and Mt. SAC faculty, and almost always I rely on Google first.
Benefits of Using Google? Saves Time and Frustration
The biggest benefit to Google-ing your questions first is it can save you a lot of time. The FCLT is a faculty resource, and we love interacting with you, but our team is best utilized for more extensive questions on how to fully design course content. We also provide you with content online in the Mt. SAC Faculty Center in Canvas, the FCLT web pages, and many live and self-paced workshops and resources. We are only available during normal business hours of the college, so if you have an urgent question, we are not the best resource. We often help with these because we want you to get the info you need, but we get stretched very thin and cannot produce as much training or resources for you if we get caught up answering those questions one person at a time. As your instructional design team, we serve the college best when we can build things to support as many professors as possible through workshops, our website, templates, lessons available through POD… you get the idea.
It hurts our hearts when we are not able to answer your urgent questions in a timely manner, especially when it was something Google-able, so next time you have a question or issue, before taking the time to type out the question to us or in a help ticket, why not start by asking Google first? Google is much faster than we are, I assure you.
The second reason to Google first is to avoid frustration, which is directly related to saving time. Often our team gets questions that are not answered in a single e-mail response. If you send us an e-mail, we often respond to get additional information, and doing this back and forth a few times (with a couple of hours or even days in between responses) can get very frustrating. For many questions, this can be avoided completely with a simple search or two in Google. And guess what…the more you do it, the better you’ll get at it, which leads me to my next point.
Using Google Effectively
“I’m an expert at Google-ing things”
This is something many IT-centric folks will tell you. There’s a lot to being a truly resourceful person, but using Google is honestly 90% of it. Allow me to explain: 85% of the questions I answer on a daily basis I can answer within 2 minutes by simply searching on Google. That is not an exaggeration. I am not special, you can do this too! Google indexes and is able to search through the entire public internet. In the context of Mt. SAC and Canvas, when you search for something on Google it will display results from within the Canvas Guides, the Canvas Community, and even other school’s Canvas resources. It’s very powerful.
Of the last 5 e-mails I responded to, I was able to find the solution to 4 of them in under 3 minutes by searching Google. Google can answer a lot of questions, but to keep everything in context, let’s talk about 2 major types of questions, and we will use Canvas as the subject here.
Question type 1: Can Canvas create announcements? How do I create an announcement in Canvas?
If your questions are something like this, then 9 times out of 10 putting this exact question into Google will yield your answer. Often the first result if from the Canvas Guides. I just tried it with the first question, and the answer was the very first result, and it was from a Canvas Guide. Try it!
Sometimes you will see answers from our college or other colleges and universities. These are often just as useful, though remember if you use info. from another college, some discrepancies may result because each institution uses Canvas a bit differently.
Use the most up-to-date: Sometimes searched will return Canvas info from 2015 or 2016. Canvas performs mini-upgrades every three weeks or so and often, info from more then 3 years ago is outdated. The Canvas Guide entries generally tell you the last updated date on each guide page.
Question type 2: I created an assignment in Canvas but students can’t see it, what am I doing wrong?
These are slightly trickier because the correct answer can really depend on a lot of factors. Google can still help though. For questions like these you typically want to do a search based on key words, and provide as much context as possible to help really narrow down your results. Here is what I would search for: students cant see my Canvas assignment — you want to try and simplify what the problem is, and that is what you input into the search. This takes practice, and perhaps multiple searches, but be patient and you’ll get it.
- search key words: if it’s about Canvas what does Canvas call the tool you are asking about?
- use a short phrase in your search
- simplify the problem
- include the words “Canvas” and “instructor” in the search to get the instructor’s guide page
When to Ask Google -vs- Other Resources
First and foremost, the FCLT will try and assist with any question that you have or refer you to the appropriate department, as quickly as we can. However as stated above, if something requires an urgent answer, then perhaps your answer is a basic Google search away. That said, Google will likely be less useful for Mt. SAC-specific things such as questions about course enrollment and local policy. So it’s a great first step to try and mentally filter your questions.
Things that are Google-able
- Questions about a tool or service (Canvas, ConferZoom, Screencast-O-Matic, etc)
- How to use the tool
- Technical issues (not working as intended, giving errors, etc)
- Good practices or how others are using the tool
- Building courses in Canvas that are effective and compliant
- Webaim is the accessibility website that is the industry standard
- you can search Google to find pages in the Mt. SAC website because they are public
Your results will almost always be from the respective tool’s support documentation and or community of users.
If Your Question Isn’t Google-able
- Go directly online to the Vendors site: If Google didn’t return your specific question about a specific tool, then just search and go to the vendors main site and navigate to their support area. Many offer chat or phone help too!
- Canvas Help: If Googling doesn’t get you the info. you need, try the resources under the Help button in Canvas. Canvas offers a 24/7 faculty hotline and 24/7 faculty live chat as well as a 24/7 student hotline and 24/7 student live chat! The “Search the Canvas Guides” link will allow you to not only search the Canvas Guides, but also to ask questions in the Canvas Community to learn about others’ experiences with specific tools.
- IT Knowledge Base: for local questions try the online HelpDesk Knowlege Base. Simply go to IT HelpDesk online and search for info articles about services and tools. Here you will find the steps to follow for many service or tool requests instead of guessing who to ask. Often you can follow self-help steps to enable tools, and you don’t need to wait for anyone.
- Faculty Facilitators: Fill out the Mt. SAC Faculty Facilitators Help Request Form if you want to work with a person. A designated Mt. SAC professor will contact you for one-on-one help!
Using Mt. SAC FCLT as a Resource
- FCLT Website
- Faculty Center in Canvas
- Mountie Student Hub: now managed by ASAC. Contains Canvas & associated tools info for students.
- Faculty Accessibility Center
- FOMA Readiness content you can view or review this content in POD whether you plan to complete all of it or not!
- Workshops on POD Calendar
- Weekly Office Hours in Zoom on Wednesdays and Thursdays 2pm-4pm (Zoom Link-only during Office Hours)
We love to walk through processes with faculty to show them how an activity they are setting up will work through its entire life cycle. We can also help with questions related to making content accessible in Canvas and with copyright or other issues. We enjoy helping you think through the mechanics of an activity and can offer pointers and regulatory knowledge to help you design within recommended practices for online education. If you want to ask us a question or set up a time to consult on course design in Canvas, you can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org (preferred) or call us at 909-274-5016.