Planets, Stars, Galaxies, and the Universe

Course Communications and Required Notification Settings


Meaningful interactions among students and instructors are the hallmark of a successful online class, particularly a graduate seminar like this one. Canvas supports several types of communication, as described below. This is great, but it also means we need to be careful to make sure we have our notifications set properly to ensure that you're seeing everything your instructor sends you, and your instructor sees everything you send to her.

Required Notification Settings and Discussion Forum Subscriptions

For this course, you are expected to have notifications for the following Canvas features set to "Notify me right away":

  • Announcements
  • Grading
  • Submission comments
  • Conversation messages

Please note that in addition to pushing the notification to your email immediately, you can also elect to push it on a mobile device with the Canvas student app. See here: 

If you have any questions about setting up these notifications, please let me know!  (You can edit your notification settings by selecting Account > Notifications from the lefthand navigation here in Canvas.)


Discussions allow students to interact with the instructor and other classmates. Threaded discussions allow multiple posts and replies. New posts appear in the Course Activity Stream page, so you will know when something has been posted.

In general, questions and comments about project assignments and course content should be shared with the entire class via the appropriate discussion forums. That way, everyone can benefit from the discussion. To make sure you're part of these conversations as they're happening, subscribe to all of the forums in this course. You are responsible for information shared on the various discussion forums, so you are strongly encouraged to subscribe to them all.

Please note that in the discussion forums default mode, it is very difficult to keep track of whether you've read a post or not. To override the default mode setting, perform the following steps:

1. Use the Discussions link in the main menu to open a view of all discussion forums. 

[If the Discussions link is not available in the main menu (it is visible in some courses and not in others), simply enter any discussion forum, find the Discussions link at the top of the page, and click the link. Proceed to step 2.]

2. Click on the gear/cog icon in the upper right to open the Edit Discussions Settings dialog.

3. Under My Settings, check the box for Manually mark posts as read, and then click the Save Settings button.

4. After you've changed the default settings, you can click on the blue dots to the left of discussion posts to more easily keep track of what you have and haven't read. 


Conversations are the equivalent of e-mail in Canvas. It's great to use for a quick e-mail to another student, instructor, or a whole team. Keep in mind that the text editor is very minimal, and does not have much formatting capability.  Despite its limited formatting, this is the appropriate email channel for private correspondences with your instructor, not using your regular email.  That way, all course communications live within the course.


Announcements are messages from your instructor that contain important information, and I send a lot of them, at least one each week. Current announcements can be accessed through the Announcements tab in Canvas. I use these to introduce each new lesson, provide group feedback on graded assignments, and to disseminate other information quickly and broadly.