College students want opportunities to practice being professionals, but they infrequently have those opportunities because so much of their lives are scripted or pre-defined. Their class schedules determine where they spend their time; their instructors determine what they do with that time; their campus activities teams often determine the events they attend during a week. When exceptions creep up, and students have a chance to practice being professionals, they’re often seen “dressing up” and walking across campus in suits. They carry themselves differently than when they arrive to a class groggy and pajama-clad. When students take themselves seriously and have a chance to act professional, it’s fun for instructors to watch, and it’s a great, low-risk opportunity for the student.
My classes are first-year writing courses, taken mostly by freshmen, often among the earliest classes in their days, and rarely a class they expect to have control over. Most students arrive to a college writing course with experience in five-paragraph, formulaic writing that meets the needs of the teacher or fills a blank on a standardized test. Many of my students arrive to my classes looking resigned. I work hard to change that and give them agency over their learning—to be professional learners—and group work through Canvas facilitates that goal.