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2020

With recent world events turning K-12 schools and districts to online learning, we are excited to release a feature option that specifically aims to improve the experience of our youngest learners in Canvas—those in primary and elementary grade levels. The Canvas Elementary Theming feature option presents learners with a new look and feel including a newly introduced font and simplified course navigation. 

 

The new font, Architect's Daughter, makes the Canvas course more inviting as it is casual and playful in nature. The font supports those learning to read and write as the letter formation is simple and friendly, with clear distinction of letters that are not easily confused with one another. Also, because the single-story a and g glyphs (as shown in the lowercase letters in the images below) are used in the font, which is consistent with the letter formation that is taught in the primary grade levels and is included in most early literacy programs. 

 

This fun, new font is presented in the Global Navigation, Course Navigation, and Breadcrumbs Bar when the feature option is enabled for a course. It has also been added to the Rich Content Editor (RCE) as the default font for content creation. With the simplified Course Navigation, if a teacher has not previously customized the Course Navigation, it will automatically be simplified to show only four links for students - Home, Announcements, Grades, and Modules. If you have LTI tools enabled that should show in the Course Navigation, they will also show by default. It is important to note that students will not see Announcements or Modules as options in the Course Navigation if no content has been added to these index pages. 

 

 

If you are teaching in a primary or elementary education setting, we hope you will give this new feature option a try. If you do not see it listed in your course options under settings, contact your district administrator to have it enabled for your account. We highly suggest that this option is set to allow to provide teachers the option of turning it on for their own individual courses as they see fit.

 

Also of note, this option will be enabled for all institutions in July 2020 as an account-level setting. Administrators will continue to manage the availability of the feature for teachers to manage within their own courses.   

 

Have fun and keep learning!

Understanding online user behaviour has been paramount to the majority of our customers. During COVID-19, user click data is sought after even more. Canvas LMS has multiple tools for our customers to extract click data, such as Canvas Data request logs, live events, and our page view APIs. We also have course analytics tools with insights into student course participation. All data products provide a way of deducing common user online behaviour patterns but they require some data infrastructure investment, introduce unwanted data latency, or lack department level data aggregation. 

 

Our recently released User Course Access Log provides a simple csv data extract with a handful of useful data points such as user, section, term, content viewed, times viewed and last viewed timestamp. One could request data for up to a month timeframe from a present moment. As a data product manager, I looked for an opportunity to lessen the burden on our average customer when it comes to accessing, transforming and interpreting data. This report gives everyone an opportunity to analyze user LMS access patterns without expensive data processing infrastructure.

 

Typical use cases for this report are around student online access trends and analysis of most used content. There are also a handful of customers that could find this data useful to track user online presents and reflect it in their attendance dashboards. 

 

My team continues to work on reporting improvements. Presently we are working on introducing a new Quick Reports feature to our course Analytics tool. The reports we are creating will provide our teachers with a quick access to data they could see already in Canvas on multiple pages but not yet available as a simple csv extracts. Some examples are Missing, Late, and Excused Assignments for students in a section or an individual student; Course Roster; Students To Do List; and Students Course Content Access Log. This feature will be posted in the release notes when available. 

As part of Canvas’ rapid response to COVID-19, I’ve had the opportunity to work with a group who has been focusing on video conferencing solutions as part of a broader look at the changing dynamics of remote collaboration.

 

One of the most exciting aspects of this work has been cooperating with our partners to integrate video conferencing with Canvas much earlier than previously scheduled.

 

The first of these integrations was with Microsoft Teams. As urgency related to the global pandemic escalated, Microsoft accelerated the release of an application that could be integrated with Canvas and our team worked through the weekend of March 14th and 15th to make sure the integration was live when remote teaching and learning spun up on Monday, March 16th. In less than 40 hours, Canvas and Microsoft put all the pieces together to make it possible to Microsoft Teams Meetings in Rich Content Editor so educators could easily add Teams Meeting links to Calendar Events, Announcements or wherever they needed them.

 

Shortly after co-developing the Microsoft Teams Meeting LTI, we worked with Google to provide the same capability for Google Meet. Before this, instructors had to manually add Google Meet URLs into their courses. Now folks can generate Google Meet links directly in Canvas. 

 

We also worked with Zoom to help institutions with Zoom Business and Enterprise accounts use the latest app, Zoom LTI Pro, for conferencing to connect educators and learners.

 

Tackling the technical challenges has been rewarding, but there’s nothing more satisfying than seeing how people are using Canvas to learn, of course, but also as a means to stay connected during an unprecedented global event. In the third week of “going remote,” we saw one BigBlueButton conference that was an outlier among thousands that day. It had been live for six hours. When we looked a little closer, we found a group of students in South Korea had created a meeting and just left it running. Maybe it was a marathon group study. Maybe they just wanted to be together. Probably it was some of both. Regardless, it really is something special to be a part of our learning communities, especially now when community is so important.

 

I know that all of us, here at Instructure and our partners at Google, Microsoft, Zoom and BigBlueButton, feel a deep sense of pride in being able to provide critical infrastructure for institutions and schools as they modified their teaching and learning practices during these bizarre times.

 

If you’re interested in a recent chat about video conferences and a few thoughts on the evolution of remote education, check out the Canvas tl;dr podcast Episode 5.