Canvas Beta Release Notes (2015-03-23)

Document created by Erin Hallmark Administrator on Apr 3, 2015Last modified by on Jul 15, 2018
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In this beta release, Canvas has new features for Course Settings and Outcomes. We also have updates for the Learning Mastery Gradebook, the Rich Content Editor, and Web Services, as well as some informational updates to Analytics, Conferences, Discussions, and the Student Learning Mastery Gradebook. View the beta release notes and let us know your thoughts! Beta notes also include platform/integration updates for third-party developers.


The beta environment is for testing new and updated features, which are subject to change based on user feedback. Learn more about Canvas Beta.


  New Features



Course Settings

Student Access after Course Conclude

Instructors and admins can choose to restrict student access after a course has concluded. Similar to the option to restrict student access before a course start date, this option restricts access to students after the override end date for the course. If no override date is specified, the end date applies to the last day set for in the term.


Note: As part of this feature, the Restrict students from viewing courses before start date setting was moved from Account Settings to Course Settings for consistency.




By default, these options are not enabled. Instructors or admins who want to set the visibility restrictions for multiple courses can use the Courses API (as noted in the Platform/Integrations Updates section below).



Calculation Methods

Outcomes allows instructors and admins to specify one of four calculation methods used for student mastery in the Learning Mastery Gradebook and Student Learning Mastery Gradebook. The current calculation method displays as part of the outcome. Outcomes can be modified at both the Account and Course levels.


Calculation Methods are used in conjunction with the Learning Mastery Gradebook course feature option.




Decaying Average: Calculate the average of all aligned items while weighing the most recent item at a higher percentage. Traditional averaging weighs all assessments equally and does not consider the student’s current understanding, but this calculation assesses the current attempt while still recognizing prior attempts, which helps display trends in student learning. Ultimately, the overall score reflects the current level of understanding instead of the average of learning over time.

By default, the decaying average is set at 65/35, meaning the current item is weighted at 65%, and the average of all other user scores is weighted at 35%. However, users can specify between 1% and 99% for the current percentage, and prior scores are weighted against the percentage difference. Note that the average is rounded to the next two decimals.


For example, a student has four aligned items with scores of 4, 3, 2, and 5. If the current item is set to be weighted at 75% of mastery, prior scores are weighted at 25%:

  • Current item score: 5
  • Average of prior item scores: (4 + 3 + 2) / 3 = 3
  • Calculated score: 5 (.75) + 3 (.25) = 3.75 + .75 = 4.5


n Number of Times: Require a specific number of times mastery must be met or exceeded and the number of aligned items that must be completed for calculation eligibility. Any scores that do not meet mastery are not part of the calculation. By default, the item requirement is set at 2. However, users can specify between 2 and 5 items required for mastery.For example, a student is required to achieve mastery 2 times with a mastery score of 5. If the student has scores of 1, 3, 2, 4, 5, 3, and 6, only the scores of 5 and 6 would be part of the calculation.

  • Average score of eligible items: 5 + 6 = 11
  • Calculated score: 11 / 2 = 5.5


Most Recent Score: Always use the score in the most recent item.


Highest Score: Always use the highest score in all attempts.


Notes about Creating New Outcomes

  • For new Outcomes created in the Canvas interface, the default calculation is Decaying Average. However, for all existing Outcomes, the default calculation is the highest score. Users can modify calculation methods for any outcomes that have not yet been used to assess a student by editing a specific outcome. Outcomes that have been used to assess students cannot be modified.
  • For new Outcomes created using the Outcomes API, the default calculation is set as highest score but can be modified with the appropriate parameters.


Gradebook Display

Assessment scores display in the Learning Mastery Gradebook for each outcome according to the calculation method. Additionally, instructors can view the current calculation method as part of the Outcomes overview window.





  Updated Features



Learning Mastery Gradebook

Mastery Levels

In the Learning Mastery Gradebook, the Gradebook includes an Exceeds Mastery level, which is a score earned above the mastery threshold. Additionally, the Remedial level has been renamed to Well Below Mastery.


Mastery Levels are used in conjunction with the Learning Mastery Gradebook course feature option.




Rich Content Editor

Interface Update

The Rich Content Editor has been updated with the most recent interface design and ultimately update provides more backend functionality to support future upgrades to the Rich Content Editor.


The main feature of this upgrade includes better support for creating and deleting tables. Users can easily add, merge, and split table cells without having to switch to the HTML Editor. Rows can be added, copied, and pasted anywhere in the table.




The editor also supports directional text so users can insert content right to left. This feature can be added using the Right to Left button within the editor.




Beneath the Rich Content Editor window, users can view HTML elements for any selected content. This feature is beneficial for users who work with HTML and want to view or confirm placement of content.




Web Services

Facebook Integration

Facebook will no longer be supported as a web service in Canvas. Any users who currently have an enabled Facebook integration can continue to use the channel until the production release on April 4.


The Facebook integration allowed users to access Facebook and receive notifications about Canvas. Recently Facebook announced that they would no longer support the current API, meaning that Canvas code and engineering resources would have to be allocated to support the new API. Additionally, our engineers measured the current usage of the Facebook tool and learned that the data showed little to no recent interaction, suggesting that updating the tool was not a significant priority.


For users who are interested in bringing back the Facebook integration, our product team welcomes feedback in the Canvas Feature Discussion forums.



  Other Updates




Student Submissions

For student analytics, the Assignments analytics section has been renamed to Submissions. Additionally, no icons are displayed for assignments that do not include a submission (i.e. not graded, on paper) or for assignments that do not apply to a student because of differentiated assignments.





Enable Recording Button

When users create a conference, the checkbox to record a conference has been renamed to Enable recording for this conference. Some users were unaware that the actual recording button is within the Conferences interface and that marking the checkbox did not automatically record the conference. This change helps clarify the purpose of the checkbox, which simply enables the recording tools within the Conferences interface. Functionality for this feature is not affected.





Discussion Creation Dates

Discussion creation dates have been modified as an instructor permission, meaning the student and observer views do not display the creation date for a discussion. This change helps instructors copy course content without having to modify any Discussions content; only instructors can view the original posting date for a discussion.




Student Learning Mastery Gradebook

Mastery Count Indicator

When viewing the Student Learning Mastery Gradebook, students see the outcome group and the number of associated outcomes.


Mastery Count Indicators are used in conjunction with the Learning Mastery Gradebook course feature option.


On the right side, the total number of outcomes are shown in gray; the left side shows the number of outcomes the student has mastered. The mastery count for the student now does not turn green until the student has started mastering outcomes in the group.





  Platform/Integration Updates



Canvas Substitution Variables


$Canvas.assignment.pointsPossible: returns points possible for an assignment



Accounts API

The Accounts API returns the account LTI guid for LTI launches with the lti_guid parameter.


Assignments API

The Assignments API supports five parameters for returning certain assignments depending on due date and submission status: upgraded, upcoming, future, past, and overdue.


Course Settings

The Courses API restricts students from viewing courses before the start or end date with the restrict_student_past_view and restrict_student_future_view course settings parameters.


Quizzes API

The Quizzes API shows the current version number of a quiz with the version_number parameter.


Users API

The Users API shows details for a user, including a permissions attribute as to whether the user can update names and profile pictures.