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Canvas Mobile Users

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One of the final segments of the video, "Mobile Series: Discussions in the Palm of Your Hand (Biray Seitz) touched what I know is a oft-repeated scenario for me, and from many other posts here, for others too. What teachers (not just students) can "do on the go" to minimize the time suck phenomenon.


Yes, we all love creating personalized content for our students in Canvas, and yes, when we come up for air and look at the clock, wonder where the weekend afternoon went, or how those 2-hours-only after a weekday dinner turned into four. The time suck phenomenon has made me acutely aware of my students' frustration, and has kept my eyes peeled for certain features that are particularly well suited to be used on the go.


Of course, Speed Grader is the top of my teacher tools, with well composed rubrics at the center of that activity. More to the point in the video is making sure discussions or any activity, for that matter, is sufficiently chunked so students can accomplish mini-tasks in one 5-10 minute on-the-go episode. Smaller activities, with fewer objectives, satisfies the formative assessment I, as a teacher, use to make sure students are understanding the material, but also serves as a self-check for them. Using adaptive release prerequisites within a module assures their fidelity of proceeding through the lesson. That's a win-win for student and teacher alike. Maybe we can ascribe new meaning to the KISS method of creating successful, effective on-the-go assignments: Keep It Short and Simple.

One of the most difficult things online educators have is to keep up with the changes in technology, especially mobile. One of the biggest challenges that my team and I have had to overcome is making sure that whatever we design for our faculty and students will be accessible in a mobile environment. We have gone through many iterations of templates to see what will work for all of our users.


We finally came up with using tabs. It seems that all of our faculty and students like the fact that they no longer have to page through many different pages to get all of the content needed to complete their assignments. By adding tabs on a single page, all of the information is there. The bonus is that tabs on a mobile device look great. 


Image on Canvas


Image from iPhone

It has taken some time to encourage students and faculty to use mobile apps when accessing our Canvas instance, but we have made a lot of progress. This push came after we encouraged users to use the Calendar feature in their mobile devices. Our curriculum revolves around class calendars, and they needed a convenient way to access all the events in their classes. This has been a tremendous success, they can even access assignments and download attachments posted in the calendar through their phones and tablets.


Now it might be time to push for the use of mobile devices for other components inside Canvas. We recently acquired the Canvas video solution Arc, and students may be consuming these videos in mobile devices and not so much on PCs.


Regarding notifications, we have seen students turning them off more and more, they find this feature a little annoying, I find it useful though.


I want to know more about the Canvas mobile options and features, I will be doing more research on this and hopefully I will be able to share with all of you.


Thank you.

Hello there Canvas Mobile Users!


I am thrilled about the announcement of Canvas Student iOS 6.0 and Canvas Teacher iOS 1.4, and I hope that the Mobile Team and Cody have some energy left! I probably will create some work for them at the conclusion of March’s CMUG Mission.


Within CMUG, start a discussion about a feature you wish was included in Canvas Student, Canvas Teacher, or Canvas Parent. Click HERE to go to a template. Next, fill it out, but do not remove the pre-filled “cmug mobile idea” tag.


Even if you don’t initiate a discussion, you have a mission as well! March is going to be about developing potential ideas. I need all CMUG members to participate in these discussions. Share your ideas, use cases, and comments. The more voices we include, the stronger the final ideas will be.


At the end of March, Ryan, Kristin, and I will take the discussions and formulate some well-rounded Feature Ideas to submit to Canvas Studio on CMUG’s behalf. Of course, those involved in a particular discussion will be tagged so you continue to receive vital updates.


As I fly through CMUG and all of the discussions about feature ideas, I’ll likely award badges and points! Thank you in advance for your thoughtful comments and participation.


Mobile On!


UCF recently interviewed students about their experience using mobile technology to support their learning, with a particular focus on the Canvas Student App. These interviews helped us better understand the impact of this app and direct our communication to Instructure and Canvas Community. In the second of a series of blog posts from UCF, here is the story of Maddie.


Maddie is all about UCF and bleeds black and gold. Both her parents graduated from UCF, and she is very active on campus as a social media coordinator and the Director of Black & Gold Studios. In addition to her many activities, Maddie is also a junior studying Communication & Conflict with a Legal Studies Minor.


“The mobile app provides me ease of access when communicating with my instructors and peers on the spur of the moment.”


Maddie is a very involved student with a full-time course load, on-campus employment, and extracurricular activities. She is part of an academic program that is offered entirely online, although that was not her deciding factor in choosing her major. Maddie is highly involved with social media presence and would feel helpless without her smartphone. She states she can go more than a week without her laptop computer but couldn’t imagine life without her phone.


“I use the calendar feature on the Canvas Mobile app to organize my life week by week. I know what is due and when it’s due in one place."


Like most UCF students, the most frequent feature Maddie uses within the Canvas Student app is grades. She checks her grades often and benefits from the notifications that occur when assignments are graded. Another frequently used feature is the calendar as she utilizes each week to keep track of what assignments and important dates are coming up. Being able to track this from a centralized location while on-the-go rather than searching individual lists or checking the syllabus is vital to keeping her on task.


“The more reminders and notifications Canvas can give me the better I can stay on top of my school work.”


Maddie considers the notifications she receives as quite helpful. However, she doesn't activate the discussion posts or comments as those can be overwhelming. She prefers to receive grades, assignment feedback, and message notifications as they are necessary to maintain her academic success. Maddie feels that the communication taking place from on-the-go instances are important for students like her to stay on top of their work. Being able to communicate almost instantly with her professors or other classmates helps her feel engaged and informed.


“I finished my discussion post while waiting to board my flight!”


Without a smartphone or mobile device in general, Maddie feels her life would be more complicated. She uses a smartphone for more than just communication. She’s used her phone for recording interviews, taking photos, and being able to research with ease. Maddie feels that the Canvas Student app helps with distance learning. She has used it in several situations, such as submitting a video for a Spanish class or submitting discussions posts, where she believes it's almost faster to complete on the mobile device rather than on a laptop. She even used the discussion feature while waiting to board a flight when she realized she needed to respond to a post.

I am an Instructional Technology Specialist/TOSA 1:1 Project Manager for the Yorkville Unified School District in Yorkville, Illinois. In my position, I am responsible for training teachers and students to use various technologies that have to do with our 1:1 Chromebook initiative. I am happy to say that one of these technologies is Canvas. Our 1:1 initiative was rolled out this year to all 4th Grade students and 7th-12th Grade students. Students from 7th Grade through 12th Grade use Canvas to access their courses. Getting our teachers to fully embrace Canvas has been a bit of a struggle, but they are definitely moving in the right direction.
Over the past few months I have been showing our high school and middle school music departments how to use Canvas Media submissions to turn in video recordings of their students performing scales or music pieces. The departments loved the idea! The only problem was that the Chromebooks onboard microphone was horrible. The mic picked up all sorts of ambient sounds and made the student performance sound horrible. Teachers and students were frustrated with the poor quality of the recordings. I had many calls and complaints. Teachers were requesting microphones to be purchased for the students or maybe next year we have USB microphones added to the school supply list for band and orchestra. As I started thinking about the best way to do this, I saw a student walk down the hallway talking about how he used his iPhone to make a video of himself while he was playing his guitar. It hit me! Most of our students have smart phones or tablets. What if they shot the videos on their smart phones or tablets and then loaded them through the Canvas Mobile app? The HD quality and microphone quality on these types of devices are way better than those of a Chromebook.
I went home and recorded my own 7th grader playing her flute both on a Chromebook and on my iPhone. The sound quality of the iPhone was infinitely better than that of the Chromebook. I then downloaded the Canvas Mobile app from the App Store. As I walked through the set up process, I took screenshots of each step and turned them into a Google Slides presentation. I went back to the music department at the middle school and presented to the band and orchestra teachers. At first they were concerned as to all of the steps involved in having students take the videos and get them to their Chromebooks so they can be loaded to Canvas. I then explained to them that students did not have to go through the Chromebooks, they could move the videos from their phones and tablets directly into Canvas by using the mobile app. They were intrigued. I showed the teachers the Google Slides presentation and had them load the app to their phones to see how simple it would be. They were hooked! The following week we scheduled time during band and orchestra classes to go through the presentation and have students load the app and use it that night to record themselves playing. It worked! The following week I did the same thing at the high school and since then the mobile app has moved through our school choirs as well.
I’ll be honest, if it had not been for the poor mics on the Chromebooks, I never would have looked into the Canvas mobile app. Now that it is on my radar I am suggesting it to all of my teachers and students and it will become part of training for incoming students.  

Super Panda

Mission: Recognize Awesome

Posted by Super Panda Jan 28, 2018

Hello there Canvas Mobile Users!


In CMUG is Back and Redesigned, Ryan and Kristin shared that I would come to visit from time to time. Since the launch of the new CMUG space, I have been busy helping with Mobile Ideas and cheering on the Mobile Team at Instructure.


But! Now the time has come! In the next week, you, the amazing Canvas mobile enthusiasts, deserve some recognition. I'll be flying through content and looking for awesome mobile-centric contributions.


Mobile On!

I have compiled a list of difference between the iOS and Android Teacher app. If you notice a mistake or something I'm missing, let me know and I'll add it to the list. 


Attaching Media

  • On Android, the camera will only take photos and won't let the user create a video.

  • Not sure if it’s a bug, but editing an assignment doesn't allow a user to attach an image on Android.

  • Android will not allow the user to record audio only, but this is available on iOS. 


NOTE: a user can only attach ONE item to an announcement, discussion or conversation message on BOTH iOS and Android. Conversation messages support more than one. 


Rich Content Editor (RCE)

The teacher app brings rich context editing for the first time to a Canvas mobile app. This gives instructors the ability to add simple styles to text. This includes the

  • bold
  • italics
  • numbered lists
  • ordered lists
  • links


Android only

  • underline
  • insert an image*


*To insert an image, the user will need to know the link to the image. The app doesn’t support uploading any media directly through the the RCE on either mobile platform. 



The Inbox is really a nice upgrade over the existing Canvas App version. It’s quick, easy on the eye and had intuitive features.


The only difference is not really a difference. This is the only place where a user can attach more than one item when attaching media. Conversation messages support attaching more than one item. 



  • Android users can change their profile photo and name (if allowed by their administrator) 
  • iOS support Act as User


To Do Items

  • No differences. 



There are few subtle differences in the Android and iOS version, which are mostly focused on attaching media to announcement text and the announcement itself.



The Assignments section in iOS and Android are very similar except the following:

  • Under the submission list
    • Android does not filter by Graded.
    • Terminology for iOS is Haven't submitted yet while Android is Not Submitted
    • Terminology for iOS is Haven't been graded while Android is Not Graded
  • Refer to the Rich Content Editor section for other differences.
  • iOS will let a user try to unpublish an assignment when there are user submissions, but there is an error (and there should be), but Android hides this option.



On the surface there isn’t much difference between iOS and Android, but the biggest differences come when accessing quiz settings on Android.


The Android and iOS app share the following settings in common:

  • Quiz Type
  • Published (On/Off) - NOTE: Android won't allow publish settings once due date has passed.
  • Require Access Code (On/Off)


The iOS app allows the user to adjust more settings than Android, which includes:


  • Assignment Group
  • Shuffle Answers (On/Off)
  • Time Limit (On/Off)
    • Length in minutes
  • Allow Multiple Attempts (On/Off)
  • Quiz Score to Keep (Average/Latest/Highest)
  • Allowed Attempts
  • Let Students See Their Quiz Responses (On/Off)
  • Only Once After Each Attempt (On/Off)
  • Let Students See the Correct Answer (On/Off)
  • Show Correct Answers At
  • Hide Correct Answers At
  • Show One Question at a Time (On/Off)


Refer to the Rich Content Editor section for other differences.


Quiz Summary Information

The quiz summary shows slightly different information in Android and iOS

  • Android shows points in quiz summary, iOS doesn’t, but does at the top of the quiz details screen.
  • Android shows multiple attempts (Yes/No), while iOS does not. 
  • Android has Show Correct Answers as “Immediately” while iOS is “Always”
  • iOS shows Score to Keep, while Android does not. 
  • iOS uses the terminology Allowed Attempts while Android uses Attempts



As mentioned above in Announcements, the RCE on Android and iOS share subtle differences. As for the discussions tool itself, here are a few small differences:


  • Android can only delete, but not upload or edit attached media to an existing discussion topic
  • iOS orders discussion by topics that have no replies followed by last replied. Android orders discussions by last replied and then topics with no replies. If the discussion is closed for comment
  • iOS allows users to subscribe to a discussion, but Android doesn’t have this option. 
  • Android allows a teacher to like a discussion reply (if enabled on the web)
  • Refer to the Rich Content Editor and Attaching Media section for other differences. 
  • Users cannot view ungraded group discussions on iOS and Android Matthew Jennings



  • No differences. 



SpeedGrader is really the heart of this app. It gives teachers the ability to do so much on the go, and with the addition of an iPhone version, it’s even more convenient than before.


The parity between Android and iOS is very good with only a few subtle differences:


  • When annotating, the Android app doesn’t have a button for undo
  • Under comments, the Android app adds the text “Submitted Files” with the submission.
  • The Android version hides “Add Comments” or “View Long Description” in a Rubric if this hasn't been set on the web. iOS hides "Add Comments" if not set on the web, but shows "View Long Description" regardless.
  • The rubrics area on Android has a save button that needs to be tapped to save the grade. With iOS, the user can just swipe to the next user and the grade is saved
  • The Android version can export documents from SpeedGrader to the device, while iOS does not. 
  • Rubrics display from smallest to largest, left to right - This is opposite on the web version (8/10 Victoria Maloy)



  • On Android, users can add choose the option Set as Front Page when creating a new page



  • Refer to Attaching Media section for differences. 


  • Android can filter people by section.



Android and iOS are fundamentally different, so it’s not reasonable to expect perfect parity with how features work on both platforms. For instance, Android generally leans towards drop downs, when iOS uses dropdown menus. Other difference(s) noticed: 


  • Android version has limited support for web-based LTIs

woman at a coffee shop using her smartphone to check Canvas and her son's academic progress


In May of 2017, a small group of families from DeLaSalle High School in Minneapolis, Minnesota was invited to provide feedback and to talk about the Canvas Parent App. During these meetings, Canvas administrators were able to gather great user-stories and adjust the way in which Canvas Parent was supported. Additionally, a list of "best practices" was compiled and shared with teaching faculty.




At the time of this interview, Dawne White's son Will completed his junior year at DeLaSalle High School. He is a methodical thinker and likes to have concrete expectations. While he is a good student, his mom set up a great system at home which provides him with the independence he will need to be successful after high school while still supporting him through challenging courses such as English.


Dawne enjoys that “with the app, the information, more or less, is in real-time." She continued to explain how she realizes that Canvas is only as current as a teacher can get the grades updated, but she likes to know in real-time what’s missing and that she can check that information against what Will tells her.


"Canvas [Parent] gives me a barometer of how truthful he is, how honest he is, and I can use that to shape conversations.”


Dawne doesn’t talk with Will as frequently as she could, as she’s trying to give him some space to be independent in his studies. She does, however, check Canvas Parent routinely. She tries to moderate her involvement and trying to have more “real” consequences in hopes of preparing him for the experiences of post-secondary education.


Dawne decided to shut the mobile notifications off, but she goes in at least once a week (usually Tuesdays) to see how the week will unfold. She typically checks Canvas Parent more frequently than that, but she feels that by opting out of notifications, she has more control on the schedule and urgency of her involvement.


She appreciates having the assignment details available, and she likes it when teachers include more information about objectives. Simply writing the page and problem numbers, for example, doesn’t provide much context for a parent. The more information that is provided in the assignment information, the better. She can then increase her “coaching” role as a parent and help at home, without having to communicate frequently with teachers.


She’d like to be able to see Will’s submissions for certain classes, but it would be more helpful to have easy access to the rubrics and teacher comments/feedback.


"Having Canvas on my phone definitely helps me keep track of Will’s academics.”


She continued to explain how convenient the Canvas Parent app is. “I can be anywhere. I can even be in the car in the garage, and before I go in, I can think, ‘I’m going to just check Canvas for a second.’ and then I go into the house. I then kind of have my game plan and talking points ready.” This way, Dawne can easily create prompts which open her son up to talking about his day.

My students can be the biggest procrastinators.  I suppose we all can procrastinate from time to time but I find that my students every year have trouble with completing their assignments early enough to have proper time for editing and self-reflection.  I teach in a graduate school; all of my students are adults and choose to be students at the school. We have discussions in class about the issue of procrastination but for some it seems to be difficult to change. I am hoping to find advice from the community on any tips or strategies you find effective to help students avoid putting off their work until the last minute.  Specifically, I am wondering whether there is anything related to the mobile use of Canvas that can motivate students to work in a more time efficient manner. Thanks! 

This semester, I challenged myself to only use Teacher when grading and providing feedback. The release of Canvas Teacher got me like:


tl;dr Overwhelmingly positive.



The course I am (was, by the time some of you may be reading this) teaching is Foundations of Online Learning. It needed a redesign, so my focus was on mobile-friendly Universal Design for Learning concepts and OER content. One discussion per week and assignments that made use of design choice including Adobe Spark, Canva, FlipGrid and other non-traditional assignment submission types.


As an eight-week course, and with a full-time job during the week and little spare time outside of work (tbh, I'd rather hang out with my family than grade all the time), it was important to me to find balance.


Being up earlier than the rest of my family, that meant that I could grade assignments that came in on Monday on Tuesday morning, and be caught up and ready to go for Tuesday submissions on Wednesday. The variety offered to me for providing on-the-go comments with my iOS camera and microphone, or annotating with DocViewer, were really stellar. I could do all of that while laying down on the couch in my jammies, rather than trying to prop a MacBook Pro on my lap with cats running around.



  • Grading anytime, anywhere. I graded assignments in the early morning with a cup of tea, in between takes at band practice and before bed. All on different devices, as the situation warranted.
  • Editing announcements and assignments on the fly: Based on feedback from the students, I was able to flex Teacher's muscles by adapting course content to meet their needs.
  • Ran into an issue with drag and drop on iOS 11. Support was incredibly responsive and the issue was resolved.


Sticking points

  • Notifications for Teacher did not seem to work. I relied on notifications from Student.
    • If I did not have the Student app, notifications would not have pushed to me. It could have been a potential problem, but was resolved using a workaround.
  • No support for adding images to assignment submissions as a teacher. Had to go to mobile Canvas via Chrome for iOS. Bummer.


Many, many thanks to the team at Instructure for getting Teacher out to the community. Every opportunity I get to evangelize it, I do. I encourage everyone in this community that also teaches to try a similar experiment. Not only is it worth it, I now have a better sense of how to be more responsive to faculty concerns about the mobile Canvas experience.

I am greatly enjoying the easy use of the Canvas Teacher app. One thing I wish it had was a search or sort option for the home page. I have many open, active courses and just being able to search or sort A-Z would make things easier.

Family Checking Canvas Parent


In May of 2017, a small group of families from DeLaSalle High School in Minneapolis, Minnesota was invited to provide feedback and to talk about the Canvas Parent App. During these meetings, Canvas administrators were able to gather great user-stories and adjust the way in which Canvas Parent was supported. Additionally, a list of "best practices" was compiled and shared with teaching faculty.




At the time of this interview, Billy just completed his freshman year at DeLaSalle High School. He’s a goal-oriented student who is intrinsically motivated to make authentic connections between different content areas. Notably, his outgoing personality landed him a lead role in two recent theater productions.


His mom, Patty, shared that, “being involved with Billy’s academics really helps me gauge 'how’s he doing in school?’ and ‘how is he doing overall?’ If I can see a slip, I know that there’s something going on. Either it’s that he’s disengaged or he’s overwhelmed.” Patty thinks that parent involvement is important, not just because of the value she places on education, but because she wants to make sure that Billy maximizes his potential.


“The mobile app allows me to, anytime I want, check in on Billy’s progress. It’s easy to access information.”


Canvas has encouraged her to start conversations with teachers, outside of scheduled conferences and semester checkpoints. “I’ve used Canvas to reach out to teachers. The app makes it easy to start the conversation since I have so much more detail about the coursework.” Patty likes being able to have up-to-date information on her phone. The information about late and missing work helps provide context to her inquiries with Billy’s teachers.


The transparency of Canvas is so valuable. Patty likes how grades, assignment details, etc are all available to her. It helps her piece together what Billy experiences on a day-to-day basis and provides her with key talking points when checking in with her son at the end of the day. She also pointed out the convenience of the app as, “most of us have a phone with us all the time. I can see when he’s going to have a test or he’s going to get a grade."


"I can check...not that I don’t trust him...there have been great conversations about how he did on an assignment.”


She is appreciative of the easy interface and the consistency of the app. However, there are a few improvements that she’d like to see made. “If I can see that something has been resubmitted or changed, I have to log-in to the desktop to really see the comments. It would be so nice to be able to see it on my phone. I still get the email notifications, but I’d like to have it one place.” She’d also like to be able to set granular notifications.


Currently, with customized alerts in Canvas Parent, Patty thinks that it’s great to be able to receive the information she finds the most valuable, like when her son receives a zero on an assignment. However, Billy shared, “In certain situations, I think it’s helpful because [my mom] is able to check in. But there are some situations when I completely forget about an assignment.” Patty responded, “With the notifications, I usually send a message of some sort back, asking ‘what happened?’ ...and, at times, I admit, that it can cause unneeded concern due to the immediacy of the initial notifications.”


The best part of Canvas Parent “is really the convenience. I did not use Canvas [as an Observer] before the app as much as I do now.” It was so easy to lose track of time and forget to check-in from the browser. Being able to check on Billy’s grades whenever encourages Patty to actually do so. Looking over at her son, she took the opportunity to point out, “now, sorry Billy, I get to check your grades a couple times a day...if I want!”


Billy shared, “For as much as I say I don’t like [that my mom is connected], the Parent app helps. I think it makes things better. It encourages me to stay on top of things. With this, I can’t get away with anything.”


He openly admitted that being held accountable by multiple adults is actually a good thing.

Parent and Student checking Canvas

In May of 2017, a small group of families from DeLaSalle High School in Minneapolis, Minnesota was invited to provide feedback and to talk about the Canvas Parent App. During these meetings, Canvas administrators were able to gather great user-stories and adjust the way in which Canvas Parent was supported. Additionally, a list of "best practices" was compiled and shared with teaching faculty.




During this interview, Greg Mattson, parent of a freshman at DelaSalle, explained how the app is a window into the academic balancing act his freshman student has to maintain. Calvin is a great student who is also invested in many school-sponsored activities. Canvas Parent has made it possible for Greg stay connected and to receive communications with Calvin's teachers more efficiently.


“Canvas Parent provides perspective, even when teachers don’t directly communicate about classroom progress.”


Before Canvas, Greg could ask Calvin about his day, but he would get short answers. Greg shared, “now that I have ‘the answers’ at my fingertips, I really do look for them. I’m able to look for changes in course grades, in one quick glance, and then I can initiate a bigger conversation with my son.”


Most students won’t necessarily bring up their grades to parents, but parents deserve to know what’s happening at school. One feature, in particular, simplifies this task for Greg. “The week at a glance allows me to encourage and remind Calvin to set aside the appropriate time for studying and to set goals with him rather than waiting until there is an issue.” Greg feels involved without feeling he’s overbearing.


“The term ‘mobile’ is about getting information quickly. The app does just that. It’s convenient, and it allows me to be proactive with Calvin’s schoolwork.”


Greg likes how conversations about school work can be more casual There's not a specific time that these conversations take place because he and Calvin always have their smartphones on them. Greg likes that these conversations can happen anywhere and that they don’t have to huddle around a desktop or a pile of textbooks. They can talk about a specific assignment, and share varying perspectives based on their apps. He does, however, hope that submission details and teacher feedback will make it to Canvas Parent soon so he can gain more context to Calvin’s assignment scores.


Greg also shared how he appreciated it when coaches for sports and activities utilized Canvas for communication and organizational purposes. Students and parents are already in Canvas, so it makes a lot of sense to meet them where they already are. The consistency allows families to plan ahead and maximize time at home for activities, studying, and other commitments.


I am creating this blog post with full the expectation of disagreement posts. My goal is to create a discussion that explores the best way to design a complex project like Canvas for use on many types of devices, screens, and operating systems.


My History with Mobile Apps

  • I initially tried using Speedgrader mobile when we first started using Canvas and did not find it any more convenient than using the web version.
  • I have explored Canvas Student and Teacher a few times, including today.  I find that the apps are quite convenient for certain tasks and that I miss being able to quickly accomplish others.
  • My students use Canvas Student all the time, even in class, so I know they are using it to keep track of assignments.  This is actually a problem when students ONLY look at the To-Do list and miss other pages in the modules.
  • I teach exclusively using iPad, and very often do grading and even course creation on iPad.  The only task I have attempted that did not work was scrolling quizzes when in speedgrader,  but using quiz moderating it works fine.
  • I have designed web-apps and am a 'hack' coder.  Meaning I do a lot of coding, but was not formally trained so I am always researching the best way to accomplish coding problems.  However I know just enough to be dangerous. 


My Question in a Nutshell

Why do we need to create mobile apps when virtually all devices have web browsers and we can create responsive websites that provide the same functionality via responsive Graphical User Interfaces (GUI's) based on the screen and Operating System (OS).


More Explanation

Responsive web design is considered one of the most important features of a well-designed website.  The goal of responsive web design is to provide the same information and functionality, but formatted in the most accessible and navigable and easy-to-read manner specific for the user's device.


We have all seen websites that look one way on a desktop (large) screen, but then reformat with content flowing in a different order when the screen is smaller.   You can test this by changing the size of your desktop screen to see how the content layout changes as the screen gets smaller.  With the page you are currently viewing, for example, when you make the screen smaller than a certain width the top navigation bar collapses in to a drop-down menu, and the buttons at the bottom which are side-by-side on the larger screen become stacked top-to-bottom.  


This is done via Cascading Style Sheets (CSS).  The basic idea behind CSS is the importance of separating content from formatting, thus allowing the same content to be presented in a variety of manners.  A different style sheet can be applied to the same content making it accessible by smaller screens, visual-assistive devices, hearing-assistive devices, etc.


Because much of what the mobile apps accomplish is this same reformatting of content, I'm not sure why we need separate mobile apps when we could just use CSS and create the various versions of Canvas in the web version.


As for OS, this is where things can get much more complicated because different OS's and different browsers can have completely different application programming interfaces (API's).  Even CSS can be interpreted differently.  This is why there are different versions of many apps on say, the iOS and Android platforms.   HOWEVER, as web designers and programmers, we have many tools available to us to make that process easier.    


For example, JQuery is a cross-browser javascript library that handles all of the various browser differences, allowing a designer to simply use the JQuery API and be assured that everything will work on most browsers.  I say "most" because as older versions of browsers age, they become unsupported. Bootstrap is another popular cross-browser framework.   jQuery is in use by Canvas, which is why we have access to things like collapsible menus.  There is also an extension library for jQuery called jQuery Mobile, which adds a lot of functionality for mobile devices.


Many mobile apps we use today are basically web apps wrapped into packages and installed as separate applications.    


The Point

Since web application design has evolved so far and is so widely used, there are many advancements and tools available that make it efficient to create a web application that can provide all the functionality we have in Canvas across many devices.  A web app can be dynamically served depending on the device, OS, and screen, presented in a format most logical for that device.   So why not leverage that technology and put the time and resources of Canvas into developing each new advancement directly into the web application for various devices at the same time?   This is instead of creating advancements in the web app and then adding those same advancements to each of the mobile apps.  Why spread out our development into so many apps instead of focusing our efforts into one cross-browser, cross-platform web app?


I am tempted to continue, pointing out all of the feature requests that want a specific feature in this app or that app, or the PDF's I found of the feature lists of various apps on various devices and how those are prioritized for development.   Even polls could be added to Canvas within the current web application.  But I think I've written enough to get a conversation started.


I look forward to reading replies!