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Canvas Mobile Users Group

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If you're looking for printer-friendly how-to guides for parents who are self-registering for Canvas, here's what we've come up with:

 

 

To modify these for your school or classroom, go to `File -> Make a copy...` and edit to your heart's content!

 

For an easy read on what's new in Canvas Parent 2.0 that also features links to Canvas Guides, view the Canvas Parent 2.0 What's New PDF.

 

That PDF is also presented from the parent app in version 2.0 if a person taps "See what's new" from the launch page.

Instructure's mobile strategy usually ends up outlined in a couple of InstructureCon presentations, but if you’re new to Canvas, or if you haven’t made it to InstructureCon, or if you just want to know more about our mobile strategy, here’s a brief summary.

 

We build native mobile apps because native mobile offers a much better experience than mobile web from mobile devices. This means we minimize the number of web views in our mobile apps, and instead rely heavily on the Canvas API to present information from Canvas in a way that’s optimized for touchscreens, big and small. There are a few learning management systems that treat their mobile apps like web portals and their mobile experiences generally stink as a result, but many lean native nowadays for that reason. If you’ve ever annotated a paper from a mobile web browser and then done the same thing from a native app (say, Canvas Teacher), you can easily feel the difference in experience.

 

A few years ago we decided that we could further refine our mobile experience by focusing on how people approached Canvas from mobile devices. We noted a few truths up front:

 

Canvas_is_big_Devices_are_small_People_are_different

 

In other words, Canvas is roughly bigger than the Pyramids of Giza combined, and even a gargantuan phone like the Samsung Galaxy Note is relatively small, and we have the opportunity to bridge that gap by giving people the experience they need from mobile -- tailored to their role -- because their expectations depend on their role.

 

A student approaches Canvas saying I want to see my grade on this assignment, or I want to see what’s due next week. A teacher approaches Canvas saying I want to post an announcement, or I want to grade this assignment. A parent approaches Canvas saying What’s Canvas? So let's deliver experiences that map to those realities.

 

This approach is working so far on a number of fronts:

 

  1. The apps are easier to use because they provide the functions you need rather than the ones you don’t.
  2. It streamlines messaging for us and for our clients. Parents don’t need to learn how to use Canvas, for example, they just need to learn how to use the parent app.
  3. It forces us to decompose problems from the perspective of the user. Rather than let’s build an assignments page for a 4-inch screen, we say students need to submit assignments, or teachers need to grade assignments, and those needs inform how the assignments page needs to look and function from a variety of perspectives.
  4. The apps are easier to maintain because we narrow the set of perspectives to consider for any function within a given app.

 

For an example that illustrates how roles inform the Canvas mobile experience, here’s the teacher app assignment details page beside the upcoming student app assignment details page:

 

Assignments_in_Canvas_Teacher_compared_to_Canvas_Student

 

Teachers see submission dials -- students see information about their own submissions. Teachers see publishing status -- students see submission status. Teachers can modify assignment details and grade submissions -- students can submit (or resubmit) assignments. Especially with limited screen real estate, we want to give people the experience they need to efficiently get things done no matter who or where they are.

 

We continue to release app updates geared towards boosting productivity and efficiency as quickly as we can build them, which is relatively quickly. Of course, Canvas offers support for tablet browsers, and new features -- like our new quizzes platform -- are built to be fully responsive if you're really jonesing for browser access from a mobile device. But we think if mobile is worth doing, it's worth doing right. With an ever-increasing number of daily active users in our native mobile apps, we're confident that we're on the right path.

 

Lastly, we make it a point to learn our way forward, so your feedback is incredibly important to the success and usefulness of our apps. If you're passionate about a idea related to mobile, we want to hear from you. Real bad. You can reach out to us through the community or email or client services. We'd love to chat.

Matthew Moore

The Mobile Movement

Posted by Matthew Moore Jul 11, 2018

I have been recently researching ways to reach the Modern Learner via mobile lessons, activities, projects, and plans.  Yes, there are a lot of apps out there that are beneficial, but as Biray Seitz and Ryan Seilhamer stated "While the Canvas app is effective in translating your course to be responsive on a mobile device, it is the job of the teacher or instructional designer to effectively design assignments to address the on-the-go learner."

 

I conducted a workshop at the most recent Online Teaching Conference in Anaheim (2018) on Motivating Students with Cell Phone Activities. But as research has it and timing luck has it, I wish I would have read more about the Canvas Polls app.  I think this Canvas Polls app and the upcoming Quizzes.Next features are going to be beneficial for increasing interaction while still being in the same overall environment.  I applaud Canvas for seeing that need.

 

Anyway, I have some materials that are pinned to my twitter account from the conference, and I can share with you what I tried to convey should you have any questions.  It seems like we are going to have a learning world soon that is community driven, individually contributed, location free, movable, right sized, goal oriented, success driven, failure learnable, and data large.  A new way to learn, interact, earn badges, etc. 

 

Excuse me, while I learn Chinese on Duolingo.

 

Zai Jian!

With a few more tweaks we'll be done with Canvas Parent 2.0, so here's a final pre-release post! Anything to do with pairing codes or self-registration in this post is only relevant if self-registration is enabled at your institution.

 

To summarize the changes coming:

 

  1. We modified the parent self-registration flow to use pairing codes instead of student username and password, which comes with two benefits:
    • Pairing codes enable self-registration regardless of how students authenticate with Canvas (username/password only worked as long as students were using Canvas authentication)
    • Pairing codes are more secure than password sharing; they last 24 hours and can only be used once. After the pairing code is used, it expires, the observer remains paired with the student, and anyone who tries to use that pairing code again to self-register will receive an error.
  2. We made self-registration work from the parent app. Now parents will be able to self-register as observers from Canvas web or the parent app, and the account they create will work on both platforms. No more duplicate parent accounts, and no more need for parents to connect to a student from web and mobile separately.
  3. We added an account permission to allow pairing codes to be generated on behalf of students. By default, this permission will be off for all roles (i.e., admin-only). But if you're an admin and you want your teachers, for example, to be able to facilitate parent self-registration on behalf of their students, you can enable this permission. Students can always create pairing codes for themselves.
  4. Parent app works for all observers, regardless of whether the observer was created through self-registration, manually by an admin, SIS import, or whatever else.

 

As usual, our friends on the documentation team are working on creating/updating Canvas Guides to explain these updates in full detail, but I made a quick (super-duper high-quality) video to show how this all comes together:

 

 

The new pairing codes and the new permission are on beta now, so you can mess around with them if you want. The 2.0 update to Canvas Parent will be rolling out to stores on/around July 18th.

 

This has been a deceptively large project to make the parent/school experience fundamentally better -- more reliable, more secure, more consistent, and more scalable than it was. We hope it helps kick off the '18-'19 school year in the right direction!

The Information School, iSchool, at the University of Washington has been providing templates for our Canvas courses since about late 2012. We started using Canvas in fall of 2011. Our templates have evolved with the available technological advances and we have spent the last few months designing for the next iteration. One of my colleagues, Putri Hiendarto, has spent a great deal of time working on this new generation of templates.

 

Part of the design process was to do a detailed usability study with a number of our students from the various programs that we offer at the iSchool. We offered gift cards to the participants and then sat with them as they worked their way through two different versions of the next gen templates. By far, they preferred our "compact" design for the less complex courses. This design uses collapsible sections that work pretty well in most browsers both on the desktop and on mobile. Unfortunately, we haven't been able to get the javascript right so the collapsible sections work on the apps. We are working with Kenneth Larsen from Cidi Design Tools to help us figure out what is happening in the apps. Yes, Design Tools was used heavily throughout the coding process and really simplified the task in many ways.

 

The question that we always struggle with is whether to optimize our templates for responsiveness or make them work best in the app. There are pros and cons either way but we are currently leaning more to the responsive design that works in the mobile browsers. For what our students do on mobile, based on a survey from a year ago, I think our focus on responsive is better at this point. What are your thoughts about developing for the apps, mobile web or both?

 

So, let's take a look at our "compact" template on both the Desktop and Mobile:

 

 

The image above show the desktop version of the template on the left and the mobile version on the right. The desktop version is shown in the Chrome browser and the mobile version is from Chrome on an Android device running Android 5.1 Nearly identical other than the purple menu wrapping and the course stream link loading at the bottom on mobile.

 

The next image shows "Week 1" expanded on both platforms, desktop on the left and mobile on the right:

 

 

You can see that the 3 column layout on the desktop collapses really well to a single column on the mobile side.

 

The next image show the comparison between the two platforms showing the menu on the syllabus page:

 

 

 

The last thing I will share is a two minute screencast of this template being used on my phone. It works really well.

 

 

I hope people find this post useful :-)

At UCF we have been using Canvas campus-wide since 2013. When we started using Canvas, there wasn't much mobile available. The SpeedGrader app had been out for a year or so, the iOS app was very limited, and the Android app just came out of beta. Over the past six years that mobile apps have grown to be an essential part of not only the online experience but the overall educational experience for students at UCF.

 

In 2014 we recognized the need to understand better how students were interacting with Canvas while on-the-go and we conducted our first Canvas Mobile App survey at UCF. The study is critical because it gives us a better understanding of how students are interacting with the most popular mobile app at UCF and help us better communicate needs directly to Instructure and the Canvas Mobile team. In 2018 we completed our fifth Canvas Mobile App survey which I want to share with the community to create discussion, inform your mobile strategy, and help improve the experience for students.

 

Survey Background

 

The survey was administered April 1-8 inside of Canvas as a global message to all users. We have found that this messaging feature is handy, but needs to be used sparingly to avoid overloading the user.

 

 

The survey this year included a record number of users (1688), and we suspect this might be to the addition of global messages being available on iOS for the first time. In the past, this was only available to web users and the smaller subset of Android users.

 

 

 

Demographics

At UCF we are BIG and this includes a large diverse student population of over 66k. The following charts give a breakdown of the demographics behind the 1688 student responses. 

 


App Usage

App usage has been high at UCF since 2014 with very little change in usage, which is very high. In other studies, mobile app ownership is approximately 3:1 iPhone over Android devices. This survey was mostly in line with ownership. One interesting fact is that 3% of student reported both Android and iOS. 

 

Outside of this survey, our Canvas Data shows approximately 20% of all Canvas traffic is through the Canvas Student app, which includes over 500 million page views and 40k unique users per month. 

 

The following question is always interesting because the biggest reason why students didn't use the Canvas Student app was they didn't know it was available. This used to be a more significant issue, but when smart banners were added to Canvas in 2014, we noticed that adoption jumped up significantly. 

 

 

This survey and our previous have proved that student who use the Canvas Student app, use it a lot. In fact, 96% use it at least once a week with the majority (87%) using it even more. It's the most used app at UCF just in front of the popular UCF Mobile app at 84%. 


Features

Since we started this survey in 2014, this hasn't changed much. Students generally want to know three things: 

 

  1. How am I doing in class?
  2. What do I need to do?
  3. How do I do it?

 

The survey shows that students are using the mobile app for light interaction and staying connected to their class while on-the-go. 

In 2016 we added the following question to learn even more about how students use the Canvas apps, and this is in line with my statement above about what student generally want to know and how their interactions a light. There isn't a lot of interaction around assignments, discussions, or quizzes. These features are being used to get more information about a particular assignment, but not to submit one.

 

The favorite features have a lot of similarities to the most popular features like grades and assignments. Thought it's interesting to see how the app gives access and is convenient and easy. I am particularly interested in the word "check" which shows student value being able to stay connected with short interactions. 

Device Access

Which devices students own and how they access Canvas is essential as we continue to manage resources and support users on all platforms. One interesting point that has become common in recent surveys is laptop/desktop ownership is slightly less than smartphones. The 2018 survey is no different with 12 students reporting not owning a computer, with only four not owning a smartphone. 

 

When I discuss these surveys I always say that usage doesn't equal importance, and it's no surprise that laptop/desktop is extremely important to students, with the smartphone in the middle, and tablet way behind at 11 percent. 

 

 

If you take extremely important and very important to one data point, the smartphone is essential to almost 3/4th of the students in the survey with the tablet still well behind. 

 

Communication

Communication through mobile technologies is often known as "non-traditional" but from our recent survey its obvious this is becoming less true as students reported push notifications (70%) to be more important than email (66%) with the more traditional SMS at 29%. 

 

 

Final Words

 

I hope to dive more into these numbers over the next few months but would love to know what you think. Also, if you are interested in running this survey at your school, please let me know as I'd be excited to compare numbers. 

For the most recent post on Canvas Parent 2.0, check out Canvas Parent 2.0 - Pre-Release Update.

 

--------------------------------------------

 

We’re making some really good progress on Canvas Parent 2.0, so I wanted to post some screenshots/flows here to keep you all informed and answer some FAQs. If you haven’t read the original post on Canvas Parent 2.0, I’d recommend checking that out before reading this. As always, if you’ve got questions or concerns, feel free to post them here or send me a message.

 

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Observer login flow

 

If a parent already has an observer account in Canvas, this is how they’ll sign into Canvas Parent 2.0 (red circles indicate taps):

 

observer_login_flow_picture

 

If it looks familiar, that’s the same login flow used in the student and teacher apps. We’ve made this flow work for all observers (whether self-registered, imported from the SIS or manually created), and observers won’t have to add students from the app anymore if they’re already connected to students in Canvas.

 

----------------

Observer self-registration flow (only relevant for accounts with self-registration enabled)

 

If a parent doesn’t already have a Canvas observer account, they’ll need to create one. If self-registration is enabled at your institution, this is what that self-registration flow looks like in Canvas Parent 2.0:

 

observer_self-registration_flow_picture

 

If your school doesn’t enable self-registration, and observers are instead manually created or imported from a SIS, parents will already have observer accounts, the "Create Account" button won't appear on the login page, and they’ll go through the login flow shown at the top of this post.

 

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Parent signup form (only relevant for accounts with self-registration enabled)

 

We’re tweaking the parent signup form, as you may have noticed in the fourth screenshot above. Here are today’s (old) form and the yet-to-be-released (new) form, side by side:

 

parent_signup_comparison_picture

 

So there are a couple of things happening:

 

  • We’re adding password creation to the parent’s account creation process. Today, parents sign up and then receive an email with a link to create a password. We’re making that a single step in account creation.
  • We’re removing student username and password from the equation and replacing it with a pairing code. More on the pairing code below.

 

----------------

Pairing codes (only relevant for accounts with self-registration enabled)

 

As I mentioned in a reply to my last post, requiring student username and password in the observer self-registration process is a problem for two reasons:

 

  1. Sharing passwords is bad, and
  2. Those usernames and passwords only apply to Canvas authentication, and many schools aren’t using Canvas authentication for students, so observers couldn't self-register even if the school allowed it.


To remedy this, we’ve created pairing codes. Here’s what pairing code creation is going to look like from the student’s perspective:

 

pairing_code_button_in_profile_sidebar

 

pairing_code_modal


Some notes on the pairing code:

 

  • The “Pair with Observer” button only shows up if self-registration is enabled at your institution. When it’s available, students can see it for themselves, and admins can see it for all students.
  • For now, each pairing code will live for 24 hours. That means once the pairing code is generated, it will remain valid for 24 hours, then it expires.
  • Each pairing code can only be used once. Once it’s used in account registration, the pairing code expires and the observer remains successfully paired. If you want to pair two observers to one student, each observer needs a unique pairing code.
  • For now, there’s no limit to how many pairing codes can be created per student. If a student creates one for herself, and then an admin creates one for her, both codes are valid for that student for 24 hours.

 

This is a solution that doesn’t require password sharing and works regardless of how the student authenticates with Canvas.

 

We want to release this with Canvas Parent 2.0 in July, so we’re keeping the approach simple; no configuring how long the pairing code lasts on the account, no creating codes en masse, no automatic form letters generated with codes. With this release, we want an easy path for generating an individual pairing code and we want better security and flexibility than using student passwords. Our stretch goal is students generating QR codes from the student app that parents can scan from the parent app to use for pairing.

 

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FAQs

----------------

 

Are there any feature updates happening outside the authentication process with Canvas Parent 2.0?

 

There are a few:

 

  • UI tweaks: We’re moving the course/week/alerts tabs to the bottom of the app to more closely resemble the styling of the student and teacher apps, and we’re replacing the carousel with a dropdown for student switching. The carousel didn’t work very well, and version 2.0 won’t have the same scaling issues that version 1.0 had with multiple students. Here’s what that change looks like:
    carousel_dropdown_comparison

  • We’re adding the global navigation menu already available in the student and teacher apps, which means parents will be able to “change user” if they’ve got kids at multiple institutions (i.e., if they’ve got multiple Canvas accounts) without needing to sign in every session. Here’s what that change looks like:

    global_nav_picture

  • We’re adding masquerading to the parent app. Admins haven’t historically been able to help parents directly with the app, and now they’ll be able to. Just like in the student and teacher apps, if you sign in as an admin to Canvas Parent 2.0, you’ll see “Act as User” as an option in the global navigation menu.

That’s about it! This release is very much about getting the user model straightened out.

 

----------------

 

What will happen to Canvas Parent Tools™ LTI tool?

 

This tool will go away. We created it to give admins the ability to manage Canvas Parent users - but when those users are observers, you can use all of the normal Canvas administrative tools and reports to manage them instead.

 

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Do I need to make any changes to authentication on my account?

 

All you need to do is make sure observers can log into the mobile apps. You can test this today by attempting to log in to any of our apps as an observer. 

 

If you use multiple authentication providers, I'd recommend asking your CSM to add both (or all) providers to mobile smart search, which will make them show up when people search for your school (e.g., search for "Smith Schools" and see "Smith Schools - Parents" and "Smith Schools - Students"). Here's a real life example:

 

 

"Brown County Schools - Students/Teachers" and "Brown County Schools - Parents" represent two different authentication providers for Brown County Schools. 

 

If you don't want to do that, you can also set up a discovery page.

 

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Should I be scared?

 

Nope.

 

We're adding help references for parents around the app, like this one on the launch page:

 

made_some_changes_button

 

Or this one on the parent signup form:

 

 

Or this one in the global navigation menu:

 

 

Parents won't need to go far for help if they need it. Many schools also have their own documentation for parents, but we hope that's mostly unnecessary given the right guidance within the app.

 

----------------

 

Hope this helps!

ptart@wcpss.net

Mobile Conferences

Posted by ptart@wcpss.net Jun 1, 2018

I must say that I am looking forward to #INSTCON more this year that all previous years. This is in part to Fred Dixon and the BigBlueButton team. What am I looking for? Mobile conferences! Playing around with the test version of HTML5 conferences brings a much needed sigh of relief. Test it out at BigBlueButton - Open Source Web Conferencing.

 

Why is this in Canvas Users Mobile Group? Because it seems that this should flow nicely into an updated Canvas Teacher/Student App that supports HTML5, specifically regarding Conferences. Fingers crossed as I make my way to CO.

I just read Engaging students with "The Goodies" by Julian Ridden and was entertained by its content (my wife and I are watching Youtube videos of the Goodies now, btw...). But that came after reading a few (that I won't point out) from folks who are disgruntled about Mobile Apps, even from Canvas.

It got me thinking about Mobile Apps and what we expect of them. Now, if you've read any of my other stuff, you may have read that I'm not a huge fan of constant engagement, and recommend disconnecting and living amongst the humans periodically.

I also realize that when I do set up expectations for mobile access, there are boundaries. I do not expect, nor do I even want research papers to be transcribed into a mobile device. Oh, by all means when something inspirational hits you, the phone is usually the best place to record it or jot it down, yes, I understand. Discussions? By all means, they're laid out and easy to read and respond. Students will receive notifications. But what I usually hear is that there are quirky functions that teachers can't do, like they can on their laptops.

I think there are features that more lend themselves to being accessed on a mobile device than others. I also believe that when I have the opportunity to teach, I want my students to be a little more engaged and focused when I receive something from them. I want them to have access to my course, be able to access the course schedule and calendar, be able to determine if they've done what I've asked them to do, but maybe not necessarily do everything from their phone.

Kudos to you,mobile app developers, who continually try to meet the needs of the masses, especially in education, and try to push the possibilities of what can be done, and how. I know it's no easy task, but the efforts are appreciated.

Peyton Craighill

Canvas Parent 2.0!

Posted by Peyton Craighill Administrator Mar 30, 2018

For the most recent post on Canvas Parent 2.0, check out Canvas Parent 2.0 - Pre-Release Update.

 

--------------------------------------------

 

This here’s meant for the K-12ers in the house. HE folks are welcome to keep reading, but I bet you won’t find it very relevant.

 

I mentioned in my recent Canvas Mobile Update post that we’re going to improve everybody’s experience with the parent app by changing the way authentication works. This post will provide a deeper dive into what that means and what you can expect from the parent app in the coming months. It’s nothing scary; I just want to make sure everyone has a proper heads-up and a chance to ask questions.

 

The Problem

 

Let’s start with how things work today. Your institution handles parent accounts in Canvas in one of two (or both of these) ways:

 

  1. You provision parent accounts in Canvas -- likely as observers -- from your SIS or some other user import. In this case, you’re either using Canvas authentication or some other authentication system (LDAP, SAML, etc.) to allow parents to access Canvas. You probably also communicate with parents about how to access these things…maybe at back-to-school night, maybe in packets you send home with kids, maybe through email, maybe through snail mail, or whatever else. Provisioning is the method of choice for a lot of larger schools/districts.

    AND/OR

  2. You enable self-registration for observers in Canvas. In this case, you tell parents to go to ‘yourschool.instructure.com/login/canvas’ to create an account for themselves. This option enables a little button on the Canvas login page that says:
    self-registration button picture
    Self-registration is the method of choice for a lot of smaller schools/districts.

 

In both cases, you end up with parents as users in Canvas. Cool! That means parents can engage in their kids’ education and you can facilitate that engagement depending on the policies and preferences of your school or district.

 

Okay, now less cool: We created an entirely different user model for the parent app when we launched it two years ago. There were good reasons for it, like wanting registration for parents to be easy from a mobile device -- and wanting parents with kids at different institutions to have an easy way to navigate between those kids/institutions. But in the end, this other user model:

 

  • Doesn’t play nice with SIS integrations
  • Doesn’t play nice with Canvas services like inbox
  • Means parents (at least until we added support for observer authentication in the fall of 2016) needed two Canvas accounts – one for web and one for mobile
  • Necessitates all this duplicate tooling like Canvas Parent Admin Tools and a Canvas Parent feature flag to manage mobile parents separately because Canvas Parent Users aren’t technically Canvas users
  • Made the first-time experience for parents worse

 

That all stinks. And that stench totally outweighs the theoretical benefits of having a separate model for parents.

 

-------------------

 

The Fix

 

In case the solution isn’t obvious yet: we’re going to get rid of the Canvas Parent user model and everyone’s going to authenticate in the parent app with their ordinary Canvas credentials (just like students and teachers do in the apps today). Here’s what the current release plan looks like:

 

Version 1.3

  • When: Likely the second half of April
  • What it does: Removes the “Create Account” button from the parent app’s login page
  • What parents can expect:
    • Won’t change anything for existing users.
    • Brand new users will need to have Canvas observer accounts to log in to the parent app.
  • Why: Since we’re getting rid of the Canvas Parent user model this summer, we’re removing the ability to create accounts that won’t work a few months down the road. Instead, new parents will need to be Canvas observers.

 

Version 2.0

  • When: In July, when parent app usage hits its lowest point
  • What it does:
    • Forces observer authentication to use the parent app
    • Likely gets rid of Canvas Parent Admin Tools and Canvas Parent feature flag (because they duplicate other Canvas admin functionality)
  • What parents can expect:
    • Will need to log into the app again, this time using their Canvas observer credentials, following the same flow they would to log into Canvas web or the student app (No more having two accounts!)
    • Any kids they’re observing will automatically populate once logged in (No more re-adding students you’re already observing in Canvas web!)
  • Why: To make everyone’s brains hurt less

 

-------------------

 

Here’s a picture of the change:

 

 

1.0 vs 2.0

 

If you have any questions, fire away!

Larry Turner

Thanks A Lot, Canvas!

Posted by Larry Turner Mar 28, 2018

I have worked with a number of Learning Management Systems. Some of which no longer exist and/or have been bought and swallowed up by the more major players in the industry. I have seen the industry change - at least most with helping the student succeed in mind.

One thing that I really appreciate about Canvas is that, 1. not only did they develop their own mobile app, but, 2. they offer it as part of the purchase package and it's already configured!

If you have never had to beat your head against the wall dealing with "some of the other major players" then consider yourself lucky.

And Canvas? Thank you!

This post starts with a history lesson from my childhood. I grew up in Australia in the 80s. One of my fondest memories was rushing home from school to ensure that each afternoon I could catch my FAVORITE show, The Goodies!

 

The Goodies were three friends; Tim, Graeme and Bill, who ran a business where they spent each episode solving other peoples (or their own) problems. Let me give you a quick sample of their genius below.


So what made the Goodies successful? Well, it was easily their appealing slogan. "Anything, Anywhere, Anytime" and it is this very same message I use when talking Canvas Mobile!

 

Anything, Anywhere, Anytime

From the very early days Canvas recognised that for true adoption we needed to be where the users were, when they needed us on whatever device they were on. Or, what I simply refer to as "The Goodies Method". And while thankfully we do it with a higher level of success and professionalism than the original intrepid trio, the ethos remains the same.

 

Be it through a purpose built App (Teacher, Student, Parent) or through the Mobile Webb, Canvas ensures that users get quick and easy access to what they need in a quick and efficient manner. And that includes not just access but also notifications.

 

So when was the last time you unleashed your Goodies?

 

Julian

Peyton Craighill

Canvas Mobile Update

Posted by Peyton Craighill Administrator Mar 23, 2018

Version 6.0 of the student app has been in the wild for a few weeks, and I wanted to give an update on what you can expect from the Canvas mobile apps over the next few months.

 

 

CANVAS STUDENT

 

We’ll continue releasing feature updates to Canvas Student through the rest of this school year, in roughly this order:

 

  • Version 6.1: New, shiny, and performant course announcements and discussions!

Announcements and discussions are two of the most-used course components in Canvas, and both our iOS and Android teams have been working for weeks to make them more usable and more scalable in mobile.

One of the tricky things about discussion threads in mobile is that they can get really long, really quickly. They can also contain loads of images. And while your four-year-old laptop may have a paltry 8GB of RAM, your brand new iPhone X only contains 3GB of RAM. But you need both of those devices to load the same amount of information in about the same amount of time. So that was one of our goals. Here’s how an image-heavy discussion thread looks in the store version today compared to version 6.1:

 

To sum it up, replies load more quickly and the interface isn’t so cramped. The reply button in old discussions was also really easy to miss. See it in the top right? Well, a lot of people didn’t. So we added a big and loud “Reply” button at the bottom of the original post (and one less loud one at the top right of the original post).

 

  • Version 6.2: New, shiny, and performant grades and assignments lists!

The old grades and assignments lists took a long time to load. This update will make them better.

 

  • Version 6.3: New, shiny, and performant assignment details and submission flows!

Viewing and submitting assignments from the student app today isn’t easy. We want to improve three things:

 

  1. Make grades and submission comments easy for students to access
  2. Allow students to see their submission, submission comments, rubric and annotations in a single place
  3. Make submitting assignments in mobile less of a pain in the butt

 

Here’s roughly what the new assignment details page will look like after a student receives a grade:

 

 

We also have plans to add support for peer reviews and improve support for cloud assignments - though I’m not sure yet if those two pieces will go into 6.3 or a subsequent version.

 

 

CANVAS TEACHER

 

  • Version 1.5: Support for section-specific announcements, better discussions and faster context cards!

This should be released for both platforms within the next couple of weeks.

 

  • Other note: Teacher app doesn’t support modules today. We’re pretty close to being able to make this happen. Modules necessarily come last in development because almost every other kind of content in Canvas can be attached to a module (i.e., modules don’t do anything without assignments and pages and quizzes and links and files also being supported). Modules are also the way that many teachers interact with their course content, so getting to an assignment through the assignments list rather than through modules feels unnatural. Our first pass at modules will definitely not be adding support for building modules or modifying the structure of modules, as much as it will be viewing modules and module items. The basis for the teacher app’s success so far is its focus on course facilitation rather than course building or course structuring, and we’ll keep that theme going in however we incorporate modules.

    Version 1.5 is the last feature release for the teacher app we have planned on this side of InstructureCon, but we might be able to squeeze some other stuff in.

 

 

CANVAS PARENT

 

  • Version 2.0: Better authentication for e’rbody!

    Today, the first-time user experience in Canvas Parent is no good. The login process is convoluted, and once you log in, you still need to add a student before you can use the app -- even if you log in as an observer already connected to a student in the web. What’s worse, if your first-time experience in a mobile app stinks, you’re much more likely to delete the app than you are to keep using it.

    Generally, parents who get past that first-time experience use the app and it works well. But some parents want to see submission details, and some parents want messaging with teachers, and both of those things are technically impossible with the way authentication works today.

    We’ve found that virtually every K-12 institution either imports observers from their SIS or otherwise allows self-registration for observers. Either way, parents have an observer account in Canvas if the institution allows it. So we’re going to run with that and make everyone’s brains hurt less.

    In version 2.0, parents logging into the parent app will:
    1. Find their school
    2. Enter their observer credentials
    3. Land in the app with their students already connected

 

If you can’t picture it, this is the difference we’re talking about between login pages:

 

 

 

And while simplifying that experience is awesome, this change will also make the app more stable and much more scalable for future development (like adding messaging or viewing submission details).

 

 

MOBILE PAGE VIEW REPORTING


Last but not least, we’re making page view reporting from mobile a real thing. Today, we report mobile activity through API calls made from the apps. Those API calls are really hard to use in tracking activity, because a single page in mobile may require four calls, or it may require none. Instead, we’re going to fit mobile into the web URL paradigm to make reporting easier. For example, if a student enters a course from the iOS student app, we’ll report that they went to “https://[account].instructure.com/courses/[courseid]” from "Canvas Student iOS" rather than showing all the calls we made loading that course’s homepage.

 

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Stay tuned! App updates incoming!

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