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New feature will streamline digital assignments and save time and money for administrators, educators and students.


SALT LAKE CITY, Sept. 28, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Canvas, the open online learning management system (LMS) from Instructure that makes teaching and learning easier, today announced the immediate availability of a new annotation feature in its mobile application. Canvas is the only LMS to provide this capability, which streamlines the process of distributing and completing digital assignments.

This new annotation feature allows work to be completed inside Canvas, reducing a 20+ step process to three steps. As schools become increasingly digital, teachers and students are often faced with many disparate online tools that can force convoluted, confusing processes for downloading and uploading. Providing students with the ability to annotate documents directly inside Canvas eliminates the need for a separate app, which in turn removes the cost for another digital annotation tool. Through this new annotation feature, teachers gain back hours of instructional time and students are able to focus on producing quality work, rather than manipulating apps.



"At Canvas, we make it our first priority to find ways to simplify teaching and elevate learning, and our insistence on simple, intuitive workflows highlights this belief," said Mitch Benson, vice president of Canvas product. "Mobile student annotation, fully integrated into Canvas, simplifies the process of completing assignments for our domestic and global K–12 and higher education customer base. It also supports schools in their transition to digital classrooms, creates better experiences, and saves time, money and effort for administrators, teachers and students."

This new functionality allows students to open, annotate, and submit an assignment directly within Canvas. Districts and schools typically require a third-party app for students to annotate documents, an additional expense that can negatively affect technology budgets. Providing one platform where all of these capabilities reside eliminates the need for district administrators to buy additional software and reduces the need for paper, both cost saving actions.

The mobile annotation feature empowers educators to spend less time demonstrating procedures for moving and transitioning digital assignments and more time teaching lessons and describing the expectations of assignments. Digitizing assignments inside Canvas also prevents teachers from carting around or losing student work and allows them to grade assignments using the Canvas SpeedGrader, saving many labor hours grading and organizing hard-copy assignments. 

Canvas Creates Industry’s First Mobile Annotation Capability for Best-in-Class Learning Management

On September 20th, Ryan Seilhamer led Canvas Mobile Users Group through a great Open Discussion. We talked about many things MOBILE, and it was wonderful to see so many people in the meet-up! The notes below act as a digest of the conversation. Feel free to add comments to keep the dialog going.


Mobile Roadmap

  • With the roadmap, the Canvas Mobile Team shared that they will create differentiated apps. These will make sure that people can get tools that are the most relevant for their role.
  • Challenges
    • If you have a phone with limited storage, needing to download multiple apps may be a challenge.
  • Positives
    • The student app has matured, but there are a lot of things for 1:1 schools that need to be addressed. The mobile roadmap will allow these additions to be made.
    • Thes teacher app looks at publication, moderation, organization, etc. What are the pain points? Why do teachers need to keep running back to a computer?
    • QA process should be faster because the roles are differentiated. That means fixes and updates make it to the Canvas Mobile user more quickly.
    • These apps can still “talk” to each other through the API, but different roles allows them to be simplified and personalized.

Teacher App

  • Participants shared that it would be nice to have better awareness of communications within an app. This may include: responses to a comment, announcement, discussion, submission, etc.
  • It would be helpful to be able to publish/unpublish items and modules from all mobile devices without having to sign into a mobile browser.
  • It would be ideal if the app would also have some basic quiz moderation capabilities.
  • Mobile access to the gradebook would be a good tool. Even view-only initially would be significant.
    • How would this filter into Gradebook 2.0?

Parent App

  • Most of the participants were from Higher Ed.
  • K-12’ers reading this recap, join Canvas Parent Focus Group!

Offline Content

  • Offline content is necessary!
  • People may not have connections at home. Others may like to save data during a commute.
    • If there's an assignment the student wants access to that evening, they can download it into a backpack format for later reference. (Like Google Drive.)
  • Start with “read only” pieces. That would allow users to sync info, but not necessarily submit or work on quizzes, discussions, etc.

Student Annotations

  • Beta testing is now available for Student Annotations (Option to Use Stylus with Speedgrader on Ipad). Participants were generally very excited about this long-awaited feature.
  • After Ryan gave a brief demo, we discussed the updates. Overall, people felt that  the interface is intuitive, and the tools have many options.
  • Questions...
    • Is there a magnifying glass, or will there be the ability to zoom in? Other apps (ie: Notability) has this functionality.
    • Will annotation eventually be available for quizzes?
    • How accessible are annotations?
  • It has been shared that Student Annotations works much better on the iPad than on the iPhone.
  • If anyone is interested in working with the Beta, join the conversation in  Allow Annotation of PDF Documents Directly In The Canvas App. Ryan and Kristin can also connect you with the testing group, if you'd prefer.


iOS and Android Default Landing Pages

  • iPad is brought to class homepage
  • iPhone sees a long list of menu items.
  • Android is brought to class homepage. When closing out, brought to list of pages.

Broken Pages in Mobile

  • This error is seen with PDF links. “This page is broken.” or “Something went wrong.”
  • One workaround is to unlink, reupload, and then create a new link. This is a lot of extra work for teachers.
  • This is occurring at multiple institutions.
    • Tickets haven’t been submitted yet.

Feature Ideas

  • Web notification settings and push notification settings need to be more granular. It would be amazing to be able to customize notifications on a per-course basis.
  • Students need to be able to add items to the to do list/calendar through the app. Then we found Adding Event in Calendar and Changing Color to Specific Course which opens for voting on October 5th.

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