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I found the CanvasLIVE session on the Mobile Series: Discussions in the Palm of Your Hand to be very helpful as an Instructor. There seems to be better interaction with Discussion Board in the new Canvas Teacher App as well. Although we are limited with the design aspect of our courses (online instructors teach from a template) I will definitely spread the word on this tool to other Instructors in my office. I can see Instructors finding the mobile app for replying and interacting with students beneficial as it is more convenient than pulling up their laptop or waiting to get to a computer.

If you joined us at InstructureCon 2017 for Canvas Mobile, An App for Everyone, thanks for joining me. If not, I wanted to make this available for everyone. The presentation is attached. 


This session covers the parent, student, and teacher roles when using the Canvas Mobile apps. This includes a short overview of 23 interviews by myself, Kristin Lundstrum, and Ashley Salter. We plan to share more of these interviews over the next few months in this space. 


As part of the presentation, we showed using an iPad Pro with the Apple Pencil to do annotations in SpeedGrader, which is available below:


SpeedGrader in Teacher App with iPad Pro - YouTube 


Session Video:


A development I am working on is the use of the Mobile App to record evidence and track performance criteria. In the UK we have, as part of our vocational qualifications a portfolio of work based evidence with goes towards their final qualification. Yes there are tools on the market but to provide a holistic approach which includes the knowledge evidence as well as the work based evidence I feel will really make a difference.

the tools in canvas can provide a really good at form for the recording of work based evidence but the issue is mapping the evidence against the criteria for the course. 

I hope to have a solution to this in the near future, but I am also wondering if anyone else has been working along these lines. 

Recently, I was given a new toy to play with: Canvas LMS. To be honest, it's not Christmas unless something tech is involved. My institution is currently piloting Canvas (currently using Bb) and I'm in the first batch of classes to go live. After reviewing the online instructor on-demand course and video tours, I dug into the platform to play around. Yea! Fun times...


(Canvas) Getting to Know You

My initial goal was to set up the course as an instructor with basic technology skills. It was bare bones but had the structure and support materials it needed to be functional. Another goal of the minimal design was to easily break apart materials from a condensed Summer course and expand it into a full-term Fall/Spring build.


[Design 1] Module Structure Outline

  • Module/Chapter Overview [Page]
    • Introduction
    • Learning Objectives
    • Tasks/To-Do List
  • PowerPoint slides in PDF (3 per page with notes) [File]
  • Optional Resources [URL Links]
  • Discussion/Assignment/Quiz [Add Item to Module]


Jeff Ferner asked Who stares at a phone all day... Who me? I stare at a desktop most of the day. Except when I am not at work and am then tethered to my iPhone SE (I have small hands). On an auditing whim, I decided to check out my newly designed course via the Canvas iOS mobile app. I soon thereafter redesigned the "basic" course.


I used both my iPhone SE and decently sized iPad to test out Design 1 of my course. One of the biggest issues that I had is when you add URL links to a Module, if you look at it on mobile- it looks good because of the inline reader (whether I use "Open in New Tab" or not).  However, in desktop with our previous best practice of opening links in new windows- at the very top of the screen it has a basic link telling the user to open in a new window. Meh.


Example of Module URL Open in New Tab
If I add a URL to a Module and do not put "open in a new tab" users may receive an error about secure/insecure data and web browsers. While I (and most tech savvy folks) know what that's about, for those that are not- it may create apprehension towards clicking on these links. Not a good user experience.


While in general one might say designing for mobile is the way to go- we have a lot of students who use their laptops for viewing course materials (which could be related to historical sub-par mobile access/user experience). Therefore, the current focus is to try and design for both at the same time.


[Design 2] Module Structure Outline

  • Module/Chapter Overview [Page]
    • Introduction
    • Learning Objectives
    • Tasks/To-Do List
      • Optional Resources [URL Links]
  • PowerPoint slides in PDF (3 per page with notes) [File]
  • Discussion/Assignment/Quiz [Add Item to Module]


Did a real quick redesign so that the URL links for the module were included within the "Module Overview" page. For desktop and mobile, they both open in a new tab. No error messages. While this is a simple way to address this concern, my next step is to do some mobile testing using requirements and prerequisites. What have been your experiences and tricks/fixes for designing for mobile/desktop at the same time?

Canvas has a great mobile app. It can't do everything, but it can be used to create great mobile learning experiences.



The mobile app makes it possible to communicate with students on the go.

  1. Open a course and go to people to find and send messages to people in your course, or go directly to your Inbox.
  2. Create discussion topics and let students reply.


The mobile app makes it possible to measure students progress.

  1. Create assignments. You can use rubrics for easy online grading, and ask the students to write a few lines, take a picture or record a video with their phone.
  2. Create quizzes. For the best mobile experience you shouldn't use certain settings and quiz types.
    1. Let your students do quizzes when they have a minute to spare. Add a mobile friendly quiz to every module in your course.
    2. Let students do quizzes at the beginning or at the end of your lesson. You can check the results immediately and check your students understanding.
    3. Let students do quizzes during your lesson. Quizzes can be used as a polling tool. Prepare some quizzes in advance, or make them when you need them. Ask one or more questions and publish the quiz when you need it.

Learning experiences

Create mobile friendly learning modules.

  1. Create at least one learning module that's 100% mobile friendly. It could be a course introduction, or a course summary (everything you need to get a C). This module can be used by students when they have a minute to spare.

Mobile friendly course

Make your courses mobile friendly.

  1. Reduce the width of your browser window when your creating content. By doing this you will get an idea of how your course looks on a mobile device. Try to avoid the horizontal scrollbar in your content.
  2. Don't add to much content to a page.
  3. Add your pages to modules. It's incredibly easy to navigate through modules on a mobile device.
  4. And last but not least: Did you know that you can use pdfCreator to create a mobile friendly pdf version of your course text.
    1. Open your course text and choose print
    2. Choose pdfCreator as your printer
    3. Go to printer properties and to advanced settings
    4. Change the page size from A4 to A5 or A6

Your course text will be converted in a pdf that looks beautiful on a smartphone screen. You can make it even better if you decrease the page margins and increase the font size a bit.

Dip Your Toe In The Water

Sometimes it’s overwhelming with all of the amazing online tools out there. So many to experiment with, and time needed to get to understand all of their different quirks. 

If you are feeling inundated by the plethora of apps and tools then perhaps an easier way to go is to choose just ONE and get to know it. Discover your own purpose for using it. These can often morph into other uses. Then before you realise it they can become your go-to tool of choice.

I started with one little idea. Padlet seemed like a safe tool to begin with. I only used it as a brainstorming tool for ages. Then I started to use it as a discussion device, then as a student feedback tool, then as a display board on our LMS. Now my padlets house gifs the students have made of their sketches, book reviews they have made using Explain Everything, student writing recorded and uploaded to youtube, original songs composed on garageband uploaded for Mother’s Day and linked by a QR code on student cards, you name it then it’s on a padlet. I’ve even started using it to archive our ICT team minutes and resources.

Teachers who have been nervous about using any ICT tool have now begun to use padlet in their teaching and learning programs. With their brave first steps they are becoming better at problem solving with other ICT issues and more creative with their teaching.  

Now that I’ve dipped my toe into the water I feel so much more confident to try other tools, discover their quirks, problem solve and create new purposes for using them. Not only am I in the water but I’m swimming with others.

Dip your toe in the water - with just one idea.

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