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2018
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.

 

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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.

 

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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

 

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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

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!

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