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2018

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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

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