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All Places > Canvas Mobile Users Group > Blog > Authors Ryan.Seilhamer@ucf.edu

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. 

 

My colleague Ashley Salter and I conducted a number of face-to-face interviews with students about their experience using mobile technology to support their learning, with a particular focus on the Canvas Student App. These interviews helped us better understand the impact of this app and direct our communication to Instructure and Canvas Community. In the second of a series of blog posts from UCF, here is the story of Maddie.

 

Maddie is all about UCF and bleeds black and gold. Both her parents graduated from UCF, and she is very active on campus as a social media coordinator and the Director of Black & Gold Studios. In addition to her many activities, Maddie is also a junior studying Communication & Conflict with a Legal Studies Minor.

 

“The mobile app provides me ease of access when communicating with my instructors and peers on the spur of the moment.”

 

Maddie is a very involved student with a full-time course load, on-campus employment, and extracurricular activities. She is part of an academic program that is offered entirely online, although that was not her deciding factor in choosing her major. Maddie is highly involved with social media presence and would feel helpless without her smartphone. She states she can go more than a week without her laptop computer but couldn’t imagine life without her phone.

 

“I use the calendar feature on the Canvas Mobile app to organize my life week by week. I know what is due and when it’s due in one place."

 

Like most UCF students, the most frequent feature Maddie uses within the Canvas Student app is grades. She checks her grades often and benefits from the notifications that occur when assignments are graded. Another frequently used feature is the calendar as she utilizes each week to keep track of what assignments and important dates are coming up. Being able to track this from a centralized location while on-the-go rather than searching individual lists or checking the syllabus is vital to keeping her on task.

 

“The more reminders and notifications Canvas can give me the better I can stay on top of my school work.”

 

Maddie considers the notifications she receives as quite helpful. However, she doesn't activate the discussion posts or comments as those can be overwhelming. She prefers to receive grades, assignment feedback, and message notifications as they are necessary to maintain her academic success. Maddie feels that the communication taking place from on-the-go instances are important for students like her to stay on top of their work. Being able to communicate almost instantly with her professors or other classmates helps her feel engaged and informed.

 

“I finished my discussion post while waiting to board my flight!”

 

Without a smartphone or mobile device in general, Maddie feels her life would be more complicated. She uses a smartphone for more than just communication. She’s used her phone for recording interviews, taking photos, and being able to research with ease. Maddie feels that the Canvas Student app helps with distance learning. She has used it in several situations, such as submitting a video for a Spanish class or submitting discussions posts, where she believes it's almost faster to complete on the mobile device rather than on a laptop. She even used the discussion feature while waiting to board a flight when she realized she needed to respond to a post.

I have compiled a list of difference between the iOS and Android Teacher app. If you notice a mistake or something I'm missing, let me know and I'll add it to the list. 

 

Attaching Media

  • On Android, the camera will only take photos and won't let the user create a video.

  • Not sure if it’s a bug, but editing an assignment doesn't allow a user to attach an image on Android.

  • Android will not allow the user to record audio only, but this is available on iOS. 

 

NOTE: a user can only attach ONE item to an announcement, discussion or conversation message on BOTH iOS and Android. Conversation messages support more than one. 

 

Rich Content Editor (RCE)

The teacher app brings rich context editing for the first time to a Canvas mobile app. This gives instructors the ability to add simple styles to text. This includes the

  • bold
  • italics
  • numbered lists
  • ordered lists
  • links

 

Android only

  • underline
  • insert an image*

 

*To insert an image, the user will need to know the link to the image. The app doesn’t support uploading any media directly through the the RCE on either mobile platform. 

 

Inbox

The Inbox is really a nice upgrade over the existing Canvas App version. It’s quick, easy on the eye and had intuitive features.

 

The only difference is not really a difference. This is the only place where a user can attach more than one item when attaching media. Conversation messages support attaching more than one item. 

 

Profile

  • Android users can change their profile photo and name (if allowed by their administrator) 
  • iOS support Act as User

 

To Do Items

  • No differences. 

 

Announcements

There are few subtle differences in the Android and iOS version, which are mostly focused on attaching media to announcement text and the announcement itself.

 

Assignments

The Assignments section in iOS and Android are very similar except the following:

  • Under the submission list
    • Android does not filter by Graded.
    • Terminology for iOS is Haven't submitted yet while Android is Not Submitted
    • Terminology for iOS is Haven't been graded while Android is Not Graded
  • Refer to the Rich Content Editor section for other differences.
  • iOS will let a user try to unpublish an assignment when there are user submissions, but there is an error (and there should be), but Android hides this option.

 

Quizzes

On the surface there isn’t much difference between iOS and Android, but the biggest differences come when accessing quiz settings on Android.

 

The Android and iOS app share the following settings in common:

  • Quiz Type
  • Published (On/Off) - NOTE: Android won't allow publish settings once due date has passed.
  • Require Access Code (On/Off)

 

The iOS app allows the user to adjust more settings than Android, which includes:

 

  • Assignment Group
  • Shuffle Answers (On/Off)
  • Time Limit (On/Off)
    • Length in minutes
  • Allow Multiple Attempts (On/Off)
  • Quiz Score to Keep (Average/Latest/Highest)
  • Allowed Attempts
  • Let Students See Their Quiz Responses (On/Off)
  • Only Once After Each Attempt (On/Off)
  • Let Students See the Correct Answer (On/Off)
  • Show Correct Answers At
  • Hide Correct Answers At
  • Show One Question at a Time (On/Off)

 

Refer to the Rich Content Editor section for other differences.

 

Quiz Summary Information

The quiz summary shows slightly different information in Android and iOS

  • Android shows points in quiz summary, iOS doesn’t, but does at the top of the quiz details screen.
  • Android shows multiple attempts (Yes/No), while iOS does not. 
  • Android has Show Correct Answers as “Immediately” while iOS is “Always”
  • iOS shows Score to Keep, while Android does not. 
  • iOS uses the terminology Allowed Attempts while Android uses Attempts

 

Discussions

As mentioned above in Announcements, the RCE on Android and iOS share subtle differences. As for the discussions tool itself, here are a few small differences:

 

  • Android can only delete, but not upload or edit attached media to an existing discussion topic
  • iOS orders discussion by topics that have no replies followed by last replied. Android orders discussions by last replied and then topics with no replies. If the discussion is closed for comment
  • iOS allows users to subscribe to a discussion, but Android doesn’t have this option. 
  • Android allows a teacher to like a discussion reply (if enabled on the web)
  • Refer to the Rich Content Editor and Attaching Media section for other differences. 
  • Users cannot view ungraded group discussions on iOS and Android Matthew Jennings

 

Attendance

  • No differences. 

 

SpeedGrader 

SpeedGrader is really the heart of this app. It gives teachers the ability to do so much on the go, and with the addition of an iPhone version, it’s even more convenient than before.

 

The parity between Android and iOS is very good with only a few subtle differences:

 

  • When annotating, the Android app doesn’t have a button for undo
  • Under comments, the Android app adds the text “Submitted Files” with the submission.
  • The Android version hides “Add Comments” or “View Long Description” in a Rubric if this hasn't been set on the web. iOS hides "Add Comments" if not set on the web, but shows "View Long Description" regardless.
  • The rubrics area on Android has a save button that needs to be tapped to save the grade. With iOS, the user can just swipe to the next user and the grade is saved
  • The Android version can export documents from SpeedGrader to the device, while iOS does not. 
  • Rubrics display from smallest to largest, left to right - This is opposite on the web version (8/10 Victoria Maloy)

 

Pages 

  • On Android, users can add choose the option Set as Front Page when creating a new page

 

Files 

  • Refer to Attaching Media section for differences. 

People

  • Android can filter people by section.

 

General

Android and iOS are fundamentally different, so it’s not reasonable to expect perfect parity with how features work on both platforms. For instance, Android generally leans towards drop downs, when iOS uses dropdown menus. Other difference(s) noticed: 

 

  • Android version has limited support for web-based LTIs

Brunson

 

During the summer of 2017, a number of UCF faculty were able to preview the Canvas Teacher App and use it in their classes. In an effort to better understand the impact of this app and help communicate our experience to Instructure, my colleague Ashley Salter and I conducted a number of face-to-face interviews. In the first of a series of blog posts, here is the story of Rick Brunson. Rick is a beloved Journalism instructor in the Nicholson School of Communication at UCF. He is always willing to learn and bend new technologies if it will have a lasting impact on his students. In fact, he is one of just a few instructors that teachers a mobile journalism class to prepare his students for the workplace. 

 

His belief in the smartphone can be summed up in the following quote "The smartphone is very important to me because 90 percent of the content I capture for my classes is done on a mobile device. This includes photos, videos, and lecture notes - and quizzes too!"

 

“Grading is hypertension, the silent killer of faculty and this app is the prescription because grading is always waiting."

 

During the interview, Rick repeatedly praised having access to SpeedGrader on his iPhone as the most important feature. This will enable and empower him more with a mobile device to grade wherever. If he’s at a barber shop, a doctor’s office, or just waiting in line, he can grade assignments. All technology is a double-edged sword and it can help you make more of your time, but also be available when you shouldn’t be working, but that’s up to him, and not the tool. He doesn’t see the Teacher app providing more extensive feedback because the nature of mobile is “short” and quick, but thinks it will be great for short assignments on his iPhone. 

 

“The faculty members greatest enemy is time and this app empowers us more with our time.”

 

He tells his students on the first day of class to email him through Canvas because he gets a notification in the Canvas app and it’s likely to give them a speedy response. Rick believes that he might let communication bleed a little too much his personal life, but he sees it as a positive. He has relied on the Canvas Student app for years as a communication tool to stay in contact with his students. Even if it’s “I’m at dinner, I’ll get back to you in an hour.”  Students aren’t necessarily impatient, but technology has trained us to expect fairly rapid responses when we have questions. The app empowers him to do that and meet those expectations. Even though some faculty manage their communication in blocks of time and set expectations that they only answer in certain hours, which keep their lives organized, he doesn't do this. He tells a story about a student who contacted him about her first internship and she was really excited! Because of the Canvas app, he was able to immediately respond and give that virtual high-five. He doesn’t want to stick to a 24-hour policy because it’s important that he is not only responsive to concerns but celebrates their joys. It means something to his students. 

 

“The app helps me take care of the next task, lessen the load, and use time more effectively.”

 

The student context cards are going to be helpful in enhancing communication with students because he can verify messages from students when they have questions about grades and assignments. In particular, this will give him more information when a student asks "why did I get this grade?" or "how am I doing in class?" Before the Canvas Teacher app, he would have to run back to a computer, look at their progress and then reply. This can take time and hold up the process by hours or days. With the app, he can do that on the fly and communicate much faster to students. 

 

Rick mentioned that the "Message Students Who" feature inside each assignment will be useful for smaller classes, but still might be hard to use for larger class sizes (125+). This will take more time to explore how this feature can enhance communication and possibly increase student engagement. 

 

Every semester UCF conducts the Student Perception of Instruction (SPI) for each course. These are incredibly important to faculty and can be tied to many important performance factors. Rick consistently gets positive notes on how responsive he is when students have a question or concern. He mentioned a quote by the famous educational researcher Chuck Dzuiban; "Does my instructor care about my learning?" This is always the most important question asked by students. Communication style and responsiveness are important to show you “care” about their learning and the app enables you to do that. Rick believes the Canvas Teacher app will be a valuable tool as he continues to increase communication, engage with students, and be more efficient. 

Hello my CMUG friends,

 

I hope everyone is enjoying the Teacher App so far. As you begin using it in the fall semester, please continue to share your experience, good or bad! If the app is missing a vital feature, create an idea! If you are lost, ask a question! Kristin Lundstrum and myself are looking over these everyday! 

 

Teacher App - Part Deux

 

In case you missed it, the Teacher isn't done and the mobile team needs your help to get over the finish line! If you are interested in the next round of Canvas Teacher beta testing, well here's your chance! 

 

Canvas Teacher Beta sign-up 

 

Once again, good luck on the semester and feel free to use this group to share and grow you knowledge with all things mobile! 

 

UPDATE: Canvas Teacher 1.2 released to TestFlight!

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:

 

I have heard this for years, and it still persist this year as well -- teachers want to be able to design their courses on mobile devices. Yesterday during Hilary Scharton's session on what's new with Canvas mobile apps, she asked "Who wants a teacher app to design your courses?". The crowd was very loud in showing their need/want for this kind of app. This wasn't a surprise as I have heard from many that the main Canvas by Instructure mobile app is student centered and offers little for teachers, although I think there are a lot of communication opportunities.

 

My question is -- What features do teachers want in Canvas mobile apps?

 

Personally I think it's unrealistic, and probably not a good use of resources to mimic the web features 100 percent. If you think I am wrong, let me know why. Although with the UI update for Canvas in the near future, tablets will have a better experience.

 

I do think there are many "in the moment" features that can be implemented in the app to make it much more useful for course management. A few examples include

 

  • Publish and unpublish modules, assignments, quizzes
  • Access to assignment settings across all apps
  • Being able to see student last activity and total activity
  • View and manage student groups
  • A better, more mobile attendance tool
  • Course settings: Adjust navigation, hide/unhide navigation

 

What other features do you want? Let's chat!

 

PS: At hack night I sat down with a mobile engineer (Benjamin Kraus) and we were able to develop the ability to publish and unpublish modules in the iOS app. Here's a screenshot:

output_I1lorC.gif

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