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Here's some stuff that's worth writing home about!

 

Canvas Student:

 

We’ve been working for months on a new assignment details page and a new submission workflow for students in mobile. I outlined some of the features of that project in a post last fall. To minimize the risk of disruption, we don’t plan to release the update in stores until summer, but we will provide a link to a beta version of this update as it nears completion.

 

Cloud assignments have been harder to make good than we originally thought they would be, but we aren’t giving up yet. Everything else is going swimmingly. This is going to be an awesome update. Right now, it’s slated as Canvas Student 6.6 – more to come soon.

 

We will have a smaller feature release – Canvas Student 6.5 – likely before the end of the school year. That’s going to contain a syllabus update for both platforms. The old (current) syllabus works like this:

 

 

That’s...one way to present a syllabus. But probably not the best way. If you use the syllabus as your course homepage, you probably create attractive and/or important content to be featured on the syllabus, which today gets hidden behind a “Syllabus” button when the student has already tapped to view the syllabus. The old design is also inconsistent with the way the syllabus is presented on the web: rich content more prominent, and list of assignments less prominent.

 

The new syllabus looks like this:

 

 

 

So that’s better.

 

The 6.5 update will also include some cool iOS-specific features: support for viewing augmented reality files, checking grades via Siri Shortcuts, and updated Apple Pencil support.

 

Canvas Teacher:

 

We’re almost done with the most-requested feature for the teacher app, which is adding support for modules. Starting with Canvas Teacher 1.8, you’ll be able to navigate your course via modules list, like this:

 

 

 

Editing the module progression is significantly more complex because of features like mastery paths and module item prerequisites, and it also seems like a task more aligned with course creation rather than course facilitation, so that won’t be included in this release. Instead, if you like navigating your course via modules, you can do that!

 

This update also improves our use of temporary file storage so the teacher app stops eating all the goshdarn space on your iPad.

 

If you want to try out modules in Canvas Teacher 1.8 (iOS-only at the moment, Android is still in progress), use this link from your iPhone/iPad: https://testflight.apple.com/join/XzMfiwYM

 

If you see anything wonky, wobbly or just straight up whack, please reply to this post so we can fix it.

 

Canvas Parent:

 

I’m on a mission to make the parent mobile experience good. Less like Twinkies good, more like Plato’s Form of the Good. That means two things for the app most urgently:

 

  • Improve the process of connecting parents and students and teachers and Canvas. We started this last summer by unifying the parent user/Canvas user paradigm, which was 100% necessary and fundamental for kicking things up another notch, but now we need to actually kick things up another notch: allow teachers to mass produce pairing codes, allow students to create pairing/QR codes from mobile, allow parents to connect with multiple students from the parent app…that kind of thing.
  • Provide parents with more/better information. They access Canvas because they’re trying to help their kids. That could require viewing course announcements, school announcements, course content, calendar, assignment grades, communication with teachers, maybe even content recommendations to help them understand the topics their kids are learning.

 

We’re in a position to help parents support their students, and to reduce stress for admins and teachers in dealing with parents, and most importantly, to accomplish these things in a way that actually helps kids (instead of creating more noise or adding unnecessary burden). I’ll provide more specifics on upcoming parent app development soon, but if you feel passionately about this, I’d love to pick your brain and steal your ideas! The best way to arrange this is probably through your CSM.

 

That's all for now! 

It’s about time we published an update from the Canvas mobile teams, don’t you think?

 

Here are some fall start highlights -- in descending order of how much they excited me:

 

  • Neighbor’s kid stopped me taking out the trash and said the student app’s gotten soooooo much better since he started using it last year!
  • Canvas Student hit 3 million daily active users a couple of weeks ago!
  • iOS 12 and Android Pie updates broke fewer things than usual!
  • Canvas Teacher became the highest-rated LMS teacher app on iOS and Android!
  • Canvas Student became the highest-rated LMS student app on iOS and Android!

 

Not everything went perfectly. Including both platforms, we closed 50 functional bugs in the month of September, and several more accessibility bugs. The self-registration pairing code rollout for parent app required a couple tweaks. But overall, it was a relatively smooth start for the mobile teams.

 

Both platforms are in the process of releasing Student 6.4 (adding support for custom help and searching files) and Teacher 1.7 (respecting document orientation set by DocViewer and adding an annotation eraser).

 

Now we’re on to Student 6.5, which will bring with it a new assignment details page and submission flow. The assignment details page is the most-visited details page in the student app. It’s also one of the oldest, and the current design doesn’t make much sense given how students use it.

 

For example, we know students look for their grade when they open an assignment after submission, but right now that information is hidden in a separate tab. We know students want information about submission status, but right now that doesn’t appear in the assignment details view. We know teachers want students to see comments and feedback, but right now there's no indication that feedback is available. We plan to fix all of that.

 

In addition, we think we can significantly improve the experience of submitting an assignment through mobile. Today’s submission flow feels awkward and laborious, and our analytics say that only about half the people that start submitting through mobile actually finish submitting through mobile. With an increasing number of students completing assignments solely from mobile devices, we have an opportunity to reduce some points of regular friction. That includes adding proper support for Canvas cloud assignments.

 

Today, opening a Google or Office assignment from the mobile app takes approximately 147 taps too many, and that’s because we launch the assignment as an LTI tool in a webview rather than attempting to open the Google or Office native apps. In the future, when a student taps “Launch External Tool” on a cloud assignment, we plan to redirect to the Google or Office apps directly. Combine that with a more streamlined process for submitting to Canvas from third-party apps, and submission flows in the student app all around should be much improved with the 6.5 release.

 

Let’s see some pictures!

 

New assignment details -- notice the submission status, the large grade cell, the “Feedback” pill indicating submission comments or annotations, and the large “Submit” or “Resubmit” button:

new_assignment_details

New submission details -- notice the student’s view of their submission is only a single tap away from the assignment details, the similarity to the teacher app SpeedGrader view, and the ability to view the submission, rubric and feedback in a single place:

 

New app extension -- students can submit a file directly to Canvas from a third-party app:

 

app_extension

 

The iOS and Android teams are both working on new assignment details and submission flows now, and we hope to release it sometime in Q1 of 2019. We’re super excited about these upgrades.

 

If you’ve got a pet peeve with assignments in mobile that you feel like I haven’t addressed here, or if you want to give any other feedback, feel free to post a comment!

If you're looking for printer-friendly how-to guides for parents who are self-registering for Canvas, here's what we've come up with:

 

 

To modify these for your school or classroom, go to `File -> Make a copy...` and edit to your heart's content!

 

For an easy read on what's new in Canvas Parent 2.0 that also features links to Canvas Guides, view the Canvas Parent 2.0 What's New PDF.

 

That PDF is also presented from the parent app in version 2.0 if a person taps "See what's new" from the launch page.

Instructure's mobile strategy usually ends up outlined in a couple of InstructureCon presentations, but if you’re new to Canvas, or if you haven’t made it to InstructureCon, or if you just want to know more about our mobile strategy, here’s a brief summary.

 

We build native mobile apps because native mobile offers a much better experience than mobile web from mobile devices. This means we minimize the number of web views in our mobile apps, and instead rely heavily on the Canvas API to present information from Canvas in a way that’s optimized for touchscreens, big and small. There are a few learning management systems that treat their mobile apps like web portals and their mobile experiences generally stink as a result, but many lean native nowadays for that reason. If you’ve ever annotated a paper from a mobile web browser and then done the same thing from a native app (say, Canvas Teacher), you can easily feel the difference in experience.

 

A few years ago we decided that we could further refine our mobile experience by focusing on how people approached Canvas from mobile devices. We noted a few truths up front:

 

Canvas_is_big_Devices_are_small_People_are_different

 

In other words, Canvas is roughly bigger than the Pyramids of Giza combined, and even a gargantuan phone like the Samsung Galaxy Note is relatively small, and we have the opportunity to bridge that gap by giving people the experience they need from mobile -- tailored to their role -- because their expectations depend on their role.

 

A student approaches Canvas saying I want to see my grade on this assignment, or I want to see what’s due next week. A teacher approaches Canvas saying I want to post an announcement, or I want to grade this assignment. A parent approaches Canvas saying What’s Canvas? So let's deliver experiences that map to those realities.

 

This approach is working so far on a number of fronts:

 

  1. The apps are easier to use because they provide the functions you need rather than the ones you don’t.
  2. It streamlines messaging for us and for our clients. Parents don’t need to learn how to use Canvas, for example, they just need to learn how to use the parent app.
  3. It forces us to decompose problems from the perspective of the user. Rather than let’s build an assignments page for a 4-inch screen, we say students need to submit assignments, or teachers need to grade assignments, and those needs inform how the assignments page needs to look and function from a variety of perspectives.
  4. The apps are easier to maintain because we narrow the set of perspectives to consider for any function within a given app.

 

For an example that illustrates how roles inform the Canvas mobile experience, here’s the teacher app assignment details page beside the upcoming student app assignment details page:

 

Assignments_in_Canvas_Teacher_compared_to_Canvas_Student

 

Teachers see submission dials -- students see information about their own submissions. Teachers see publishing status -- students see submission status. Teachers can modify assignment details and grade submissions -- students can submit (or resubmit) assignments. Especially with limited screen real estate, we want to give people the experience they need to efficiently get things done no matter who or where they are.

 

We continue to release app updates geared towards boosting productivity and efficiency as quickly as we can build them, which is relatively quickly. Of course, Canvas offers support for tablet browsers, and new features -- like our new quizzes platform -- are built to be fully responsive if you're really jonesing for browser access from a mobile device. But we think if mobile is worth doing, it's worth doing right. With an ever-increasing number of daily active users in our native mobile apps, we're confident that we're on the right path.

 

Lastly, we make it a point to learn our way forward, so your feedback is incredibly important to the success and usefulness of our apps. If you're passionate about a idea related to mobile, we want to hear from you. Real bad. You can reach out to us through the community or email or client services. We'd love to chat.

With a few more tweaks we'll be done with Canvas Parent 2.0, so here's a final pre-release post! Anything to do with pairing codes or self-registration in this post is only relevant if self-registration is enabled at your institution.

 

To summarize the changes coming:

 

  1. We modified the parent self-registration flow to use pairing codes instead of student username and password, which comes with two benefits:
    • Pairing codes enable self-registration regardless of how students authenticate with Canvas (username/password only worked as long as students were using Canvas authentication)
    • Pairing codes are more secure than password sharing; they last 24 hours and can only be used once. After the pairing code is used, it expires, the observer remains paired with the student, and anyone who tries to use that pairing code again to self-register will receive an error.
  2. We made self-registration work from the parent app. Now parents will be able to self-register as observers from Canvas web or the parent app, and the account they create will work on both platforms. No more duplicate parent accounts, and no more need for parents to connect to a student from web and mobile separately.
  3. We added an account permission to allow pairing codes to be generated on behalf of students. By default, this permission will be off for all roles (i.e., admin-only). But if you're an admin and you want your teachers, for example, to be able to facilitate parent self-registration on behalf of their students, you can enable this permission. Students can always create pairing codes for themselves.
  4. Parent app works for all observers, regardless of whether the observer was created through self-registration, manually by an admin, SIS import, or whatever else.

 

As usual, our friends on the documentation team are working on creating/updating Canvas Guides to explain these updates in full detail, but I made a quick (super-duper high-quality) video to show how this all comes together:

 

 

The new pairing codes and the new permission are on beta now, so you can mess around with them if you want. The 2.0 update to Canvas Parent will be rolling out to stores on/around July 18th.

 

This has been a deceptively large project to make the parent/school experience fundamentally better -- more reliable, more secure, more consistent, and more scalable than it was. We hope it helps kick off the '18-'19 school year in the right direction!

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!

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!

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!

We made these Inside Look posts a regular feature in the Canvas Teacher Focus Group, and it seemed to work pretty well, so I’m writing this one to see how it flies in CMUG. The basic premise is to illuminate little nuggets of our product development process for people who might be interested.

 

Today, we’re talking success metrics. Every major Canvas project starts in a ‘Discover’ phase, in which a product manager (PM) researches a problem until they feel comfortable with it from a bunch of different perspectives. Then the PM prepares a project summary, which is a high-level review of the problem, and what Canvas could do about it, and how it fits with our product strategy. The PM also defines success metrics for the potential project, which take the form of, “If we do this thing, then we would expect this result by this timeframe.” Then the PM presents the project summary to leadership, who gives a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down or a “keep digging.”

 

Supposing the project makes it through those gates, and is developed and then released -- at the end of the project, we measure success by the metrics that we agreed upon at the outset. Usually with the mobile apps, we’re measuring success by usage and client satisfaction. In the case of the teacher app launch, we’re measuring usage by monthly active user count and we’re measuring client satisfaction by app store rating.

 

The new teacher app’s success metrics were:

  1. By the end of Q3, this app will have at least 15,000 monthly active users.
  2. By the end of Q3, this app will have at least a 4-star rating in stores.

 

Great news: We had over 30,000 monthly active users in the teacher app in the month of September! Woah! By comparison, we had roughly 7,000 monthly active users in the old SpeedGrader app at this point a year ago.

 

Okay news: The iOS teacher app is currently at a 4.1! The Android teacher app is currently at a 3.3 – but we think we’ll see a bump in Android ratings with version 1.1 out the door.

 

These metrics aren’t used to get people in trouble, but they are used to try to compare what we expected to happen with what actually happened, and then to make better metrics the next time.

 

If you want to help us out, make your feelings known in app store ratings!

I wanted to write a quick post about where we're going with the student app in the near future for those who might be interested. Feel free to leave feedback in the comments below.

 

(Note: We're in the process of transitioning the name of today's Canvas app, or red app, or "Canvas by Instructure" app to officially become Canvas Student, or slangily, the student app.)

 

Over the past two years, we've talked with students, teachers and admins from dozens of institutions around the world to gather feedback about our student app. Here are the categories in which people are looking to see improvements:

 

  • The iOS and Android student apps look nothing alike. This is particularly a problem for teachers demonstrating mobile access to a classroom of mixed platforms, and admins/coaches/support staff trying to offer assistance.
  • The student app doesn’t do what the web does. This is less of an issue all the time, but we've still got work to do. In the past year, we've added support for mastery paths, multiple grading periods, student annotations, and native quiz questions, to name a few significant upgrades. Looking forward, we want to fill the following gaps: Arc/Gauge launches, institution announcements, course invites, and cloud assignments.
  • The student app doesn’t look like Canvas. Schools spend time styling Canvas to be just-so, then students log into the mobile app and they don't see anything that looks like their school.

 

The challenge for us is to (1) address each of those areas (2) in a timely manner (3) without upsetting all the people. We're particularly sensitive to the third point, because the student app is now simultaneously averaging two million daily active users while maintaining the highest average store rating among LMS mobile apps. So the plan is to release changes iteratively to make steady progress without unnecessarily rocking the boat.

 

Let's look at an example of the sort of iteration we're talking about. Here’s the landing page for the same student logging into iOS and Android student apps today:

 

Those are pretty different. Bottom tab bar on one, not on the other. Card buttons on one, not on the other. Menu button on one, not on the other. Different icons all over the place. It's weird and annoying and hard to interpret. Here's a redesigned home screen:

 

Those are much less different.

 

I use this example in particular because it impacts each of the three categories I mentioned above:

  1. More consistent design between mobile platforms (see: they look alike!)
  2. More functional consistency between web and mobile (see: support for institution announcements!)
  3. More consistent theming (see: the same custom styles supported by Canvas Teacher, which impact things like bar and button colors, or replacing the Canvas logo with an institution's logo)

 

If you've used the new teacher app, this layout probably looks familiar. That's because we've built teacher app components with reusability in mind.

 

We plan to ship changes like these throughout the school year. If you want to be a part of testing these changes before they hit stores, fill out this form! Feedback from beta testers in the Canvas Teacher app has been incredibly helpful, and we'll take all the help we can get as we're rolling out changes to Canvas Student.

Hi CMUG!

 

iOS beta users will be happy to hear that we released Canvas Teacher 1.2 to TestFlight this morning! If you're on our list of TestFlight users, you'll have received an email from TestFlight. Here's what we need you to break:

 

  1. Student context cards. From anywhere in the app (including from the new People list!), you can tap a student's avatar to view their context card. It's cool! Let us know what load times you're experiencing when launching a card. It shouldn't take more than a couple of seconds. You can also tap on an assignment from the context card to launch of submission preview in SpeedGrader. The context cards look like this:

  2. Audio/video comments in SpeedGrader. You can now add audio or video comments to a submission in SpeedGrader by tapping the "+" button from the Comments tab. There's a known issue where the sent video doesn't display properly in the comment stream until you navigate away from and then back to the comments tab, but recording, previewing and posting should all be working properly. The option to add audio or video looks like this:


  3. Attendance. If you've enabled the Roll Call LTI attendance tool in Canvas, you'll see an "Attendance" component added to your course components list in the teacher app. Once launched, you can tap on a student name to mark that student as present, absent, or late. We want to hear your feedback on load times and user experience with this component. Attendance in the teacher app looks like this:


 

You can also add attachments to announcements, discussions and inbox messages now. 

 

So that's version 1.2!

 

What about 1.1, you say? iOS will be pushing a 1.1 version to stores which is everything mentioned above minus attendance. We need some more feedback on attendance before we make that available everywhere.

 

We have dreams for the attendance tool that haven't come to fruition yet. We want teachers to be able to set a phone or tablet at the front of the classroom that records attendance as students enter the room. We feel like it's technically possible today, and would be better than paper attendance, and shouldn't require schools to purchase any special hardware or adopt lengthy setup procedures. But the technology is still new, and not all smartphones have the right hardware, and not all kids have smartphones, so it'll be a minute before our dreams come true.

 

As usual with teacher app betas for iOS, you can send us feedback by taking a screenshot from anywhere within the app.

 

Android teachers - stay tuned, 1.1/1.2 will be out soon!

Hi CMUG!

 

Now that Canvas Teacher is released (with over 100,000 downloads in its first two weeks of life!) and the focus group that helped us build it has wrapped up, we're looking for volunteers from CMUG to help us test pre-production versions of the app, usually a few days or a week before we release them to everybody else in stores.

 

There are two things we might need from you:

 

  1. Most importantly, we need you to tell us if you experience catastrophic failures. Here are some examples of catastrophic failures:
    • "Wooooah, I can't log in anymore on the beta version."
    • "Wooooah, the app is crashing every time I do [x] on the beta version."
    • "Wooooah, this new beta feature is garbage."
    • "Wooooah, I left my coffee on the counter and now I've gone too far to turn back."
  2. Sometimes we'll want to test a feature to see if it's working or not. In these cases, I'll post something in CMUG about what we're testing.

 

iOS users will get beta access through Apple's TestFlight app. Android users will get beta access directly from Google Play. TestFlight restricts the number of external testers we can have, so -- no hard feelings -- we may boot you from testing if you never look at beta versions.

 

We'll import new beta registrants on Fridays, and we'll leave this sign-up sheet available for the next few weeks, depending on how many responses we get. You'll receive an email from TestFlight or Google Play -- depending on your response -- when we get you added to our testers list.

 

Canvas Teacher Beta Access Sign-up 

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