Designers can spend hours on creating the perfect home page for a course, setting everything up just how they like it, then guess what, the student viewing it is using the app. How does that home page look on the app, chances are it scaled differently, or something moved.
Creating a solid template and then adjusting the template to the needs of the course is a great way to make sure your homepage looks sharp across all devices, because when you find out students are primarily using their phones, you better engage them the same way as you would on the desktop.
Here are a couple of mobile friendly CanvasLMS homepage templates I finished up.
Last term we had a Parent Night based on technology systems at our school for anyone that wanted to know what they were and how to connect. The PAIRING with the user has been an absolute breakthrough in the Parent App now - we don't need portal keys from another provider, and we don't need to be responsible for the access. It is so quick and easy, what used to take over 24 hours now takes seconds.
The Parent App has all the necessities for fast information on their students - grades, announcements and the all important calendar. I have been using announcements as 'fast feedback' for a whole class feedback notification prior to any individual feedback and it works pretty well. I give the students the overall "vibe" of a task before any specific feedback and this also goes to the parents. It is timely and means a consistent message across the class.
The calendar tool is fabulous as parents can see what is happening in class either the night before, helping their children be prepared for school each day or can be used as conversation starters at the end of the day. It definitely assists in the "What did you learn today?" question - when said teenager replies with "nothing", then the parent can dig a little deeper just from the information posted on the calendar. And all from their mobile phone. Awesome stuff!
and Sharon Oxford agrees with a hearty email about how easy it is to use. So how are you using it? Please help us get the word out. You wanted it and Canvas delivered. Let's keep suggesting new ideas and voting them up. It is great to have a platform that changes to meet our users both teachers and students. What other features do we need to discuss?
I've been pretty happy with the Canvas mobile app, but have noticed that there seems to be no real way of managing To Do notifications through the Canvas mobile app. I have the To Do notifications show up and can click on them, but they don't go away or mark as completed. I'm all about getting to a zero-inbox in terms of zero notification numbers on my app (which keeps throwing me when I see something on Canvas mobile as an instructor that I can only get rid of by logging in on a computer and marking them as complete). I guess I was wondering if anyone else has had this happen? This isn't dire or even really a big issue, but it's something I noticed and figured it was worth a small blog.
I get excited about mobile learning because it opens up possibilities inside the classroom and outside the classroom. I believe that mobile devices, when used strategically with clear boundaries, can operate on all four levels of the SAMR technology model. I want to share two examples of mobile learning that have inspired me.
I have invested some time into the research on videoconferencing tools. Most of the time, that research is merely trying to prove that videoconferencing and distance learning are as effective as in-person instruction (short answer: it is). However, one researcher's work explored a fascinating way to implement mobile videoconferencing in a face-to-face teaching environment. Researchers Ting, Tai, Tseng, and Tsai published their paper Innovative Use of Mobile Video Conferencing in Face-to-Face Collaborative Science Learning: The Case of Reflection in Optics in 2018 where they examined using mobile devices to teach middle schoolers about the physical properties of light.
Typically we look for ways to incorporate hands-on learning to get students engaged, especially if we can get them to personally experience the principles we're covering. Optics has a unique problem, though. The way you perceive light being warped, reflected, and refracted by different surfaces is entirely contingent upon where you are standing in relation to the light source and the surface. The moment you move, the interaction changes. For a young child, this is difficult to explain. All they know is that this is what the light looks right now, which is different from how it looked a minute ago.
So, the researchers setup the optics lesson to center around videoconferencing. Students would partner up, mobile devices in hand, and would assume different positions around the light/glass/surface assemblage. Then, they would videoconference each other and point their cameras at the setup. This allowed students to see that the same setup could produce two radically different optic effects based on your position around the activity. Mobile devices enabled a lesson in a way that would not physically be possible otherwise.
Apps like Aurasma incorporate augmented reality into regular lessons without requiring radical changes to the lesson structure. Here's an example I found compelling: students were given coloring sheets that depicted all the components of a cell. Once students finished coloring the illustration, they could point a tablet at the drawing and an app would turn the drawing into a 3-dimensional diagram. The trick is that the app would pull the students' coloring and map it onto the 3-d object. If Suzy painted her mitochondria orange, she saw orange. If Timmy painted one of his mitochondria pink and another green, he'd see pink and green. This is so much more powerful than a standard diagram. It provides students the opportunity to organically and independently identify the various components of a cell without having to worry about the technical names. Then, students can learn the proper names for different components using a model that they themselves participated in creating.
Can mobile devices be distracting in a classroom? Sure. Does that mean we should ignore them? I hope these two applications show why the answer is "no." When used with purpose and limits, mobile devices can enrich learning.
The improvements made to the Canvas Mobile app demonstrate that its development team is singing the same melody as the teacher-instructor promoters who run their courses on Canvas.
The drive to achieve near-complete transparency between the computer-web based Canvas experience and the mobile-based one is the most important feature to increase usage across a school and campus. Like original Apple GUI guidelines, creating parallel environments that work relatively the same promotes usage because a user skill set is interchangeable across platforms.
Here's some stuff that's worth writing home about!
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.
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 see anything wonky, wobbly or just straight up whack, please reply to this post so we can fix it.
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.
I use apps for everything (doesn't everyone?) and I suppose when I first downloaded the Canvas app a few years ago, I was first learning how to use Canvas myself, and the app was not nearly as updated as it is today, so sadly I did not use it much. I recently watched the video Canvas Mobile Apps, Not Just for Students Anymore and I highly recommend it to everyone. It pleasantly lead me through the newest features and how they can be used easily in our everyday life. (Picture yourself waiting on line at a grocery store and being able to publish/unpublish course content.) The fact that speedgrader can be used from my phone is especially exciting for me because I can now grade from anywhere. I look forward to using this latest version more often as a teacher and I will also recommend that my students use it. Special thanks to Ryan Seilhamer and Kenneth Rogers for the presentation. mobile-app
So in trying to learn as much as I can about Canvas I stumbled across the Canvas Mobile Design 2019 Quest As a district with 1:1 iPads I wanted to learn as much as I could about the Canvas Mobile Apps just so I could know what they are capable and offer suggestions to teachers.
What was your biggest takeaway?
The biggest takeaway I found is the mobile checklist which I plan on sharing with teachers in my district to help them design better courses for iPads.
Is there a tip you are able to (or plan to) apply to your work in the future? How will it help you overall?
I started following the CMUG to hopefully pick up some more gems to help out the teachers.
Do you have follow-up questions for CMUG members? Is there a discussion you'd like to open?
What is the best way to offer up feedback that my teachers are seeing that will make the iPad App more effective in the teacher's eye?
From the outset I hope everyone know how much I love Canvas. I love the mobile apps. They are great and people like Peyton,Ryan an Kristin do an outstanding job covering and promoting the app(s). First there was the Canvas app. Then SpeedGrader, Polls and Magic Marker. Next up was the Parent app and then finally the Teacher app. I have been a part of the Canvas family for five years now and I have seen so much grow in the mobile strategies.
However, since my role is that of a Sub-Account Admin, I just don't get a lot of use out of the mobile apps. I do not teach and I am not a student, which leaves me with having to login through Safari when I am out of the office and get that frantic email from a faculty member that something isn't quite right in their course. If you haven't tried using Canvas through the mobile browser, particularly on a smaller screen phone, you may not be quite aware of how cumbersome it can be.
I would love for the great folks at Canvas to maybe make a new addition to the app family. To help those of us that support our faculty and students. To help use get out from behind the desk and be out there with them when they need us.
I guess the the question then is what would that look like?
Well... I think that it would have to work a lot like the teacher app. Maybe just replace the To Do option on the bottom of the screen with the Admin option as the To Dos are typically course related and not "real" to dos for the Admin. I know some people may be both, but that is why this would just be used for those administrative tasks and not for teaching. You would still have the teacher app for that.
Here are some quick mock-ups I made this morning:
Home screen with a quick link to the Admin area on the bottom tool bar.
Admin page that lets you select which Account/Sub-Account to view.
The Account/Sub-Account page.
The Courses drop-down menu could load the navigation menu as a selection option.
I know it is much easier to make the mock-ups then it is to make the app, but I think there are many Canvas admins that would love to be able to work through an app then through the mobile browser.
What say you CMUG? Is it time for a Canvas for Admins app?
I find a tension between students and teachers over mobile devices and there use in High School. Many students cannot yet regulate their use and are constantly distracted by all the social media and even parents providing details of the day. Many teachers are constantly frustrated by the distraction and find students are constantly involved in a "social crisis" rather than learning.
I believe one way we can start to help students is to show them the power of their mobile device as a work tool. Changing the attitude of it as a toy/communication/game device to one where they can be productive. Having a tool that can easily allow this to happen is the essential first step in teaching them to be better users of their mobile devices. The Canvas Student app is that first step. Letting students see the power of working anywhere, anytime rather than just following the latest social mishap!
It’s been quiet around here lately! To help kick start some new collaboration in CMUG, Ryan, Kristin, and I designed a quest! Now, this quest will require some reflection and some writing. All of of the requirements center on mobile design and maximizing student engagement within the Canvas Student App.
Are you ready? Let me out line them for you!
Read this blog post! (Easy, right?)
Watch Ryan and Kenneth’s InstructureCon 2018 presentation Canvas Mobile Apps, Not Just for Students Anymore. Feel free to add a comment or a question under the video. While this isn’t a required part of the quest, it would be great to hear about your biggest takeaways from the presentation or your favorite tip and how it can be applied to your work. You could also ask a question!
Participate in the Canvas Student | Favorite Feature Poll. This will be a way for CMUG members to see how opinions of students at various institutions are alike or different. For those of you who are up for a bonus challenge, there’s even a Google Form version of the poll you can share with your own students before you cast your vote.
Write a Blog in CMUG. Based on what you learned from the video, the poll, the checklist, and the other mobile-friendly instructional design you’ve picked up along the way, write a blog and share your insights! If you want, feel free to use this template to get started.
When you’re done, you’ll receive a nifty badge for your Community profile and 150 points. You'll probably earn more points with likes and comments on your blog, too!
Please note: When you work on quest components, to earn the badge, you have to click on the links in the badge itself. You can find this in your profile, then rewards. Completing it by following the instructions here won’t "complete" the steps that are required to award the badge.
Throughout the coming months, Ryan, Kristin, and I will help develop the discussion that take place as comments and in blogs throughout CMUG. It will be awesome to learn from each other as we browse the materials as I outlined above.
As I fly through CMUG in my newly designed super-suit, I’ll likely award some surprises along the way! Thank you in advance for your thoughtful comments and participation.
I've spent a lot of time talking with teachers in my school district about apps and services for communication with parents. Our school district is not a 1:1 district, so our Canvas rollout has been slow and the adoption rate is not particularly high, especially in elementary schools. We expect to see a much higher adoption rate as we provide devices to students and, for the sake of consistency, we would like to steer teachers to using Canvas as their primary tool for student and parent communication. Unfortunately, it's really hard to recommend the Parent App over having the parents just download the student app and login as the student. I really am not trying to bash the Parent App or anything because I really think the Mobile team has done an amazing job constructing these apps. I just see some room for improvement and constructive criticism.
So here is something like a mock user story for using the Canvas Parent App:
Parent hears about the app from teachers or school communications. Maybe they are asked by the teacher or school to download the app.
Parent downloads the app and must create an account using a student pairing code.
Students can't generate that code from the student app so they have to try to navigate to the pairing code generator button through a mobile browser or use a computer (which many of ours do not have at home). Teachers can also generate the pairing code but only one student at a time and it's quite a number of clicks per student to get there.
Parent is able to eventually get the code, sign up for an account, and view their student's courses.
By default, no notifications are enabled on this new account. So the parent has to be told by someone to go enable the alerts for things like Announcements. Parents are able to see the calendar and click on assignments, but viewing the syllabus is not very intuitive with that paper icon.
Parent can click the hamburger icon and select Manage Children, click on a student, and then turn on notifications. None of these notifications are enabled by default.
The parent elects to receive announcements. When the teacher makes an announcement, the parent does not receive a notification. The app must be opened periodically and the parent must go to the Alerts section to see the announcement.
I don't really see that as a good user experience so here are some things I would like to see to help make the Canvas Parent app as useful as something like Remind, Class Dojo, or Seesaw.
The Parent App could do push notifications by default. At the very least for announcements. The observer can sign up for text notifications from the web interface, but only if they don't have Verizon since the Verizon option doesn't work. So having push notifications of course announcements and institution announcements is definitely my number one request. The parent can't even see announcements under Alerts unless they actively go turn on announcements for each student. I would be very curious to see how many parent app accounts have announcements enabled. I would guess the number is pretty low, which means they don't even see the announcements when they open the app.
It would be very useful if students could generate a pairing code from the student app. Or even better, a QR code that the parent can scan to sign into the parent app as Peyton Craighill has suggested before.
It would be amazing if teachers could generate some handouts with pairing codes for parents at the beginning of the year. It's pretty tedious to generate these one at a time. Heck, if they made an API endpoint for this then I bet we could write something ourselves to generate the handouts.
I'm betting that few schools are using the Canvas grade book as the grade book of record. Most districts seem to have a separate SIS grade book that does not match the grade in Canvas. Giving districts the ability to turn off the Total grade that appears on the course card in the parent app would be an ideal solution. Parents would still want to know assignment grades, but that Total grade can be misleading. I don't even know if that grade on the course takes grading periods into account.
This one exceeds the realm of mobile but definitely ties back to the Parent App. If teachers could have the option to exclude observers from announcements, that would give the teacher some control in deciding whether or not the announcement is worth bringing to the attention of observers. For instance, a teacher may want to announce "Go straight to the lab instead of the classroom today!" and that doesn't necessarily need to be seen by the observers in the Parent App. I added an Idea to vote on this one: Add an option to exclude observers from announcements