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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’ 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:


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 been a slow developing love affair Canvas Apps.

Knowing people LOVE your company and just want to have you around. 

Getting to know you myself - just holding hands and becoming familiar with what makes you tick. 

Now I find it hard to get by for a day without you. 

Knowing you are there for me, day or night. My wish is your command. 


Seriously folks, it has taken me a while to get to know some of the magic in the Canvas Apps. I think we still need to get to know each other a little more but the love is growing. 


My favourite is the immediacy of Announcements. I'd love to know what other people's favourite aspects are. 



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






Learn more about the Canvas Mobile Design Quest

Read More Canvas Mobile Design Quest Blogs

Nathan Vassallo

Newbie Admin to Canvas

Posted by Nathan Vassallo Mar 27, 2019

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?





Learn more about the Canvas Mobile Design Quest

Read More Canvas Mobile Design Quest Blogs

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!

Hello there, Canvas Mobile Users Group!


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!

  1. Read this blog post! (Easy, right?)
  2. 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!
  3. 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.
  4. Read the Mobile App Design | Course Evaluation Checklist. You do not need to comment on Lily's bog. Just read and then think about how you could apply some of its content to your work.
  5. 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.


Canvas Mobile Design 2019 BadgeWhen 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.


Mobile On!

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:

  1. Parent hears about the app from teachers or school communications. Maybe they are asked by the teacher or school to download the app.
  2. Parent downloads the app and must create an account using a student pairing code.
  3. 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.
  4. Parent is able to eventually get the code, sign up for an account, and view their student's courses. 
  5. 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. 
  6. 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. 
  7. 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 RemindClass Dojo, or Seesaw.


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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 

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 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:




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!

I would like to start to get to know some people, in this group!

Confession: my initial reason for writing this blog is that it's part of a quest (called "Mobilize your assignments"), or at least that's where it stems from. I do enjoy the quests - they're a great way of learning and I'm a sucker for some gamification. Anyway. I'm always scouring the community to solve one problem or another, and the more I think about it, this is a big one.


Moving to Canvas was pretty liberating for many of our teachers - the simple page editor offers so much functionality to create content exactly how you want it to appear to students, and with no HTML knowledge required! And there's a mobile app for students too, you say? Well great - they can see my awesome course page designs in an even nicer way on their phones, right!? If you're reading this, I suspect you already know that this is unfortunately not the case...


So, here are some very simple lessons learned:


Using tables just to structure content in a page is a no-no. It may seem an easy way to achieve the look you're after, and it may look perfect on your screen when you build it, but trust me - it won't be so in the mobile app! So now you've got a decision to make:

  1. You should simplify your design, and let go of that dream of placing content exactly where you want it to appear on the screen. Simple linear (i.e top to down) presentation of content can work just fine
  2. If that's just not acceptable then you've got some learning to do about two things - divs and flexbox classes. Accept that you're journeying into coding, but don't worry that you're 'not a coder so this is not an option'. You'll learn these things (and probably more) by copying other people's code, changing it, breaking it, fixing it, and just doing that experiential learning thing!


I'll point you towards one great community question to get you on your way - it features many useful responses and further links from savvy members of the community: Anchor a Div


I'm sure there are even more posts out there in the community at time of writing (and that will come into existence beyond) - please post links below if you know of any particularly good ones for the sake of future readers


P.S it goes without saying that whatever device you're designing for, always make it accessible (use the accessibility checker, alt-tags for images/headers for tables where required, use format text styles and ordered lists where appropriate, check your colour contrast ratios... and I've very likely forgotten more important ones so again, add below!)


P.P.S shout out to Debra Mansperger for asking the question in that original post above and inspiring me to write this short blog on this topic 

Oregon State surveyed over 2,000 of their ecampus students about their device preferences and were surprised with some of the results (according to a Webinar I attended that was hosted by the researchers Mary Ellen Dello Stritto, Ph.D. and Katie Linder, Ph.D.). Students don't always prefer mobile as many assume (including me ). 


Their research report Student Device Preferences for  Course Access and Multimedia Learning

includes all the survey questions and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial NoDerivatives 4.0 International License


An interesting paragraph from their conclusion (Stritto & Linder, 2018, p. 23): "The results of this study show a wide range and variety of usage of the four main device types: desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones. However, the students in this study overwhelmingly owned laptops and preferred to use those devices to access their courses and engage with videos and other multimedia. While this study showed that some students were using tablets and smartphones to access their course materials, they were rarely preferred, although they were used for convenience."


Of course, various colleges and universities obtain different results when they survey students using questions that are worded differently and are directed at different student demographics. On p. 29, the demographics describe how three quarters of their respondents were undergraduates with an average GPA of 3.39. Also, 42.9% were seniors and 23.9% were engineering students. The table on p. 27 lists respondent race/ethnicity that is not as diverse as other universities, such as Wayne State University in my home town of Detroit, Michigan and not as diverse as our community college in the Metro Detroit suburbs. Maybe various colleges and universities will administer the exact same student device preferences survey Stritto & Linder (2018) provided within their report. If so, I hope everyone shares out their results! 


Dello Stritto, M. E. & Linder, K. E. (2018). Student device preferences for  course access and multimedia learning. Corvallis, OR. Oregon State University Ecampus Research Unit.

Chris Medina

Mobile for everything?

Posted by Chris Medina Champion Sep 27, 2018

I like the whole mobile ability of Canvas. Especially as an admin now that we can act as a user in the app. It provides many helpful ways for students to learn especially on the go. Being able to review assignments, watch lectures any time they want, check their grades and course progress. Keeping them engaged while on a mobile device can be tough especially when there are many distractions like Facebook, twitter, cat videos, etc. Hopefully that canvas icon will pop out at them and encourage them to keep at it. 
There are limitations of mobile devices though. I would hate to try to write a paper on a small screen. Or look at my course on a small screen. 

what limitation have you found in mobile devices that steer students away from using their mobile device or what do students want to do on their mobile device that they can't? 

Isobel Williams

Mobile phone use G7-10

Posted by Isobel Williams Sep 25, 2018

A local High School (G7-10) has just banned smart phones from their classrooms, France has done a similar thing across the whole country.  Many  teachers I have spoken to feel this is a good idea.  They have seen the effects on younger teenagers.  Who are unable to focus for any length of time, anxious and depressed, unable to put the phone in their locker; "Something might happen", "Mum needs to be able to call me", "I need to know - it might be an emergency".  I personally witnessed the meltdown in class of a student whose mother had contacted her, during class, to let her know the beloved family dog had been put down.  

The social interactions with people outside school take precedence over any learning.  These students are anxiety driven and minor disagreements blow up into major incidents. 

This is not the majority of students, but a growing minority who are often struggling at school.  

Is the solution a total ban?  I can see wonderful opportunities for students to use their mobile devices in good productive ways but I do wonder if the immature teenage brain is ready to accept the responsibility of using the device in a constructive manner, I think many see their phones only as entertainment and communication devices rather than for learning, work or organisation.

I do not have a solution. Yet........

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.

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