Consistent & clear indication of tool status/visibility

Idea created by Ofelia Mangen on Sep 16, 2019
    Open for Voting
    Score16

    Initially posted to Canvas Release Notes (2019-09-21) and re-posted here, per Erin Hallmark's suggestion. 

     

    It would be oh so very helpful if Canvas can attempt to differentiate these statuses in a clear way in both the course navigation sidebar and the navigation tab of the settings page:

    1. tool enabled and visible to students
    2. tool enabled and invisible to students
    3. tool disabled (and therefore invisible to all users)
    4. tool disabled (but still visible to certain users in the course navigation)

    Some additional context and rationale below... 

     

    I'm preparing some support documentation for the changes, which is jogging memories of the too many times I've explained "disabled," "in/visible" and "disabled but really just invisible in a way that makes it invisible to students in the course menu but still accessible if there's content and they have the link in the module or elsewhere"... Even the new release seems to continue conflating "disabled" and "in/visible" in a way that is incredibly confusing by having the tooltip read "Disabled. Not visible to students." for tools that are actually enabled for instructors and accessible to students if/when provided with the link (as noted in the screenshot below). 

    screenshot of course nav tooltip in beta

     

    Then, there are the descriptions in the navigation tab of the settings page.

    These are certainly more helpful, but they mysteriously use different terms to describe the behavior of the tools and the tools themselves. For example:

    • A given tool is referred to with multiple terms on the settings page (item, page), plus other terms elsewhere in the course site and in official support documentation (tool, LTI, etc.). 
    • On the settings page alone, the behavior of a tool that has been "disabled" is described in different ways, none of which provides a comprehensive and accurate description of the possible behavior of the tool.
      • Assignments, as an example:
        • Page disabled, will redirect to the course home page. (Except that it's disabled and won't appear in the course navigation for students, so they're not going to click on it and be redirected to the course home page. And instructors will always be taken to the Assignments page, regardless of whether it's visible to students or not. So who ever gets redirected to the course home page when Assignments is disabled? A student with a direct link to the Assignments tool/page of a course site that doesn't have any assignments? If so, that seems a very rare circumstance to warrant explicit information on the settings page — especially when said info obfuscates and confuses instructors who are trying to figure out how to get the tool/page/item to do what they want it to do.)
        • And then when Assignments is enabled, I have no clue what the behavior will be for students if there are no assignments on the page because there is no help text available at all. 
      • And, Discussions:
        • This page can't be disabled, only hidden (So, the tooltip for Discussions says disabled, but the help text on the settings page says it can't be disabled, only hidden. Wait. Is hidden the same thing as invisible? If it's hidden/invisible, will students be redirected to the course home page? Or somewhere else?)
        • And then when Discussions is enabled, I have no clue what the behavior will be for students if there are no Discussions on the page because there is no help text available at all. 

     

    All of which, in my experience, culminates in confused and confusing wayfinding within a course site, contributes to poor UX, and diminishes the learning experience. 

     

    Due to 1) the above, 2) the way Canvas differentiates between activities and assignments and, 3) other best practices in educational design (which I won't elaborate here), I generally recommend that instructors use the modules and/or a custom lesson overview page to structure, sequence, and provide access to their course content. This then becomes the go-to place for students to access all course materials, activities and assignments for a given week. 

     

    Inevitably, instructors express concern that the [fill-in-the-blank] tool is "missing" or "broken" because it's greyed out in the left sidebar. Some will prefer to enable the tool in the course navigation (for a number of reasons), but will then experience issues with students missing key course content because it didn't appear in the assignments tool (for example) as was expected (by the instructors and/or the students). 

     

    Others here have noted the tendency for instructors to make no distinctions between Canvas's native tools, custom tools developed by our central IT teams or center for teaching and learning, other full third-party integrations and misc LTIs of various configurations — which I mention because of the propensity for this to further complicate the process of determining and then implementing course navigation settings. 

     

    And around and around we go! 

     

    Since this has become a longer post than initially intended, I'll finish with the start:

    It would be oh so very helpful if Canvas can attempt to differentiate these statuses in a clear way in both the course navigation sidebar and the navigation tab of the settings page:

    1. tool enabled and visible to students
    2. tool enabled and invisible to students in course navigation
    3. tool disabled (and therefore invisible to all users)
    4. tool disabled (but still visible to certain users in the course navigation)