Canvas discussions don't allow real-time interaction, as many online tools do. The only way to see new posts is to refresh your browser or navigate out and back to the page. It would be great if Canvas discussions could optionally be set to update continuously. Canvas also has a chat function, but this is so limited as to make it nearly useless for my purposes.
Background: With COVID-19, I am currently converting my interactive, lecture/discussion in-person course into an online course. I want to continue the pattern of interacting in my course, and I'm willing to do it with a text-based interface. There are other tools that have been recommended at our university, such as Zoom, for videoconferencing, but that requires students to learn new software, and some of my students may not have good internet connections from home or wherever they are at present. Our university also has Microsoft Teams, which would work, but it's pretty complicated, and it has not been used for courses here, so students are unfamiliar with it (as I am).
So for practical reasons, I want to restrict my tools to Canvas. However, I've recently discovered that it's completely inadequate for interactive class sessions, because Discussions are asynchronous--unlike a wide variety of online tools with similar functionality--and because chat is so limited. The problems with chat are that:
(a) There is only one chat for the entire semester. I can't separate chats into course days.
(b) There is absolutely no formatting allowed for chat messages--despite Canvas having good text formatting tools.
(c) You can't even past text with line breaks into chat without the line breaks disappearing. (This is part of (b), but it's important enough to mention separately.) For example, I teach students to summarize arguments roughly like this:
Premise 1: The Earth orbits the Sun.
Premise 2: Anything that orbits is moving.
Conclusion: The Earth is moving.
In Canvas chat, that becomes one long line of text. In Canvas discussions, by contrast, I can format text any way I want, add italics, etc. But students won't see my posts or other students' posts immediately, unless they remember to go through extra steps every few seconds. (I won't try to teach a class of two dozen students to do that.)
I am generally do not like the Canvas online community as a method for posting suggestions, as I have found that it wastes a lot of my time, and it doesn't lead to results. I'm giving this a shot this time because it seems especially important now, with so much instruction going online. Canvas is simply not adequate for my current needs, simply because it doesn't have a well-designed synchronous discussion facility. That sort of technology can be found on dozens or hundreds or thousands of websites. Canvas is behind the curve on this.