Change the canvas "messaging" to real email that can be formatted and sent directly between faculty and students.
Hi Stephen Bailey
I am not sure how I feel about this. Most schools include email accounts for students, so why duplicate. But I also suspect that email could raise the vulnerability of Canvas to external attacks. Another concern of mine would be life long email access to me by students - No Thank You, Please!
Since Inbox does allow direct communication between faculty and students, I would really enjoy (and support) enhancing it with RCE functionality so that I can usefully format messages.
The feature idea associated with what Kelley mentioned in his post is Add rich-content editor to Conversations.
Stephen, Add rich-content editor to Conversations is currently in Product Radar status, and is still open for voting. If implemented, would that satisfy the bulk of your request?
I apologize, my explanation was not clear. I'm referring to something like Blackboard. All messages from blackboard go to the students' actual school email accounts. Messages from students go to my school email account. The students' emails from blackboard go to my actual school email account, include the student's actual email address for the reply that I send them.
At our university we encourage on-going networking and contact with students and alumni beyond the completion of the course. I certainly understand how this might be different for different schools.
Stephen, Canvas messages already has very similar functionality. Students can set their notifications for messages so that they go to the email account of their choice, as can instructors. Both students and instructors can reply directly from the email notification (without having to know the sender or recipient external email addresses), and the message will go to the recipient and be stored in Canvas Conversations. Please refer to How do I set my Canvas notification preferences as a student? and How do I set my Canvas notification preferences as an instructor?
Will that work for you?
Thanks for the feedback, but unfortunately, that does not work for me. Real email between me and the students is what I am looking for. Other LMS (like Blackboard) do this and I would think that Canvas could do so as well.
There are so many problems with the Canvas Conversations (below are just a few) - it is exhausting constantly trying to find and use "work-arounds" for everything.
1. Canvas does not allow the instructor to limit students' use of Canvas Conversations (avoid stalking, harassment, selling of items, selling of notes, etc...)
2. Canvas actually does not use emails and it is difficult to impossible to look up a student's email through canvas if you wish to actually send an email to their school email address.
3. The "conversations" (a terrible email substitute) in Canvas do not get sent to students' emails unless they have the notifications set up - on their end - to have the conversation forwarded to their email. Professor's cannot automatically require/set this up from their end.
4. The "email" you are forced by Canvas to use does not allow you to do any formatting of the text.
5. The things you are able to do - almost all of them seem to require some odd work-around to be able to do them.
6. Did you know that while Canvas Inbox allows you to forward your email to an external account that if you answer the email from the external account and add an attachment, that will not show up in Canvas Inbox? Seems that file attachments in this situation go into a unknown land never to be seen! So if Canvas allows you to forward inbox messages to your external account (in my case my official college email account) then why not have access to full features of standard email? What sense does it make to have the forwarding happen if replies can't have full functionality?
2,3,4, and 6 are also issues for me, and I personally hate using Inbox for communicating with students in this way because of them. That students have the ability turn off notifications for Course Announcements and Inbox messages is a problem. This is also partly why (in addition to attachment issues) one of my faculty just doesn't even use Announcements and emails out using the Outlook Canvas lists (which don't get archived to Announcements). Some of this would be alleviated if Canvas would just provide the student's email in their bio/whathaveyou instead of forcing the usage of their email system to communicate with them. Also, most faculty (and me as their assistant) explicitly tell students to email them at their email address if they have issues, so the ability for students to ignore this and send messages through Canvas which the instructor doesn't get is annoying (I have resigned myself to student's inability to follow direction and have notifications turned on, but faculty don't and they won't).
As it is, I just have exported the roster from my school's course registration system and I email students in this way.
Stephen, I can address a few of the items on your list.
You are correct that attachments to replies to emailed notifications are not sent. Attachments to Inbox from External Email is currently open for voting and in Product Radar, and I'd encourage you to add your feedback and vote there.
Depending on how a school has set up its SIS, many instructors can in fact get email addresses directly from the Canvas gradebook. At my school, for example, students' user names were the first half of their official email address, so Jane Doe might be jdoe in my gradebook, and I could readily intuit that her email address was jdoe@[emailsuffix].
And as an instructor who previously used a different learning management system, I sympathize with what you're currently facing. Switching from that LMS to Canvas caused me to step back and completely rethink how I use tools in my courses. Whereas I used to use the "email" feature (I don't remember what it was actually called) extensively to communicate with students, and used announcements sparingly, when I started using Canvas (wow, over six years ago now!), I completely reversed that precisely because I wanted the formatting options. With announcements, I can create clickable links to file attachments within the announcement text itself using the Content Selector feature of the Rich Content Editor. When students get the email notification, they aren't missing any attachment or losing out on my carefully-applied formatting (for the most part, depending on how their email client is set up), but they are presented with clickable links that, if actuated, direct them back into the course to view the file(s) in question.
And I adopted a workflow that had me navigating into the course more and more to interact rather than interacting at a remove from my email. I ultimately got to the point where I never replied to notifications (and this speaks to one of your points: notifications are notifications, not "forwarding"), and considered them strictly alerts—and I stopped using email altogether for communicating with students.
I'm certainly not saying that you need to adopt such a workflow—but I hope you'll get the sense from my remarks that I've been exactly where you are now and struggled with those issues myself. It's actually what initially prompted me to become more active in the Community, and I hope you will be similarly inspired.
When I met with some Canvas product managers in April, exploring a substantial revision to the communication system was something that one of them mentioned. That might involve some of the things you're asking about. But I also gathered that it was being scoped out rather than it being close to implementation.
As Kelley mentioned, most schools already have email. One thing that can be done is for an institution to do is turn off the Inbox within Canvas. When this happens, messages are sent directly to your regular email and not accessible within Canvas.
Unfortunately, while this option sends the students "inbox messaging" directly to my email, it does not provide the student's real school email for me to reply to. Additionally, all the formatting I place in the email reply (which is routed through the inbox messaging in canvas) is lost.
What you're describing there personally drive me nuts. I think most users would expect a reply to come from the original system they sent the message from. If I send a message, and *only* get a reply back in email (and not Canvas), I may think you're ignoring me if I don't also check my email. While the Canvas inbox with email notifications to email might not be perfect, it does make a bit more sense to me.
It seems like disabling the inbox entirely would be best if your institution agrees... However, as you pointed out, that still doesn't make the message come from the real email address of the sender. Perhaps that would be a good feature request too (though I know this would require mail server rules to be properly set up by your school to allow the Instructure mail servers to send email from your domain and not have it marked as unsafe by many systems).
I agree with you as well, I already use email and now having a less functional Canvas Conversations, in addition to the email that I must constantly check - drives me crazy too.
I'm not suggesting getting rid of the Canvas Conversations for those that like it, but as you mentioned, simply provide the alternative for Canvas to operate as a real email delivery interface (similar to Blackboard and other LMSs).
But I get your point - my idea did say "change" the messaging system, I should have said add to the messaging system a different function.
Please correct me if I am wrong... what about turning on the setting at the admin level called "Show the email address of sender for user interaction Notifications"? Scroll about half-way down this Guide, How do I set details for an account?, to the "View Features" heading, and you'll see the description (#5) for it. Of course, this would be a global setting for your entire school's Canvas environment, so you'd need to talk with a Canvas admin at your school about this possibility.
Stephen Bailey did you get a chance to review Chris Hofer's suggestion (above)?
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