We use the Observer role to allow a particular group of mentors/tutors to monitor the course activities of students for whom they are responsible. These students have signed a FERPA waiver allowing this kind of course activity monitoring.
We are struggling with the permissions around discussions. The tutors would like to see the discussion posts that "their" students have created; they have no need to see the posts of other people in the class. We have instructors who are concerned about Observers being able see the discussion posts of people who are not part of the group who have signed waivers. Both parties have strong arguments and agree that limiting Observers’ view of Discussion to the posts of observed students would meet the need.
The current permission set gives us 3 options: moderate, post, and view. It is not possible to let Observers see only the posts of the students they are observing. I’m entirely willing to write up a feature request about this, but that idea appears to have been brought up before and placed in Cold Storage with only 14 votes. (https://community.canvaslms.com/docs/DOC-6253-canvas-permissions-and-granularity-feature-ideas)
Any suggestions for a resolution to this problem?
The director for the tutoring group would be OK if there were some way for the tutors to just verify that their students had participated, even if they couldn’t see the actual posts. I’m about to embark on an exploration of ways this could be managed (for graded discussions, presumably the tutor can see that a grade was posted; for modules where discussion participation is a prerequisite for later content, the tutor can presumably deduce that participation has happened based on available content, etc.) Has anyone already done this research? Any suggestions for how the tutors could verify participation without actually viewing the discussions?
No. We ended up toggling "view discussions" on and off for observers a couple of times, as different arguments prevailed. I think we have ended up having them off. We haven't had time to research alternatives, either.
I looked into this further for the current status and saw where you can now turn the "View Discussions" off and it is a separate permission from viewing announcements. There is no way currently to allow an observer to only see his or her own student's posts and comments, so it's an "all or nothing."
There has been a side issue where although "Announcements" has been split off from "View Discussions" in the permissions settings, apparently if a student makes a comment to an announcement, an observer can see it. You CAN turn off the ability to make comments to an announcement at the account level.
Thanks for the notice about announcements being separate; I can't recall if I had seen that when I looked last. I think most of our faculty and students have not really noticed there are comments on announcements. I'm going to not poke that bear....
I just realized today that observers can see the discussions. I'm feeling a little guilty, okay a lot guilty because I've not warned my students about that. I don't see where I can turn off permissions for Observers so they can't see the discussions at all? This is one of my favorite features in Canvas, and I don't want to quit using it. But it will change the nature of the discussions if students know that observers can read them. Just like it changes when I have observers in the classroom. Does anyone have advice on how to deal with this?
Changing Course Roles (under the Permissions navigation), is something your Admin can do; but changes effect all courses at your institution.
An option would be for your Admin to add a new Observer role that does not allow that role to see discussions. You and any of your colleagues who wan to to restrict Observers from seeing discussions may assign participants to this role instead of the default Observer role.