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Community Participant

It's not rocket science...

I find it discouraging that basic features Canvas should have - and other LMS DO - such as "word count" haven't been added.  The comment of Canvas administrators that "it's on our radar screen" is simply inadequate.  How hard can it be to add a simple feature (such as word count or making Canvas email more civilized)?  It's not rocket science - it is just a programming task.

I was a proponent of my school adopting Canvas and dumping eCollege and I am coming to truly regret that decision.  

5 Replies
Community Coach
Community Coach

Hi  @aconway1 

Of course it's not rocket science, but it is a programming task in an incredibly large and complicated cloud-based application with millions and millions of lines of code, and when any change is made anywhere in that code, all of the code and all of the functions need to be checked to verify that the change did not disrupt other features and functions.

Nope, not rocket science; but rather much much harder than rocket science. Rocket science is for wussies!

For the record, Canvas does not have email, it has a messaging system called Conversations that is accessed via the Inbox on global navigation menu. I agree that this function could use some love, but it works. There are and have been many feature ideas asking for improvements to this function. here are some that you might want to investigate and vote for......

There is also a feature idea open for voting about word count, which is already available in Canvas if in a rather primitive form

I know the limitations of an LMS can be frustrating at times, they all have those limitations, but there is much that can be done in Canvas that cannot be done in other LMSes.

The biggest difference is that Canvas actually listens to their users, and almost all of the improvements to Canvas come from user requests. It don't get much cooler than that!


Community Coach
Community Coach

Hello  @aconway1 ...

I would echo much of what  @kmeeusen  said.  I would also add (and Kelley has already mentioned some of this) that you can read more about stuff you may think is "simple" by reviewing the section called "If my idea doesn’t align with a priority, is it still important?" in this document: What is the feature development process for Canvas?.

Our Technical College also moved from Pearson eCollege's LearningStudio to Canvas about 4-5 years ago.  I honestly cannot recall if LearningStudio had a word count or not.  Also, it's my understanding that Pearson has retired the eCollege LearningStudio platform and is now focusing more on their MyLabs and Mastering products.  LearningStudio had some nice features that I'd love to see in Canvas, too (see my reply here near the top of the page:" modifie...), but I know that all Learning Management Systems are different, and each brings their own unique set of features.  Kelley hinted at improvements and updates to Canvas.  When we were using LearningStudio, we maybe saw major updates 4-5 times a year.  With Canvas, we get updates every three weeks with detailed Release Notes.  Also, I really appreciate that we are able to voice our wants and needs right here in the Community (and sometimes even express our disappointment when we think things shouldn't operate the way they do).  We didn't have that ability in an open online forum with LearningStudio.  Everything went through either their help desk our our assigned Account Manager.

I hope this information is helpful, Ashley.

Community Champion

As an eccentric teacher with eccentric needs, I never expect the LMS to provide what I need -- I'm just pleasantly surprised when it does!

In the case of email, I agree with you; I don't like the Canvas messaging system, but I just keep all my students' emails in a spreadsheet, together with other data I track about the students (data that I cannot track in Canvas), and so I use all the superpowers of a real spreadsheet in order to carry on the communication I need with students. Some students like Canvas messaging, so they message me; some prefer email -- the students can use either method; I use email because the messaging options in the Canvas Gradebook are totally inadequate for my needs.

But is that a problem? No. It takes me all of three minutes to set up my spreadsheet each semester with the emails. Any problem I can solve myself, well, that's not problem.

Same with word counts. I use a browser extension to get word counts, and I encourage my students to do the same. 

So, is that problem? No, because my students and I can solve that problem ourselves and learn something useful along the way.

To me, that is the best LMS strategy: use what works for you in the LMS, and then look for effective solutions for things that don't work. For all kinds of reasons, change is slow to come to any LMS. Even though Canvas is better than others that I've known in terms of listening to input from the Community, there is nothing quick or easy about changing a piece of software with so many users. Then there are also great folks here at the Community who cobble together awesome solutions using the API and their own programming skills. Check out the Canvancements for example. Super-useful!

And the Community really is a great place to talk about possible solutions, in addition to expressing support for changes to come in the software. I've found lots of great interim solutions by sharing problems and brainstorming with people here at the Community.

And, for what it's worth, the one time there was something in Canvas that was impossible for me to solve on my own (when the Gradebook started labeling my students' work missing/late when it was not missing and not late), the problem was fixed pretty quickly, thanks to complaints from many different users here.

Community Champion

Lot's of good points above!

Canvas (GitHub - instructure/canvas-lms: The open LMS by Instructure, Inc.) is open source and they provide guidelines for Contributing on their Wiki.

It's possible to download the source code, run it locally, write an update, and submit a pull request...

add data-attributes for syllabus assignments summary by robert-carroll · Pull Request #1346 · instru...

...because Canvas is open and community driven...

A program is never complete, it's a work in progress.

Like learning itself: it's a circle... or, more optimistically, an upward spiral! 🙂

learning process graphic