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Community Contributor

Should we "now" assume that all students will use their smartphone to access "the class"

This has been wandering around in the back of my mind because of the threads about the physical process of uploading pictures, etc.

A decade ago the head of my apartment was adamant in a college wide discussion about "how much should we require students to do "online"?

His position was that "not all students have access to a computer and therefore we should not require the use of a computer even if the college had multiple kiosks available".

And that view held the field until the last year or so.

"Kiosks" kind of "dates" me. lol

Anyway..... last week I found out that if the student does "Pell Grant / FAFSA " etc. stuff by paper application that it will take a VERY long time for anything to get done at the state or federal level ( the college does it expeditiously ). 

So the college is now..... "assuming".... that all students will be on-line a regular amount of time, but I discovered this last week that at least a third of my seated class just do not "do" computers because I requested that they reply to an e-mail about "stuff" because we missed a day due to ice and it would behoove them to do this "stuff".

They had not even viewed the e-mail over a two day period.

So...........since "we" the eddication establishment ASSUMES that all people will be able to get onto a computer/laptop/tablet  "before the next meeting of a class"......

Should we NOW, or in the "near future",  ...assume......that all students will access an LMS through a smartphone?

yea or nay... and comments if desired.

I would post a yeah or nay poll but don't know how to do it.


45 Replies

Let's see............. earlier it was Alvin Toffler, so let's try a little Aldous Huxlely.

“...reality, however utopian, is something from which people feel the need of taking pretty frequent holidays....”

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World


New Member

Hello, Canvas administrator here with 7 years of experience.

Mobile devices and Canvas ARE THE BANE OF MY EXISTENCE.

Hear me out:

  • Canvas analytics - i.e., the data we can gather from our Canvas system to justify our budget and staffing levels- EXCLUDE ALL MOBILE DEVICE USAGE. So every time a student or other people opt to use a mobile device, they are in effect inadvertently STIFFING US! and our justification for our budget is weakened.
  • We serve community college students who frequently have to choose between buying a computer OR buying a mobile device which comes with internet connectivity and the ability to make/receive phone calls (whereas laptops really don't). They buy the mobile device, logical decision for them.
  • Students (and faculty) do not understand the limitations of their mobile devices and\or the Canvas app. It requires CONSTANT, TIRELESS education / consciousness raising. Students don't understand that they cannot do everything via the app and may have to plan to come to campus just to use a computer to take an online test, do homework, view course materials, etc.
  • Faculty at the schools I've worked almost NEVER use the Canvas apps and have a REALLY hard time "seeing" their course as students who use the apps do. They also have many relevant questions about FERPA and using their personal mobile devices because of course we do not give them official school devices-  and only full-time faculty actually even get school computers for their work.
  • Faculty do not wish to "chew up my data" doing work on their personal mobile devices. Completely understandable. Again, we do not provide faculty (adjunct or full-time) with mobile devices nor do we compensate them for using their personal data plans, etc.
  • Faculty, again, at the schools I've worked, DO NOT have the sufficient training to properly design their courses to be mobile friendly. (Hello, giant unnecessary images, PowerPoints that don't display well on small screens, use of Canvas features that the app does NOT have, and Flash movies that won't play.)
  • LMS administrators and staff like me DO NOT have the power to troubleshoot mobile devices. We can't see what you did with your device! We cannot master every device \ app configuration. The school does not provide us with sample mobile devices to work with. And honestly, I have an ancient iPhone- it's my personal device and I refuse to do work on it (FERPA, privacy issues, lack of compensation from my employer...) I've never even used an Android phone or tablet phone.  I can't possibly troubleshoot devices I've never even personally used - and I have no LMS admin powers to reach into your device and take a look (thank goodness).

OMG  @gabrielle_orsi ‌!

You are reading mine and my office partnet's minds!

Yes, I am a realist and understand that the world is turning mobile, but............ the world is not yet ready for mobile, and mobile is not yet ready for the world despite what all those groovy adds try to convince you of!


You, sir, have condensed the MANY arguments promoted by the former head of my department a decade ago.. really.....

This whole thing is just....well......

a) to one part of the faculty......they, the tenured ones, simply WILL NOT....even enter grades into "a computer"

b) to another part of the faculty..... well, I'll take messages..... notice they did not say that they would "generate" messages"...

c) the vast majority "will use a provided app from the textbook company"....

I............PERSONALLY get probably two....( 2 ) notices from our textbook providers about "enhanced modules" to "increase student competency"....

notice the above...........

It REMOVES any responsibility from "the teacher"..if the student does not do well then..".it is the fault of the app not me as a teacher>"

And,....ya know....what? the teacher is somewhat correct.....does the "MEDIA massage the message"?

So...........GREAT POST..................



Community Champion

We are having this discussion at this very moment because our Academic Technology Committee is trying to come up with a BYOD policy that would phase out our computer labs in the coming years. I am going to refer the members to this post to see how others are thinking! Also, in constructing our BYOD policy, we have to consider our jr. high and high school students taking college classes through our state's College Credit Plus (CCP) program. Here is some information on this program: 

  • CCP students from public or non-public high schools who attend a public college are NOT required to pay for college course tuition, instructional tools, or supplies under any circumstances. Homeschool students are responsible for providing their own instructional tools ("books"), but not tuition or course-required supplies. Homeschool and non-public students must apply for College Credit Plus funding to pay for tuition. For more information, visit this website: (
  • Secondary (public and non-public/chartered) schools are responsible for providing instructional tools ("books") for their CCP students. The postsecondary institution must waive fees for these students and is also responsible for providing supplemental supplies required by the course syllabus. 

If, as part of our BYOD policy, we are "requiring" a computer or mobile device to access course content, who pays for it? Is the computer a supplemental supply, or is it part of the textbook since they will access their course content/books online?

One of your replies got me thinking:

"Are students who do not have cell phones now part of a "protected class"?  after all the "way of doing things" is that the student attends a seated lecture and uses a physical book." 

This came up at the start of this semester because a seated history class did NOT have a physical textbook. The ONLY way our bookstore vendor was offering the book was in digital format. It took some scrambling and room change to get this class into a computer lab just so that students could open the online book to follow along. Smiley Sad 


Community Champion

I am amazed at the number of students that want to use their phone and the Canvas app for EVERYTHING! I love the Canvas app and I advocate its use...with limitations. As you said, no high stakes assessments, or any online test, except perhaps a short quiz or survey. I have even had students attempting to write and submit a whole MLA formatted paper on their phone, it just doesn't work! As for that implantable processor, I may need one of those... Smiley Wink

Community Contributor

You know what would help this conversation, maybe? Data. I don't know what y'all have collected but typically on my midterm evaluations, (350+ person microbiology class at UMD, mostly Juniors and Seniors) I've asked my students a variation of a question of "What do you use most often to access canvas?" and giving them the options of

  • Smartphone
  • Tablet
  • Netbook
  • Small Laptop (Smaller than 13in Screen)
  • Medium Laptop (13 to 17in Screen)
  • Large Laptop (17in Screen or larger)
  • Small Desktop (22in Screen or smaller)
  • Large Desktop (Larger than 22in Screen)

And over the years, the small and medium laptops have held the majority, with no obvious swing to smartphones over time. Now, it's just my data, my school, my population of students. 

In theory, everyone here has a working laptop (The University has required this) is it true for all students, I don't know. 

I know this is not the way it will always be, the diminished value of desktops for the students is evidence of that. But for now, optimizing my class for "the standard web browser" is the way I go.

Now, John, why would anybody want to muddy up some perfectly good anecdotal evidence with data?



Community Member

And, to be honest, is what Instructure wants you to do...

Our school is a 1:1 BYOi (that is, iPad) school and we are constantly fighting with Instructure about the lack of crossover between the website and the iOS app. One of the reasons we originally chose Canvas was because they offered an iOS app... and then this comes around:

1:1 Feedback Themes (and Response) 

For the most part, this is Instructure admitting that they will *never* match the functionality of the web version of Canvas in their mobile apps. To make it even more difficult, Instructure as recently as a few months ago said, essentially, that they did not support mobile browsers *at all*... after much haranguing... they posted this to play a little CYA as we kept finding items that weren't working in the iOS app, but appeared to work in mobile browsers:

Canvas Limited-Support Guidelines for Mobile Browsers on Tablet Devices 

The latest iOS app (version 6... current is 6.0.3) is causing a HUGE issue for us as it appears that Instructure only tested the app with the very latest version of iOS... and getting students all on the same version of iOS is virtually impossible... we have over 100 kids reporting that the app is completely unusable on their iPads. From what I can tell, it worked great when the last version of the Canvas Student App was on their device, but as soon as they updated to version 6, all hell broke loose.

And I could go on about the new Teacher App that took away a bunch of functionality or Instructure's maddening support agents, but I think I'm done for now.

For the students, however, e-mail no longer exists. If it's not realtime, it also doesn't exist (which is why Facebook is so retro now and SnapChat or Insta is the way that all kids communicate). Not sure what the solution is, but you're right... it's all about the smartphone now...




Community Member

This is a very interesting topic. I recently graduated with an ISOM degree (starting a second career) and am employed as a Canvas and LCMS+ administrator. I bought my first mobile phone last December. I am not a social guy, I decided to buy it because it was useful for the VR research I do for my school and in case an emergency.

Our student are supplied with laptops, the main reason being high stakes testing. They use smart phones to keep track of their classes and assignments.

Smart phones are not the right platform for all content. Not everything can be learned or studied from a 6" screen, that is feedback from some of our students.