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Student View on Phone Apps

It's 2019, and I can guarantee that 90%+ of my students use their phones, not even their tablets, for their online courses, and often even to access material for their live courses. It's absolutely imperative that we be given a way to test our courses on the phone Teacher app, in addition to the tablet app. It took me numerous sleepless weeks to create my video presentations, which look absolutely great on my laptop and even my iPad. I didn't realize the text on my gorgeous slides are so tiny as to be illegible on my students' phones. I'd like to find out what else they will have trouble seeing or reading, so I can at least warn them!

9 Replies
Community Coach
Community Coach

Hi  @agnirm ‌, 

The subject of a student view for the mobile app has been very popular over the years in the community. I definitely suggest you check out the following idea, vote, and leave your comments there as well: 

When it comes to content in the app (Pages, Assignments, Quizzes, Discussion, etc) - what you are seeing in the Teacher and Student app are pretty true to their experience. This is particularly true of Pages. So, even though there isn't a true Student View, a teacher can get a good sense of what the student is seeing and interacting with. I always suggest that teachers have the  student app on their phone so they can log in an get a better sense of what a student sees. Hope this helps. 

Hello, Ryan – thanks for your reply. Per my discussion headline and content, I’m specifically interested in the student’s use of the phone app, not the tablet app. They are very different experiences, one reason being the screen sizes, which make font choices particularly important.

I viewed my course on my smartphone – again, 90% of my students use their phones (not their tablets) to access online content. In my phone app, the front page of my course is nowhere to be found! I fear this is my student’s experience, but I don’t know for sure, because there is no Test Student view on my phone’s version of the app. The front page is the one and only page I need my students to have access to. I would like to know whether or not it is the first, second, third or last thing they see, or whether they cannot see it at all. I have hidden the menu items that I do not want them to access – everything but the Home, Syllabus, Announcements, and Grades links. There are good reasons for this decision. However, lo and behold, my menu does not include a Home button. I’m flummoxed. Do they have one? I can’t tell!

Community Member

Hi Mirla Agnir,

As  @rseilham ‌ has suggested you can look at your course through the Canvas Student App (different than the Canvas Teacher App). I have a student-me account that I use for my student views that's permanently signed into Canvas Student App.


Canvas Student app initial viewHere's an example the initial view of a Sandbox in the Android version of the Canvas Student App.

The course card is visible with the color overlay.

The homepage is there, but students have to specifically pick it out.

The course navigation items I've selected are also present.

Hope screenshot this helps,
Cheers - Shar

p.s. I generally like to test things with my student-me account as Test student has limitations for the very features I am interesting in experimenting with like groups and peer reviews.

From the 

Attendance, conferences, conversations, collaborations, differentiated assignments, external apps, groups, peer reviews, and profiles do not work for the Test Student. You will see only what you, as the instructor, allow your students to see. 

Thanks for your suggestion, Sharmaine! And my apologies to Ryan - I don't see where in your reply you suggest I log into the Canvas Student app, but I could just be blind.

I've downloaded the Canvas Student app and logged in with my only log in credentials (my professor login), and as I suspected, there is no Courses page, no Dashboard/Menu, no Home button - therefore no Home page, an empty Calendar, no To Do items, and no Inbox messages visible, probably because the course is not yet published. However, interestingly enough, the Notifications area is full of pages the students should NOT be able to see, as (a) their modules are not yet unlocked, and (b) my course is not yet published. Yikes! If the students can't see what they're supposed to see, but are seeing pages they are not supposed to see yet, I'm concerned.

What I do suspect is that not all institutions enable a "student-me" option. We did have one for Blackboard, but Canvas is new for us, and that feature has likely not yet been implemented, if it ever will be. In fact, I cannot even log into the Canvas test environment. All I've got on the desktop/laptop Canvas system is the Test Student inside Canvas itself.

Community Coach
Community Coach

Hi  @agnirm ‌,

No worries, it wasn't clear in my reply ( :

 I always suggest that teachers have the student app on their phone so they can log in an get a better sense of what a student sees. Hope this helps. 

That's interesting that you don't see anything when you log in as a professor. When you log in to the Canvas Student app as a professor you should be able to see much more than a student. This includes menu items that students can't see, just like the web. The Canvas Teacher app shows a small "eye with a slash" icon to indicate hidden menus, but the Canvas Student doesn't, so I can see where that cause some pause, but be sure, it's hidden on the web, it's hidden from the student using the app.

As for a test student, this is the foundation of the idea I referenced earlier: Access to the STUDENT VIEW on an iPad or other tablet

Canvas doesn't support the Student View on the mobile app, and it's a highly requested feature. Unlike other LMSs Canvas doesn't put a test student in your course, so it's not possible to access a course as that student on the mobile app. 

Currently, the best suggestion is to navigate through the Student app to get the "best" sense of what your students see, especially with content and modules. It's not a perfect suggestion, but all we have at this point. 

Community Participant

Hi  @agnirm ‌,

This might be too late to be helpful, but I think what ishar-uw‌ meant was that you need to create a "student" account separate from your teacher account. I do the same thing (both for the apps and browsers) because, as has been mentioned, the "student view" is very limited and does not show/emulate the true student experience. It's not a "student-me" option enabled by Canvas or institutions (not the same as "Student View" that you see in settings, etc.).

You would need to create a new, student account with a separate email (you can create a free gmail account and name it "" or something like that). Then you can view any courses (or test courses you've created on your own) from the student perspective. 

Good luck!

I’m a little confused, Ben – are you saying that anyone can create a Student account and be able to access my course? If not, how would the Student app know that I‘m authorized to do this - access the course in question, If I’m using an entirely different email address and password?

Professor Mirla Criste Agnir

Department of Theatre

University of North Carolina Wilmington

(646) 246-4415

Community Participant

No worries,  @agnirm ! 

As a teacher, unless your institutional account has some restrictions I'm unfamiliar with, you're able to invite users/students to your course. I suggest you do the following:

  1. Create a new email (e.g.,
  2. Log in as a teacher to Canvas (on a browser to make things easier)
  3. Go to your course and choose "people" from the menu list on the left side of the class page. This will take you to the "people" management screen.
  4. Click on the "+ People" blue button in the top-right corner of the screen (right below the "+group set" blue button). A pop-up box/menu will appear.
  5. Enter your new "student" and add as "by email address" (choice at the top of the box...other choices should be by Login ID or SIS ID)
  6. Set role as "Student" in the drop-down menu
  7. Click "next" blue button in the bottom right corner of the box (not overall screen)
  8. This is the tricky part that gets some people. You need to now confirm you're adding this person by checking the box next to their name and then click the blue "next" button.
  9. You will then get an email at that new student account asking you to join Canvas at your institution. You probably should log out of your teacher account before you do this to prevent auto-login issues. Once you complete the signup (as a student!) process with your new email address, you should be added to your class with your new account. 
  10. You will need to publish your course for students to be added, even fake students. If you don't want this particular course to be published yet, you could create a copy of this course (or any course you want to test privately) and publish it as a private course. Then only you and admins on your account would have access, I believe.
  11. You can find info on how to copy a course here.

    Good luck! Hope this was helpful!

Yeah, unfortunately, my university does not allow you to add random gmail addresses as students.  I could see this being a major security issue, so I suspect many universities have the same restrictions.  (I'm frankly surprised that any institution would allow this). So the "work around" of just getting the student app is not a solution.  In the teacher app, I know exactly what the OP is talking about--you don't see the front page at all unless you scroll down, tap Pages, then tap Front Page, which is super annoying.  What the heck is the point of giving us the illusion that we are creating a FRONT page when it isn't the landing page in the app?  All that shows up in the teacher app (which I'm guessing is similar in the Student app, though it would be REALLY NICE TO BE ABLE TO VERIFY) is essentially what appears in the lefthand menu if you view it on a computer browser. If Canvas just gave us more control over what appears on the lefthand menu (like Blackboard did), then we wouldn't need a front page; we could customize the lefthand menu to our liking to give students quick access to the things  WE determine they need for our courses (not always the same as what Canvas, in its infinite wisdom THINKS our students need).  I get that we can hide some things and do some rearrangement in the Navigation tab of the Settings, but there are many other functions missing from our ability to control the lefthand menu (such as renaming the links or adding customized pages, etc).