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cgifford1
Community Member

WHY is the Rich Content Editor NOT available in Canvas Inbox / Conversations?

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Canvas Inbox (Conversations) needs the RCE!  

Imaging being able to communicate with bold or italic type. Imagine being able to add live hyperlinks or bullet lists when sending messages in Inbox. How about links to assignments or discussions or anything else in your course? 

Here's how you can help make this happen

There's been an idea conversation about adding the rich content editor (RCE) to Canvas Inbox for SIX years!  It doesn't have the necessary stars/votes to garner the attention of the Canvas/Instructure folks. I posted a link to the idea page the other day and secured a few more votes but we're still at 77.  We need 100 votes to get attention and move the idea down the road to development and implementation.  So, if you would like to see the RCE in Inbox, please go to the idea conversation and click on the stars at the top of the page (this is how you vote something up) There's no thumbs up button; you have to click the stars at the top of the page. 

https://community.canvaslms.com/t5/Idea-Conversations/Add-rich-content-editor-to-Conversations/idi-p...

It's mind boggling to think that this has been an "idea" since March 31, 2015, and has never been implemented.  It seems to me that this shouldn't even have to be an idea conversation; it should've just been implemented when the RCE was first introduced.  But here we are, SIX YEARS LATER, begging for the RCE to be added to Inbox. ??‍♀️

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scottdennis
Community Team
Community Team

Hi Carrie,

There is not a minimum number of star rating an idea needs to garner before it will be considered by our product team and also amount of star ratings that will guarantee something is developed or implemented.  If you have questions about this please see "How to idea conversations work in the Canvas Community."

The reason inbox messages in Canvas do not have a rich content editor is that inbox messages was not designed to be equivalent to email.  The design case is for simple, brief messages often viewed as notifications on small screens.  Because the design case is for simple messages that can travel out Canvas and then have replies go back into the LMS they wanted to keep things simple.

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Hi Carrie,

Yes, there are probably about eight main drivers around what gets chosen for the finite development resources we have to work on improving existing features and introducing new ones including input from existing users, direction from our security team, missing functionality that keeps other people from being able to adopt Canvas, etc.  Sometimes we flat out won't build something because we think it will actually lead to a less optimal user experience or will introduce additional complexity that outweighs the added utility.  But most of the time, we simply have a lot more good ideas out there than we do hours of engineering time to make them all a reality.

With adding an RCE to inbox messaging, that idea has been around almost as long as there has been an inbox.  😀  To my knowledge it hasn't ever been considered and flatly rejected.  In fact, I have been in focus sessions where we have looked at adding a simplified editor which would give people a handful of formatting options like text colors, bolding, italics, etc but not let people do things that would probably lead to more technical complications.  My advice would be keep an eye on the related feature idea, which as you noticed, will be updated if and when we can address it.

Kind regards,

SD

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scottdennis
Community Team
Community Team

Hi Carrie,

There is not a minimum number of star rating an idea needs to garner before it will be considered by our product team and also amount of star ratings that will guarantee something is developed or implemented.  If you have questions about this please see "How to idea conversations work in the Canvas Community."

The reason inbox messages in Canvas do not have a rich content editor is that inbox messages was not designed to be equivalent to email.  The design case is for simple, brief messages often viewed as notifications on small screens.  Because the design case is for simple messages that can travel out Canvas and then have replies go back into the LMS they wanted to keep things simple.

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Thanks for clarifying about the star ratings. I’ve noticed some ideas that went to development with way fewer than 100 stars. Not sure where I picked up that erroneous information, but I’m glad you cleared that up. Now, about the RCE in Inbox... 

So, does this mean Canvas won’t ever consider adding the RCE to Inbox?  I understand now why it wasn’t added, but will the requests for its implementation be considered, or is this just a flat “no” from Canvas?

For our institution, using Inbox like email is ideal because it keeps everything on Canvas and OUT of people’s personal email (and greatly reduces the hassle of tracking who’s using what email address at any given time). 

Just wondering if this will ever be considered or if our requests are futile. 

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Hi Carrie,

Yes, there are probably about eight main drivers around what gets chosen for the finite development resources we have to work on improving existing features and introducing new ones including input from existing users, direction from our security team, missing functionality that keeps other people from being able to adopt Canvas, etc.  Sometimes we flat out won't build something because we think it will actually lead to a less optimal user experience or will introduce additional complexity that outweighs the added utility.  But most of the time, we simply have a lot more good ideas out there than we do hours of engineering time to make them all a reality.

With adding an RCE to inbox messaging, that idea has been around almost as long as there has been an inbox.  😀  To my knowledge it hasn't ever been considered and flatly rejected.  In fact, I have been in focus sessions where we have looked at adding a simplified editor which would give people a handful of formatting options like text colors, bolding, italics, etc but not let people do things that would probably lead to more technical complications.  My advice would be keep an eye on the related feature idea, which as you noticed, will be updated if and when we can address it.

Kind regards,

SD

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If the design case was for simple communications (you mention notifications on small screens), what was, then, the tool the desgn team intended for us to send rich text communications to the whole class, a group of students or a single student? What should we, teachers, be using instead of the inbox to communicate with our students?

I consider this a design error. When looking for ways to communicate with my students, I resorted, in the first place, to the Inbox. Lack of RCE meant poor communication: I could not add a link nor a screenshot, not even bold text! Worse yet. The students received a copy of the Inbox message in their e-mail, and used the e-mail to respond... just to have Canvas strip any formatting and cripple their replies so as to make them useless and meaningless! For example, they often attach documents which I will never get. Again. Limiting the Inbox/Conversations in such a way was a very, very bad design decision.

Regards,

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Hi @jzaldivar ,

Regarding your question, "If the design case was for simple communications (you mention notifications on small screens), what was, then, the tool the desgn team intended for us to send rich text communications to the whole class, a group of students or a single student?" If you go back to 2008/09 when Canvas was initially designed, learning management systems typically did not have an internal messaging tool of any kind.  At that time professors and instructors typically used email to communicate with students.  Adding a simplified messaging tool to Canvas was, at that time, an innovation.

None of this has a direct connection to the needs of teachers and students today, however.  At this time, the best way to advocate for the inclusion of more formatting options in the editor is to participate in the idea conversation.

Thanks.

SD

Hi, Scott.

Thanks for your answer.

I was asking about the intentions from the design team regarding more fulfilling communications with the students because your answer to @cgifford1 seemed to imply that, since Inbox was never meant for such a thing but rather for simple pop-up notifications, and after 5+ years it hasn't been updated to take into account the reality and needs of today, we were doing something wrong when:

  1. trying to use it for that (communicating with our students) and 
  2. asking for it to be updated and include rich content capabilities.

Hence my original question.

Now, at least your answer recognizes that the current limitations of the editor have nothing to do with what's needed today. I think that's moving forward. Previous responses were on the lines of: "we've considered it but it's not a piority", "we won't work on it this year", "that's not what it was designed for", "let's wait until more people ask for it", and so on.

Hope to see this implemented soon.

Regards,

Hi @jzaldivar,

I cannot give you a specific timeline but I can tell you that work on a simplified RCE for a few different places in Canvas including inbox messages is something that is being investigated/worked on.  I can say that we work hard to try to never introduce changes to Canvas that turn out to be confusing or difficult for people to adjust to, that we end up having to roll back or make hasty changes to fix - something you might have seen play out in the recent release notes conversations when we introduced the updated RCE a few months ago. 

aroyal9
Community Participant

Lately, my institution's administration has been increasingly more insistent in their campaign for faculty and students to use Canvas Conversations for within-course communication--instead of campus e-mail accounts--solely because the Conversations tool exists.  But of course those people don't teach, so they have no clue how unreasonable their mandate is for teachers and students of mathematics.  I really want and need to communicate with my students using real math language because I would rather my students not rely on "pidgin math" that includes awkward phrasing, ALT codes, and extra symbols that create more confusion.  I'm not going as far as requiring my students to learn LaTeX, but if they can learn to use a basic equation editor, that would be helpful for improving their communication about mathematics.  If I'm demonstrating how to work through a problem step-by-step, I want to display the work naturally, in-line with my text communication surrounding it.  That process won't work if the math is in an attachment that could be summarily removed by overzealous security software or if it is pasted in as static pictures that might not render correctly.

If I can have this

  apictureofmath.jpg

everywhere else I need it (pages, quizzes, announcements, assignments, discussion boards, syllabus), then it's vexing to resort to the insanity of

[ (1/a) + (1/b) ] / { (1/ab) + [ 1 / (a+b) ] }

when I need to use the Conversations tool (so I end up responding to my students using campus e-mail anyway).  Moreover, even here, in this forum, there is no math tool availability in the RCE, so I had to create my math expression elsewhere, then take a picture of it, upload the picture, and--finally!--painstakingly resize the picture to make my point.  The irony?  I can easily choose from hundreds of superfluous emojis (I mean, seriously?!) to drop into my post.  So, for me (and probably for many other math teachers as well), having an RCE with an equation editor in the Canvas Conversations tool would go a long way in supporting my teaching practice.

Gwinn