Canvas Production Release Notes (2015-08-08)

Instructure Alumni
Instructure Alumni

In this release (August 8), Canvas allows admins to enable the New Canvas User Interface in their production environments. Instructors can view student interaction reports in a new overview layout, and several Canvas features receive small updates for clarification and consistency. This release also removes all existing Etherpad collaborations in Canvas.

The production notes also include updates to existing Canvas features and fixed bugs.

Canvas New Feature Screencast (2015-08-08​)

Next release schedule:

  • Beta release and notes: August 17
  • Production release notes: August 24
  • Production release and documentation: August 29

Production release notes indicate Canvas updates that will be included with Saturday’s release and are subject to change. New features may differ from those available in your beta environment. Learn more about the Canvas Release Schedule.

  New Features


New Canvas User Interface

This feature is used in conjunction with the New UI Feature Option, which can be enabled by any Canvas admin in Account Settings. Enabling the New UI affects the user interface for the entire Canvas account. Adjustments to the New UI will be made throughout the upcoming year.

The New Canvas UI will be an account opt-in feature until approximately mid-2016. Watch the release notes for more details and updates on this feature.

The new Canvas UI is an updated interface structure designed for easier navigation and an enhanced responsive user experience across several components. Any admin can enable the new Canvas user interface (UI) for their institution.

Global Dashboard & Navigation

Canvas has improved the user experience by restructuring the Dashboard and Global Navigation Menu. These changes support best practices in software design, keep Canvas competitive in the industry, and complement the ways users interact with Canvas on any device.


The Global Dashboard includes a cleaner, lighter design that simplifies the course entry for students and instructors and provides a better way to display Canvas activity and outstanding items. It also supports both a course view and a recent activity view, which can be toggled at the top of the Dashboard based on user preference.

Global Navigation Links

The Global Navigation Menu has been redesigned on the left side of the interface to allow more room for content on smaller resolution devices. All users can easily navigate with a clear path of where they are within the application and how to view another feature area quickly and effectively. Users can view any top-level or secondary page in Canvas, such as Courses, Groups, Calendar, Inbox (Conversations), and user Account. Users with Admin rights can also easily access their administrative accounts with the Admin icon.

Users can continue to receive help in Canvas by clicking the Help icon located at the bottom of the Global Navigation Menu. Applicable links continue to expand into a menu for quick reference to the desired user area.

Global Dashboard

The Global Dashboard includes a cleaner, lighter design that simplifies the course entry for students and instructors and provides a better way to display Canvas activity and outstanding items. It also supports both a course view and a recent activity view, which can be toggled at the top of the Dashboard based on user preference.


Each card on the Dashboard represents a current course. The four tabs on the card represent the four main Canvas features for student course activity: Announcements, Assignments, Discussions, and Files. These tabs mimic visibility in Course Navigation, so if an instructor hides the Announcements link, the Announcements tab will not display on the course activity.


Students and instructors can view grades for their respective courses below To Do and Coming Up items in the Dashboard sidebar.


Responsive Design

Canvas has been reworked to support a more responsive layout. Features include a condensed course navigation that collapses on smaller screens, allowing for a more content-focused layout. Additionally, other improvements are being made around Canvas areas to help it support smaller device resolutions.


Theme Editor

The Theme Editor allows admins to create custom Canvas themes for their institution using colors and images. Custom CSS or JavaScript files are no longer required.

The Theme Editor can be accessed in the Global Navigation Admin link for each root account. Each Canvas account has its own Theme Editor. Note that currently the Theme Editor only applies to root-level accounts. The Theme Editor will be added to sub-accounts in a future release. 


In the Edit tab, Admins can create a custom theme using either the Canvas Default Theme or the K12 Theme. Both of these themes can be used as a template. If at any time an admin needs to reset existing branding changes, open the theme drop-down menu and select the desired theme again; all changes will be reset back to the default style components for the respective theme.

Note: If an institution is using the K12-Specific account feature option, the K12 Theme will be enabled by default.


Theme components are organized into three expandable menus: Global Branding, Global Navigation, and Watermarks & Other Images. The following components can be customized within each menu:

Global Branding

Global Navigation

Watermarks & Other Images

  • Primary Color
  • Primary Button
  • Primary Button Text
  • Secondary Button
  • Secondary Button Text
  • Link Text
  • Navigation Background
  • Navigation Icon
  • Navigation Active Icon
  • Navigation Text
  • Navigation Active Text
  • Navigation Avatar Border
  • Navigation Badge
  • Navigation Logo Background
  • Navigation Logo (svg, png, jpg)
  • Watermark (png, svg)
  • Favicon (16x16, 32x32, 48x48 ico)
  • Mobile Homescreen Icon (180x180 png)
  • Windows Tile Color
  • Windows Tile Image Square (1.8x the standard tile size: 558x558 svg, png, jpg, gif)
  • Windows Tile Image Wide (558x270 svg, png, jpg, gif)

Admins can specify color components by entering a css hex code, rbga, or any other valid css color into the text box. Or, in browsers that support native color inputs, the color selector can be used to choose a value. The box to the right of the input previews the selected color.


Image components can be added by clicking the Select Image link and selecting a supported image type from a computer upload. Each image will show its respective supported file type, with most images accepting PNG files.


If custom overrides are required, admins can click the Upload tab and upload custom CSS and JavaScript files. These files apply to all pages for the account.


Once a theme has been set, Canvas requires admins to preview their changes before they will be applied to the entire account. The preview helps confirm color and image choices throughout the user interface.


Once the preview has concluded, admins can view all Canvas areas to see the changes as they will appear in the account. Until the changes are applied, Canvas will display a reminder at the top of each page.

To apply changes, click the Apply button. Canvas will reconfirm the theme application. To close the Theme Editor and cancel changes, click the Cancel button. Canvas will generate a warning about unsaved changes before proceeding.



Student Interactions Report Overview

Instructors who access the People page in their course have a corresponding button to the Student Interactions Report.


The Student Interactions Report shows an overview of the last interaction with each student in their course, in addition to the student’s current score, final score, and any ungraded assignments. Instructors can also access individual course access reports by clicking the name of a student.


The report can also be accessed by locating the name of an instructor, selecting the Settings icon, and selecting User Details. The Student Interactions Report link appears in the sidebar of the user details page.


  Updated Features




Canvas no longer supports Etherpad as a collaboration tool. All existing Etherpad collaborations that are hosted by Canvas will be permanently deleted. Institutions who still want to use Etherpad as a collaboration tool can set up their own Etherpad server and integrate it with Canvas. Learn more about the open source Etherpad project at As a product alternative, users can also create Google Docs collaborations in Canvas.


Excuse an Assignment in Individual View

In the Gradebook Individual View, instructors can excuse an assignment for a student. After an instructor selects the student and the assignment from the drop-down menus, instructors can excuse the assignment by clicking the Excuse an Assignment checkbox.


This feature was deployed to production on July 28.


Total Column Decimals

In the Gradebook, if the Total Grade column is shown as a percentage, the percentage is rounded to two decimal places. The student Grades page also now shows the percentage rounded to two decimal places.

This change also retains two decimals in student view when an instructor uses percentage-weighted assignment groups in the Gradebook.


This feature was originally suggested by the Canvas Community.


Decaying Average Calculation

In the Decaying Average calculation method, at least two scores are required before the method returns a score. This clarification has been added to the outcome method description when creating outcomes at both the account and course levels. Additionally, the clarification also appears in the description for a Decaying Average outcome alignment in the Learning Mastery Gradebook and the Student Learning Mastery Gradebook.



Quiz Item Analysis Calculation

Canvas has changed the minimum calculation method for quiz item analysis. Canvas Quiz Quiz item analysis will generate a Cronbach’s alpha score so long as there are two or more questions and the test variance is greater than zero. A variance greater than zero implies two or more submissions produce different scores. To maintain optimum course performance, the maximum values for calculation remain at 1000 submissions or 100 questions.  For instance, a quiz with 200 questions will not generate quiz statistics. However, a quiz with 75 questions will generate quiz statistics until the quiz has reached 1000 attempts.

This change resolves a fixed bug in Canvas:

Explanation: Canvas generated alpha data in the item analysis for quiz statistics with a minimum of 15 submissions. However, this minimum was creating data inconsistencies related to the number of quiz questions as related to submissions. Canvas code has been updated to calculate alpha data when there are two or more questions and variance is zero.

Rich Content Editor

Default Icons

The default Rich Content Editor icons have been updated for consistency and style. Updated icons include link to URL, embed image, insert math equation, and record/upload media. Icons added from LTI tools are not affected.


  Fixed Bugs




Keyboard users cannot navigate to resizing controls that are available to screen readers.


When users select a file or multiple files to move to a folder, the generated alert reflects the number of selected files.


In Individual View, the grade summary for a student only displays once on the page.


When adding a user to a course and confirming the user, focus is retained on the Done button.


Search API

In the Search API, admins can view all courses for an account even if the public course index is not enabled.

Explanation: When an admin tried to run the API call to view a list of all courses, the API returned a server error. This behavior occurred when the institution did not have the public course index enabled. Canvas code has been updated to always show the list of all courses with the API call.

Account Domain Lookups

In the Account Domain Lookups API, users can accurately display institutions in search results.

Explanation: When a user entered a Canvas URL in the Canvas app, sometimes the institution did not appear, even when the institution could be found by calling the Account Domain Lookup API. This behavior occurred because of unspecified location parameters in the API. Canvas code has been updated to order the API results by distance and name.

Tabs API

In the Tabs API, users can create and moderate the visibility of external tools in the Course Navigation menu.

Explanation: When a user created an external tool and tried to update the visibility in the Course Navigation menu, the API returned an error. This behavior occurred when users had previously created the external tool using the External Tools API, not in the Canvas interface. Canvas code has been updated to allow the API to update hidden navigation links originating from both the Canvas interface and API.

Users API

In the Users API, admins can search for users by SIS ID.

Explanation: When an admin tried to search for users by SIS ID, the API returned an error message that the resource did not exist. This behavior occurred because the search was not pulling the SIS user’s details correctly from the API. Canvas code has been updated to return the SIS user information.


Adobe Connect

Adobe Connect conference names cannot exceed 60 characters.

Explanation: When a user generated a conference name in Adobe Connect that exceeded 38 characters, the user received an error. This behavior occurred because conferences created in Canvas were less than Adobe Connect’s 60 character limit. Canvas code has been updated to limit conference names to 60 characters.


Group Messages and Section-limited Roles

If a user role is limited to viewing users in a course section, sending a message to all members of a group only displays users who are part of the section.

Explanation: When a user whose role is restricted to viewing users in a course section sent a message to group members in a course, Conversations displayed the names of all users in the group, not just the ones that were part of the section. This behavior occurred because Conversations was not verifying group members and their respective section. Canvas code has been updated to only list the current members of a group within a section.

Course Imports

Answer Comment Symbols in Quizzes

Quiz answer comments containing > or < symbols are retained as part of a course copy.

Explanation: When an instructor created a quiz with > or < (greater than or less than) symbols in the answer comments, copying the course was not retaining the symbols. This behavior occurred because of an inconsistency in copying HTML characters. Canvas code has been updated to retain HTML characters in answer comments.

Closed Discussions

When a closed discussion is copied to a new course, selecting the Remove Dates course copy option removes the availability dates from the discussion.

Explanation: When an instructor closed a discussion, or if the discussion was closed because of availability dates, selecting the option to Remove Dates in a course copy still displayed the discussion as closed. This behavior occurred because course imports still retained the status of the discussion. Canvas code has been updated to verify the status of the discussion when removing dates for course imports.

Discussion Editing Setting

The discussion setting to let students edit or delete their own discussion post is retained in course imports.

Explanation: When an instructor copied a course into an existing course, the discussion editing setting was reversed in the course. For instance, if the setting was set to allow students to edit and delete their own discussion posts, after the course copy they could no longer perform the setting action. This behavior occurred the first time a course was copied into the existing course; all other copies were not affected. Canvas code has been updated to include this setting as a clonable attribute in course imports.

Discussion Group Categories

Group discussions are imported as group discussions.

Explanation: When an instructor created a group discussion and imported it into another course, the course copy did not retain the group discussion setting. This behavior occurred because Canvas did not verify the group setting. Canvas code has been updated to copy the group setting for group discussions.


Unenrolled Students and Assignment Notifications

Students who are removed from a course do not see assignment notifications.

Explanation: When a student was removed from a course, the student was still receiving assignment notifications on the dashboard. This behavior occurred because activity was not being filtered based on user status. Canvas code has been updated to remove notifications for unenrolled students.


Grading Schemes

Graded discussions retain their set grading schemes.

Explanation: When an instructor created a graded discussion and assigned a custom grading scheme, the discussion used the default course scheme after saving the discussion. This behavior occurred because discussions were not rendering grading schemes for graded discussions. Canvas code has been updated to retain the set grading scheme.


Folder Previews

Users can preview files inside course folders.

Explanation: When a user selected a folder icon and tried to preview the folder, the preview window would show that the file cannot be found. This behavior occurred because folders were not supported in file previews. Canvas code has been updated to show a folder icon when previewing folders.


Adding Students in Unpublished Courses

Instructors can add students to groups in unpublished courses.

Explanation: When instructors created groups in an unpublished course and tried to add students to the groups, Canvas would not allow the students to be added. This behavior occurred because Canvas was verifying enrollment in the course, which was true, but also permission to view the group’s course, which was false. Canvas code has been updated to allow instructors to add students to groups in unpublished courses. This fix was deployed to production on July 28.


Term-concluded Courses

Instructors in term-concluded courses can view unpublished modules.

Explanation: When a course has concluded from term dates, instructors who tried to view unpublished module items and pages received an error message. This behavior occurred because instructors could only view unpublished items if they had the Manage Content permission. Canvas code has been updated to replace the permission with a user role default to view unpublished items.

Module Progression with Excused Assignments

Excusing an assignment fulfills the module completion requirement for assignments, quizzes, and discussions.

Explanation: When an instructor excused a student from an assignment, module progressions was only fulfilling the Must Submit requirement for assignments. Any other module item requirement type remained locked. This behavior occurred because excused assignments was not correctly factoring the module requirement types relating to discussions and quizzes. Canvas code has been updated to fulfill all module completion requirements for the assignment type.


New Pages

Users can add, edit, and view pages with titles that include the word new.

Explanation: When a user created a page with new in the title, Canvas generated a page not found error. The page could be viewed in the page listing, but it could not be viewed or edited. This behavior occurred because the page title conflicted with the command of creating a new page. Canvas code has been updated to support new pages with related titles.


Question Groups and Negative Points

Canvas does not allow negative points in quiz question groups.

Explanation: When an instructor used a quiz group to create a negative point value and published the quiz, Canvas allowed students to complete the quiz. This behavior occurred because quiz question groups were not verified for negative point values. These negative-point quizzes were not able to be deleted unless the point value was first edited. Canvas code has been updated to restrict users from creating question groups with negative values.

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