Mobile Series: Tips to Designing Mobile-Friendly Assignments

Community Coach
Community Coach
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(May 17, 2016) While Canvas app is effective in translating your course to be responsive on a mobile device, it is the job of the teacher or instructional designer to effectively design assignments to address the on-the-go learner, as well. We have tips to help you make your assignments even MORE mobile-friendly! [Presenters: Deactivated user​,​)

Learner II

This webinar is EXCELLENT! Great job.

Community Coach
Community Coach

I agree with Rob. This webinar is awesome! I can't wait to share pieces with my colleagues during staff orientation week in August.

Community Advocate
Community Advocate

Deactivated user‌ Very helpful video!

I can do a little research to figure this out, but I thought you might know the answer to my question.  If students are submitting a media recording for an assignment, which tends to take a little while to compress and load, how does Canvas see the submission if the submission starts before the due date but ends after the due date?  Would this be considered late since it was not completely submitted by the due date, or would this be considered on time since the upload commenced prior to the assignment due date?  Thanks!

Community Advocate
Community Advocate

Thanks‌ that's a great question. I look forward to reading the answer here and including it in my training material when I share these ideas with my colleagues.

Community Coach
Community Coach

Thanks so much! I have asked a few people that are way smarter than me and the answer is...the assignment needs to be completely uploaded before the due date, or it will be late. I will test this out for myself soon and report back, but this is what I've been told. Some instructors will accept late assignments for 5-10 minutes after the due date to help mitigate this. Hope this helps!

Community Advocate
Community Advocate Thank You That is what I thought might happen.  Thanks for responding! Greatly appreciated!

Learner II

Excellent webinar! This gave me lots of ideas to try and get my faculty to think out of the box with the mobile apps. Kudos to‌ and‌ for putting this together!

Community Member

Very informative and well done! Thank you Biray and Ryan!!

Community Member

Excellent webinar! Thanks so much for posting. It shows very exciting possibilities. I work as an ID at a health sciences institution and these approaches could really enhance assignments. For our institution, however, we would need to make sure any use of video, audio or images adhere to privacy laws, such as HIPAA and FERPA. Also, I note that one would need to make sure the assignment instructions are very succinct and well-written. Looking forward to more webinars like this!

Community Coach
Community Coach

Awesome! I'm glad to help!. If you get some good examples, please share to the Canvas Mobile Users‌. 

Community Coach
Community Coach

You're welcome! 

Community Coach
Community Coach

I am also an ID that works in the same area, so yes, that's an excellent point about making sure you following privacy, HIPPA, and FERPA laws. 

Interesting point about very succinct, well-written instructions. I always tell my faculty that making your course more mobile friendly will make it better on the web as well. It's also a good excuse to have them go back and evaluate their overall course design. 

 If you get some good examples, please share to the Canvas Mobile Users‌. 


Thank you for an inspiring webinar.  I am always searching for ways to make school fun for middle school students.  I like a challenge. Teaching is Fun. Learning is Fun.

Community Member‌, what site is this video hosted on? It will not load for me here at my school. I have watched many others from Canvas, but I think my school is blocking this site.

Community Member

OK, it works on my phone. I think my school blocks Vimeo.

Community Coach
Community Coach

Thank you for the update. That was going to be my question "Does your school block Vimeo?" Glad you were able to watch on your mobile! Smiley Happy

Community Member

I have the same problem, but I can watch other vimeo videos from here. I get this error:


This video can’t be played with your current setup.

Any ideas? Thanks!


Thanks! Great Assignment examples! I'm psyched to try to include more mobile-friendly assignments this Fall!

Community Coach
Community Coach

Glad you enjoyed, good luck!

Community Member


I did not know that the whole live thing had progressed this much! lol

So, I just installed the Android Canvas app.

And, since I am doing a "blended" class in Biology this semester I'm going to convert my second lab to where a student can optionally do the lab and submit using the phone.

I have actually done this "the hard way" by making some labs as an excel spreadsheet and having the students enter data into excel but this, if one accepts the paradigm shift of just "dont fall down" and install "stairclimer" then I'm going to massage the lab into something to see if students will actually interact with it on the phone.

AND..the data about how much students are using mobile devices just reinforces what I have been advocating...rather like a coyote howling in the wind and nobody listened! lol

good job folks! Smiley Happy

Community Member

I teach virtually 100% from iPad (iOS).  I have found nothing that doesn't work using canvas in iOS Safari except scrolling in Speedgrader.  I just use the moderate quiz instead.  But I don't use the Canvas app.

Learner II

Will totally present this to my boss as training ideas for our BYOT schools in Volusia County!

Community Advocate
Community Advocate‌, and thanks for this video.  It really helps out with getting my teachers on board with the mobile app for students.

Community Coach
Community Coach‌: Wonderful! I'm right down the road in Seminole County! Small world.

Community Coach
Community Coach‌: So glad to hear. There are quite a few possibilities. Many of which we didn't explore. I hope this helps your teachers! 

Community Member

great presentation that has me thinking..... I teach fully online graduate level courses in leadership, and I have learned that not all of my students are tech savvy.  I was considering an assignment related to leadership theories where students were to snap a pix of someone demonstrating a specific leadership style, add a rationale, and post in a forum where each classmate can view and comment.... How might I design an assignment that works in a mobile environment and in a non-mobile environment for my students who have hung on to what they like to call their "dumb phones."? Do I need to provide separate instructions?

Community Member


YOU.....have asked a VERY cogent question. Smiley Happy

And, you stated it in a very pithy manner. Smiley Happy

I have wrestled with this myself and I think that A SMALL PART of the answer lies in....reading two authors.

A) Marshal McLuhan: Understanding Media

Understanding Media - Wikipedia 

For those not familiar with him he was VERY LEARNED researcher who wrote a prior book The Gutenberg Galaxy.  The educationists reduced that book to "print changed how we do things from writing with a quill pen to letters on metal blocks".  ....and it went away because there was nothing that the educationist could use to make her or himself look good to colleagues and students,

However the book was not that simple it took a long time to actually create a "gestalt" in the thinking of the reader about just HOW DID.... the print media change, not the trivial of it is on metal type blocks to just how did that AFFECT the consumer of the information.

Understanding Media took it ALMOST to the computer age.  And again, the educationists, and especially the media, trivialized it his "hot" and "cool" media.  Again, they trivialized it but it is not a trivial idea.  He actually tried to get people to THINK about just "how"  the "shape?  form? tranmitting device? " affects HOW...... one interacts with the "stuff", because it now included pictures that are still and move and which the "observer" can CHANGE.....

YOU.... are grappling with how the CHANGE in STUFF affects how the student will INTERACT with the "stuff" to provide the "stuff" to you so that you can......

Actually "understand" what they wrote or "pictured" as opposed to what YOU..... are used to "being able" to understand....

That was complicated. 

A student can now "capture and image" and on the "smart phone".... enscribe an emoticon thingy on the image which means something like "This has meaning to the topic".  like a....smiley face....

Is that equivalent to a student obtaining an image and printing it on a piece of paper and writing with a word processor that "I think, that in the context of what we are dicussing that the above image has relevance".

One took a few seconds, the other took maybe two minutes.

Is there REALLY a difference in what the student was trying to convey?

I will leave that to someone else to decide but what is apparent is that the first took little effort and the second took more effort and to a certain extent we.....

reward "how much stuff" has been put on a paper.

Why?  Because we require the student to provide just what you said above.... we want them to actually PROVE in a definable way, according to a rubric, by the use of "the how much stuff" ...context.

So.....what you have said it the PARTICULAR problem.....

My forays into having the student obtain an image of an experiment at home and sending it to me in Notifications with a few sentences from a smart phone really does fly in the face of what I presently do which is for the student to "write a paragraph" about the home activity.

But.....guess what.... I have NO PROOF with the paragraph that the student actually DID the activity.  The student could easily just make it up by researching the text or the net or looking at the activity done by a peer when she or he went to the persons house for a night.

However, the image, is at least SOMEWHAT proof.  I could, of course have the student hold up the project in the bathroom in front of the mirror and take a "selfie"...

The question then devolves to the REAL problem....

and that is the problem of "congruency" and "fairness".

The basic biology class in many colleges have had the "lab practical" eliminated in the form which we knew and loved/hated as undergrads and replaced with a "Powerpoint"(tm) for the sake of "congruency" with people who are taking the "online" class and also....fairness. why should a seated student actually have to look through a microscope at an onion cell when the online student is provided a picture of same?

So, to get back to Marshall McLuhan.... does the "media" ...........note the spelling......mAssage  that was the original spelling....massage the information in a way that is....dunno............good or bad?

This then devolves to your "dumb phone" question.

A student with a flip phone will have to go through multiple menues to snap an image and then upload it to a place whereas a student with the latest iPhone can SAY......"shoot" and then say, "e-mail to english professor".

Is it "fair" to force one student to go to a LOT OF THUMB CLICKS to send the image and also thumb click a paragraph as opposed to the iPhone suer which TALKS everything into the phone, along with the paragraph, in the space of a few seconds.

And.... has EITHER of them "learned" anything?  Did all of the effort with the dumb phone "get in the way of learning" and the student "gets tired of it" and so really does NOT learn much because of irritation?

Has the student with the iPhone actually learned anything or was it such a "throwaway" thing before getting a slice of pizza?

We have always ASSUMED that a relatively long essay, with citations, reflected that the student actually LEARNED something, until it came to the final exam....and.....what is it that the student actually DOES on the "final exam"?

In most cases it is regurgitating what was PRE-APPROVED by the teacher in grading the previously written essay...

So...your question ....MIGHT be..... answered by a long and profound discussion with peers and supervisors as to

a) what is "fair"

b) how can the rubric be made to ensure that the grading is fair......which is what you wrote above...

IT IS POSSIBLE......just POSSIBLE that your question has hit on what we SHOULD have been doing with "standardized testing" all along.

I MIGHT be that the answer in creating.....a "universal" set.... of rubrics of "what kinds of ....stuff...." offer congruency between the "stuffs"....

And THEN....

one can decide on what "content stuff" is held in the "container" of the 'stuffs"...

However, that, in and of itself holds the seed of the greater problem of "what is fair" to the owners of the two phone factors.

You also held the answer I think..... the syllabus itself will have to be arranged in at least two form factors to which the students will have to agree CONTRACTUALLY..... that both are equivalent.

Why "contractually"?  Depending upon the state within which you live a professor "individually" and the department and school "severally" can be held legally responsible if the student LATER fails to keep a job, get a job, etc.

The user of the dumb phone "could" argue that she or he did not receive an acceptable education even if an "A" was obtained, without the CONTRACTUAL agreement...

Ok.....that will be a LOT OF WORK....

yes it would be.... the .........MEDIUM will get in the way of the MESSAGE.... and the LEARNING.....

You should maybe offer to host a discussion at a national forum... really.....

The following book has absolutely nothing to do with this discussion and at the same time it has everything to do with the discussion.

it is a very....very.....thin book...

B) R. Buckminster Fuller.  Education Automation.

The download 

Very abbreviated discussion and download 

This really IS.....a Gordian Knot...

Maybe you could be Alexander.....and pull out your sword....ummm word processor .....and chop it in half! Smiley Happy

just a thought!! full  of worth!! Smiley Happy


Community Member


thank you for the response.  At this point I will begin the discussion with my university and with the students themselves....then go from there 🙂

Much food for thought 😄

Learner II

Quoting you on twitter right now!  Sorry this was so late. Did not use your last names because I ran out of space on tweet.  sorry again. 

Community Coach
Community Coach

No problem. I found your Tweet. Thanks for the quote! 

About the Author
I enjoy connecting and educating Canvas Users through virtual events!