Community Contributor

Observer Role and Parent App for Academic Advisors

I recently meet with my University's Academic Services for Student-Athletes and they were so very excited about what this simple role and app could offer them. They then asked, "do you know if anyone else is doing this?"

I had to say, "no, but I have this awesome place that I can ask."

So, is anyone using the Observer Role and/or the Parent App for Academic Advising?

10 Replies
Community Novice

Hi Susan - At Temple University we conducted a pilot (Observer role) of junior year student athletes in the Fall 2018 semester and will be expanding this pilot this semester (Spring 2019). There was a lot involved getting this going at Temple and it has been successful. Let me know when you would like to discuss further. Mark

After the small Fall 2018 pilot, our Academic Services for Student Athletes  (ASSA) were very happy with functionalities that the Observer Role/Parent App combination offered. We just expanded the pilot for Spring 2019 and if things continue to look promising then we will go live for all of ASSA starting in the Summer.

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We would be very interested to explore this functionality with you and find out more details on what it required and the functionality of the end result.  We would also be very interested to see if this functionality could be utilized by the academic advising services in general and not just for student athletes advising.  Pat


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Hello Mark,

We are in the process of gathering our stakeholders and potentially conduct a pilot (spring 2022 & Fall 2022) for our student-athletes. I would be very interested in connecting with you on how that pilot turned out and basis on the decision to expand the pilot in the future. I look forward to hearing from you soon! -Melisa

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Community Participant

Hi Susan!

We created an Athletic Observer role in Blackboard 7 or 8 years ago.  So when we moved to Canvas two years ago it was an expectation of our campus.  We have had do to a lot of workarounds and communication to make it work.  Luckily our Blackboard Admin stuck around long enough to help with that before retiring.  

Some issues we have had:

Because we have 350-400 student athletes our Athletic Student Success Center is broken into teams.  That means that a group of people need to have access to a student's information, not just one user.  We first tried adding everyone in that group as an observer to each athlete, but that meant a bunch more users in a course and because of the way they show up in Canvas it was a lot more noticeable than in Blackboard.  We have now gone to just adding one advisor for all athletes, but that is not ideal.

Also, because of the way that the Dashboard works, we had to create more user accounts for that person to distribute the courses so that their Dashboard would even open.  How do you deal with that?  Once the user is finally able to login they can obviously go to courses and unfavorite them, but initially the user was locked up and couldn't even get in because of the vast number of courses on their Dashboard.

I realize this may work really well for a school that assigns one student athlete to one advisor, but I am interested in how other schools do it.

We also send a message to all Faculty that have a student athlete in their course and explain what that looks like, what they have access to and how to contact the Advisor's office if they have more questions.  We initially had a lot of faculty questioning their intellectual property rights.  These advisors obviously have to do FERPA training every year.

We would love to find a better way.

Community Contributor

Hi  @alward ‌ -

Answering things in random order today...

Our Advisors (actually anyone who can see student data) are required to take FERPA training.

Our ASSA advisors seem to be assigned by sport. So, men's basketball has a single advisor; as does women's golf. And so on. The football team..., that one they are still discussing --I know that they currently have two (one handles offense and the other the defense players) but football hasn't rolled into the pilots yet. They are saving that for last and are still making decisions.

We've had a couple of faculty pushback about the advisor being an observer in the section --some because of intellectual property concerns and others on "but I have grading nuances that the advisor won't understand." How did you communicate the issues with your faculty about their intellectual property rights?

Community Participant

We actually got faculty senate involved and had them help with the message that this is helping them with workflow. 

Our options were:

1.  Have Athletic Observers in the course.

2.  Go back to the faculty having to give each advisor the information individually (before this was done on paper).

As you stated, there were only a few concerned with intellectual property rights and we want to adhere to that, but every advisor takes FERPA training every year.  The letter we send them every semester includes a link to FAQs with all of the information and we meet every semester to review that everything is working as planned.


Hello, All.  Our third-party analytics solution is Dropout Detective (or Grade Guardian for K-12 schools).  We allow schools to build personalized dashboards of just the students assigned to them -- like student-athletes -- so you can view the students under your watch.  And we give you a view of all of a student's grades & classes on one screen.  We've been a partner of Canvas for over 8 years have Canvas schools on six continents as clients.  Please feel free to research us on our Partner Page here in the Community:

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Is anyone besides me concerned about privacy issues (both student and faculty) related to the sharing of course content and the observed student's grades with outside parties such as athletics advisers? This seems especially sensitive at the higher-education level (I am a university professor).

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