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Allow Discussions to be synchronous with "pushed" posts

Allow Discussions to be synchronous with "pushed" posts


Canvas discussions don't allow real-time interaction, as many online tools do.  The only way to see new posts is to refresh your browser or navigate out and back to the page.  It would be great if Canvas discussions could optionally be set to update continuously.  Canvas also has a chat function, but this is so limited as to make it nearly useless for my purposes.

Background: With COVID-19, I am currently converting my interactive, lecture/discussion in-person course into an online course.  I want to continue the pattern of interacting in my course, and I'm willing to do it with a text-based interface.  There are other tools that have been recommended at our university, such as Zoom, for videoconferencing, but that requires students to learn new software, and some of my students may not have good internet connections from home or wherever they are at present.  Our university also has Microsoft Teams, which would work, but it's pretty complicated, and it has not been used for courses here, so students are unfamiliar with it (as I am).

So for practical reasons, I want to restrict my tools to Canvas.  However, I've recently discovered that it's completely inadequate for interactive class sessions, because Discussions are asynchronous--unlike a wide variety of online tools with similar functionality--and because chat is so limited.  The problems with chat are that:

(a) There is only one chat for the entire semester.  I can't separate chats into course days.

(b) There is absolutely no formatting allowed for chat messages--despite Canvas having good text formatting tools.

(c) You can't even past text with line breaks into chat without the line breaks disappearing.  (This is part of (b), but it's important enough to mention separately.)  For example, I teach students to summarize arguments roughly like this:

Premise 1: The Earth orbits the Sun.

Premise 2: Anything that orbits is moving.


Conclusion: The Earth is moving.

In Canvas chat, that becomes one long line of text.  In Canvas discussions, by contrast, I can format text any way I want, add italics, etc.  But students won't see my posts or other students' posts immediately, unless they remember to go through extra steps every few seconds.  (I won't try to teach a class of two dozen students to do that.)

I am generally do not like the Canvas online community as a method for posting suggestions, as I have found that it wastes a lot of my time, and it doesn't lead to results.  I'm giving this a shot this time because it seems especially important now, with so much instruction going online.  Canvas is simply not adequate for my current needs, simply because it doesn't have a well-designed synchronous discussion facility.  That sort of technology can be found on dozens or hundreds or thousands of websites.  Canvas is behind the curve on this.

Community Member

btw, here are some related posts that I found.

This one is asking for much more than what I am requesting: 

This is asking for third-party tools to do what Canvas doesn't do: 

Also by the way, I have heard from one of the tech support people at my university that there is now some sort of bridge between Canvas and Microsoft Teams, but that the university doesn't want to implement the bridge now while everyone is suddenly moving online.  I think that if there was such a bridge available to me, it would make using Teams only a little bit easier; I suspect that I would still have to deal with all of the unneeded flexibility that Teams provides.  So that even if my university added the bridge now--and I understand why they don't want to do that yet--it wouldn't help me much at present.  Canvas adding a synchronous update option to Discussions or allowing more full-featured Chat function would be a better solution for me and my students.

Community Member

Also, there's this suggestion, which also asks for much more functionality than I am requesting: 

Community Champion

I recently reposted my original idea which has been archived again due to the similarity to this idea.

To add to this idea, to me there is no point in having it optional. New replies should always be pushed automatically. If it must necessarily be an option, then the default would need to be pushing it automatically with the option to disable it. The reason for this is that it is too obvious to have it automatic and having it as a default reduces a huge amount of clicks and manual activities.

Community Member

Agree that having better discussion and/or real-time chat tools that mimic the functionality of expected social applications is a must. These tools should come standard. Particularly now with the push for hybrid / hyflex /other blended options in this pandemic 'new normal' where synchronous chat is needed that connects in class and remote students but avoids using tools like zoom or virtual classrooms which will likely lead to audio feedback/echo loops in various situations.
Integrated chat or discussions would also allow for a permanent record of discussion and the potential to search for key terms later. Also unless integrating another LTI/tool allows for embedding contextually and disabling/hiding discussions, we will end up in situations where there are multiple tools doing similar jobs which leads to confusion for students or the need to stipulate in what instances to use which ones (and even here STILL potentially having confusion, plus additional management for teaching teams). So an integrated solution native to Canvas (using existing functionality) that isn't competing with discussions has a number of benefits here. 
While chat makes more sense synchronously, the existing discussions functionality is more fully fledged now. There will also be a long term need to have whatever real-time chatting functionality also support or link in with sections and/or groups (this supports tutorial level real time discussion for large classes in Higher Ed), and in instances where multiple sections/groups might be meeting at the same time but want to be segmented from each other (e.g. you may have multiple tutorials happening at a regular time, e.g. there are 2 x Monday 3 - 4pm tutorial groups due to the size of the course). I don't use Canvas Chat enough to know if you can spin up multiple instances of chat for the same time period or not but that's something to consider as future functionality tied to this.