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Emailing students in an Unpublished course

Emailing students in an Unpublished course

(3)
It would be helpful to be able to email students in an unpublished course so that the instructor has the ability to contact and welcome the students to the course before it begins.  This will also provide the students with the ability to ask questions and communicate any concerns with the professors beforehand.
32 Comments
scottdennis
Community Team
Community Team

Hi  @kat37 

Thank you for submitting this feature idea.  It will open for vote on the 1st of June with the next cohort.  Please note that the idea of being able to send inbox conversations to unpublished course participants was voted on previously but did not receive the votes necessary for it to advance to the next stage in the process.

Related idea:

e01166
Community Member

Contacting students before the beginning of a class is one commonly identified best practice for online teaching. (http://www.uwec.edu/AcadAff/resources/edtech/upload/Best-Practices-in-Online-Teaching-Strategies-Mem... p. 19) (Send students an introductory email message before the course begins - Pedagogical Repository )

This would be a helpful feature in Canvas. Not only does it help instructors create a sense of presence in the class, it also gives students a chance to ask questions, or make sure technology requirements are in place. If a class requires a headset with microphone (for instance a language class), students have a chance to put the technology in place before they are expected to use it.

kona
Community Coach
Community Coach

e01166​, I agree, which is why I tell faculty go go ahead and publish their courses before the semester starts. This doesn't automatically give students access to the course early (even though I recommend this as well), but does allow faculty to email and communicate with students ahead of time.

e01166
Community Member

Thanks. I didn't realize that would work.

Stefanie
Community Team
Community Team

e01166, what  @kona  has described will work, with caveats. For example, if a school populates students through SIS and has disabled course invitations--so that a student is automatically enrolled without having to "accept" the invitation--and the school allows students access to courses before the official first day of classes, then this will work. Even so, if students haven't yet set notification preferences, they may not be aware that they have been sent messages.

At my school, students access their Canvas courses through a link in a portal, and those links become enabled on the first day of classes. So even if I were to publish my course before the first day, students might still not be able to access it. We do allow students to bypass the portal and access Canvas courses through direct links, but they need to know those links in order to access the courses, which brings us back to the need to communicate with students before the first day of classes.

My preferred workflow is to use students' official college email addresses for all communications prior to day one, and I switch over to Canvas messages exclusively from day one forward (with the exception of those students who are added late to the class). I've written this up in Starting the new school year (or semester): Herding cats.

My concern about this feature idea--as much as I would like to see a better way to communicate with students before day one--is that even if Canvas were to implement it, institutional policies and the configuration of the integrations they use might override it--or worse, that it is implemented, and teachers think they have communicated with their students but students are not actually receiving the notifications because of the external limitations schools place upon access to Canvas courses.

A lot of variables to consider, is all I'm saying. Smiley Happy

anthonem
Surveyor

We run into this problem all the time -- faculty member posts a course announcement before the course is published, and they rightfully assume that the notification email is sent to students currently enrolled in the course. How would they know otherwise, the Canvas interface hasn't told them any differently! As much as I understand Stephanie's hesitance:

"teachers think they have communicated with their students but students are not actually receiving the notifications because of the external limitations schools place upon access to Canvas courses."

This is already happening.

We definitely need some improvements in this area...either by 1) restricting all ability to post communications before the course is published 2) doing what this request is asking for and paying attention to all the factors that Stephanie has described or at least 3) placing a warning on the Announcement creation screen reminding faculty that students will never receive an announcement notification if the announcement is posted before the course is published -- even when the course is published...the announcement notification isn't sent out at that time either.

FYI - related (archived) feature request is here:

Laura_Orsetti
Community Member

For numerous reasons, we do not publish courses until the first day of term.  But we encourage faculty to contact their students ahead of time to alert them of important dates for the first week of term, or just to welcome them to the course. Since we can't do that through Canvas while the courses are unpublished, we have them do this:

  1. Go into your course in Canvas (preferably in Chrome)
  2. Open the Gradebook
  3. Export the Gradebook (if given the option, select "Current") Note: Depending on the size of your class, it make take a minute or two to generate the file.
  4. Open the exported file in Excel
  5. Find the column labeled "SIS Login ID" - this will be their FNU email address
  6. Copy those cells
  7. Open your FNU email and start a new message
  8. Paste the email addresses in the TO section (or use BCC to prevent all students from seeing the whole email list)
  9. Compose and send your email!

We use gmail and find that copy/pasting the emails from the export report directly to gmail in a batch (as opposed to copy/pasting them one at a time) works beautifully. 

I should note that all of our students are "pre-loaded" (enrolled) into the courses ahead of time, allowing for faculty to easily pull the list from the gradebook.  I believe some schools don't enroll their students ahead of time, in which case this would not work.

chriscas
Adventurer

As an admin, I'm very torn on this issue...

We have access to our courses restricted by term-dates, and do allow students to access a course up to one week early.

One of the big things we want to avoid is having work assigned before the courses actually begin.  This has been an issue in the past (and probably still continues to be right now even with the restrictions we have in Canvas).  Faculty voting groups have multiple times voted in favor of the one-week early access procedure we currently have in place.  That being said, sending early messages about textbooks and other course materials can be very useful for students.  We still debate internally whether or not this should really be email communication, or whether Canvas is a better spot for that type of thing.

If early messaging is allowed, I really hope it is restricted to early messaging only, and not *after* the term has ended.  We've had faculty who continually try to send messages about their upcoming talks to courses from 3-4 years ago.  I understand the thinking, but most students consider this to be spam-like messaging, and we don't want actual current course-related messages ot start getting ignored because of an increased volume of unwanted messages coming from Canvas.

don_bryn
Surveyor

Couldn't Admins solve this problem by having an email sent to student's original email every time they are registered for a new course?   This email would instruct them that important information will be sent to their Canvas email and they are responsible for setting up their notification preferences and checking that email, even before the semester starts.

I know we include in the syllabus that students are responsible for checking their Canvas email and that only that email can be used for course-related communication.   But we could also start that process earlier by making them responsible as soon as they are registered.

This could be a standard email setup to be automatically sent every time a course is added.

christina_biful
Community Member

This is my work around as well!

jasonpauljohnst
Learner II

Yes - I agree here - at least an error / notification to teachers telling them their message or announcement will not be sent.

Jeff_F
Adventurer II

Or queue the notifications and have them post once the course is in fact published.

anthonem
Surveyor

Hi Jeff,

I like this idea...but it should probably only apply to new announcements created in the course, as opposed to announcements that have been copied from a previous course. The copied announcements should be "unpublished" by default and require manual publishing before they are posted for students.

Jeff_F
Adventurer II

Agreed!

cward
Instructure
Instructure

Due to the variety of institutional policies around terms and when/how courses are made available to students, engineering a solution that takes all the edge cases into account will be difficult. Unfortunately, due to this, we won't be moving forward with this idea at this time.

Chris

Jeff_F
Adventurer II

I respect this immensely.  Thanks for making a decision and informing the group.  :smileycheck:

jasonpauljohnst
Learner II

Could instructors at least be warned that if the course is unpublished communications will not be sent? - Thanks

cward
Instructure
Instructure

That we can do! No guarantee when this will be implemented, but know it's been added to our backlog.

jasonpauljohnst
Learner II

Awesome - thanks so much!

anthonem
Surveyor

Deactivated user​ - I'll echo Jason's suggestion -- some sort of warning pop-up when instructors post an announcement before the course is published. Thanks!