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Link Observers to Students for Messaging

Link Observers to Students for Messaging

0 Kudos

When writing a message to a parent, Observer, it can be very difficult to know who their parent is exactly without having to first search through the People page. The People page does not allow us to Message Observers. It would be wonderful if when drafting messaging, and the Observers list was pulled down is said something such as

Tim Smith Observing Bobby Miller 

Observers do not always have the last names of our students and they sometimes are mixed families too. This would help tremendously so I know which Observer belongs to which Student. 

Instructure Alumni
Instructure Alumni
Status changed to: Open
Community Team
Community Team

Hi @TampaNative -

I'm sooo happy to see this Idea resurface! I think the first time I submitted this as a topic for conversation was in 2016? It's been a while! I think it's difficult to remember who is observing which student if last names don't match when you're working in the Inbox! 

In the meantime, my campus has adopted some custom CSS that's available because of a very kind Community member. Messaging Observers of Students in Canvas  has great solutions! I love having the custom script, and it's used frequently.

New Member

I am currently teaching 6th and 7th grade math. 

When composing a message to a student, it would be SO BENEFICIAL to have a little checkbox to "cc the Observer" connected to that student. I have over 100 students, almost exclusively virtual, and can't always remember whether there is an observer and what the name is (sometimes, parents just register as an observer with a first name). 

New Member

We gave the custom script linked above, but it was just too slow to be really effective. In one of the comments on that thread it mentions that it was slowed down to prevent hitting API limits. And I don't know if that was it, or that and a combination of being a fairly large district, but it would be faster to find the observer manually then it was waiting for the script to find them. So I, and many of our teachers, would really like to have a properly built and supported feature added to the inbox to include the observers of the selected students, or vice versa.

New Member

It would be great if teachers could send a snapshot of their student's grades directly to the observer account associated with the observer.  Not a progress report, just a brief email with the current grade.  Even better would be the student's current grade and any missing assignments. 

New Member

Please Canvas! If you could add this feature it would help parents feel more connected to their student's progress and able to support their student in a much quicker manner verses waiting for a teacher's progress report. This feature is what is missing from your platform. 

Thank you!


@ktupy @TampaNative @TriciaDejersey I've read your comments and wanted to make you aware that as a Partner of Canvas, our "Grade Guardian" analytics can make it easier for you to identify and contact observers, and to send our version of a "daily report card" to a parent.  I've included two screen shots below to illustrate that.  You can find our Partner page here in the Community:

Contacts.jpgLucas - Overview.jpg

New Member

Currently, to message a student and their observer you would have to know the name of the observer. To do this, I have to have a print out of the people in my classes to find the observer(s) of a particular student.  This is really time consuming when you have over 100 students.

It would be really helpful to have the option to email the student and automatically send a copy of the message to the observing account, without having to enter the observers name. 

New Member

I would love to be able to use the send message feature in the grade book that would allow me to email both the student and their observer. 

It would also be awesome to have a way to message the observer with a list of the students they are observing (I have observers monitoring multiple students) who have not completed an assignment.

Community Champion

Canvas, you have greatly expanded your K12 user base in the past 2 years and K12 teachers need to be in regular communication with parents. We need functionality in the inbox that allows teachers to attach a child's parents to a message without having to go into our SIS to look up the parent's names. Our district has added code to our custom JS (shared by another user here in the community) to make this possible, but I dread the day a Canvas update causes that script to break. We need this to be part of the core functionality of Canvas especially in the K12 realm.

Community Participant

Our district is currently using the script that was shared by a Canvas Community member, github link to updated script:

We are super thankful for this implementation and thankful for the spirit of sharing with the Canvas Community at large. 

With that said, the script is integrated using the theme editor and additional customizations also using the JS or CSS files have caused some issues that required additional workarounds. It seems that most institutions NEED the ability to CC observers on Canvas communications and this should be native to the Canvas platform.

Now that there is the ability to include observers on communications when using the grade book feature to "Message Students Who" in the upcoming June 18th 2022 release, it seems that the ability to CC observers on inbox communications would be a thoughtful addition.Canvas Message Include Observer.png

Community Champion

With the Inbox refactoring that rolled out to beta last week, I am seeing that the msgobs script is no longer working, the Include Observers and Remove Students buttons have disappeared. The response from Canvas was:

"Since the Include Observers button is custom code and not standard to Inbox, it unfortunately will be impacted with the refactoring. I apologize for that inconvenience and certainly understand your overall frustration. Uniform functionality is definitely a strategy discussion point in consideration by our senior leadership."


The refactored inbox is scheduled to move to production on October 15, so be prepared for your teachers to lose access if you have this script installed.

Here are the 2022-10-15 Release Notes and the Features Q&A: Canvas Release Notes (2022-10-15) where you can comment on this update.

Community Champion

@MBlackwell_GCA and @KristinL I reached out to Steven Rice and he will not be able to update his Add Observers script to work with the new refactored inbox. Districts using this will lose access to the functionality on 10/15. I've requested Canvas delay this feature feature until it has the same functionality as the gradebook messaging tool, but they were not receptive to that request. I encourage admins using this with their districts to comment on the 10-15 Release Q&A.