Special language character panel/chart integration for Rich Content Editor

Faculty at our institution would like the integration of a special language character panel or chart into the Rich Content Editor. They feel it would be easier for students than the current methods of typing or copy/pasting special characters into their assignments and discussions. They feel it would also be easier for teachers of language courses to give feedback if special characters were more easily accessible in that way.
Community Champion

It certainly does not solve all of your problems, but in Windows 10 you can get to the "emoji keyboard" by holding down the Windows key and pressing the "." key. If you then click the Ω (Omega) in that pop-up, you can browse symbols to insert, and it'll keep your most recently used in the (clock) submenu so once someone populates it with what they actually use it's pretty easy to find things. It's made the lack of this feature significantly less annoying to me while teaching math, so might help you as well. It looks like the logical symbols mostly live in the ⇆ (arrows) and ∞ (infinity) submenus.

Unfortunately, I have no idea what similar functionality might exist in other OSes, since my work laptop is a Windows 10 box.

If it's a few commonly-used symbols, you can also make a "copy and paste" section of your quiz/assignment directions in Canvas that has all of those symbols available for students to then select and paste into their responses. 

Community Novice

Thanks for your suggestions.

The math editor, like LaTeX upon which it is based, really hates using multiple lines, which is how propositional logic works. It's possible to work around this by treating each line as a separate equation, but I'll need to talk to the professor about whether that's a good solution.

While alt codes work well for users with keyboards that support them, we can't count on that given the abruptly-imposed distance learning requirements.

The Windows 10 functionality is handy, thanks! And I may indeed just have to go with a "copy and paste" section for students who don't have Win10. I think it's about 20 symbols, which isn't horrible.

Community Novice

I'd like to know what Contancia Wendt meant when she said "Have students click symbol at the top of each quiz, bringing up an on-screen keyboard." Because of the pandemic our Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Russian classes will all be taking their final exams in Canvas with the lock down browser. While they can change their keyboard into another alphabet, many of the students aren't yet comfortable with typing in their foreign language. They are requesting an embedded keyboard for clicking on or a floating keyboard template that they can reference. I welcome any suggestions or clarification. 

Community Novice

It´s been five years since this idea of the special language character panel was introduced, and we´re still debating it. Meanwhile, students of foreign languages have to go through a lot of loops to get the necessary characters in, and many simply ignore them. I work at a community college where most students do not own their own computers, and are therefore unable to manipulate the settings to install an additional keyboard. Many work on loaners tablets or on their phones, and have a hard time simply completing their online assignments since the transition to fully online classes. Expecting them to memorize complicated numerical combinations, or copy and paste from Word to insert symbols is just not right. The reason given for not inserting this panel, a matter of aesthetics, is frivolous.

As I prepare my courses for the fall, I sadly find myself writing instructions to add accents and other symbols, which won´t be followed by most of the class. Why doesn´t Canvas support the mission of equity for community colleges in California?

Community Explorer

¡Hola Cecilia!

I've been using Canvas for years and I've always run into the same situation whenever I wanted my students to write grammatically correct sentences in Spanish within a discussion forum. So far, it has been an impossible mission to accomplished. I've brought this issue up to Canvas over the phone, and the solution given was not at all practical, and frustrating. 

However, I'm optimistic and have confidence that with more foreign language courses being taught online, Canvas will be, hopefully, incorporating these essential characters. 

Community Explorer

¡Bravo and olé to La Real Academia de la Lengua!

Hi Canvas engineers: Something like this would be very helpful. 

Community Member

Four years later and this is still an issue? It is most certainly a question of equity, despite the earlier responses from Instructure. 

1. My beginning language learner students are children, not university students.

2. They cannot add extensions or peripherals, as they are using district-owned devices (Chromebooks).

3. They are learning how critical to compréhension the accent marks are, so imagine how frustrating it will be when they realize they cannot reproduce them in their own writing in Discussions without going through extra steps.

4. Those extra steps present needless barriers to their learning, which is the definition of inequity. The responses of "You can go through this other route with multiple steps to accomplish what others accomplish easily" is electronically tantamount to denying ramp access to one with ambulatory restrictions.

5. While Canvas seemed to be originally designed for university use, it is now being deployed in K-12 education. Children don't interact with technology the same way university students do. They don't have the save resources or experience solving problems. If you are offering a product to be used in kindergarten, then you can't expect them to use the work-arounds proposed- you have to offer it yourself.

6. Many school districts are going back to school in a few short weeks in a fully remote environment. Where do you suggest I display the six or seven work-arounds you've suggested while I teach 14-year-old students the basics of French (especially when those students barely know how to capitalize letters when typing, nor how to copy and paste because of their limited access to technology in their homes)?

7. My district educates 38,000 students, of which about 13,000 need to type in a language other than English. Which of those 13,000 students don't deserve to have their languages represented?

8. When my students should be writing their response to a prompt, they should not be exiting the quiz. Every accent mark hunt they go on will distract from their writing, and the ideas get lost in the excessive effort out will take to express in correct form (so they are understood).

9. Your RCE can handle the extra box for special characters, just like every other LMS has managed to do.

Please look into this with fervor and urgency. 

Community Member

Thank you, Heather, for your comment! You are absolutely right! This IS an equity issue. Even college students in elementary language classes find the lack of a special character tool a barrier to learning. I have recently retired and had to retire without seeing the addition of this simple tool, having ranted about it for years. Please Canvas folks, honor Heather’s request for equity! Your new CEO says he wants Instructure to be a more global company. Let’s hope that is not simply lip service. My students struggled with the special characters or simply left them out. Make this change so Heather’s students can benefit..

Community Explorer

Yes, @heatherfodor Heather! I have been on a soap box about this ever since my first Canvas Training. Let me add:

10. Many students and staff have names containing accented characters. Often these are people of color, people with immigration backgrounds, people with other than Anglo heritage. Their first and repeated experience with Canvas delivers this message:

"Hi! Canvas is designed to keep everything in one place for you so you don't have to be on a bunch of different platforms. You can stay right in Canvas! Many, many people work hard to make it easy for you. Well, except if your name is one of those funny ones with accents or something. We are not used to those. We don't want to work hard to make it easy for you to type your name. That is unimportant to us. Your name is unimportant to us.  We prefer to ignore people like you as we design our product. We don't want to have to remember that there are people like you out there. 

So, every time you enter your name, here are a number of complicated extra steps to take that people named Karen and Jake don't have to take, because we want to make things convenient for those people. You? You have to adjust. We expect you to either accept this inconvenience or to accept a misspelling of your name every time you use Canvas for anything. We have the technical expertise to change this for you, but we choose not to. It is too much trouble for us and we don't like the way it would look. You are asking for too much. If you could just change you name to be more like the names we have letters for, we wouldn't have to think about doing this extra work. You are going to just LOVE Canvas! "

I don't know where I can post this where it will get the attention it deserves. This is not something to just leave out if there are not enough votes. It's not something that should be limited to districts who can afford the fancy Design Tools feature. It is inequitable, Anglo-centric, and monolingual. It is not okay.

I am new to Canvas and am impressed by so many of its capabilities. I am required to phase it in starting this semester. But I will not be complicit in this chosen omission. For anything requiring a RTE, I am linking to Google Classroom and my students will exit Canvas. I have to --- to even begin to teach my content (i.e. the spelling of every tenth word in the target language) and to even begin to be equitable. Until this is fixed, the platform is as good as useless to the minority of teachers who teach a language and the vast majority of students, who take language classes for 1- 5 years in their K12 educations alone.

Community Explorer

With foreign language classes it would be ideal for students to be able to type in foreign languages in their exams or assignments in the text entry option. 

Community Member
Community Explorer

This would be very helpful for my institution, particularly for our Voice Production and Speech classes.

Community Member

I often have my students submit assignments directly through Canvas. As a French teacher and student, it is very time consuming to use the Character Map feature on my computer to add accents.

Is there a way for Canvas to make this easier for language students?

Either an accent bank or something that students can type on their keyboard as they can in a Word Doc?


Community Participant

I regularly have faculty and students asking for a built-in special character option in Canvas.  It is as essential as having math equations available for faculty in those classes.  This is pretty much a no brainer.

Community Novice

Please add an accent tool bar for languages.  The other solutions are time-consuming especially when students are taking a timed exam or quiz!  

Community Member

Instructors of foreign languages and phonetics would very much appreciate a font that supports characters of the International Phonetic Alphabet.

The current font - Lato - does not support some IPA characters like /ɪ/, one of the most common sounds in North American English. Anywhere that an instructor can use the Rich Text Editor, the situation can be resolved by selecting another font like Arial. But what if one wants to use an IPA character in a module's title or page name? In this case, /ɪ/ is rendered as /I/ - a different sound altogether - because Lato doesn't support /ɪ/.

Other members of the Canvas Community have requested support for other IPA characters, so please upvote this request to support instructors of foreign languages and phonetics by changing the Canvas global font to something (anything!) other than Lato provided that the new font supports IPA characters.

Community Member

Please, please make this work!

Community Team
Community Team
Status changed to: Archived

Hi -

Thank you to everyone who has participated in this thread over the last few years! The Community Team wanted to share that there was a blog post shared by Instructure's Product Team recently, explaining what is included in the RCE. "Special Characters" In Canvas 

Because the Product Team has determined a path for this and related requests, this thread will be Archived and not move forward in the Idea Process.

Community Participant

To easily allow users to insert non-standard characters into the Canvas rich content editor there is the Special Characters external tool that adds a button to the editor to allow characters to be inserted. The tool is quick and simple to setup, more details are available on: https://www.wyelearning.com/support/characters/