I've had multiple observers of one student. I'm not sure if that was upgraded since you tested it or not. I was looking at this about 4 - 6 months ago.
Thus far we have put a link for district employees that shows up if you click the parent account link. They click on that and it points to "...instructure.com/profile/observees" which makes them login to Canvas. Once they login they are on the "Observing" link of personal settings which they couldn't see before (back way to get in) and they can just add all their students there, one at a time.
I remember now, after they add one student they need to go to their personal settings --> "Observing" and then they can add additional students there. I made a global announcement to the "observer" role that tells them how to add additional students.
We import Parent as Observers from our student information system so that their Canvas Account is the same as the account for our District login.
We didn't leave sign up to chance.... Since we collect emergency contact information for every student / child in our district, we simply used that same parent data to enroll them in Canvas and connect them to their children as observers. The one issue we ran into was that when a parent / observer is enrolled in a course, it sends them an email notification. So if you have 3 kids, taking 8 classes each, the parent gets 24 emails. You want to turn this off before enrolling parents.
Parents are not permitted to 'interact' with the course in anyway. They can only observe what their children are doing. In fact, we believe it would be a violation of FERPA for parents to see the discussion contributions of students other their own children, so we have disabled discussions for parents. The challenge there is that the Announcements permissions are the same as Discussions, so if you disable discussions, you also disable Announcements for parents. We have brought this to Instructure's attention and they are working on a fix now.
We agree that parents cannot post to discussions with other students. That's a FERPA issue. Canvas will eventually separate the permission for Announcements and Discussions so that you can allow parents to receive Announcements without the ability to participate in Discussions. So for now both are off for us.
Hi Amy, parents can be in discussions if your Canvas admin modifies their permissions. However, this would give them access to read all of the student's discussion posts in the course and interact with them. We feel like this would not comply with FERPA laws so we have discussions restricted only to students and teachers in the course.
I just checked and 20% of our parents have signed up to observe a student using the self registration link on our Canvas login page. I have to say, it's not always a great experience for them, especially if they have more than one student that they wish to observe. While Canvas does allow for this, all of the classes go into the parent's dashboard and streams. It quickly becomes confusing for them as to which assignment or notification is for which child.
Because of this, we actually try to steer parents away from using Canvas as an observer and encourage them to sign up for our Portal through our SIS. Our portal uses the Canvas API to pull in assignments and grades and it allows them to easily filter by child so there is no confusion. We also encourage parents to sit down with their children and look over their shoulder as they use Canvas. Let them "drive" and ask questions. Like "show me what you are working on in Biology" or "what assignments are due this week?" I think this yields better results than looking at Canvas when they are not with you.