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Community Coach
Community Coach

Separate Version of Canvas for K12

In reading through all of the hundreds of feature requests, it is quickly becoming apparent to me, and perhaps to Instructure also, that a separate version of Canvas specifically for K12 should be developed.

Many of the use-cases being described in feature requests do not pertain to Higher Ed in any way, shape, or form. One obvious example would be parent observers - in Higher Ed, FERPA regulations do not permit parent observers of the child's educational activities without express written permission of the adult student. Another might be hiding grades in all the variations asked for. Many many more examples abound. I am concerned that as the K12 use grows, Higher Ed customers are going to be overwhelmed with features that simply do not apply, making the UI much more complicated and difficult to support.

No, I don't see this happening tomorrow, and I don't particularly see this as a "feature request", but I would like the raise this point for discussion by the community.

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18 Replies
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Community Member

Yes, I agree. One of the things that's becoming apparent is that the whole assignments situation is different in K12 than it is in higher ed. For example, many secondary classes have bell work everyday. That's an assignment everyday in addition to the regular assignments. I might have 10 or more things due in a week for a class. The assignments list takes forever to load, as does the grades screen. In higher ed you just don't have this many assignments you have to organize.

That's just one, small example. I run into things every day where my friends who teach in higher ed (our local university uses Canvas) think it works fine but it drives everyone at my (middle school) level nuts.

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Community Member

I also agree that a separate version of Canvas K-12 would be extremely beneficial.  It was mentioned there is a concern that as the K-12 use grows, Higher Ed customers will be overwhelmed with features that do not apply to them.  I have to say as a K-12 user there are many Higher Ed features that I can not use, they do not apply and at times these features can be overwhelming for K-12 users also.  There is also a big difference between elementary and high school users within K-12.

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Community Member

I would be reticent to suggest a completely separate K-12 system because some of the features might be quite useful to K-12 teachers.  I teach seniors, so many of my assignments are college-like.  However, I think that a lot could be done at the permissions level and the feature level to create separate options.  Each permission, for instance, could have options that are designed to appeal to your various audiences--K-6, 7-8, 9-12, and College.  Institutions or separate grade level accounts could then choose which settings work best for their particular audience and community.  Furthermore, at the course level, teachers could be presented with options for each feature that appeal to these various audiences, whether it is grading or assignment generation.  The "gear icons" often have remarkably few settings that would allow us to customize the feature we are using for our specific students.

Whatever you do, don't "dumb" Canvas down for a K-12 audience.  A lot of us have chosen Canvas because other LMS systems were too simple or restrictive for us to properly use technology to teach or communicate with our students.  However, you could certainly make it more flexible, less restrictive by exploring the settings possibilities at the account and course feature level.  Canvas's appeal is its customization.  Let us customize it more.

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Surveyor II

Our company is a heavy user of the Canvas API and we serve Canvas schools that are in both the K-12 and Higher Ed categories.  Two separate versions of the software could lead to two different sets of APIs and much heavier costs for both Instructure (to maintain two separate code bases) and for partners like us (to do QA on different sets of API calls.

I would think that there is so much crossover in feature-function that everyone would want potential access to all features.  As long as the software is configurable, then it becomes an issue of really focusing on setting it up properly for each school.

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I totally agree with chris@aspiredu.com​. Yes, there are times when I can tell something is much more suited/important to K12 and other times when I know something focused on Higher Ed. The same could be said for some of the features that are being added to make Canvas more friendly to our global friends (ex: double blind marking). Yet, the cost and time (which is also $$) of separating out everything seems like a waste when it could just come down to properly adjusting settings and training faculty on how to effectively use the tools for their specific situation.  In addition, I think we all grow and expand our thinking when we get the chance to consider how other Institutions (completely different from us) are using features and why they find something important. Instead of focusing on differences, let's see how we might be able to improve ourselves (and how we do things at our Institution) by looking at how others do things and reflecting on our own practices.

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I have learned a lot from the K12 postings, questions and feature requests and so would continue to follow the K12 group. However, I am constantly worried about Canvas developing a truly bloated and error prone UI.

And, quite frankly, just wanted to see what folks had to say.

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Community Member

Its interesting, I hear a lot of people in this discussion saying that K12 features would not be of interest, and would bloat Canvas for Higher Ed users.  I am a K12 user and I feel the same.  There is a lot of higher ed functionality that doesn't make sense for k12. Its really no knock on either community, it just shows that as this product matures, the only way it can grow and serve both audiences is to split into two products.  Canvas, if you are listening, let's get that going sooner rather than later.

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Community Member

I don't think two separate versions is the right path, it will just raise costs for everyone.  Not to mention you want high schoolers to be able to flow right into using Canvas in college and not have a learning curve in my opinion.

However I did put in a feature request when this new board was launched that was quickly shot down.   It was to have separate voting for K12 and Higher Ed.  Why?  Because higher has more vocal people in the community and it's features that don't always pertain to K12 float to the top while ours get next to no votes and fall off the list.

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Community Member

The more I think about it, the more I'm rethinking two separate products. Many of the things I would change about the Canvas UI would not negatively impact higher ed users and would, in fact, be positives. Many of my friends who use Canvas in higher ed are really only scratching the surface of what it can do. Most of my technophile K12 colleagues are pushing to see what else we can make it do. I think K12 users are in a good position to push Canvas to be even better than it is.

That said, those positives won't happen if we in K12 don't make some noise (in a polite way, of course).