Canvas Mobile Product Update - Spring 2019

Instructure
Instructure
16 16 1,550

Here's some stuff that's worth writing home about!

Canvas Student:

We’ve been working for months on a new assignment details page and a new submission workflow for students in mobile. I outlined some of the features of that project in a post last fall. To minimize the risk of disruption, we don’t plan to release the update in stores until summer, but we will provide a link to a beta version of this update as it nears completion.

Cloud assignments have been harder to make good than we originally thought they would be, but we aren’t giving up yet. Everything else is going swimmingly. This is going to be an awesome update. Right now, it’s slated as Canvas Student 6.6 – more to come soon.

We will have a smaller feature release – Canvas Student 6.5 – likely before the end of the school year. That’s going to contain a syllabus update for both platforms. The old (current) syllabus works like this:

311217_old_syllabus.gif

That’s...one way to present a syllabus. But probably not the best way. If you use the syllabus as your course homepage, you probably create attractive and/or important content to be featured on the syllabus, which today gets hidden behind a “Syllabus” button when the student has already tapped to view the syllabus. The old design is also inconsistent with the way the syllabus is presented on the web: rich content more prominent, and list of assignments less prominent.

The new syllabus looks like this:

 311218_new_syllabus.gif

So that’s better.

The 6.5 update will also include some cool iOS-specific features: support for viewing augmented reality files, checking grades via Siri Shortcuts, and updated Apple Pencil support.

Canvas Teacher:

 

We’re almost done with the most-requested feature for the teacher app, which is adding support for modules. Starting with Canvas Teacher 1.8, you’ll be able to navigate your course via modules list, like this:

311231_new_modules.gif 

Editing the module progression is significantly more complex because of features like mastery paths and module item prerequisites, and it also seems like a task more aligned with course creation rather than course facilitation, so that won’t be included in this release. Instead, if you like navigating your course via modules, you can do that!

This update also improves our use of temporary file storage so the teacher app stops eating all the goshdarn space on your iPad.

If you want to try out modules in Canvas Teacher 1.8 (iOS-only at the moment, Android is still in progress), use this link from your iPhone/iPad: https://testflight.apple.com/join/XzMfiwYM

If you see anything wonky, wobbly or just straight up whack, please reply to this post so we can fix it.

Canvas Parent:

I’m on a mission to make the parent mobile experience good. Less like Twinkies good, more like Plato’s Form of the Good. That means two things for the app most urgently:

  • Improve the process of connecting parents and students and teachers and Canvas. We started this last summer by unifying the parent user/Canvas user paradigm, which was 100% necessary and fundamental for kicking things up another notch, but now we need to actually kick things up another notch: allow teachers to mass produce pairing codes, allow students to create pairing/QR codes from mobile, allow parents to connect with multiple students from the parent app…that kind of thing.
  • Provide parents with more/better information. They access Canvas because they’re trying to help their kids. That could require viewing course announcements, school announcements, course content, calendar, assignment grades, communication with teachers, maybe even content recommendations to help them understand the topics their kids are learning.

We’re in a position to help parents support their students, and to reduce stress for admins and teachers in dealing with parents, and most importantly, to accomplish these things in a way that actually helps kids (instead of creating more noise or adding unnecessary burden). I’ll provide more specifics on upcoming parent app development soon, but if you feel passionately about this, I’d love to pick your brain and steal your ideas! The best way to arrange this is probably through your CSM.

That's all for now! 

16 Comments
Community Advocate
Community Advocate

Thanks for these wonderful updates, pcraighill@instructure.com! I'm super excited about any progress on the parent app and mass-generation of parent codes!

Community Coach
Community Coach

Nice work pcraighill@instructure.comor the update. And your team for persevering to make these apps even better. 

Like Hanes.Matthew.B@muscogee.k12.ga.us‌ I'm keen to see progress, especially on the Parent App. 

It's great that you guys keep chipping away to make the mobile experience better and better. Appreciate how tricky it is!

Community Member

These improvements clearly show that the Canvas Mobile product development team is singing the same melody as its users. The drive to achieve near-complete transparency between the computer-web based Canvas experience and the mobile-based one will do nothing but increase usage across a school and campus. Like original Apple GUI guidelines, creating parallel environments that work relatively the same promotes usage because a user skill set is interchangeable across platforms.

Love it!

Learner II

Thanks for the updates, pcraighill@instructure.com‌! I'm excited to see the new things coming out!

Community Member

Thanks for sharing these updates pcraighill@instructure.com!  I will pass them on to my team!  I'm glad too see that the apps are moving in these directions.  Canvas Apps FTW!

Community Advocate
Community Advocate

Very excited to see updates and improvements to the Student App.   Our elementary and middle school students are all on iPads and often there are frustrated teachers and students with navigation or workflow for assignments.   An improved Google Cloud Assignment submission is super welcome.    Can't wait!  Thank you!

Community Advocate
Community Advocate

Hi pcraighill@instructure.com:   By any chance do you know if Collaborations is going to be added to work on Student Mobile App (iPad)?      We have a 2nd Grade teacher who was trying to use Collaborations with her second graders (on iPads) for this really cool project.   But when they click on Collaborations, it doesn't open for the students.   (It was still a nice easy way for the teacher to get these setup and easily view the groups -- but then one table somehow has access to the wrong table, and despite all our efforts to figure out why it's not working for one group, we can't seem to find that anything was done incorrectly).     Other than one group, all the other tables of kids can find their Document (that was setup via Collaborations) in their Google Drive.

It's always frustrating when a teacher tries to do something really awesome -- especially with little ones -- and the tools don't work.

Learner II

Great Product Updates.  We are looking forward to them.  As more students are trying to use their phones for classwork due to their availability and funding these upgrades will be greatly appreciated.  

Instructure
Instructure

Hey hildi.pardo@apsva.us‌! I have questions. Can you email me (pcraighill@instructure.com) and we'll set up a time to chat? Right now the Collaborations component in student app redirects to Canvas web, and your feedback makes me think something in that experience is broken.

Community Advocate
Community Advocate

Email sent!  Thanks for looking into this with me!

Learner II

I like where this idea is going. 

Community Advocate
Community Advocate

Hi again pcraighill@instructure.com‌:  We piloted the Parent App and Canvas Grading this past year with a limited group of teachers/courses.  We are extending our pilot this coming year to a larger group of teachers/courses.   I'm eager for updates to the Parent App where a parent can add more than one student via the App.      Also eager for anything that makes pairing the parent(s) with the student(s) easier to communicate, and easier for them to do.    Perhaps the teacher-generated codes will make it easier.

One thing that was tricky for us, is that when parents got paired with their student, they also had access to the teachers' courses that were not part of the Pilot.    I don't suppose there is anything that can be done to help limit which courses a parent could see via the app?

Instructure
Instructure

Hmmm...The parents' enrollments should be exactly mirroring their students' enrollments after self registration. So if a student is enrolled in a pilot course and a non-pilot course, the parent and student both see both courses. Not sure if that helps -- I may be confused.

On a related note, we recently did some API work to ensure courses displayed on a user's dashboard in web will always be the same as the courses displayed on a user's dashboard in mobile. Those changes will be rolled into parent app this summer, so if this issue is related to a disparity between courses parents see in web vs. mobile, it should go away then!

Community Advocate
Community Advocate

Thanks, Peyton.    Got it.  I understand -- there is no way for us to limit parents' view -- when in Mobile -- to only the Pilot course(s).

To clarify -- when I have to manually create for a parent account via Web, then we can control (currently) what courses they see because:  1) we create their account; 2) enroll them in a specific course with Observer role; and 3) link them to their student in the course.   They can see all content in the course when it's done this way, but are limited to that one couser.    Question 1: If that parent, who opted out of using mobile for one reason or other (can't add apps because it's a work phone; for visual impairment reasons, etc), suddenly decides to start using Mobile, will they see all their child's courses (even if on Web they are limited to the one in which they are enrolled as Observer?)      Question 2:  Is this new API work going to change that parent's access from being limited to that one course, to now seeing all their student's current courses?

Instructure
Instructure

re: "there is no way for us to limit parents' view -- when in mobile -- to only the Pilot course(s)," I would treat it like there's zero difference between the courses the parent has access to in web and mobile. If that's ever not the case, it's a problem with Canvas. Instead, I can think of a couple options for a pilot where you only want parents having access to some courses. 1) Disable self-registration so you can manually control observer enrollments, or 2) Keep self-registration on, but manually remove observer enrollments that aren't part of the pilot. Note that with option 2, every time the student has a new enrollment (like with a new quarter/semester), the observer will also receive that enrollment, and you'll need to manually remove non-pilot enrollments for the duration of the pilot. Hope that helps!

Community Advocate
Community Advocate

oh!  interesting!  We can manually remove parents from specific courses that aren't part of the pilot?     That would be a solution!

About the Author
I’ve worked in product management at Instructure for five years. I love my teams, and Canvas, and solving problems to make Canvas better.