Canvas Mobile Update

Instructure
Instructure
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Version 6.0 of the student app has been in the wild for a few weeks, and I wanted to give an update on what you can expect from the Canvas mobile apps over the next few months.

CANVAS STUDENT

We’ll continue releasing feature updates to Canvas Student through the rest of this school year, in roughly this order:

  • Version 6.1: New, shiny, and performant course announcements and discussions!

Announcements and discussions are two of the most-used course components in Canvas, and both our iOS and Android teams have been working for weeks to make them more usable and more scalable in mobile.

One of the tricky things about discussion threads in mobile is that they can get really long, really quickly. They can also contain loads of images. And while your four-year-old laptop may have a paltry 8GB of RAM, your brand new iPhone X only contains 3GB of RAM. But you need both of those devices to load the same amount of information in about the same amount of time. So that was one of our goals. Here’s how an image-heavy discussion thread looks in the store version today compared to version 6.1:

271525_Screen Shot 2018-03-22 at 11.01.37 AM.png

To sum it up, replies load more quickly and the interface isn’t so cramped. The reply button in old discussions was also really easy to miss. See it in the top right? Well, a lot of people didn’t. So we added a big and loud “Reply” button at the bottom of the original post (and one less loud one at the top right of the original post).

  • Version 6.2: New, shiny, and performant grades and assignments lists!

The old grades and assignments lists took a long time to load. This update will make them better.

  • Version 6.3: New, shiny, and performant assignment details and submission flows!

Viewing and submitting assignments from the student app today isn’t easy. We want to improve three things:

  1. Make grades and submission comments easy for students to access
  2. Allow students to see their submission, submission comments, rubric and annotations in a single place
  3. Make submitting assignments in mobile less of a pain in the butt

Here’s roughly what the new assignment details page will look like after a student receives a grade:

271526_Screen Shot 2018-03-22 at 4.39.23 PM.png

We also have plans to add support for peer reviews and improve support for cloud assignments - though I’m not sure yet if those two pieces will go into 6.3 or a subsequent version.

CANVAS TEACHER

  • Version 1.5: Support for section-specific announcements, better discussions and faster context cards!

This should be released for both platforms within the next couple of weeks.

  • Other note: Teacher app doesn’t support modules today. We’re pretty close to being able to make this happen. Modules necessarily come last in development because almost every other kind of content in Canvas can be attached to a module (i.e., modules don’t do anything without assignments and pages and quizzes and links and files also being supported). Modules are also the way that many teachers interact with their course content, so getting to an assignment through the assignments list rather than through modules feels unnatural. Our first pass at modules will definitely not be adding support for building modules or modifying the structure of modules, as much as it will be viewing modules and module items. The basis for the teacher app’s success so far is its focus on course facilitation rather than course building or course structuring, and we’ll keep that theme going in however we incorporate modules.

    Version 1.5 is the last feature release for the teacher app we have planned on this side of InstructureCon, but we might be able to squeeze some other stuff in.

CANVAS PARENT

  • Version 2.0: Better authentication for e’rbody!

    Today, the first-time user experience in Canvas Parent is no good. The login process is convoluted, and once you log in, you still need to add a student before you can use the app -- even if you log in as an observer already connected to a student in the web. What’s worse, if your first-time experience in a mobile app stinks, you’re much more likely to delete the app than you are to keep using it.

    Generally, parents who get past that first-time experience use the app and it works well. But some parents want to see submission details, and some parents want messaging with teachers, and both of those things are technically impossible with the way authentication works today.

    We’ve found that virtually every K-12 institution either imports observers from their SIS or otherwise allows self-registration for observers. Either way, parents have an observer account in Canvas if the institution allows it. So we’re going to run with that and make everyone’s brains hurt less.

    In version 2.0, parents logging into the parent app will:
    1. Find their school
    2. Enter their observer credentials
    3. Land in the app with their students already connected

If you can’t picture it, this is the difference we’re talking about between login pages:

271529_Screen Shot 2018-03-23 at 11.29.12 AM.png

And while simplifying that experience is awesome, this change will also make the app more stable and much more scalable for future development (like adding messaging or viewing submission details).

MOBILE PAGE VIEW REPORTING


Last but not least, we’re making page view reporting from mobile a real thing. Today, we report mobile activity through API calls made from the apps. Those API calls are really hard to use in tracking activity, because a single page in mobile may require four calls, or it may require none. Instead, we’re going to fit mobile into the web URL paradigm to make reporting easier. For example, if a student enters a course from the iOS student app, we’ll report that they went to “https://[account].instructure.com/courses/[courseid]” from "Canvas Student iOS" rather than showing all the calls we made loading that course’s homepage.

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Stay tuned! App updates incoming!

15 Comments
Community Coach
Community Coach

pcraighill@instructure.com, Thank you for taking the time to share all of these updates! It's awesome to see the changes that will be included in the new releases of Student, Teacher, and Parent. I hope everyone, no matter their role, will be excited once these roll out! I know my students will appreciate the updates to discussions, submitting assignments, and getting to feedback in Canvas Student. :smileygrin:

Community Advocate
Community Advocate

pcraighill@instructure.com, thank you again for the transparency. It does not go unnoticed! I'm particularly excited about updates to the parent app. I can't wait to see the changes there.  You mentioned that the "reply" button wasn't obvious in the student app for discussions. I would make the same argument for the Syllabus button in the parent app. Even just changing that icon to the word Syllabus would be a tremendous benefit. 

Adventurer II

Peyton, thanks so much for this update! There's a lot to look forward to here.

I'm particularly excited about the upcoming changes to Canvas Teacher. Rolling out section-specific announcements for mobile makes a lot of sense, and I'm very much looking forward to seeing how modules look in Canvas Teacher. Will this make it easier to see/access content in Canvas Teacher (without having to go to Canvas Student)?

Is there any timeline yet on the mobile page view reporting? And will it include reporting for both Canvas Student and Canvas Teacher? (And -- bonus! -- will the page views in Canvas make it clear which app the calls are coming from?)

-Linda

Adventurer II

It looks like Mitch Benson's https://community.canvaslms.com/community/ideas/blog/2018/03/23/khaki-2018-update may have partially answered my question about timing for mobile page views reporting -- June 2018. So that leaves the rest -- Canvas Teacher and mobile app differentiation.

Instructure
Instructure

We're planning on everything I mentioned with a version number + mobile page view reporting being done before or around InstructureCon. (Student app peer reviewing and cloud assignments, and teacher app modules aren't planned before then.)

We're starting the page view reporting exclusively with student app because that's where auditing seems to matter the most. But yes, the page view information reported by the apps will include the app and platform name, and duration and date/time of interaction.

Adventurer II

Peyton, thank you so much for the additional detail. The breakdown of version number before/around InstructureCon is very helpful!

Starting with the Student app absolutely makes sense -- so I definitely understand and agree with that priority. As someone who supports faculty, as more functionality is incorporated into Canvas Teacher, I foresee a point in the not-too-distant future when it will be helpful to see readily what they were using. (Especially for things like TAs accidentally unmuting assignments, changes to assignments, etc.)

All that being said: that Canvas Teacher is great and the faculty I show it to are really excited about it! I've been delighted by just how many workflow edge cases it's managed to address. Smiley Happy

Thanks!

Community Coach
Community Coach

Thanks for the update Peyton.

It's amazing what goes on 'behind the scenes'.

Lots to look forward to!

Community Coach
Community Coach

pcraighill@instructure.com‌, 

Thanks for sharing. I always appreciate the transparency and being candid about why certain features are important, but not being developed right away. 

Community Member

Linda, thank you for including the Khaki 2018 update link.  I attended Khaki 2017, but I don't think I received any message about a status update until your link here.  

Learner II

Are the updates going to happen on both iOS and Android at the same time?  I hope so.  Doing this makes supporting students much easier

Surveyor

We've had some feedback about the terminology 'Find my School' in the mobile apps, that it is confusing in the UK where 'school' means a department of a University. So for example, a new user may see this and search for their school, e.g. 'School of Psychology' instead of what the need to search for, the name of the institution, e.g. 'University of Sunderland'.

Instructure
Instructure

Yes -- same time-ish! Version 6.0 was released on Jan. 26 for Android, Feb. 22 for iOS. Version 6.1 was released Mar. 26 for Android, Mar. 28 for iOS. We always intend to release them at the same time, but when one of them hits a snag (big bug, feature creep, Apple review problem, etc.) we tend to err on the side of releasing finished improvements for one platform rather than holding until they're both done.

Does that system work okay for you rlbrown2@pipeline.sbcc.edu‌?

Learner II

Yes its does, thank you pcraighill@instructure.com‌.  Thank you for making this a "priority".  It s nice to know you are doing your best to make that happen, and we all know about Apple's review timeline issues....

Instructure
Instructure

Thanks for the feedback, sonya.mcchristie@sunderland.ac.uk‌! We've tried different approaches to this over time and I'm not sure we've found the perfect one yet.

Surveyor

pcraighill@instructure.com‌ 

Tracking Mobile Activity

I wanted to bring up the consideration, that the when tracking Canvas access on mobile devices, it is important that the instructor be able to view mobile activity in the Course/Student analytics and that the information, not just be available in the page views. 

Our faculty are asked to indicate to the registrar at the end of add/drop period, students who have not participated in their online courses. When mobile activity is not displayed to the instructor, then they will tell the registrar to drop the 'inactive' or 'no show' students, so they are not charged tuition. We have had issues, where a student was dropped, who should not have been. When the mobile activity becomes trackable, I just want to make sure it will show in the instructor's view. pcraighill@instructure.com‌ can you address whether the roadmap, includes the instructor view?

About the Author
Always a learner. Love incorporating creativity and having fun with learning. Enjoy learning alongside the kids, and with my colleagues.