This here’s meant for the K-12ers in the house. HE folks are welcome to keep reading, but I bet you won’t find it very relevant.
I mentioned in my recent Canvas Mobile Update post that we’re going to improve everybody’s experience with the parent app by changing the way authentication works. This post will provide a deeper dive into what that means and what you can expect from the parent app in the coming months. It’s nothing scary; I just want to make sure everyone has a proper heads-up and a chance to ask questions.
Let’s start with how things work today. Your institution handles parent accounts in Canvas in one of two (or both of these) ways:
You provision parent accounts in Canvas -- likely as observers -- from your SIS or some other user import. In this case, you’re either using Canvas authentication or some other authentication system (LDAP, SAML, etc.) to allow parents to access Canvas. You probably also communicate with parents about how to access these things…maybe at back-to-school night, maybe in packets you send home with kids, maybe through email, maybe through snail mail, or whatever else. Provisioning is the method of choice for a lot of larger schools/districts.
You enable self-registration for observers in Canvas. In this case, you tell parents to go to ‘yourschool.instructure.com/login/canvas’ to create an account for themselves. This option enables a little button on the Canvas login page that says: Self-registration is the method of choice for a lot of smaller schools/districts.
In both cases, you end up with parents as users in Canvas. Cool! That means parents can engage in their kids’ education and you can facilitate that engagement depending on the policies and preferences of your school or district.
Okay, now less cool: We created an entirely different user model for the parent app when we launched it two years ago. There were good reasons for it, like wanting registration for parents to be easy from a mobile device -- and wanting parents with kids at different institutions to have an easy way to navigate between those kids/institutions. But in the end, this other user model:
Doesn’t play nice with SIS integrations
Doesn’t play nice with Canvas services like inbox
Means parents (at least until we added support for observer authentication in the fall of 2016) needed two Canvas accounts – one for web and one for mobile
Necessitates all this duplicate tooling like Canvas Parent Admin Tools and a Canvas Parent feature flag to manage mobile parents separately because Canvas Parent Users aren’t technically Canvas users
Made the first-time experience for parents worse
That all stinks. And that stench totally outweighs the theoretical benefits of having a separate model for parents.
In case the solution isn’t obvious yet: we’re going to get rid of the Canvas Parent user model and everyone’s going to authenticate in the parent app with their ordinary Canvas credentials (just like students and teachers do in the apps today). Here’s what the current release plan looks like:
When: Likely the second half of April
What it does: Removes the “Create Account” button from the parent app’s login page
What parents can expect:
Won’t change anything for existing users.
Brand new users will need to have Canvas observer accounts to log in to the parent app.
Why: Since we’re getting rid of the Canvas Parent user model this summer, we’re removing the ability to create accounts that won’t work a few months down the road. Instead, new parents will need to be Canvas observers.
When: In July, when parent app usage hits its lowest point
What it does:
Forces observer authentication to use the parent app
Likely gets rid of Canvas Parent Admin Tools and Canvas Parent feature flag (because they duplicate other Canvas admin functionality)
What parents can expect:
Will need to log into the app again, this time using their Canvas observer credentials, following the same flow they would to log into Canvas web or the student app (No more having two accounts!)
Any kids they’re observing will automatically populate once logged in (No more re-adding students you’re already observing in Canvas web!)