What I Would Like To See In Canvas Parent 3.0

Community Advocate
Community Advocate
6 10 471

I've spent a lot of time talking with teachers in my school district about apps and services for communication with parents. Our school district is not a 1:1 district, so our Canvas rollout has been slow and the adoption rate is not particularly high, especially in elementary schools. We expect to see a much higher adoption rate as we provide devices to students and, for the sake of consistency, we would like to steer teachers to using Canvas as their primary tool for student and parent communication. Unfortunately, it's really hard to recommend the Parent App over having the parents just download the student app and login as the student. I really am not trying to bash the Parent App or anything because I really think the Mobile team has done an amazing job constructing these apps. I just see some room for improvement and constructive criticism.

So here is something like a mock user story for using the Canvas Parent App:

  1. Parent hears about the app from teachers or school communications. Maybe they are asked by the teacher or school to download the app.
  2. Parent downloads the app and must create an account using a student pairing code.
  3. Students can't generate that code from the student app so they have to try to navigate to the pairing code generator button through a mobile browser or use a computer (which many of ours do not have at home). Teachers can also generate the pairing code but only one student at a time and it's quite a number of clicks per student to get there.
  4. Parent is able to eventually get the code, sign up for an account, and view their student's courses. 
  5. By default, no notifications are enabled on this new account. So the parent has to be told by someone to go enable the alerts for things like Announcements. Parents are able to see the calendar and click on assignments, but viewing the syllabus is not very intuitive with that paper icon. 
  6. Parent can click the hamburger icon and select Manage Children, click on a student, and then turn on notifications. None of these notifications are enabled by default. 
  7. The parent elects to receive announcements. When the teacher makes an announcement, the parent does not receive a notification. The app must be opened periodically and the parent must go to the Alerts section to see the announcement.


I don't really see that as a good user experience so here are some things I would like to see to help make the Canvas Parent app as useful as something like RemindClass Dojo, or Seesaw.

  1. The Parent App could do push notifications by default. At the very least for announcements. The observer can sign up for text notifications from the web interface, but only if they don't have Verizon since the Verizon option doesn't work. So having push notifications of course announcements and institution announcements is definitely my number one request. The parent can't even see announcements under Alerts unless they actively go turn on announcements for each student. I would be very curious to see how many parent app accounts have announcements enabled. I would guess the number is pretty low, which means they don't even see the announcements when they open the app.
  2. It would be very useful if students could generate a pairing code from the student app. Or even better, a QR code that the parent can scan to sign into the parent app as pcraighill@instructure.com‌ has suggested before.
  3. It would be amazing if teachers could generate some handouts with pairing codes for parents at the beginning of the year. It's pretty tedious to generate these one at a time. Heck, if they made an API endpoint for this then I bet we could write something ourselves to generate the handouts.
  4. I'm betting that few schools are using the Canvas grade book as the grade book of record. Most districts seem to have a separate SIS grade book that does not match the grade in Canvas. Giving districts the ability to turn off the Total grade that appears on the course card in the parent app would be an ideal solution. Parents would still want to know assignment grades, but that Total grade can be misleading. I don't even know if that grade on the course takes grading periods into account.
  5. This one exceeds the realm of mobile but definitely ties back to the Parent App. If teachers could have the option to exclude observers from announcements, that would give the teacher some control in deciding whether or not the announcement is worth bringing to the attention of observers. For instance, a teacher may want to announce "Go straight to the lab instead of the classroom today!" and that doesn't necessarily need to be seen by the observers in the Parent App.
    I added an Idea to vote on this one: https://community.canvaslms.com/ideas/13391-add-an-option-to-exclude-observers-from-announcements 
10 Comments
Community Coach
Community Coach

Love your honesty and sensible ideas Hanes.Matthew.B@muscogee.k12.ga.us. AND the way you respected what the team have already done. 

We are still in the process of beginning a trial of parents as observers here. I will keep your points in mind for this.

I imagine that if your ideas could be worked on then the uptake of Canvas in elementary could take off. 

Explorer III

Honestly, we have given up on parents as observers. We didn't like the log-in process, mostly, and the app didn't help. For the teachers who really want the parental involvement, we have switched to making the course public and sharing the link with them instead. Our grades are in our SIS and parents have full access to that. We like it. What do you think about that?

Community Coach
Community Coach

Hey rislis@holmen.k12.wi.us - nifty idea. 

Your reasons are valid too! 

Do parents have access to their children's work?

Community Advocate
Community Advocate

We tried the public course thing for a while, but teachers kept posting copyrighted material and it got to be a real hassle for me to keep up with all the take-down requests.  Our school district did this really strange Canvas roll out where we bought it and then didn't have any formal training process for the schools. So the only schools that have been trained on things like "you can't post copyrighted material on a public site" and "you can't post videos of students without parental consent" are the ones that specifically asked for me to come out and train them. I had a "Getting Started In Canvas" training course available, but that didn't get a lot of traction.

The Canvas parent account creation is actually a significant step up from our SIS grade book app process which requires the parent to go to the school, show ID, and get a password to sign up for an account. The pairing code is way easier for us because they can just generate a new one if the parent forgets which email and password they used to sign up. Our SIS process is a total pain if the parent forgets their account information and requires someone from our support team to intervene.

To be honest, my ideal scenario would be for the Parent App to have the functionality listed above to move teachers towards posting everything in Canvas. That way parents would have a little uniformity in the methods of communication used by teachers at various schools. We also make school-wide courses that administrators can use for communications as well. Once we had all that going, it would be so much easier to convince our administrators to use the the Canvas Gradebook as the real grade book and then we would have everything a parent needs in one app. That's the dream! What other LMS could compete with that?

Explorer III

Thanks for the heads-up about copyright and parental consent for photos and videos, Matt. I also completely know what you mean about having your training course not get a lot of action. One app for parents? One platform for teachers and students? You're right - that should be the ultimate goal for all of us!

Instructure
Instructure

Thanks for posting this, Hanes.Matthew.B@muscogee.k12.ga.us! I've shared it with the team and we love the ideas.

Community Coach
Community Coach

Oh boy. Exciting!

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Community Coach
Community Coach

Hi Hanes.Matthew.B@muscogee.k12.ga.us -

Thanks for sharing these ideas! Some of those updates would definitely help families. Smiley Happy

I think some of the limitations of Canvas Parent are connected with the complexity of the Observer role in general. Definitely kudos to Peyton and the Mobile Team for doing what they have with the information and resources available from a role which is implemented differently within institutions.

My favorites were:

(1) Push notifications on for Announcements by default ...although I'd add Conversation Inbox message as well.

(2) Pairing code in the app. ...it would make life so much easier!

(5) Excluding Observers from announcements. ...do you want to create an official Feature Idea for Canvas Studio‌? I'd co-author it with you if you'd like. It's a brilliant request, and I think it would make a significant improvement to the feature for K-12s.

I'd also like to see:

  • Pair additional students from Canvas Parent, not just from the web
  • Be able to align the Dashboard (course favorites) from the browser with those selected in Canvas Parent (without relying on course dates)
Community Advocate
Community Advocate

Hey kristin.lundstrum@delasalle.com,

I will definitely create that idea and tag you in it. That would probably make that more likely to happen since that is probably out of the scope of the Mobile team. I'll update this post with the new idea when I get a chance. Thanks for the suggestion!

I'd also like to see:

  • Pair additional students from Canvas Parent, not just from the web

So you can do that on the Android app, I didn't realize that the iPhone app didn't have that feature yet. Probably means we'll have that one very soon!

Community Coach
Community Coach

I wanted to return to this thread because....look at what's available in Canvas Parent 2.1!!:

If you haven't seen Mobile Update - Summer 2019!‌, check it out. Lot's of good stuff is coming for Canvas Parent! :smileygrin:

About the Author
I started as a high school science and engineering teacher. I'm now working in the field of Instructional Technology.