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Mobile Users

Adventurer

With so many institutions moving to online instruction during the pandemic, Canvas Mobile is due for a big update!

New Features

QR for Mobile Login (Available starting March 28 for students, April 4 for teachers and observers)

This feature appears in the Canvas Student 6.7 Release Notes and is now available in the Ready Release Notes (Ready Release Notes (2020-03-28) > Updated Features > User Navigation > Mobile App Login QR Code).

For teachers and observers, the QR code login will be available for the Teacher and Parent apps beginning April 4, 2020. Go to Ready Release Notes (2020-04-04) > User Navigation > Teacher/Observer Mobile App Login QR Code.

This is a feature that is most requested by Canvas users worldwide (https://community.canvaslms.com/ideas/14674-login-to-canvas-using-qr-code" modifiedtitle="true" titl...). You can finally login on your mobile device using the QR codes for mobile login. This can be done through the Canvas website and going to Account > QR for Mobile Login (as shown below) from the Global Navigation Bar.

QR code mobile login

QR for Mobile Login

QR for Mobile Login. This is already available in the beta environment and will be available in the production environment in the first two Ready Releases on March 28 for students and April 4 for teachers and observers.

Once you click on it, to log in to your Canvas account when you're on the go, just simply scan the QR code from the Canvas Mobile app (Change User > QR Login (below Find My School)). The code expires after 10 minutes, after which you will need to start the process over.

QR code example

Sample QR code. For security reasons, we had to wait 10 minutes before posting this so that the code is invalidated.

Native Conferences List

You can view any conferences made within Canvas from this section. Webviews are no longer used. Students can join in by tapping the green Join button.

WHAT ARE CANVAS CONFERENCES?
Canvas Conferences is a free service provided by BigBlueButton.
If your institution is likely to need more than 10 concurrent Conferences powered by BigBlueButton, we recommend upgrading to Premium BigBlueButton or exploring alternative conferencing solutions Canvas partners with, such as Zoom, Hangouts, Teams, and other video conferencing tools who are offering free or discounted services. Learn more.
Not all of these services may be supported by your institution. Please contact your local admin for more information.

Native Conferences

Sample conference. There is no Join button because the conference has not started.

Experimental Features

There are some experimental features in the iOS version of Canvas. Unless stated otherwise, experimental features are available in both the Student and Teacher apps.

(Those are view-only, just ignore them. Only our production team can control these features remotely.)


Experimental features

conferences (TEACHER ONLY)
Enable the native view for the Conferences in the Teacher app.

favorite_groups
You can view your favorite groups in the Groups tab.

simple_discussion_renderer
We don't know what this is, but it may render discussions faster in areas with low-bandwidth, hence the name Simple Discussion Renderer.

graphql_speed_grader
Enables the GraphQL data query engine for the SpeedGrader. Learn more.

refresh_tokens
Refresh access tokens.

new_page_details
???

notifications2
New options to mute course notifications (Mute Notifications by Course).

parent_inbox (TEACHER ONLY)
Allows teachers to receive Canvas messages from parents (Canvas Parent Release Notes (iOS 3.1)).

parent_calendar (TEACHER ONLY)
This is useful if parents want to notify their child's teacher about certain events, such as a doctor's appointment. This can come handy for teachers to mark absences as excused.

student_calendar (STUDENT ONLY)
It allows you to access your own calendar that is not part of any course.

testing
???

qr_code_login_enabled (STUDENT ONLY)
This refers to the QR for Mobile Login feature above, which will be enabled on March 28 for students and April 4 for teachers and observers.

Other Features

There is a more responsive layout, though we haven't tested it yet.

Want to learn more?

Please stay tuned to the Canvas Mobile Release Notes space (Release Notes: Mobile) over the next few days to get a broader look at these features. We hope you continue to excel!

And please tune in to the Zoom Meeting on the Canvas Mobile Q&A (Canvas Mobile Apps | Q&A) Wednesday at 2e/1c/11p!

Availability

Students

The Canvas Student 6.7 update is available for download through the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.

Teachers & Observers

The Canvas Teacher and Parent app updates will be available starting on April 4.

Q&A

Will Conferences be in the Parent app?
Canvas Conferences are only available in the Student app for the time being.

Will LTI integrations (i.e., Pearson) work in mobile apps?
There is no LTI standard that works across mobile applications.

Are cloud assignments (3rd-party apps) supported?
Go here: How do I submit an assignment from a third-party app to the Student app on my iOS device?

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
Essential Mobile Resources
How do I submit an assignment from a third-party app to the Student app on my iOS device?

SPECIAL THANKS
DeLaSalle High School
Jillian Patch
Mente Piccoli
University of Central Florida

Changelog

Minor changes are not shown.

DateChanges
2020-04-03Added QR code login for teachers and observers
2020-03-25Added info from Zoom meeting
2020-03-24Initial release

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Instructure
Instructure

Canvas Parent 3.1 beta for Android and iOS - incoming!

Android 3.1 beta link: https://play.google.com/apps/testing/com.instructure.parentapp 

iOS 3.1 beta link: https://testflight.apple.com/join/JDVOYyT9 

In this version of the parent app, we added support for messaging between parents and teachers. This has been a request since we originally launched the app, and we think we've figured out how to incorporate messaging in a way that benefits both parents and teachers (and in turn, students)! Here's what's new.

  1. Floating message icon:

    parent_app_contextual_compose
    Parents have access to messaging from several views around the parent app, including the assignment details view shown above.



  2. Pre-filled composition view:

    prefilled_compose_view

    Since the parent tapped to compose a message from the assignment details view, we pre-populate the subject field with the student name and assignment, and set the recipient as the teacher of the course.



  3. Contextual message:

    teacher_receiving_message

    When the parent sends a message, the student name and a link to the related assignment are automatically appended to the end of the message the teacher receives, so absent any other context, the teacher can see which student/course/content the parent was referencing.



  4. Inbox in parent app:

    parent_receiving_message

    The parent receives the teacher's reply in a simplified inbox in Canvas Parent.

-------------------------------

A few other things to note:

  • All of this is using the existing Canvas inbox/messaging features that teachers and observers can already access in Canvas web/API/other Canvas apps today.
  • We hope this improves the communication flow between teachers and parents in a way that doesn't introduce unnecessary noise and helps support students. Feedback is welcome.
  • iOS plans to release 3.1 to the App Store this month.
  • Android won't release 3.1 outside the Play Store beta linked above. As per the original plan, Android will release all of the 3.0+ updates to the Play Store as 3.2, and from there the iOS and Android parent apps will be in lock step again. My guess is that 3.2 will ship to the App Store and the Play Store next month.

Up next: new calendar for parents (Canvas Parent 3.2) and students (Canvas Student 6.7)!

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Instructure
Instructure

We’re at nine million monthly active users of the Canvas mobile apps, which is many millions more than when I last posted about Instructure’s approach to mobile. If you’re new to Canvas, or if you’re curious about how and why we do the things we do, this post is for you!

We anchor mobile app development to a few principles:

  1. Focus on experience. There’s a lot of ground to cover when it comes to making Canvas fit into your pocket. The mobile apps have to be secure and accessible and scalable. They have to be translated into 34 languages. The mobile apps have to evolve with regular changes to Canvas web and mobile operating systems. They have to handle courses with 10 students where every assignment is an LTI launch, and they have to handle courses with 200 students where every assignment is a discussion. The iOS and Android apps have to look and function the same way despite being on two different tech stacks produced by two different teams of people. But just as importantly, the mobile apps have to deliver worthwhile experiences. If regular operations take too long or make you miserable, or if the interface just looks like bad, you might as well be using any other LMS. Canvas has to be better.

    Here's a subset of the 82 polish items to address before releasing Canvas Parent 3.1, for example:

    parent_polish_items

    These polish tickets are usually cosmetic, and they come when we compare iOS and Android side-by-side at the end of developing a feature.

  2. Ship things. Product development exists on a spectrum. On one end, you plan every detail and you never take risks and as a result, you never ship things because you find that details change and risks can’t be avoided. On the other end of the spectrum, you don’t plan enough and you ship quickly and you break things. The outcomes at either end of the spectrum aren’t good. The Canvas mobile teams strive to be somewhere in the middle of that spectrum, always erring on the side of shipping. We can’t deliver the value that we don’t ship. We believe that when we mess up, we ought to listen and learn and ship again.

  3. People over process. In my experience, this is the most overlooked value from the agile manifesto -- which is roughly the constitution of agile software development. Our teams do their best to reconcile what’s planned and what’s right when there’s a gap. We try to keep enough perspective to prevent process from lulling us into doing stupid things. There are scenarios where this principle doesn’t work, but we try to create situations where it does (small teams, smart people, taking on new challenges, limiting recurring meetings, encouraging communication, etc.).

    Here's one of my favorite parts about working at Instructure:

    allen_slack
    This is the mobile support lead's way of saying something is on fire somewherecheck it out. I've worked for companies where people roll their eyes when they see this and say they'll get to it next sprint. That's the worst, and it's what you get with process over people. If there's a fire, we're going to stop regularly scheduled programming to go deal with it.

  4. Prioritize real-life benefits. When you’re planning a project on a platform as versatile as Canvas, it’s tempting to miss the forest for the trees. What happens with our new feature if this course setting is on and this feature flag is off and this sub-account hides this button and this root account has this permission disabled for this role and this ticket hasn’t merged to beta? Concerns like these take up a huge amount of mental space, and to a large extent, it’s the job of product and engineering teams to make sure these cases are hashed out. At some point, it’s also true that 99.723% (see: made-up numbers) of users won’t experience the case you’re worried about, and you’re better off figuring out how to remove extra bits of friction for the average user. This is not a straightforward thing to balance, but in general, the mobile teams will prioritize delivering maximum value to maximum people over checking every last feature box.

  5. Throw a little weird in there. Our software is designed and built by people as quirky as our users, and it ought to reflect that fact for the sake of everyone involved. If you like your software a little more dry and dusty, I’ve had good luck recently with printer utilities, insurance apps, and SimCity 2000 doesn’t hold up quite as well as I expected. Weirdness is especially vulnerable to atrophy over time, but it’s worth protecting. We want to flex those weird muscles.

When you mix those principles together, you get role-based apps which are updated regularly and rated best-in-class by users -- with spinning Canvas logos and panda avatar builders to top it off!

This definitely doesn't mean everything is awesome. Our approach involves tradeoffs. Let’s use peer reviews as an example. It’s a cool feature, and some people rely on peer reviews, and you can’t conduct peer reviews from our mobile apps today. We consider peer reviews every time we touch assignments in mobile. We have a design, and we know how it would work, and we know what it would take to support it. The problem is that peer reviewing is a relatively lesser used feature of assignments, and it would take a lot of effort to support natively. Instead of working on peer reviews last fall, we focused on things like improving load times on grade lists in student and teacher apps, and increasing the visibility of feedback on submissions, and reducing taps to submit assignments. But if you created those peer review assignments, this is still a bummer, and I get it!

I can think of a few escapes for this predicament, in no particular order:

  • If you’re on a tablet or Chromebook, Canvas web is fully supported in your native web browser
  • Some schools contract with our professional services team for custom development
  • Our mobile apps are open source, and some schools build their own mobile apps using our repositories as a model
  • You could build the feature yourself and submit a pull request for our mobile team to review
  • We can hop on a call and you can argue that we’re doing it wrong
  • You can submit a feature idea in our community and see how it resonates with other Canvas users


If you want to know more about web/mobile parity, our documentation team has created some guides for the student and teacher apps that you may find helpful. If you have feedback on making those documents better, send it on!

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Instructure
Instructure

Here’s a public link to download the Canvas Parent 3.0 iOS beta from TestFlight:

https://testflight.apple.com/join/JDVOYyT9

We recommend uninstalling any other version of Canvas Parent installed on your device before you install the beta. You can connect to production and/or beta environments to try it out! Here’s what’s new in this version:

  1. Grades list support! This list includes support for grading periods, and it’s now the default view for each course in the parent app! If it looks familiar, that’s because it’s identical to the grades list in the student app.

    3.0 grades list

  2. Improved syllabus! If a teacher chooses a syllabus as their course home, that syllabus appears in the parent app, and it now includes the associated assignments/events list (“Summary” tab) visible from the student app. And get this: links from the syllabus now function!  Smiley Wink

    course syllabus in 3.0

  3. Front page support! If a teacher chooses a front page as their course home instead of the syllabus, that page now appears in the parent app. Links from the front page also function. (Already noted: the current beta version misspells “front page” as "frontpage." This will be fixed before release.)

    course front page in 3.0

    Other notes that won't apply to most courses: Syllabus and front page cover most course homes in K12, so those are the two course home types supported by parent app in 3.0. If another home page type (like “Course Activity Stream”) is selected, we’ll attempt to show the syllabus. If a syllabus doesn’t exist and a front page isn’t set to course home, the parent will only see the grades list in 3.0.

Go play with it! If you notice any wonkiness, you can “Send Beta Feedback” through the TestFlight app, or reply to this community post. Once we're through testing 3.0, we'll release it and move on to Canvas Parent 3.1: messaging!

(Android beta link coming before long, I think. If you want to know more about the Android parent app release plan, check out the fall update.)

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Instructure
Instructure

We’re waffling between snow and sunshine in Utah and my discolored pumpkins are shriveled and leaking, so that means it’s time for a fall update! Here’s what the mobile teams are working on.

Rise of the Machines

After a couple of relatively smooth iOS update cycles over the past two years, iOS 13 landed like Jello in a mud puddle. Its release coincided with a few big changes shipped as Canvas Student 6.6 and run-of-the-mill fall start firefighting. This combination resulted our patching the iOS student app every two weeks since August. While most of our users weren’t impacted by most of the bugs that were fixed, we didn’t hold onto fixes any longer than necessary. Now that the fall start rush has subsided, we’ve decided to redouble our efforts to automate testing in our mobile apps.

We’ve made more progress on automated testing in the past six months than in the previous three years combined, but we expect the robots to do more -- and to do it faster -- so that humans can focus on creating cool new things instead of shipping patches for defects that robots would have caught.

To illustrate the point, here’s a gif of an automated test of quiz-taking in the Android student app, first through the quizzes list and then through the assignments list:

quizzes end-to-end test

So that’s much faster than a human doing the same thing.

The up-front cost is high: it takes longer for a person to write the test above than it does for a person to test that flow. But once the test is written, it can be run as often as necessary. When you consider that the student app test suite is comprised of hundreds of tests, being able to run all of those tests in minutes instead of weeks is a substantial improvement.

The iOS and Android teams are both committed to writing and running all P0 and P1 [highest priority] tests by the end of this year. The good news is the automated test runs are already catching defects! A test run failed earlier this week when “Stop Acting As User” resulted in the robot admin being logged out altogether, for example.

The bad news is the increased focus on automation slows down our progress on parent app feature improvements. But I think it will be worth the wait.

Canvas Parent 3.0

In case you didn’t see the previous mobile update, we’re dividing parent app work into three chunks: grades list and syllabus (3.0), messaging (3.1), and calendar (3.2).

We’re in the process of testing one API change scheduled to go to production this week to finish up work on iOS Canvas Parent 3.0. I think we’ll be able to provide a link to the TestFlight version of that update by the end of this week. Apple allows public TestFlight links now, so no need to register beforehand anymore! 

I’ll provide a little more detail when I post the link, but at a high level, you’re going to see a grades list in the parent app for the first time, more robust homepage support (syllabus and frontpage will both be supported), and links from each of those places will work. Here's what that looks like:

course home in 3.0

This replaces the old "week" view within a course, which was redundant within the parent app.

If the TestFlight version looks good, we plan to ship it to the App Store in December.

For a variety of reasons -- some of which have to do with automated testing -- the current plan is for Android to bundle all three parent app chunks into a single update, which we’ll call 3.2. I’ll post a public link to that work-in-progress within a few weeks. We’re predicting that both platforms will ship 3.2 at about the same time in the new year.

Keep your eyes peeled for a separate post with more details soon!

------------

Since this post was relatively light on visuals, I took a picture of my desk neighbor and Android QA lead, "Just-Try-And-Stop-Me" Joe, working on automated tests for the student app:

 

smart joe

Happy November to you too, Joe! Do it to it!

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Community Coach
Community Coach

The Observer / Canvas Parent role can be complex. Here's a quick overview:

318326_pastedImage_1.png

*This resource will be updated this fall. Stay tuned! (Mobile Update - Summer 2019!‌)

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Instructure
Instructure

Hope summer is going well for you! After the second-rainiest spring on record, the atmosphere over Utah burned away and now we're all walking around in climate-controlled space suits and eating sand.

Here’s what the mobile teams are working on.

Canvas Student

New assignment details and submission flows are coming in Canvas Student 6.6! We showed off this update at InstructureCon two weeks ago, but in case you missed it, here’s what that looks like:

assignment details in canvas student 6.6

The student app assignment detail view is the most-used detail view across all of our apps, and we’re really excited about this upgrade going into the new school year. We improved assignment details in a few ways:

Grade visibility. Most students access the assignment detail view to check a grade (surprise!), so we needed the design to reflect that pattern.

Feedback visibility. Grades are just the tip of the feedback iceberg. Almost all the value for the student -- and the bulk of time spent grading -- is in the comments. We wanted to beef up the visibility of teacher feedback (off the top of my head: annotations, annotation comments, submission comments, media comments, rubrics, and rubric comments). The student can now find all feedback in a single place while also viewing and interacting with their submission. And for the first time, students can navigate all rubric details -- all scores, definitions and descriptions -- both before and after submission.

Submission flow. If you’ve never submitted a file to Canvas from another app on a mobile device then you haven’t felt confusion. You may have heard about it, but you haven’t felt it in your bones. That’s a problem because students increasingly rely on the mobile app to submit assignments. Well, problem solved in 6.6. Here’s the new share extension in action -- submitting from the Files app on iOS to Canvas:

share extension in canvas student 6.6

Submitting from within the app is also much better -- with the one exception of cloud assignments: those remain unchanged. To ship this update before fall start we had to save improvements to cloud assignments for another day. To play with new submissions yourself, see the TestFlight link below.

Lastly -- unrelated to assignment details -- hold onto your wigs and keys if you use Canvas Student on iPad because here’s the thing you’ve been waiting for:

side-by-side on ipad in canvas student 6.6

That’s right, support for split view is coming in 6.6!

We’re in the process of testing 6.6 for both platforms right now. The iOS team is on track to begin rollout in the first week of August, and the Android update will happen a few days afterwards. If you want to help us test the 6.6 update by playing with it on iOS through TestFlight, here’s a link:

Join the Canvas Student beta - TestFlight - Apple 

As usual, if you find any funny business, feel free to report it below. (...unless the 6.6 update is already released to stores when you're reading this. Once a release hits stores, you're better off reporting any issue you find to Canvas Support.)

Canvas Teacher

Over the past few weeks we’ve worked on improving load times for submissions in the teacher app. If you work in large courses -- on the order of hundreds of enrollments -- stay tuned for the next teacher app release on iOS and Android. It should hit stores within the next few weeks. Everyone will see improved load times but it will be most noticeable for large courses.

Next up for the teacher app is adding support for post policies, which are the new gradebook’s equivalent of the old gradebook’s muting/unmuting grades.

Canvas Parent

We’ve already released two updates that should really help the observer self-registration process for teachers and parents this fall. If your school/system uses self-registration for parents, take note and help spread the word:

[INSERT LASER-LIKE FOCUS HERE]

  1. Teachers can now create pairing codes for an entire class with a single click. Check out the documentation on exporting pairing codes to see how.
  2. Parents can now add additional students to observe from the parent app. Android added this feature a little while ago, and iOS supports it as of this week. Canvas guides are being updated right now with directions for parents, and I'll update this post with the links when they're live.
    Update: Check out the iOS and Android guides for adding students to observe from the parent app.

[END FOCUS]

I’m super excited to have these updates live before fall start, and I hope you are too! They should really smooth out the parent onboarding process.

Now for the fun part: improving the in-app experience for parents! Our goal is to help parents support their students on a daily basis by answering some simple questions: How’s my kid doing, and what’s due and when? We have three updates planned to answer those questions in a better way, divided as follows.

3.0: New grades list and updated syllabus. Today, parents can only view grades in the week view, which means there’s no way to see a summary of assignment grades in a particular course. In the 3.0 update, parents will have access to the same grades list that students have today (including grading period filter). In addition, we’ll make access to the course syllabus more obvious and add support for linking from rich content.

3.1: Messaging. The parent app is getting an inbox! Parents will be able to send and receive messages from the app, and message composition will be contextual. Parents will be able to compose a message from the assignment detail view, for example, and we’ll add the appropriate teacher(s) as recipients automatically. We’ll also include a link to the content being referenced in the text of the message so teachers have a little more context on the receiving end. (Yes, the parent app will use the existing Canvas Inbox to make this happen.)

3.2: New calendar. The parent app’s calendar isn’t awesome. We’re going to be redesigning it to include more course content like announcements and to-do items, which don’t show up in today's parent app. Parents should also be able to filter the calendar by course and content type, and see busy days upcoming for their students at a glance. (Then we plan to reuse the new calendar for the student app.)

These updates will be built and released throughout the fall. I’ll post progress updates, designs and links to beta builds in CMUG in the coming weeks.

-------------------------------

Happy fall start to everyone! If you experience any issues, report them! We're here to help!

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14 9 1,606
Learner II

Last term we had a Parent Night based on technology systems at our school for anyone that wanted to know what they were and how to connect. The PAIRING with the user has been an absolute breakthrough in the Parent App now - we don't need portal keys from another provider, and we don't need to be responsible for the access. It is so quick and easy, what used to take over 24 hours now takes seconds. 

The Parent App has all the necessities for fast information on their students - grades, announcements and the all important calendar. I have been using announcements as 'fast feedback' for a whole class feedback notification prior to any individual feedback and it works pretty well. I give the students the overall "vibe" of a task before any specific feedback and this also goes to the parents. It is timely and means a consistent message across the class. 

The calendar tool is fabulous as parents can see what is happening in class either the night before, helping their children be prepared for school each day or can be used as conversation starters at the end of the day. It definitely assists in the "What did you learn today?" question - when said teenager replies with "nothing", then the parent can dig a little deeper just from the information posted on the calendar. And all from their mobile phone. Awesome stuff!

#callaghancollegewallsendcampus 

david.summerville@det.nsw.edu.au

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3 2 185
Community Member

The improvements made to the Canvas Mobile app demonstrate that its development team is singing the same melody as the teacher-instructor promoters who run their courses on Canvas.

The drive to achieve near-complete transparency between the computer-web based Canvas experience and the mobile-based one is the most important feature to 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.

Bravo to the CMA team for its efforts as detailed in pcraighill@instructure.com‌'s Canvas Mobile Product Update - Spring 2019 post. Keep 'em coming!

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1 1 131
Instructure
Instructure

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! 

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16 16 1,550
Community Coach
Community Coach

It's been a slow developing love affair Canvas Apps.

Knowing people LOVE your company and just want to have you around. 

Getting to know you myself - just holding hands and becoming familiar with what makes you tick. 

Now I find it hard to get by for a day without you. 

Knowing you are there for me, day or night. My wish is your command. 

Seriously folks, it has taken me a while to get to know some of the magic in the Canvas Apps. I think we still need to get to know each other a little more but the love is growing. 

My favourite is the immediacy of Announcements. I'd love to know what other people's favourite aspects are. 

 309291_smile.jpg

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Community Advocate
Community Advocate

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 

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6 10 491
Instructure
Instructure

If you're looking for printer-friendly how-to guides for parents who are self-registering for Canvas, here's what we've come up with:

To modify these for your school or classroom, go to `File -> Make a copy...` and edit to your heart's content!

For an easy read on what's new in Canvas Parent 2.0 that also features links to Canvas Guides, view the Canvas Parent 2.0 What's New PDF.

That PDF is also presented from the parent app in version 2.0 if a person taps "See what's new" from the launch page.

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7 5 5,158
Instructure
Instructure

Instructure's mobile strategy usually ends up outlined in a couple of InstructureCon presentations, but if you’re new to Canvas, or if you haven’t made it to InstructureCon, or if you just want to know more about our mobile strategy, here’s a brief summary.

We build native mobile apps because native mobile offers a much better experience than mobile web from mobile devices. This means we minimize the number of web views in our mobile apps, and instead rely heavily on the Canvas API to present information from Canvas in a way that’s optimized for touchscreens, big and small. There are a few learning management systems that treat their mobile apps like web portals and their mobile experiences generally stink as a result, but many lean native nowadays for that reason. If you’ve ever annotated a paper from a mobile web browser and then done the same thing from a native app (say, Canvas Teacher), you can easily feel the difference in experience.

A few years ago we decided that we could further refine our mobile experience by focusing on how people approached Canvas from mobile devices. We noted a few truths up front:

Canvas_is_big_Devices_are_small_People_are_different

In other words, Canvas is roughly bigger than the Pyramids of Giza combined, and even a gargantuan phone like the Samsung Galaxy Note is relatively small, and we have the opportunity to bridge that gap by giving people the experience they need from mobile -- tailored to their role -- because their expectations depend on their role.

A student approaches Canvas saying I want to see my grade on this assignment, or I want to see what’s due next week. A teacher approaches Canvas saying I want to post an announcement, or I want to grade this assignment. A parent approaches Canvas saying What’s Canvas? So let's deliver experiences that map to those realities.

This approach is working so far on a number of fronts:

  1. The apps are easier to use because they provide the functions you need rather than the ones you don’t.
  2. It streamlines messaging for us and for our clients. Parents don’t need to learn how to use Canvas, for example, they just need to learn how to use the parent app.
  3. It forces us to decompose problems from the perspective of the user. Rather than let’s build an assignments page for a 4-inch screen, we say students need to submit assignments, or teachers need to grade assignments, and those needs inform how the assignments page needs to look and function from a variety of perspectives.
  4. The apps are easier to maintain because we narrow the set of perspectives to consider for any function within a given app.

For an example that illustrates how roles inform the Canvas mobile experience, here’s the teacher app assignment details page beside the upcoming student app assignment details page:

Assignments_in_Canvas_Teacher_compared_to_Canvas_Student

Teachers see submission dials -- students see information about their own submissions. Teachers see publishing status -- students see submission status. Teachers can modify assignment details and grade submissions -- students can submit (or resubmit) assignments. Especially with limited screen real estate, we want to give people the experience they need to efficiently get things done no matter who or where they are.

We continue to release app updates geared towards boosting productivity and efficiency as quickly as we can build them, which is relatively quickly. Of course, Canvas offers support for tablet browsers, and new features -- like our new quizzes platform -- are built to be fully responsive if you're really jonesing for browser access from a mobile device. But we think if mobile is worth doing, it's worth doing right. With an ever-increasing number of daily active users in our native mobile apps, we're confident that we're on the right path.

Lastly, we make it a point to learn our way forward, so your feedback is incredibly important to the success and usefulness of our apps. If you're passionate about a idea related to mobile, we want to hear from you. Real bad. You can reach out to us through the community or email or client services. We'd love to chat.

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15 0 584
Instructure
Instructure

With a few more tweaks we'll be done with Canvas Parent 2.0, so here's a final pre-release post! Anything to do with pairing codes or self-registration in this post is only relevant if self-registration is enabled at your institution.

To summarize the changes coming:

  1. We modified the parent self-registration flow to use pairing codes instead of student username and password, which comes with two benefits:
    • Pairing codes enable self-registration regardless of how students authenticate with Canvas (username/password only worked as long as students were using Canvas authentication)
    • Pairing codes are more secure than password sharing; they last 24 hours and can only be used once. After the pairing code is used, it expires, the observer remains paired with the student, and anyone who tries to use that pairing code again to self-register will receive an error.
  2. We made self-registration work from the parent app. Now parents will be able to self-register as observers from Canvas web or the parent app, and the account they create will work on both platforms. No more duplicate parent accounts, and no more need for parents to connect to a student from web and mobile separately.
  3. We added an account permission to allow pairing codes to be generated on behalf of students. By default, this permission will be off for all roles (i.e., admin-only). But if you're an admin and you want your teachers, for example, to be able to facilitate parent self-registration on behalf of their students, you can enable this permission. Students can always create pairing codes for themselves.
  4. Parent app works for all observers, regardless of whether the observer was created through self-registration, manually by an admin, SIS import, or whatever else.

As usual, our friends on the documentation team are working on creating/updating Canvas Guides to explain these updates in full detail, but I made a quick (super-duper high-quality) video to show how this all comes together:

This video is currently being processed. Please try again in a few minutes.
(view in My Videos)

The new pairing codes and the new permission are on beta now, so you can mess around with them if you want. The 2.0 update to Canvas Parent will be rolling out to stores on/around July 18th.

This has been a deceptively large project to make the parent/school experience fundamentally better -- more reliable, more secure, more consistent, and more scalable than it was. We hope it helps kick off the '18-'19 school year in the right direction!

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6 12 1,984
Instructure
Instructure

For the most recent post on Canvas Parent 2.0, check out Canvas Parent 2.0 - Pre-Release Update.

--------------------------------------------

We’re making some really good progress on Canvas Parent 2.0, so I wanted to post some screenshots/flows here to keep you all informed and answer some FAQs. If you haven’t read the original post on Canvas Parent 2.0, I’d recommend checking that out before reading this. As always, if you’ve got questions or concerns, feel free to post them here or send me a message.

----------------

Observer login flow

If a parent already has an observer account in Canvas, this is how they’ll sign into Canvas Parent 2.0 (red circles indicate taps):

observer_login_flow_picture

If it looks familiar, that’s the same login flow used in the student and teacher apps. We’ve made this flow work for all observers (whether self-registered, imported from the SIS or manually created), and observers won’t have to add students from the app anymore if they’re already connected to students in Canvas.

----------------

Observer self-registration flow (only relevant for accounts with self-registration enabled)

If a parent doesn’t already have a Canvas observer account, they’ll need to create one. If self-registration is enabled at your institution, this is what that self-registration flow looks like in Canvas Parent 2.0:

observer_self-registration_flow_picture

If your school doesn’t enable self-registration, and observers are instead manually created or imported from a SIS, parents will already have observer accounts, the "Create Account" button won't appear on the login page, and they’ll go through the login flow shown at the top of this post.

----------------

Parent signup form (only relevant for accounts with self-registration enabled)

We’re tweaking the parent signup form, as you may have noticed in the fourth screenshot above. Here are today’s (old) form and the yet-to-be-released (new) form, side by side:

parent_signup_comparison_picture

So there are a couple of things happening:

  • We’re adding password creation to the parent’s account creation process. Today, parents sign up and then receive an email with a link to create a password. We’re making that a single step in account creation.
  • We’re removing student username and password from the equation and replacing it with a pairing code. More on the pairing code below.

----------------

Pairing codes (only relevant for accounts with self-registration enabled)

As I mentioned in a reply to my last post, requiring student username and password in the observer self-registration process is a problem for two reasons:

  1. Sharing passwords is bad, and
  2. Those usernames and passwords only apply to Canvas authentication, and many schools aren’t using Canvas authentication for students, so observers couldn't self-register even if the school allowed it.


To remedy this, we’ve created pairing codes. Here’s what pairing code creation is going to look like from the student’s perspective:

pairing_code_button_in_profile_sidebar

pairing_code_modal


Some notes on the pairing code:

  • The “Pair with Observer” button only shows up if self-registration is enabled at your institution. When it’s available, students can see it for themselves, and admins can see it for all students.
  • For now, each pairing code will live for 24 hours. That means once the pairing code is generated, it will remain valid for 24 hours, then it expires.
  • Each pairing code can only be used once. Once it’s used in account registration, the pairing code expires and the observer remains successfully paired. If you want to pair two observers to one student, each observer needs a unique pairing code.
  • For now, there’s no limit to how many pairing codes can be created per student. If a student creates one for herself, and then an admin creates one for her, both codes are valid for that student for 24 hours.

This is a solution that doesn’t require password sharing and works regardless of how the student authenticates with Canvas.

We want to release this with Canvas Parent 2.0 in July, so we’re keeping the approach simple; no configuring how long the pairing code lasts on the account, no creating codes en masse, no automatic form letters generated with codes. With this release, we want an easy path for generating an individual pairing code and we want better security and flexibility than using student passwords. Our stretch goal is students generating QR codes from the student app that parents can scan from the parent app to use for pairing.

----------------

FAQs

----------------

Are there any feature updates happening outside the authentication process with Canvas Parent 2.0?

There are a few:

  • UI tweaks: We’re moving the course/week/alerts tabs to the bottom of the app to more closely resemble the styling of the student and teacher apps, and we’re replacing the carousel with a dropdown for student switching. The carousel didn’t work very well, and version 2.0 won’t have the same scaling issues that version 1.0 had with multiple students. Here’s what that change looks like:
    carousel_dropdown_comparison

  • We’re adding the global navigation menu already available in the student and teacher apps, which means parents will be able to “change user” if they’ve got kids at multiple institutions (i.e., if they’ve got multiple Canvas accounts) without needing to sign in every session. Here’s what that change looks like:

    global_nav_picture

  • We’re adding masquerading to the parent app. Admins haven’t historically been able to help parents directly with the app, and now they’ll be able to. Just like in the student and teacher apps, if you sign in as an admin to Canvas Parent 2.0, you’ll see “Act as User” as an option in the global navigation menu.

That’s about it! This release is very much about getting the user model straightened out.

----------------

What will happen to Canvas Parent Tools™ LTI tool?

This tool will go away. We created it to give admins the ability to manage Canvas Parent users - but when those users are observers, you can use all of the normal Canvas administrative tools and reports to manage them instead.

----------------

Do I need to make any changes to authentication on my account?

All you need to do is make sure observers can log into the mobile apps. You can test this today by attempting to log in to any of our apps as an observer. 

If you use multiple authentication providers, I'd recommend asking your CSM to add both (or all) providers to mobile smart search, which will make them show up when people search for your school (e.g., search for "Smith Schools" and see "Smith Schools - Parents" and "Smith Schools - Students"). Here's a real life example:

278669_IMG_2399.PNG

"Brown County Schools - Students/Teachers" and "Brown County Schools - Parents" represent two different authentication providers for Brown County Schools. 

If you don't want to do that, you can also set up a discovery page.

----------------

Should I be scared?

Nope.

We're adding help references for parents around the app, like this one on the launch page:

made_some_changes_button

Or this one on the parent signup form:

278667_Screen Shot 2018-06-05 at 1.22.35 PM.png

Or this one in the global navigation menu:

278668_Screen Shot 2018-06-05 at 1.24.26 PM.png

Parents won't need to go far for help if they need it. Many schools also have their own documentation for parents, but we hope that's mostly unnecessary given the right guidance within the app.

----------------

Hope this helps!

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12 10 3,613
Instructure
Instructure

For the most recent post on Canvas Parent 2.0, check out Canvas Parent 2.0 - Pre-Release Update.

 

--------------------------------------------

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.

The Problem

Let’s start with how things work today. Your institution handles parent accounts in Canvas in one of two (or both of these) ways:

  1. 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.

    AND/OR

  2. 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 button picture
    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.

-------------------

The Fix

 

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:

Version 1.3

  • 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.

 

Version 2.0

  • 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!)
  • Why: To make everyone’s brains hurt less

-------------------

Here’s a picture of the change:

1.0 vs 2.0

 

If you have any questions, fire away!

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12 37 4,963
Instructure
Instructure

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.

----------------------

Stay tuned! App updates incoming!

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20 15 3,064
Community Coach
Community Coach

woman at a coffee shop using her smartphone to check Canvas and her son

In May of 2017, a small group of families from DeLaSalle High School in Minneapolis, Minnesota was invited to provide feedback and to talk about the Canvas Parent App. During these meetings, Canvas administrators were able to gather great user-stories and adjust the way in which Canvas Parent was supported. Additionally, a list of "best practices" was compiled and shared with teaching faculty.

 

--------------------------------------

At the time of this interview, Dawne White's son Will completed his junior year at DeLaSalle High School. He is a methodical thinker and likes to have concrete expectations. While he is a good student, his mom set up a great system at home which provides him with the independence he will need to be successful after high school while still supporting him through challenging courses such as English.

Dawne enjoys that “with the app, the information, more or less, is in real-time." She continued to explain how she realizes that Canvas is only as current as a teacher can get the grades updated, but she likes to know in real-time what’s missing and that she can check that information against what Will tells her.

"Canvas [Parent] gives me a barometer of how truthful he is, how honest he is, and I can use that to shape conversations.”

Dawne doesn’t talk with Will as frequently as she could, as she’s trying to give him some space to be independent in his studies. She does, however, check Canvas Parent routinely. She tries to moderate her involvement and trying to have more “real” consequences in hopes of preparing him for the experiences of post-secondary education.

Dawne decided to shut the mobile notifications off, but she goes in at least once a week (usually Tuesdays) to see how the week will unfold. She typically checks Canvas Parent more frequently than that, but she feels that by opting out of notifications, she has more control on the schedule and urgency of her involvement.

She appreciates having the assignment details available, and she likes it when teachers include more information about objectives. Simply writing the page and problem numbers, for example, doesn’t provide much context for a parent. The more information that is provided in the assignment information, the better. She can then increase her “coaching” role as a parent and help at home, without having to communicate frequently with teachers.

She’d like to be able to see Will’s submissions for certain classes, but it would be more helpful to have easy access to the rubrics and teacher comments/feedback.

"Having Canvas on my phone definitely helps me keep track of Will’s academics.”

She continued to explain how convenient the Canvas Parent app is. “I can be anywhere. I can even be in the car in the garage, and before I go in, I can think, ‘I’m going to just check Canvas for a second.’ and then I go into the house. I then kind of have my game plan and talking points ready.” This way, Dawne can easily create prompts which open her son up to talking about his day.

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5 1 1,106
Community Coach
Community Coach

Family Checking Canvas Parent

In May of 2017, a small group of families from DeLaSalle High School in Minneapolis, Minnesota was invited to provide feedback and to talk about the Canvas Parent App. During these meetings, Canvas administrators were able to gather great user-stories and adjust the way in which Canvas Parent was supported. Additionally, a list of "best practices" was compiled and shared with teaching faculty.

 

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At the time of this interview, Billy just completed his freshman year at DeLaSalle High School. He’s a goal-oriented student who is intrinsically motivated to make authentic connections between different content areas. Notably, his outgoing personality landed him a lead role in two recent theater productions.

His mom, Patty, shared that, “being involved with Billy’s academics really helps me gauge 'how’s he doing in school?’ and ‘how is he doing overall?’ If I can see a slip, I know that there’s something going on. Either it’s that he’s disengaged or he’s overwhelmed.” Patty thinks that parent involvement is important, not just because of the value she places on education, but because she wants to make sure that Billy maximizes his potential.

“The mobile app allows me to, anytime I want, check in on Billy’s progress. It’s easy to access information.”

Canvas has encouraged her to start conversations with teachers, outside of scheduled conferences and semester checkpoints. “I’ve used Canvas to reach out to teachers. The app makes it easy to start the conversation since I have so much more detail about the coursework.” Patty likes being able to have up-to-date information on her phone. The information about late and missing work helps provide context to her inquiries with Billy’s teachers.

The transparency of Canvas is so valuable. Patty likes how grades, assignment details, etc are all available to her. It helps her piece together what Billy experiences on a day-to-day basis and provides her with key talking points when checking in with her son at the end of the day. She also pointed out the convenience of the app as, “most of us have a phone with us all the time. I can see when he’s going to have a test or he’s going to get a grade."

"I can check...not that I don’t trust him...there have been great conversations about how he did on an assignment.”

She is appreciative of the easy interface and the consistency of the app. However, there are a few improvements that she’d like to see made. “If I can see that something has been resubmitted or changed, I have to log-in to the desktop to really see the comments. It would be so nice to be able to see it on my phone. I still get the email notifications, but I’d like to have it one place.” She’d also like to be able to set granular notifications.

Currently, with customized alerts in Canvas Parent, Patty thinks that it’s great to be able to receive the information she finds the most valuable, like when her son receives a zero on an assignment. However, Billy shared, “In certain situations, I think it’s helpful because [my mom] is able to check in. But there are some situations when I completely forget about an assignment.” Patty responded, “With the notifications, I usually send a message of some sort back, asking ‘what happened?’ ...and, at times, I admit, that it can cause unneeded concern due to the immediacy of the initial notifications.”

The best part of Canvas Parent “is really the convenience. I did not use Canvas [as an Observer] before the app as much as I do now.” It was so easy to lose track of time and forget to check-in from the browser. Being able to check on Billy’s grades whenever encourages Patty to actually do so. Looking over at her son, she took the opportunity to point out, “now, sorry Billy, I get to check your grades a couple times a day...if I want!”

Billy shared, “For as much as I say I don’t like [that my mom is connected], the Parent app helps. I think it makes things better. It encourages me to stay on top of things. With this, I can’t get away with anything.”

He openly admitted that being held accountable by multiple adults is actually a good thing.

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Parent and Student checking Canvas

In May of 2017, a small group of families from DeLaSalle High School in Minneapolis, Minnesota was invited to provide feedback and to talk about the Canvas Parent App. During these meetings, Canvas administrators were able to gather great user-stories and adjust the way in which Canvas Parent was supported. Additionally, a list of "best practices" was compiled and shared with teaching faculty.

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During this interview, Greg Mattson, parent of a freshman at DelaSalle, explained how the app is a window into the academic balancing act his freshman student has to maintain. Calvin is a great student who is also invested in many school-sponsored activities. Canvas Parent has made it possible for Greg stay connected and to receive communications with Calvin's teachers more efficiently.

“Canvas Parent provides perspective, even when teachers don’t directly communicate about classroom progress.”

Before Canvas, Greg could ask Calvin about his day, but he would get short answers. Greg shared, “now that I have ‘the answers’ at my fingertips, I really do look for them. I’m able to look for changes in course grades, in one quick glance, and then I can initiate a bigger conversation with my son.”

Most students won’t necessarily bring up their grades to parents, but parents deserve to know what’s happening at school. One feature, in particular, simplifies this task for Greg. “The week at a glance allows me to encourage and remind Calvin to set aside the appropriate time for studying and to set goals with him rather than waiting until there is an issue.” Greg feels involved without feeling he’s overbearing.

“The term ‘mobile’ is about getting information quickly. The app does just that. It’s convenient, and it allows me to be proactive with Calvin’s schoolwork.”

Greg likes how conversations about school work can be more casual There's not a specific time that these conversations take place because he and Calvin always have their smartphones on them. Greg likes that these conversations can happen anywhere and that they don’t have to huddle around a desktop or a pile of textbooks. They can talk about a specific assignment, and share varying perspectives based on their apps. He does, however, hope that submission details and teacher feedback will make it to Canvas Parent soon so he can gain more context to Calvin’s assignment scores.

Greg also shared how he appreciated it when coaches for sports and activities utilized Canvas for communication and organizational purposes. Students and parents are already in Canvas, so it makes a lot of sense to meet them where they already are. The consistency allows families to plan ahead and maximize time at home for activities, studying, and other commitments.

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If you joined us at InstructureCon 2017‌ for Canvas Mobile, An App for Everyone, thanks for joining me. If not, I wanted to make this available for everyone. The presentation is attached. 

This session covers the parent, student, and teacher roles when using the Canvas Mobile apps. This includes a short overview of 23 interviews by myself, Kristin Lundstrum‌, and Ashley Salter‌. We plan to share more of these interviews over the next few months in this space. 

As part of the presentation, we showed using an iPad Pro with the Apple Pencil to do annotations in SpeedGrader, which is available below:

SpeedGrader in Teacher App with iPad Pro - YouTube 

Session Video:

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On February 23rd, some of the Canvas Parent Focus Group participants met for an hour to chat! Here are some notes.

-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 

When did you (or will you) launch Canvas Parent at your institution?

  • There were a range of launch dates. Some supported Canvas Parent from the beginning, some along the way, and some are going to introduce Canvas Parent to their institutions.

Is anyone here new since observer authentication was added to Canvas Parent?

  • None of the participants were new since observer authentication was implemented.
    • Authentication means that users, when signing into Canvas Parent, are able to use the same login information as an established observer account.

Overall, what is your institution's response to the new app?

  • Usage is down because of the functionality requests (being able to see submission comments, for example).

How are things going? What’s working? What’s not working?

  • Observing more than one student with Canvas App is annoying, but toggling between students with Canvas Parent is great! The swipe makes it easy to know who is being observed.
  • Prior to Canvas Parent, some observers some established an account for each student they followed. Canvas Parent allows you to add multiple students rather than signing in and signing out to different observer accounts.
    • Note: if you only authenticate as yourself, the app isn’t very helpful. Once you add your student or student(s), the app becomes fully functional. Students are sorted, and it’s much clearer than the web-version of the observer role.
  • Canvas Parent makes it easy to switch between parts/functions of the app.

Is there anything that Canvas can do to help your institution get Canvas Parent to observers?

  • Overall, institutions who support Canvas Parent would like to see more adoptions
  • Clarify what works on Canvas App vs what works on Canvas Parent.
    • For most Observers, it seems like the navigation is much simpler with the Canvas Parent vs the Canvas app. The clarification between the apps will come when the red app is rebranded as Canvas Student.
      • A short video would be very helpful. Explain the pros and cons to the end-user.
        • Videos for Canvas Parent could cover generic information. More features will come and will be easily adopted.
    • In one participant’s district, the elementary parents may prefer the red app as they can see more information, but don’t rely on grades as much while secondary parents prefer the blue app.
  • How can we prevent Canvas Parent users from defaulting back to the web?
  • Overall, Documentation Team: thank you for having such great guides. The guides are updated constantly, even though the link stays the same. That's really helpful when communicating with teachers, students, and families.

Sneak Peeks - Future Features!

  • Submission Comments
    • Right now, Parents can’t see information with submission, not like they can with Canvas web.
    • It is important that users can get to submissions and teacher feedback.
    • This is a huge priority. The hope is that this project will start immediately after the launch of Canvas Teacher.
  • Messaging
  • There have been some requests for a Canvas Parent user to have the ability to message an instructor directly from the app.
  • There are some definite pros and cons to implementing this functionality.
  • Right now, the work-around is to include an email link in the course or syllabus.
  • This project doesn’t have a timeline because it’s much more complex due to coding.
  • Admin Console
    • The new Canvas Parent Admin Tools is an LTI tool available to Canvas Account Admin. The new feature will be available in the next few weeks and can be set up through CSMs. Watch for the Release Notes!
    • The Admin Tools will contain super-basic reporting, and more importantly, information about who's actually using Canvas Parent
      • Who they are...
      • Who they are connected to...
      • When they connected to a particular user...
      • Latest activity...
    • Admin will be able to sort columns or export to .csv for easier data manipulation and also control who has access through Canvas Parent (password reset, block user, etc.).

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Attendees

What do you think of the new sign-in process?

  • Canvas Observers need to initiate the Observer role from the browser. Observers can then use their existing credentials as they log-in to Canvas Parent.
  • Canvas Parent users can create an account from the app without being an established observer, but it doesn’t link back to the browser version.
  • Canvas Observers can access Canvas Parent whether or not the Feature Flag is enabled.

Could the differences between Canvas Observers and Canvas Parents be clarified?

  • Canvas Parent app and Canvas Observer accounts are separate to help Canvas keep define the different accounts. Observers can be a family member, a coach, and advisor, etc.
  • Canvas Parent clarifies the relationship in the overall system. Instructure was able to customize the experience based on their needs. They hope that the UX helps families get to the information they need easily…without a large learning curve.

Are Canvas Parent users included in any data exports or user lists?

  • Not at this time.
  • Canvas Parents are technically not Canvas users; therefore, they will not show up on user lists or enrollment lists.

Overall, what does your institution like about the app?

  • Lane shared that parents with multiple students like how easy it is to navigate between each student’s information.
  • Joe shared that his institution found it easy to implement Canvas Parent. His school doesn’t use the observer role for families.
  • Traci shared her institutions likes the ease of signing up and the customizable notifications.
  • Kristin shared how parents like being able to see assignment details and being able to set personal reminders for items.

Overall, what doesn’t your institution like about the app?

  • It would be nice if parents could see any comments left by instructors on individual assignments. Additionally, rubric information would be helpful to share with parents.

The group discussed the pros and cons of including messaging within the app.

  • It’s a complex question, and we enjoyed analyzing the argument for both cases (yes, include the app and no, leave out of the app).
  • It would be nice if the feature could be turned on and off.
  • Messaging may encourage frequent communication from parents. …this could be great, and this could also be overwhelming. Would this imply instantaneous communication?
  • Is there an issue with formality? If it looks like a chat, will people respect it as much as an email?
  • Email through district servers is documentable, chat form an app may not be. (Something to investigate!)
  • Incorporating messages into analytics could be an awesome point of reference.

Does Canvas Parent support multiple grading periods?

  • Right now, the app shows the current grading period only. There is not a way to switch between grading periods.
  • If a grading period changes in the middle of the week, this does not affect the weekly agenda.

Mobile Team shared possible dashboard layouts for account admin.

  • Participants agreed that information included (parent name, student name, connection date, and last activity) would all be incredibly helpful.
  • It would be awesome to be able to document who is involved and at what frequency.
  • The simplicity of the interface allows Canvas Admin to get to the information they need quickly.

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