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Mobile Users

Adventurer

With the introduction of Apple Silicon at last week's Apple WWDC 2020, the Mac is ready for the most significant transition of all time! Will we see Canvas Mobile Apps on macOS for the first time? The truth lies below!

What is Apple Silicon?

Well, you might think that it is Apple's version of Intel's x86 chip, right? Wrong. Apple Silicon is using ARM processors (the AXX processors found in many iOS devices, including the iPhone and iPad).

Apple Silicon

Chart showing the features of Apple Silicon

ADVANCED POWER MANAGEMENT
With advanced power management, performance and battery life will improve, better than ever before.

SECURE ENCLAVE
Secure Enclave will bring best-in-class security, and Apple's high-performance GPU is going to deliver better graphics performance to every Mac. This enhancement makes them even better for professional applications like Final Cut Pro (post-production video editing), Motion (motion graphics), Compressor (video encoding), and high-performance games.

NEURAL ENGINE AND MACHINE LEARNING
Combined with Neural Engine Technology, Apple Silicon chips will make the Mac a fantastic platform for machine learning.

OTHER TECHNOLOGIES
Apple is also bringing many other custom technologies, such as video-display and image-processing engines, that will help make the Mac better than ever before.

Why make the switch from Intel to Apple Silicon?

The transition will establish a universal architecture across all Apple products. It makes it far easier for app developers to create their apps for the entire Apple ecosystem (not just iOS products, but also Macs as well).

(Running mobile apps on the desktop has been made possible for Chromebooks when Android apps and Google Play were introduced.)

Until WWDC 2020, there have been a total of three significant transitions in Apple's history.

  1. 1994-1996: Transitioned from 68k processors to the PowerPC architecture
  2. 2001-2003: Transitioned from Mac OS 9.2 to Mac OS X (the latter now known as just macOS)
  3. 2006-2007: Transitioned from PowerPC to Intel processors (the computer that I am typing this post on is from an Intel-based Mac)
    1. January 2006: Mac OS X 10.4.4 was released, supporting the Intel architecture for the first time
    2. June 2006: First Macs with Intel processors started shipping
    3. June 2007: Transition almost complete
    4. August 2009: Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard dropped support for PowerPC based Macs. Support for PowerPC-only applications still supported on this version, however.

With WWDC 2020, Apple has announced two more major milestones.

  1. 2020-2022: Transition from Intel processors to Apple Silicon is underway
  2. 2020-2021: macOS Big Sur (11.0.x) will be the first version to support these processors. After nearly 20 years, macOS finally moves from version 10 to 11.

Will there be any impact?

App developers can easily convert the apps they have created for iOS products to run on the new Apple silicon to take advantage of its latest technologies and performance. And for the first time, developers can make their iOS and iPadOS apps available on the Mac without having to modify the code. That would mean that the App Store could merge into one unified store in terms of Apple platforms (currently, there is one App Store for iOS, another one for the Mac). For Canvas Mobile developers, there won't be a huge impact; there is no need to rewrite the entire source code from scratch.

The Transition Process

Even though Apple will ship the first Mac with the new Apple silicon processors by the end of 2020 and complete the transition by 2021-2022, Apple will continue to support and release new versions of macOS for Intel-based Macs for years to come, at least until 2025-2026. Furthermore, Apple will continue to sell new Intel-based Macs in the future. The transition to Apple silicon processors represents one of the most significant milestones in the history of the Macintosh.

Universal App Quick Start Program

The Universal App Quick Start Program (UQSP) includes all the tools and resources developers need to build, test, and optimize their next-generation Universal apps for macOS Big Sur. For $500, in addition to developer resources and one-to-one technical support, Apple will send a Developer Transition Kit (DTK) for developing and testing Universal apps. The program will last no more than a full year.

(We don't know if the $500 fee is for an individual or an organization.)

Developer Transition Kit 2 (DTK-2)

(This is actually a Mac Mini, but with an Apple A12Z Bionic processor instead of an Intel Core processor.)

While some developers think of the DTK-2 as a gift from Apple and want to keep it as a token of appreciation, that isn't really true. According to the terms and conditions, the DTK-2 is the property of Apple. Developers must return the kits to Apple within 30 days following the conclusion of the program.
The first time the UQSP program occurred was back to 2005. It cost $1,000 to join, and Apple gave developers a DTK-1, which is a Power Mac G5. As with the new DTK-2 devices, those Macs also had to be returned at the end of the program, although Apple did provide participants with a free first-generation Intel iMac in return.

Canvas and the UQSP

Now, back to Canvas. The main topic is: How can Instructure optimize the performance and layout for Canvas Mobile on macOS? We know that there is a Responsive Layout on the web version of Canvas, and resizing the width changes the view. We want to find out how the layout will look like for Canvas Mobile running on macOS.

Here is a look at Canvas Student on the iPhone in portrait orientation, showing the Assignments page of the Math 3 course. Below it lies the Course Navigation links. Even though it may look similar to the Responsive Layout for the mobile web version of Canvas, the title bar (Assignments - Math 3) is not clickable to get to the Course Navigation page with these same links.

View Assignments

Now, let's look at the iPad view of the History 101 course. It resembles more of the desktop web version of Canvas, with the Course Navigation links on the left side.

View Course Navigation on iPad

What that means is that there are currently some inconsistencies between Canvas Mobile and Canvas Desktop. It's not just the title bar that can open the Course Navigation menu on the iPhone, but also resizing and scaling for font size and accessibility.

352166_Screen Shot 2020-01-06 at 3.12.45 PM.png

What I want to see in Canvas 7 is the ability for Mac users to resize the app window, switching between the iPhone view to the iPad view, and vice versa.

Mobile View (Apple and Google platforms only)

There needs to be an option to open the course content in the Canvas Mobile Apps.

Mobile View is not available for Windows 10 since Windows 10 Mobile support ended back to January 2020.

The following items are supported in Mobile View:

COURSE

  • Announcements
  • Assignments
  • Conferences
  • Discussions
  • Files
  • Grades
  • Modules
  • Pages
  • People
  • Quizzes
  • Syllabus

USER

  • Groups
  • Calendar
  • Conversations & Notifications
  • To-Do Lists
  • User Files

Mobile View in Global Navigation

Clicking the Mobile View button will pop up this dialog. If you are enrolled as a teacher, you can choose to open the content in the Canvas Teacher or Student app to see how the content will look like as a teacher or student, respectively.

(If you do not have the corresponding app downloaded, it will redirect you to the app store for the platform you are running (App Store for Apple platforms, Play Store for Google platforms).)

(This does not work correctly for Canvas Parent, as parents can only view assignments, course events, grades, and the front page for a student within that app, not other portions of Canvas.)

Open in Mobile View

Limitations

There are potential issues that need to be fixed as soon as possible to optimize the mobile experience for the Mac. Here are a few.

QR Code for Mobile Login does not work on the same device

Even though there is an option to log in to Canvas with a QR code (How do I view a QR code to log in to the Canvas mobile apps as an instructor?), this cannot be done on the same device.

This feature is designed to work on two devices at the same time: the desktop platform displaying the QR code, and the mobile platform scanning the code. In order to fix this issue, biometric technologies may need to be used (i.e., Touch ID and Face ID on the Mac; Pixel Imprint on the Chromebook).

(When enabling biometric login for a certain device, users must reenter their Canvas password for security reasons.)

Issues

FINGERPRINTS AND TOUCH ID
Will the same fingerprint work for additional Canvas institutions added through the list when Change User is selected? We don't want 5 fingerprints each representing a different institution, making things more complicated!
(Up to 5 fingerprints can be added on a single device with Touch ID.)

FACE ID
Things may get complicated with Face ID on Apple products including the iPhone X series, iPad Pro 3, and later devices. One scenario is that if your parent's or sibling's face looks just like yours and breaks in (Scenario 1)! Another scenario is when you can successfully authenticate when you are really young, but not when you grow up (Scenario 2). According to Apple, the statistical probability is different for twins and siblings that look just like you, and among children younger than 13 years old because their distinct facial features may not have developed fully, making them unnoticeable until they grow up.

Haibao

Scenario 1: Twin stuffed animals acting as siblings (younger one on the left). Assume that the registered face is that of the younger sibling. If they were real humans, will Face ID succeed on both of them, or will it only succeed on the younger sibling?

Age Progression

Scenario 2: Age progression of the same person (6th grade on the left, senior year on the right). Notice that her facial features are more noticeable as a young woman on the right.

Incompatibility with Intel-based Macs

As of right now, there are no Macs that run Apple Silicon processors. Doing a search for Canvas Instructure in the Mac App Store will not return any results. Apple Silicon is an ARM type of processor, and the first Apple Silicon Macs may arrive for consumers before the end of the Fall 2020 semester.

Canvas Mac App Store

Seriously? No Instructure desktop apps for the Mac?

Lack of touch screen support

When there are iOS apps running on a Mac with Apple Silicon, not having a touch screen can be a problem. What if a teacher needs to make annotations on images using the Apple Pencil when he/she forgot to bring in his/her iPad? Not having a touch screen hampers the process.

In the MacBook Pro series, there is already a touchpad and a Touch Bar. A touch screen would be excellent, bringing all the multi-touch gestures from iOS to the Mac. An Apple Pencil puts the icing on the cake.

352204_IMG_31041933DA18-1.jpeg

A teacher grades a random student with a caption and drawings from the iPhone.

Lack of augmented reality (AR) support

Even though AR support is available since Canvas 6.5, there is no rear-facing camera on MacBooks. There should be a MacBook Duo to resolve these issues.
(MacBook Duo is a fictional name for a 2-in-1 Apple Silicon MacBook that looks similar to the iPad Pro with a detachable touch screen and keyboard, but runs macOS instead of iOS. This has not been officially announced by Apple yet, at least until Q1-Q2 2021.)

352284_ar-button.png

Augmented reality files use the USDZ file extension.

SpeedGrader annotations gone wrong

Another issue is the orientation of SpeedGrader annotations. In the example below, both the image on the Mac and on the iPad are both in portrait mode without any problems. A teacher performed his grading on the iPad with Apple Pencil, and it was OK. The graded annotations were on the picture in portrait mode, as you can see in the image below. When going to the Mac to check it out, the annotations that he did on his iPad shows up in landscape mode, which is different from the image from the Mac.

352205_Screen Shot 2018-10-21 at 10.34.40 PM.png

The orientation of annotations on an image can be annoying. With five questions wrong in Part I and 12 wrong in Part II, what did the student really miss?

"I can't read this. Can someone help out?"

When we tested Canvas Mobile with Chromebooks on displays with very high resolutions (Pixel Slate), we found out that the font size is too small and unreadable on the default accessibility settings. Canvas Mobile on Mac really needs to address this accessibility issue ASAP.

Canvas Teacher view

The font size is too hard to read when using default accessibility settings for Android apps.

One font for all platforms

I've been a fan of typography ever since I got used to the December 2016 facelift of Canvas (Canvas Production Release Notes (2016-12-10) > Other Updates > User Updates > Global Font Update). The Lato font needs to be included in not just the web interface, but the mobile apps and the new community (New Community Almost Here) as well. This makes the experience consistent across all Canvas services.

Other Apps

There are two Canvas Apps that haven't been updated for a long time. Here's why they need to stay and not be delisted.

Polls (last updated 9/7/2017)

The Canvas Polls app is an easy way for you to request students' opinions in the classroom and collect responses with ease. They only need to download the Polls for Canvas app on their smartphone devices. A teacher uses his/her Mac as a hosting device, while his/her students use their smartphones as responding devices.

Share Results

Sample Polls screen showing a sample question from the hosting device. In this case, the correct life span of captive pandas is between 25-30 years (marked with a blue dot).

MagicMarker (last updated 5/19/2016)

The MagicMarker app is an efficient and effective way of recording the mastery of learning outcomes in the classroom. This syncs with the Learning Mastery Gradebook in Canvas (How does MagicMarker appear in the Learning Mastery Gradebook?). Tables created in MagicMarker are different than the groups you create in Canvas.

View Dashboard

The MagicMarker app syncs with the Learning Mastery Gradebook. You can separate your students into groups and even export the data.

Conclusion

I hope that the Canvas Mobile team gets its hands on the UQSP and DTK-2 soon! Believe me, when the new students arrive for the Spring 2021 semester and beyond, Canvas users can set up mobile apps for grading notifications, due date reminders, and vice versa. When TestFlight for Canvas 7 comes out, educators can demonstrate how Canvas Mobile on Silicon really works and what really needs to be tweaked. Remember, we don't want students to leave out negative course evaluations in the Mobility section (if listed).
(TestFlight invitations are limited up to 10,000 users, so be quick to join in once the TestFlight program starts!)

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Learner II

*You'll be glad you did.
 
In providing support for faculty and courses, certain best practices have been validated repeatedly. 
One of those is optimizing Canvas content pages to increase the likelihood your students will actually see and use them! 

Unpack Course Documents to Become Canvas Pages

When new instructors are transitioning to Canvas, the process can be overwhelming. An unfortunate, frequent shortcut is to simply “link” documents like the Syllabus or assignment instructions. This may appear to be a quick solution—but only for one semester. When the complexity of updating increases, the missed opportunity to apply best practices becomes apparent through extra hassles and files housekeeping over time. 

 
“A shortcut is the longest distance between two points”Charles Issawi
  •  
Bad reasons to Link documents in the RCE or Modules:
  • Seems faster.
  • Lower faculty skill-level or understanding of Canvas. Links to files are all the instructor knows how to do.
  • Instructor already has a big Masterfile with .pdfs and WordDocs that hasn’t been changed in years. 
  • Imaginary threats, like the fear that students will change the Syllabus and argue some detail with the instructor. 
  • Student UX hogwash! Courses have always been a big stack of papers to manage. Why suddenly make life easy for short attention spans?
  • Document was made on an old typewriter (or on MSWord) with lots of tabs and spaces to center the text. It will be a nightmare to learn the Word ribbon tool at this late date. 
 
Signs that .pdf/.doc overuse is an issue
  • The course files area has 6 old versions of the Syllabus from which to choose.
  • Course content is not updated because the instructor can’t locate their original doc for editing. 
  • Students don’t read the syllabus.
  • Instructors don’t understand why students don’t read the syllabus. See hint.

Hint: Students are looking on an iPhone and don’t want to clog up their memory by accidentally downloading that 10-page Syllabus yet again, plus the document opens in a tiny viewer in a 1 pt. font. Instead, use Canvas content pages to stream beautifully!

Upstream Management

Instead of waiting for increased difficulty all around, consider unpacking your .docs into Canvas as a best practice.
  • Accessibility
    • Transitions are an ideal time to use Headings/Styles, alt text, descriptive links, ribbon tools, and correct tables in the pages rich content editor (RCE). 
  • Encourage mobile streaming view for all content, versus documents to download and manage. 
    • Increases the likelihood of students being able to see and use the content on any device. 
  • Copyright
    • Transitions are an ideal time to check copyright, record your Fair Use justifications, and/or update content into safe compliance. 
  • Quicker updates each semester.
    • Compare updating a Syllabus in Canvas (Edit, type, save) with updating a linked document (Locate master doc, make changes, save, replace in Canvas, test to make sure you linked the correct doc, get rid of old doc, preserve link, etc.)
    • Remember, if you don’t do this every day, the workflow is forgettable.  Once a semester, and you’ll forget what you’re doing. 
  • Version control.
    No need to search for master copies on a former employee’s home computer. Everything related to the course lives in the Canvas course. 

340448_documents-158461.png

 

Process

  • .Docs that are already Accessible easily become Canvas content pages that are accessible, with a simple copy and paste.

    • The transfer process reveals old-school tabs and spaces misuse. Oops.  Those must be manually corrected once the content is in Canvas RCE.

  • .pdfs can be a nightmare. Depending on the complexity of content, you may need to open a .pdf in Adobe Acrobat Pro and export it as a WordDoc, then scan carefully for substitutions, misspellings, and other transcription errors. 

 

Exceptions

Course builders work with what we have. Sometimes you just let one thing go—temporarily—to meet a deadline or inch toward progress. 
 
*Good Reasons to link a document in RCE or modules
  • Students need to download and print an entire document intact. Example: APA or MLA formatted example research paper.
  • Information is not likely to change and is not available another way. Example: an archived out-of-print article. 
  • Information that is already accessibility checked. Example: Government website downloads or official releases.

Ready or Not

Ready or not, increasing numbers of students view Canvas courses on mobile devices. (Numbers may vary by institutions, but the overall trend is upward for mobile use.)
 
Even if your course is designed for desktop/laptop, a quick check on iOS and Android devices will give you a more complete idea of what students see—and why they interact with the course the way they do. 
 

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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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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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Instructure
Instructure

It’s about time we published an update from the Canvas mobile teams, don’t you think?

Here are some fall start highlights -- in descending order of how much they excited me:

  • Neighbor’s kid stopped me taking out the trash and said the student app’s gotten soooooo much better since he started using it last year!
  • Canvas Student hit 3 million daily active users a couple of weeks ago!
  • iOS 12 and Android Pie updates broke fewer things than usual!
  • Canvas Teacher became the highest-rated LMS teacher app on iOS and Android!
  • Canvas Student became the highest-rated LMS student app on iOS and Android!

Not everything went perfectly. Including both platforms, we closed 50 functional bugs in the month of September, and several more accessibility bugs. The self-registration pairing code rollout for parent app required a couple tweaks. But overall, it was a relatively smooth start for the mobile teams.

Both platforms are in the process of releasing Student 6.4 (adding support for custom help and searching files) and Teacher 1.7 (respecting document orientation set by DocViewer and adding an annotation eraser).

Now we’re on to Student 6.5, which will bring with it a new assignment details page and submission flow. The assignment details page is the most-visited details page in the student app. It’s also one of the oldest, and the current design doesn’t make much sense given how students use it.

For example, we know students look for their grade when they open an assignment after submission, but right now that information is hidden in a separate tab. We know students want information about submission status, but right now that doesn’t appear in the assignment details view. We know teachers want students to see comments and feedback, but right now there's no indication that feedback is available. We plan to fix all of that.

In addition, we think we can significantly improve the experience of submitting an assignment through mobile. Today’s submission flow feels awkward and laborious, and our analytics say that only about half the people that start submitting through mobile actually finish submitting through mobile. With an increasing number of students completing assignments solely from mobile devices, we have an opportunity to reduce some points of regular friction. That includes adding proper support for Canvas cloud assignments.

Today, opening a Google or Office assignment from the mobile app takes approximately 147 taps too many, and that’s because we launch the assignment as an LTI tool in a webview rather than attempting to open the Google or Office native apps. In the future, when a student taps “Launch External Tool” on a cloud assignment, we plan to redirect to the Google or Office apps directly. Combine that with a more streamlined process for submitting to Canvas from third-party apps, and submission flows in the student app all around should be much improved with the 6.5 release.

Let’s see some pictures!

New assignment details -- notice the submission status, the large grade cell, the “Feedback” pill indicating submission comments or annotations, and the large “Submit” or “Resubmit” button:

new_assignment_details

New submission details -- notice the student’s view of their submission is only a single tap away from the assignment details, the similarity to the teacher app SpeedGrader view, and the ability to view the submission, rubric and feedback in a single place:

294058_Submission.png

New app extension -- students can submit a file directly to Canvas from a third-party app:

app_extension

The iOS and Android teams are both working on new assignment details and submission flows now, and we hope to release it sometime in Q1 of 2019. We’re super excited about these upgrades.

If you’ve got a pet peeve with assignments in mobile that you feel like I haven’t addressed here, or if you want to give any other feedback, feel free to post a comment!

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Explorer III

Oregon State surveyed over 2,000 of their ecampus students about their device preferences and were surprised with some of the results (according to a Webinar I attended that was hosted by the researchers Mary Ellen Dello Stritto, Ph.D. and Katie Linder, Ph.D.). Students don't always prefer mobile as many assume (including me Smiley Happy). 

Their research report Student Device Preferences for  Course Access and Multimedia Learning

includes all the survey questions and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

An interesting paragraph from their conclusion (Stritto & Linder, 2018, p. 23): "The results of this study show a wide range and variety of usage of the four main device types: desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones. However, the students in this study overwhelmingly owned laptops and preferred to use those devices to access their courses and engage with videos and other multimedia. While this study showed that some students were using tablets and smartphones to access their course materials, they were rarely preferred, although they were used for convenience."

Of course, various colleges and universities obtain different results when they survey students using questions that are worded differently and are directed at different student demographics. On p. 29, the demographics describe how three quarters of their respondents were undergraduates with an average GPA of 3.39. Also, 42.9% were seniors and 23.9% were engineering students. The table on p. 27 lists respondent race/ethnicity that is not as diverse as other universities, such as Wayne State University in my home town of Detroit, Mic... and not as diverse as our community college in the Metro Detroit suburbs. Maybe various colleges and universities will administer the exact same student device preferences survey Stritto & Linder (2018) provided within their report. If so, I hope everyone shares out their results! 

Dello Stritto, M. E. & Linder, K. E. (2018). Student device preferences for  course access and multimedia learning. Corvallis, OR. Oregon State University Ecampus Research Unit.

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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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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 0 573
Learner II

I have been recently researching ways to reach the Modern Learner via mobile lessons, activities, projects, and plans.  Yes, there are a lot of apps out there that are beneficial, but as biray@instructure.com and Ryan.Seilhamer@ucf.edu stated "While the Canvas app is effective in translating your course to be responsive on a mobile device, it is the job of the teacher or instructional designer to effectively design assignments to address the on-the-go learner."

I conducted a workshop at the most recent Online Teaching Conference in Anaheim (2018) on Motivating Students with Cell Phone Activities. But as research has it and timing luck has it, I wish I would have read more about the Canvas Polls app.  I think this Canvas Polls app and the upcoming Quizzes.Next features are going to be beneficial for increasing interaction while still being in the same overall environment.  I applaud Canvas for seeing that need.

Anyway, I have some materials that are pinned to my twitter account from the conference, and I can share with you what I tried to convey should you have any questions.  It seems like we are going to have a learning world soon that is community driven, individually contributed, location free, movable, right sized, goal oriented, success driven, failure learnable, and data large.  A new way to learn, interact, earn badges, etc. 

Excuse me, while I learn Chinese on Duolingo.

Zai Jian!

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2 3 230
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 1,967
Learner II

The Information School, iSchool, at the University of Washington has been providing templates for our Canvas courses since about late 2012. We started using Canvas in fall of 2011. Our templates have evolved with the available technological advances and we have spent the last few months designing for the next iteration. One of my colleagues, putrih‌, has spent a great deal of time working on this new generation of templates.

Part of the design process was to do a detailed usability study with a number of our students from the various programs that we offer at the iSchool. We offered gift cards to the participants and then sat with them as they worked their way through two different versions of the next gen templates. By far, they preferred our "compact" design for the less complex courses. This design uses collapsible sections that work pretty well in most browsers both on the desktop and on mobile. Unfortunately, we haven't been able to get the javascript right so the collapsible sections work on the apps. We are working with kenneth.larsen@usu.edu‌ from Cidi Design Tools to help us figure out what is happening in the apps. Yes, Design Tools was used heavily throughout the coding process and really simplified the task in many ways.

The question that we always struggle with is whether to optimize our templates for responsiveness or make them work best in the app. There are pros and cons either way but we are currently leaning more to the responsive design that works in the mobile browsers. For what our students do on mobile, based on a survey from a year ago, I think our focus on responsive is better at this point. What are your thoughts about developing for the apps, mobile web or both?

So, let's take a look at our "compact" template on both the Desktop and Mobile:

280486_pastedImage_1.jpg

The image above show the desktop version of the template on the left and the mobile version on the right. The desktop version is shown in the Chrome browser and the mobile version is from Chrome on an Android device running Android 5.1 Nearly identical other than the purple menu wrapping and the course stream link loading at the bottom on mobile.

The next image shows "Week 1" expanded on both platforms, desktop on the left and mobile on the right:

280487_pastedImage_2.jpg

You can see that the 3 column layout on the desktop collapses really well to a single column on the mobile side.

The next image show the comparison between the two platforms showing the menu on the syllabus page:

280488_pastedImage_3.jpg

The last thing I will share is a two minute screencast of this template being used on my phone. It works really well.

I hope people find this post useful 🙂

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10 7 2,088
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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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FAQs

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Hope this helps!

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12 10 3,546
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.

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Stay tuned! App updates incoming!

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20 15 2,967
Surveyor

One of the most difficult things online educators have is to keep up with the changes in technology, especially mobile. One of the biggest challenges that my team and I have had to overcome is making sure that whatever we design for our faculty and students will be accessible in a mobile environment. We have gone through many iterations of templates to see what will work for all of our users.

 

We finally came up with using tabs. It seems that all of our faculty and students like the fact that they no longer have to page through many different pages to get all of the content needed to complete their assignments. By adding tabs on a single page, all of the information is there. The bonus is that tabs on a mobile device look great. 

 

Image on Canvas

270808_tab1.PNG

 

Image from iPhone

270809_mobile_tab.PNG

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2 1 126
Community Member

It has taken some time to encourage students and faculty to use mobile apps when accessing our Canvas instance, but we have made a lot of progress. This push came after we encouraged users to use the Calendar feature in their mobile devices. Our curriculum revolves around class calendars, and they needed a convenient way to access all the events in their classes. This has been a tremendous success, they can even access assignments and download attachments posted in the calendar through their phones and tablets.

Now it might be time to push for the use of mobile devices for other components inside Canvas. We recently acquired the Canvas video solution Arc, and students may be consuming these videos in mobile devices and not so much on PCs.

Regarding notifications, we have seen students turning them off more and more, they find this feature a little annoying, I find it useful though.

I want to know more about the Canvas mobile options and features, I will be doing more research on this and hopefully I will be able to share with all of you.

Thank you.

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1 1 137
Surveyor

My students can be the biggest procrastinators.  I suppose we all can procrastinate from time to time but I find that my students every year have trouble with completing their assignments early enough to have proper time for editing and self-reflection.  I teach in a graduate school; all of my students are adults and choose to be students at the school. We have discussions in class about the issue of procrastination but for some it seems to be difficult to change. I am hoping to find advice from the community on any tips or strategies you find effective to help students avoid putting off their work until the last minute.  Specifically, I am wondering whether there is anything related to the mobile use of Canvas that can motivate students to work in a more time efficient manner. Thanks! 

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2 5 1,384
Surveyor

I found the CanvasLIVE session on the Mobile Series: Discussions in the Palm of Your Hand to be very helpful as an Instructor. There seems to be better interaction with Discussion Board in the new Canvas Teacher App as well. Although we are limited with the design aspect of our courses (online instructors teach from a template) I will definitely spread the word on this tool to other Instructors in my office. I can see Instructors finding the mobile app for replying and interacting with students beneficial as it is more convenient than pulling up their laptop or waiting to get to a computer.

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4 3 237
Surveyor

Canvas provides instructors with an opportunity to rethink the technological side of their course - and mobile activity is one of the major areas in which this occurs! As I watched the video series for mobile assignments (which is fantastic, by the way), it really made me think that we design courses as if we are transferring them from paper to electronic, instead of being "born digital."

The examples of taking a picture of specific items was interesting! I could imagine a sort of a library scavenger hunt that included these pieces (i.e. take a picture of this book on the shelf in the Library, take a selfie of yourself working on a computer in the lab, take a picture of a 3-d object that you printed in the makerspace). It would transform the regular "get acquainted with your Library" into a sort of an "Amazing Race" experience.

I could also imagine a more research-based assignment. Perhaps the course is on ecology, and you encourage the students to take pictures of flora and fauna, requiring geo-referencing of the image. Then, you download the results and generate a custom Google Map of the results.

What other examples can you think of, as ways to creatively engage students with mobile activities?

There are so many exciting opportunities available when we begin to think about the tools that are available, and how to best use them. The instruction becomes more of a transformational experience where students realize that education and learning is real and could be a lifelong pursuit.

After all, curiosity is one of the early steps of expertise, right?

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6 4 358
Surveyor

We've all been there. You find the perfect website that has content that you would love to share in your Canvas course, only to find, after the fact, that the content doesn't scale appropriately or doesn't render when opened on a mobile device.

I wanted to use this post to talk a bit more about what web designers refer to as "responsive" content. For those of you who maybe aren't 100% familiar with this term, responsive content is simply content that will render the uniquely, but appropriately based on the size of the screen that is used to access it. Additionally, I wanted to discuss some additional tips and ticks for making sure that the content you are sharing will render properly on a mobile device.

Responsive vs. Non-responsive Examples 

I wanted to make sure we were all clear on the concept of responsive content first, before I reveal some easy tips and tricks to test websites as a means of determining if the content is truly responsive or not. Below I have included a few sites that have non-responsive or responsive content.

Responsive

ESPN

ESPN Desktop siteFigure 1. ESPN site rendered in a traditional desktop orientation on a laptop screen.

ESPN Mobile SiteFigure 2. Ward's Science site rendered on an iPhone 7+ screen.

Notice that the content for both the desktop and mobile site remains the same, but the way that the content is render changes based on the screen size of the device that is being used to access that the site. 

Non-responsive

Ward's Science

Ward Science Desktop Site
Figure 3. Ward's Science site rendered in a traditional desktop orientation on a laptop screen.

WardFigure 4. Ward's Science site rendered on an iPhone 7+ screen.

Notice that while the site renders in an appropriate manner for desktop users, mobile users are left with small text based links to tap on. Links that are this small, and this close together can result in the user accidentally tapping on an incorrect link, which can then lead to user frustration. 

Tips and Tricks to Assessing Responsiveness of a Website

You could, in theory simply access sites from your mobile device as a means of checking their responsiveness, but I am assuming that you will most likely be building most of your Canvas courses on a traditional desktop PC or laptop. As such, it may be cumbersome and counterintuitive to your work flow to have to pull out your phone and visit a site that you currently have open in your computer's browser.

So, how can we remedy this complication, while keeping everything isolated in your desktop's/laptop's environment?

There are actually two ways that we can go about it. We can either actively resize the browser window while a website is loaded in it, or we can user developer tools in that browser to "trick" the webpage into thinking that it is loading content onto a mobile device.

Resize the Browser Window

Resizing the browser is pretty easy. Simply load any website you would like into the url bar, and then grab the right side of your browser window and pull it left to shrink the width. If the website is responsive, based on screen size, then you should see the content of the site shrink to fit the new orientation. Note: the degree of responsiveness may vary based on the website. Some websites will re-render content at a myriad of widths, while others may only re-render content at two or three distinct points. The video below demonstrates how the Canvas Community site renders at a traditional desktop and how it responds to the browser window shirking to a more mobile style width.

237375_ezgif.com-video-to-gif.gifFigure 5. The Canvas Community page renders differently when the browser window's width shrinks.

Using Browser Developer Mode

Modern day Internet browsers have a developer mode that can be used for a variety of purposes (especially if you are a web designer/developer). One of the functions that this particular mode has in it is a Responsive View, which allows the user to render a specific site as though it were being displayed on a mobile device. The way in which you can enable this particular view may differ slightly between browsers, but, once it is enabled, it allows for versatile assessment of a website (you can set very specific widths, or even choose from a lists of devices to see how the site will render).

237395_ezgif.com-video-to-gif-3.gifFigure 6. Safari's Responsive Design Mode allows for the visualization of how a website would render on different devices.

Below I have provided links that will allow you to enable this mode on any of the major browsers.

Google Chrome

  1. Enable the Developer Tools.
  2. Toggle Device Mode.

Mozilla Firefox

  1. Use the menu to enable Responsive Design Mode.

Microsoft Edge

  1. Enable the Dev Tools by pressing the F12 button (in some cases Fn + F12) on your keyboard.
  2. Enable Emulation Mode.

Opera

  1. Click on the Opera logo (Windows) or the View option in the menu bar (Mac) and select Show Developer Menu
  2. Click on the Opera logo (Windows) or the Develop option in the menu bar (Mac) and select Developer Tools
  3. Once the Developer Tools panel opens press Control + Shift + M (Windows) or Command + Shift + M (Mac) to toggle Device Toolbar on or off.

Safari

  1. Click on Safari > Preferences in the menu bar.
  2. In the window that appears click on the Advanced tab.
  3. Make sure that the checkbox next to "Show Develop in the menu bar" is checked.
  4. Click on Develop > Enter Responsive Design Mode in the menu bar or press Command + Alt + R

Additional Mobile Friendly Tips

While responsiveness is going to be one of major requirements for content that is shared to mobile devices, there are a couple of other things that you want to keep an eye out for when determining if a particular page is worth sharing or not, or if you need to include a disclaimer.

Image Size/Content

Many people don't think about this in the context of mobile devices, but if a particular page on the internet is filled with images, and each of those images is large, then it is going to take a long time for the page to load on mobile devices. More modern day websites have found a variety of ways to handle this issue, but older sites may not have such techniques implemented. If the page that you are linking to is not one that you maintain, and therefore has content/images outside of your control, you can do a very simple test to determine how quickly the page could load on mobile devices. 

Google has an excellent mobile site testing tool.

Flash

Flash was the standard for web based animations, games, and more when most websites were accessed via a traditional PC or laptop. However, Flash requires a great deal of processing power, and, as such, is a drain on the battery of most mobile devices. Additionally, both Apple and Google have deprecated their usage of Flash, or have pledged to stop support of it in the not too distant future. As such, most students will be unable to access any content on a webpage that is built on Flash when they are accessing that webpage using their mobile device or tablet.

You can use this tool to determine if a particular site uses flash.

Java (not the same thing as Javascript)

Some online applications utilize Java (applets), specifically the Java that is handled by an operating system. Mobile operating systems have no access to the Java framework from an end user standpoint, and as such, they will not be able to run any applets that rely upon Java.

Unfortunately there really isn't an easy way to quickly test if a page requires Java or not without actually visiting the page with one or more devices.

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Instructure
Instructure

I have been working in Higher Education for twelve or thirteen years now. I can remember using a VCR to record videoconferencing sessions, and now we have SaaS technologies for remote learners around the globe. I remember the click wheel on the iPod. I also remember when the idea of mobile learning on some campuses was providing a podcast of lectures in iTunes. Recently I have been struggling with K12 mobile initiatives; mainly because it directly affects my family. Let me preface my writing with some warnings:

  • I have two children. One of my children is in first grade and I have engulfed him in mobile technologies in our house since he was about 18 months old (with limitations). My second child is a bit older than 3 and has had relatively little exposure to mobile devices.
  • My wife is an elementary educator. She teaches Special Education and was first in the classroom in the Fall of 2007. She stayed home for a few years, but she is now wrapping up her 5th year teaching. Because of her, I have "seen" mobile devices in the classroom, out of the classroom, and district wide "initiatives".

Because my wife is an educator, she was very concerned about exposing my oldest son to "screen time" when he was so young. By the age of 2, he was navigating an iPad like a pro. I was amazed at his brain and how he was able to handle these "tasks". He would start in one app, play a little, go to another and sing a song, cycle through some more, and then complete the circle by coming to the app with the song and continue singing where the song left off. I was amazed. Granted, there's always the chance I scarred him (if there are any early childhood experts here, please let me know!), but I wanted that exposure for him. We were fortunate that I had A LOT of mobile devices for testing purposes at a previous job, so we might as well use them, right?

Now with my second son - he has had considerably less interaction with mobile devices. He turned three in December, and he probably played on an iPad or iPhone for the first time in the past 3-4 months. His frustration with the device is noticeable. He gets confused about where to tap, doesn't understand the purpose of the games/educational learning activities, and eventually just switches to the next app.

Why does the difference between my two boys matter?

I truly believe it is imperative for any educational institution, both Higher Ed and K12, to have a strong, top down, mobile learning initiative in place. However, sometimes when just technical people or district level trainers are involved, pedagogy or learning outcomes are solely missed (I'm guilty as well).

Take my two children - they come from the same house, have access to mobile devices (as long as we allow them!) and both Windows and macOS machines - yet I would only label one of them as "technically proficient" (and yes, I know one of my children is 3). The district my wife works for and my oldest attends recently had a large iPad roll out, and my son has said "I watch YouTube and play games on them..." I know my son can navigate the iPad just fine, but what about his peers? I know the demographics of his school, and there is a possibility that some children do not have regular access to devices. Are we giving our students an iPad just to say the device is in the classroom? Or are we giving a true exposure with measurable learning outcomes?

What about training for classroom teachers? How do you train teachers to work with students who may not understand the functionality? What about helping your teachers on how the device can impact learning and not just help them in their job? Parent and spouse aside - as a tax payer in the district, I want to ensure I didn't just help pay for a pretty little paperweight. My wife went through 8 hours of iPad training when the massive roll out happened; it was worthless. Teachers were taught how to take a selfie. Then they were taught to take a video and upload it to YouTube. Those two things took one day (two hours).

What is the answer?
I have no idea! Every district and college has a different make up. But - ensure your classroom teachers are properly trained on how mobile devices will benefit teaching and learning. Ultimately, ask yourself, "What is the value add for the student?" We have all seen the highly publicized district iPad roll outs in the last few years. How many of them had a measurable success for the students? 

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Community Advocate
Community Advocate

For consistency, I'm blatantly copying kristin.lundstrum@delasalle.com‌'s blog post (Google LTI + Canvas Mobile) in case someone has similar questions about the new Office 365 integration its compatibility with the Canvas Mobile Apps. There are so many things to test! Let me know if you have a different experience. Sometimes things work with one device and not another device. I'll fill in the gaps as I do more experimentation.

Test devices:

  • Android - Nexus 6P, Android 7.1.2, Canvas 5.7.3

Embedding Link to OneDrive Items From The Rich Content Button

After installing the LTI app, the Rich Content Editor will have a new Office 365 button. The first time it is clicked, you will be asked to sign-in to your Office 365 account.

220471_O365_RCE.jpg

Clicking this button after authenticating will open a list of items from your OneDrive. Clicking on one of these items and choosing to "Attach file" will add a link to that item into the text area of an assignment or page. Now, what happens when we click that link on a mobile device?

  • Android Canvas Mobile App - Not working - Clicking on the link takes me to a sign-in screen for Office 365 (even if I have already signed into O365 from the app before) and after signing-in displays a 401 error. 
  • Android Chrome Web Browser - Working - Clicking on the link takes me to a sign-in screen for Office 365 (even if I have already signed into O365 from the app before) and after signing-in takes me to a browser version of the document.

Office 365 Cloud Assignment

Creating an assignment and choosing the External Tool submission type will allow you to create an "Office 365 Cloud Assignment". This should create a copy of an item from the teacher's OneDrive inside of each of your students' OneDrive accounts.

  • Android Canvas Mobile App - Not working - Clicking on the assignment and selecting the "Submissions" tab will allow you to click a button labeled "Go To External Tool" but clicking on that button generates an error.
  • Android Chrome Web Browser - Working (Sort Of) - Clicking on the assignment will present the student with an "Open" or "Submit" button. The Open button will launch the word document in the browser and clicking the pencil edit icon will allow the user to download the Word app and edit the document on the Word app. The resulting editing process is limited to what is possible on a mobile device. This will be highly dependent on the formatting of the document.

Module Items

Choosing "External Tool" when adding a Module item will allow instructors to choose "Office 365" which will then allow for selecting an item from the instructor's OneDrive. 

  • Android Canvas Mobile App - Not working - Clicking on the link takes me to a sign-in screen for Office 365 (even if I have already signed into O365 from the app before) and after signing-in displays a 401 error. 
  • Android Chrome Web Browser - Working for Microsoft Documents - Clicking on the link will take the user to a page with the document embedded on the page. If the item is not something that can be embedded (like a zip file) nothing will show up. It appears to only render Word, Powerpoint, or Excel documents.

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