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Community Advocate
Community Advocate

Parents Access to Canvas

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Our parents are keen to engage in Canvas particularly monitoring homework which we push out through the global calendar and course calendars. As a non US school we struggle with the limited course view on the calendar as many year groups have 15+ courses. I personally don't see why we cannot have more control over this and allow our users to make the choice of which courses are viewed.

So far we have adopted an 'over the shoulder' approach for parents as we review all the options available to us. This is by no means ideal.

Our preferred option is for parents to view as Observers via the browser. Any website worth its salt should be responsive in its design. I am also concerned about the steps and extras needed to use with the Parent App.

Issues we have come up against....

Browser 

We are very fortunate to have written some scripts that allow a fair degree of integration of Canvas with our MIS (SIMS). We have had to do this ourselves as, at the moment, there is nothing in place from Capita. The scripts have reduced the time consuming manual aspects of creating and matching up parents to children and then creating separate accounts for parents.

The real problem is then ahead of us.

Many parents have 2 or more children attending school. It is not possible to view global calendars for individual children. Adding a filter feature would be fantastic. I don't know of any way of helping parents - other than imposing strict course naming by staff on courses. I am not sure why this was not considered earlier and would have other massive benefits eg for Learning Support or Teaching Assistants working with individual children.

App

We did not pursue the app as we felt the limited focus on the gradebook and grades was not how we wished to promote parental engagement with the platform so early in the launch. We also have our staff the option of using Canvas in their subjects in a range of different ways, some of which did not involve grading online.

The App does have this 'toggle' flexibility for parents with 2 or more students and there is now access to a calendar of sorts.

My biggest issue and headache is how we push this to parents. A colleague in a different school has been testing this out and reports back a number of concerns when parents are starting with the app - his comments are next to this:

  1. Parents need to know to click log in with Canvas and then log in.  This is already a problem because it’s not intuitive
  2. Parents type in school
  3. Parents log in
  4. The message “There are no students associated with your account” appears.  This is incorrect because we’ve set up parents as observers 
  5. They must again type in the school This is unnecessary
  6. They need their child’s log in details. The parent and child or the child must send the parent log in details – again not ideal

So we are current in a position where neither option fit what we want to do. Am at a bit of a loss here and wonder if anyone can help....

1 Solution

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Learner II

We're having problems at my school with this same issue Gideon.

I think there is a way it can be solved using javascript and the API.  I'm going to outline the solution below but to actually carry it out requires someone with more expertise than me and I personally think this should be a standard feature in the Canvas website.  If you're observing more than one students you should be able to toggle the view, for example:

Viewing calendar observers

I had a look through the API documentation and these commands are essential in the solution:

GET /api/v1/users/:user_id/observees

GET /api/v1/users/self/

GET /api/v1/users/:user_id/courses

They can be used to:

  1. Identify the user id of the logged in user
  2. Find the user ids of the students that they are observing
  3. Grab a list of courses of those users

Then you could use javascript to create buttons that will show the correct courses when clicked on.  I used the information from Gideon's previous post Calendars, calendars...and a thank you!  to work out how to do this:

This link will show the calendar for the courses with id 685 and 689.  

https://xxx.instructure.com/calendar?include_contexts=course_685,course_689

233562_temp3.png

I hope this feature is implemented soon.  

View solution in original post

17 Replies
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Learner II

We're having problems at my school with this same issue Gideon.

I think there is a way it can be solved using javascript and the API.  I'm going to outline the solution below but to actually carry it out requires someone with more expertise than me and I personally think this should be a standard feature in the Canvas website.  If you're observing more than one students you should be able to toggle the view, for example:

Viewing calendar observers

I had a look through the API documentation and these commands are essential in the solution:

GET /api/v1/users/:user_id/observees

GET /api/v1/users/self/

GET /api/v1/users/:user_id/courses

They can be used to:

  1. Identify the user id of the logged in user
  2. Find the user ids of the students that they are observing
  3. Grab a list of courses of those users

Then you could use javascript to create buttons that will show the correct courses when clicked on.  I used the information from Gideon's previous post Calendars, calendars...and a thank you!  to work out how to do this:

This link will show the calendar for the courses with id 685 and 689.  

https://xxx.instructure.com/calendar?include_contexts=course_685,course_689

233562_temp3.png

I hope this feature is implemented soon.  

View solution in original post

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Fantastic call Peter. I am going to have a word with Michael who wrote the original script - lets see what he can do. That said agree with you 100% about the feature being part of the observer role. This would 'revolutionise' stuff we want to do with Canvas and that particular role. Is it an example of a particular K12 need that has been lost among the bigger people?

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Community Coach
Community Coach

Gideon.Williams@britishschool.nl‌ and petern‌ - You bring up outstanding points! Would it be worth creating a new idea in Canvas Studio‌ and promoting this in K-12‌?

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Community Member

Agreed with everything you listed. These are our biggest challenges right now. We will not be introducing the parent app for the reasons you indicated. 

My biggest issue and headache is how we push this to parents. A colleague in a different school has been testing this out and reports back a number of concerns when parents are starting with the app - his comments are next to this:

  1. Parents need to know to click log in with Canvas and then log in.  This is already a problem because it’s not intuitive
  2. Parents type in school
  3. Parents log in
  4. The message “There are no students associated with your account” appears.  This is incorrect because we’ve set up parents as observers 
  5. They must again type in the school This is unnecessary
  6. They need their child’s log in details. The parent and child or the child must send the parent log in details – again not ideal
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Community Member

I like and agree with all of the points presented in this conversation and I think the clugy-ness of getting parents into the app is accurate.  Despite all that, we did roll out Canvas Parent back when it was first introduced last fall and have had a lot of success and good feedback from our parent community.  I think the value of parents being able to monitor grades and teacher announcements from their phone, and lets be honest that is all most want to do, is invaluable. I fully support trying to make it easier to toggle between kids in the browser version easier and we've done some of our own JS work arounds.  I do think the Canvas Parent app is pretty good as-is, save for the login process.  

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Learner II

I've had a go at doing this myself.  It's not perfect, but works:

Parents requested this at my school - multiple students 

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Community Member

I haven't read through all of these so this may already have been suggested, but what I did is I went to the Dashboard and for each subject I changed the nickname to "John Algebra" and "Joe ELA" I then assigned one color to each child, so all the subjects are the same color for each child. Now when it shows up on the calendar I know all the blues are John's subjects and all the yellow subjects are Joe's.

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Learner II

Glad to see that we're not the only K12 institution to have opted to turn off access to the Parent App.

The app's focus on Grades is not helpful for us because our district utilizes a robust online Gradebook (PowerSchool) where teachers are expected to keep their grades for all class assignments, both online and offline.

Our goal of having parents engage as parent observers with Canvas is for them to have that "seat in the back of the room" experience of seeing the scope and flow of the classwork, assignment detail and resources, detailed teacher feedback, and the Calendar, where teachers at our middle school are expected to post their homework on daily basis. Only the browser-based experience really meets those criteria at present.

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