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Community Member

Removing the Ability to Add Nicknames on Course Cards

I had a teacher let me know that some of her students are clicking on the 3 dots on the course card and changing the nickname to something very inappropriate. She wanted me to turn off the option for students to change the nickname. I don't think you can and if so, wouldn't it be for the whole district and not by individual teacher? Has anyone had this problem before and how did you handle it? Thanks for any help you can send my way! 

6 Replies
Community Team
Community Team

 @mhinojosa , as far as I know, it isn't possible on the front end of Canvas to disable the ability to nickname course names on course cards. Perhaps some savvy developer has written custom code for this.

Since you've asked about strategies, I've shared this with the‌ group to enhance its visibility among members who might have experience with situations like this. And, since the ensuing conversation isn't likely to elicit a single uniquely correct answer, I've flipped the format of your post over to an open-ended discussion.

Community Coach
Community Coach

Hi  @mhinojosa ,

I'm sorry that you had to report such behavior! Like stefaniesanders shared, there is not a way to turn off the ability to change course-nicknames at the course level or the account level. It could be an idea for‌ (‌), and I would assume that it could strike up a really interesting conversation.

In the meantime, I think it's a great opportunity for a genuine conversation with these students. Take this less-than-ideal situation and transform it into a teaching moment. How to act professionally can be applicable to all grade-levels, PK-20. If there was the ability to locking of course nicknames, students would be missing out on the opportunity to have the guidance of a caring adult on how to manage themselves in such a situation. 

I teach grades 9-12, and I have had various conversations with students about appropriate behavior and language use in digital academic spaces. Each semester we briefly discuss "netiquette" and how our digital spaces are just an extension of our physical classroom space. In the years we've had Canvas, I know I've talked to a few students about course nicknames, but after kindly asking how a teacher may feel if they saw their course being renamed to "_____", they actually begin to understand that a joke may be harmful to another person, even if it was unintentional. Another time, I linked it to a "self-fulfilling prophesy" of sorts. If you call your science course "Stupidest Class Ever", how do you think you'll program your brain to feel about the content, even if the teacher is incredibly engaging?

While it's not perfect that students have the ability to nickname their courses freely, it could lend itself to wonderful conversations.

Do you know if the teacher asked the students why they changed the titles to what they did? That would be really interesting to learn more about! If you could circle back to that teacher and then share here, that would be great! I look forward to seeing how this conversation develops.

Community Coach
Community Coach

Hi  @mhinojosa ‌

 @klundstrum ‌ has given you great advice from a K-12 teacher's perspective, and I cannot fault any of the advice she has given.

Always a quandary, and by "always" I mean since man first adopted language and decided that some language was  anathema!  We let our children write and talk, and when we do we run the risk of one of them saying or writing something inappropriate - however we define inappropriate and whatever we define as inappropriate.

For me this is a both a classroom management and a censorship issue. Technologically this is also an access issue.

From a technology perspective, the nickname feature (requested and supported by many Community members) provides parents and other observers a tool to better identify the courses of the students being observed. For Faculty and students this provides the same opportunity to better identify courses when school or district naming conventions make course identification difficult. The nicknames, after all, are only visible to the user who created the nickname unless they share it.

From a censorship perspective, I will be very direct and note that there are no age qualifiers for the right to free speech.

From a classroom management perspective, if inappropriate course nicknames are creating a disruptive atmosphere in the classroom,, and I am sure they will because the same students who would do this will want to share with their classmates to shock and amaze, then this is an issue that should be dealt with  with the student and their parents directly and individually, rather than shutting off a very useful feature.

I would........

  • Talk with the student directly, and explain why what they wrote is inappropriate, ask them to change or remove it and advise them that any further behavior of this type will be shared with the parent. I understand full well that many parents won't do anything. The discussion points that Kristin provided are wonderful. Most time, and especially with our younger students, talking (I mean really talking with a student and not at them) can be incredibly effective.  Early in their education, talk with all students in all courses or grades that use internet tools about netiquette, and reinforce continuously throughout their K-12 careers. Ask them to formally agree to follow your school's netiquette policies. If your school lacks such policies, then guide your school to adopting them.
  • Share with parents appropriately on next infraction.
  • If parents don't respond appropriately themselves, use an age-appropriate punishment that does not  remove any student learning opportunities. This modern idea of removing students from class or school is a hideously inappropriate response that just gives the students what they really want - out of class and out of school. Give them more work! A research project on the harm that can be caused to individuals by inappropriate web behavior is a good start, and pay them for that work - enough points to offset some previous poor work or lack of work. You won't be rewarding them for the bad behavior, you will be rewarding them for their learning.

Just my $0.02


I agree with  @kmeeusen ‌, and I will add that my students regularly cite the ability to create nicknames as one of their FAVORITE things about Canvas because it is not just fun but also useful, especially at my school which uses a terrible standard naming convention for courses. I've shared student comments here about how much they like the nicknames; here's an example from a student's blog just yesterday:

This week I decided to mess around with the Canvas Dashboard for my tech tip. I will say I'm glad I figured out how to change the names or "nicknames" of my classes because I had a terrible problem of clicking on the wrong classes due to the numbers being the only thing read. I wish I had known this was a thing before my last semester. I also figured out how to take classes off of my dashboard because some past classes were staying there and I didn't know how to delete them until now as well. I personally really enjoy the dashboard because it is extremely simple and not full of junk. I can't imagine adding anything else because I feel it could get cluttered. The side bar is perfect for shortcuts into certain things and I always use it. Canvas has been the greatest tool for college in my opinion.

Learner II

We get requests on a somewhat analogous situation (higher ed, though) - can we turn off the Inbox/Conversations for a particular course?  Sometimes, students have done something fairly inappropriate (undergraduate student election campaigns, where mass emails are not allowed), and sometimes they have just done something that the instructor wasn't happy with (arranging ad hoc study sessions / book swaps, for example). 

Our answer, as others have suggested, is that this is a time to talk with students about appropriate behavior.  If they have transgressed a university or course rule, then the repercussions of that need to be felt.  If they have just done something unexpected, then expectations should be established in the clear. 

This can also be a time to set expectations with instructional staff, as well.  Regardless of the technology available, ad hoc book swaps will be arranged; perhaps the instructor needs to better understand student needs?  I'm not saying that maybe the nicknames weren't inappropriate after all, but sometimes Canvas requires faculty to give up a bit more control than they expect.

Bravo  @rake_9 ‌!

OMG, "Study Groups"! You mean my students want to study, together, without my supervision/control/organization and maybe actually learn! This cannot be tolerated and must be stopped at all costs! And don't even get me started on students communicating with each other for any reason!

We have seen so many comments and proposals along these veins in our Community over the years. Too many!  I wish I could find the posting that my friend laurakgibbs‌ just posted about openness. It could be so helpful here.

When we first migrated to Canvas many years ago, one of the features that most impressed us with Canvas were the communication tools. And as we have used Canvas many of us have asked for more communication tools and improvements to the existing ones - improvements that make student/student, student/teacher and even student/public communication and collaboration easier and more effective.

For me, adding a nickname to a course title is just that - communication, and it is a way for students to control at least a small piece of their learning environment. This is one of the things that contribute to my following Laura Gibbs so closely in here. She is a huge proponent of giving students more control, and realizing the benefits this contributes to student learning.

Dang it, Valerie, you made me climb onto my soapbox again!