Idea Conversations: The Path Forward

shirenv
Instructure
Instructure
14 23 4,507

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Today is the day! After reviewing our proposed path forward with various community members, we can share an outline of the next version of Idea Conversations!

Building on what we learned from you, we created the following guiding principles, which shaped our new approach:

  1. Clarity of success criteria: Establish an idea intake process that enables Instructure to understand the problems which need to be solved for which audiences and how we measure success in order to promote teaching and learning with Instructure products.
  2. Larger outcomes vs individual solutions: Lead with an outcome-based approach by aligning relevant ideas to larger product outcome themes.
  3. Targeted focus areas: Focus Community discussion and voting on a finite set of outcome themes. When evaluating new ideas, strike a balance of team capacity, target audience, time to value for users.
  4. Regular communication on priorities: Structured communication between the community and Product team to keep the community engaged. Create additional opportunities for outcome refinement conversation as prioritized outcome themes move through the product development process.
  5. Delivery: Deliver on highest value outcome themes within a 6-month timeframe.

So what will the new version be? Check out our infographic below which highlights the key components.

shirenv_0-1669825437778.png

We’re working our way through multiple years of feedback, and we’ve had a chance to take a first pass at all ideas submitted in 2022 to see what common outcome themes emerged. We’re not done yet, but here are some of the most recent themes.

unnamed.png

  • Grading
    • Surfacing Incomplete Assignments and Low Grades
    • Customizable Grading Approaches
    • Managing Grades Across Sections
    • Grading Flow Customization and Efficiencies
  • Assignments
    • Assignment Timing and Sorting
    • Decoupling Functionality From Requiring Assignments
    • Limit Assignment Viewing in Certain Cases
  • Courses
    • Flexibility In Course Visibility
    • Improvements to Copying Course Functionality

Over the next two months, our team will work hard to complete the analysis on over 5 years of history to pre-populate the outcome themes (so we don’t lose that rich history), and to build the new systems and processes to support this new approach. During this time, Idea Conversations will be in ‘read-only’ mode (starting today).

We will continue to provide updates to the community as we get closer to Go Live - which is targeted for February 1, 2023.

23 Comments
jbeyer1
Community Participant

Thanks for the update and hopefully improving the system. Will "Grading" include enhancements to the gradebook?

I would love it if the gradebook displayed the due date (multiple due dates could be a roll-over feature). We need this feature for taking attendance in our virtual classes. A missed or late assignment counts as an absence for virtual learners so having the due date displayed in the gradebook would be a huge help.

Thanks again for the updates.

shirenv
Instructure
Instructure

@jbeyer1 - Great question. In this case, this was just a quick snapshot of our findings -- but look for more detail early next year. The detailed feedback that you provided is an example of the way that our team would capture what success looks within a theme. As we identify themes, we will include detail on the theme, and idea submissions (like yours) will be listed there. For themes that are prioritized by Instructure and the community through voting, we will keep the Community appraised of the solution approach to ensure that we are hitting the mark on solving the problems for our users.

Anonymous
Not applicable

@shirenv I want to strike a respectful tone here, but I confess that the depth of my frustration is making that a little difficult. When you write that "we’re working our way through multiple years of feedback," you seem to be acknowledging that there are many, many feature requests and idea conversations that have not had Instructure comment in years. And yet you also write that "we’ve had a chance to take a first pass at all ideas submitted in 2022 to see what common outcome themes emerged," which does not seem to acknowledge those older (sometimes MUCH older) requests. Recent ideas are important, to be sure, but so are the golden oldies that many of us have been waiting for news about with not-so-bated breath for a long, long time.

I was a strong, strong advocate for our institution moving from a competitor to Canvas several years ago even though it was a significantly greater cost to the institution (our state was paying for a state-wide contract with the competitor). At the time, I was deeply, deeply frustrated with the competitor for what felt to me (and to many of my colleagues) as corporate disdain for end users. I recall that it used to take 11 (eleven!) clicks to update one grade for one student in the competitor's system. I was delighted to see the ease and intuitiveness of Canvas, AND the personal level of service and communication from Instructure.

These days, I wonder if Instructure has become its own nemesis. Silence from the company on matters with hundreds of comments, and upvotes as recent as last month for years-old feature requests feels a lot like corporate disdain.

I'm sure I have zero idea what it takes for a company to grow gracefully without losing track of the end user. Here's hoping that the new process brings us closer to the joy and relief I felt moving from "evil corporate LMS" to Canvas all those years ago.

PS
I'm not sure why I'm suddenly a "new member." I have participated in the training and feedback processes for a long time.

KristinL
Community Team
Community Team

@Anonymous - I'll wait for Shiren to respond to most of your comments, but I do want to help you with your profile. It looks like your email is associated with two different profiles. We can work together to merge them if you'd like. Please email community@instructure.com, and we'll from there.

dkpst5
Community Participant

I hope Instructure can prioritize lower effort/higher impact ones (like warning or prohibiting removing "everyone" from the assign box when there are already submissions). Remember the small blitz of updates mid 2020 when the the Pandemic response was on everyone's minds? A lot of those were good updates in this category.

leward
Community Contributor

@shirenv .  I would like to express my support for @Anonymous 's observations above.  There are so many early requests that garnered hundreds of votes over the years (the majority of votes for which were lost with the move to the current community platform.  Despite overwhelming support support from the community, these requests were systematically ignored by Instructure.   As one of many examples, the community has been asking for RCE support in Conversations since 2015.  Even with the votes lost during the community transition, this idea has 179 votes, suggesting that the idea just as relevant today as it was in 2015.  The only reason many of the older ideas were not submitted in 2022 is that they already existed and community members were instructed to vote for the original request.  I urge you to find a way to review and incorporate older requests, especially those that focus on the obvious design problems and/or foundational features available in most other LMSs, into your process.

shirenv
Instructure
Instructure

@Anonymous - Your honest feedback and questions are appreciated, and your comments are aligned with our plans.


Last week, we started with and were able to publish the 2022 themes because they were the smallest set. But as I noted, we're definitely not done yet. As soon as the ideas entered their read-only state, we started aggregating the data so that we can evaluate the immense depth of insights, going as far back into the history as there are ideas. So not to worry, none of the rich ideas will be lost. We look forward to sharing more information with the Community early next year following our thorough analysis.

dave-long
Community Participant

Thanks for posting this @shirenv!  Looking forward to how this new process is implemented, I do agree that it makes sense to do a "full stop" and reassess strategy / direction before starting work on ideas again.  In the past, I felt Canvas was an exemplar in the area of responding to user feedback, and I'm hopeful to feel that way again in the future.  Am I reading the chart correctly, that it could be over a year for a new idea to move from being posted online to being deployed in Canvas (from start to finish)?    

As others have mentioned, there is the problem of reviewing older idea conversations and then acting on those, which kind of feels like a separate process than new ideas.  Would you see a one-time separate process for voting on older ideas, or will the first vote period in the new process include both old ideas and new ones that were submitted when ideas start being accepted again? 

 

dorgant
Community Participant

I also agree with @Anonymous especially the part about moving from a competitor. We migrated to Canvas about 5 years ago. A big reason was the competitor seemed to shift focus from the LMS and prioritized the expansions of the applications the company provides. 

This led to a general bad taste anytime we suggested a new feature or idea. We didn't feel like the company was listening and customer feedback wasn't really appreciated.  5 years ago when we began the move to Canvas as an institution we were excited and finally felt heard as users. Over the past three years, I'm starting to feel like Canvas is going down the same path as some of its competitors.

 I really hope this isn't the case.

Tom 

Mikee
Community Participant

This led to a general bad taste anytime we suggested a new feature or idea. We didn't feel like the company was listening and customer feedback wasn't really appreciated.  5 years ago when we began the move to Canvas as an institution we were excited and finally felt heard as users. Over the past three years, I'm starting to feel like Canvas is going down the same path as some of its competitors.

 

Mmmmmhmmmm. Yup. All this @dorgant  - Having moved onto this platform (joined a new institution) recently, I've been horrified with the lack of progress or response to seemingly fundamental issues, and really upset with the lack of customer-facing detail when things don't go as well as they could have. 

DeniseMarieCope
New Member

I have been seeing people (in addition to myself) post for years about an option to hide the to do list. Really hoping that this falls into one of these categories as having the column with the to do list and grades on the right hand side of the screen is the #1 thing that messes up students in navigating canvas every class, every semester, every year. 

Also, please bring the monitoring capabilities of old quizzes to new quizzes where we have better question format options. 🤞

chriscas
Community Coach
Community Coach

Hi @shirenv,

Let me start by saying a big "thank you" for taking on this project.  I think a lot of us who have been Canvas (and community) users for a long time have seen some ups and downs with the idea request process, and would probably agree that we've been in a down time for a while now.  Added transparency and communication from you and others at Instructure can go a long way in improving things from my standpoint.

Overall, I like the ideas you have presented here, but I do have a few concerns and comments I'd like to share here and a long time Canvas administrator.  I'm sharing these to hopefully inform future decisions, so hopefully they don't sound too critical.

  • I think you've already commented on this, but I wanted to add one more voice to the "start with old/popular ideas first" crowd.  
  • The process outline seems good for big-picture ideas, but there are a lot of small annoyances that probably won’t fit in this process and aren’t considered bugs either.  Take an idea post about inconsistent wording, for example.  How does you see those fitting in?  Large ideas may be the most important, and definitely would be the most time consuming to fix, but small ideas like the one I highlighted that should take less than 30 minutes for someone to fix should be in a "just get it done" category in my opinion, and not languish for months/years.
  • While I understand and even like the idea of grouping requests together into larger projects, I hope doesn’t end up delaying features from getting developed.  We’ve seen New Quizzes, Assignment Enhancements, and Discussion Enhancements projects essentially be unfinished for long periods (and not even actively developed for long stretches).  I know the agile development model encourages small quick releases, but customers need to see things actually finished in a reasonable time. It's hard to say what that time is, but I think most of us would probably agree that it's probably not ideal for it to be years after things are first deployed in beta.
  • Finally, it may be important to remember that, despite thousands of idea submissions, most users (faculty and students) are generally satisfied with Canvas.  It’s not always possible to make absolutely everybody happy, and there are times where trying to satisfy one group may end up causing more complaints overall from people who like the current functionality (the discussion enhancements seem to be a good example of this).  I am personally nervous to see “Decoupling Functionality From Requiring Assignments,” “Limit Assignment Viewing in Certain Cases,” and “Flexibility In Course Visibility” in the list of items on the radar.  Some of those items are more university policy than technical functionality, and we definitely don’t want Canvas to dictate what our policies have to be or prevent us from controlling things like course visibility.  Additionally, I often see posts here mention something like "LMS X does this thing, so Canvas should do it like that".  I know those are probably mostly from faculty, who may not necessarily be involved in decisions about which LMS a school/institution chooses.  I think it's important to make sure future changes don't alter basic Canvas paradigms (tying grades to assignments is one that comes to mind for me).  Sure, Canvas does things differently than some other systems, but some of that is by design.  Having different systems do things in different ways gives everyone options when choosing an LMS.  If you like the way Canvas does things, chose Canvas.  If you like Blackboard, choose Blackboard.  There are areas where perhaps Canvas should do things like a different LMS, but I think all of us (myself included) have to put a lot of thought into where changes make the most sense for all users and where they may now.

Thanks for listening!

-Chris

SummerMcLain
New Member

Would really like to see the ability to set notification settings on assignments or at the course level to email the instructor when the assignment/course is completed by a participant. I run (and have instructors who run) several self-paced courses that would benefit from the instructor being notified when someone completes the course (or a final assignment). This seems like something pretty basic that I should be able to do to run a course in Canvas. I am not the only one who has requested this.

Thanks,

Summer

canvas_admin
Community Champion

@SummerMcLain, that would be immensely helpful for our institution as well! 

KehindeRoss
New Member

Just received guidance from the support desk but apparently there is no way  to assign an assignment to everybody but exclude one or two students. I need to do this for an assessment and would like to suggest addition of a NOT function of sorts so that having assigned to everyone, selected students can be excluded. In this case, it is because a couple of students cannot take the assessment (which is time-restricted) until the following week. 

chriscas
Community Coach
Community Coach

Hi @KehindeRoss,

Just to clarify, in the situation you describe where a couple students are doing a quiz/assignment at a different day/week/time than others, you can just assign the different time to those couple students and then put in the standard time in the "everyone else" box ( How do I assign an assignment to an individual stu... - Instructure Community ).  If you want to totally excuse students from the assignment, you can create it as normal, and then go to the gradeboox and enter EX as the grade for those students in the appropriate column.  I do agree that perhaps ideally students could be excised when creating the assignment, but I also know that too many options can cause as many issues as not enough options.

Hope this info helps a bit!

-Chris

Anonymous
Not applicable

I'd like to add my voice to those of long-time Canvas users who are hoping that beyond the commitments being made here, that Instructure can find opportunities to ensure that low-effort work with a moderate-high impact can be prioritized and addressed, even when it does not align with one of the clusters of themed ideas that will be curated in this new workflow.

Although software development is not something that many of our users have a great deal of hands-on experience with, methodologies exist that can help make this prioritization more clear for the vast majority of individuals in education, particularly using things such as story points. For those of us who were fortunate enough to participate in Instructure's previous Khaki process for collecting feedback from targeted groups of customers, we got to see the ability of product and software development teams within Instructure putting this into action, with their estimate of the full number of story points available for a particular interval and challenge to us to rank our requests given both their importance and complexity.

As another community member stated above, the quick wins that Instructure was able to deliver during the pivot to remote instruction were a strong demonstration of understanding of the ability for Canvas to quickly deliver improvements that meet clear and timely needs. Striking a balance between this model and longer-term projects such as New Quizzes, which sometimes seem driven more by Instructure than directly by customers, would help institutions show our users the proof and scope of commitment being made by Instructure, even in cases where the specific features may not address a given individual's needs.

valentinesking
Advocate

Howdy! Love the work being done on improving Ideas functionality; looking forward to seeing the changes.

Val

SusanNiemeyer
Community Contributor

Please reach out to those of us who provide the most support to the Instructure community. Ask us for our feedback. Ask us for our expertise as Canvas users and trainers.

I am a community college professor. I went from being a complete novice in Canvas in March 2020 to providing support to many colleagues as well as users worldwide. This past year, I ranked in the top five of Community members:

https://community.canvaslms.com/t5/Community-Users/2022-Instructure-Community-Recap/ba-p/549473

There are aspects of the Canvas platform that continually act as "stumbling blocks" for instructors. One of them is hiding important settings in Course Settings behind the tiny blue letters more options. No one can figure this out. I have ideas on how to fix this issue. Please ask me.

Please ask the other Community members who provide valuable support time and time again. We can provide you with much valuable feedback as well as recommendations for improvement.

DanielOrta
New Member

Hi there,

I wonder if anyone has mentioned the usefulness of creating a bookmarking system for participants, and users. 

This way Canvas uses can more efficiently save important information for quick reference and further study.

For example, each course allows the user to click a bookmark button and it the canvas page into a collapsible sidebar. This may help develop a richer discussion and better retention of information. 

Anyhow. Just a suggestion!

JamesSekcienski
Community Contributor

@DanielOrta 

Have you tried out the bookmarking capabilities in the Canvas Student mobile app? 

How do I bookmark content in the Student app on my Android device?

PaulRettey
New Member

I think part of this issue is the break neck speed at which Canvas tries to move with its deployment. Updates every 3-4 weeks! It is incredibly fast paced and an ambitious schedule to keep. To my mind, less is more. Half the time I look at the new features and I try to think of use cases and how they can improve a users experience.

Less frequent updates, but better / impactful / useful updates when they arrive will get my vote.

Personally I would also want to know all user voices are heard (Tutors / Students / Trainers / Admins) when it comes to ideas. Also better UI, as some UI decisions in Canvas are odd.

Hope this all works out.

 

willmoin
Community Participant

Thanks for the update - we had been sending our staff to vent suggest product enhancements on the community site for some time and were wondering why we could not click on the stars anymore. It was annoying when we shifted to the new community sitem as the old one seemed to be much better for upvoting ideas. I like being able to vote for things, and it's useful to be able to send teachers to those ideas as a holding pattern, and on the face of it the proposed idea of 30-day windows for voting  every 6 months sounds to me like you are trying to restrict flow of ideas from users, wheras I think the backlog and lack of recognising ideas that align to priorities sounds like a company issue not a user issue.

Also sad to see that here is no mention of the Canvas Teacher App within your priorities above - seems a real shame as some very simple inclusions could make this a killer application for Canvas. In fact that example illustrates an issue with the voting system: having 'filtering by Groups' added (alongside Sections that already exists), would draw more staff to use the app particularly in live teaching or marking by TAs, but without people being drawn to the app then the feature gap is not revealed and then there is no one to vote for it. Catch-22

Will, Liverpool UK