New Features, Big Impact: Enhancing Common Workflows in Canvas LMS

SamGarza1
Instructure
Instructure
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In March, we formed a dedicated team to tackle some long-standing user pain points, focusing on those small yet persistent issues that have been sources of irritation. We also focused our time on enhancements that enrich the experience of our educators and learners around communication and collaboration. Since forming this team, we’ve made significant progress, incorporating valuable feedback from our community and making numerous refinements to improve the overall user experience. From enhancing the Inbox and gradebook features to collaborating with partners for a more cohesive experience, our team has been hard at work addressing many of your top requests. Here are some of the key updates and improvements we've made so far.

Message Students Who Improvements

We’ve also made some enhancements to the "Message Students Who" feature in the traditional gradebook. A new option now allows instructors to message users who have submitted an assignment. Additionally, we’ve added a checkbox to the "Have not yet submitted" option to skip students who have been excused from the assignment. Instructors can now also message students directly from the total columns, both the cumulative and assignment group totals, with the ability to contact students based on whether their grade is higher or lower than a specified value.

During our onsite discovery meetings with customers, we demoed these improvements, and the response was incredibly positive. We received valuable feedback, leading to two refinements. First, we’re adding text to clarify that messages in total columns will be based on the scores seen by instructors, not students. Second, we ensured that the count of selected students updates accurately when students are added or removed.

We hope these improvements will make it easier for instructors to send bulk messages and informative feedback to students.     

Screenshot of a "Compose Message" window with options to send a message to students based on submission status, accompanying fields for message subject, and message body, and a "Send" button.Screenshot of a "Compose Message" window with options to send a message to students based on submission status, accompanying fields for message subject, and message body, and a "Send" button.

BigBlueButton

We collaborated with our partner, BigBlueButton, to enhance the user experience by sharing more information seamlessly to better manage conferences. We now pass along the course name/code and the user's pronouns from Canvas. In addition, if the admin has approved, the user avatars will also be passed through. To enable this component, administrators should contact their Customer Success Manager (CSM) to update the plugin settings. Additionally, we updated the conference endpoint to include details about invitees and attendees.

Phonetic Pronunciation on Profiles

We’ve made significant progress on the top-voted "quick win" from our April onsite: allowing users to add the phonetic pronunciation of their name to their profile. We also received feedback that adding an audio file and displaying this information in more places would be beneficial. Our team is doing further discovery into other places this information would show and the best way to implement an audio solution.

This screenshot shows a profile page for a user named "Panda Teacher," featuring sections like name pronunciation, contact, biography, and links.This screenshot shows a profile page for a user named "Panda Teacher," featuring sections like name pronunciation, contact, biography, and links. All Courses sorting

The second most popular request at this same onsite discovery workshop was to make the All Courses list sortable. In response, we made the table sortable by column headers and added a new header for favorites, allowing users to sort based on their favorite courses.

Screenshot of the All Courses page showing a table where the user can sort on the column headers.Screenshot of the All Courses page showing a table where the user can sort on the column headers.

Inbox Improvements

A long-standing request from our users has been to enhance the Inbox with more functionalities akin to a standard email experience. With the increasing regulations emphasizing clear communication and the need for auto responders (out-of-office messages) to notify users when someone is unavailable, we recognized the importance of adding these features.

Our team has developed a new settings area in the Inbox that includes options for Signatures and an Auto Responder. These features will improve communication clarity between users within the Inbox. We are excited to announce that these enhancements will be available in the July 2024 production release.

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You can read more about our first onsite discovery session in the blog post, Maximizing Success Through Collaborative Discovery. We’ll soon share details about our second session held. 

A few other updates to highlight: we’ve streamlined the Course Settings page by removing the "More Settings" button, which previously revealed only a few additional options. Additionally, we’ve adjusted the spacing of the "Create Export" button on the content export screen in course settings to reduce the number of misclicks.

Some of these improvements are still in beta or have not yet been released, so be sure to keep an eye on the release and deploy notes for the latest updates.

Have a suggestion for enhancing an everyday task? Let us know in the comments!

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