Our Themes for 1H’2024

KenzHughes
Instructure Alumni
Instructure Alumni
12
4561

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We are excited to share the Prioritized Themes that Instructure’s Product and Engineering team will be digging into in the first half of 2024.

 

Without further ado, here are our themes:

  • Automate and Streamline Group Membership
    • This theme was selected because it is strongly aligned with our desire to support large courses and non-traditional use cases. We aim to streamline existing processes and introduce new functionality to save users time.
  • Admin Data Management for Studio
    • This Canvas theme aligns with long-standing needs expressed by Administrators. Equipping them with a holistic view of their media usage and allowing them to manage their storage will help them support Studio at any scale.
  • Improved Flexibility in Catalog Listing Management and Reporting
    • This Canvas theme was based on its strong alignment with Catalog's vision and strategic objectives for 2024. We intend to enhance the enrollment process and streamline administrative tasks, aiming to significantly improve user experience and operational efficiency.
  • Course and Term-Based Messaging
    • This Impact theme received the highest number of votes during the most recent voting window in the Instructure Community. It embodies our vision and future state of more deeply integrating with Canvas, as well as reaching and supporting more users. 
  • Improve Quiz Analysis Through Robust Reporting
    • In support of this Canvas theme, the Data & Insights team plans to add metrics for New Quizzes pageview & participation usage within Admin Analytics.

How were Prioritized Themes selected?

From October to November 2023, Community members voted on 15 themes. Based on these votes, the Instructure team took the past few weeks to thoughtfully review and research the themes, and work together to understand the complexity and capacity, as well as the alignment with our overall vision and strategy. We also took into consideration which themes would be feasible for our team to take on based on resourcing. Based on these factors, we selected 5 themes. 

What does it mean for a theme to be prioritized?

This means that our team is committed to researching the problems that exist within the theme and delivering on the value over the next 6 months. It is important to note that we will not address every idea tagged to the themes. As we work through the discovery, definition, and delivery of these themes, our team will use the Prioritized Theme discussion area to pose questions to the Instructure Community, provide updates on progress, and involve you in the process. 

What happens to the themes that aren’t selected?

Although we aren’t about to tackle all of your fantastic ideas, the themes that weren’t selected will get a chance to be voted on again in our next voting cycle in early 2024 (March-April timeframe).

We know that transparency in our decision-making is incredibly important to the Instructure Community. For each theme that was not prioritized, we will provide context within the theme about why it was not selected.

Does this mean that we will only work on the Prioritized Themes?

No! Our new process has enabled our teams to have even greater insights into the challenges and areas that are important to Community members. Throughout the year, you will see our team make progress on individual ideas or aspects of various themes. We will continue to call these out in our release notes as we make progress. 

12 Comments
dkpst5
Community Participant

Only one actual Canvas item, and one that was already being worked on due to the NQ release goals? That's pretty disappointing that no Canvas themes were selected.

KristinL
Community Team
Community Team

Hi @dkpst5 - The first theme focuses on Canvas LMS. At the time of publication, there was a mix-up with the rationales. It has been edited and is now accurate.

mwolfenstein
Community Participant

I'm extremely disappointed that none of the top 3 vote getting themes were selected and that based on my read of this post they'll all be thrown back in the pool for voting. I understand that the top vote getting theme, Streamline the experience and reduce the cognitive load of modules, was likely a big lift for both design and development and I can understand how it didn't make the cut in the prioritization process for that reason. Given that it did receive over 200 votes more than the next theme (and 0ver 400 more votes than any selected theme), I would at least hope that Instructure is looking at ways to approach a major feature change like this without it needing to compete with other smaller more attainable features. However, it definitely would constitute a major change to the platform, so I can at least understand why it wasn't selected.

I'm far less clear on why the second most popular theme, Facilitate timely feedback for students, was not selected. This is a profoundly important capability that Canvas falls short on currently, and by just addressing the last idea in the theme, Instructors see student assignment comments in their To Do List stream, so that the communication loop is closed Instructure could add a tremendous amount of value for teaching and learning in both distance education and on-campus Canvas courses.

I'm wondering where the incentive is for the community to participate in theme voting if a feature like this winds up back in the pool for the next voting period in spite of its popularity, and the potential to get quite a lot out of a relatively focused theme. Certainly some of the other ideas in this theme would be more difficult to implement (e.g. the student work in progress idea), but we're already clear on the fact that just because a theme gets selected doesn't mean that all of the specific ideas that gave rise to that theme would be implemented.

james_whalley
Community Coach
Community Coach

I'd like to echo @mwolfenstein in questioning what's going on here. If Streamline the experience and reduce the cognitive load of modules is too big a lift, why did you even let folks vote for it? And if it is not too big a lift, why did it not get prioritized?

This new process seems just as futile as the old system of voting on feature ideas. I am glad I did not recommend to faculty to come in and voice their opinions by voting, as they'd just be let down that their votes aren't translating to action. 

Of the five themes my colleague recommended our department vote for, only one made this list. It happens to be the theme that was already on the New Quizzes timeline, as @dkpst5 pointed out, and already prioritized in the June 2023 round of prioritizations!

We at Cornell are looking to implement a system of gathering feature requests from our users and starting to develop our own solutions for them. If we presented the ideas for voting and then did not select the ideas people most voted for...well, I don't think we'd make any friends.

I love the idea of feature ideas. I am even alright with grouping them in themes (despite it meaning I may have to vote for a theme that includes something I hate to get something I really need). I want this system to work but it is still not there. I would be happy to take part in discussions of how to improve this process and make it work for users and developers alike.

LMacaulay
Community Participant

I have to agree with @james_whalley that the new system for voting is still not working. I have shared ideas to make it more effective with my CSM team and they have said they passed it along, but regardless of process, if the themes that actually get the most votes aren't chosen, the system is broken.  Why vote at all?  Maybe just gather feedback and then make the decisions of what to work on with the comments informing your focus/process?

stevenwilliams
Community Participant

Thank you @mwolfenstein and @james_whalley for flagging the fact that Instructure made themes available for voting which were identified by the community as priorities through Instructure's own process, but were ultimately not included in the priorities for Q1/Q2 of 2024.

My campus are relatively recent adopters to Canvas, and continue to identify numerous functional gaps between it and our previous platform. It's especially difficult to respond to user pain points when these are related to issues that have been extensively discussed and documented by dozens or hundreds of Canvas customers over the years, but have not yet been prioritized by Instructure.

I have attempted to build enthusiasm in Canvas' approach to product within our campus community by promoting the new themes and voting system for our users, as evidence that Instructure is making strides to aggregate and respond to long-standing challenges and gaps in the platform. However, it will be very difficult to get our users to engage with or trust this process if the outcome of voting does not seem to influence Instructure's priorities and decisions. I hope that there can be more transparency about why themes which topped the list of votes were ultimately passed over in favor of others, and why the Canvas Community should have any confidence that continuing to vote and advocate for these themes in future cycles will result in a different outcome.

Charles_Barbour
Community Participant

I find it odd that Studio and Catalog items are lumped in with Canvas requests. It's even more odd that they are being selected over Canvas items receiving far more votes.

I certainly understand their importance (we're frustrated Catalog users so I'm happy to see it being improved) but most customers and voters probably aren't using either Catalog or Studio. I'd imagine most users want most of your developer resources spent on Canvas rather than your other products (which happen to be sources of additional revenue).

The meat is more important than the potatoes.

danaleeling
Community Participant

I too echo the above comments of disappointment with the selected themes. Themes appear to be selected, to borrow the announcement's terminology, based on areas strongly aligned with Instructure's pre-existing desires and not on the votes, voices, and cries of the community. I too was saddened to see what appears, at least at first glance, to be rather superficial tweaks and adjustments primarily outside of the Canvas core experience.

A core need in an online course, such as rich text formatting in assignment comments, remains off the list. I would be happy just to have paragraph returns stick in comments shown to the students. In some views the paragraph returns are shown, but not in other views. Active links are another huge need in the comments - I often need to point my online students to resources to help them correct an error which requires sending an Inbox message to get them a clickable link.

Too, I wanted to see direct migration of classic quiz question banks to new quiz item banks. I do not use all of the questions in my banks every term, I have banks with over 200 items, and I do not have questions that pull from the bank as part of a group of questions. Current migration processes leave behind many of the questions in my classic question banks.

There is no joy in my Mudville.

audra_agnelly
Community Champion

Groups has needed a reworking for sometime, and I look forward to seeing which of the listed ideas become part of that project. As an institution that does not allow teachers to create their own sections (they are only created from our SIS), many of my teachers rely on Groups as a tool to differentiate assignments, rather than for group work, but Groups has its limitations for this (ie. External Tool assignments). I hope the coming updates make this easier for them.

JamesSekcienski
Community Coach
Community Coach

@KenzHughes  When will the reason for why themes were not prioritized be added?  I just checked some of them again and still do not see any explanation for why they were not selected.

I agree with the multiple people above about the disappointment with the selected themes.  It doesn't make any sense why none of the top voted themes were selected.  I expressed concern before about the vagueness in how themes are selected to be prioritized and this just makes it seem like the votes have almost zero value in the evaluation process. We invested time internally to meet with multiple departments and discuss which themes we thought were most important, and to try to get more people involved in the voting process, but now that just seems like it was a waste of time and effort on our part.  In addition, it will be especially frustrating if the reasons given have to do with themes being too broad again since that was supposed to be resolved this time around and/or not having the resources to commit to development since only themes that you would be able to deliver on are supposed to be included in voting.

How are "Open for Voting" themes selected?

The Instructure Product Team determines the viable set of themes for Open for Voting based on other priorities, capacity, and delivery schedule. Our team only selects themes for Open for Voting that, if prioritized, we could deliver.

How are "Prioritized" Themes Selected?

Selection of Prioritized themes is based on Community votes during the voting window, alignment to other development priorities, delivery schedule, and team capacity. Instructure selects Prioritized themes that have the highest value among our users.

I agree with others that have shared that Studio and Catalog should not be lumped in with Canvas Themes.  These should be their own category like Impact since they require an additional product.

I'm also confused why "improve Quiz Analysis through Robust Reporting" is listed as a prioritized theme for this round when it was not included in voting this round and was supposed to be completed as part of the last round.  According to guides on how this process works, if there were ideas that weren't finished then this should have gone through the voting process again to be re-prioritized.  In addition, it is a bit odd that only this one was re-prioritized even though we are still waiting for all prioritized themes from the last round to be finished even though we are past the 6 months when they should have been delivered.  I also wish that themes to add new features to New Quizzes would stop being a part of the voting until the New Quizzes Product team finishes building the full feature parity with Classic Quizzes as they already have a lot of work on their plate with getting it fully working, missing features developed, and resolving reported bugs (both those that are listed as Known Issues and those that are in the Tech Support queue that are not being reported as Known Issues).

How do Ideas and Themes work in the Instructure Community? 

KataKeri
Instructure
Instructure

@Charles_Barbour Would you mind contacting me through your CSM so I can discuss your frustrations with Catalog? I'd like to hear out your feedback. 
Regards,
Kata Keri (Catalog PM)

shirenv
Instructure
Instructure

Thank you for all of the feedback and engagement here. Please see my response in We made a mistake in Ideas & Themes decisions.