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# RCE Updates - Fall 2020

Instructure
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Hi!

You’ve got that stressed look on your face and my little boy is suddenly in preschool, so I guess fall start has begun! Here’s a quick update on the new RCE.

Things are going well. I mentioned losing sleep over the new RCE in my last post. Well, it’s a lot better now than it was then, thanks to your feedback and the work of a lot of people. Here are just some of the changes we’ve made in the last two months:

• Added recently-used LTIs, LTI favorites, and the LTI toolbar group. In addition to lowering barriers to LTI tools in the editor, we’ve also allowed schools to hide the Canvas Media options in the toolbar to avoid confusion with other media tools.
• Added split buttons to content input toolbar group. So now each of the content input buttons has a default action on the left side (insert external link, upload photo, upload media, upload document), and the dropdown which already existed on the right side. This means one less click for the default actions. Split buttons look like this:

• Added memory to the link navigator. Though the sidebar still collapses after a link addition, it remembers where you were last time when it reopens. (More on this below.)
• Rearranged the toolbar to optimize for less-than-full-width screens. The placement of toolbar buttons now hopefully better reflects the priority of the average Canvas user. In short, bold is more common than LTIs are more common than tables. As screens shrink, we want truncation to reflect those priorities.
• Made the menu bar always on. I admit this is prioritizing function over form, but it's also better than it was.
• Removed auto-resizing and increased the default height of the text area. If you're still experiencing pain related to RCE resizing in beta, say so, because as far as I've seen we're solid now.
• Dozens of bug fixes (and more incoming!)

These things are in varying states of release so keep your eyes peeled for the notes, but they’re all complete from a development perspective. Compared to where we were a couple of months ago, we've got a less clicky, easier to use, more accessible editor, and we're very excited about that!

There are a few more things we’re in the process of working out.

• Math in new RCE. We plan to expand our use of a library called MathJax in the new RCE to ensure that the math equations we render are easier to work with and more screen reader friendly than what we currently offer to people using the math editor. The current math editor outputs an image of an equation with alt text describing the image in LaTeX formatting, which is less-than-awesome for everybody working with that equation. To improve this situation, we plan to use MathJax to render math equations created in the math editor as MathML.
• Extending the reach of new RCE. With a little bit of work, tools that aren’t a part of “core Canvas” -- namely our new quizzes tool -- could also make use of the Canvas RCE to provide a more consistent content creation experience across the platform.
• Sidebar, slidebar, drawer, tray improvements. We’re still figuring out how to reduce unnecessary clicks in some sidebar flows. And we will figure it out -- it’s just a lotta ins, lotta outs. File search is also still pending.

If you hadn't already heard, the enforcement date for the new RCE was moved from December to January to avoid conflicts with finals. Our hope is that this provides a buffer for schools to plan for the best time to switch it on over the holidays if they haven’t done so already.

As usual, keep the feedback and bug reports coming because it’s your tool. Our oldest bug ticket that isn’t in progress was reported last week, so we’re doing what we can to respond quickly.

Feel free to ask all your questions and provide feedback in our New Rich Content Editor Beta Users Group.

Tags (2)
Community Champion

@erinhmcmillan just checking in for an update on the RCE enforcement. We need to begin preparing our courses and trainings immediately if the January enforcement date is staying put.

Thank you for your patience with my nudges and your speedy responses.

Community Contributor

hi

I have written a short piece about why I think the ability to change fonts is a bad thing in terms of accessibility. I would prefer for our institution if we could disable this for staff and students

Here is a link to my post

jim

Community Team

@venitk enforcement is still January 2021.

Thanks!

Erin

Community Champion

@peytoncraighill When I click to External LTI and then click View All, the cursor changes to the typing icon when it's over the things I can actually click (eg, Commons Favorites, Google, etc) and no typing is involved. The cursor changes to a pointing finger when it's hovered over the tool explanation and the down arrow.

This will be confusing for users, especially students who won't use the RCE as often for anything other than just straight typing. When they actually have to embed something using the External LTI, they'll struggle to find what they should click on. It took me a while to figure out that I could click Commons Favorites, even the the cursor was a typing icon. Clicking on the down arrow next to the explanation didn't do anything when the explanation was short enough to fit in one screen, so I assumed it was broken.

It would be helpful if the cursor, when hovered over the part of the LTI tools that you click on, was a pointing icon, either arrow (as it is on the main RCE screen), or finger (as it is when hovered over the tools).

Community Champion

@peytoncraighill  you asked about resizing issues. The tool with the "editor statusbar" tooltip (not sure what the tool is actually called) is still acting weird when you try to manually resize the editing window: https://www.screencast.com/t/sRhxDRCV

Community Champion

@eschiebel - I still do not see the MathJax menu after inserting an equation using the equation editor in the new RCE. I have inserted a short equation into a quiz question. Right-clicking the equation (as seen in the video in a previous post here) shows a menu for images.

Instructure

@crafte yep... quiz questions have a problem. I'm on it.

Community Contributor

@venitk and @peytoncraighill - I've reported this same behavior to my CSM months ago, and I believe it was pointed out some times more when people were talking bout being frustrated with our Media LTIs being buried in the LTI button and the Canvas Media button (that our institutions didn't use) being so prominent in the new RCE. The Media dilemma has been all worked out (yay and thank you, Instructure!), but this mouse cursor bug is still around. I'm really hoping it gets fixed before the Jan enforcement of the new RCE.

"When I click to External LTI and then click View All, the cursor changes to the typing icon when it's over the things I can actually click (eg, Commons Favorites, Google, etc) and no typing is involved. The cursor changes to a pointing finger when it's hovered over the tool explanation and the down arrow.

This will be confusing for users, especially students who won't use the RCE as often for anything other than just straight typing. When they actually have to embed something using the External LTI, they'll struggle to find what they should click on. It took me a while to figure out that I could click Commons Favorites, even the the cursor was a typing icon. Clicking on the down arrow next to the explanation didn't do anything when the explanation was short enough to fit in one screen, so I assumed it was broken.

It would be helpful if the cursor, when hovered over the part of the LTI tools that you click on, was a pointing icon, either arrow (as it is on the main RCE screen), or finger (as it is when hovered over the tools). "

Instructure

@Tasha_Biesinger This will be fixed soon. Thanks for the feedback!

Community Champion

Another observation about iconography: when mousing over, the icon that indicates the link is being hovered over is the same icon used elsewhere in Canvas to rearrange items. This is inconsistent and confusing (I thought I could rearrange how the links appeared in the list). Highlighting when hovering, as it does in the Add Files menu, would feel more consistent as a user.

However it might be a lower priority because after trying to rearrange them, I realized that's not what the icon meant.

Community Participant

@peytoncraighill and @eschiebel thank you for the work you've been doing on updating the Math editor.

Last week I noticed that Canvas production was now displaying LaTeX as MathML using MathJax in the existing content editor.

Today I noticed that the original behaviour had returned with Canvas rendering LaTeX as an image.

I contacted support and they advised that an issue had been found with the Math editor yesterday which had been fixed, but they couldn't explain why the feature had appeared and disappeared.

I had updated the documentation I was planning on releasing to faculty soon to reflect this and was intending to show them it in training tomorrow.

Is it possible to get clarification on what happened and an update on when the rendering change will be available again?

Thank you!

Instructure

@phillip_mills On enabling the new equation handling feature in production canvas a number of schools reported a rather nasty bug where quiz questions with equations were being corrupted. We determined that the best course of action would be to disable the feature until we could fully understand the cause. I believe we have a fix which is currently being tested. We'll get the feature re-enabled as soon as we're confident the issues have been resolved. Very sorry for the confusion.

Instructure

@venitk that icon is meant to indicate that you can drag and drop the item. Some places in canvas that means you can drag to rearrange things. Here, it means you can drag the item into the RCE and drop it where you'd like the link.  We could do a better job of using different cursors to indicate different drag-and-drop functions. I will talk to our designers and see what we can do. Thanks for the input and sorry for the confusion.

Community Champion

@eschiebel Thanks for explaining that.

Other points of inconsistency:

I could be wrong, but I'm not seeing it mentioned in the guides that dragging and dropping from the link list into the RCE is possible, nor do those images show the 8 dots. https://community.canvaslms.com/t5/Instructor-Guide/How-do-I-create-hyperlinks-to-course-or-group-co...

I see that the 8 dots are used in the People menu for dragging and dropping people into groups. However, they are not used in the Calendar for the undated assignments.

As a user and instructional designer, I'd agree with you that it would be helpful if the iconography was used consistently across Canvas to mean specific things.

As a side note, for me dragging and dropping the links into the RCE is not easier than just doing it with clicks (click where you want it to go, then click the link to put it there). That could just be my experience, though.

Thank you for your attention on this.

Community Team

Hi Katie (@venitk

As far as the guides are concerned, I will admit that we totally missed documenting that functionality. I will create an update task for this work and we will include that in our New RCE guides as soon as possible. Thanks!

Community Participant

Thanks for letting me know about the need to roll back the changes to the MathQuill/MathJax software @eschiebel. I understand why it was necessary to change things back, but please let the folks who do the comms for these changes know that it's good to get a heads up when they are released/rolled back.

On another note, I found that it's now possible to hide a variable for a formula question inside an equation using the correct LaTeX codes. For example:

\sqrt{ \text {[x]}}

is displayed to the student as:

There is no indication to the student that this is anything other than standard text,

Is this feature intentional? I don't want to tell staff that they can do this if it's possibly going to be removed. Thanks!

Instructure

I'm not exactly sure what you did there, but I can tell you this:

If there is any math on the page created using the RCE's equation editor, Canvas will load MathJax and have it process the document's body. So, if you have other LaTeX equations on the page delimited by $$...$$ or $$...$$, then MathJax will find it and typeset it. If there is no RCE created equations on the page, canvas won't load MathJax and the raw LaTeX will be shown.

However, coming soon is a feature that enables entering delimited LaTeX almost anywhere you can enter text in canvas, and Canvas will recognize it and load MathJaX. You'll hopefully see that in beta at the end of the week.

With respect to variables, if they are defined, then MathJax will do the right thing.  For example

$$\newcommand\x{30} \sqrt{\x}$$

will display as the square root of 30.

I hope that helps.

Community Member

@peytoncraighill@eschiebel  I'm a developer relatively new to Canvas who is migrating an Algebra course so am working out various accessibility issues we are encountering around equations placed using the Canvas equation editor (esp. advanced equation expressions, like stacked equations aligned by operator, written in LaTeX).

What was mentioned in a post above about the LaTeX expression being brought in as the alt text is on my list of unexpected things I've encountered. Copying excerpt from Peyton Craighill's post for reference:

• Math in new RCE. We plan to expand our use of a library called MathJax in the new RCE to ensure that the math equations we render are easier to work with and more screen reader friendly than what we currently offer to people using the math editor. The current math editor outputs an image of an equation with alt text describing the image in LaTeX formatting, which is less-than-awesome for everybody working with that equation. To improve this situation, we plan to use MathJax to render math equations created in the math editor as MathML.

From what I can glean, the new RCE is launched, and the old one retired, for every installation of Canvas. What is the status of the update, where the LaTeX will no longer be pulled in as the alt text? I'm asking because I'm still seeing this happening.

Also, is there any reason I shouldn't change the LaTeX alt text to standard alt text, or does the equation editor place the LaTex in there for a reason I don't know of?

Community Member

MathJAX is built into Canvas now so you no longer see equations rendered as images, everything is MathML and accessibility is built in. Instructure done great in this area!

Community Member

Adam, I'm not sure if you comment is in response to my posting or not, but what I'm specifically wondering about is why the LaTeX is pulled as alt text for equations built using the Canvas math editor. Is this expected behavior? I wouldn't have noticed it if it were not for the Canvas "accessibility checker" flagging the longer LaTeX expression as being above 120 characters.

We are actually having issues with the math reading correctly in Chrome, despite the assistance of MathJax to compensate for what Chrome doesn't support w/MathML. I am planning to make another post about this but will mention the issue also here, since it is connected to my curiosity about LaTeX being in the alt text. NVDA (and I think Jaws is doing this too--I don't test w/Jaws but another tester for us does)--anyway, when the screen reader hits the math it reads through twice. The first time is nearly unusable/incoherent because it will read incorrectly (ex. "1/2" will read as "12" and some operators are ignored; the number of lines for stacked equations is not announced, there aren't pauses at the end of lines in stacked equations, etc. BUT, the second reading, which happens right after the first, is perfect! So essentially, the math is accessible, because the information is there, but it's awful that screen reader users have to "wait for it".

I'm trying to figure out why this double reading is happening so was trying to determine what is triggering the first, incorrect reading. I thought at first it was related to math written in LaTeX in the Canvas equation editor (and explored if this LaTeX alt text issue was somehow confusing things) but turns out it is also happening to MathML expressions brought in from another source and just pasted into the source code.

So in Chrome, the math is read two times. (In Firefox, it reads perfectly but Chrome is the default/target browser for this project.)

There is also the issue of the screen reader saying "clickable" before every math instance, but I'm not concerned about this if everything else would read correctly.

Is there anyone out there who can shed light on any of these issues?