Temporary Enrollment Pairing: A flexible workflow for scheduling ephemeral access to Canvas

The content in this blog is over six months old, and the comments are closed. For the most recent product updates and discussions, you're encouraged to explore newer posts from Instructure's Product Managers.

jpoulos
Instructure Alumni
Instructure Alumni
33
6064

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Introduction

Education Institutions are experiencing an unprecedented shortage of teachers across the globe (source). When teachers take leave, or get sick, giving “substitute” teachers (a United States centric term for temporary teachers) short-term/temporary access to Canvas so that they can better provide for student needs is either difficult or impossible for some institutions. It is so difficult that some are simply not giving Subs access to Canvas at all. Others are providing “loaner” accounts to their substitutes with limited Admin roles that allow them to access courses; doing so has difficult implications for privacy and security. More resource-empowered institutions are able to use API’s, SIS imports, or even 3rd party products to manage these situations, but doing so adds operational costs.  While Instructure cannot solve the teacher shortage, we can reduce the impact of temporary teacher absence on admins, teachers, substitutes, and students by removing barriers that prevent substitutes from teaching more effectively. To begin solving this, we have designed and implemented an entirely new enrollment workflow called “Temporary Enrollment Pairing”. We recognize that Canvas is the hub of teaching and learning, and giving easier access to the learning environment for temporary instruction helps broaden its impact on learners.

Feature Overview

Note: this feature is subject to change as we learn more about how Admins interact with it.

 

This feature allows authorized Admins to quickly share all or some enrollments from a “Provider” to a “Recipient”, with the ability to schedule when enrollment should begin and end, and what role the Recipient should receive. Once established, “Temporary Enrollment Pairings” can be viewed and managed (edited/deleted) as a group of enrollments.

 

For more detail on the specifics of the workflow, refer to the release notes.

User Research and Design Choices

When we initially explored this area for improvement, we interviewed numerous institutions to understand their daily challenges in managing access for short-term staff. These conversations involved Canvas administrators worldwide, across K-12 and Higher Education sectors. Our research led to some significant insights::

  • Regional Terminology Variation: How different regions refer to a short-term teacher varies by region. We found US based educators used the term “Substitute”, while other regions used terms like “supply teacher” and “relief teacher”.
  • Higher Education Practices: As we discussed this problem with groups outside of K-12, we learned that when a teacher is absent, other full-time staff members would sometimes be responsible for running lectures (this was particularly more common in Higher Education).
  • Diverse Ephemeral Needs: There were other needs for ephemeral access beyond simply short-term teachers. For example, student teachers (professionals learning to teach) would often need to “shadow” specific teachers for a specific duration of time. At-risk or special needs students would sometimes need their mentor/counselor to have access to their courses to help them.
  • Administrative Staff Responsibilities: A variety of different administrative staff were expected to enroll temporary instructors, and most of the time they were Admins of some type.
  • Staff Absence Volume: Some institutions/districts might have up to 10-15 staff missing in a single day.
  • Efficiency Requirement: If the process takes too long, it won’t be useful.
  • Permission Levels for Temporary Staff: Most admins wanted to give temporary staff read-only permission, but many others did not.

 

It became clear that while the core problem was getting coverage for absent teachers, our discoveries also included many other needs for temporary access within Canvas. The management approaches, assignment of roles to short-term participants, and the language to describe these processes show considerable variation.

 

 These findings all became factors in the design choices that we made when trying to solve this problem. Ultimately, we needed a flexible and simple workflow to make the most significant impact.

Roadmap and Future

As with any new feature or product, we are committed to ensuring that the user experiences that we deliver are the best they can be. We will continue to listen and observe as this new feature is used to identify improvements to make it even better. We encourage submissions to Feature Ideas related to this feature and any other product to help in this regard. We already have a short-list of smaller improvements (such as reporting and SIS import functionality) that we hope to roll out throughout the next year.

 

The content in this blog is over six months old, and the comments are closed. For the most recent product updates and discussions, you're encouraged to explore newer posts from Instructure's Product Managers.

33 Comments
chriscas
Community Coach
Community Coach

Hi @jpoulos,

Thanks for the great explanation of things here!

As a higher-ed institution admin, the concept of temporary enrollments interests me for things like an annual review or tenure processes...  We'd want to give someone access for a few weeks, then basically haver that access revoked.  As I read the release description, enrollments are concluded at the end of the temporary time period, but because we let users continue to have read-only access to concluded courses, that would mean the temporary folks would retain read-only access too.  I wish we (whoever has permission to do the temporary enrollment) could choose what status to move the user to at the end of the temporary timeframe.  Making the enrollment inactive would work well for our current setup, but I could also see some institutions wanting to just have the enrollment deleted too.

I can certainly submit a feature idea for this, but I wondered if this was something you had already heard from others and may be on an internal radar or something?

-Chris

Charles_Barbour
Community Participant

I really like this idea.

The annual review/tenure process is an interesting aspect I hadn't considered. Sounds like a potentially great fit for this workflow.

I also agree that I can see some instances in which you would not want the individual to have any access to the course after the temporary enrollment period had expired.

I did wonder what the experience would be if a temporary enrollment and an SIS enrollment overlapped.

I'm sure we've all had instances where instructors had to unexpectedly take time off or passed away mid-semester. Departments scramble to cover the most immediate class periods and needs while still coming up with a longer term plan.

In the immediate term, to just get the substitute access to the course I can see using a temporary enrollment as opposed to an admin manually adding the instructor to the course. But what would happen if the substitute instructor is actually added to the course by the registrar? I would hope/assume the SIS enrollment takes precedence but that should probably be on the testing plan (if it isn't already).

JamesSekcienski
Community Coach
Community Coach

@chriscas 

I am also concerned about the concluded state for the same reason.  To ensure the user only has access to the course during the set window of time, it would be better if we could set it to inactive after the end date.  Otherwise, we will still need to monitor for these enrollments and change their status again after the end date.

Nonetheless, I am looking forward to this feature and using it to make improvements to some of our workflows.

audra_agnelly
Community Champion

We are one of the larger institutions that have implemented solutions for long-term temporary substitute coverage through our SIS but I'll be interested to look into this feature for our short-term (we call them daily) substitutes, who currently do not get any access to Canvas courses because it's just not manageable. 

I am also very interested in this point you lifted up above:

"Diverse Ephemeral Needs: There were other needs for ephemeral access beyond simply short-term teachers. For example, student teachers (professionals learning to teach) would often need to “shadow” specific teachers for a specific duration of time. At-risk or special needs students would sometimes need their mentor/counselor to have access to their courses to help them."

We currently have staff who have dual roles in Canvas courses (teacher and observer) in order to provide the access they need to support our special education students, and other students who needs additional staff support. This causes permission issues (C4E broke for us a few weeks ago) and support's blanket response is that we shouldn't use dual roles and that we should create a second Canvas account for that other role. As an institution of 60K students we have 100s of case managers who are observers and teachers, creating and managing 2 login accounts to Canvas simply isn't an option. These staff members have permissions to see data for students on their case load apply across Canvas, our SIS, and Hoonuit, and we are not creating one login account for the teacher role in those systems and one for their case manager role. I'm more than happy to speak to someone on your team about use cases around special education and other interventionists, and the potential for other configurations outside the observer role that we've had to resort to for the 10 years we've been with Canvas.

jpoulos
Instructure Alumni
Instructure Alumni
Author

@chriscas @Charles_Barbour @JamesSekcienski @audra_agnelly I really appreciate this feedback so far! The point raised is great and it my teams and I agree; concluding the enrollment does not fit the spirit of this change and we think is more of an oversight than an intentional design. Because of this, we are planning to switch the default state for expired temporary enrollment pairings to deleted before the production release. There will be a short period in beta where they continue to be concluded after expiry, so bear that in mind as you test. As we continue development, we agree that letting the user choose what state to end the enrollment in is important, so we will be considering that as the roadmap matures. 

We're very excited to see that this feature is already getting the gears turning on how this can be used to solve day to day problems in ways that we haven't thought of. We are also interested in knowing its shortcoming in that regard.

dbrace
Community Contributor

@jpoulos

 

I am liking the sound of this new feature. I have already thought of a few situations (some of which have already been mentioned) where it will be very helpful. I do have two things that I would like to bring up.

 

1. At my institution, when I do a manual enrollment for someone that is either (a) substitute teacher (whether short-term or long-term) or (b) conducting a course review, when they no longer need that access I set their status to inactive.

I use inactive instead of deleted because I want there to be a record of the previous enrollment in the "People" area of the course and the ability to use the "Access Report" for that person within the course.

For this new functionality and the clarification/adjustment that you provided, if the default status becomes deleted when the temporary enrollment has ended, it will not be possible to see the enrollment in the "People" area of the course or refer to the "Access Report".

I would encourage you and your team to reconsider and to have the default status be inactive when the temporary enrollment has finished.

 

2. How will this relate to data feeds coming from an SIS? For example, if the substitute is added to our SIS after I have done a temporary enrollment, which enrollment will (for lack of a better term) "win"? The temporary enrollment or the data feed enrollment?

 

- Doug

ptart
Community Participant

Great feature with two tweaks:

  1. Only show active courses. Or put concluded courses at the bottom in a separate list. Trying to temporarily enroll in a concluded courses gives an error anyway. 
  2. Show the term name. We have so many courses that look identical except for the the term they are associated with. 

Side Notes:

  • Allow an option to delete or conclude the enrollment. Our preference will almost always be to delete based on our K-12 use cases. 
  • The dropdown and indentation for cross-listed courses is fantastic. Really makes sense visually.
Nancy_Webb_CCSF
Community Champion

I wish this worked for me.  First, only SIS ID works to find the recipient.  Second, only concluded courses are showing up, although sometimes only student role shows up even though it's a teacher.  Third, sometimes no courses at all show up.  When they do, they are organized by role and it doesn't show the term, also it's not a complete list.

Is that only happening to me?  Sounds like others are seeing more courses.  @dbrace , good question about how this will interact with conflicting SIS imports.

Can't wait for this to be working!  It will be so helpful for temporary enrolling of evaluators, substitutes, auditors etc.

paulamiranda
Community Participant

Our team (higher ed) has use cases for temporary enrollments that this feature has the potential to solve. Unfortunately, after escalating to Canvas L2, we learned that the expected behavior is that someone who is granted a temporary enrollment will also have read-only access to a course prior to the temporary enrollment start date/time. This was not explicitly called out in the release notes or this blog post, so I'm wondering if this really is the intended behavior? 

While it might be helpful for someone to view the course before they get full, active access, it exposes content that the instructor may not want them to have access to until the date they specified.

Below is a screenshot of what a paired user sees when they access a course prior to the start of their temporary enrollment window. Access to Zoom, for example, might not be something an instructor wants their temporarily enrolled user to have access to prior to their enrollment.

temporary-enrollment-read-only.png

Nancy_Webb_CCSF
Community Champion

Do we need to create an Idea for any changes?  

I thought I couldn't add someone in any role, but realized I can.  Yay!

 

Nancy_Webb_CCSF
Community Champion

@paulamiranda about read-only access, I just tested with a temporary enrollment in the teacher role, and when I masqueraded as the enrollee I could not see the course in Courses/All courses.  Since I had the course open in a tab, I attempted to view as the temporary teacher. My masquerade got an Access Denied message, "you do not have access to view this resource".    

Then I tested a temporary enrollment in the student role, and when I masqueraded saw what you did, that the student is allowed to view the entire course but not participate.

Seems odd that a teacher is denied access until their allowed dates, but students are not!  I don't understand why that's the plan.

 

 

Nancy_Webb_CCSF
Community Champion

I am still frequently getting a User not found error when I use email to Find a Recipient.  SIS ID works fine.  It's just an extra step to find that ID, extra work that will add up.

And I guess I'll write an idea about not having all the Provider's courses selected by default, since we rarely add someone to every course, especially those in which Provider is a student or observer. I can uncheck the role category to deselect the courses, but it would be easier to select the whole category or one course I want.  

In our school it will be an admin who uses this feature since teachers can't enroll anyone in their courses, enrollments being controlled by SIS.

dbrace
Community Contributor
JawyeiWong
Community Explorer

We have discovered, not sure if it's fad - functioning as designed - or a bug, when trying to do temporary enrolment in a sub-account as account admins from the root account, there were no enrolments to select from. However do the exact same thing from the root account and enrolments are selectable for the users.

RyanNorton
Instructure
Instructure

@dbrace Apologies for the delayed response, but it looks like you've seen we made some changes to let you select that ending workflow state based on your suggestion, thanks so much!

In the case where a SIS enrollment is set up after a temporary enrollment is set up, we would expect that the last enrollment will take precedence and "win", so in this example the SIS enrollment will be the standing enrollment for that individual.

RyanNorton
Instructure
Instructure

@ptart This is great feedback.  We shouldn't be showing concluded courses, so we'll explore if something unexpected is happening there and we'll confirm we're only showing active courses.  There's been a slight delay in responses, so this may have already been addressed!  The list you see should be active and unpublished courses.

Your recommendation of showing an identifying term name with the course is a great idea and something we're making a note of, appreciate you sharing this feedback.

RyanNorton
Instructure
Instructure

@Nancy_Webb_CCSF I'm sorry to hear about the difficulty you've had when using the email to find a recipient.  We did a little work here recently that should have improved this, can you confirm if you're still seeing some challenges with this feature that we can take a look at?

Currently as it stands we have it configured to only select courses for the Teacher role by default.  Once you have edited these selections, the next enrollment will maintain the selections from the previous enrollment.  We welcome any feedback that you have that could improve your workflow!

RyanNorton
Instructure
Instructure

@paulamiranda This is a really great callout regarding how the read-only access works before the enrollment.  This is a function of how enrollments work generally, not just temporary enrollments, but it brings up a really great use case that we'd be interested in looking into improving the experience around.

RyanNorton
Instructure
Instructure

@JawyeiWong The specified behavior is functioning as designed.  I'd love to hear your use case on this to better understand what the behavior on this could look like long-term.

Nancy_Webb_CCSF
Community Champion

@RyanNorton , thank you, it is working better.  I now rarely have to lookup their SIS ID, usually email address works fine. It's all working quite well, very useful!!

Some other ideas, maybe I should create Canvas ideas for them.

  • I would like to see "inactive" next to the enrollee name in the course's People when they don't have access.
  • It would be optimal when adding multiple people in the same role to the same course to be able to enter several email addresses at the same time, but that's probably asking for too much. 
  • Also, I currently have to use SIS files to add people to closed courses, which we do when they are allowed to copy its content for a period of time.  Would be great to be able to display and choose closed courses as an option.

 

JawyeiWong
Community Explorer

@RyanNortonIt was by accident we did this but thought it was weird that it did not work in the sub-account. We are still looking at the tool and maybe will be deploy to sub-account admins but it does not work there then we will take that into account

RyanNorton
Instructure
Instructure

@Nancy_Webb_CCSF I'm glad to hear it's working better, and thank you so much for that feedback!  I'll talk about these ideas with our team

@JawyeiWong Glad to hear this isn't disrupting any immediate flows, but we'll discuss this as well

Nancy_Webb_CCSF
Community Champion

Thank you @RyanNorton.  Do you think there's a chance that temporary enrollees will be marked "inactive" in People after their enrollment dates pass when we choose inactive as the end state?  Already had a couple of teachers asking me to remove the substitute even though they no longer have access. 

Granted we could choose to delete the enrollment rather than inactivate but we like to keep a record of who was in the class.

RyanNorton
Instructure
Instructure

@Nancy_Webb_CCSF We actually just pushed up a fix for this behavior last week.  This should be in Beta on 4/25 and Production on 5/8.  Please let us know if you're still seeing that behavior once it rolls out

Nancy_Webb_CCSF
Community Champion

Brilliant!  Thank you Ryan!  I'll put that on my calendar for testing.

Nancy_Webb_CCSF
Community Champion

@RyanNorton , one final question.  Students can't see deactivated users in People, but they could still see an inactive temporary enrollment.  Will these temporary enrollments be invisible to students in People if they are marked inactive?

I am really thrilled at how responsive you and Instructure have been on this issue!

RyanNorton
Instructure
Instructure

@Nancy_Webb_CCSF The behavior you listed is exactly what we'd expect to see, where a temporary enrollment will be invisible to students when they are marked inactive.

I'm thrilled that this has been a positive improvement for you, thanks so much for your engagement!

Nancy_Webb_CCSF
Community Champion

Hi @RyanNorton, I just checked (Apr 26) in Beta and an inactive temporary enrollment is not yet marked "inactive" in the course. Have the dates for this rollout changed?

Thanks!

RyanNorton
Instructure
Instructure

@Nancy_Webb_CCSF Thanks for following up.  We just tested this on our end and it appears to be working the way we'd expect.  Can you confirm that behavior is still showing up in Beta for you?

Screenshot 2024-04-30 at 9.13.37 AM.png

Otherwise, I want to make sure we're not misunderstanding the request.  Thanks so much!

Nancy_Webb_CCSF
Community Champion

I can see it's working in your instance, @RyanNorton.  But just checked this particular person who is listed as inactive in their user account, but in the class, People, she does not have an Inactive label.

Does this only work if the user became inactive after you made this programming change?  This user was made inactive in March.

RyanNorton
Instructure
Instructure

@Nancy_Webb_CCSF Ah, yes, that would explain it.  Unfortunately this fix would not retroactively update users before the change.

Going forward should work as expected, but for users before the change you may be able to update the previous temp enrollment pairing and save it to get it to make the change.

Nancy_Webb_CCSF
Community Champion

Ah, and backdating works if I first delete the enrollment. So, once this reaches production and we start doing new summer temporary enrollments, this should work!  Thanks!

And I confirmed that students can't see the inactive user.  So happy this is done.

RyanNorton
Instructure
Instructure

@Nancy_Webb_CCSF Really glad that works for you!  Appreciate you working with us to help us find the right state!