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mwade
Community Participant

Idea System Broken?

I would like to propose that the Canvas Idea system for feature requests is broken.

There are 321 items that have been voted over 100 by canvas admins and are in the "no man's land" called "product radar." There are only 120 items that have made it into Canvas. That's only 1 in 4 requests that have actually seen the light of day.

Here are some observations:

  • Many ideas get lots of votes only to get shelved as not important by the development team. It makes one ask why they bothered to go through all the work to not be taken seriously? It feels more like a scam to make us feel like we are being listened to when in fact there is little change of the idea seeing the light of day.
  • If traffic is low during this time of year and an idea will likely not get 100 votes for that reason, it's broken. This sets an impossible standard to achieve. This is the second time we've faced this with an idea? Again, why bother if there is little chance of the idea seeing the light of day. Sadly, simply lowering the threshold will not improve the likelihood that an feature request will make it to production.

It leaves me wondering, does Instructure really listen or is this system just a bunch of red tape to tie things up and make it difficult to get issues fixed or improved? - Canvas team, please don't get defensive on this. I'm sure your intentions are pure, but the realities on our end may be providing a different result than your intentions.

Again, I propose that the entire idea/feature request system is broken. If there really are limited resources for development, Instructure needs a better way process their customer suggestions.

canvas idea feature idea #feature ideas
115 Replies
kmeeusen
Community Coach
Community Coach

Hi  @mwade  

Actually, the Community Managers just finished a complete overhaul of the Feature Idea process, and you can learn more at Changes are here: New feature idea processes went live Friday! (2/24/17) 

It leaves me wondering, does Instructure really listen or is this system just a bunch of red tape to tie things up and make it difficult to get issues fixed or improved?

This leads to what I really want to tell you about, Project Khaki 2017 that 40 of us from the Community were very pleased to have participate in last week. Essentially, 40 Community members that had a nice mix of K12, HE, Admins, Faculty and Instructional Designers were flown to Salt Lake City to decide how apx. 1/10th of Instructure's product development budget would be spent, and what it would be spent on. Working from 50 top-voted feature ideas, we weaned this list down to 12 projects that would be developed over the next 6 - 18 months. We sat down with Instructure Engineers and members of the product team to hash things out. This was a considerable expense by Instructure to do exactly what it says it does - place the users first!

Also, you said,

If traffic is low during this time of year and an idea will likely not get 100 votes for that reason, it's broken. 

With more than 160,000 members in the Canvas Community, there hardly seems a time when traffic is low. Yes, there are times when it is "lower" (Summer), but that is only relative to the normal volumes, and still quite high.

Finally..............

There are 321 items that have been voted over 100 by canvas admins and are in the "no man's land" called "product radar." There are only 120 items that have made it into Canvas. That's only 1 in 4 requests that have actually seen the light of day.

I personally have used 4 different LMSs in my career, and none of them let me request features in any organized manner, and "1 in 4" would have been a delusional pipe dream if we did ask for something.

Check out the new Feature Idea process, and I think you will be pleased with how it is now organized around themes that better reflect the Canvas process development priorities, how much more direct the Product Development Team's participation and feedback is, and how much better Community members are able to track and participate in the process of making feature ideas a reality.

Kelley

tdelillo
Community Champion

 @mwade  - I have also had these moments of frustration over the last 5 years, watching feature ideas that seemed (a) important, and (b) simple get pushed into the archives. But a whole lot of them have actually come to fruition!

I second  @kmeeusen 's remark about other LMSs not even giving us a forum or a voice, although I only have one to compare Canvas to. I have also come to understand and appreciate how difficult it is for Canvas to prioritize changes and updates. The openness of the Community means a lot of varied voices - K12, Higher Ed, Admins, Faculty, Students, even other vendors - are competing for attention.

Canvas is definitely listening. In fact, I think that a lot of the ideas that get shelved are viewed just as passionately by Canvas staff as they're viewed by us, but complexity intrudes. I can't tell you how many conversations I've had with Canvas folks at InstructureCon or elsewhere, that end with "I really wish, but this would break that and that and that". Add to that the "If we do this for [niche market], it's going to REALLY mess things up for [other niche market]".

I think the recent changes to the process will equalize things a little better, and make it more apparent what's truly on the radar.

laurakgibbs
Community Champion

Hi  @mwade ! I can definitely here where you are coming from, in the sense that the feature request part of the Community is the most confusing, and I find myself gravitating more towards discussions (like the one you started here!). The first feature request I got really involved in was the course card color overlay which seemed like it should be such a simple fix, but it's still ongoing... argh!

https://community.canvaslms.com/ideas/6521-remove-colour-overlay-from-course-cards-that-have-an-imag... 

So, yes, it can be frustrating, but I would also echo what Kelley and Tracey said already. I was at the Khaki event last week that Kelley described, and it was exciting to realize that some projects, including some really difficult requests, were going to move forward because users voted on them. We did get to make those choices... and it was hard to choose; there are so many different ways a tool like Canvas could and even should be developed, and there are so many different user needs! So, yes, some people had also experienced frustration because those ideas had been proposed a year or two years ago, or maybe even longer ago, and hey are just now getting development funding. And some ideas people really wanted did not make the cut. But that whole process was possible only because of ideas people have shared here over the past two years, and that motivates me to keep on sharing here into the future; it couldn't have happened if people had not brought their ideas to the table in the first place.

My school just switched to Canvas after 10 years on D2L, and D2L was never interested in faculty opinions about anything (maybe they were responsive to sysadmin feedback; I don't know about that). Overall I found D2L to be pretty useless for my purposes. So, as a result, I'm an "LMS minimalist." I use very few features, and I rely on the LMS only for things that need to be secure and password-protected, like the Gradebook. For everything else in my courses, I've gotten used to the idea that I need to solve my own problems... after all, I need solutions NOW, not a year from now or two years from now. I'm not very patient in general, especially when it comes to something important for my students.

With Canvas, though, I am more hopeful: unlike D2L, I really think Canvas really does care about my user experience as a faculty member, and about my students' experience with the software. I see that by the existence of this Community and the support that Canvas gives to the Community, like from our great community managers. And here's why I think the feature system is not really broken: every time someone proposes a new feature, it can be the occasion for a really good discussion.

* I learn new things when people ask for new features. My knowledge of Canvas is pretty limited, and I really enjoy seeing the features people request. Because of my minimal use of Canvas, the feature requests help me ramp up my knowledge of what Canvas can and cannot do.

* I love how Community members propose workarounds and hacks that can help people accomplish their goals even if the absence of the requested feature. That is so cool! After all, the feature is not the goal... so if people can share information, not just about the feature they want, but WHY they want it, well, there are often lots of ways to get to that goal, using external tools or finding a weird hack of an existing feature that will work.

* Connecting with other people is powerful. There are some people with really deep knowledge of Canvas who participate here at the Community and, as you get to know them, you'll figure out who will be able to help you up in all kinds of ways. Even though I don't use Canvas extensively, I have gotten help here from Community members that has improved my technical skills especially with web design along with my knowledge of online tools and how to use them both inside and outside of Canvas.

So, I definitely understand your frustration, but I do feel like time spent here at the Community is time well spent. That's why I spend a lot of time here, ha ha: I learn new things every day, and that means I have more to offer to my students, and also more to offer here at the Community.

If there is some specific obstacle you are facing in your use of Canvas, definitely start up a discussion about that and see if the collective wisdom has anything to offer. Even if Canvas doesn't have the feature you are looking for, maybe there is a good way to work around that, so that you can at least get the job done. I sometimes call myself the "Queen of Kludge" because I've been teaching online since 2002, back when there were way fewer tools than there are now, but somehow it was also possible to make the learning happen. Anyway, I'm always willing to try to brainstorm a solution to any teaching problem. Sometimes you even find a solution that works better than the feature you were looking for to begin with. 

P.S. If I were to suggest one way to improve the Feature Request process, I guess I would require everybody to do a discussion FIRST in order to refine their idea... and then move it on to Feature Request after a really good discussion. The discussion is the really valuable part IMO, and it's better to have the discussion take place IN a Discussion space since Feature Requests do get shunted off into Cold Storage eventually, but Discussions remain available for people to return to and consult whenever they want in the future.

James
Community Champion

 @kmeeusen 

I believe it was billed as 20%, but it was am ambiguous statement, so it might work out to be 10%. It was "20% of our Canvas engineering capacity we've allocated to your priorities for the next 6 months." The absence of "that" before "we've" might make it read as 20% of what we've dedicated to your priorities gets picked by you (so, if they've decided to dedicate 5% of the engineering to our priorities, then it would be 1% of the overall capacity). If, on the other hand, it was typical human-speak where we don't say all of the words and the "that" was just left off but implied, then it could have meant that they've dedicated 20% of their engineering to our priorities.

Either way, it's a big deal with a substantial amount of money thrown into the day and the process.

Hey  @James ,

Just to clarify; 20% of the total Canvas engineering budget will be dedicated to the features chosen as part of Khaki, work to be completed over the course of 12 calendar months.

SD

James
Community Champion

Thanks for providing the definitive answer,  @scottdennis 

laurakgibbs wrote:

P.S. If I were to suggest one way to improve the Feature Request process, I guess I would require everybody to do a discussion FIRST in order to refine their idea... and then move it on to Feature Request after a really good discussion. The discussion is the really valuable part IMO, and it's better to have the discussion take place IN a Discussion space since Feature Requests do get shunted off into Cold Storage eventually, but Discussions remain available for people to return to and consult whenever they want in the future.

I think this is a brilliant idea. I have seen several feature ideas that had very minimal information regard the specifics of what is wanted. I know that the Canvas folks are good about pointing to the guide for how to write a good feature request, but it seems that many do not fully flesh out their idea.

It could be very beneficial if there was a better way to engage the community into a discussion to flesh out the ideas prior to submitting it for a voting period.

Thank you,  @mjennings ‌! And yes, I see that sometimes too, kind of "drive-by feature requests" where people will put up a feature request without really developing it or getting feedback from others first. Given the huge range of Canvas users and the different ways that they use Canvas, getting feedback from others is almost certain to improve any feature request.

Doing the feature request sometimes seems like putting the cart before the horse: it's better to define the PROBLEM first (the vocabulary they used at Khaki was all about "user stories" and "pain points"), and then go about thinking what kind of Canvas feature might help solve that problem.

I think that vocabulary of user stories and pain points comes from Agile development which they use at Instructure...? I'm more familiar with Design Thinking approaches, and there seems to be a lot of overlap between Agile and Design Thinking. I found this helpful article at Medium:

How to combine Design Thinking and Agile in practice

https://medium.com/startup-study-group/

dhulsey
Community Champion

So,  @kmeeusen ‌, can you share what features Khaki 2017 chose to make reality? If it has been posted here on the community, I missed it. Smiley Sad 

I am hoping some communications features made it on the list. Smiley Happy