Batch Group Management

(17)

Currently Canvas only allow manual Group creation and member assignment. This idea is about to provide Teacher ability to create course Groups, assign group members via batch .csv upload, so course Groups and group membership can be managed in a more efficient way. It will save lots of time for large courses with hundreds of students enrolled.  group‌group-creation

This idea has been developed and deployed to Canvas

For more information, please read through the Canvas Deploy Notes (2020-10-21) - Canvas Community .

48 Comments
tpavlic
Community Participant

We have courses of 400 with sections of 100 and groups within those sections... Canvas simply does not scale to this size. So much extra work to do something that was easy to organize in a spreadsheet and import in Blackboard! I'm still not sure why our university switched from Blackboard to Canvas...

gasstationwitho
New Member

The group management facilities in Canvas are terrible.  Even the simplest tasks seem designed to require 1000s of clicks.  For example, I have a lab with two sections that meet at different times.  I want to pair up students randomly for the 5 labs (differently for each lab with no repeated pairs) while respecting the section boundaries.

I could write a program to do this (with lots of bells and whistles even) in about an hour, but there is no way to get the results back into Canvas without 1000s of mouse clicks.  Uploading an assignment of students to a groups in a group set should be a one click action!

This is insane!

gasstationwitho
New Member

The workaround I used was to assign students to groups with an external program, then post the results on a class-only bulletin board and have the students sign up for the groups.  This is far from ideal:

  • posting the students' email addresses may run into problems with FERPA, thought the board is supposed to be secure enough to be FERPA-compliant
  • incompetent students sign up for the wrong group, and I have to move them manually when someone who was supposed to be in the group discovers it
  • many students take a long time to sign up for the group, and some may end up submitting assignments before they or their partner join a group.

Uploading and downloading records seems like something that should have been done *FIRST* before all the badly written group interfaces were even designed.

stelpstra
Community Champion

Hi  @lisa_li1 ‌, perhaps these free tools can be helpful while your idea has not yet been developed:

Trying it first in your test or beta environment will prevent your students to receive new group membership notifications.

tpavlic
Community Participant

The existence of these community-generated, API-based hacks seem to have the side effect of reducing pressure on Instructure to build a competitive LMS out of the box. At my university, API-based interaction with Canvas is viewed by our technology office as a privacy lability because the API keys provide a way to access student information outside of the normal authentication process. Consequently, it is their view that faculty should not be using these calls, and so these hacks aren't a realistic option.

stelpstra
Community Champion

Hi  @tpavlic ‌, any tool (either paid for or open source) should be checked thoroughly on security and privacy issues prior to use. Applications similar to TCPView could help monitor in- and outgoing traffic from applications. Our university also has a whitelisting procedure for this. Maybe you are right about the influence of these community generated hacks on the roadmap of Canvas, but I doubt that looking at this Top 10% By Vote list with (sometimes too obvious) ideas submitted years ago with now hundreds or even more than a thousand votes still unaddressed. I know many people in the Canvas Community who have lost faith in the feature idea process because of this. For those who cannot wait and for institutions who do not have the development resources available, these community driven tools will enable them to do the work that needs to be done, where the focus is the educational process and not the improvement of a software product.

Regarding the resources I shared, the code of the applications is protected to ensure that no one can access the token entered in the application. If people are interested in the code, I am more than happy to share the code, but never ever the password to the code.

maguire
Community Champion

The API accesses are logged - so there is still the same accountability as for interaction via the web user interface. Token-based API access has the same permissions as the user who generated the access token. In the end, it comes down to trusting those with access to not abuse it. At the same time faculty must have access to the relevant information in order to be able to carry out their assigned duties.

As   @stelpstra   has pointed out, an advantage of having API based access is that faculty or other developers can actually make the tools that are necessary to enable the faculty to be able to carry out their duties. In this way, one is not limited to the tools that are provided by a single supplier.  Locally the administration of the university where I am a faculty member is working on specifying a formal process for getting LTI applications evaluated and approved for use either in a specific course or more widely.

embleton
Community Participant

with typical class sizes of 80-300, the current manual drag-drop group assignment is VERY cumbersome given that can only see about 10-12 groups on screen. Literally have to START making groups at #60 and create them in reverse order to drag students in (or create all the groups then right click to assign each student to a group.) There must be more efficient uses of instructor time!

Jess_M
Community Participant

This would be a brilliant addition!

I'm currently manually splitting a 200+ group of students into two groups for an exam. A batch add would be amazing!!! 

i_w16
New Member

This would be really nice if it also included a way to sort or filter students by section. It's RIDICULOUS that you can't do that already.

bschmidt3
Community Member

This wood be so helpful. We create groups each term and the drag and drop manual feature is incredibly time consuming. 

tpavlic
Community Participant

I completely agree. Having said that, I wanted to point out something that took me at least a semester to notice. As an alternative to dragging and dropping, you can click on the menu tied to each student in the list of un-assigned students and select a group for them to join. In some cases, this is much nicer than dragging and dropping (and yet still not a replacement for batch-group management that is currently only possible using the API).

Tangential note: Recently, the "New Gradebook" has added a group filter. Find it in the "View" menu (if I recall correctly) and "Filters." The "Group" filter allows you to view one group at a time. In the past, I created a dummy non-graded column with group ID's in it and sorted by that column to group students into their groups in the gradebook. I still do that, but the group filter is often quicker than sorting and scrolling.

tpavlic
Community Participant

I'm not arguing against API-based approaches. I just hope that people continue to put pressure on Canvas to build this feature into the main codebase where it belongs. The API-based approaches are only going to be appropriate for a small minority of faculty using the tool, even if university's provide a formal process for allowing API-based tools.

tmalone2
Community Participant

This is a wonderful request. Please add soon.

silja_paymer
Community Member

3 years later, I want to vote for this again!

The manual dropping of kids into each group is rough when you have 5 periods with 10 groups each!!!

mrwnphs
Community Member

With Zoom breakout rooms, it would be so nice, if we could create a group file and import it into Canvas and Zoom and then have Canvas groups that match the Zoom breakout room groups.  Wouldn't that be lovely?

mclean
Community Participant

I would absolutely vote for this… if I could figure out how to vote.  Does the idea management system no longer involve voting?

RobDitto
Community Champion

@mclean instead of votes, this new version of the Canvas Community uses star ratings for idea conversations. (Votes prior to the migration appear to be tracked as "Kudos").

For an illustrated guide, see How do idea conversations work in the Canvas Community? .

mclean
Community Participant

Thanks @RobDitto .  Wow, an astonishingly poor interface.  No indication that those stars are for my input, no visual feedback when I click on them.  Numerous people have left comments without giving a star rating—pretty much says it all.

willmoin
Community Participant

We need this