Academic Technology - Florida State College at Jacksonville

Academic Technology

Canvas New Feature Releases: October 19

Canvas Releases, LMSRobyn Reese

Instructure will perform its monthly release of new features to Canvas on Saturday, October 19. This is a part of the regular process by which Canvas provides new features to all of its users on the third Saturday of every month, without interrupting access to the system. More information about how Canvas releases work can be found here. Now, let’s look at this month’s change!

Instructor’s View of the Course Navigation Menu

The most visible change that will be coming to Canvas in October will affect the teacher’s view of the left-side course navigation menu. Currently, instructors can tell which navigation items are visible to students by looking the the color of the text—words in dark grey are visible to students, while the light grey links are only available in the teacher’s view. This is shown on the left side of the image below.

After Canvas is updated on October 19, the coloring and behavior of the side navigation will change so that ALL of the course navigation links appear in the same blue font, with the exception of the page that the user is currently viewing (the current page will be black with a line to the left of it). This is shown below in the image to the right, and note that there is also an eye with a slash through it next to some of the links. This indicates that this link is not visible to students in the course, but is still accessible to the instructor. Remember that the basic content areas in Canvas can be hidden from the student, based upon instructor preference, but they always appear in the instructor view so that they can be used easily.

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This change was made to improve the accessibility of Canvas for users who may have trouble viewing low-contrast web pages, and does not change the function of the page at all, but only its look.

Change to Gradebook Post Icons

While the “eye” icon is now coming to the course navigation to indicate items that students cannot see, instructors will be seeing FEWER eyes in the grade book, since the second portion of this month’s update brings a change to the way that information about grade posting policies is recorded and displayed.

Grade posting refers to the ability of instructors to make choices about when and how their grades become visible to students. Teachers have the option to set a posting policy for all grades in a course by using the gear in the top right-hand corner of the Canvas grade book. There are two options for grade posting—one can either allow all students to see their grades as soon as they are entered (called an automatic posting policy) or delay the appearance of grades until the instructor manually releases them (called a manual posting policy).

Canvas has been working on fine-tuning its method of dealing with grade posting throughout the fall, and this month’s release brings a change to the way that the status of each assignment is noted in the column header. Whereas in the past, red or black eyes helped you to understand the post status of a specific assignment, now a combination of eye icons and text provides more descriptive posting status notes.

The three columns below illustrate three scenarios that you might see in your Canvas grade book, based on the “post” status of your assignments. The Week 4 and Week 6 Activities below are currently set to a manual post policy, indicated by the “MANUAL” label to the right of the point value. Week 4 has been released, while Week 6 is still hidden from the students, indicated by the eye icon in the top left of the assignment description cell. The word MANUAL reflects the set posting policy for the assignment, while the eye icon indicates its current visibility. When this activity is released for student viewing, then the eye will disappear, indicating that the assignment is visible to the students. The Week 3 Activity contains no notation, indicating that is assignment was set up with an automatic posting policy, thus the students are allowed to view the grades as soon as they are entered.

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Private Chat Restriction in Conferences

Canvas Conferences (also known as Big Blue Button), allows users to communicate via microphone, webcam, screen share, and chat. While all of these things have their own use cases, it can be difficult for instructors to manage all of the feature sets while also conducting an engaging lesson. The “Lock Viewers” menu in Conferences allows instructors to restrict participants from using features of the Conference interface, as shown below. As of October 19, instructors will have the ability to restrict private chat from student to student within Canvas Conferences while still allowing students to participate in the group chat or open a private chat with the instructor. This prevents the existence of back channel chats between students that might be distracting to them or detrimental to the learning environment.

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Questions about these new features? Please reach out to the Educational Technology Team by emailing EdTech@fscj.edu.