Canvas and Mobile Apps

One of the reasons that WCU chose Canvas was for the shift in student engagement and consumption of media using mobile devices.  The best way to design your courses is, of course, using your computer, but your students will appreciate efforts to make the course more engaging, immediate, and easy to access. 

Canvas has two apps for smart devices, the Canvas Student App, and the Canvas Teacher App. As an instructor, you will use the teacher app most of the time.  It will allow you to do many of the things that you can do in the full web-browser but will be more accessiblePilot faculty report that using the Speed-grader function on their tablets is especially convenient. With the Teacher app you can keep track of the progress of your course and interact with students. 

Most instructors will also want to download the Canvas Student App if only for the fact that when the Teacher app is accessing a common element with both Apps, it will open the student app to give the most accurate representation of the student’s view. 

At WCU, the Panopto video storage and streaming platform is also integrated into Canvas and for full video functionality both you and your students should download the Panopto app. In the same manner downloading, installing, and logging into your Microsoft Outlook App, the Microsoft Teams App, and the Microsoft OneDrive App will add even more functionality to both of your Canvas Apps. 

Canvas Teacher App

Canvas Teacher App

Canvas ToDo List

Canvas ToDo List

Settings in the Canvas App


Canvas Speedgrader on IPad or Tablet

Canvas SpeedGrader on IPad or Tablet 


App Capabilities and Limitations 

With the Canvas Teacher App, You Can:

    • View Your Course Materials 
    • Email Students 
    • Email Photos and Audio Clips to Your Students from Your Phone
    • Do basic grading of Assignments, Quizzes, Tests and Discussions 
    • Add simple text pages to existing Canvas modules 
    • Create spontaneous non-graded group discussions 

Your students can use the App to:

    • Send and reply to course messages 
    • Record and submit short audio and video clips to discussions and assignments 
    • Attach files to discussions and assignments from devices and from OneDrive (if installed) 
    • Take quizzes (low stakes – will not work with Respondus Lockdown or Monitor)

Meeting students where they live often encourages deeper engagement with subject matter.

In Canvas you can encourage the use of mobile apps to help the students:

  • Remain engaged with your course and activities 
  • Get reminders of due dates and upcoming meetings 
  • Access course material in a variety of environments 
  • Remain more organized and use their time and resources wisely 

While the basic Canvas layout and the full use of Canvas tools like the calendar, the syllabus tool, and modules will help make your Canvas course more mobile friendly, there are ways to improve it more.  A travel or experiential learning class, for example, might want to adjust all the online material in such a way that it could all be accomplished on cell phones. 

Canvas has a special guide for optimizing courses for mobile work. 

We also urge faculty to use caution when using the app to build courses.  It is best to start on a full computer browser.  The app does not allow you to create quizzes or exams, to add graded discussions, to create a module or group, or to create or modify a rubric


Download and Install the Canvas Teacher App on Your Phone and/or Tablet iPhone/iPad, Android
Download and Install the Canvas Student App on Your Phone and/or Tablet iPhone/iPad, Android
Download and Install the Newest Panopto App on Your Phone and/or Tablet iPhone/iPad, Android
Download and Install the Newest MS Outlook App on Your Phone and/or Tablet iPhone/iPad, Android
Download and Install the Newest Microsoft Teams App on Your Phone and/or Tablet iPhone/iPad, Android

Encourage your students to download the Student App, the Panopto App, the Zoom and/or MS Teams App, and the OneDrive app for full functionality. 

Banerjee, Robert. The Effect of Mobile Apps on Academic Success. (2019, March 7). EdTech Digest

How does this align to Canvas training materials?

Canvas logoPriming the Canvas: Module 6 “Structuring the Course”


Additional Resources:

Our next article will highlight Rubrics in Canvasvisit Canvas Blog to see all our Canvas articles. 

How to Release Content Conditionally in Canvas

Would you like to require students to participate in a discussion, view a file, or some other prerequisite before moving forward in your Canvas course? Faculty who enjoyed Blackboard’s adaptive release tool will be pleased with what Canvas offers, as it’s easier to use, and more flexible. 

 You have multiple ways to release content conditionally: 

  • By date and time 
  • By requiring completion of another module, in its entirety 
  • By requiring students view a file, or mark it as done 
  • By requiring students participatin a discussion 
  • By requiring students to submit an assignment 
  • By requiring a performance threshold on a submitted assignment  

It’s recommended that you build a module or two before configuring the conditional release settings. However, we encourage you texperiment with the tool at any time, as it opens up ideas for how you can design and facilitate your course.   


To Get Started:  

Go into a Canvas course, navigate to your Modules page, and click the three dots, as shown below, to edit the module. The settings will appear on the page. 

Kebob menu

 Module Conditional Release Settings: 

edit module settings popup window

An Instructure-developed video provides a walk-through on setting up the settings. You’ll need to navigate to the two-minute mark for the demonstration on module settings.

When you set up prerequisite modules, students must complete a module before moving to the next module.

For each module, you can only set prerequisite modules that come before a specific module. You may need to reorder modules to create correct prerequisite availability.

Please note that you cannot prevent a student from accessing an upcoming module unless requirements have also been set for the prior modules. Requirements indicate the order that students are required to complete module items.

Note: You can only add prerequisites if you have added at least one module.

How does this align to Canvas training materials?

Canvas logoPriming the Canvas: Module 6 “Structuring the Course”


Additional Resources: 

Our next article will highlight Gradebook & Speedgradervisit Canvas Blog to see all our Canvas articles. 

Discussions in Canvas

The Canvas’ Discussions Feature – How does it Fare? 

Of all Blackboard tools, the Blackboard Discussion Board may be the most utilized by instructors and students. Many faculty rely on the discussion board as a central aspect of their teaching and learning strategy, for icebreakers, the deep dive, and debates.  

As we move towards Canvas, and away from Blackboard, what kinds of differences can we expect? Does Canvas’ discussions function the same? What implications do these differences have for our design and facilitation? 

This post explores what faculty can and should prepare for, as it relates to this one central aspect of digital teaching. Let’s start with the functionality we can all expect to see. 


Functionality Gained in Canvas 

With Canvas, instructors can require peer review of discussion posts. 

Instructors looking to assign students to small groups for student-to-student learning opportunities will appreciate this feature. 

Instructors can easily view/filter posts within a discussion through a word search. 

This may be useful if you need to zero in on students’ use of a word, concept, discussed in the prompt, after all students have posted. Could be useful in large class/sections, too. 

There are easier controls for managing notifications, seeing new updates, etc. 

Students can subscribe to a discussion with ease, be notified on their phone or email of any new updates, and student-created discussions automatically set up these notifications. 

Instructors can organize discussions into their proper Assignment Groups easily during the discussion creation process.

Do you ever find that you need an ad hoc discussion in the middle of a semester? Creating a spontaneous discussion and including their posts as part of their overall grade is possible with this feature. 



Functionality Maintained in Canvas 

Instructors will maintain the ability to link to external content (e.g. videos, attachments, etc.) 

Canvas Discussions, like Blackboard Discussions, don’t live in a vacuum – they are connected to other content you find out on the web, as well as your own instructional content or instructions (such as Panopto videos and Office365 files. 

Instructors can still require that students post before seeing other students’ posts. 

Instructors can still ask students to edit, delete, or start their post over again. 



Functionality Lost in Canvas 

A student’s ability to edit and delete their own discussion posts can only be set on a course-wide basis rather than being set per discussion. 

This may have significant implications for instructors and their courses. While instructors can ask students to edit, delete, and then start a new post, enabling this will allow this behavior to all course discussions. 

You cannot set a minimum number of required posts before activity shows as needing grading. 

This may have been important if you used that “flagging feature” in the Blackboard Grade Center as a prompt to grade student work. 

A student’s ability to attach items to discussion posts can only be set on a course-wide basis rather than being set per discussion. 

There is no equivalent to Blackboard’s “force moderation of posts.” 

This means that student posts are posted without any moderation from faculty (Blackboard had the ability to prevent publishing of posts until faculty had reviewed the content…Canvas has no such equivalent feature). 

Instructors cannot allow anonymous posting in ungraded discussions. 



For instructors ready to dig deeper, there are two helpful resources to get faculty thinking, planning, and integrating discussions into their summer and fall 2021 courses. Canvas publishes an instructor guide on discussions and a student guide. Instructors looking for new ideas for engagement can also peruse the Priming with Canvas course, developed by the Coulter Faculty Commons. 



How does this align to Canvas training materials?

Canvas logoPriming the Canvas: Module 4 “Active and Interactive Learning” and Module 12.2 “Teaching Online: Communicating with Your Students” 


Additional Resources: 

Our next article will highlight How to release content conditionally in Canvasvisit Canvas Blog to see all our Canvas articles.