the tl;dr by canvas lms

A Trick-or-Treating Bag Full of Goodness

October 21, 2020 Episode 11
the tl;dr by canvas lms
A Trick-or-Treating Bag Full of Goodness
Student Assignment Enhancements—Jared Crystal
Recent History & Hackweek—Jeremy Stanley
Microsoft Partnership
Instructure Store—Scott Dennis
the tl;dr by canvas lms
A Trick-or-Treating Bag Full of Goodness
Oct 21, 2020 Episode 11

A detailed chat about CanvasCon Online 2020, the launch of the new Instructure swag store, an introduction to Instructure Hackweek and the creation of the Recent History feature, availability and updates for the Student Enhancements beta feature, and partnership news with Canvas and Microsoft.

Information about the podcast can be found in the Canvas TLDR Blog.


Canvas Release Notes (2020-10-21)

How do I view my recent page view history in Canvas as an admin?
How do I view my recent page view history in Canvas as an instructor?
How do I view my recent page view history in Canvas as a student?

Student Enhancements User Group


CanvasCon Online 2020 Sessions

Instructure Swag Store


Press Release: Instructure to Use Microsoft Teams as a Default Conferencing Tool in Canvas

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

A detailed chat about CanvasCon Online 2020, the launch of the new Instructure swag store, an introduction to Instructure Hackweek and the creation of the Recent History feature, availability and updates for the Student Enhancements beta feature, and partnership news with Canvas and Microsoft.

Information about the podcast can be found in the Canvas TLDR Blog.


Canvas Release Notes (2020-10-21)

How do I view my recent page view history in Canvas as an admin?
How do I view my recent page view history in Canvas as an instructor?
How do I view my recent page view history in Canvas as a student?

Student Enhancements User Group


CanvasCon Online 2020 Sessions

Instructure Swag Store


Press Release: Instructure to Use Microsoft Teams as a Default Conferencing Tool in Canvas

Matt Goodwin (00:07):
It's that time again for the Canvas TLDR podcast. I'm Matt Goodwin with product.

Jenn Mitchell (00:11):
I'm Jenn Mitchell with K-12 product marketing.

Ryan Lufkin (00:14):
I'm Ryan Lufkin with higher ed product marketing.

Jenn Mitchell (00:16):
We're here to share the latest and greatest in Canvas.

Ryan Lufkin (00:18):
We're talking about the why in what we build, because pandas can't.

Jenn Mitchell (00:25):
Cozy up everyone and grab your pumpkin spice lattes. It is the October edition of the Canvas TLDR podcast.

Ryan Lufkin (00:34):
It's our spookiest edition. I'm already wearing my costume.

Matt Goodwin (00:38):
What are you wearing since we can't see?

Ryan Lufkin (00:40):
Have you guys seen, you know, fat Thor from the Avengers movie? It's pretty much that except I'm bald.

Matt Goodwin (00:53):
Is this a permanent costume or...

Ryan Lufkin (00:54):
I mean, I wear, I wear it a lot of times. It's my costume. When I wear it on that day, I've never been more excited or prepared for Halloween.

Matt Goodwin (01:02):
You have a special hat or a hammer you carry around?

Ryan Lufkin (01:04):
I have a hammer. I do have—I stole it from my son. He's nine. He'll get it back after Halloween,

Jenn Mitchell (01:10):
Although we're all still working from home. Well, so this month we are talking about CanvasCon—we're going to do a wrapup that—that was last week.

Matt Goodwin (01:22):
Awesome. what else do we have? So we've got some product stuff. We're talking about assignment changes and student views that should help out with students seeing feedback and other things. As well as hackweek—we're going to talk about what hackweek is at Instructure and things we've done there.

Ryan Lufkin (01:42):
And many of you all have probably heard about the big announcement from CanvasCon which was Microsoft, a deeper Microsoft integrations. So we'll talk a little bit more about that. And then Scott Dennis will join us from the community team to talk about swag store—the only Canvas swag store.

Matt Goodwin (02:00):
Should we start trick or treating?

Jenn Mitchell (02:06):
Let's talk a little bit about the CanvasCon Online event that we had last week. It's not the InstructureCon of years past, but in the new world, it was, it was an amazing event. I'm just looking at the quick numbers we have now. We had 20—somewhere between 20 and 25,000 unique visitors join us for that event.

Ryan Lufkin (02:28):
Yeah. And it's, it's hard to do a virtual event that captures some of the magic, especially of InstructureCons of the past, but our events team did an amazing job with setting that up. But our community just did an incredible job of being involved, showing up. I think one of the coolest things you know, the silver lining of it going virtual was that we were able to reach out to so many more educators who maybe didn't have budget to travel to the physical event, but were able to join us and get involved. And it was rad. I was able I to interact with so many friends that we've missed from last year.

Matt Goodwin (03:03):
Yeah. And I think, you know, just for comparison and to—for people to understand like how big this really was, our in-person events typically have around what, 3000?

Ryan Lufkin (03:16):
About 3000 yeah...

Matt Goodwin (03:16):
3000, maybe 4,000 in person. So it's quite a few more.

Ryan Lufkin (03:24):
This year, like eight X as many people.

Jenn Mitchell (03:28):
And we did have a much larger global presence for those people that are, you know, in APAC or EMEA or LatAm. There were a lot of people that were able to join that just probably couldn't have traveled to that in-person event. So that was, that was a very cool part of the event is to have that global voice.

Ryan Lufkin (03:44):
Well, and there are so many great sessions. I mean, throughout the day, whether it was the prerecorded keynotes, the live sessions, the, you know, customer sessions, there were just so much great content across the board.

Jenn Mitchell (03:59):
Yeah. So if you weren't able to join us or if you did join us, but you want to revisit any of that content, you can, you can view it now on So the obvious crowd favorite was LaVar Burton's keynote...

Ryan Lufkin (04:15):
Everybody shed a little tear for that one.

Jenn Mitchell (04:18):
Brought back a lot of good childhood memories of Reading Rainbow and he approaches how he, he thinks of storytelling as a type of education. And I think that it resonated with everybody who watched it. We had a cool interview with Sal Khan and we had a product keynote from our Chief Product Officer, Mitch Benson, and it involved a very cool leisure suit. So I would jump in to see that.

Ryan Lufkin (04:46):
Made it all worth watching.

Matt Goodwin (04:50):
If only we could show that via podcast. I don't think that technology exists.

Ryan Lufkin (04:55):
We'd have to do a video podcast for that one.

Jenn Mitchell (04:59):
And you can do any of those again, share, send them out to your network. I think there's a lot of content about the unique ways that educators are using Canvas especially in the, you know, in the new world order. So open those, share them. I think you'll have great applications for your classes, regardless if you're teaching K-12 or higher education or RTO or further education.

Ryan Lufkin (05:24):
Yeah, that's awesome.

Matt Goodwin (05:27):
You know, unfortunately the not all of it was prerecorded and, and available uh—the live sessions. You know, I gotta be honest. I was a little worried going into CanvasCon Online how this live event portion was gonna play out. But it was actually fantastic. Very reminiscent of meeting with our customers and prospects in the product booth or product lounge at you know, Canvas or InstructureCons in years past, you know, a lot of face to face, really good conversation, great questions really fun event. Yeah.

Ryan Lufkin (06:04):
The way they set up the software, we used to allow the little round tables and building discussions. It was, it was pretty innovative. I was, I was pretty pleased with that working out.

Matt Goodwin (06:16):
You know, nothing can replace in person face to face, but this came close. It was good,

Ryan Lufkin (06:23):
But nobody dressed the evidence and put me on stage this time. So that's, you know, win! So Jenn, where do they go to get this info?

Jenn Mitchell (06:33):
Just go to If you're already registered, they should be all unlocked for you. If not, you can just register and view it all right now. They're all available.

Ryan Lufkin (06:43):
Awesome. We'll do that in the show notes as well.

Matt Goodwin (06:49):
So up next, we've got with us, Jared Crystal, who's one of our software engineers working in our assignments area of Canvas, as well as others quizzes and, and other things. And Jared's been with us for a few years now and is a fantastic person as well as a talented engineer. So we're happy to have him.

Jared Crystal (07:11):
Thanks. Happy to be here.

Matt Goodwin (07:14):
In this segment, we're going to talk about student enhancements in regards to the assignment page. So a couple of big changes, one it was available in beta up until this release. And now it's in prod the ability for an account to turn on the student view of the assignments page, which is a big—there's some, you know, some layout changes and workflow changes that I think make it a little more understandable and usable for things like instructions for an assignment, but more importantly, the feedback on that assignment and making sure that that's available easily for students to go review.

Matt Goodwin (07:57):
Um we made some modifications in that workflow that we want to highlight. We posted them in the Community, just some mockups of what we affectionately call the pizza tracker. It's kind of that status bar across the top of the assignments page after I've submitted a thing. And it kind of outlines the status of that submission. Jared, why don't you talk to us a little bit about the work that went into changes there?

Jared Crystal (08:24):
Yeah. So one of the big changes that we've made to the pizza tracker was regard to how you change which attempt you're viewing from your submission. Originally it was implemented where on either end of the pizza tracker was an arrow. And so if you navigated to the left on the pizza tracker, that it would take you to your previous attempt. And then if you wanted to go back five attempts, you'd have to click the left arrow five times and the same thing doing attempts to the right. So one of the changes we made was to pull out those buttons. So they no longer exist in the pizza tracker, but instead you can change which attempt you're doing with the dropdown. So above the pizza tracker is now a simple dropdown; it'll just show you all of the attempts that you've made for that submission. And you can easily select which, which attempt to look at instead of having to click through one by one.

Matt Goodwin (09:18):
Now this is big for a few reasons. One, like if, if we're talking about the old view for students they actually didn't have the ability to view past admissions. So that's new and that's big. But as you mentioned in the initial release, it was kind of embedded in that status bar, that pizza tracker which we found could be a little bit confusing. You know, we're, we're mixing elements of a, of a status bar with action items. And I know it doesn't seem like a big deal, but, you know, usability is important here. And maybe Jenn, you can weigh in on this topic you know, cognitive load on a page if you're looking at it where to interact, where to kind of grok information and, and where to take action. If that's too complex it can be confusing not only for users in general, but specifically, you know, our younger audience in the K-12 space. So how, how important is it for us to pay attention to details like this?

Jenn Mitchell (10:23):
Yeah, I think these changes may seem very small, but any time that you just improve the usability by just a little bit, I think in the K-12 space, especially when you have young learners who are new readers, or maybe don't have the same reading comprehension as we see, like with our higher ed folks, those changes make it so much easier for them to navigate. And we're really looking on how we can improve, especially the K-5 experience, the K-12 experience as a whole. And this is just one of those changes that are going to make it a little bit more friendly, a little easier for kids to navigate. So it's—I'd love to see these just little things that are really improving the overall experience

Matt Goodwin (11:05):
And Jared you you know, before we, we started the podcast, you'd all met—also mentioned something that's coming up additional changes with that pizza tracker. Give us, you want to give us a little sneak peek at, at what you've got in store there.

Jared Crystal (11:21):
Yeah. So in addition to moving out those arrow buttons, there was one additional button in the pizza tracker, which was the button to start a new attempt or to submit again for an assignment. And that button is also coming out to be separate so that there won't be any more interactive elements on that pizza tracker. And like you said, it'll fulfill its real purpose of being more of a status bar to track your progress. And then all of the interactive elements are pulled out into more obvious components.

Matt Goodwin (11:50):
I think that'll be awesome. Thanks for your work there and your efforts. I know there was a lot of back and forth within our team talking through kind of the workflows and the, and the user patterns for making this as easy as possible. But we also posted this in the community. We really appreciate the feedback that we heard from from the users, just based on the designs. And we were able to learn from that and implement some of those recommendations and changes. So again, thanks, thanks a lot, Jared, for joining us and looking forward to additional changes there.

Jenn Mitchell (12:29):
I'd like to welcome Jeremy Stanley to the show. We're going to be talking a little bit about Hack Week—Instructure's Hack Week, and I'm guessing Jeremy, that it's like shark week, but with fewer sharks.

Jeremy Stanley (12:43):
That's exactly right. Yes.

Jenn Mitchell (12:45):
So tell us a little bit about what hack week means.

Jeremy Stanley (12:50):
So Hack Week is a tradition we've had for a long time—I've been at Instructure a long time and it's, we—once a quarter or so we set aside a week to just let the engineers pick something to work on they think would be interesting. They've added the stipulation that it should probably be related to our line of business. So like something that's going to benefit the customer somehow, or um—and usually it's, it's something that if you know, something, we might be able to make some real progress on in a week, but also something that might not be high enough profile for like the product people to prioritize them.

Matt Goodwin (13:29):
I will say before that stipulation was put into place, we had some pretty creative hack week ideas, like like chat-controlled blinds in our building, so people wouldn't have to leave their desks to go draw the shades and things like that. So, so I do—I can see where the stipulation came in.

Ryan Lufkin (13:51):
There's also some really cool stuff that's come out the hack week over the years.

Matt Goodwin (13:55):
Absolutely. Yup. So, sorry, Jeremy, I didn't mean to cut you off, but I just wanted to, you know, add a little context to why that stipulation exists.

Jenn Mitchell (14:07):
So tell us about hack week this year and some of the things you guys tackled.

Jeremy Stanley (14:13):
So the most recent hack week I worked on the recent history feature for Canvas, which is, it's actually a fairly high profile for a hack week thing. Cause this shows up on the global navigation. You've just got history icon there. When you click that, it'll show you the last dozen or so things that you've been at in Canvas just most recent at the top. So if you've been clicking around a course, you visited an assignment, you clicked a Wiki page. You could go back there and retrace your steps and see where, where you've been, recover context, or, you know, you say you're working in Canvas and you'd go take a lunch break and come back. You can go back and see where you were.

Ryan Lufkin (15:00):
That's awesome. Is that available? Like how long until that's rolled out in the product itself?

Jeremy Stanley (15:08):
I believe it will be turned on this weekend, so it's very soon. [Edit: October 17]

Matt Goodwin (15:10):
So by the time our listeners are listening to this, it should be there.

Ryan Lufkin (15:16):
Awesome. That's cool. And is that for, is that for educators and students alike?

Jeremy Stanley (15:24):
It is, yes. So any Canvas user you'll see the recent places you've been inside Canvas there. So a teacher will see, even if they've been in multiple courses, they'll see links from whichever course they happen to be in—same is true for students.

Ryan Lufkin (15:40):
Oh, that's right.

Matt Goodwin (15:42):
That's awesome. So that's great. Thank you for, you know, a, your interest in discovering problems like this and solving them and be participating in the podcast. I'm going to throw you a little bit of a curve ball though. As we mentioned, you know, you've been here for several years, we've been doing hack week, once a quarter for for a number of years. What are some of your favorite or most interesting hack week projects that that you've either worked on or seen that, you know, may or may not have seen the light of day?

Jeremy Stanley (16:19):
So I think my favorite one that I've actually worked on this for several hack weeks and I don't think many people have really seen it. 'Cause I started this years and years ago before we had that "let's try to keep it Canvas related" stipulation. And it was kind of like a drum track thing. You just set up you've got different drums and you can set up just by putting things on the page. Like you just—it's got basically a grid. So you've got each line is a different drum. Each column is just a time and you can just go build beats and put things together like that. I thought that was great at the time because I learned a lot about dealing with react for the user interface, dealing with the web audio interface to make all the sound work.

Jeremy Stanley (17:08):
But in later weeks I did manage to turn that thing into an LTI tool. So you could submit your beats as an assignment to Canvas.

Matt Goodwin (17:19):
That's cool.

Jeremy Stanley (17:20):
I don't think that's been published. I don't see any reason why we couldn't.

Matt Goodwin (17:26):
That's awesome. I do love you know—one of the, one of the primary drivers for hack week, it was twofold. It was one, you know, can we do something cool and useful to our end users that don't come from our traditional methods of thinking about projects and how we come about projects know we've got tons of smart engineers that work at Instructure. Who've got great ideas. What can they come up with? And, you know, so that, that's one of the purposes. The other one that you touched on a little bit is the ability for our engineers to learn new tools of the trade. So, get familiar with new technologies that are out there, see if they would be worth investing more of our time as a whole or organization into what we do every day. So that's super cool. What other tools have you played around with? You mentioned react, which is, you know, kind of bread and butter right now at Instructure engineering.

Jeremy Stanley (18:35):
Yeah. And I think that react may have been like it wasn't their bread and butter until one of our engineers decided "I'm going to play with this thing—I'm going to do some hacking on it" and found out, you know, what, this is probably better for what we do than what we've been using. And we just kind of moved wholesale onto that later on. LTI is another thing like I usually, or many of my hack week projects will be LTI application so I can tie them into do something cool and weird, but also tied into our product. Another thing that I did with that years ago, there were some privacy reasons that maybe this didn't actually work, but I wrote a Strava integration. Strava is a fitness app that can track your bike rides and your runs and things. So I, I wrote a thing that would allow you to submit a Strava activity as an assignment to Canvas and have it be graded on, are you doing enough miles or burning enough calories or climbing any enough elevation gain or whatever the assignment criteria it happened to be?

Matt Goodwin (19:40):
Oh, that's cool. Our listeners, our users may not understand how influential hack week is. But it is part of our DNA at Instructure. And, and we're very grateful for that because it helps us stay sharp and up to date with the latest technologies. Thanks again, Jeremy.

Ryan Lufkin (20:00):
So one of the really exciting things that came out of CanvasCon Online recently was our Microsoft partnership announcement.

Jenn Mitchell (20:08):
This is really exciting and it's been in the works for a really long time and we've been trying to keep a lid on it. So we were excited to finally be able to announce it, and it really builds a better, deeper integration to help students learn, collaborate, and stay engaged. So, Ryan, why don't you tell us what exactly we're doing with Microsoft?

Ryan Lufkin (20:25):
Yeah. So this is a unique, deeper integration. It's a, it's an all-new LTI integration that's being built by Microsoft and Canvas. It's still in the works but it will give Microsoft Teams as the defaults conference tool directly within Canvas. And that'll be free for all Canvas users and with unlimited usage. So we're really about that. And then—that'll actually be offered here in the relatively near future. Again, timing is TBD.

Jenn Mitchell (20:55):
And that is really big news, especially if, as we're still in this remote learning environment or hybrid learning environment to have that really amazing conferencing tool right in, in Canvas.

Ryan Lufkin (21:06):
And the default Canvas Conferences will still be available. Like we always are at Canvas, we are all about choice. This is just offering additional choices as that default option. And then over the next few months, you'll see a number of additional pieces rolling out deeper integration with the Microsoft Office Suite. All of those tools are being pulled in more directly the expansion of learning collaboration workflows and, and this will be actually a two way synchronous integration with Microsoft. So you can actually use Canvas within Microsoft Teams, or Microsoft Teams within Canvas, and there'll be a really deep, powerful integration. So right now some of the timelines are still up in the air. We will be communicating those. We've got a lot of questions on what that looks like, and we'll be communicating those in the very near future. So watch your inboxes.

Jenn Mitchell (21:54):
Very, very exciting. We look forward to seeing the news, and we'll keep you updated here. As these, these new releases come out.

Ryan Lufkin (22:06):
Welcome Scott Dennis, head of our Canvas Community to the podcast. Welcome Scott.

Scott Dennis (22:12):
Well, thank you, Ryan. Glad to be here.

Ryan Lufkin (22:14):
So we're talking a little bit about something new and exciting, the Canvas swag store. Tell us a little bit about how this came to be and what it is. Why is it there?

Scott Dennis (22:23):
Sure. So the the swag store is open for business for anyone, whether they're an employee or just someone who likes Canvas and it's something we've wanted to do for a really long time. It turned out to be a lot more difficult to get off the ground than we had anticipated. At first, there are a lot of moving pieces to it, but the basic idea is if you want to purchase a hat or a bag or something like that, there's a place for you to do that now.

Jenn Mitchell (22:55):
I think that'd be awesome gifts, thinking of like those PD trainings or if you want to buy something to give away, kind of to showcase the Canvas expert at your school, that would be an awesome place to go.

Scott Dennis (23:07):
Yeah, exactly. We've heard for years from clients that want to, you know, like, let's say they want to buy a tee shirt for each teacher in the district that comes to an in-service training, or sometimes people will want to send a gift to another person. Also we've, you know, over the years, instructors sort of known for swag, we send swag to, to customers and to different people. And the backend of that is pretty expensive. You know, the logistics of that. So hopefully this will make things more streamlined for us as well.

Ryan Lufkin (23:38):
Well, so I've already ordered my Canvas is my jam t-shirt and there's a, right now there's a limited number items on there, but our goal is to add more, right?

Scott Dennis (23:47):
Exactly. I actually got mine in the mail on Saturday. So there were a lot of moving pieces and getting this thing set up, we have to find wholesalers, you have to get the art done. Um you have to put all this stuff in warehouses and then get someone to do what's called a pick and pull where they actually take stuff out of the warehouse, put it in boxes and mail it. You have to do inventory management, store management, a lot of pieces to it.

Scott Dennis (24:14):
Um we were initially wanting to start with a much wider selection than, than you'll see in the store. If you go in there today, it turns out that buying things in bulk, especially apparel, where you have to stock a certain number of sizes for each, you know, for each item is expensive. Over time though, we do hope to ex—as the store sort of gets established, will hopefully add more items as we go.

Ryan Lufkin (24:42):
Awesome. Well, thanks Scott. We'll we'll actually add a link to the swag store. We'll have producer Erin add that link in the show notes, but we're excited to everybody go check it out.

Scott Dennis (24:54):
Cool. And so for people who maybe are listening and aren't, don't see the notes right in front of them, if they go to Instructure for now, they can see the store.

Jenn Mitchell (25:05):
I've got my eye on that—on some really cool stuff on there. I'd love to see people as they buy them, post pictures, let us see you and your Canvas swag on our social channels. That'd be awesome.

Ryan Lufkin (25:16):
Yeah, that'd be great. Thanks, Scott. I'm sure we'll talk to you here on the next podcast, but it's always good to have you on the show.

Matt Goodwin (25:25):
We did it everybody. October is in the books or in the trick or treat bag?

Ryan Lufkin (25:29):
The robust, full, successful outing trick-or-treating bag full of goodness.

Matt Goodwin (25:37):
This—Is is this what COVID trick or treating looks, like just podcast goodies?

Matt Goodwin (25:42):
I hope I get good trick or treaters. I'm going to be bummed if I don't.

Jenn Mitchell (25:43):
Well, everybody have a safe and healthy rest of their October, and we will see you for the November edition of the TLDR podcast.

Ryan Lufkin (25:54):
We'll have pie.

Jenn Mitchell (25:54):
Be sure to check the community for the latest updates as we talk about roadmaps. And if you have a long road trip in your future, go back and listen to all of our episodes. We'll see you then.

Matt Goodwin (26:03):

Thank you for joining us on the Canvas tl;dr podcast. If you'd like to take a look at what's happening in our next release, please visit We'll see you next month. Bye!

Student Assignment Enhancements—Jared Crystal
Recent History & Hackweek—Jeremy Stanley
Microsoft Partnership
Instructure Store—Scott Dennis