In 1960, Disneyland opened an attraction called Mine Train Through Nature’s Wonderland. If you liked a leisurely ride past waterfalls, geysers, and animatronic critters, the mine train was boss (that’s 60s lingo for awesome). In 1979, the ride was upgraded, made totally awesome (yes, they said that in the 70s), and renamed the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Incorporating many of the mine train’s original features, Big Thunder is now one of Disney’s most popular attractions.
Mobile has been part of the Canvas story since the beginning. When we set out to write the first Canvas Mobile app, we designed it as a communication tool. Canvas Mobile 1.0 let users stay connected, but we knew it lacked full Canvas functionality.
Following its release, we visited many of our K-12 and higher ed customers. We met with students, teachers, administrators, instructional designers, and yes, even a football team. We poured over hundreds of online reviews, comments, and support issues. We even connected with mother nature.
What we discovered is that students prefer their mobile devices over anything else. Sounds obvious, but it was a big eye-opener. One faculty member told us, "We found that when we incorporate mobile devices in the classroom, students are more engaged."
Taking all this feedback into account, we set out to redesign and re-engineer Canvas Mobile.
Canvas Mobile 2.0: Complete a course on your phone
With Canvas Mobile 2.0, our overall goal was to enable students to complete all their coursework on a mobile device. We also built a foundation that will allow us to add more functionality for teachers and admins in the future. We think we’ve succeeded on both fronts and are excited to see how it goes.
Here are a few of the main features of 2.0:
- New dashboard with quick views and grade peeking
- Course navigation that includes the same course tabs as the Web
- The ability to turn in assignments on the app, including Dropbox and Google Drive
- Access to course modules, quizzes, and external tools (LTI)
- Widget for your Android home screen
- Built-in Mobile Help
- API for interacting with the app
And the feedback is already overwhelmingly positive. One student summarized it best: “Much better! Now it has everything I need to have a better Canvas experience at school.”
What’s Coming in the Future?
With 2.0 being a major rewrite from the ground up, we had to make a choice. Should we release the app for phones right away? Or should we wait until the app also supports tablets? After some consideration, we decided to get the app for phones into the hands of our mobile users now, and to release new functionality for tablets as quickly as possible.
So, the tablet version of 2.0 is currently in development. When released, it will support Apple and Android tablets. It will have some additional functionality like the ability to rotate into landscape mode. We know how important tablets are, especially to our K-12 customers with 1:1 initiatives. We waited because we wanted to get the tablet experience right.
Next time you’re entering the line for Big Thunder, look behind you and you’ll see the remnants of the Mine Train tracks.