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Instructure Releases Mobile Edition of Canvas for iOS

Instructure has released a free mobile app for Apple's iOS that will facilitate communication among instructors and their students using Canvas, its Web-based learning management system. Canvas for iOS, which has been approved by Apple, will shortly appear in the App Store. It includes functions for activity streams, conversations, syllabus, and grades.

The activity stream was first introduced in the full edition of Canvas and appears to the student when they log in. From there, they can respond to a discussion post, be notified of a change in an assignment, or get a reminder of an upcoming exam for any of their courses. That capability is part of the new app.

The browser-based version of Canvas also features a Facebook-like messaging component, called Conversations. On the mobile app, the student can participate in Conversations and also view feedback on submissions and check grades.

This isn't the first mobile offering by Instructure. Earlier in the year the company released SpeedGrader for iPad, an app that allows instructors to view student submissions to Canvas, assess rubrics, assign grades, and deliver comments to students via text, audio, and video.

Andy Duckworth, e-learning director for Tacoma Community College in Washington, has been beta-testing the new app on his iPad since Nov. 4. His current favorite feature, he said, is the ability to leave a video comment for a student on an assignment.

Duckworth's institution, which isn't an Instructure customer, is currently undergoing a request for proposal process to select a new LMS to replace its current implementation of Blackboard Angel. (That LMS will be discontinued by Blackboard in 2014.) "I think it is important to have LMS functionality on a mobile device because learning, especially eLearning, happens anytime and anywhere," he noted. "The ability for students and faculty to be able to check in to the LMS when they have a moment, no matter where they are, is extremely invaluable."

That enthusiasm isn't shared by Camille Fairbourn, a math and statistics lecturer for a university in Utah that is an Instructure customer. Fairbourn said she's installed the Canvas app on her iPad but hasn't used it at all in the teaching of her course. "I think that making LMS functionality available via mobile device is a convenience for students, but I don't see it as essential, at least not yet," she said. "I think it is most important to deliver a quality learning experience for students, and technology is a tool to facilitate that delivery. If you focus too much on the tool or what new gadget is currently the rage then you run the risk of ignoring what education is about."

That said, Fairbourn added, "I imagine that Instructure is planning to integrate more features into the app in the future and I look forward to seeing and using what they come up with."

Instructure announced plans to offer an Android edition as well as a Web edition of the Canvas app in 2012.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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