New Features Released
It's been a while since we've gotten an app update from Canvas Student, so let's get back to basics.
This past year, Canvas has been through a lot. From the cancellation of their original idea (canvas.com), to pivoting to a focus on education, to integrating with academic institutions, to launching their new platform, to acquiring Bitwarden, and finally to refining their vision and product. In this time, the company has established themselves as the preferred choice of students who want a free and simple way to manage their academic life. With that in mind, let's dive into the latest version of the app and see what's new.
To start, let's take a moment to appreciate the little things. The app now has a dark mode, which is great for those who want to use it in the night. The app auto-stacks courses when you open them, making them easy to find. Typing in the search bar and pressing enter now opens your list of courses, rather than just revealing the website of the course you're currently on.
Perhaps the most impressive new feature is the fact that Canvas is now fully integrated with Google Docs. So not only can you access and edit your course materials from anywhere via the app, but you can also collaborate with your classmates using the same tools.
Other than that, there's not a whole lot that's new. Overall, Canvas has kept things simple and tried to make the app feel as much like a Google Docs extension as possible. This is a far cry from the canvas.com that they originally set out to build.
The best part of the app is how seamlessly it integrates with Google Docs. So let's take a look at the course materials from the perspective of a student using the app. As before, the screenshots in this article will be from an iPad PRO 12.9 version of the app.
When you first log into your account on the app, you'll see a button at the top that says "Course Materials." If you click that button, you'll be presented with a screen where you can choose from several options for the course materials you have access to. These include your Google Drive, which you've always had access to, as well as the drives of your classmates.
From there, you can either choose to view all the Google Docs associated with your account in a list, or you can click the "My Drive" button at the top to open your own private folder containing the documents you've stored in the cloud.
From your My Drive folder, you can then either click on individual files to open them in a separate window or slide your finger across the pages to read them in the app's built-in text reader. The choice is yours.
From this point, using the app is identical to using a Google Docs. The only difference is that while you can't collaborate on a Google Docs file with someone who's not also logged into your account, you can on the Canvas app.
Navigating through and viewing your course materials is quick and easy. Simply click on the file you want to open or the slide to advance to, and you'll be presented with the appropriate window. You can also search for a specific term in the text or in the comments in an effort to streamline your learning experience.
Last but not least, let's look at the Classroom feature of the app. This is a place where you can view and join video classes with other students. To create a class, all you need to do is open a Google Doc and invite your classmates to join. Once they do, you can click the "Join" button at the top to start the session. You can make notes, ask questions, and give tips during these sessions, which are all recorded and made available to you and your classmates after the class has ended.
Each session is powered by Google Hangouts, so you can use all the same tools you're already familiar with for online meetings. Plus, you can share your screen with up to three participants, so you can work together to solve problems or create presentations as you work through the content.
As you can see, Canvas is committed to keeping things simple for students. While they've upgraded their product and features significantly from the initial alpha version, these new features are still accessible to anyone who knows how to use Google Docs.