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Canvas Quirks #1

Is Canvas not behaving like you think it should? Is there an obnoxious feature that you can’t seem to turn off or change the settings for? You may have discovered a Canvas Quirk – a persistent feature of Canvas that gets under our skins or foils some of our best design ideas. We’ll be collecting examples of these and publishing them in this occasional column, along with workarounds or thoughts about how to turn what seem like bugs into features.

Future entries might be more elaborate, but here are three quick ones to get us started:

What’s the quirk?

Instructors can’t use the same Zoom link for meetings happening at alternating times within the week for the same material to accommodate students, like a Tuesday morning session and a Thursday afternoon session. Canvas creates a unique link each time you create a new Zoom meeting and is unable to create recurring sessions using multiple times.

What is Canvas thinking? 

This is a security feature. Creating a unique Zoom link address for each session reduces the possibility of students sharing a recurring link that might be picked up by a Zoombomber. It also reduces the risk of FERPA violations. For this same reason, Canvas does not give you the option to use your personal room ID for recurring sessions.

What’s the workaround? 

See option 2 below. 


What’s the quirk? 

Recurring Zoom meetings crowding the ToDo list and overwhelming students. Instructors are unable to turn off the ToDo list or adjust any ToDo-related settings, unlike the Announcements at the top of the Home Page.

What is Canvas thinking? 

Canvas seems to have 3 operating principles here:

  • The ToDo list will show everything due within the next 7 days
  • The ToDo list would like at least 6 items and will reach further than a week to get them.
  • If there is only one type of event, like a recurring Zoom meeting, it will show all of them – even if that is 20 items.

What’s the workaround? 

  1. If you started by setting up your Zoom meetings, adding other items with due dates in that week, such as discussions, assignments, and quizzes, should trigger the first two principles, reducing your list to less overwhelming 6 items or however many items are due that week. You can even add pages to your ToDo list if you want to remind students to do readings by a certain date. 
  2. However, if a recurring Zoom meeting is the only thing you are assigning to students on Canvas, you can create a single meeting and then use the generated link as your recurring meeting. You can publish a link to it prominently on your home page along with your Zoom session schedule or on a special Zoom session page with additional login, help, and troubleshooting information. The Zoom link does not expire after the official date of the meeting. If you still want individual meetings on your ToDo list, you can also add calendar events every week and include the Zoom link in the event description. You might think to simplify this workaround by using your personal meeting link for all course meetings, but this could create potential FERPA violations or Zoombombing if students from different sections or previous classes figured out the link remained constant, so it isn’t recommended.

What’s the quirk?

There is a practical limit to how long answers to matching questions can be in Canvas Quizzes. Long answers will simply run off the screen so that only part of the answer is visible, and a smaller part for a smaller screen. The answers don’t wrap.

What is Canvas thinking? 

Text wrapping the answers would be confusing because the answers can’t be formatted with bullets to separate multiple line answers. The answers are highlighted as the student scrolls through them, but even that might be confusing.

What’s the workaround? 

The right side of a matching question won’t wrap, but the left side will, so always put your (longer) description or example on the left and the (shorter) matching term on the right when creating matching questions. In this case, the answers on the left would fit nicely in the dropdown answer menu. This will even work if you have multiple examples of the same term or concept and you want students to use some of the same answers for multiple prompts or questions.

If you want a bit more flexibility when creating quiz questions, I also like the multiple dropdown question. It can do more than just short answers.

I hope you found these useful. If you have discovered a Canvas Quirk or have a better workaround than the ones suggested here, please send them to eLearning@everettcc.edu and let us know if we can give you credit.

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