Since the release of Canvas this January, we at ITG have seen wide spread use of the new LMS (Learning Management System) among faculty. Many of these faculty members came to our offices with a similar story explaining their reason for using Canvas: “My students are making me.” It’s exciting for us to see Emerson students enjoying this new tool! Part of this excitement can be tied to how Canvas stands out among big name LMS solutions, in that it is incredibly mobile device friendly.

Yes, those same devices that are always a distraction to students in class, can actually be a boon when incorporated into your teaching strategies. Since these phones and tablets are more-or-less attached to your students, it’s a great way to ensure that their education is pocket-sized and always accessible, (even if it’s running in the background of an Angry Birds binge).

This post will give you an insight into how your students can interact with your Canvas course on their mobile devices, and offer you some suggestions on how to make your course shine on many different types of mobile platforms. A bit of a disclaimer: all of the screenshots in this post are of the Canvas app optimized for iPad, as I am using an iPad to write this post. However, the same workflows and strategies will works for students using iPhones, as well as Samsung, Motorola, and other Google-based tablets and smartphones.

Freedom Isn’t Free, But The Canvas App Is!

Getting the mobile version of Canvas is as simple as doing a Google search. Depending on the type of phone a student has, they’ll either search within the Apple App Store, or the Android Marketplace for “Canvas”. In both cases, the Canvas app will be one of the first choices. Students download it directly to their device, and upon launch they log into their account.


A Place For Everything, And Everything In Its Place

The Canvas app presents students with a graphical representation of all their courses. (See above.) Upon tapping the course they wish to inspect, they will be provided a menu to access the primary content of that course.


Announcements, Schedule, Discussions, People, Files and Pages are all laid out on the top menu, nice and easy to find. Each of these will allow them to interact with that component as if they were on the full site (aka on their computer). The Announcements tool within the app will cause the student’s mobile device to ring, beep, or vibrate whenever you have sent off an Announcement for the class, and they can read the entire Announcement right then and there.

Can The Dog Eat Your Homework When It’s On The Internet?

The answer is no, and with the Schedule tool, students can see Assignments that are due and even upload their assignments directly from the app.


You’ll notice the list of all the Assignments on the left. Students can simply click on the Assignment, view it, and even submit and/or respond to comments. A large student population commutes to and from class, and having the ability to do classwork while on the train or bus has been well-received!

The Discussion Continues In The Classroom, In The Dorm, Or On The Common


These tools will allow your students to contribute to Canvas discussions on the go, and will allow for threaded replies at all hours of the day! Don’t be surprised by any late night conversations (as we know students don’t sleep).

The Kitchen Sink Never Looked So Good

Why email the class a document when you could use Canvas? Course files are extremely easy to distribute to your students, and can be found under Files. Your students can read and download PDFs, PowerPoints, and Word files on the go. In fact, they could even edit them with separate document creation apps available for their mobile platform of choice. The best part of the Canvas app, however, is that it doesn’t require any additional design work on your behalf. Simply design your course on, and your hard work will be carried over to the back pockets of your students.

Small Screen, Big Canvas: Imagining Your Canvas Course For Your Mobile Students
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