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When we started using Canvas at UCF in 2013, there wasn’t much mobile available. The SpeedGrader app had been out for a year or so, the iOS app was very limited, and the Android app just came out of beta. Over the past six years that mobile apps have grown to be an essential part of not only the online experience but the overall educational experience for students at UCF.

In 2014, we recognized the need to understand better how students were interacting with Canvas while on-the-go, and we conducted our first Canvas Mobile App survey at UCF. The study is critical because it gives us a better understanding of how students are interacting with the most popular mobile app at UCF and help us better communicate needs directly to Instructure and the Canvas Mobile team. In 2018, we completed our fifth Canvas Mobile App survey.

Global announcement in Canvas

Survey Background

The survey was administered April 1-8, 2018, inside of Canvas as a global message to all users. We have found that this messaging feature is handy but needs to be used sparingly to avoid overloading the user.

The survey this year included a record number of users (1688), and we suspect this might be to the addition of global messages being available on iOS for the first time. In the past, this was only available to web users and the smaller subset of Android users.

Demographics

At UCF, we are BIG, and this includes a large diverse student population of over 66k. The following charts give a breakdown of the demographics behind the 1688 student responses.
Class standing bar graphStudent status pie graph

App Usage

App usage has been high at UCF since 2014 with very little change in usage, which is very high. In other studies, mobile app ownership is approximately 3:1 iPhone over Android devices. This survey was mostly in line with ownership. One interesting fact is that 3% of student reported both Android and iOS.

Outside of this survey, our Canvas Data shows approximately 20% of all Canvas traffic is through the Canvas Student app, which includes over 500 million page views and 40k unique users per month.
Canvas App Usage bar graph
The following question is always interesting because the biggest reason why students didn’t use the Canvas Student app was they didn’t know it was available. This used to be a more significant issue, but when smart banners were added to Canvas in 2014, we noticed that adoption jumped up significantly.
Web Browser Vs Canvas Student App bar graph
This survey and our previous have proved that student who use the Canvas Student app, use it a lot. In fact, 96% use it at least once a week with the majority (87%) using it even more. It’s the most used app at UCF just in front of the popular UCF Mobile app at 84%.
Canvas App Frequency bar graph

Features

Since we started this survey in 2014, this hasn’t changed much. Students generally want to know three things:

  1. How am I doing in class?
  2. What do I need to do?
  3. How do I do it?

The survey shows that students are using the mobile app for light interaction and staying connected to their class while on-the-go.
Most Important Canvas Student App Features bar graph
In 2016 we added the following question to learn even more about how students use the Canvas apps, and this is in line with my statement above about what student generally want to know and how their interactions a light. There isn’t a lot of interaction around assignments, discussions, or quizzes. These features are being used to get more information about a particular assignment, but not to submit one.
Feature Usage bar graph
The favorite features have a lot of similarities to the most popular features like grades and assignments. Thought it’s interesting to see how the app gives access and is convenient and easy. We are particularly interested in the word “check” which shows student value being able to stay connected with short interactions.
Favorite Features word map

Device Access

Which devices students own and how they access Canvas is essential as we continue to manage resources and support users on all platforms. One interesting point that has become common in recent surveys is laptop/desktop ownership is slightly less than smartphones. The 2018 survey is no different with 12 students reporting not owning a computer, with only four not owning a smartphone.
Laptop Ownership Pie ChartSmartphone Ownership Pie Chart
When we discuss these surveys we always say that usage doesn’t equal importance, and it’s no surprise that laptop/desktop is extremely important to students, with the smartphone in the middle, and tablet way behind at 11 percent.
Device Importance Pie Charts
If you take extremely important and very important to one data point, the smartphone is essential to almost 3/4th of the students in the survey with the tablet still well behind.
Device Importance bar graph

Communication

Communication through mobile technologies is often known as “non-traditional” but from our recent survey its obvious this is becoming less true as students reported push notifications (70%) to be more important than email (66%) with the more traditional SMS at 29%.
Notification Channel Importance bar graphNotification Importance pie charts

Final Words

We hope to dive more into these numbers over the next few months. Also, if you are interested in running this survey at your school, please let us know as we’d be excited to compare numbers.