Canvas API and Google Apps Scripts #InstCon

Jake Standish, the Director of Digital Learning Programs in Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools, presented on Canvas API Calls using Google Apps Scripts in the second session at #InstCon today. There was a companion Canvas Course that provides additional material.

By using Google Scripts tied to Canvas through the APIs, you can use Google sheets and other google apps to pull reports and run dashboards. Jake had us sign up to a course and then showed us in a live demonstration, how you can pull in user data into a Google sheet. He then showed us the reverse routing, where Canvas pulls data back from Google to create Canvas discussion threads from a Google sheet. You can even modify existing Canvas material from the Google sheets if, for example, you decide to change the title of a discussion.

The Google Scripts code for this connection is fairly short, shared, and adaptable. There are some limitations. Google Scripts have a 5-minute time out, which can be limiting if you’re dealing with large data sets. However, you can work around this issue by chunking data and using automated triggers to run your chunks.

Jake uses Google Forms to assign students to course sections. This is an interesting solution for schools that don’t use Banner or another SiS. There would still be a lot of work involved, but Jake actually deactivated the SiS connection to use Google because it was more flexible and malleable for him and the instructors. Again, this works for Charlotte-Mecklenburg, a school system with more than 10k instructors and 100k students.

Jake mentioned several issues that were generated in Canvas by the SiS. When a teacher moves from school to another within the Charlotte-Mecklenburg system, their profiles were deleted and then recreated, deleting all of their Canvas courses and files. Using Google spreadsheets and APIs, Jake and the local school techs can restore those teachers back into the system with their information. The point here is that the Google scripts automate processes that are usually done by hand and save large school systems a significant amount of time in addressing the irritations that pop-up when working with imbricated systems.

Jake’s presentation was fantastic. He delivered interesting material, and his live demonstrations using Canvas courses showed in real time the power of his work. He also shared some of the difficulties he encountered and resources he found:

Jake’s presentation slides, the code, and these resources are also accessible from the Canvas Course listed above.

1 comment

  1. 10 Notable Ideas From InstructureCON 2016 – Keegan Long-Wheeler

    […] 5. Student Information Systems (SIS) Are Not Always Necessary: I understand this is a heated topic, but I witnessed one person replace the functions of a SIS using Google Apps Scripts and the Canvas API. Student data was housed in Canvas and the operations of the SIS were performed using a few lines of code and Google Forms. Interestingly, this setup was both efficient and easy to use since interactions with the student data were simplified to a few forms. Feel free to explore a Canvas course that outlines how this was accomplished or read more about the session where this idea was shared. […]

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