Canvas allows professors to view student activity

Zoë Howard

Rumors circulated earlier this semester among students about a new function on Canvas that professors can use to monitor students’ mouse movements and the new tabs they opened.

But these rumors are false, said Mario Guerra, UT Canvas service manager. Although professors can view some student activity on Canvas, their control is limited. Professors can view students’ general interactions with the site, specifically with discussion boards and files.

“The professor can see what pages the students have visited, and they’re given the general time frame the students have spent on each page,” Guerra said.

Guerra said the main purpose for these tools is to allow professors to track student participation.

“Professors can see how many times a student has opened a specific file on the page and if they’ve downloaded it,” Guerra said.

Government freshman Daija Chambers said she experienced this function firsthand.

“In one of my classes, we were supposed to look at the discussion board before class to read essays that were posted,” Chambers said. “I normally do this, but one day I completely forgot, and my professor could see that from her end of Canvas that I didn’t view the essays, so she gave me a pop quiz the next class.”

Guerra said professors have more access to information regarding quizzes on Canvas, including the ability to monitor how long each question is viewed.

Chambers said one of her classmates was caught for academic dishonesty because of this function.

“A classmate of mine got answers from a friend for an online quiz,” Chambers said. “The professor saw that he took only two minutes to complete what should have been a much longer quiz, so he got a zero.”

To combat academic dishonesty, some professors use add-ons, Guerra said. One of these add-ons allows for quizzes to be automatically proctored, disabling students from moving between questions on their own.

“If an add-on is being used though, the students would be aware,” Guerra said. 

Guerra said in cases of suspected academic dishonesty, professors can request more detailed information, such as if a student left the page and opened a new tab in the same browser.

Nicolas Eastwood, an international relations and global studies freshman, said he heard the rumors about the new function from his friends but knew they were false. He also said he feels the amount of control professors have on Canvas seems appropriate.

“I think they have the right amount of control,” Eastwood said. “As long as students don’t participate in academic dishonesty, there’s no reason to be concerned.”