At the beginning of the Fall semester, Montclair State University junior Tori Sabba tweeted, “When you can use the Canvas roster to creep on people in your class. But they can creep on you too.” Montclair Probs later retweeted her tweet receiving 10 favorites and two retweets, gaining popularity in the Montclair State social media community.
Sabba was referring to the online interface Montclair State University uses to organize class information, Canvas. Professors uses Canvas to give assignments and assessments to students, make class announcements, grade online and post any necessary files that students need for the class. Students also use Canvas to interact with professors and classmates, submit assignments online and now, find out more about persons of interest in their courses.
“”Canvas shows the first and last names of [all] students [in the class],” Sabba said. All students have to do is log on to their Canvas account, select a course and then click on the People tab to gain access to their class roster, listing classmates’ first and last names.
Sabba and others use this feature not only to find out information to contact classmates for assignments and group projects, but also in the hopes of making personal connections. “There was a really cute kid in my Italian class and I wanted to know more about his life,” Sabba said. “I went on Canvas to get his first and last name and seconds later, I found him on Instagram.”
Usually users upload a photo for their Canvas profile and that image appears next to their name, making the search for a specific person in the class that much easier. Sabba says this accessibility a good thing because it allows students to see who is in their classes. It also helps students find each other on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Sabba knows that she is not the only one who does this. She said, “Last time my roommate and I were talking about a cute boy in one of her classes, she turned her laptop around and was like, ‘Let me Canvas him!’ It was cool because I thought I was the only one who did this.”
The Canvas search is something done before searching for someone on social media. But, there is more work involved in forming a deeper connection than just finding the person on social media. Some accounts are private, so a friend request is needed. After, it is up to the student to like a picture or two to show that he or she is interested.
“I keep thinking how weird it’ll be if the guy asks me how I found him on Instagram. But I’ll just say he showed up on the ‘who to follow’ section on Instagram,” said Sabba, giggling as she refreshed her Instagram feed.
Despite the lighthearted feel, Sabba shook off the laughter, put on a more serious tone and said, “But, to be honest, it’s more creepy than cool. Strangers can find out anything about you.”
While some Montclair State students enjoy this way of finding out more about classmates, others are not amused. Keven Quiroz, an accounting major, thinks it is strange. He said, “I’d rather get to know someone personally. [Canvas] is there for school purposes. Plus, I’m not too big on the whole social media thing.”
Quiroz said, “Last year, a girl in my class added everyone on Facebook. We didn’t know how she found us all. But, now that I think about it, it must have been because of Canvas.”
Mark Clatterbuck, a religion professor at Montclair State, says this is Montclair’s second year using Canvas. He said, “I haven’t explored Canvas as much as I should. In class, I tell students to use it to contact each other for projects. There is a field project in my Introduction to Religion course. Students who are interested in meeting can use Canvas to contact with each other.” Like Quiroz, Canvas for Clatterbuck is a place to connect for professional, not personal purposes.
When you can use the Canvas roster to creep on people in your class 👀 But they can creep on you too:/ @montclairprobs
— Vittoria (@NeonTori) September 19, 2015
With personal information available to any classmate with Internet access, students may want to know if there is any way they can change their privacy settings to prevent this “Canvas creeping” from happening. Candace Fleming, Vice President and CIO of Information Technology, and Dr. Yanling Sun, Director for the Technology Training & Integration (TT&I), said, “There is no setting in Canvas allowing the students to block their names. The class roster including student names is fed to Canvas from the MSU Student Information System.”
Flemming furthermore said, “We have received no reports or complaints from students regarding privacy concerns associated with Canvas. Students could find their classmates on other social media platforms by knowing their names via any association in or out of class.”
Both Fleming and Sun confirm that students could also see the class roster on Blackboard, the previous learning management platform. Fleming said, “Students were invited to participate in the review process and 100 percent of student reviewers and 86 percent of faculty and staff reviewers in the work group chose Canvas [over Blackboard] as their preferred alternative.“
Sun said, “Increased student interaction is a recommended component of learning. Students can learn more by engaging more in the class and they can learn a lot from one another as well as from the instructor.”