Spit and Tape to Get Some Data

Published: 2019-09-25 05:52 |

Category: Code | Tags: api, canvas, canvas lms, programming, python

We're using Canvas LMS in our district. There are some things I appreciate and things I appreciate...less. One of which is when a main feature doesn't work.

Luckily, the Canvas API gives me some leeway in fixing things that Instructure doesn't seem know is broken.

I'm supporting teachers using Outcomes in their courses. Assignments can be tagged with relevant standards and recorded in a nice color-coded chart over time. I came across a big problem where students couldn't see their aggregated scores. There's no point in giving rubric feedback if students can't see those scores.

I thought it might be a fluke, so I tried reaching the student results through the API. It works as a teacher, but not as a student. There's a pipe broken somewhere on the Internet.

[File large bug report, crack knuckles.]

The approach

The easy fix would have been to hit the Canvas API to get this fixed, but student accounts came back with no data. So, I needed an intermediate, server-side account to do the work.

Earlier this semester, I set up an internal web app to manage reconciling grades. This was built in Flask so it was easy to add an endpoint as an API. I've been really digging the canvasapi Python package from UCF because it's so versatile and makes working with objects so easily.

So, I ended with:

  • JS client listents for the user to click on a tab in the gradebook.
  • Hit the Flask endpoint to start the server call.
  • Return the requested objects.
  • Process the objects in the client and append to the page.

The code

Here's the commented code for a simple implementation using Flask and some Javascript.

Comments are always open. You can get in touch by sending me an email at brian@ohheybrian.com