Apps for students, by students, at the Canvas API Hackathon

UBC held its first learning analytics hackathon focused exclusively on the Canvas API on Oct. 27-28, bringing together more than 100 students who signed up to spend their weekend creating apps and dashboards for Canvas, UBC’s new online learning platform.

The Hackathon gave students an opportunity to learn about and explore the Canvas API (application program interface), which allows users to write programs to interact with Canvas. Hackathon participants worked primarily with a sample course, built specifically for the event. Over the course of the weekend, students were challenged to design and build a tool using the Canvas API that could benefit other students, which is was exactly why UBC Master of Business Analytics student Zhen Mu signed up.

“Contributions to Canvas, even minor developments, can benefit tens of thousands of UBC students by either improving efficiencies or providing insights,” said Mu. “I regarded this hackathon as something I could do for our community.”

Mu was on the team that took first prize at the Hackathon, along with fellow UBC students Beryl Lee, Haoming Li, Louis Luo, Mia Mi and Atlas Quan. “Our team applied our knowledge and skills to work on the Canvas API to design a recommendation program,” explained Mu.

The team’s program, called RecomMband, makes personalized suggestions for future courses and possible study buddies, based on courses other students have taken and on students’ discussion posts in Canvas.

Runner-up prizes went to Eddie Liu and Nick Wu for their Voice Activated Assignment Deadline tool — which syncs with Amazon’s virtual assistant, Alexa, to communicate assignment deadlines via voice command — and to Declan Herbertson and Albert Yip for the Canvasify project, aimed at engaging students by gamifying learning. Other student projects included a redesigned Canvas dashboard and a tool that uses neural networks to help students evaluate the quality of their discussion contributions.

All UBC students can access their own course data through the Canvas API, giving users with a bit of programming knowledge the chance to develop their own tools for the web or mobile apps. As part of the Hackathon, students also learned UBC’s security and data access guidelines and general best practices for working with the Canvas API.
Interested in taking part next time? Stay tuned for more info about the Learning Analytics Hackathon coming up this spring.

The Canvas API Hackathon took place on Oct. 27 and 28 in the Sauder Learning Labs, a space that’s designed to facilitate teams in using critical thinking and analytical decision making to solve real-world problems. The event was hosted by the UBC Learning Analytics Project, the UBC Canvas API Community (CAPICO), LAVA (Learning Analytics, Visual Analytics), and Sauder Learning Services.