Expanded use of Canvas negatively affecting students’ mental health


Screenshot by Brett Halpern

Canvas notifications appearing throughout the day alert students to changes to their assignments.

Brett Halpern, staff writer

As a result of online learning, teachers are able to communicate with students more easily than ever with almost around-the-clock access to their personal devices, resulting in an unintended added stress in students’ lives.

Canvas is a phone app that gives every student access to all of their classes and materials relatively easily. It provides students with a calendar, to-do list, inbox and course notifications. Once a student downloads the app, it is set so that you receive a notification instantaneously whenever a teacher adds a submission, posts an announcement, adds course content, sets a due date, adds a grade, comments on a submission, sends a message, adds to the calendar or edits any material on their class page. 

Coming in at all hours of the day and night, students who are decompressing on their phones are aware of all of the behind-the-scenes work teachers are doing throughout the day. Due to a glitch in the system, every Canvas action a teacher makes results in the student getting four separate notifications even if the teacher made no mistakes when using the system. This barrages students with notifications, resulting in a feeling of being drowned in endless work.  

To make sure that no assignments have been missed and to check their grades, students are constantly checking the app and awaiting a notification that can make or break their day. Making students even more attached to their phones, this is pulling students even further from the present moment and decreasing students’ general mental health and wellness. This feedback as soon as a grade is made is meant to reduce students’ anxiety, but in fact does the opposite by attaching people to their devices until a grade is received. 

Another issue that students have with Canvas is that even though you can see the grades of some individual assignments, you have to go through a different platform to see the official grade you have in the class. For students to have a complete picture of how they are doing in a particular class they must also go through Synergy. The Canvas grade system has seemed to be prone to glitches and problems, especially when the switch of teachers happens between semesters. 

Canvas was incredibly important for online learning and the virtual school experience has heavily influenced how some teachers run their class. While there are teachers who still are handing out papers each day, many courses are almost solely online. This double-edged sword makes access to files more convenient but is gluing people to screens during the school day and once again later for homework.  

This is not to say that there are no positives to the Canvas system. It keeps important materials organized, allows teachers to give students feedback and helps students stay up to date on their assignments. These positives have overshadowed the impact on students’ mental health, but now with the return to in person school, students’ wellness needs to be prioritized more than ever.