In the first afternoon session, I attended Lindy Foster’s (Oregon State University) presentation ‘Live API for Non-Programmers.’ While I’m not a programmer or IT guy, I’ve found the API and LTI discussions to be the most interesting so far at the conference. I am really interested in how we can use the APIs to track student progress and assist the instructor by triggering notifications.

Live API is the “easy-to-use” version of the Canvas API. It’s primarily meant to allow you to test your parameters and get, post or delete a small amount of data. However, you can use it to generate reports on a one off basis. Lindy gave us a step-by-step demonstration of how to do this.

  1. Get Access Token – go into account settings, and generate a new access token
  2. Paste that token into the top of the screen on the Canvas Live API
    Screen Shot of the Canvas Live API Web Page
  3. Go to an API category and click List. Then click list on whatever function you would like.
    Screenshot of Canvas Live API User Endpoints
  4. Type in a few pieces of information about the course or user that you’re studying (course number, user id, or something else).
  5. Hit submit
  6. Read the JSON that’s generated by the system. Lindy also showed us a couple of tools that she uses to read and manipulate the json.

One early question concerned the security restrictions that are needed to protect data. The answer is that the token generated by Canvas will only allow you to access data that you’re allowed to access. An instructor will be able to pull data about her courses, while an admin with broader permissions would be able to pull a broader pool of data.

This was an extremely useful demo for me. It was very accessible and the step-by-step walk through clarified for me how to test out some of the reports I have been wanting to generate. As with all demos, hands on experience by the audience would be beneficial, but with something like 150 people in the room and only an hour to present, options were limited and Lindy did a great job.