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Designing Courses that Break Barriers and Increase Outcomes for Everyone

The other day, a student learning to be an instructional designer asked me, as part of an interview for her class, “do you think teaching is more effective when delivered in person or online?” Oof. I committed a cardinal sin of annoying interviewees by answering with, “It depends.” But it does! I’ve seen a lot of courses that were very successful in-person classes “moved online” and roundly fail to deliver the same kind of outcomes as they did in their brick-and-mortar origins. 


I’ve also seen courses delivered online that enabled learners in different contexts, with different needs to express themselves, engage, and succeed in ways that I don’t believe they could have or would have if they attended class on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays from a desk. 


A Different Kind of Space

I went on to talk with my interviewee about how the success or failure of any educational experience depends on whether we design for the strengths of the setting, the purpose, and the learners involved. For generations, we have explicitly considered and addressed the value of good learning objectives and methods and materials. For generations, we have explicitly considered and addressed the role of the learner in the educational experience. 


Two bubbles with the first representing learning and the second curriculum. There is an intersection in the middle for formal learning.

But only in recent years have we really been called to confront how this new digital setting of online learning changes the rules that govern our learner’s behavior, our materials, our methods, and even our learning objectives. 

Three bubbles with the first representing learning, the second curriculum, and the third setting. There is an intersection in the middle for formal learning.

As I think about what makes an effective online learning experience effective, I believe it starts with someone creating the experience in a way that utilizes the strengths of the online environment and mitigates its limitations. When done well, online course design can equip variable learners to be as - or more - successful than they could in the face-to-face classroom. 

When we come to terms with the fact that a discussion board is not the online equivalent of a face-to-face discussion, we’ve taken a step in the right direction. When we begin thinking about what we can do with digital media or self-pacing or asynchronous collaboration in online learning, which would be awkward in face-to-face settings, we take a big leap toward actualizing the potential of online learning. 


It’s by Design

The Universal Design for Learning (UDL) guidelines and framework offer a powerful way to begin rethinking how we create learning experiences (including online). The principles of UDL enable course designers to proactively and intentionally create spaces that meet learner’s variable needs while helping support engagement, supporting the development of executive functions, enabling a wider range of expression, and ultimately leading to more robust outcomes for more people. 


I find that talking about designing courses online is a wonderful place to be introduced to UDL or to take what you know about UDL and put it into practice in a new way. “Implementing UDL on Canvas” is not just a PD course that explores the intersection of UDL with Canvas course design, it also models it. I invite you to explore the ideas presented in the course through both form and content. I hope you find it to be a rich collection of practical strategies that you can carry immediately into your own course design. 


Whether in person or online, good courses don’t just happen. They are the product of intentional, quality design that unites and coordinates learners, curriculum, and setting  to maximize outcomes. UDL is a great way to frame quality course design through the intentional choices on which … well… it depends


Keep learning,

Dr. Eric J. Moore

UDL and Accessibility Consultant & Speaker,
UDL and Accessibility Specialist, University of Tennessee Knoxville 


To learn how to implement universal design for learning in Canvas, enroll in this free Canvas Network course.

Canvas Network is Committed to Helping Educators

Canvas Network is aligning our focus with yours. That’s right, we want you to excel, thrive, and feel supported as an educator, so we are focusing our content offerings on professional development for educators. This new alignment and focus is intended to help educators worldwide by providing access to top-of-the-line professional development content to help us support our top-of-the-line educators. 

What PD Content is Available to You? 

On the Canvas Network catalog, you will notice  the courses offered serves a wide range of professional development topics--from blended learning models to learning how to gamify your online instruction. On Canvas Network, you will also notice our Canvas-specific courses to help our Canvas educators thrive and excel in the platform. Learners will have access to courses to help them learn the essentials of the Canvas platform. Start with our Growing with Canvas course, and take your knowledge to the next level by participating in our Implementing Universal Design Learning in Canvas. These courses are intended to help our Canvas superstars grow in their knowledge, feel the Canvas love,  and see some of the latest and greatest resources on Canvas. 


An Ever-Growing Library of PD Courses

Our catalog will continue to grow. Make sure to frequent the Canvas.Net website to view the new course offerings released each month. Feel free to explore our catalog today and sign up for a free course. If your institution would like to offer a professional development course, feel free to submit your request on our Offer a Course form on the site. 

Canvas Network provides professional development for educators.

Enroll in any of the 40+ free courses today!


Keep learning,


Marah Metallo
Instructional Designer 


Canvas Network is a public Canvas instance that offers open, large-enrollment online courses-- taught by educators from around the world and open to all. Canvas Network has been a leading online course provider since 2013, with 1.2+ million enrollments, 300+ institution partners, and 1,200+ courses offered. 

Educators receiving a certificate from their Canvas Network course completion

Photo Credit: Romualdo Mabuan



Why Canvas Network?

The American English (AE) E-Teacher Program, a virtual exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (DOS/ECA), Office of English Language Programs with funding from the U.S. government and implemented by FHI 360, needed a platform for its massive open online courses (MOOCs) and chose Canvas Network. The program was already using the Canvas LMS to deliver online professional development courses to non-native English speaking teachers nominated by U.S. Embassies. The familiar platform allowed the program and its partners to easily transition content developed for the 8-week professional development program to a 5-module format appropriate for a massive, worldwide audience. Other factors considered were ease of registration, lack of certificate paywalls, compatibility with low-bandwidth approaches, and digital badge integration. Compatibility with open licensing was also important, as the DOS/ECA Office of English Language Programs is committed to advancing the Open Educational Resource (OER) movement through Creative Commons licensing. 

What is special about AE E-Teacher MOOCs?

Over the past year and a half, the program has offered several Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) MOOCs on topics ranging from Integrating Critical Thinking Skills to Professional Development for Teacher Trainers. FHI 360 partners with institutions such as Iowa State University of Science and Technology, Arizona State University, George Mason University, University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), and World Learning, Inc. to provide grants funded by the U.S. Department of State to develop MOOC content. Our technical experts work closely with partners to ensure that standards related to content, accessibility, and open licensing are applied. As a result, each course is not only a high quality educational tool but also accessible to learners in low-bandwidth areas. Specific features include:

  • Downloadable module content packets; these allow learners with infrequent internet access to read through content and prepare assignments offline. 
  • Auto-graded assignments; learners receive real-time feedback, and instructors can more easily manage a large volume of learners.
  • Creative Commons licensing; all AE E-Teacher MOOCs are fully open educational resources. 


The program has access to a worldwide audience of learners through Regional English Language Offices at U.S. Embassies and Department of State social media channels. Learners from over 100 countries have enrolled in AE E-Teacher MOOCs, with a combined enrollment of over 85,000 in the past five courses.



Teaching English to Young Learners (GMU)

Content-based Instruction 

(World Learning)

Professional Development for Teacher Trainers (ASU)

Using Educational Technology (ISU)

Integrating Critical Thinking Skills 

(World Learning)

Enrolled Learners






Active Learners






Active - % of Enrolled












Passed - % of Enrolled






Passed - % of Active







 1 Active Learners are those who completed at least one graded assignment.



Retaining Learners in High Enrollment Courses

High enrollment numbers are one thing, but retaining and engaging learners has historically been the challenge of MOOCs. A hallmark of the program’s approach is the use of facilitators, selected from a pool of successful alumni. The facilitators help to moderate discussions and answer questions, fostering a sense of community. So far, 120 alumni facilitators from 58 different countries have helped to moderate the MOOCs. The active learner and pass rate statistics above indicate that the program’s approaches are successfully supporting the needs of the target audience, far surpassing the average rates for MOOC completion (around 10%).


MOOC camps also contribute to high completion rates. MOOC camps are opportunities for learners to engage with each other through facilitated, face-to-face discussions around MOOC content. Some camps are sponsored through U.S. Embassies, but many are organized independently by learners who want to contribute to professional development within their local community. MOOC camps are very popular in the Philippines, Pakistan and Cambodia, among other countries. For the past two MOOCs, a third of survey respondents reported that participating in a MOOC camp helped them complete a course. The program supports camps by hosting a group in the AE E-Teacher community of practice and sharing course materials before MOOCs start. 


Partnership for Impact

While some have argued that MOOCs have failed to democratize higher education, the extraordinarily high engagement and completion rates of AE E-Teacher MOOCs indicates there is strong global demand for professional development targeted to educators, particularly those associated with English language teaching and learning. FHI 360’s approach to working with academic content providers to deliver low-bandwidth friendly professional development opportunities on behalf of the U.S. Department of State, and in partnership with Canvas Network, illustrates the impact that can be achieved when the goals and objectives of funders, implementers, content developers, and platform providers align around a commitment to supporting educators and making content freely and openly available. To learn more about our experience using Canvas Network, our approach to MOOC design and delivery, and partnership opportunities, feel free to reach out to us, visit the AE E-Teacher website, or contact the U.S. Department of State’s, Bureau of Educational Affairs, Office of English Language Programs.

Keep learning,

Amy Nunamaker

AE E-Teacher Project Manager at FHI 360

Joyce Catsimpiris

Learning Platforms Technical Officer at FHI 360


Canvas Network

Canvas Network is committed to helping educators worldwide thrive, excel, and grow. In an effort to achieve this, they will be aligning their online course offerings to meet the different professional development (PD) needs of educators beginning in 2019. Currently, Canvas Network has PD courses--from blended-learning models to learning how to gamify your online instruction. In the coming months, this library will continue to grow and extend to better serve the individual needs of educators worldwide. Not only will Canvas Network have an ever-growing library of PD courses, they will also offer courses that will help Canvas schools receive additional tips, tricks, and ideas as they implement their instance of Canvas. These Canvas-specific courses will help educators deepen their knowledge and love for Canvas and all of its capacities. 

Why Genius Matters to Us?

Canvas Network (CN) and I share a strong commitment and belief in students worldwide. With the fervor and dedication to support students to thrive, the objective is clear: Students everywhere must comprehend and grasp that they are genius and they have unique value in the world around them. Each student offers a rare, individual contribution. Sadly, many students waver and doubt their contributions, talents, and rare abilities. With great anticipation, however, teachers now have the invaluable opportunity to help their students discover their greatness by participating in our new Canvas Network course, Genius Matters.


Girl standing by chalkboard with books. The chalkboard behind her has muscles to represent her having strength.

How does this Canvas Network course help teachers create passion-driven work with their students?  

In this self-paced course, teachers will be instructed on how to guide students to recognize their authentic voice, their passion, an increased sense of belonging, and their genius. With hands-on exercises included in the course, teachers will have the incalculable experience to cultivate and enlighten students of their unique genius. 

With the completion of the course, teachers will be able to help their students: 

  • Understand their unique value in school and in the world
  • Explore the concepts of personal branding, networking, team building, and innovation at a more personal level
  • Find greater comfort in finding and amplifying their authentic voice and perspectives
  • Increase their compassion, empathy, and resilience
  • Have greater creativity and willingness to offer unique ideas
  • Reduce internalized bias, create more meaningful inclusion, and an increased sense of belonging
  • Further develop their leadership presence and skills


Matchless Work

I want to create an impact all over the world by helping students discover their genius and every individual embrace their value and potential contribution. We can work together to develop innovative solutions to social problems. 

Enroll in Genius Matters today!

Keep learning,

Angela Maiers
Author, Educator & Changemaker

 @Canvas Network

Canvas Network is committed to helping educators worldwide thrive, excel, and grow. In an effort to achieve this, Canvas Network has aligned their online course offerings to meet the different professional development (PD) needs of educators. Currently, Canvas Network has 40+ PD courses--from blended-learning models to learning how to gamify your online instruction. In the coming months, this library will continue to grow and extend to better serve the individual needs of educators worldwide. Not only will Canvas Network have an ever-growing library of PD courses, they will also offer courses that will help Canvas schools receive additional tips, tricks, and ideas as they implement their instance of Canvas. These Canvas-specific courses will help educators deepen their knowledge and love for Canvas and all of its capacities. 

Hour of Code Course Renewed 

hour of code screenshot

The success of a Canvas Network course, Introduction to Hour of Code, has prompted us to offer it again!

This free, self-paced, higher education course is a team effort among Canvas, Vocareum, and the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University.  The course will help computer science teachers at all levels add a coding component to their classroom and provide guidelines and best practices for facilitating an Hour of Code

Teachers will have access to virtual computer science labs to support coursework in data science, programming, robotics, and more--all without ever having to leave their Canvas learning management system (LMS). Teachers who complete the course with a grade of 70% or higher will be eligible for an 8-hour Professional Development Certificate issued by Arizona State University.

More than 600 students enrolled in the first course, with 89 applying for Continuing Education Unit credit. This second version of the course will have updates including additional how-to content, more quiz questions, and expansion of “unplugged” sections to help teachers of young learners.

To take part in the course, sign up here. Introduction to Hour of Code will be available from March 11 to August 19, 2019.


Keep learning,

Shauna Vorkink
Director of Content Services

Decorate image showing that displays someone working through code.UPDATE: Introduction to Hour of Code will now close at 10:00 P.M. M.S.T. on January 2. The extension in the deadline is meant to give participants additional time to work through the content. Please note that responses to Discussions may not be as prompt between December 22 and January 2. 


The Content Services team is excited to announce a new class, Introduction to Hour of Code, a free course designed to enable teachers to teach code in the classroom in preparation for Hour of Code. The course is the result of a collaboration collaboration between Canvas by Instructure, Vocareum, and the Ira A. Fulton Schools at Arizona State University. You can start the course as early as November 26th, 2018 by going to the Canvas Network, or by following the Introduction to Hour of Code link above. 


Like other Canvas Network offerings, Introduction to Hour of Code is self-paced. The course will help computer science teachers at all levels add a coding component to their classroom. The course is designed to instill confidence using Python alongside a computer science classroom's pedagogy. Course participants will not need experience in Python or additional equipment to enroll. The overall goal of Introduction to Hour of Code is to provide guidelines and best practices for facilitating an Hour of Code in the classroom.


"We want to empower teachers with the resources they need to provide an introduction to coding in their classrooms," said Tara Gunther, Vice President of Partners at Instructure. "Our hope is that teachers who take this free course will feel more at ease when introducing coding to their students, and will participate in one of the many activities offered by the Hour of Code organization during the 2018 Computer Science Education Week, December 3-9."


With Vocareum closely integrated with Canvas, teachers will have access to virtual computer science labs to support coursework in data science, programming, robotics, and more--all without ever having to leave their Canvas environment. Vocareum's mission is to close the global digital skills gap through cloud-based learning labs and performance-based assessments. The content for the course has been provided by Phillip Miller and Dr. Ryan Meuth, Lecturers in the Fulton Schools. The Content Services team at Instructure adapted the course to make it available in the Canvas Network. 


The course will be available starting November 26th, 2018. Teachers who complete the course with a grade of 70% or higher will be eligible for an 8-hour Professional Development Certificate issued by Arizona State University.


TCM Presents: Mad About Musicals!

Written by Richard L. Edwards, Executive Director for Strategic Learning,

Ball State University


Last year, at InstructureCon, Hilary Melander, Sr. Manager over Canvas Network, walked me over to a tent, just outside the conference center, where we sat down together to explore Arc, Instructure’s hands-on video platform. Hilary was telling me how Arc would change how a student can actively engage with and collaborate through video content. During the demo, I was immediately impressed by Arc’s ease of use, its annotation capabilities, and its video quality. The demo got me thinking about how I might be able to capitalize on participatory video assignments in a course with over 20,000+ learners and devout film fans. As Hilary and I continued to talk about the pedagogical possibilities, we realized we had to use Arc in our next edutainment course. Here we are, less than a year later, preparing to use Arc as our video platform in our fourth edutainment course created in partnership with Turner Classic Movies, TCM Presents: MAD ABOUT MUSICALS! A free online course dedicated to the history of the Hollywood Musical.

Born to Dance


Running from June 3-30, this FREE interactive experience will give you an entertaining deep dive into the Hollywood musical, from the 1930s to the 1970s, with addictive multimedia course materials, digital games, ongoing interactions with your fellow film fans on the TCM message boards, and more!


In an edutainment course focused on a major Hollywood genre, video is a critical component of the overall learning experience--perhaps the most important one. The Ball State-TCM courses are intentionally designed to bring together a nation-wide community of film fans. As such, these massive open online courses directly connect film fans of all levels--from the casual lover of classic film to the super fan who has taken multiple courses, read numerous books, or even written books on film. With Arc’s ability to allow educators and students to comment on key points inside the video itself, contextual insights are now shared and conversations are sparked. Arc transforms video content from a passive medium into one that is socially engaging--a crucial element in fostering an engaging and effective e-Learning environment. In addition, Arc’s tight integration with Canvas helps provide a seamless learner experience and allow our students to focus on engaging and enjoying the course, not trying to navigate multiple product experiences.


Vandessa Video DiscussionStrong course design accounts for every aspect of the learning experience from learning objectives to the right content delivered through the right tool at the right time. We’ve established a tradition of using video to disseminate different types of content, including five minute microburst videos delivered through “Daily Dose of Delight” emails sent directly to the student’s inbox and interviews and discussions with film scholars. For example, we have video discussions led by Dr. Vanessa Ament (Endowed Chair of Telecommunications at Ball State, and a Foley Artist) about the Musicals genre involving Hollywood sound designer Gary Rydstrom (winner of 7 Academy Awards) and Dr. Wes Gehring (Professor of Telecommunications at Ball State). I was immediately attracted to Arc because we could use the comments tool to give our learners and fans a voice, turning one-way videos into inclusive, productive discussions at the appropriate time. Furthermore, since we value placing Hollywood musicals into their proper context, Arc will allow us to capture how students reflect on and curate our “Daily Doses of Delight,” thus bring a wide range of student voices into our video material in new ways.


Incorporating a participatory video platform in a course with over 20,000+ learners has its challenges. It is not sustainableBrigadoon to expect the instructor to stay on top of the conversation and respond to every comment or post. However, we can still guide our students by establishing up front new user expectations and incorporating prompts or guides that help students consider how to get the most out of the experiences that Arc has to offer. Given the high quality of course participation we have seen in social media over the last three years (37,000 tweets during our Hitchcock course, e.g.) and the incredible participation we have seen from super fans in our fan panels and clubs built into the course (such as 60% retention rates in the last week of the course for a free MOOC), we are excited to see if Arc will further build and sustain passionate connections and persistent communities as part of this learning experiment driven by a shared love of classic Hollywood films and their cultural impact.


Experience Arc yourself and join us in our free MOOC offered by Ball State University and Turner Classic Movies on the Canvas Network platform, TCM Presents: MAD ABOUT MUSICALS! Enroll today.

rsz_stocksy_txp6ada0fe3uah000_small_492457.jpgMelissa Loble (Instructure), our VP of Partners & Programs, fearless leader of Canvas Network, and longtime MOOC instructor, recently published a blog post on the Canvas LMS blog about ways we can start making MOOCs more open again. Open education evangelists argue that mainstream MOOCs are not truly open because the content does not adhere to the "5 Rs" of open educational resources (OER). The content is not retainable, reusable, revisable, remixable, and redistributable. The content lives in the MOOC platform and is available only for a limited time.


In other words, "open" shouldn't just mean "free."


How can Canvas Network start challenging the definition of what a MOOC platform looks like? Read on for some of Melissa's ideas.


Five Approaches to Make MOOCs More Open

2015-11-03_14-10-15.pngCultureLink, a Canadian non-profit based out of Toronto, helps new immigrants and refugees in Canada become assimilated and find jobs. As part of their efforts, CultureLink developed their first MOOC, "Create an Expert LinkedIn Profile for Job Search" and offered it twice on Canvas Network. By developing this content, CultureLink was able to serve the needs of their target population and help multiple other job-seeking groups as well.


After concluding their Canvas Network courses, CultureLink produced a fascinating and informative infographic describing information ranging from student demographics to course design information to MOOC opportunities for non-profits based on lessons learned. Check out all the great information they packed into the graphic and see what lessons you can learn from their experiences!


The 1st MOOC by a Canadian Non-profit: Stats and Learning

CN-1670-course-image-Helping-History-Teachers-Become-Writing-Teachers.jpgThe National Council for the Social Studies offered its first MOOC earlier this year, Improving Historical Reading and Writing, and hosted about 1800 participants interested in improving their students' historical writing. In this course, the instructors surveyed participants and found that half of respondents give their C3 Framework professional development a grade of F; another 20% gave a D grade. Clearly, social studies teachers are not happy with the quality of professional development they are receiving. The course instructors and the authors of the subsequent study argue that results from their first course indicate that MOOCs may be an excellent solution to providing better disciplinary professional development, especially in the social studies. To read the full study, visit this page.

IMG_0711.jpgOn her blog Tales from a Secondary School Science Teacher, Angela discusses her experience as a student in the course "Managing Behaviour for Learning," offered by the National Science Learning Centre in the UK. She describes the coursework, and then goes on to explain how she used what she learned in the classroom. She even marks an immediate improvement of her students' behavior by implementing some of the resources from the course. Check out more free courses for teachers by visiting!