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InstructureCon 2017

6 Posts authored by: Kenneth Rogers Champion

I've long been curious of the openness of Canvas and how anyone off the street can create an LTI to interact with the LMS. I think we can all agree that this is one of the strengths of Canvas - and one that I wanted to pursue while at InstructureCon 2017 (Although Tracey DeLillo's post Explaining LTI versus LTI encouraged my attendance as well!).


Jason Weed Ling, from the Ivy Business School, Western University, hosted us for his session titled "Mission Possible: Creating LTIs to Expand the Canvas Experience." Jason talked us through how they have created 15 LTIs with 2 more on the way (mostly with a deep integration with their SIS). However, the mission is clear when it comes to creating a LTI for their university - make the user's experience incredible. He noted that Canvas does not do everything (and it shouldn't), so break down your key users (students, faculty, course designers, administrative staff, etc.) and ask the questions to find out what hurts them and how you could help them. When this information you can redefine the things you do - imagine the impossible.


Western University started "hacking" Canvas like most of us - by injecting javascript into the Canvas theme. But Jason noticed that this simply places code on top of the existing structure, and can cause flickers or performance issues, which is why they went down the LTI route. What I found encouraging as I begin to analyze potential LTI development is their development structure. They build locally hosted websites following the LTI specification and use the Canvas jQuery libraries and CSS theme (which they host on their local server and update as they update their Canvas instance).


He did mention the portability problem, because LTI's do not work on mobile devices - so as you develop you must take that into consideration. You either need to create a mobile app within an LTI container to work along the Canvas App; or you need to create a standalone app. They are going down the first road (app within LTI container), and I can say from mobile experience, students do not want multiple apps from your university! Keep it simple!


Ultimately, here are some takeaways...

  • Leverage Canvas to build the best experience for each user group.
  • Have a plan for mobile/tablet support and development.
  • Avoid simply injecting javascript into the Canvas theme to alter the Canvas UI.
  • Stay on top of the Release Notes to see what may impact your LTI.
  • Check out his notes: InstructureCon 2017 – Code Sequences 
Kenneth Rogers


Posted by Kenneth Rogers Champion Jul 31, 2017

I loved attending Hilary Scharton's session on how Instructure is approaching artificial intelligence and how this can impact education (the official session title was "The Canvas of the Future - Artificial Intelligence & Behavioral Economics).


Hilary set the vibe for us by rocking some totally sweet 60's era feeling James Bond music before she kicked things off. Then she started off by pointing out that everything is predictable. The sun will rise and set. Kitties and bunnies will always get an "awwwww" response. And a hot pocket will always burn the crap out of your mouth.


The premise of what she (and in turn Instructure/Canvas) are doing is based on a book. Nudge focuses on improving decisions about health, wealth, and happiness. We can start to look at how we make decisions and more importantly how can we make better decisions. But, unfortunately, no one is nudging in academia and there are no educational platforms for nudging. But Canvas ran a small pilot program and found that nudging works - if you do it.


Canvas nudged 18,000 students on 25,000 assignments that were late, but not closed. These students received a text or a push notification from the mobile app nudging them to complete the assignments. Only 6% opted out of receiving the notifications (but this means 94% opted in), and over time there was a drop in how late assignments were. I don't remember the drop in K12, but in HE, the average late assignment went from one day to one half of a day.


So, what's next for the nudge project??


Hilary is wanting to replicate the smaller test in a larger test. Canvas has created a course level LTI that instructors can enable for a wider level testing. Ultimately, what Hilary is seeking is to have peer reviewed journal-able quality data and analysis so faculty will want this LTI enabled for their students. It is time for artificial intelligence to have a place in education as a benefit to the student.


*Note: If I missed any important information from this presentation, please add to the comments below!

My first introduction to canvas data and tableau came at the hands of both Brenden Goetz and Alex Karklins. These topics have been mentioned around my institution, and they have picked up steam as of late, so I figured what better way to get some additional information than in this session.


The presentation focused on their mobile learning report. As a member of Canvas Mobile Users Group, this is near and dear to my heart. I loved how they focused on how a student was producing data vs. consuming data. With this information they will now have actionable data to inform course and mobile design. But at a deeper level, what else can you do with the data?


I had a few key takeaways...

  • Because CU Denver has multiple seats of Tableau, they have reports for more than just Instructional Design purposes. IT can have reports to see when students are accessing Canvas (to know when to do other maintenance). Or you can begin to look at when students are taking exams most frequently so you can work with instructors and say "Maybe Sunday at 7:00 isn't a good deadline."
  • Actually look at the data and ensure it makes sense. CU Denver saw an exceptionally high activity in "Files" in a course that had no course files for students to access. However, when they looked at the course, they noticed the course had design elements from the files area, which was causing the activity. Make sure you double check everything!
  • The goal is really for a collaborative Canvas Data Community. They have Instructure host their Canvas Data with Amazon Redshift, and Brenden has already provided a lengthy document here in the Community for reference. Check out Device Usage in Canvas Data with Tableau for reference.

On day two of instcon I stopped by the Community Booth and chatted with the one and only Stefanie Sanders. Yes, she had me create my own mock-up for a new Community home page (Community Home - Submit your own), but this lead to some more in depth conversations...about search.


Which Search?

Stefanie's first question to me was which search do I use? Due to Tracey DeLillo's suggestion when I first started working for her, I only use the search in the top right hand corner (or as Stefanie called it, the Spotlight Search). But did you know that this search not only is on every page - but it is an ultra powerful searching weapon.


Why is it better?

Not only is it on every page, so you aren't constantly having to come back to the Community home page, it also allows you the ability to search specific content, people or places. But there are two other little caveats that are "special" about this search that are nice and I thought everyone should know about (one of which Stefanie taught me!):

  1. You can limit you search to a specific group! (This is what Stefanie taught me!) When you are in your group, or a page in your group, start to search and then click to only show the results in that group!
  2. Type your search item...then press "Enter". When you do this, you can drill down on your results even further. You can limit the content type (only search in blogs for example), or for a date range ("I know 'x' was created in the last week because it was related to the release notes - where is it!?!"), OR even display only content that has been marked as official.


I know this isn't ground breaking, rocket science, we re-did the equation for gravity in our conversation type work...but this is what can happen at InstructureCon. When you least expect it, you can learn something...and be inspired.

It's pretty late here at the Spy Headquarters...and chow time will come early in the morning. But before I do anything else, I wanted to do a brief brain dump from today. I plan on more detailed blogs in the future, but for now - here are some quick thoughts on my first full day at instcon:


  • Stefanie Sanders is a true Rock Star! I was killing a few minutes this morning before the keynote and figured I'd stop by the Community booth just to say "sup?" and we had a great chat! One of the best things we talked about was the spotlight search that lives in the upper right hand corner of all Community pages. It's actually the only search I use...but it's more powerful than I knew!
  • Ryan Seilhamer loves giving away free swag. Oh...and he did a pretty swell mobile presentation today with Ashley Salter. Folks were still talking about their presentation and the Canvas Teacher app well after the presentation.
  • Brenden Goetz and Alex Karklins did a phenomenal job on Canvas Data/Tableau and how they use it at CU Denver. I have a lot to write on this one - but this was a great presentation that also talked about their passion for seeing their work be Community driven. Check out Device Usage in Canvas Data with Tableau 
  • I actually me THE Kenneth Larsen. In person. And no..he doesn't look like his avatar.
  • Kona Jones and James Jones literally burnt down the house their presentation was so good! (If you haven't heard, there was a fire alarm today, and it was unfortunately during the "Accomplish the Impossible" presentation focusing on Canvacements). But seriously. Burnt to the ground! There was roughly 450,000 people in attendance and they were turning people away! But my biggest takeaway was that I need to install the "Roster Sorter" Canvancement. Even as an Admin this will help me quickly sort by enrollment type.
  • "The Canvas of the Future - Artificial Intelligence & Behavioral Economics" - I attended this one because it sounded interesting, but I didn't know what to expect. I have a lot to write up on this one in its own blog post, but I will say this was one of the most thought provoking sessions.
  • The last session of the day was a packed house, so I navigated back out to where my day started - the Community booth. This time I found perfect conversation with none other than Kelley L. Meeusen, Ryan Seilhamer, and Adam Williams.

It's no agency secret - I think the Canvas Intel Exchange is pretty awesome. When I was approached by "The" Kona Jones to help organize the event, I jumped at the opportunity. I'm not sure why she asked me, although I think it was my charmingly good looks, but it does go to show that you don't have to have a lot of Canvas knowledge to have a voice and drive change! (That's a topic for another day!).


What many people don't know is that there were many, many hours put into this event. The organizers - Kona Jones, Beth Crook, Garth Egbert, Marc Lentini, and myself - are spread out all across the country. We met virtually for the months and weeks leading up to canvasintel17 so that we could (hopefully) bring an amazingly collaborative event to the folks of this fine Community.


Now - enough back story. How did the morning go?


I am blown away by the people who showed up! Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to sit in on any of the conversations, so you will have to wait for those blogs to hit The Community. But the people! I had the privilege of manning the welcome/registration table and just the smiling faces of the people who had already registered, or the inquisitive eyes of the folks who just walked up asking "What's this about - and can I join you?" What started as 5 people spread across the United States, hoping to connect and learn from other Community members over a few hours turned into sixty-five people representing four countries (that I know of) and both Higher-Ed AND K12, in one spot, collaborating on all things Canvas! Does it get any better than that!?!


So, to those who came this morning - thank you! You made the Intel Exchange a success! For anyone unable to attend - watch for the blogs! We are encouraging everyone who attended to blog about what they learned - and I hope they do. Also check out the hash tag on twitter - #canvasintel17. Now - for the rest of InstructureCon 2017!