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Bobby Pedersen

Still loving reading

Posted by Bobby Pedersen Champion Mar 25, 2020

I love getting lost in a book. And I treasure memories of my four kids as small people snuggling up for stories every night. The highlight of our day sometimes. I also treasure reading to a spellbound class, making predictions, laughing, feeling sad, wallowing in images formed by deliciously crafted words.


A lot of our learning is being done online now. Teachers are scrambling to create inviting learning environments online in preparation for schools to close.  How will this impact those treasured reading moments? 


I had a teacher ask me today if it is OK to record herself reading to her class. Would this breach copyright laws?  First of all I had to thank her for realising that there's nothing like the familiarity of the treasured class teacher reading to the class. Yes, there are YouTube clips that can be embedded into courses, and they are great. But a teacher taking the time to connect with the learners they know best is quite a different dynamic. 


So I did a spot of research, called a friend and found out that yes indeed it's fine to record yourself reading. In case you are not sure here are some handy details Australian libraries responding to COVID-19 | Australian Library and Information Association .


When you get a chance, make the most of this opportunity to keep connecting with your learners through the joy of reading. I'd love to hear how you get on. 

Every day, more and more schools and organisations are closing their doors to help contain the spread of COVID-19. As Canvas APAC Learning Consultants, our current challenge is to adapt specifically-designed “onsite trainings” that rely on hands-on activities and face-to-face interactions into full-day remote sessions. 

We’ve made a few key changes to the way we design and deliver remote training to ensure participation and engagement. By sharing our experiences below, we hope to encourage you to find creative ways to keep engaging your students in the online learning space during this time of continual change.


1.Make the most of local Canvas Champions! 


Whether during the scoping call or by using a survey on Canvas, seek out the experienced, advanced and/or enthusiastic Canvas users at your institution/organisation and ask them to help. They can  work the room during the training to give advice, answer questions, and offer additional support for less experienced users. Don’t forget to shower them with appreciation and swag for thanks, as this gives the Champions confidence to assist and empower other users in the future. This works especially well for clients with large cohorts of participants.


2. Use Discussions in Canvas Courses


Canvas has best practice course considerations that make teaching and learning easier. In remote training sessions, this is no exception. Discussions are a great way to capture how your participants are going with any activities you’ve assigned them. 


Create discussion forums for participants to insert screenshots of their work as posts or replies in the discussion. Spend a few minutes ensuring everyone knows how to screenshot and show them how to insert them into discussion responses. Then create a new module for the training (preferably at the top for ease of access for participants) and discussion line items for each activity. 


Example of using discussions and screenshots for remote training


As a trainer, you can keep the discussion open and refresh your screen to view recent participant contributions. The discussion then becomes a platform to showcase work as well as give meaningful feedback on tasks and/ or what they could do differently. Furthermore, it keeps them accountable for completing the training in real time when there isn’t onsite “supervision”. 


We have found this works well for remote training where both the trainer and participants are remote, as it creates a sense of inclusion and sharing.


3. Utilise a rich mixture of resources


Just as the Canvas Rich Content Editor enables teaching through a diverse range of functions,  such as uploading files and inserting media, we are using an array of resources in our remote full-day training sessions. For example, for a recent South East Asian client, we utilised training recordings, self-paced activity slides, and live guided training and Q&A sessions. This combination of synchronous and asynchronous options allows flexibility for any organisation based on need and available resources.  


4. Bring in online tools that you already use


A lot of what we do face-to-face in our training sessions involves utilising online tools that can also be applied in an online context. 


For example, we’ve used Slido (a polling tool) during presentations to large groups to increase audience participation and interaction. If your online tools have embed codes available, you can add them directly into Canvas by flipping the Rich Content Editor into the HTML Editor. If you’re not comfortable with embedding HTML, you can also head to a web browser to use them outside of Canvas and simply flip browser windows during your screen share. 


Keeping the agenda on schedule can be a challenge, especially if your audience loves a good break. In face-to-face training sessions, we often pull up a separate browser window and simply Google “10 min timer,” expand the timer window and leave it open so everyone is clear when the session starts again. This could work really well in the remote context as well, so you can still have your cup of coffee (or tea) without feeling guilty or losing track of your agenda. 


5. Gain familiarity with video conferencing tools


We use video conferencing  to deliver and record our client training sessions, mainly focusing on the screen sharing and chat functions to connect with our audience. To take it to the next level, we even reached out to our training colleagues in EMEA who also work remotely with clients. Here are some of their suggestions (that we plan to implement ourselves, as well):


  • Encourage everyone to sign in separately so they can contribute to the Chat space individually. If possible, have a Chat moderator to join the meeting to manage questions during periods when you are focused on lecture or demonstration.


  • Equip your audience with your video conferencing tools. Allow them to share their screen so you can see their work, use the breakout rooms for small group discussions, or include polls to assess understanding or to encourage active participation. It is also good practice to provide some time at the beginning to explain to your audience how you plan to use the video conferencing tools so they can effectively participate.

If you are one of the teachers, facilitators, instructors or lecturers who is impacted by COVID-19, we have identified 3 things that you can do right now to set up your virtual classroom in Canvas. We have also attached an infographic that you can send or print out to your organisation.


1. Get familiar with your video conferencing tools


Video conferencing allows you to connect with your students and learners in real time. Within Canvas, you can use BigBlueButton through Conferences. Relevant Canvas Guides here.


Your institution may also be using external video conferencing software such as Zoom, Blackboard Collaborate, Webex or Adobe Connect, so check in with your administrator to ask about your options.


2. Upload your files into Canvas


If you have powerpoints, documents, PDFs and other resources on your computer, you can quickly upload them into Canvas so that your students have access to your Files. Relevant Canvas Guides here.


If your institution is integrated with Google or Office365, you will also be able to access your files directly from your Google Drive or OneDrive


If you want to organise your files (and not share every single file in Canvas), add them to Modules to keep them organised into topics. Relevant Canvas Guides here.


3. Learn how to set up a Discussion


Discussions allow teachers and students to engage in interactive communication outside of the classroom. They’re easy to create, and offer you the ability to embed notes, slides, pictures and recordings. Use it to get your students to ask questions, problem solve, and generate new ideas. Relevant Canvas Guides here.


Last Thoughts

With any of the tools in Canvas, including those listed above, reach out to Canvas Support if you ever need help. You can find them in your Help Menu.


3 things for teachers to do to prepare for COVID-19

If you are one of the Admins at a school, organisation or university which is impacted by COVID-19, we have identified 3 things that you can do right now to set up your Virtual Campus in Canvas. 



  • Ensure all users are provisioned within Canvas


Use a SIS Import to ensure that all your users are provisioned within Canvas. This will allow teachers to manually enrol users into courses, or enable you to enrol at scale. Some of these users may never need to access Canvas, but it can’t hurt!



  • Ensure you’ve got your tools connected


If your staff have powerpoints, documents, PDFs and other resources on their computer, they can quickly upload them into Canvas so that your students have access. If your institution is integrated with Google or Office365, you will also be able to access your files directly from your Google Drive or OneDrive. If you would like this tool to be installed, reach out to your CSM.


Canvas comes with BigBlueButton (BBB) installed, and your teachers can create web-conferences using the guide here. Your institution may also be using external video conferencing software such as Zoom, Blackboard Collaborate, Webex or Adobe Connect, so check in with your vendor to ask about your options.



  • Learn how to use Global Announcements


Global announcements allow the Admin to contact all or specific users within an account or subaccount using one message. You can schedule them and set an end date.


Global announcements are shown from all accounts associated with a user and they display in the user's Dashboard. If you select the option to send a notification, users who have enabled the Global Announcement notification preference can also receive alerts for global announcements via email or push notification.


Last Thoughts


With any of the tools in Canvas, including those listed above, reach out to Canvas Support if you ever need help. You can find them in your Help Menu.

During 2019, Higher Ed institutions across Australia and New Zealand using Canvas started the A&NZ Higher Ed User Group, in partnership with our Customer Success Managers from Instructure. I am lucky enough to be able to co-chair this group with Gemma Sinclair and had fantastic support from Eman Rashwan also. As such, I thought it would be an excellent time to share what we worked on together in 2019, and what we are looking to achieve in 2020. 


Currently, our group is made up of 2 representatives from each Higher Ed institution and meets monthly online to discuss and share our Canvas experiences in Higher Ed. The institutions we have as part of the group are:


  • University of Melbourne
  • University of Auckland 
  • Swinburne University 
  • RMIT University 
  • University of Adelaide 
  • University of Sydney
  • University of Technology Sydney
  • University of Canberra


(Note: if you are a Higher Ed A&NZ institution and want to be a part of this group, please reach out to myself or your Canvas CSM). 


In our last meeting for 2019 held on December 17th, we talked about our Canvas highlights and group achievements over the past 12 months, and I wanted to share a couple of those here. 


  1. During CanvasCon in 2019, we were privileged to be able to host our regular meeting as a group face to face, and come together before the event in Sydney - Thank you to the Sydney Instructure team for hosting us. We had some guest members join us for this meeting, welcoming representatives from the Instructure Product Management, Higher Education Strategy and Canvas Community into the room. The Instructure team were keen to hear how we are using Canvas in A&NZ Higher Ed, and share with us feedback and insights on how we can better share our thoughts and ideas in the community. 

    Post this meeting we have worked together as a group to come up with a shared template for raising Feature Ideas to the wider Canvas Community (attached for those who also want to use!)

  2. As a group, we have worked together to come up with our top collective challenges or Feature Ideas for Canvas, initially for each institution and then combined - without surprise that most of us are facing similar challenges or have related ideas! We have broadly approached documenting each problem to cover all of our institution’s needs, but clearly, articulate where there are differences in how A&NZ may approach some Canvas features compared to our fellow global users.

    At a high-level, we have collectively discussed and are currently contributing to, or documenting the following challenges/ ideas:

    A&NZ Higher Ed Challenges/ IdeasAn already existing community idea/ priority
    Allow 'Treat ungraded as 0' in New Gradebook 
    Allow assigning peer review to the students in the same group & allow students to edit their saved rubrics in peer reviewAssign Peer Reviews by Student Group
    Allow anonymous posts in Canvas discussionsAnonymous Discussion Forums 
    Canvas permissions should adequately support the roles and activity of Admins and Instructors in a coursePriority: Granular Permissions
    Improvements to the group user interface 

    Increase the limit of automatically created groups within a groupset  

    Search for Group Members (archived)

    Batch Group Management 

    Prohibit Submissions to Group Assignments without a Group Set 

    Assign Peer Reviews by Student Group 

    Large Courses/ Speegrader loading issues 

    SOLVED: Filter large course submissions in Speedgrader by filtering the grade book by section to combat long load times

    Early 2020 we will be working on posting Feature Ideas collectively into the Canvas community and sharing with this APAC group (among other Canvas groups) so that others who experience similar challenges or ideas can join in.

  3. About us, we have had one of our institutions go live in Canvas during 2019 for the first time, we have others just starting their Canvas journey, and some who are more advanced and been using Canvas for some time. During 2019, the institutions in our group took turns to share some of their learnings in each of our meetings. We have learnt about some of our group’s excellent implementation roll-out strategies and tools that others have in place that enhance the Canvas experience. Something we have enjoyed is the ability to share with and learn from each other, and having Instructure there also to help answer some of our questions and share their insight has been invaluable. we look forward to being able to share these learnings with the community in 2020. 



If you’d like to share your 2019 Canvas experience or submit any Higher Ed challenges or ideas you may have, then please share with us in the comments below! 


A big thank you to our Canvas CSM supporters: Avi Hanner Ruth Thornton and our group members: Mark Wittervan, Eman Rashwan, Gemma Sinclair, Kevin Morris, Ollie Coady, Marcus de Rijk, Kim Flowers, Jeremy Stevens, Arshad Hussanee, Jeremy Goh, Patrick StoddartDamian Sweeney, Colin Lowe and Claire Lockett


Happy Canvas’ing in 2020. 


Jayde Colquhoun

on behalf of the A&NZ Higher Ed User Group. 


Banner photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

The Technologies Curriculum is such an exciting area of learning to incorporate into our classes. The Digital Technologies strand, in particular, is filled with fascinating challenges from Foundation to Year 10. 

Where does Minecraft Education fit into all of this? And how can Canvas support the learning playground that Minecraft is? 


‘Play is our brain's favourite way of learning’

Diane Ackerman


Minecraft: Education Edition is an open-world game that promotes creativity, collaboration, and problem-solving in an immersive environment where the only limit is your imagination.

But first here's some basic information to get your head around it all:

All about Minecraft Education 

What is Minecraft? 

Why Minecraft?

How it works in the classroom 



An example that warmed my heart and really made the APAC space come alive for me was this one from Aotearoa/New Zealand.


How can Canvas support Minecraft in the classroom?

I found some groovy resources in Canvas Commons. A great way to get started. 

Whole courses, assignments, discussions and pages. 


Some info of Embedding into Canvas. I haven't tried it yet. Has anyone? If so, how did it go?

I need your help...


I'm wanting to have a go. Loads to learn!

My challenge is for us to add to these.

  • How are you incorporating Minecraft into your teaching and learning programs? 
  • How are you using Canvas to support this?
  • What could you share to Commons? 

Scenario: Your learners will be taking a course, where you would like to issue a certificate for partial and full completion. For example, if they complete 80%, they get a Participation Certificate, and if they complete 100%, they get an Achievement Award. How can we do this?


Skip to the Steps:


In Catalog, we can create a certificate to be issued automatically to a learner after course requirements are completed. To set up two certificates to capture partial and full completion of the course content, you’ll want to use a combination of Course Listing and Program Listing certificates, and you'll want to split up your course into two courses.


Steps in Canvas


1. Create your Course (Course A) with content for the Participation Certificate. Don’t forget to include module requirements!


Tip: Provide instructions for the Learner to head back to Catalog to access the next part of the Course in their Student Dashboard. Avoid adding a direct link to the next Course, as in future years when you create the next iteration, those links won’t be functional.


2. Create another Course (Course B) with the additional content for the Achievement Award.


Tip: Consider naming your two Courses so that your Learners can easily understand that there are two parts to the Course. For example, you may want to call them “Lab Skills - Part 1” and “Lab Skills - Part 2”


Steps in Catalog


1. Create a Course Listing for Course A.



  • Hide listing: if Course A is not a stand-alone Course
  • Show listing: if Course A is also a stand-alone Course


Tip: Although the Course Listing might be hidden, the Listing Description is still visible to the Learner once they have successfully enrolled into the Course.


2. Set up the “Participation Certificate” for the Course A Listing.


3. Create a hidden Course Listing for Course B. Do not include a Certificate.


4. Create a visible Program Listing that will contain Course A and Course B Listings.


5. Set up the “Achievement Award.”


6. Add requirements for the Program Listing.


Learner’s Experience


The learner will sign up for the Program Listing through Catalog, automatically enrolling them into both Course A and Course B. Once they complete Course A, they will automatically receive the Participation Certificate accessible by email and in their Catalog Student Dashboard. Once they complete Course B, they will receive the Achievement Award for completing the courses within the Program Listing.



And, done! Two certificates automatically administered for partial and full completion of a Course via Catalog.


Thanks to Daniel Gilogley for his contributions to this article. This article was inspired during a Catalog training with some clients. Together, we were able to put together this workflow. So credit also needs to go to them! You know who you are 

Just in case this has been the world’s best kept secret - I need to whisper in your ears…


The Orb embeds into Canvas beautifully and captures the rich history of Tasmania’s Aboriginal people.


Please feel free to use it. The beautiful videos can be captured and embedded just where you need them to start to provoke discussions with your class.


The Orb is a collection of online multimedia resources designed to assist the teaching of Aboriginal histories and cultures. It reflects the holistic nature of Tasmanian Aboriginal culture and the interconnections between people, Country, culture, identity, and the living community.


The Orb helps to cover not only the Australian Curriculum - cross curriculum priorities…  and Australian Professional Standards for Teachers but it gets to the heart of some serious thinking and connections with our country.


I can’t sing the praises of The Orb enough. Because it is a highly visual resource it caters for a range of learning needs. The resources contained within are complete whole units of work or individual lessons. It’s up to you, the teacher, to embrace it, and use it to cater for the needs of the learners in your care.


Recently Ruth Degrassi shared The Orb with teachers at the Distance Educators AADES conference here in Hobart. Their response was so positive, they were awestruck by its beauty, simplicity, and richness.

I hope you are too.

When the SCORM LTI tool used in Canvas was built, the focus was on using SCORM packages for assessment with the marks in the SCORM assessment being passed back to the Canvas gradebook. However, there are lots of instances where SCORM packages are created just for the purpose of showing content to students and not for assessment (or for more formative work where grades aren't necessary to be recorded in Canvas).


Where SCORM is content only, not an assessment, using the LTI tool results in a column being created in the gradebook, even if you update the assignment to be an ungraded assignment (it is still an assignment). The New gradebook can help with this as you can put those in an assignment group with a 0% weighting and then filter your gradebook by assignment group to reduce the clutter. However, this is still not ideal as the content is not an actual assignment.


There is another way!


You can embed the content itself directly as a module item in your course. Here's how you go about doing this:


1. You need to make sure you export your SCORM package in HTML5 format from your SCORM authoring tool. This will produce a ZIP file that contains your SCORM package.


2. Create a folder in your course Files and upload the zip file into that folder by selecting "Expand it"


Create a folder in the course Files for your SCORM package


Click on "Expand it"


3. Add a module item by pressing the "+" symbol for that module and select "File" as the item type


Add a module item

Select "File" as the item type

4. Find the .htm or .html file in the folder you created in step 2 - in my case it was called start_here.htm


Select the HTML file from the SCORM package folder you created

5. I like to then edit the module item name so that it's not just the name of the HTML file


Edit the module item name


Item name edit screen


You now have a SCORM item in your module sequence and not in your gradebook!


SCORM content in a module


I should mention that my colleague, Amelia Hayson, created a great guide on embedding SCORM content into a page. There's a little more involved to do that, but that is also possible. I like adding it as a module item as it means that it is not surrounded by other content and makes it easier to have it as a separate chunk of content so as to avoid the "scroll of death".


Also, another colleague, Daniel Gilogley, deserves a big thanks for his massive contribution to the genesis of this article. He's great!


Lastly, I can't finish this without mentioning that SCORM is an older technology and that it is a standard that has not been updated for over a decade. If you have the opportunity to use other tools for creating content, I'd recommend doing so. H5P is a standards based content creation tool that a lot of Canvas users are enjoying using creating engaging, responsive content. I'd recommend checking it out as a starting point.


Have fun!

Bobby Pedersen

Extreme Beginnings

Posted by Bobby Pedersen Champion Jan 31, 2019

Beginning the year Down Under is seeing some extreme events as far as weather goes this year. Our beautiful state of Tasmania is crispy dry, fires are raging everywhere with a spot of snow today in Hobart   'A remarkable end to the fires': Snow falls on parts of Tasmania as fires still smoulder - ABC News (Australian Broadcas…. Queensland is dealing with floods and New Zealand is sweltering while dealing with bush fire smoke from across the Tasman Sea.

All of this hot on the heels of our long and restful Christmas break – for some.


To ease us gently into the academic year we’d love to hear about what exciting events are happening in your neck of the woods, be it Canvas related, education excitement or a good weather story.


Here in Tasmania, we are about to launch Virtual Learning Tasmania for year 11 and 12 students to participate in. Four talented teachers will be providing some exciting learning opportunities for remote students via Canvas. That’s exciting. Go VLT!


And, of course, our wonderful Blended Learning Leaders will be hitting the road statewide to support schools K-12 as they add a little zing to their teaching and learning programs.


Here's some excitement from Lauren Sayer from Melbourne 2019 Focus!  


What excitement have you got planned for 2019? 

Please add to the discussion.



Well, it is almost the holiday period, and I hope you are all getting the opportunity to wind down, reflect on the year and spend some time with friends and family. 

From Stuart Ryan, Bobby Pedersen and myself, we would like to THANK YOU ALL for such great questions, answers, chats, blogs, laughs and contribution throughout 2018. We loved meeting some of you at CanvasCon this year, and likewise for those who were lucky enough to head over to InstructureCon - and are grateful to have such a vibrant community.  


A special mention thank you to both Jacob Towne and Kim Flowers for keeping us social. Jacob for organising a wonderful catch-up in Sydney at CanvasCon 2018 and Kim for setting up a meet up for the new year  (Victorian Canvas Chapter Meet-up) with the invite open to our members right across APAC. If you haven't RSVP'd already - please go and do so! 


I think it's important I pop in here another special mention to the ever wonderful Barrett Doran who is so wonderfully supportive of our APAC community group. 


So, where to for our APAC community in the new year?


In the new year, the APAC Community leaders have committed to a consistent schedule of interesting, informative blog posts and updates in our APAC Community group, and we would like to approach members of this community, or key people from all of our institutions to guest appear on some of those schedule dates (more on that to come!).


We will also work on a significant meet-up around CanvasCon 2019, and a smaller one for those at InstructureCon - along with a strategy on how we can bring in even more wonderful members from right across all areas of education institutions using Canvas in APAC.  


Once we have all returned from leave in the new year, we will post a schedule and our commitments and then open the forum for topic requests and suggestions from you all - and we do look forward to hearing from you all then. 


So, all of that said, for our last item on the agenda from your APAC community leaders, and to end the year on a positive.. we would like to know.. 


What was your 2018 Canvas highlight?


Also... I know some people have decorated their desks this year for the festive season - share photos! We must see!


Happy Holidays all, from your APAC Community Leaders. 


Your APAC community leaders


(Banner photo by Filip Bunkens on Unsplash)

Bobby Pedersen

Community Q&A

Posted by Bobby Pedersen Champion Nov 4, 2018

At the recent CanvasCon in Sydney we were asked a series of questions. As there was not enough time to answer them all live we have begun a series attempting to answer a few here. 


Here are links to the questions as they have been answered. I hope they are helpful and encourage you to join in the discussions below each one.


The one and only Scott Dennis answered quite a few in this blog Canvascon Q&A 


How can we best set up individual learning plans for learners within Canvas? 

Who is using Canvas in a primary school setting? 

If you had to sell Canvas to a group of hesitant staff in one sentence, how would you do so? 

Can you share when you have had a fail with Canvas and how you learned from that?   

What challenges did you face with using/implementing Canvas from a public (government) school perspective? 

The Community Spider Web 

Who is using ePortfolios well in Australia? 

What is an under used area of the community that more people should access? 

Our Canvas Community Needs You 


Many thanks to Jayde Colquhoun and Stuart Ryan for being the experts on the panel.

At the recent CanvasCon in Sydney we were asked a series of questions. As there was not enough time to answer them all live we have begun a series attempting to answer a few here. 


But Community is all about people, your input to the discussions will assist everyone so much, so please feel free to add your thoughts and experiences. 


Two questions arose that were very similar. 

What is the easiest way to learn how to use the community? It is like a spider web!

How can we learn to navigate the community quicker? It's like a spider web of information.

Here are some of my favourite ways of finding my way around the Canvas Community:

  • Home. This will give you quick access asking questions, sharing ideas, and joining groups.  
  • Inbox. The little bell at the top right of your Community pages shows if you have any messages. This is where people can message you, share resources with you or where you can receive Community notifications. 
  • Profile. This is where you can keep your bookmarks of cool resources you have found in the Community, find the groups you belong to, see your rewards, and look at your activity and content you have created. Remember to edit your profile if you get a chance and organise your Preferences eg. Email notifications, personal landing page, discussion view style, language, time zone. Guides: Community 
  • Groups. Joining a group gives you access to resources and meaty conversations based on the group focus. The capacity to ask questions there or problem solve with other people who have similar interests is golden. Learning from each other is where it’s at.How do I participate in a group in the Canvas Community?   What can I do as a group member in the Canvas Community? 

       Groups that I used a lot to start with were K-12 Canvas User Engagement  and of course APAC our Asia          Pacific Group

  • News. I’ve set my Canvas Community profile up to access the most recent News easily. It can also be access by clicking the drop down arrow next to Browse – one of the options is News. All sorts of things pop up there that I may never have thought about but are often quite interesting. Questions, blogs, discussions, announcements on all sorts of Canvasy things.
  • Search. The search option at the top right is invaluable. I use it a lot!


I guess the best way to get used to the spiders web is to have a purpose first, then get involved, bookmark a few blogs and discussions, follow a few people, and check your inbox. 


Many thanks to Scott Dennis for his support during CanvasCon and this Canvascon Q&AStuart Ryan and Jayde Colquhoun fellow panelists, and the wonderful Barrett Doran for being the MC. 


Feel free to add your thoughts to the discussion below. 



At the recent CanvasCon in Sydney we were asked a series of questions. As there was not enough time to answer them all live we have begun a series attempting to answer a few here. 


But Community is all about people, your input to the discussions will assist everyone so much, so please feel free to add your thoughts and experiences. 


What challenges did you face with using/implementing Canvas from a public (government) school perspective?

All change takes time and it always comes with some resistance. Listed below are a few challenges we have met so far.

  1. I can’t do this on my own
  2. Why should I?
  3. Shared devices
  4. Younger students logging in
  5. It takes too long to learn how to use Canvas
  6. Flickr
  7. Where do I start?
  8. Connectivity

Some things we have done to address them.

  1. The Department of Education in Tasmania have employed seven teachers with K-12 experience. This has created hands on support to school leaders and teachers as they come to grips with the new LMS and the pedagogies involved with using it. We have come at it with a blended learning lens rather than just Canvas. The tool is merely the avenue for excellent teaching and learning. These seven Blended Learning Leaders are available to come to schools to support school leaders with their School Improvement Plans, teacher teams to collaborate on projects, and individual teachers to create their  presence in Canvas. The relationships built in the past year with the Blended Learning Leaders and schools has meant a more solid uptake and some exciting projects taking place. No one is on their own anymore.
  2. The Blended Learning leaders strive to demonstrate a variety of purposes for using Canvas, they also work with teachers to see where their needs are and aid them in using Canvas to make their lives easier. The purpose must come first!
  3. By modelling station rotation or other ways to organise the use of shared devices teachers are seeing the potential of not only using Canvas but using digital technologies in more productive ways.
  4. Younger students logging in is a challenge. However many teachers have reported that after the initial few times it becomes second nature. Setting up user names and passwords can be a little time consuming to begin with – but it only needs to happen once! There are a few good ideas here for the K-2 students.
  5. The Blended learning Leaders, when they are presenting, acknowledge with teachers that it does take a commitment of time and concentration to get your head around using Canvas. BUT from that initial effort comes the payoff of saved time and energy. Collaboration with staff members is encouraged also. The team also presents a fortnightly 15 minute live session on topics such as Differentiation, Assignments, Blended Learning, Communication in Canvas, Quizzes, and Course Design.
  6. Flickr posed a challenge when we first started with Canvas. Way too many inappropriate images were being found. So we turned it off.
  7. The Department of Education has a team of course designers who have created a series of templates for teachers to begin with. Blueprinting has also been championed by the Blended Learning Leaders with a huge uptake in High Schools.
  8. As the team of Blended Learning Leaders visit schools around the state they have been able to action some improvements in connectivity. Sometimes busy school teachers do not have time to address this.



Feel free to add challenges you have come across, as well as ways you have addressed them – or plans you have in the pipeline to address them.


Many thanks to Scott Dennis for his support during CanvasCon and this Canvascon Q&AStuart Ryan and Jayde Colquhoun fellow panelists, and the wonderful Barrett Doran for being the MC.

Canvascon Q&A

Posted by Administrator Sep 24, 2018

On September 11th, 2018, I had the honor to share a Canvas Community Q&A panel with Bobby Pedersen, Stuart Ryan and Jayde Colquhoun.  After Barrett Doran introduced everyone, we each spoke briefly about our roles and how we came to be involved with this community.  Then it was on to open Q&A with attendees sending up questions using an app on their phones.  We didn't even come close to answering them all.  After the session, I took the liberty of grabbing some of the questions that seems to me particularly aimed at Instructure and, with a lot of help from Renee Carney, Christi Wruck and Chris Hunter, came up with the following answers. 


If you have additional questions or comments on any of these, please do not hesitate to post them in the comments. 


Is the active and vibrant community and sense of responsiveness with the developers the main reason for Canvas' popularity?

The existence of the community, which contains high quality up-to-date documentation with many opportunities for people to connect and share, as well as responsiveness by the company, are two main factors often listed by people who answer surveys about why they chose Canvas.  Canvas is also often chosen in competitive processes because of simplicity of design and powerful toolsets.


After the instructor guides, what is the next best source of info?

The Canvas Guides (Student/Instructor/Admin) are meant to be the definitive source of official Canvas related knowledge - that is knowledge about how Canvas is designed to function.  The Q&A forums and discussions are often a better source of information about how people use Canvas and how it fits into their teaching and learning processes. Performing a global search will get you both kinds of information in one search.


What is an underused area of the community that more people should access?

There are a few areas that come to mind right away.

  1. CanvasLive:  CanvasLive gets a fair amount of use, but it could get a lot more.  In the most simplest of terms, it is a way for Community members to share web based or on-site events with other Community members.  This space accommodates a wide spectrum of events and provides easy ways to view upcoming events and RSVP.  Many events are also recorded and when the recording links are added to event descriptions, become a part of the community knowledge base. 
  2. News: News is a very powerful feed that each Community member can customize to stay current on topics that matter to them.  Custom Streams can be created to keep tabs on specific people, places, or tags in the community--providing a personalized feed!
  3. Updating your notification preferences and utilizing the community inbox make it much easier for many community members to manage communication and keep up with resources and conversations that they care about.


What is the easiest way to learn how to use the community? It is like a spider web!

The your journey into the community can be as shallow or as deep as you want it to be!  There are two main resource that will be helpful. First; the Community Guides.  These guides cover the basics on the tools used to engage in spaces of the community.  The second resource is the Getting Started page, which provides a summary list of links for learning your way around Canvas and the Community.


How do I know where I should post things in the community? I find this really confusing?

The community is a big place with lots of nook and crannies so it is very understandable that you might be confused about where to post.  The answer is; it depends! If you have a comment about a specific guide article, such as the way it is worded is confusing (or particularly helpful!), posting a comment on that article is appropriate.  If you have a question about how something works in Canvas, more generally, and you can’t find your answer listed in the Q&A area, feel free to post a new question there. If you want to join or start a general discussion about, say, accessibility or teaching a given subject, starting a discussion in one of the user groups would be the way to go.  The shorter answer is that it matters less where you post in the community and more that you actually do post. All comments, discussions, questions and ideas posted will be discoverable in the global search.


I feel not always the questions/help needed is about Canvas but are related to LTIs used in Canvas. Is there any ways in future to increase the engagement of Canvas partners in the community?

As you have evidently noticed, some Canvas partners are more active in the community than others.  If you have a question about a specific tool or partner, we recommend doing a global search in order to see where/if people are discussing it.  Often discussion about LTIs takes place in the Developers group but discussions also sometimes get started in the Partners space or in the Question & Answer forums or feature idea submission comments.


What's the easiest way to find experts in certain knowledge areas?

Probably the easiest way to find people with expertise in a given area is to search about that topic and look for the people results in the global search and also to view related discussions to find knowledgeable people in the related discussions and comments.


A lot of good ideas end up in Cold Storage. Does Canvas have a strategy for reconsidering those at any point, or for allowing the community to revive them (with justification)?

One of the balances we have to strike is, on one hand, providing an inclusive process where everyone has a voice and, on the other hand, striving to keep the process of reviewing and understanding the most popular ideas simple - both for people at Instructure and for other Canvas Community members.  When an idea doesn’t get enough votes in its first six months, it goes to Cold Storage permanently. Just because an idea is in Cold Storage doesn’t mean it won’t ever be considered. Anyone in the community may join Cold Storage and anyone may re-submit ideas in Cold Storage for an additional voting run.  Sometimes a given idea becomes more popular over time. You can read more about the voting process here.  When new projects are getting started (Assignments 2.0 for example) our product managers often revisit every related feature idea, including those in Cold Storage.  Sometimes ideas that wouldn’t be developed in isolation get folded into bigger projects.


How long does it take for the idea/suggestions to take place (After getting enough likes)?

Why are some features not implemented even if they have been requested for a long time and have got a lot of votes?

Sometimes a feature idea is implemented into production almost immediately.  Sometimes it takes years. Some will never be implemented (and we will do our best to identify those and say why not).  There are a lot of factors that affect this. Sometimes we have to get some work done before we can fix something else. Imagine if your car had both a hole in the gas tank and dirty spark plugs.  Fixing the plugs before replacing or patching the tank wouldn’t make the car run any better. Other times we wait to do a whole passel of suggestions when we do the equivalent of pulling the engine out with a hoist - that is we refactor an entire tool or area within Canvas all at the same time.  There are a lot of ideas in general and many of them are great ideas. Some great ideas we’d love to build but there always seems to be a higher priority project that comes first and that great idea ends up sitting it out for the time being.


How does Canvas determine the priorities when selecting new releases? Is it purely based on community voting or internal discussions also?


Canvas Product Development Priorities InputsThe Community is an important input into the prioritization process. However, it’s one of seven inputs where ideas come from to be prioritized: Support, Security, Community, Research, Partners, Sales, Customer Success. Through the normal course of business there are many touch points with end users. Each of those touch points is a source of information for us to consider ways to improve Canvas. For example, it probably won’t surprise you to hear that we track page views and user behavior in Canvas. Through research of that data, we learn a lot about what people use and don’t use. Some of you may have received one of our surveys where we ask you how important a function is and how satisfied you are with it (we randomly survey thousands of users each quarter). Institutions considering switching to Canvas provide features and capabilities they would need to have in order to switch. High levels of support tickets in a specific area are a good indication there’s a larger issue than a bug. We visit institutions and interview teachers, students and administrators. Just to name a few of the sources where ideas come to us. All of this information is gathered and reviewed on a quarterly basis to identify the most important areas to focus for the next quarter. What’s consistent across all of the channels where good ideas come from is the source - you.


Why am I sometimes told something is a "feature idea" when I am sure it is a bug?

Not to get too technical but what defines a software bug is when that software is not performing as designed.  This may be due to a coding mistake, or it can happen when changes made to one area of the software have unintended consequences in another.  If a software designer designs software that is hard to use or does seemingly illogical things, that isn’t technically a software bug (even though it may be poorly designed).  If Canvas Support looks at an issue that has been reported and determines that the software is behaving as designed, they may suggest that the person reporting the sad/awkward/confusing behavior submit a feature idea as a way to suggest that the designer change the way the software is designed to behave.


A lot of great feature requests on your forum are long standing and unimplemented. How active is your team in addressing these? Is it actually worth telling my staff to "submit a feature request"?

Community input in the form of feature ideas and voting as well as people providing feedback on ongoing development projects in Canvas Studio (aka Product Priorities) is a very important source of input for our Product team.  Top voted ideas are a formal part of our prioritization process and the reality is that we read every idea that comes in and often re-evaluate every single related idea when embarking on a new development project.


Is Canvas getting bloated? Do all the new features encourage bloat? What are your techniques to keep it simple and easy for students to use?

This is a great question and very central to the difficult decisions we make about what to build and what not to.  When people ask about bloat, some are referring to the user interface getting cluttered and confusing while others are referring to the code and its impact on system performance and development velocity. We work hard to prevent both and address it if it happens.


With regard to the user interface, it starts with designs that use repeatable patterns and consider the hierarchy and frequency of needs. We have created a library of components for user commands so that when the same function is used in different places in Canvas it looks, feels and acts the same. This library is constantly expanding and we’re always working to update all the parts of Canvas as new components are created. All actions/features are not of equal importance nor are they used at the same frequency. When new things are added, we first consider their frequency of use and their relative level of importance with other things on the same page or area of the page. This approach helps us to know what to make more readily accessible or prominent and which things can be placed in a submenu or settings area.


Ensuring the code is just enough to do the job well but not more than is needed is first accomplished by hiring the very best engineers alive - which we do. As a secondary approach, we have a dedicated team who review and update areas of Canvas that can benefit from an update in architecture or fresh approach as technologies improve. Just in the last 7 years, web development technology has evolved tremendously so we’re always reviewing Canvas to keep it up-to-date.



Can we get Canvas to stop telling us things will happen in the Summer or Fall? Some parts of the world have different seasons.

References to Fall or Summer are holdovers from a time when Canvas was used primarily in the Northern Hemisphere and do not make as much sense now that the system is used more globally.  We on the Community team have consciously modified our terminology to refer to annual quarters wherever appropriate. That being said, please don’t be shy about pointing out when we can do better.


What is the long story behind why Canvas has its name?

There is a lot of folklore around how the name of Canvas came to be, one favorite being that each of us is unique and education helps us become our own masterpieces, but the fact of the matter is that Canvas was originally referred to as "Instructure."  By the time Instructure incorporated, there was a need to distinguish between the company and its first product. The company co-founders and early employees chose “Canvas” from a selection of potential names proposed by a consultant. But, don't let that discourage you from seeing Canvas as an open framework on which people create their learning masterpieces.