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Hello Canvas Family!


2019 continues to be an exciting year for all of us! As you have likely already heard, Instructure announced earlier today that it is acquiring MasteryConnect: Instructure to Acquire Partner MasteryConnect to Launch New Era of Innovative Assessment. This furthers our commitment to helping people learn and develop, from their first day of school to their last day of work.


Teachers in more than 14,000 school districts nationwide use a MasteryConnect product or mobile app for:

  • Formative assessment for immediate feedback, adjusting instruction in the moment with targeted interventions
  • Benchmarking to set proficiency targets and measure growth
  • Collaborative analytics that connect faculty to gain insight into learning trends and instructional approaches

For our higher education customers, MasteryConnect is a powerful assessment tool for programs anywhere along the spectrum from full-fledged CBE to developing programs with prior learning assessments, efficiently capturing and reporting students’ demonstration of skills.


Let’s answer a few overview questions:

What does MasteryConnect do?

  • Innovative Assessment - search, create, and launch for immediate feedback to target interventions and adjust instruction
  • Curriculum Planning - map curriculum by adding lesson plans, activities and videos aligned to standards
  • Benchmark Planning - create benchmarks using item banks, TEIs to deliver and score in the classroom to set proficiency targets and measure growth
  • Teacher Collaboration - fuel PLCs with data-driven insight into learning trends and instructional approaches


How does this acquisition align to the overall Canvas purpose?

This helps us to continue providing you with the latest in teaching and learning technologies by staying at the forefront of innovative assessment, integrated into the learning platform you know and trust.   


How does this improve the existing Canvas experience?

Seamless integration of formative and benchmark assessment tools into the Canvas Learning environment, to easily gather the insights that drive instruction, for a consistent and personalized learning experience.


Will the MasteryConnect offering be made available globally?

MasteryConnect is currently only available to customers in the United States.  We will be exploring the product and engineering requirements to make it available internationally over the coming months.




An announcement like this likely raises some questions, so please feel free to touch base with your CSM, watch for additional opportunities in Community where we will engage in conversation around MasteryConnect as well as general product integration announcements, coming in the near future.

When I was first learning how to use Canvas I discovered Collaborations. Talk about excited! So keen was I to share the joy that I wrote Collaborations – Changed my world!

I'm fortunate in my position to travel around to schools to share the magic of Canvas and at any opportunity I extol the virtues of Collaborations. BUT I've discovered a wee blip in getting started with this cool tool. It's tricky (very frustrating) for first time users. After way too many error alerts we have come to the conclusion that:


  • Before you make your first collaboration you MUST sign in to Office365.
  • Keep it open in another tab.
  • Then create your Collaboration. 

It should be smooth sailing from there. 

And the wonderful Canvas Doc Team have created this guide to get you started too. 

How do I create a Microsoft Office 365 collaboration?  


Have fun collaborating. 

Ahhh! How is March almost over?!? I have no idea where this month has gone! So as to not let my fellow Canvas Community puzzle pieces down, here's a stab at this month's challenge  


What does COMMUNITY mean to you?

There are so many ways to answer this question; however, as I've been pondering it (for almost a month, apparently!) a puzzle analogy keeps coming to mind. We are all unique pieces in a grand community puzzle--we each have an individual, specific purpose, yet we accomplish much more when we work together to complete the larger task/goal. ...but don't envision a normal, rectangular, 500 or 1000 piece puzzle with a well defined image that matches the picture on the box. No no, community is more akin to one of those crazy, borderless puzzles without a single correct solution (like this one of the Earth: Nervous System | Shop | Earth Puzzle ) and sometimes it's more like one of the really crazy ones with hidden and upside-down images and extra pieces that don't really fit ( ...but don't read too much into the pieces that don't really fit...I mean all analogies have to break down somewhere, right?)

Are you a part of a community (Canvas, work, or neighborhood)? 

I am part of many communities; many nested within others. To continue the puzzle analogy, at work, I am part of a small, five member office--one individual cow on the last puzzle link, above, perhaps. We are then a part of our Dean's staff (several cows?), which is a part of our College (a quadrant of the whole puzzle), which is a part of our University (the puzzle as a whole). At each level, we work together to achieve specific parts of our University's overall mission. 


Is there someone part of your community who you admire? 

I could list many people here--my coworkers, those of you who contribute to the greater body of Canvas knowledge, etc. Thanks to everyone! 


What motivates you to be an active participant in your community or group?

 I actively participate because I don't want others to have to pick up my slack, want to be a useful part of my team(s), and know that many people (be it peers or even our students) will suffer if I don't contribute as I should. 


Canvas Community shoutout! 


I'm not sure that we are using Canvas for any unique ways or for any unique purposes, but I do want to say how thankful we are for the Canvas Community as a whole. Just this morning co-workers and I were talking about how all the answers we ever need can be found quickly and easily in the Community! We are thankful for the (always updated) guides and other resources. Thanks to everyone who fulfills the role assigned to their individual puzzle pieces! 



Learn more about the March 2019 Blogging Challenge

Read more Share the Joy stories



Belinda Stutzman

It's Better Together

Posted by Belinda Stutzman Mar 26, 2019


What does COMMUNITY mean to you?

Because I am not a person that can work alone in a silo, I seek out the power of community in all that I do.  When I have fallen on personal tough times, blogs and social media groups filled with others facing the same trials have lifted me and given me answers, hope and more resources than I could ever find alone.  When my district adopted Canvas as our LMS I became a member of the Canvas Community for these same reasons.  I wanted to gather information, find answers, and learn from others struggling with the same things I was experiencing.  For the first few years I sat in the community passively and consumed what was there and used it for my own interests.  What really made me grow the most, however, was learning that by giving of myself to the community, both personally and professionally, would increase the value of these groups more than I could ever imagine.


Are you a part of a community (Canvas, work, or neighborhood)? What brought you there, or how did you initially get connected?

I am a part of many communities in person and in my cyber life.  What brings me there is my thirst to learn and to be connected to others.  I have found that in order to be connected it is up to me to find the groups and to reach out to them. 


Is there someone part of your community who you admire? How does their involvement or their overall participation influence you?

Stefanie Sanders is someone in the Canvas Community that I admire because she is very active, but also extremely kind and complimentary.  I like how she answers questions and shares her expertise in such a positive and encouraging manner. 


What motivates you to be an active participant in your community or group?

I became motivated to be more of a "giver" in the Canvas community because I thought it would be fun to set a goal to be in the top 100.  What I learned in this process is that by giving my advice or expertise to others, I actually get back more in return.  I have learned so much more about using Canvas by answering other people's Canvas questions, responding to polls, reading blogs, and voting on feature ideas. 



Have you used Canvas in a way that helps you or your team reach a unique goal for your community?

I made it a personal goal to make it into the Top 100 in the community and what it would take to make that happen.  It was a fun way to get more involved and my learning of Canvas grew exponentially.



Do you or does your team utilize Canvas in a way which is innovative or customized as you serve a specific community of learners?

I enjoy helping teachers use Canvas for student voice and choice.  I have also studied the use of rubrics and outcomes to help teachers measure student learning in a standards based grading system.


Why do you value a project like this? How was COMMUNITY a motivating factor in this project’s completion?

Using Mastery Paths, Outcomes, Rubrics and the Learning Mastery Gradebook is a bit overwhelming and can be a daunting process.  I was able to find others in the Canvas Community trying to do the same thing and we were able to bounce ideas, successes and failures off of each other.


How has your involvement impacted your life?

I have become better at my job because of my involvement in the Canvas Community. 


What does COMMUNITY mean to you?

For me; Community means moving from a transactional state of mind to a relational state.  By this I mean moving beyond a world view where all motivation essentially falls into two categories, which are Self Interest and Caring for Others (Self vs Others).  Instead, motivation becomes 'other-ish' meaning that you realize that you can best help yourself by helping others.


Are you a part of a community (Canvas, work, or neighborhood)? What brought you there, or how did you initially get connected?

To a certain extent, my current occupation rose from my membership in a community of people who support teachers and learners use of technology.  What seems like a very long time ago now I was a workstudy student and then grant funded technology worker on a college campus.  My job was to help the instructors and occasionally the students be successful using classroom technology.  As part of a Title III grant we purchased and implemented a learning management system.  At first nobody on campus much knew what to do with this software platform.  I threw myself into trying to learn everything I could about it.  I scoured technical manuals, sent off emails to my contacts at the company and eventually joined a group of people who were trying to help each other via a listserv.  I'll never forget going to the first users conference and seeing three men literally kneel down in the entrance to the mens room to fire up a laptop based version of the software to test something that one had asked the others about.  They really wanted to help each other (and they helped me tremendously).  As time went on, I learned that if I took each question that went out to the listserv as a personal challenge, I usually learned more than I'm sure I helped the people asking the questions.  Eventually I was at another conference and talking with a small group of people in a breakout session.  I wasn't wearing a name tag and hadn't identified myself to this group of strangers.  A woman said to me, "Excuse me, are you Scott Dennis? ... I though so.  I recognized your voice.  Your YouTube videos have saved my life.  Thank you."  I was flabbergasted.  I had no idea that anyone beside a narrow group of my friends had even seen them.


A few years ago I wrote a blog post about Openness and Community as values.  My involvement in this community began in 2010 when I discovered Canvas, Free for Teachers and the first rudimentary message boards.  I was about a week in and trying to learn everything I could when my land line rang.  The man on the other end of the line was a Canvas Admin in Plano, Texas who had read my questions in the message boards, google stalked me to find my landline and called to answer all my questions.  Again, I was flabbergasted that this stranger, at not benefit to himself, would invest 90 minutes of his time helping me simply because we were using the same software.  I was hooked immediately and couldn't wait to have more such interactions.


Is there someone part of your community who you admire? How does their involvement or their overall participation influence you?

There are too many people in this community that I admire to mention.  Some of them I have never met and never will while some of them are dear friends I have known irl for many years.  They all have my tremendous respect.  Michael Zimmerman, JB (you know who you are), all of the Coaches, Peter Love, Alan Kinsey, Jayde Colquhoun, Hildi Pardo, Laura Gibbs, Bobby Pedersen, Rob Ditto, Sara Frizelle, Amanda Warren Marshall, Gregory Beyrer and Dallas Hulsey are just a handful of the people I am proud to be associated with in some way.



What does COMMUNITY mean to you?

We all interpret the word COMMUNITY in different ways.  We all live in some type of community...whether in a small town, in a residential community, etc.  In these types of communities, we might be in the same part of the world, but we have different interests.  For me, it's having a sense of belonging...that you feel welcome.  Community is also sharing and talking about common interests...even in smaller group settings.


Are you a part of a community (Canvas, work, or neighborhood)? What brought you there, or how did you initially get connected?

One community that I feel very connected to is my church family.  My family moved to Fond du Lac, WI my junior year of college.  Since then, my family has all moved out of state, but I have remained in Fond du Lac.  Finding a good church "home" is important to my family, and we found that in Ascension Lutheran Church.  I've gotten to know so many great people there that will be friends for years to come.  It's much more than community for me there.  In a way, it's like having a second family saying, "Welcome!  Come on in!"


Over the past few years, I've taken a big interest in board games.  Though I don't get to play as often as I'd like, I am a part of a few online communities on Facebook that are centered around the board game hobby.  Some groups are more general, and different games are talked about daily.  Other groups are more specific and only discuss one particular game.  Though I don't know the majority of people in those groups (literally thousands and thousands of people), I feel comfortable asking questions in those groups when I don't understand the rules.  Most people in those communities are helpful.


A third community I'm part of is right here, the Canvas Community.  I first found out about the Community and started asking question in the old Community website when we partnered with Instructure about five years ago.  People were so helpful (and still are!), and I was able to learn lots just by asking questions...and eventually trying to help respond to others, too.


What motivates you to be an active participant in your community or group?

Plain and simple...I like helping others, and I like trying to help troubleshoot issues.  From the board game perspective, I like gathering with others to have a game night to have friendly competitions or even work together (yes, there are co-op games) to achieve a common goal.


Have you used Canvas in a way that helps you or your team reach a unique goal for your community?

My work team is in the process of creating a "Center for Online & Digital Learning" course in Canvas where our instructors can come to find a variety of resources such as course design info, accessibility info, links to Guides here in the Community, our newsletter archive, a calendar of training events, and much more.


How has your involvement impacted your life?

In both my church community and here in the Canvas Community, I've made a lot of great friends over the past several years.  I will treasure that always.



What does COMMUNITY mean to you?

  • Belonging
  • Acceptance
  • Respect
  • Feeling welcome
  • Supporting each other 
  • Sharing stories and wisdom
  • Working together

(My favourite New Zealand Maori quote)


Are you a part of a community (Canvas, work, or neighbourhood)? What brought you there, or how did you initially get connected?

I've been fortunate to belong to a few communities. Some more effective and healthy than others.

  • As a young mum belonging to parenting support groups helped create little villages to raise our children. I learned so much, then felt strong enough to support others. Telling our stories helped so much.
  • As a teacher belonging to learning communities centered around specific curriculum areas or topics of focus helped me to learn from others then, in time, to nurture the learning in others. Again, sharing our stories of what works, what doesn't, and a few laughs helped also.
  • Teaching in New Zealand had an extra sparkly community with the Maori Community who so desperately wanted to share their culture and language. So many magic memories were made singing, telling stories, learning, learning, learning. This helped me to learn more about acceptance and respect. 
  • Teaching in Tasmania has introduced me to the Tasmanian Aboriginal community. They are striving to show us how to make connections with the land and each other. I am new to this community but feel as though it's home and am looking forward to what I will learn alongside these wonderful people. 
  • My Blended Learning Team have become a tight knit group where we explore and create together. Then spreading our reach a little further are the great people in Curriculum Services and the amazing teachers in our schools.  
  • From day one the Canvas Community has been like coming home. First of all I was welcomed by someone across the planet - thanks Stefanie Sanders! Then another person shared how they use Canvas in different ways to what I thought it was capable of, my world opened up - thanks Laura Gibbs. Then others happily shared their stories, problem solved, told jokes, asked questions and before I knew it our little planet had become 'traversable' without getting on a plane.
  • THEN the APAC group became a mini community where teaching with a similar curriculum and in the same part of the Pacific gave us some common ground to make connections and even meet in person. 


Is there someone part of your community who you admire? How does their involvement or their overall participation influence you?

So many people. The people who welcome, accept, are patient when teaching, share, collaborate, and know when to share a laugh. 


What motivates you to be an active participant in your community or group?

  • When I need to learn something specific - ask a question.
  • When I can help someone out with a question. 
  • When I realise that others might need to hear about something.
  • When I need to collaborate with experts (that's you guys) in the Community to nut something out. 

Have you used Canvas in a way that helps you or your team reach a unique goal for your community?

Creating Canvas Staff Rooms where school staff can not only curate their resources but they can start to immerse themselves in all that Canvas can do as a collaborative and personalising tool thus creating their own community of learning. Hopefully this models how they can use it with their own classes. 



Do you or does your team utilise Canvas in a way which is innovative or customised as you serve a specific community of learners?

It never ceases to amaze me when I see all of the different ways that teachers use Canvas. It brings me great joy when people see a purpose and create courses and lessons that engage so well. 

My extended team across the whole state, teachers, school leaders and the students themselves are my learning community. AND it's early days. Imagine what it will be like a few years from now. Exciting times!


Why do you value a project like this? How was COMMUNITY a motivating factor in this project’s completion?

This project has value for me because it's a way for me to say thank you for the genuine welcome, support, encouragement and wisdom I receive daily from so many of you.


It's a way to say to others - please share your stories. 


How has your involvement impacted your life?

Belonging to these communities has helped make me - Me. 


What does COMMUNITY mean to you?

A community is a group of people whose experiences are clustered around a common theme. They can be in the same location in person or online, and each member can find a way to contribute to their shared interests. The best ones are those that welcome new members and appreciate how those formerly outside enrich the community through the breadth of the perspectives and experiences they bring. The best communities also encourage and support those members who connect with other communities. A community that is worth keeping is one that grows, is dynamic, and embraces change.


Are you a part of a community (Canvas, work, or neighborhood)? What brought you there, or how did you initially get connected?

I want each of my classes in Canvas to become a community, and a student in my fully online U.S. history class this semester inspired me to connect with other communities outside of the one we share.  It all began with a discussion assignment in which students compare how a particular topic is covered in our text with certain videos. One student compared how these two sources covered the experience of women during America's Revolutionary War, and another student's reply included a link to a Wikipedia article listing women who had dressed as men in order to fight. I use a grading rubric so typically my comments are brief. In my feedback to that second student I wrote, "Thank you for finding and sharing that list!"


That student wrote back to me, acknowledging how easy it was for me to write those words but also that those words had an effect: "It kickstarted my decision to take on the task of citing and editing, if necessary, the information on Wikipedia's 'List of wartime cross-dressers' page." This page would be the focus of the student's participation in a worldwide campaign that was held on March 15, the Art+Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon.


Fortunately there was a local event for the campaign hosted by a librarian and professor of art history at another college in our city. As a teacher I hope that my efforts, large and small, have a positive effect on my students, but it is a rare treat when I am told so clearly that they do. I saw that my student was inspired to join the community of Wikipedia editors, and I decided to do the same.


What motivates you to be an active participant in your community or group?


In my job as distance education coordinator I look for ways technology is used creatively to support student success, and a few years ago I explored bringing in Wikipedia editing to my history classes. I lacked confidence, largely because of my unguided practice, and this local event motivated me to participate in the type of thing I might try to support.


The purpose of the campaign is twofold: increase the diversity of Wikipedia editors and increase the diversity of topics that are covered well in Wikipedia articles. Along the axis of gender I do nothing to support the first goal, but anyone can support the second. The title of the campaign shows its focus within Wikipedia, so these were additional communities that I could join (art history) and become a more active participant in (feminism). It hurts a community if any of its members are discouraged from contributing to the interests shared by the community. My kind words played some small role in supporting my student to play an active role in these communities that I also value; her response motivated me as well.

How has your involvement impacted your life?

I'm writing this the evening after the event so it's a bit too soon to estimate its impact on my life. I saw my student at the event and hopefully my presence communicated validation and support. So the initial community within our Canvas class has been served, and I will likely post a follow-up announcement or perhaps ask the class if they have ever edited Wikipedia articles. I might even include an editing assignment in a future class.


I now have more confidence in the ease and importance of Wikipedia editing, as I have taken a few steps into that community. As a frequent Wikipedia user I have a deeper appreciation for the thousands of others who edit and create entries, and I hope that the few changes I made will make a positive difference to those I will never see on the People page in my Canvas course.


Do I feel more connected to the communities of art historians and feminists? That's harder to judge. Though I use art in my history classes I am not an art historian -- I know a lot more about what was going on outside the studio than inside at the time a piece was created. As a historian I teach about feminism and as a teacher I work hard to use an equity lens, but my use of art in the classroom reflects the gender bias of art history in sources like Wikipedia.


So heading into the event I had no ideas about the types of Wikipedia articles I would edit except that they would be about artists who happened to be women. Since I'm teaching a class this semester I figured I might find some pages related to upcoming topics in mid-nineteenth century America. In support of one community I was gearing up to become more active in two or three more.


But in my morning hustle and bustle I learned about a community on the other side of the world that is suffering, and I knew that editing Wikipedia articles about dead artists would not make much difference to them. I was not distraught but in sorrow and fearful that I would find it even more difficult to focus. Fortunately the organizers had some suggestions and materials to help us if we were stuck, including carts with books about art history. After a short presentation on how to edit Wikipedia articles, I walked back to the carts looking for inspiration. I found a book that allowed me to continue the day's task in a way that was meaningful given the day's news and would allow me in an indirect way to support a community I will likely never meet. It was a book about women artists in New Zealand.



Lars Solerød

Better together?

Posted by Lars Solerød Mar 13, 2019


What does COMMUNITY mean to you?

A place where i find people with a common interest. I always seek to work with the experts. Either it is about Canvas or Dog grooming (not that i even like dogs, but if I did . You get my point..)


Are you a part of a community (Canvas, work, or neighborhood)? What brought you there, or how did you initially get connected?

Hopefully we're all part of different communities. Some comes trough work and some comes after intentionally seek membership. When i moved to a new city i was devoted to be part of communities that could help me getting a network in that city. But that requires participation and efforts on your side to be successful.


One example is my mountain bike club. To get a community I volunteered as a trainer and a board member which got me a whole bunch of new friends.


Is there someone part of your community who you admire? How does their involvement or their overall participation influence you?

I'm often impressed with the top contributors in the Canvas community how much time and effort they put down to give extensive and thorough feedback to other users questions.


What motivates you to be an active participant in your community or group?

 I like when people can solve their problems thanks to my contributions. And of course we all like to get high up in the rankings don't we



Have you used Canvas in a way that helps you or your team reach a unique goal for your community?

As a part of several institutions joining at the same time from one country we worked close with our integrations. That returned common practices and an invaluable network of experts that collaborate well years after.



How has your involvement impacted your life?

I've gained a career network that ensures me job opportunities for a long time.


The Meta Community Group received some outstanding blogs in the Reflect and Celebrate | Blogging Challenge. Let’s keep the momentum and share even more wonderful resources! This is the second of three planned blogging challenges in 2019. Get involved and enjoy the professional growth!




A community can uplift, support, and encourage. The joy you experience when you are part of something positive which is also bigger than yourself can be rewarding and motivating. Here’s a big question: which community helps you be you, or which community fuels your passion projects? It’s time to share the joy that you find surrounding you daily. In the next few weeks, take some time to write and share your stories with the Canvas Community!



Here are a few questions to inspire you as you begin to write. You do not need to answer all of the prompts; just pick what inspires you!

Part 1:

  • What does COMMUNITY mean to you?
  • Are you a part of a community (Canvas, work, or neighborhood)? What brought you there, or how did you initially get connected?
  • Is there someone part of your community who you admire? How does their involvement or their overall participation influence you?
  • What motivates you to be an active participant in your community or group?


Part 2:

  • Have you used Canvas in a way that helps you or your team reach a unique goal for your community?
  • Do you or does your team utilize Canvas in a way which is innovative or customized as you serve a specific community of learners?
  • Why do you value a project like this? How was COMMUNITY a motivating factor in this project’s completion?
  • How has your involvement impacted your life?


Between now and March 31st April 5th, set aside some time for some reflection and writing. To begin sharing your story, you will need to find the Meta Community Group. (If you aren’t already a member of this group, you will need to join this group in order to publish your blog post.) At the bottom of this introductory blog, you will see a button that says “Share the Joy”. After clicking, a template will be copied for you to use as you write your blog!


Please leave the Mar19 and Blogging Challenge tags intact when you publish your blog. These tags make it possible for all of the contributions for this particular blogging challenge to be found in one place, and for the blogs to be connected to one another. Also, if the tags are missing, you may not get the recognition you deserve or qualify for the rewards.


Participants who directly invite others to participate in the March Blogging Challenge via a “share” of their blog are eligible for bonus points. Participants must remember to include Kristin Lundstrum in the “share” along with the intended recipient to receive the additional reward points. One recipient (plus Kristin) per share, please. Nobody likes spam!




All authors who submit a blog post on or before March 31st will receive 250 Community points and receive an exclusive badge added to their profile in the Canvas Community.  Please be patient as this badge and reward points will be awarded manually.


Additional point prizes will also be rewarded:

  • 10 additional points = Each time a participant directly invites others to participate in the March Blogging Challenge via a “share” of their blog
  • 250 additional points = Top 10 posts based on likes, views, bookmarks, shares, quality of comments, and the opinions of the Canvas Community Managers + Coaches
  • 500 additional points = 1 Winner (from the Top 10) will be determined by a Community poll




  • March 31, 2019 April 5, 2019: All posts must be published in the Meta Community Group using the template linked to the “Write a Blog” button below to be considered for the TOP 10. Posts published after the deadline will be welcomed, but they will not be considered for this contest.
  • April 1, 2019 April 7, 2019 The top 10 blog posts will be announced in a poll and will be eligible for voting. Authors will have two weeks to increase the visibility and ranking of their blog. Share it, Tweet it, get people to read and rate it, comment on it, etc. to help surface your story to the top!
  • April 15, 2019 April 22, 2019: The overall winner will be announced.




Write a Blog

As I reflect on last year, I can’t help but truly think – what happened? I was attempting to reflect (like, actually reflect, reflect), and in talking with the best manager in the world, Tracey DeLillo, I realized – there are chunks missing from 2018. It’s all a blur; almost like I blacked out.


But, here’s what I can tell you that I learned last year – Canvas is family. And family sticks together, laughs together, cries together, and encourages one another. We may be an awkward family at times, with braces and bowl cuts in our onesie pj’s on Christmas morning, but we are a family.


Here are a few of my family moments –


I spent my first full year being a Canvas Coach in 2018. We are a small, tight group of people that love helping Canvas users here in the Community. I wasn’t as active as I would’ve liked to be (more on this later), but they loved me anyways. We use slack for back channel conversation. This can be anything from “Hey, mobile people (that’s Kristin Lundstrum and Ryan Seilhamer), here’s someone who needs help!” or “Hey, I’m not sure how to answer this awesome use case, anyone got ideas?” But we also have fun in there. Jokes. Memes. Gifs. They all happen. And there’s a lot of them.


I mentioned Ryan as being a Canvas Coach, and mobile guy, but did you know he’s also a fabulous presenter? He’s the king of all things mobile (although he’d never admit it). Well, he was gracious enough to ask me to present with him at InstructureCarn last year. He knew me, but had never seen me present. I don’t know if he was nervous not knowing how I’d do, but I was nervous because I didn’t want to let him down. But, he trusted me and let me run with my parts. We made fun of each other, joked around, and had a packed house. Amazing opportunity and one I will be forever grateful for. Thank you, Ryan. (Shameless plug - Check out our presentation!)


Speaking of presenting, my colleague Kori Schneider and I presented at CanvasCon Texas! We had never presented before together, and I’m a major jokester so she knew what she was getting into, but she was still kind enough to agree to present with me! We talked to the largest room ever (with the most empty seats ever) about a project she and I had done together. We had tons of fun and something I would totally do again. (For more information on our presentation, check out CanvasCon Texas Presentation: Accessible. Modern. Relevant.)


On a personal note, I did something this fall that has been literally forever in the making. I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree in Applied Technology and Performance Improvement. I won’t tell you how many years ago I started my college education, just know – it’s been a long time coming. This fall I finally buckled down and completed my final 9 hours. I want to publicly thank my fellow Canvas Coaches and the Community Managers (I'm not going to name each of you, because I'm sure I'll miss someone!) for picking up my slack this fall while I was busier than I thought I’d be. I also want to thank my co-workers who are on here, Tracey DeLilloKori Schneider and Yolanda Miller for encouraging me, fighting for me, and celebrating me. Y’all are literally the best and I couldn’t ask for better people to work with.



So, in a brief moment of actual reflection, these are the moments that aren’t blacked out that I can remember from 2018. Cheers to 2019. May it be full of pandas, joy, and joyful pandas.



I was challenged by my colleagues to write a post reflecting on 2018. Oh, I've had several ideas about what I could write about...I could share a metaphor about how much I love my G2 gel pens and how they're like the community (I started a draft that I couldn't seem to complete), or I could share a metaphor about the process for revamping Canvas release notes (but that notation never made it out of my head).


But the idea that really got me thinking was a metaphor about my house plants. 


Two weekends ago, I re-potted all the plants in my house. I have three philodendrons of various sizes (fun fact: they've all been alive since 1999) and three other plants I inherited from other people (I have no idea what type they are, but their types are not relevant to this story). I needed to re-pot the plants because contrary to popular belief, you are supposed to change the soil to provide new nutrients, but I also needed to get rid of some fungus gnats that had taken up residence (also not relevant to this story). But most significantly, a couple of the inherited plants needed new pots because their roots had outgrown their existing pots. A couple of times I was not watching what was being pulled out with the soil, and with two of the plants I ended up ripping out some of the existing roots, or they came out on their own. (One of those two scenarios is correct but I'm not sure which one—you can decide).


Let me begin by saying I am not a horticulturist* in any sense of the word. So naturally, knowing very little about plants, I thought that perhaps the literal disconnect between the roots and the soil that had been removed from the pot would end up doing the plant a favor. The plant already had a significant number of roots. Surely they're not all important—perhaps having fewer roots would be good, right?  Yeah... well, a week went by and the plants were both more wilted than they should have been. Still green, but significantly wilted. I thought perhaps they needed more turgor pressure** (this terminology is one of the few phrases I retained from high school biology) and gave them more water.


Not the right answer either.


Google eventually told me that my plants were probably in shock from the transfer and that they'll rebound in a few days.


It's been, like, 10 days. I'm starting to think these plants are dying. And I killed them.


Why am I drawing a metaphor from my dismay of (possibly)*** accidentally causing the demise of my innocent plants? My experiences of 2018 were varied and memorable. But the main thing I learned has to do with the value of people and conflicts that may exist between various personalities. I'm not sharing this metaphor to suggest that I may have potentially damaged someone in a negative direction (I don't think any good-natured person truly has that intention), but when we aren't paying attention, we don't really know the effect that we may have on people—for better or worse. What I learned in 2018 and from my (sad) experiences with these plants paints a poignant story for me that I'll probably remember for a long while.


Each person that we encounter has some sort of root system that we can't always see. Some people's roots are still growing in their existing situation—they may be developing confidence and finding their place in the world, your company, or other environment that is new to them. Some people have been established for a bit and need a larger opportunity to branch out and expand because they've outgrown their current situation. And some people are fine just they way they are.


Regardless of the situation for people, don't do anything to damage any positive growth that has already occurred. You may think that trimming the roots (inadvertently or not) will do them a favor. But really, you don't know what's best for them or what you're potentially harming. The only person who knows what is best is that person. The best thing you can do is ask people how they are and what they need. Listen to their needs and their concerns. Listen to their likes and their dislikes, their successes and challenges, their dreams and their realities. Figure out how you can help put them in a situation (or readjust an existing situation) that is best for them.


And if you get criticism—usually constructive is the best kind, if you're lucky—consider humility in how that criticism can make you a better person. Let's face it (see what I did there?), nobody likes to admit they've received criticism. (But seriously, raise your hand if you've never received criticism from anyone. Ever. See? Not possible.) There's usually some truth behind the criticism we each have received, even if it's hard to hear and rips your heart out. But don't beat yourself down further.


Here I am in a public forum to say that my 2018 handed me some criticism about things I wasn't cognizant I was doing from the perspective of a contrasting personality. Having a contrasting personality doesn't make that person wrong. But it can help you see situations differently and develop more empathy. I can tell you that in all of my time of working with people, 2018 will be the year I remember the most, the year that I received some of the most important feedback I'll ever receive in my life. (See, Stefanie Sanders, we can admit hard things!) My personality gives me some amazing strengths with organization and processes, but people are more important, and they need the most love and nurturing of all, even if it takes more learning on your part about how to do it.


My resolution for change came midway through 2018; you don't have to wait for the New Year to right any wrongs you want to improve. Or to improve existing situations that could become even stronger. After you read this post, send a note to someone in the Community you admire. Or better yet, send a note to someone that seems to be struggling and see how you can help. Take an extra moment to ask your family how they are doing, or give the next person who walks into your office a smile and a handshake (and maybe a hug, too—if someone does need a hug but you aren't up to it, call Renee Carney 'cause she hugs everyone and nobody stays sad for long after that ).****


In short, find ways to keep people's roots engaged for growth and further development. Be a positive impact. Be a catalyst for changing a life for the better, not just in our cherished Canvas community, but any time—anywhere you are.


* If you are a horticulturist, I am truly sorry for causing you pain from this story.

** Transpiration is also crucial in maintaining water pressure within cells, keeping them rigid so they can support the plant. The water pressure inside plant cells is called turgor pressure, and it is maintained by a process called osmosis. (

*** I'm hoping for the best and that they'll pull out. Boiler up and hammer down!

**** References can be provided by Emily Allen Cody Titmus Nathan Atkinson

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I feel like I am late to the party for these 2018 Reflections blogs my friends are posting. Although, when I think about it, it is still January and the year has just started, so maybe I'm just in the nick-of-time!  It may just be the sense of urgency I chronically feel, because I work four jobs and there never seems to be enough time. Or, perhaps, it is just because I have never been particularly good at all this self-reflection introspection stuff. Yesterday is gone, tomorrow ain't here and we can't count on it even happening anyways.


And yet, my past and my present include this Community. If I have a future beyond this moment, it will likely also include this Community.


What a powerful, yet still comforting and familiar, thing this Community is. Locally, I have started referring to the Community Team, and a great many Community members as my "Panda Friends."  Like so many friends, they are all different sizes, shapes, and configurations of individuals; and yet still as all friends should be - helpful when I need help and accepting of the help I give. Grateful to both receive and offer help! And like any good Community, a source for continuous learning and growing.  It is the helping and the learning that keeps me in here, and I usually find it totally impossible to separate the helping from the learning regardless of which direction they are flowing.  The learning potential in here is immense, even if we don't consider all the formal resources provided in here like guides, and videos, and CanvasLive, and all that jazz!  The best learning is happening between the members of this Community! I ask a question, I learn. and when I answer a question, I still learn because it makes me reflect on something, explore something, revisit something, test something that I might not have thought about in a long while. Reading the questions and answers of others in postings I am not even participating in have been great learning experiences. It always amazes me that 14 different answers to the same question can all be the correct answers, or include an element of correctness. Learning about thousands of different perspectives on what Canvas is or what it should be, how Canvas is used and could be used, how Canvas works or should work.


In this Community we have such a diverse collection of Canvas users - from teaching every level of education, in countries and cultures spanning the globe and to every level of experience in using Canvas. I think that perhaps a few of you might be very surprised to learn (there's that sitinkin' "L" word again - sheesh), that I sometimes learn the most while trying to help the least experienced users - they know what they want to do, just not how to do it in Canvas; and so many of the things they want to do are amazing!


It may also surprise at least some of you that I also learn a great deal from our most dissatisfied Canvas users. Folks who really need Canvas to do something it can't, and even from those who want Canvas to do something it shouldn't. Every time I find a way to articulate an answer for those folks, I learn something - usually about myself, and my role in a Community such as this.


So for me, the Community is about learning, and learning while helping and being helped. For me, 2018 represented a lot of that!


Thank you every one the 382,000+  members of this Community. Thank you for a great year, filled with helping and learning! That is my crowning achievement for 2018 - growing with this community!


And here I am at the end of this blog, actually in the future of where I was at when I started this blog. So those moments did exist and are now gone. perhaps there will be more.



My 2018 consisted of a bumpy recovery from a series of setbacks in 2017. When I say “setbacks,” I’m referring to various events, some personal, some external, that taken individually wouldn’t sound like much—but the last of those external events, coming late in the year, hit me like a gut punch and set off a full-blown existential crisis. I knew I needed to reflect mightily on what had led up to that in order to address it.


I realized that I had been responding to those setbacks by shutting off emotional connections in a misguided attempt at self-preservation. In 2018 I worked on reopening those. One concept I revisited in 2018 is that empathy is learned. For my part, I needed to re-learn empathy.


Not only are we to be in touch with the pain and brokenness of others, but we also have to face our own brokenness. It is through the cracks that the light comes in.1


I would not have mustered the courage to reveal those cracks without a rock-solid support network. You’ve no doubt already read the blog posts my colleagues Renee and Adam posted, so you know they’re the best people in the universe, along with the person to whom I arguably owe the most in life, Scott Dennis. And you undoubtedly know the Canvas Doc Team in the aggregate, but you need to know each of them by name: Erin Hallmark, Alli Foote, Allison Dilts, Cody Titmus, Nathan Atkinson, Danielle Jackson, Naomi Petty, Tami Booth, Emily Allen (and you can read more about each of them on the Community Team page). Thanks to these stellar individuals, I have a team on which to lean—and in the process, I learned that vulnerability begets strength. Strength comes through the connections we make. And those connections are sparked by our willingness to show vulnerability. Think about it: If you don’t express your need for help, how is someone going to know to help you? But if you ask for help, you might get assistance from an unlikely source, and forge connections you never imagined you could.


My 2018 mantra was “Always Buy The Ticket,” which is just another way of saying carpe diem. I went to at least 102 rock concerts last year, as well as a week-long yoga retreat, a five-day festival celebrating a revered musician, a second trip to Cuba: always buying the ticket.


And I am considerably stronger for the experience—mended cracks and all.


broken-and-remended-bowl(h/t Danielle Jackson)


If you know me, you know I’m going to tie all of this back to the Canvas Community, because of course I am.


When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.3


The Canvas Community performs the alchemy of transforming vulnerability into strength. People come here to throw their hands up and say, “I’m at my wits’ end; how do I [insert the thing].” And like magic, our wonderful, generous members wave their wands and contribute their solutions. Our person in need just got stronger; our collection of resources just gained a new artifact; and the interaction just made us all more cohesive. Win, win, and win.


Most people are having a really tough time.

They are almost always in more pain than you think they are.4



1 Shane Claiborne, Follow Me to Freedom. h/t Roxanne Conroy

(That’s a footnote—not an exponent.) The shows I can remember attending: Jackson Browne, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Eagles, Mudpies, James Taylor, Petty Hearts, Brit Floyd, Roger McGuinn, Aussie Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan, Sweetheart of the Rodeo 50th Anniversary, Gov’t Mule.

3 Fred Rogers, Goodreads Quotes.

4 John Pavlovitz, Life is short. People are hurting. Don’t be a jerk.

Tom Hanks typing in You've Got Mail


When I started as an Instructional Designer in 2017, I had really no idea what I was getting into. I had made a few career hops (technical support to human resources to high school teacher to junior high teacher), but instructional design was never on my radar. In fact, I had plans to move on to being a university professor - I even had it lined up! I was basically waiting for a faculty member to retire, and then I could step into her position. But at the end of 2016, I applied and was hired as an instructional designer for a community college. I couldn't be happier with the choice.


So what made 2018 great? For me, it was a year of exploration. I spent the first year in this position learning the ropes, learning about the college, learning how the office worked, learning what it meant to design instruction. I learned about the deep sides of Canvas and was introduced to the Community. I exposed myself to as many different ideas and philosophies and theories as I could. Why? Because I wanted to know how to do this thing well--I wanted to see how to make instruction rise above the mire, stretch its wings, and fly into the glorious sunset. Did that happen? Eh. But did I learn things? Absolutely. Here's a short list:

  • How the API structure works and to write my own API calls
  • How to build courses that are gamified and fun
  • How to leverage the Community to find answers a little more quickly
  • How to use established courses as a jumping off point for redesigning new ones
  • How to keep accessibility at the forefront without telling people "no"
  • How to tell people "no"
  • How to make something simple sound like a life-changing, course-changing idea
  • How to manage my time on my projects


Not too shabby, though that's not including all the hard lessons. All the times I had to learn to not bring work home to my wife and kids. All the times I had to learn that an angry email or phone call isn't the end of the day. All the times that other people's failures did not mean that I, too, was a failure. All the times that I just had to hit reset and start over (or that one time that I realized I couldn't undelete something. That was a bad day.). 


Overall, 2018 was good. I feel like it was a good year two. Now, onto year three - new challenges and issues. New projects. New relationships and courses. So cheers to the new year.