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On the third day of Canvasmas, the Canvas Community gave to me: Seven Featured Places...


Back in 2011 I was searching for a new LMS when a friend told me about Canvas.  I pretty quickly found the Canvas Guides that Chris wrote about on Day Three and the Canvas Community, which back then was not much more than a few message boards.  Pretty quickly I created a Free for Teachers account and got to work learning everything I could by experimenting, reading guide articles and asking questions in the message boards.  A few days into this, I was sitting at home alone when my phone rang.  The gentleman on the other end of the line explained that he was a Canvas admin at a community college in Texas and that he thought it would be easier to find my phone number online and call me rather than typing out answers to a list of questions I had asked.  It completely floored me that this man, who didn't know and didn't expect anything in return would spend over an hour helping me, for no other reason than that we both were using the same software.  Since then the community has grown to over 250,000 users and over 500 spaces and groups but I still see that same basic spirit of altruism and cooperation alive today.


With that in mind, l'd like to list out a few of my favorite places in the community - not the seven most active or viewed spaces (although we have that too) but rather just seven of my favorite little corners in the community.

  1. Canvas Studio - I love that anyone in the world can go see what our engineers and product people are working on, or will be working on soon.  Many tech companies jealously guard this information but we believe that by being transparent and welcoming commentary we will learn more and accomplish better things that outweigh any potential loss to thievery or imitation.  I love reading through lively discussions, like this one where people with very different perspectives on how Canvas should operate come together to discuss their views in respectful and helpful ways.
  2. Almost everyone who visits the Canvas Community for the first time comes because they have a question.  Sometimes they don't even know they have a question and "I think Canvas should do this" is really a question in disguise - "how can I do this in Canvas?"  Either way, I love that people can ask questions in the Find Answers   space.  Over 90% of questions receive and answer within 24 hours.  The best part, in my opinion, is that these answers usually don't come from a support technician or employee but rather from other canvas users all around the world.
  3. Some companies update their software in a few big updates per year that involve big changes and sometimes a lot of confusion for their users.  Similar to the model employed by Google, Canvas changes every three weeks.  For people responsible for communicating that change to their users and people who simply care a lot about Canvas, the Release Notes space can be hugely popular.  One of my favorite aspects of this space is that when beta release notes are released (new features sit in a beta instance of Canvas for three weeks before they go live in production) people immediately start testing them and giving feedback and helping each other understand the new changes.  There is even a self forming group that gets together live to compose an organized and complete response back to Instructure about any concerns or questions they have, which is hugely helpful and easier to consume that many many comments left on the release notes document.
  4. The Canvas Mobile Users Group is without a doubt one of my favorite places in the community. Two Canvas Coaches, Kristin Lundstrum and Ryan Seilhamer have really taken ownership of the group, redesigning it and engaging with other Canvas users.  Product Manager Peyton Craighill is active in the space and many users contribute by creating discussions and blog posts that are often as entertaining as they are helpful.
  5. Although it isn't maybe as consequential as some other places in the community, I really enjoy seeing what people post in I Heart Pandas which is a place for anyone to post about pretty much anything they want to.  Usually it is Canvas related but not always.
  6. Did you know there is a community news feed?  I guess this isn't a place, per say, but you can create custom feeds for the people and places that interest you.
  7. Last but not least although often overlooked is the Getting Started space.  This space is accessible from the community homepage (just about smack dab in the middle of the page) and is designed for people new to Canvas and/or new to the community.  I often refer people to it and I hope you will go there, if you haven't already, and give us feedback if you can think of ways to improve the experience.


Christmas Island banner.jpg shared under the  Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license.

On the sixth day of Canvasmas, the Canvas Community gave to me: Six Points for Helping…


Who doesn’t like to be rewarded for a little extra hard work here and there? Or better yet, for those of us with a competitive spirit, who else loves taking down our peers in a friendly way? That’s what the Canvas Community gives to us: rewards and friendly competition!


Did you know that in part of the Community you have what are called “Mission Badges”? In order earn these badges, you accumulate a set of points (as outlined in the badge requirements), and after you accumulate the required points - you get the badge!



So, take a look at your Mission Badges. Where do you rank compared to others? (Pro Tip: when viewing the leader board for overall points, you can also view the missions!)



Here are a few of my favorite Mission Badges and some people I want to point out as being awesome in the Community:

  • Mission: Influence - Sean Nufer is currently Ranked #5 and at a Level 23!
  • Mission: Helper - James Jones is Ranked #4 with Level 574!!!
  • Mission: Leadership - Laura Gibbs is in First Place at Level 73!
  • Mission: Respond - Ken Black has placed Ninth with Level 44!!
  • Mission: Virality - Laura Wojciechowicz is about to take down Community Panda for the 15th spot and Level 77!!!!


I hope you can see that there’s more to the Community and challenging each other than the “normal” way to score points. Mission Badges give you a whole new way to challenge yourself and your colleagues - and it helps each of us who live in the Community! Mission Badges really are a win-win for everyone!


I hope you’re enjoying the “12 Days of Canvasmas” as much as I am so far! Happy Holidays, y’all!

On the fifth day of Canvasmas, the Canvas Community gave to me: five Mobile Guides...


Do you ever find yourself wondering if a mobile app feature exists or stuck trying to figure out how to get it work? Well, have no fear, the five Canvas Mobile Guides are here to help you!


Guides: Mobile 


The Canvas Mobile Guides include iOS and Android app guides for each of the following apps:


  1. Canvas Student 
  2. Canvas Teacher 
  3. Canvas Parent 
  4. MagicMarker (iOS Only)
  5. Polls for Canvas 


See something in the guides that require more information or is confusing? Well, this is a community, and we all learn from each other. Feel free to comment on the guides so we can make them better for everyone!


But wait, I’m in a giving mood, and there is more!


Canvas Mobile Feature Matrix



Want to learn more about the available feature on the Canvas Student or Teacher apps? One of my favorite Canvas Mobile documents is the feature matrix that displays the available features when compared to the web and different mobile platforms.


Mobile Release Notes

Mobile App Release Notes for iOS and Android


A sibling of the Canvas Guides is the Release Notes. Most of you might already be familiar with the Canvas web release notes every three weeks, but the mobile apps get their release notes as well. These aren’t as frequent or scheduled as every three weeks, but give a detailed explanation of new feature and changed features with the Canvas Mobile apps.


Canvas Mobile Users Group (CMUG)

Canvas Mobile Users Group


The last gift is always the best! So last, but not least, I’d like to mention the Canvas Mobile Users Group, also known as CMUG. This group is entering its 5th year and is the best place in the Canvas Community to discuss anything mobile related to Canvas. I oversee this group of more than 500 community members with my Canvas pal, Kristin Lundstrum. Feel free to create a discussion, share a blog post, or post a question. All of the information in this blog (Guides and Release Notes) is also available in CMUG. In addition to this, you will see frequent visits by the Canvas mobile team and Product Manager, with regular opportunities to beta test and contribute to features regarding new mobile products. This group is open to anyone in the community, and we hope to see you explore, engage, and enjoy this tremendous resource.

Stefanie Sanders

Day 4: Peer Badges

Posted by Stefanie Sanders Administrator Dec 27, 2017

On the fourth day of Canvasmas, the Canvas Community gave to me: Four peer badges...


'Tis the season to talk about exchanging gifts! Community members can award badges and points to one another. It's a wonderful way to recognize someone for a job well done, or to create a welcoming atmosphere for someone who just arrived in the Community, or just...because. 


The four peer badges are:


welcome badgethank you badgenice work badgecongratulations badge


The badges come pre-populated with short and simple suggested messages, but you can customize these messages however you wish. Badges and their associated messages are publicly visible to all, so feel free to gush.


Peer badges appear right on the user's profile page, and it's fun to navigate to the profiles of some of our more active and prolific members and scroll down to see the Thank Yous and Nice Works they've racked up, as well as how many badges they've awarded. 


Take it from Bobby Pedersen, who is using peer-to-peer badges to help her teachers in Tasmania participate in the Canvas Community as part of their introduction to the Canvas LMS:

The simple thrill [teachers] get in sending each other a badge is glorious. Then when they see what people share in real life, not just how-to guides, it is heart warming.

As you can see, the spirit of generosity is alive and thriving in the Canvas Community. For more about how you can use peer badges to engage with other members and contribute to the fabric of the Community, have a look at How do I give a badge to another user in the Community? 

On the third day of Canvasmas, the Canvas Community gave to me: three “Getting Started” tours of Canvas...


When you start something new, it can sometimes be hard to know where to begin. For example, I’m a big fan of board games (we’re not talking the normal ones like “Monopoly”, “Clue”, “Sorry”, etc. … although those are fun, too). My collection has grown over the past couple of years, and often the games come with lots of rules. Lots and lots of rules. In fact, my “Star Wars: Imperial Assault” game I recently bought came with four (yes four) rulebooks: one labeled “Campaign Guide” (44 pages), one labeled “Rules Reference Guide (28 pages) that contains all the terminology and answers questions you may have during game play, one labeled “Skirmish Guide” (8 pages) for two-player games, and one labeled “Learn to Play - Read This First” (16 pages). Ah ha! I know where to begin! Now to make sense of it all...


When a school moves to a new Learning Management System (LMS) such as Canvas, it can be difficult to know where to begin. There are so many things that need to be considered. How will enrollments get processed from our SIS to Canvas? How will course shells be created? Will we set up a “Master Term” where we house a “master” of every course we offer online? What kinds of data and reports can we get out of Canvas? Where can we get help and support? The list goes on and on.


If you’ve never seen this part of the Canvas Community website before, I would like to introduce you to three excellent "Getting Started" resources found at: Canvas Getting Started. From here, you can select the role (Admin, Instructor, or Student) that best describes you. Once you have selected a role, you can browse through the written Guides or even watch a short video tutorial of a specific feature of Canvas. One of the coolest things about the written and video Guides is that you can leave your feedback and/or questions at the bottom of any of them, and someone from the Community or even a Canvas Docs Team member will reply to you.


I hope you’re having fun reading our “12 Days of Canvasmas” entries! Happy Holidays!

On the second day of Canvasmas, the Canvas Community gave to me: two overlooked Canvancements...


Canvancements are Canvas enhancements created by James Jones to fill in the gaps between Canvas functionality and user needs. They are the gifts that keep giving all year around and done in a true spirit of giving - with no thought of compensation or self-benefit. In many cases James saw a need in the Community and even though the issue didn't impact him directly he knew he could do something about it, so he did, selflessly spending his own time to develop something that would help fix a problem or make life easier for fellow Canvas users. Canvancements are free, easy to use (no programming skills needed!), and openly available on GitHub for those who are interested in the code/programming side of things. This means that pretty much everyone in the Community can use and benefit from Canvancements!


There are currently twenty-one Canvancements which include crowd pleasers like Sorting Dashboard Course CardsAdjust All Assignment Dates on One Page, and Importing Rubrics from a Spreadsheet.  Yet, as my gift to you, I'm going to tell you about my two favorite and often overlooked Canvancements - sorting the find a rubric dialog and Speedgrader enhancements.


Sorting the Find a Rubric dialog is a nifty little script that once installed will move the current course to the top of the "Find a Rubric" dialog and optionally sort and filter the information to make it easier to find rubrics. 

In the example above I was in Math 230 and wanted to find a rubric from that course. Initially (pre-Canvancement) I had to search through all my current and previous courses to try and find the right course and then the right rubric. After quickly/easily installing and customizing this Canvancement the course I was in was automatically put at the top of the list, I could see which semester the courses were from, and the full name of the courses would show up if I hovered over a course name. This Canvancement has saved me a lot of time and frustration, and I hope it helps you as well!


QuizWiz: Enhancements to SpeedGrader and Quizzes often gets overlooked (I think) because of the name. The name doesn't really explain what it does or why you would want to use it. So why would someone want to use it? For me it's all about the Speedgrader enhancements which work for quizzes, assignments, and discussions. There is a LOT of functionality packed into this Canvancement, but the ones I use and appreciate the most are: 

  • Adds a button next to a submission comment's Submit button that will submit the submission comment and automatically advance to the next user.
  • Adds a button next to a rubric's Save button that will save the rubric and automatically advance to the next user.
  • Automatically expands a rubric when you advance to the next user. 

I use these features the most when grading assignments (papers/projects) and discussions. 


It's so nice to be grading with a rubric and then with ONE click of the blue arrow button (shown above; this button is added when you install the Canvancement) it saves all the rubric information, updates the grade, goes to the next student, and opens up the rubric. One click and I'm ready to start grading again! Goodbye extra clicks! Installing this Canvancement is super easy (less than 2 minutes!) and then you'll be ready to start saving time and clicks! 


This is just a small taste of the many super useful and Community inspired Canvancements that are available to everyone! Check out this list and let me know if you find any new and overlooked favorites!


I hope you’re having fun reading our “12 Days of Canvasmas"! Happy Holidays and here's to a great New Year!

On the first day of Canvasmas, the Canvas Community gave to me: an Awesome Canvas Community...


I wanted to write a blog post about how awesome this community is, but how does one put it into words? I looked to the season for inspiration. Holidays are a time to put aside normal activities and rest, reflect, recreate, practice tradition, and in general come together as people. In that spirit, I sought someone else to commune with in this sharing, as it did not feel appropriate to write about community in isolation. The holiday is a perfect time to take a moment to observe connections with community both with Canvas and beyond.


connections cat

LAURA: Purr-fect indeed! I am very glad to join in on Adam's post like this. And, yes, I believe everything is connected (“connected learning” is the best label for my educational philosophy), so I made a cat for that: Holiday Cat makes connections.




For those who don’t know, the main reason we have a Canvas Community is because we care a lot about you and your success and we know you care a lot about what you do with our software and your success is important to you and many others around you. To be successful you will need a diverse and ever-present support system. Community provides a very special piece of that system where the various roles we all play mean less and our connections and sharing with one another mean more. However, a community is not software. It is people. It is tradition.


diversity dog

LAURA: Diversity: We likes it!

Tradition means literally handing down or handing over. English “tradition” is from Latin traditio, which comes from the Latin verb tradere, or trans-dare, to give across. You can give things, person to person, across time and across space. That is tradition. Trans-giving.


I am not sure if community is tradition or tradition is community, but in both contexts connecting and sharing are inherent goods. They make the whole stronger through a virtuous cycle of giving to get. Every day I see people taking time to go to a website and help quasi-strangers with a question, concern, or idea. Every day I see people composing incredible thoughts and sharing incredible content with a website, with never a thought for compensation or recompense. And because of this giving, every day I see people getting questions answered by their peers, ideas evolving into impactful change, and blogs inspiring reflection and creativity.


janus coin

LAURA: Here I'd like to to invoke the Roman god Janus, who gives his name to the month of January. He looks both backwards and forwards at the same time: reflecting on the past and looking for change in the future to come. So, think about Janus when the New Year arrives on the first of January, and take some time to look both backward and forward. Here is the god as shown on a Roman coin, circa 100 BCE.


Every day I see employees, customers, students, parents all working together to solve problems and make each other’s lives better. Some of these connections evolve over time into relationships and those relationships create bonds of connection. This connective tissue is what really supports this special tradition of community we have together.


LAURA: And the words themselves tell us that it makes sense to connect over the Internet, as we are doing right now. The English verb “to connect” is from Latin (con-nectere, to bind together), while net is an English word (originally meaning a web, as in spiderweb) — and both words, Latin and English, connect and net, derive from the same ancient Indo-European root word: *ned, to knot, to bind, to tie together.


As a fresh college graduate looking for work and finding it as a new Canvas admin, this community provided the support I needed to be a force for good and change in my world. Over time I found the more I gave, the more I got in return, and now monitoring and ensuring the health of this community is a passion I will always carry so that the next admin, student, instructor, parent, partner, developer, employee, or curious person will find what they need here to be successful.

curious cat

LAURA: I have a holiday cat for curiosity too! Christmas Cat is very curious.



In the tradition of holidays I want to tell each and every one of you how grateful I am for what you do here. You have changed the lives of people like me. Also in the tradition of holidays, let us remember to do plenty of resting, recreating, and reflecting with our friends and families. I count you all as both friends and family! 

LAURA: With many thanks from me also, hoping good things for all of us in this season of joy! And thanks also to Adam for inviting me to weave in some words as part of his Canvasmas post. :-)

Happy Holidays!

Kristin Lundstrum

12 Days of Canvasmas

Posted by Kristin Lundstrum Champion Dec 24, 2017

This holiday season is full of reasons to be cheerful! Semesters wrap up, we have time with family and friends, and the anticipation of some vacation days is motivational.


In the United States, many of us are plagued graced with Christmas music from the moment we pack away the fall or Thanksgiving decorations. With time and without fail, The 12 Days of Christmas will play over the radio, overhead in the store, or on your favorite streaming music service. While this oldie has a strange history (If you’re curious, learn more!), one thing is for sure: it will be stuck on a repeat loop in your mind. least that’s the case for me.


Unfortunately, I do not have the ability to gift each Canvas Community member their own 12 Days collection of presents...I mean, in 2017, it’s worth about $34,000! And there’s a slim chance that anyone would actually want those 12 Days gifts to appear on their doorstep.


12 Days of Christmas


Because I, and the rest of the Coaches, value collaborating with each and every one of the Canvas Community Members, we needed to celebrate each one of you in some way.


Good news! We have a solution!


We are extremely fortunate to be able to highlight the priceless gifts that we have available in the Canvas Community. We’re calling this The 12 Days of Canvasmas!


Between December 25th, 2017 and January 5th, 2018, there will be a new blog post for Canvas Community members to enjoy. It's clear that we have many many gifts right here that we should celebrate! Community Managers and Coaches did their best to find items and topics that match the tune and theme of the old Christmas Carol. By day 12, hopefully, you’ll be happily singing along.


Be sure to check back every day for more insights and reflections.

  1. Awesome Canvas Community
  2. Overlooked Canvancements
  3. Ways to Get Started
  4. Peer Badges
  5. Mobile Guides
  6. Points for Helping
  7. Featured Places
  8. Canvas Coaches
  9. CanvasLIVE Event Types
  10. Bloggers Blogging
  11. Product Release Notes
  12. Khaki Ideas


Sorry if our rendition gets stuck in your head. Please forgive us.


Happy Holidays, and enjoy our 12 Days of Canvasmas!

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