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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.