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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.



What was your greatest accomplishment in 2018, or what was something you did that made you feel especially proud?

I COPED. Okay, yeah, I know: everybody is always coping... but this past year presented me with harder stuff than I've ever had to deal with before, and somehow — thanks to a lot of help from a lot of people — I got through every day of 2018. Every single day. And now it is 2019... and I am still coping! :-)


Long story short is that in October of 2017 my 90-year-old dad was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer. He had been depressed since my mother died (that was in 2015), and we had all thought his dramatic weight loss was from being lonely and just not eating. But instead it was the cancer. So, after the diagnosis, the oncologist put him through a series of palliative radiation treatments hoping to shrink the tumor and ease his breathing, transferring him to hospice as soon as the radiation cycle was over. But those radiation treatments just about killed him (I was flying out to Texas every couple of weeks and saw him spiraling into a terrible decline), and in January I got the dreaded phone call from hospice: come now; your father is dying. A week, maybe two. Not more.


But... he didn't die. 


Thanks to some miracle-working homecare helpers, he came back from the brink. One woman, Eva, was the chief of the miracle-workers that January. She made it her mission to help my dad feel like a human being again after the total assault on his body by the radiation... and she did it. She then found herself facing all kinds of family crises to deal with herself and had to leave to go take care of her daughter and then her own father, but luckily another wonderful helper named Judy appeared, and she was able to carry on where Eva left off, and Judy is still our main homecare helper.


I was in Austin during that turnaround last February and March, where Eva and Judy and all the Hospice Austin people and I were working with my dad so that he could stay at home. I cannot say enough good things about our whole Hospice Austin team: nurse, P.A., social worker, chaplain, CNA. They are the best.


Hospice Austin


Around the end of March I was able to come home (my husband was so great about taking care of everything while I was gone), and now I go back to Texas once a month to be with my dad. He has someone there 24/7 and so he has been able to stay at home, which is what he wanted/needed. And he should be able to stay at home until the end. Which will be when? Nobody knows. But as long as he uses the oxygen, he feels okay, even good. And good is, well, GREAT, given the circumstances.


We were able to celebrate his 91st birthday in August.

We celebrated Thanksgiving together.

And we had Christmas! 


So, here we are, it's 2019, and I'm exhausted. But my dad has had a great year, strange to say, and I am glad for him. He's been in touch with so many friends, and there is something good about every day. And I really like that hospice approach: it's all about how you are feeling TODAY.


This coming year is going to be really hard, but I am so glad he did not have to die as a result of a radiation-induced collapse. Whatever happens in these coming months, it is going to be different, and better, than the nightmare of last January.


Who around you made your 2018 journey possible (personally and/or professionally)? What did they do to support you? Have you told them the impact of their influence? Did you pay it forward, or do you plan to in some way?

Well, in addition to my family saga, all kinds of other things were happening too, like being able to go to InstructureCon this year, where I met so many of my online friends IN PERSON for the first time ever. That was ... AMAZING. So I owe huge thanks to Instructure for giving me such a beautiful adventure in the midst of what was a hard summer.


Just as my dad is thriving on people-power and human kindness right now, the same is true for me. A big difference from my dad, of course, is that most of my interactions with people are online: I work from home online, so except for husband and our cat, and now going to Texas every month, my life is far more digital than analog.


But of course there is also something wonderful and different about being able to expand friendships into that face-to-face space, along with meeting new friends. And this summer it was an even more special gift to get to meet people in person at InstructureCon!


Maybe you have an extraordinary and non-work-related reason to be grateful this year. What is it, and how did or will you celebrate?

That would be the miracle Christmas: I got to celebrate Christmas 2018 with my dad, which no one (NO ONE) ever thought would happen (especially since Christmas 2017, the "radiation Christmas," was the worst Christmas ever...).


We mostly listened to music; he LOVES music, especially jazz, big bands, and country. Here is the Christmas playlist I made that we played for hours and hours on his TV: Christmas Songs with Jack.



What other elements of gratitude or giving are on your mind and heart as we wrap up 2018?

I started out 2018 terrified about what was going to happen. But now I know: when you have friends, you don't have to be afraid, because you are not alone.


So here's a huge THANK YOU to all my Canvas friends. I hope we all have beautiful days to come in 2019!

Hey everybody! Long time no see, or at least it feels that way. I don’t know if you have noticed, but I haven’t been around this wonderful world we call the Canvas Community as much in the past 12 months. Sure, I still bop in from time to time and do my best to keep up with all the notifications from the amazing things ya’ll are doing, but the past year I have been spending the majority of my time in our Bridge Community



It is somewhat bittersweet. I miss you all of course, but it has also been a lot of fun learning about Bridge. From the people to the product, I have learned a lot and I still have so much yet to learn. You will be happy to know though, the Canvas/Instructure spirit is alive and strong in Bridge! As we like to say, “from your first day of school to your last day of employment” we will have the software solution to help you teach, learn, and grow. 



Some of my major accomplishments on the learning side of things were building my first courses, checkpoints, and programs, and getting the hang of managing users in Bridge. I even tried out using some authoring tools and exporting SCORM files. After that, I transitioned to using Bridge for my own 1on1 agendas with Renee Carney and tracking my goals and accomplishments. This transition culminated for me with Project Basecamp, an internal employee professional development activity. I have completed a number of our internal courses and programs as well. I had a Career Drivers conversation with Renee and I call this a big accomplishment because no employer has ever wanted to get to know me on a personal level like this. They always told me what I should be measuring myself on and getting better at. The conversation helped me focus on how I could derive the most joy and success from my career at Instructure, and that information will help Renee know how I tick and what will motivate me to keep improving. 



Over in the Bridge Community I have been hard at work to continue the work replicating what has been successful in the Canvas Community. The feature idea process, Bridge Studio, mirrors what you are used to here and continues to be one of the most active places right along side Q&A. We launched BridgeLIVE this year and we hope to see over time the type of sharing and caring that CanvasLIVE embodies. However, just between you and me, you teachers and education folk in this Community are some of the most open and sharing people I have ever met. It would be hard for anyone to rival the selfless giving of time and knowledge that I have come to know and love from CanvasLIVE and this community of givers. Because all that giving deserves some gamification, we rolled out a badge and point system and added orientation quests to compliment the lessons on using Community. 



This is great time to acknowledge Stefanie Sanders, who needs no introduction. Not only did Stefanie pioneer most of this work I am continuing in the Bridge Community, she has also been working like a superhero to keep up with all the activity here while I transition to Bridge. I literally have no idea how she does it. She is definitely the person who has made my 2018 accomplishments possible and there is not enough Motivosity (our internal gratitude system) in the world to give her. I have told her I think she is incredible and has a bear trap mind (you wouldn’t believe the things she can remember!), but I have to do it here again. Stefanie, you are the bomb dot com! Special mention to Renee, Scott, Erin and the rest of team as well. It has been a little over a year working with all ya’ll now and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else! Danielle, Alli, and Tami, it has been a lot of fun doing Bridge things and I look forward to more. I also will take just a moment and acknowledge Instructure as an organization. This company made a team, work environment, and culture possible that allowed me to deal with some serious life changes in mid 2018. Not just deal with, but it empowered me to get through it better than I could have imagined. Getting through that was a major accomplishment and I am not sure how I could have done it working anywhere else. Kudos and thank you Instructure.



I am super excited and optimistic for 2019! I have everything I will need to accomplish my goals and those goals are attainable and worth accomplishing! Yet, I am also excited for change, opportunity, and things I can’t yet predict but I will enjoy experiencing them when they do arrive nonetheless. I will keep doing my best to check up on things and stay in the loop here. Feel free to create an account in the Bridge Community if you want to see what’s going on there. 



Ciao for now and keep learning!

Now it’s time to take stock on the year that was in Tasmania – 2018.

We accomplished so much as individuals, as a blended learning team and as a state wide department.

Here are a few highlights from us:

  • Canvas, our brand new Learning Management System (LMS), began in all state schools across the state. It replaced a rather clunky, under-utilised, and unloved LMS.
  • Our Blended Learning Leaders, a team of teachers, supported many schools K-12 across the state.
  • Our Blended Learning Leaders also supported a variety of projects and teams. These continue to grow as people see different potential and purposes for their use.
  • Our talented creative team created templates, courses, resources and gave wise advice to us new to the design game.
  • Our team presented live broadcasts to staff state wide on things blended and Canvas.
  • Canvas was used for state wide moderation and staff professional learning.
  • Remote schools were well supported by our team with visits and ongoing communication.
  • Solid relationships have been built with so many staff members within the Department across the whole state with regards to blending learning and using Canvas.
  • A whole lot of learning and fun happened - and continues to.

So grateful for:

  • A fabulous team of Blended Learning Leaders who are eager to learn, teach each other, problem solve, create, encourage, laugh and support. Alannah   Isobel  Steph  Kate  Rachael and Linda - STARS!  Tracey DeLillo your team is pretty cool too There’s No “Squirrel” in Team: My Year in Review  
  • Teachers who see the potential in blending their learning more and give things a go.
  • Teachers who ask 'so what?' That's gutsy, and paves the way for exciting and deep learning experiences. 
  • Canvas Chat!
  • The Canvas Community and the active members who share ideas and experiences. 
  • APAC - knowing there's a special place for our region in the Community. APAC Thanks to these guys in particular Stuart Ryan, Jayde ColquhounBarrett Doran

What I'm still aiming for:

We can never lose sight, like I did those years ago, about what technology is. It’s a tool. It’s an amplifier. It is not the learning goal. The app, the tool, the device, is not the “game-changer.” What the students do with it for learning is.  

The Reflect and Celebrate blogging challenge was a timely inspiration to write and reflect on the happenings of this past year. As many in this Community, the challenges and changes we face throughout the year is just part of what occurs in the life of an Instructional Designer. But as I l stop to look back on 2018, it truly does seem to be one I am very proud of.


I received my Master’s degree in Instructional Systems Development December 2017 with the goal of focusing on immersing myself in my job as an Instructional Technologist. The Director of my department had been working as an Instructional Designer for several years but had no “official” training so I felt we could work well on re-imagining our department (we have been re-organized in the fall) and setting some goals for quality course design and development at the institution. It turns out our new Dean was big on planning and timelines which was a blessing as my Director was not so much. And me, being the “who, what, when” person that I am, couldn’t have asked for anyone better.


Planning, course development and even getting faculty involved in the course quality review process was making great strides forward throughout the year, my title got upgraded to reflect my new academic achievement, and even my coffee intake was declining (it’s an addiction J). But over the summer our 3 person department lost its LMS Administrator to another job on campus and a month later the director took a new job at a different institution leaving me as the Instructional Systems department.  I will admit I may have felt a slight bit of invincibility after having received a Master’s after such a long time out of school, but not to the point of ever thinking I could be an entire department. I began to look at my retirement date and counted my sick days but it wasn’t working. All joking aside, I was going to have to move forward as the sole person in the department. The Dean had a huge impact in working with the other Deans and Department Chairs to step up in setting policies and procedures in motion to keep the momentum going for quality course review, development and training to continue on the track. By the end of 2018, we had launched new LMS training for both faculty and students and are piloting a new course review tool.


As with any successful journey, the path is never traveled alone. The path traveled in 2018 was a path I’m really grateful to have walked, both as a member of a department as well as “a” department. I do look forward to 2019 bringing with it the opportunity for growth both in knowledge as well as colleagues.

As I begin my fourth year on the Community Team, I like to reflect on the awesome experiences I’ve had at Instructure (and in my personal life) to surface inspiration to carry into the new year. (Thanks @Kristin for this reminder). So as I ruminate (as a cattle farmer I love the word ruminate) on 2018 there are three themes that I wish to bring with me into 2019, and I hope they inspire you as well:


“Relationships transcend community.”

I can’t downplay it at all: I have an awesome job and an awesome team! We get to log in every morning and spend our days with you. Each day presents a different set of challenges, but that’s just part of doing ‘life’ with other humans. We grow together in the good times and in the difficult times. The key is to do it together.


You won’t have to spend long in the Community before you find someone sharing their needs or desires and then seeing a group of individuals come alongside them to brainstorm and offer solutions. It is the foundation of why we are here! It is our greatest success! But it’s not just our day-to-day work challenges that unite us; sometimes it’s our personal challenges. 2018 gave us one of our greatest examples of just how powerful this Community—and the relationships and friendships we build—are. It needs no introduction: just read:

Stepping up the #stepsforbeth
#StepsForBeth, A Community Destination


“Openness requires a level of vulnerability and grace.”

I had originally planned to break openness and grace into separate themes, but I just couldn’t address one without the other. Openness and transparency require a level of vulnerability and oftentimes humility. Openness is simple when you’re sharing good news, but it can’t always be good news.

As part of Instructure’s mission to be open, we frequently announce new product priorities and releases in the community. For some, last year’s ‘truths’ may have been equally optimistic and discouraging.


I believe having this level of transparency in our community develops mutual trust amongst us. First, we recognize that we are all on the same team (we are blessed to have a community where employees, partners and Canvas users interact!) No matter your role within Canvas, we share an interest in seeking balance towards optimizing positive results.


Secondly, with trust comes grace. I am often overwhelmed to watch conversations (comments) around various topics or features evolve passionately, but respectfully (especially when opinions and perspectives differ). Let’s continue to be kind, while still speaking our ‘truths’!


“Adventure is worthwhile.”

If you spend a bit of time with me personally, I’ll probably shamelessly move the conversation towards discussions of hiking, hunting, ranching, or my fur babies! 2018 did not disappoint in any of those areas. I took some amazing hikes, I harvested a few animals, we raised some stellar steaks and bacon, and our two fur children are fat and happy! We already have some exciting adventures on the calendar for 2019 and can’t wait to experience the memories they bring.


My hope for you in 2019 is that you are able to do the same. Our professional Community would not be the same without you, but it is because of the unique “you” that you bring to the experience. I am a strong believer that it is our play, or adventures in life outside of our work, that rejuvenate and restore us, and make us better citizens in our professional lives.


"Bring on 2019"

Let’s continue to build relationships, remain vulnerable and kind, and enjoy many new adventures. There are more features to come, challenges to overcome, and InstructureCon memories to make. It is because of the uniqueness you bring to all of those that makes participating in the Canvas Community an invaluable experience.


Thanks for a great year! And here’s to being the best humans we can be in 2019!



I don't think I express the gratitude I feel often enough, so let me start by thanking Kristin Lundstrum for kicking off this blogging challenge. There are many awesome people in the Canvas Community, and all my "likes" and "helpful" clicks are poor representations of the value that I have found here for my fellow faculty at Cosumnes River College and especially our students. I could write a dozen blogs of gratitude for the people whose contributions I treasure here.


But today I'm going to focus closer to home and share a story of gratitude and achievement. The achievement is a new way of reaching out to my coworkers to share regular news about Canvas, and the gratitude is for a coworker who makes the outreach magical.


We completed our transition to Canvas by the beginning of 2018. Along with the transition to a new LMS, I decided also to change how I communicate with my campus about training opportunities and other things. This is my third LMS, and for each one I have changed the primary way I answer the "how do I...?" and "can our LMS...?" questions. I began with emails that could be easily re-sent when someone else asked the same question, and then I moved to a blog.


With Canvas I started sending a weekly email. Regular notices about training has long been standard, but with Canvas I added two new features: a reference to the Canvas Community and a tip of the week. I encouraged colleagues to submit their own tips, as there are lots of things that Canvas does that I haven't yet learned but the other explorers on campus have. The weekly tips included links to the Canvas Guides, and I extended my experience with video creation by filming some demonstration videos.


So far so good, and here's where the gratitude begins. My department is Distance Education and Web Development (DEWD) and is blessed to have Michael Bittner, who is a videographer extraordinaire and a great guy to work with. He arranged to get the right equipment, has all the expertise in filming and editing, and together we created a video for each of those weekly emails. We started this last semester, and we managed to get a new episode out for each week with a different tip. Each includes a video demo, and we even came up with different ways to call for help.


My gratitude extends to my coworkers, who have let us know that our effort has been worth it. It is especially nice to hear from those who work in our Department of Radio, Television, and Film, because receiving praise from a professional has a special flavor. Our department provides video services for the college, and our weekly video has inspired additional faculty colleagues to use video in their classes.


Finally, I am grateful that I have a job that gives me new experiences. I get to play with toys and slay dragons all day long, and am I fortunate to be in a place where I can lift my head and look around once in a while. I have a lot of fun making these videos, and working with Mike has been the best part.


When I read about the neat things other institutions do to support their users, I like to see details and examples to find inspiration. With that in mind, I embedded a video from our series:

According to Instructional Design in Higher Education: Defining an Evolving Field, sharing “research and best practices” and "improving training and development processes" helps define the field of instructional design (Beirne & Romanoski, 2018) 


Reflecting back on 2018, I’m grateful that I had opportunities to help define the field.

Some highlights from my year:

  • Created my first OER: Designing Quality Online Discussions and Image, Video and Audio Resources 
  • Supported faculty learning to teach online 
  • Became a faculty mentor and mentored faculty teaching their first online courses 
  • Designed a course, that will be taught by various faculty members, in which students use OER to create all of their assignments  
  • Worked with an instructional designer in another state through the ID2ID Program on projects that included: the application of research to improve courses and to create/improve processes, and submitting a (recently accepted) conference proposal 
  • Became an Adobe Campus Leader because of my contributions to the community in the Adobe Education Exchange. 
  • Worked on an Innovation Grant with a teacher who created and used an open Education textbook in her courses  





Beirne, E. & Romanoski, M. P. (2018). Instructional Design in Higher Education: Defining an Evolving Field from OLC Outlook: An Environmental Scan of The Digital Learning Landscape. OLC Research Center for Digital Learning and Leadership, Online Learning ConsortiumRetrieved from 


2019 with colored circles

I had kind of a lot going on in 2018. But if I were to focus on the “Work Life” sub-account of 2018, and then the sub-sub-account of “Work Life - Good Stuff”, one of the highlights was the fact that 2018 was the first year my work team was stable for a whole, entire, calendar year. And therefore, it was the teamiest year yet. I mean, we teamed the heck out of stuff. We collaborated. We edited each other’s documentation. We cross-trained until we had backups of backups for all of the systems we administer. We shared allergy meds and Excedrin. We were truly team-tacular.


In all seriousness (for about 5 seconds), I spent years slowly building this team of fantastic people. They could frankly be kicking butt elsewhere for more money and fame and sports cars, or at least better office spaces, but for the time being, here they are. And, well, it was nice to have them in my 2018. There was a lot of change in our organization during the year, and a lot of weird new challenges. Being surrounded by people who work hard, innovate, and do it all with almost no direction made it much less of a crazy-pants year.


But speaking of crazy-pants, have I mentioned that my team is also hilarious and outrageous? They are my tribe. We make each other laugh. They accept that I have zero leadership skills but insist that I do. And sometimes we do strange things and call it team-building. We rarely have team meetings anymore, because such meetings tend to be redundant when collaboration is ongoing, but I’ve always insisted on having a team name. The names have ranged from “Team Defeated” to “Team Earth, Wind, Fire, and Kenneth”, but when my newest employee started, we quickly decided upon “Team Random Squirrel”. That was based on our propensity for getting off topic almost immediately, and usually in unexpected and untraceable directions. The name has stuck longer than any other team name, even while we continue to be random (but in a good way).


Most of the team finished the year with a flourish by road-tripping it from San Antonio to Austin for CanvasCon Texas. We left at 6:00 am. We got home at 8:00pm. Kenneth drove (and provided breakfast tacos). Kori and Kenneth presented. I networked. Yolanda absorbed Canvas knowledge like a sponge. We had the kind of good time you can only have when you are really sleep deprived. And we got our picture taken with the classy JW Marriott Christmas decorations because when the sleep-deprived boss insists, you’d better just roll with it. I think that probably summarized 2018 in a nutshell (Get it? Nuts? Squirrels?).


Here’s hoping that 2019 is a little calmer in the workplace and in life. And here’s to another year of Instructional Technology Randomness with my peeps.


[Random Squirrel logo courtesy Kenneth Rogers / Team Christmas photo courtesy Ryan Seilhamer holding someone's cellphone]

Over the past few years you may have received "Canvas Community Newsletter" emails from time to time, containing links to top trending community content such as feature ideas and blog posts.  These newsletter emails were automatically generated by our community platform software, Jive.  Some people liked these updates but there were a few problems with them as well.  For one, we didn't have any control over what the algorithm deemed to be trending and sometimes the reasons why something was identified as such were not at all clear.  Also there was no way to opt out of them.  Ultimately we decided to have the update emails disabled in Jive.


If you are interested in receiving digest style updates via email, please check out the options available in your Preferences.  You might also want to keep track of the people, places and content that you follow via the news feed:   For more information on following and news feeds please check out the documentation in Community Getting Started area here in Meta.

Nancy LaChance

A Canvas Canticle

Posted by Nancy LaChance Jan 7, 2019

As 2018 came to a close and 2019 began, my work world stilled --  “not a creature was stirring” as most  of my faculty and students and other constituents broke away for their well-deserved holidays.  For once, my inbox was not brimming and my chat line was eerily quiet.  This welcome respite gave me a chance to slow down a bit and actually start working on some of those tasks I had on the back burner.  One of these items was organizing a myriad of reusable documentation files and job aids that I wrote in support of our institutional migration to Canvas.


What immediately struck me was that January 2019 marks 18 months since we began delivering courses in Canvas.  Our centralized course services team migrated approximately 1,500 courses from eCollege into Canvas for eight academic institutions, and trained approximately 125,000 students and 5,000 faculty to thrive in Canvas.  We completed this complex migration in September 2018, slowed momentarily by the impact of of two major hurricanes on our Caribbean campuses.  


Looking back in the quiet time between Christmas and New Year's gave me a chance to count my many blessings, and to look forward with excitement to what 2019 will bring now that we are settled and running smoothly in Canvas.


The first blessing that came to mind is the amazing and generous Canvas Community.  I was the designated the “Canvas Guru” for all of our many institutions as we dove into Canvas.  The Community empowered me to answer almost every question I was asked, steered me to solutions for some of the strange problems we experienced, continuously offered excellent advice, and allowed me to be much smarter than I could have ever been on my own.   I lived by @Dallas Hulsey’s Turnitin materials. I devoured @Kona Jones and @James Jones contributions. James Jones actually saved me with his amazing scripts (and all of the Canvancements)  on more occasions than I can count – and still does.  I  thrived on@ Stephanie Sanders’ feedback and community management.  I found amazing support during our Blueprint rollout from @Ken Black and @Linda J. Lee. And there were so many others – I can’t even begin to name them all.  The Canvas Community has been, and will continue to be, the lifeline for all of us Canvas supporters.


The second blessing is the Canvas APIs.  Having a vibrant set of APIs allowed us to successfully migrate content into a middle-ware tool (our course authoring system) and then push it into Canvas with efficiency and ease.  The Canvas APIs have continuously allowed us to build capabilities that have met a huge number of needs – including the creation of a much-needed grade audit tool that solved a plethora of issues with grade syncs to our SIS, Banner.  Our Wizard of Oz programmer accomplished quantum leaps in efficiency and flexibility compared to the old (gone but not quite forgotten) days of working in eCollege – and having to wait on their pace of change. Canvas APIs are just magic.


Finally, I had to count the blessing of frequent releases and updates. This has definitely caused some heartburn (with so many cooks in our kitchen that have very different opinions and needs). But at the same time, we now have non-scoring rubrics (WooHoo!) and the new gradebook that enables late policies and so much more. We may groan a bit about the Idea Cycle and the time it takes to get pet ideas pushed forward, but the community process actually does respond to true priorities – and not just those of a few institutions.  It is also a delight to be able to preview, experiment with, and test new releases before they go live (even though we sometimes miss unanticipated impacts).  And attending pre-release chats has been remarkably helpful – again, a function of the community.


There are many other blessings -- InstructureCon (and all those taped InstructureCon sessions for the years I could not attend), the Canvas Help Desk, LTI integrations, and all of the amazing Canvas partners, and I look forward to more and better opportunities and breakthroughs.  However, as I close out my Canvas Canticle, having Canvas alive and well and universally adopted for the degree-granting institutions I support is wonderful, and getting more wonderful all the time as I learn how to navigate and stretch Canvas capabilities and become more engaged in the community.  


I wish you all an amazing New Year as we work together – supporting, building, laughing, and learning – to bring all of the capabilities of Canvas to the users we serve – our students,  professors, instructional designers, and administrators. May the New Year bring greater delights to us all!


(Image Source: Photo by Courtney Hedger on Unsplash)

So, I'm the world's worst blogger and terrible about self-reflection--I never seem to accomplish either, no matter how many times I set aside to write with a plethora of good intentions about what the final work product will be. (The fact that Canvas told me I had an auto-saved draft of blog content from 2017  when I started this attempt at blogging is a perfect example. I had a great title and first line reflecting on my University's Canvas migration experience: "I see the light at the end of the tunnel...and it isn't the train," but little other text....oops). But this year, things are different; I can actually complete the Reflect and Celebrate Blogging Challenge as I have a personal topic of change and reflection that practically writes itself (especially when we consider a picture is worth a thousand words). 


On October 10th, I welcomed my first child into the world: James Anthony. As the "math" shows, 100% of 2018 was consumed with my tiny little human (parasite) in one form or another. I'm incredibly thankful for everyone who has been a part of this adventure so far: My husband (head cut off in the cover image, haha) who has been and continues to be a true equitable partner, my mom, other family and friends who are always ready to support in any way they can, and my amazingly supportive and encouraging co-workers--Fred Bidwell, Aimee Hardesty, Beth Mccoy, and Michelle Meazell. It's still weird to "be a parent" but I have at least realized when a form asks for "Mother's Name" it is referring to me not bizarrely asking about my mother, lol. People keep asking how it feels to be a parent...I've yet to figure out a good answer for that--so far, at least, it feels the same as before just with a tiny human hanging around. I'm looking forward to all the challenges and excitment we will experience together in 2019.


Now for the best part of the post: a few cute pictures: 


Baby boy in a bucket James and I making exciting faces baby sitting in a play saucer chair baby in 100% perfect onesie


Here's to 2019 with all of its new discoveries and adventures! 

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