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11 Posts authored by: Renee Carney Administrator

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!

 

 

Have you noticed a few changes to the Community home page? If not, let me point them out and tell you more about what changes we have planned next!

 

What changed?

  • The large central search bar is gone. This thing was huge; it took up almost one quarter of the home page, and the search results were inferior to the top right (spotlight) search. It was time to retire it to make more room, and focus on the best search experience.
  • The content feeds are gone. Content feeds listed 5-10 recent questions, discussions, and blogs, but our community has so many more than 5-10 new items posted in each of these content types each day; anyone checking these feeds could potentially miss a lot. It also cluttered the page with a lot of text. The clutter was removed and we’re doing more to encourage community users to explore the News option, where they can build custom feeds and find more.

 

Why the change?

In May we asked community members to complete a community check-in survey and received over 1,500 responses! The survey results told us that most users want a simpler home page with more clear navigation, better search, and curated or recommended content. It’s also been 3 years since we changed our general design, so it’s time.

 

What’s next?

We made a few changes, and we have a few more phases planned.

  • Phase 1 was to clean up some immediate clutter and improve the search experience. ✓ 
  • Phase 2 is seeking to improve the navigation experience. We’re currently researching how to best design and organize top level navigation menus.
  • Phase 3 we expect to clean up the Find Answers page to better focus Q&A.
  • Phase 4 we expect to tear down the 3 column structure of the home page and shake things up!

 

Can I help?

Great question! The answer is always yes! As we begin phase 2 we have a bit of research ahead of us, but we’ll be wanting some input when we have a draft design. This will most likely be the case for phase 3 and 4 as well. So if you’re passionate about making this community more awesome, please follow this blog for opportunities to weigh in.

Valentine's Day is an opportunity to express endearment towards the ones we love. It’s a time to recognize individuals for the presence they have in our lives! A valentine is often romantic, but it can also be a symbol of gratitude and adoration.

 

How do gratitude and adoration tie in to learning, you may ask? As human beings, we possess a passionate need to learn, and we recognize that we learn best when we leverage the individuals and collective knowledge around us. In turn, others feed our love of learning!

 

How often do you recognize those who have fostered your love of learning?  We’d like to encourage you to join us in expressing your affection for individuals or groups of people that have nurtured your learning. It could be a past experience, or a current experience. You may have one or many. Just pick one, or all, of the following, or find your own way, and share it out!

 

 

A Community Badge

We’re changing the user badges for three days (Feb 12-14th) to conversation hearts!

Tweet

The same conversation heart images are available in this blog for you to copy and tweet.  Connect your tweet to the great community of learners by mentioning @CanvasLMS or @GetBridge and using the hashtag #LoveLearning

Blog

In the Canvas Community or blog destination of your choice.

 

Wherever you are in the world—for the love of learning’s sake—we hope that you’ll wake up Monday morning to a flood of love and a desire to share more!

 

Keep learning,

 

Adam Williams, Stefanie Sanders, Renee Carney, and Friends

Instructure Community & Social Teams

Renee Carney

Day 8: Canvas Coaches!

Posted by Renee Carney Administrator Jan 1, 2018

On the eighth day of Canvasmas, the Canvas Community gave to me: eight Canvas Coaches…


 

The Elf on the Shelf has become a social media phenomenon, and a loved (or loathed) family tradition, throughout the month of December. Parents leverage their childlike creativity each night so that kiddos can enjoy the elfish shenanigans each morning. Here at Instructure, we have a tradition of an omnipresent being, and I’m here to tell you how it’s nothing like the little elf on your shelf (or wherever he landed last night)!

 

I’m referencing the tradition of the Canvas Coach. Canvas Coaches originated in 2011 when the founders of Canvas recognized there were individual users of Canvas that were early experts and naturally service oriented. These individuals were asked to continue what they were already doing so well - helping others - with an official anointing of sorts. Canvas Coaches are admins or teachers at their local institution who also give back to the greater Canvas Community. You can read more, and meet our current Canvas Coaches, here.

 

Now for a little fun.  Here’s how the tradition of the Canvas Coach is nothing like that of Elf on the Shelf:

 

  1. The elf on your shelf comes from the North Pole.
    While we don’t have a Canvas Coach from the North Pole yet, our footprint is expanding. Just this year our first international coach joined the ranks from Sydney Australia. The remaining roster resides in the US, but covers the spectrum of eastern to pacific time zones.

  2. The elf on your shelf is only in your house in the month of December.
    Canvas Coaches are present in the Canvas Community year round, even through the summer months.

  3. The elf on your shelf lurks quietly.
    There is no lurking done by Canvas Coaches, they are actively engaged with other Canvas users every day!

  4. The purpose of the elf on your shelf is to tattle to the guy in the big red suite.
    To date, I haven’t seen anyone at Instructure headquarters in a big red suite, so that should be a relief. The purpose of a Canvas Coach is to be your friend in the community; to help you find solutions and build on new ideas.

  5. The elf on your shelf is into mischief, nightly.
    You may see Canvas Coaches in the community all hours of the day and night, but I can promise you that there is no mischief afoot (well, unless they hook up with Community Panda, but that’s a whole other story). Canvas Coaches foster relationships and nurture the individuals of the community.

  6. The elf on your shelf loses it’s magic when touched.
    The magic of a Canvas Coach increases exponentially by the number of people they touch and the interactions they have. The community is all about connections!

  7. The elf on your shelf leaves each year.
    Canvas Coaches never really leave. Some may graduate onto bigger and better things, but their vacancy is usually filled quickly with another gifted and talented individual that loves to serve.

On August 29th, online community platform provider Lithium announced that they entered into an agreement with Jive to acquire Jive's external community management business.  The Canvas Community is currently hosted in Jive's community management platform.  

 

The announcement by Lithium mentions “We will continue to offer the Jive-x solution and are committed to providing continued, excellent support for the customers and the platform."

 

We in the Canvas Community are monitoring the situation and are evaluating our options going forward.

When and why did you join the Community?

Way back when, when I first joined the college for which I used to teach, I was tasked with designing the philosophy courses I would also be teaching for their then-nascent online program. Because of my demonstrated design and teaching experience, the school tapped me for its inaugural Canvas training cohort in March 2011. I must have shown some particular aptitude during the training process, because the school then asked me to be part of the LMS pilot team and to administer one of the two pilot programs. In the summer of 2011, we piloted the two finalists—Canvas and Blackboard—and I taught classes in both of them as well as in our existing LMS, WebCT/CE8. (Yes: three LMSs at the same time!)

 

Three LMSs @ the same time...

 

Being the administrator for the Blackboard pilot gave me some unique insights. The differences in philosophy and culture between the two platforms were stark. As the Blackboard admin during that summer pilot, I was able to identify features that simply didn’t work—buttons that didn’t function when pressed, misleading UX design, and the like—and duly went through the somewhat-cumbersome process of reporting them to the company. Their eventual response was either that they might be addressed in their next version—seven months away—or would not be addressed at all, ever. At the same time, our school was actively engaged in continuous conversations with the Canvas folks (and no exaggeration, I think there were only 37 of them at the time), and we received such rapid responses and fixes that we could almost literally watch Canvas morph before our eyes. Even so, I was simultaneously enchanted by and frustrated with Canvas. I was enamored by its flexible cloud-based Web 2.0 design, yet perplexed that certain features our ancient and clunky WebCT/CE8 could perform quite well (running student activity reports and selectively releasing an assignment, to name a few) were notably absent from Canvas.

 

Nevertheless, the adoption decision was easy. In October 2011, our school made the formal decision to move to Canvas, and I was asked to be part of the transition team in which I would work with faculty members to redesign and migrate their courses from WebCT/CE8 to Canvas in a gradual process that ended in December 2012, which was when WebCT/CE8 would simply go away.

 

During the fall of 2011, I started searching out like-minded community members in the Canvas Forums. I started out in the Feature Request forum (later known as the Feature Discussion forum and now called Canvas Feature Ideas) by asking for features that I had come to rely upon in the former LMS. Although I didn’t always succeed, I tried very hard to avoid the “that’s not how we did it in our old LMS” syndrome, and my requests (and sometimes-pointed criticisms) were always met with courtesy and curiosity. From there, I gradually discovered that there was such a thing as an Ask a Question forum (today, it’s Find Answers), and that’s where I found a home. I realized that a multitude of early adopters were working through the same design and migration issues we were, and in Ask a Question we joined in addressing them and sharing our solutions. Some of the demonstrably skilled participants—with a shout-out here to the emeritus coaches Neal Legler, John Louviere, and Kevin Reeve, as well as our Community ManagerRenee Carney and current coach Chris Long—were extraordinarily generous in allowing anyone to benefit from the hard work they’d already put in. I saw that those participants had a special designation: they were “Coaches.”

 

That’s when I knew I simply had to be a Canvas Coach. And that brings me to how I became one.

 

Why do you think you were approached to coach?

In January 2012, a colleague and I gave a presentation at CanvasCon Orlando on our school’s LMS selection, training, and migration process. There, I had the opportunity to meet face-to-face for the first time with Brian Whitmer and Devlin Daley. My confidence in the company’s nimble listen-and-implement philosophy was reinforced by a five-minute sidebar conversation I had with Devlin, when I pulled out my laptop to demonstrate a UX issue that had been frustrating our students and teachers alike, whereupon he initiated the fix for it on the spot. (The results of the fix appeared in the live version of Canvas about three weeks later.)

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Lunchtime was my golden opportunity, as I found myself on the lunch buffet line two spots behind Brian Whitmer. I decided to give up my place in line to approach him, and here’s roughly how it went:

 

“Hey, Brian, I’m Stefanie Sanders—you know, the one who bugs you all the time in the Feature Requests Forum. How can I become a coach?”

 

He might have been a bit nonplussed, but he was certainly gracious. “Talk to Matt McGhie.”

 

So I did, and Matt asked me to demonstrate my skills in a one-month trial in the Ask a Question forum. I must have passed, because I became a Canvas Coach in May 2012.

 

What characteristics make you a good coach?

Although this is certainly no longer the case today, at the time I was the only Canvas Coach who was actually also teaching Canvas courses; the other coaches were from the worlds of instructional design, admin, and IT. While I am admittedly an autodidact in course design and my abilities in that area are largely pragmatic, I have considerable experience in teaching online courses in Canvas, and so I’m able to address the questions that come from teachers who, like me, are striving to employ Canvas’s stellar features to maximize and enrich teacher-student and student-student engagement. What makes me happiest is the spirit of generosity inherent in the fabric of the Community. Being a coach is a fulfilling experience—and great fun—and it’s especially gratifying to be a coach for a dynamic learning platform like Canvas. It’s always changing, it’s always improving, and it allows me to engage in a continuous learning process that I can in turn share with anyone who needs it.

 

(edited February 2017 to add: I am now a Community Manager! w00t!)

When and why did you join the Community?

Not so long ago I was a student at Coconino Community College. Being a nerd, I looked up Canvas and was really impressed that it was open source and started by students. I found my way into a job at the IT help desk and got a limited admin account and my own sandbox. This is probably where I passed the point of no return into Canvasland. Between looking up guides on how to embed fun stuff and answering faculty's questions, I not only found out how easy Canvas was to use, but also how helpful the community members were.

 

Four months later I had moved from the IT help desk to the teaching and learning center and I was doing even more Canvas work. This was where the majority of faculty support for Canvas happened and this is where I really felt at home. Every day I was getting to help someone with technology that I knew would be put to use making some group of student’s lives better.

 

Rather abruptly my supervisor, the Instructional Technology Specialist, announced he was moving. It was a dream job for me, but due to my lack of credentials I was not sure if I would get it.

 

What did you gain from the Community?

Now, a year later, I have been growing in to my new position. I have come to appreciate the people that make up the Canvas community on an entirely new level. The Instructure teams from support and documentation to product, community and CSM’s (yeah, sure you engineers are cool too), and the other admins and faculty, everyone is communicating at a level of respect, helpfulness and maturity (minus the occasional meme) than any other community I have ever been a part of.

Combine my enthusiasm for my job, the reward of helping people solve problems that will help student’s, and the support of thousands of amazing individuals and you have the making of a very happy and productive person. I think that Is what positioned me so well to adopt the new community platform, from its inception, as my most powerful and often relied upon tool. When things were busy at work I wielded the community like a staff of wisdom, when work was slow I channeled good vibes and helpfulness back into it while scouring for any undiscovered nuggets of knowledge.

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Why do you think you were approached to coach?

I believe it is this harmony of give and take that I have found with the Canvas community that led to being recognized as a coach. I am grateful for this recognition and look forward to working with each and every one of you.

When and why did you join the Community?

dark-n-stormy-gif.gif

 

 

 

It was a dark and stormy night.....

 

 

 

 

 

 

Actually, it was at EduCause last fall.  I was hanging out with the wonderful people at the Instructure booth and my Instacon friend Carrie S. People were stopping by, and I was helping answer some of their questions.  Carrie was impressed and told me that she learned a lot about Canvas by going on the forums and finding questions she didn't know the answers to and try to figure them out.  I thought this was a great way to learn more, so I started doing that.  Quickly, I was noticed by Jordan, who sent me a wonderful Star Trek themed t-shirt. Just don't know why it was red, as we all know what happens to red shirts in Star Trek!

redshirt.jpg

 

Anyway, I continued and was soon contacted by Scott D. to see if I would be interested in becoming a coach. I thought long and hard about it, and 1.045 seconds later said yes.

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What did you gain from the Community?

My favorite type of question to answer is still the ones I don't know the answer to off the top of my head.  I love learning all the nooks and crannies of the LMS, and this is still the best way to do it!

 

And of course, if I can answer with an appropriate meme, that'll be thrown in as well

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When and why did you join the Community?

My institution signed with Instructure in November of 2011.  Once we had signed, I immediately dove into the guides.instructure.com site, specifically looking at the Admin guide (which at that time was only like 13 pages long!).   After going through that guide, I downloaded the entire Instructor Guide (which was about 350 pages long) and began to create our materials for the migration from Blackboard CE 8 to Canvas.  At the same time I was also assisting with the Ask Dr. C program where we answered WebCT/Blackboard CE/Vista questions for the user community.  As I started to learn how to use Canvas, I started subscribing to the User Forums and noticed that users were asking a lot of questions that were not immediately getting answered.  So, I started answering those that I could and would research and then answer those that I could not initially.

advice-dog-dropping-knowledge-44672.jpg

 

In November of 2012 Matt McGhie contacted me and asked me if I would like to become one of the Canvas Coaches and I think at that time there were only like 4 or 6 of them.  In December 2012 I signed all the paperwork and by January was an official Canvas Coach.

 

What characteristics make you a good coach?

I am a customer service orientated person and I love helping out other people that are struggling or just simply looking for answers.  The Coaches group has given me insight and a community that I can bounce more difficult questions off of.  I have contacted other Coaches and asked them if they are experiencing certain issues and am able to get answers to questions that I wasn't able to before.

 

I absolutely love helping out users and hope to continue this journey a while longer.

When and why did you join the Community?

In the Summer of 2014, our Technical College ran our first "pilot" group of courses in Canvas.  We offered about 15 courses in Canvas, and we had 11 instructors (a couple instructors had multiple courses in Canvas).  I joined the old Canvas Community almost right away after our account was set up.  I came to the Community to ask questions about how to build content and get help from others.  During that Summer, I know that I got questions from our instructors teaching in Canvas, and sometimes I went to the Community to see if I could get answers for them.  The help I received from both Instructure and others in the Community was awesome!

 

What did you gain from the Community?

After I joined the old Canvas Community, I began to see that there was a lot of people ready and willing to help.  No question was off limits...even if it was a really simple answer.  I appreciated that answers came from a variety of different people who had different teaching styles (this is still true today in the new Canvas Community, by the way).  Having a variety of answers to my question allowed me to think through and talk with my immediate work team what would work best for us at our Technical College when a problem or issue came up.

What characteristics make you a good coach?

First, I'll say that I do not teach as part of my regular job...I just work with online/blended courses and our faculty who teach in Canvas, so it's not as easy for me to answer questions about teaching in Canvas.  However, one thing I really enjoy is helping people.  I also like problem solving and trying to figure out solutions to problems.  I also want to make sure I understand the question first before answering.  If there are questions in the Community that I just don't know the answer to (like things about grading or outcomes, for example), I'll typically let others take those questions instead of me.  Those are just a few of the things I see that make me a good Coach.

Why do you think you were approached to coach?

I don't exactly recall when I was first asked to be a Canvas Coach.  (I want to say it was around Winter 2014.)  At that time, our Technical College hadn't been using Canvas for even a year yet, and I turned down the offer.  I felt that, even though I was somewhat active in the old Canvas Community, I was still learning a lot about Canvas.  I wasn't sure if I'd be able to provide helpful answers because I was still a "newbie".  However, I was given an opportunity to consider being a Coach in April/May 2015.  This time I said "yes".  I became more active in the new Canvas Community submitting Feature Ideas, asking questions, and helping people who had questions.  I try and be very thorough and thoughtful in my responses, and those might be some of the reasons why I was asked to be a Coach.  I've now been a Coach for a couple months, and I really enjoy it.  As stated earlier, I enjoy helping others.  I thank the folks at Instructure for inviting me to be a Coach.  So far, it's been really fun, and I continue to learn from Instructure staff, other Coaches, and others in the Community.

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When and why did you join the Community?

When my Institution transitioned to Canvas in 2012, I subscribed to the release notes and started following and commenting on a number of Feature Ideas. Unfortunately at the time I didn’t realize the power (and amazingness) of the “Ask a Question” side of the Community and fumbled along figuring out how to do things on my own. Through the years I continued to be pretty active on the Release Notes and Feature Ideas side of the Community, and in spring 2015 was asked to be part of Project Khaki and a Beta tester for the new Canvas Community.

What did you gain from the Community?

Getting in and testing the new Community was an eye opening experience and I loved the new platform (Jive) and the collaborative feel of the people and the space. I also realized how much I could help other Canvas users by answering questions and providing links to useful resources! I already answer these types of questions for the faculty and students at my Institution, so doing it for the larger Canvas Community seemed like a natural extension of my skills and knowledge.

What characteristics make you a good coach?

In general I thrive on figuring out creative solutions to problems and really enjoy helping people. Even if I’m not completely sure of the answer I try to either find resources that might help or get the right person involved in the discussion. I think I was approached to be a Canvas Coach because my passion (and points) showed how dedicated I was to being an active and helpful member of the Community.

 

Yet, I’ve found that by being active in the Community and collaborating with other Canvas users I’m learning a lot about Canvas and teaching in an online environment.  For me being a Canvas Coach is a win-win because I’m able to help other Canvas users while also learning and improving my knowledge of Canvas.