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A space where news and reactions to the proposed Thoma Bravo acquisition can be gathered that would be of interest to the community. Please add additional resources, questions or concerns in the comments. 

News and Reactions

  1. Letter from Dan
    "Working with Thoma Bravo over the past weeks, it is apparent that they support our strategy for focus on continued investment in Canvas LMS, expanding our impact in education, positioning Bridge to be more successful, and being a well-run business. As a private company, we will be able to better control our future and execute on these strategic imperatives."
  2. Instructure Enters Into a Definitive Agreement to be Acquired by Thoma Bravo (Instructure Press Release)
    "The Instructure management team, led by CEO Dan Goldsmith, will continue to lead the Company in their current roles. Thoma Bravo will support Instructure as it increases investment in education technology innovation and expands internationally."
  3. Private Equity Firm Thoma Bravo to Acquire Instructure for $2 Billion (Phil Hill)
    "Obviously this is big news for the LMS market, and it is worth noting that in the press release Thoma Bravo specifically mentions Canvas but not Bridge, which should give a hint about future plans. And perhaps more importantly, the press release explicitly mentions future growth that will or could include M&A – Instructure buying other companies."
  4. New Ownership for an LMS Giant: Private Equity Firm to Buy Instructure for $2 Billion (EdSurge)
    "But whether the sale is good news for colleges and other education customers remains to be seen, Hill added. “It’s now a waiting game to see how their strategy changes,” he said. 'Don’t expect it to be the same.'"
  5. Canvas parent Instructure to go private in $2B deal (EducationDive)
    "How private equity will influence Instructure's operations largely remains to be seen. And as part of the deal, the company has 35 days to entertain other offers.'"
  6. Instructure—Creator of Canvas LMS—Acquired by Private Equity Firm for $2 Billion in Cash (EdWeek Market Brief)
    "Brian Jaffee, a principal at Thoma Bravo said, 'We’ve followed the impressive Instructure growth story for many years and believe Canvas is a highly unique vertical market SaaS leader with exciting scale and future growth potential.'"
  7. Seven Things We Mostly Know About the Planned Instructure Acquisition and Three We Don’t (Phil Hill)
    "What does this mean for Instructure’s future? One guess is to expect the Bridge separation with increased focus on the Canvas / academic business to happen quickly. Another guess is to expect Instructure to ramp up their corporate acquisitions starting in 2020."
  8. Insights From Instructure Preliminary Proxy Statement (Phil Hill)
    "I realize that the proxy statement is primarily driven by SEC rules, but Instructure is harming its brand by its consistent focus on monetization and shareholder value with no meaningful communication to customers or prospects (I do not consider the letter above meaningful). The academic LMS market deserves better from its market leader."
  9. Letter to Instructure (Ethical EdTech)
    "While debate continues regarding fair market price for the company (Hill, 2019b), there is much speculation within the Community and amongst stakeholders about the role being played in the sale by the student data Instructure has spent years collecting and harvesting to inform the company’s innovations."
  10. What’s the LMS Worth? (EconProph)
    "Underlying the valuation question though, is the real concern. Can we discern the plans and future for Canvas (and thereby schools, instructors, students, the higher ed system, pedagogy, etc) from this transaction? "
  11. Instructure’s Proposed Acquisition is a Bad Risk for Everyone (eLiterate)
    "Has Instructure provided customers with a detailed and credible enough strategic roadmap to inspire confidence that they have a more compelling alternative for growth? No, they have not. Has Dan Goldsmith thus far proven, lacking such a roadmap, that his reputation for performance alone is worth betting the company on? No, he has not. No smart PE company would make an attractive counter-offer under these circumstances. There is no sound investment thesis until Instructure is able to regain its footing as a product-led company."
  12. Instructure’s Better Possible Future (eLiterate)
    "Instructure's brand has, until now, been its primary and best product. It is still one of the best in the sector, even if it is getting a little ragged around the edges. Because the brand is still good, the company can still build the relationships it needs to make good acquisitions, evangelize those acquisitions to its customers, and work with its customers on even the most sensitive (and important) product research and development efforts."
  13. To Our Customers (Dan Goldsmith, Instructure CEO)
    "In December, we announced that Instructure had reached an agreement to be acquired by Thoma Bravo, LLC, a private equity investment firm. Our board has always had a financial responsibility to the shareholders of Instructure, but as you all know, key components of the financial health of any organization are ensuring that customers’ needs are being addressed and that innovation is continuing at a healthy pace. Financial health, customer commitment, and innovation are inextricably intertwined and must remain balanced. Thoma Bravo also appreciates this balance and shares our commitment to customer success."

Background Information

  1. Thomas Bravo Website
    "We are a leading private equity investment firm building on a 40-year history of providing capital and strategic support to experienced management teams and growing technology companies."
  2. Instructure Considering Sale Options (Phil Hill)
    "For academic community, it is worth noting that much of the investor-based pressure is for Instructure to focus more on supporting Canvas, not less. Instructure management has made it a point to say that they are increasing investment in Canvas, but today’s news puts even more emphasis on that need."
  3. Why Instructure’s News Matters: Market history (Phil Hill)
    "Why is a potential change as mundane as having Instructure’s shares traded in public markets vs. being owned by a larger company newsworthy?"
  4. Canvas LMS Provider Instructure Considers Sale (EdSurge)
    "The last time a publicly traded learning management system provider was taken private was Blackboard, back in 2011."

Reactions on Twitter

 

 

 

 

Other Conversations in the Community

I'm sure more news and reactions will be coming in and as I'll update this as they do - feel free add any links or questions in the comments, follow to stay up to date. It will be very interesting to understand what this means for the future of Canvas!

 

Photo by Oleg Magni from Pexels

Have you ever wanted the ability to know which files from the Canvas Files section are being used in course content or where they are being used? How about the ability to identify and delete unused, irrelevant files?  

 

Read below about a tool we have built to to solve these problems at Utah State University. 

 

The Problem with Unused, Irrelevant Files

We have been using Canvas since the Summer of 2011 and one of the challenges is the accumulation of significant amounts of unnecessary and unused files in the files section as courses are copied forward. Some of those irrelevant files are past syllabi (i.e. syllabus-2011.pdf) or files from past years or duplicate files that were never used. Up until recently there was no way to identify which files were being used or not. 

 

We brought the problem to our data analyst Meghan Lewis who was able to use Canvas Data to look at data on every file across our courses and determine whether there was a link to that file or not from the Canvas content.  Given that some instructors choose to make the files section visible to students we filtered out that data to determine what percentage of files were being used. 

 

From that data we found that only 32.7% of the files in those courses were being used. In other words, over 67% of the files in those courses were no longer being used!

 

Old irrelevant files in courses in the files section are problematic for a number of reasons: 

  1. More irrelevant files makes it more difficult for faculty (and students when the files section is visible) to find relevant content. 
  2. When a student with disabilities requires accommodations in a course it is difficult to determine which files are are being used and need to be made accessible and time is spent making unused files accessible. 
  3. LTI tools that work with files (i.e. Atomic Search or Ally) operate on the assumption that all files in the files section are relevant to the student which has caused problems in our use of those tools. 

With an understanding of the problem, we set out to provide a solution to help instructors better understand how their course files are used. 

 

The Solution

To address the challenges around file management we have build a "File Cleanup LTI Tool" that allows faculty and instructional designers to identify and delete unused files and empty folders and see how files are being used.

 

The reception to this tool has been very positive on our campus and we are excited to share how it works to measure interest on whether there might be interest from others to merit the development work that would be needed to make the tool available for use by others. If you are interested take a moment to review the tool below and leave a comment with any feedback or to us know if this is something that would be helpful to your institution! 

 

Overview of the File Clean Up Tool

The File Cleanup LTI Tool is installed at a course level and is visible to instructors from the course navigation: 

 

File Cleanup link in course navigation.

 

Instructions 

When you click on the tool the following information and instructions shows up at the top of the tool: 
Overview of the File cleanup instructions, see specific notes below image.

This section of the tool provides brief instructions and a chart that shows what percentage of the files in the course are in use. There is also a note at the top of the tool that shows when the information displayed in the toolwas last updated - we currently Canvas data that is updated nightly, but hope to use Canvas Data Live Events in the future. 

Warnings

Below the instructions we present a warning that the tool is still in beta and a conditional warning that shows up when the instructor has made the files section available to students: 

Warnings to users to make sure they understand limitations of the tool. The first warning for courses that display the files section makes sure that those instructors know that some files may be used by students even if there are no links from Canvas content.  The second beta warning lets the users know that we are currently unable to determine if there are links to content from a limited type Canvas data (outcomes, rubrics, conferences, calendar items and quiz question answer submissions). We hope to remedy this with the move to Canvas Data Live Events.   

List of Course Files

List of Unused Files

Now the good stuff - the default view of the tool that lists all of the unused files from the course with the ability to preview, search, select, and delete those files: 

Default listing of files, functionality described below.

Instructors can quickly select all unused files and delete them or click on the file name to preview an individual file, sort by file name or date created or search for an individual file by file name or file type (i.e. all PDF files).  Files can be deleted individually or all at once. When you delete a file an "Are you sure" message pops up:  

Modal asking if you are sure you want to delete the files

Then a confirmation message appears showing how many file were deleted: 

Confirmation of the number of files deleted.

Once the files are deleted the list of files updated and the chart at the top of the page is updated to show how many unused files are in the course. 

List of All Course Files

You can also view a list of all files in a course including those that are in use: 

File list showing all files whether in use or not.

Note in this view there is a link for files in use that users can click on to go to the page where the file is used.

List of Empty Folders

We found that deleting files left a number of empty folders, so we recently added a tool that identifies those empty folders so they can be deleted individually or all at once. This tool is updated live rather than relying on the nightly Canvas Data dump.  

List of empty folders

 

Summary

While we are still gathering feedback from users and continuing to add features and improve the user experience there has already been significant interest and use of the tool by instructors excited to be able to clean out their files. Our Disability Resource Center has also greatly appreciated the ability to work with professors to clean out old files and focus their work on files that are being used in the course.  At an institutional level it has been great to start to see the number of useless files start to go down instead of up and instructors copy their courses forward each semester. 

 

If you have questions or interest in using this is a tool, please leave a comment below. Follow this post for updates on the availability of the tool in the future. 

 

Additional Resources 

Below are some Canvas ideas and other resources that also may be of interest: 

  1. Canvas Idea: Indicate Where Files Are Linked Within a Course
  2. Canvas Idea: Deployment Status for Course Files Canvas Idea
  3. Canvas Idea: When Searching Files, Show File Path (Breadcrumb) Idea
  4. If you are interested in how often files are downloaded in your course, take a look at this Google Tag Manager recipe anyone can use to track file downloads

 

Thank you! 

 

(header photo by bandi, CC License)

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