Gideon Williams

Some Ideas for 2019....

Blog Post created by Gideon Williams Champion on Jan 10, 2019

I spent some time today looking at the top voted ideas to see what issues are really concerning a broad spectrum of Canvas users.


As someone who has worked with a number of VLEs for the last 15yrs and digital learning for the last 25yrs, I can safely say that my ideas and practice have developed (and hopefully improved?). Although one can still fall into the Wow look at that Tech and what it can do trap (Blank Canvas.... Thoughts about getting started) things now are very different from when I created my first online course. 


In the last few years I have felt that the term elearning is increasingly redundant. It should no longer be considered a separate entity and treated differently - its learning (not the LMS, I hasten to add). This can be a challenge for many of us (myself included) whose formative years had little if any digital impact. We must nevertheless recognise that today's students are now living in a blended world where they are increasingly making their own decisions about how they access information and learn.  More challenging is that this may not include our own institution's digital offerings. This graphic from Steve Wheeler's great blog post summarises it very succinctly:

Blog Post: Learning with 'e's: Anatomy of a PLE 


Those of us who have a strategic role in developing our own institution's learning environment face a number of challenges when trying to support our colleagues and engage our learners. As an EdTech specialist in a K12 school my biggest successes when working with both camps are when I have shared/created resources in our platform that are:

  • interactive (not just embedded)
  • engaging (pictures, sound, good formats, fonts, colours)
  • talk nicely with others (both within the LMS and outside of it)
  • can be used flexibly (blended or linking different digital activities)


So how does this link to my recent trawl through the ideas on the Community?


One thing has becomes increasingly apparent to me. Instructure must do more to recognise that the needs/expectations of users are now very different to those when the platform was first developed and used. Canvas has become extremely successful, very quickly and on a global scale. The product faces far greater scrutiny and inspection not only from its use in vastly differing education systems but also that its users are now aged anywhere from 4 to adult!


I spend a lot of time on the community commenting and sharing (I love the gamification aspect and so wish this could be developed further). The one thing that worries me most, especially with ideas that have so many votes, is that I don't think Instructure is listening as effectively as it once did. 


In my travels, I noticed that a number of the most popular ideas have now been commented upon:


This idea was considered when developing our product plan for Q1 2019 and is not expected to influence development within Canvas at this time.


Communication is welcome and some would say long overdue. However, in the case of the Allow folders in Pages idea which has over 1500 votes, I  personally would like to see a little more that a sentence and perhaps some actual reasons for the decision?


I read so many passionate comments from EdTech specialists who are doing great things with the product to enhance colleagues teaching and students learning. These people are hugely invested in Canvas and their criticism should be seen as recognition that a good product could be even better. Instructure needs to find a better way to engage these experts. In 2017 I thought Project Khaki might have been the answer but future plans for this (why not across all regions) seems to have gone rather quiet. 


Looking again at the graphic, it would seem that interchangeability is the way that an institutional LMS can have greater impact, value and meaning to the learner. 


Canvas prides itself on its open-ness and opportunities for interoperability with other software features. How much could this extend to some of the existing systems? Could the plug-in approach adopted by Moodle work with Canvas with developer tools you can add to your platform to customise it/develop it the way your institution needs? 


Happy 2019 to everyone and keep pushing out, commenting on and voting for those ideas...