Discovering a Common Vision for the Future of Canvas

Community Contributor

Discovery sessions are a unique opportunity to collaborate with other Canvas customers and engage directly with Instructure's software engineers and product managers. In early May, we (Chris Casey [@chriscas] , Valentine King [@valentinesking], and Lynn Ward [@leward] ) shared our needs and concerns while getting a sneak peek at upcoming features. 

One of the session's highlights was the comprehensive discussion on generative AI, led by  Ryan Lufkin, Instructure's VP of Global Strategy. Instructure acknowledged data privacy and bias concerns while sharing several AI integrations and experimental beta features. We discussed practices for teaching with generative AI, with various institutions showcasing their proactive approaches. 

Do You Hear What I Hear

Throughout the session, it was evident that Instructure was committed to listening to its customers and integrating their feedback into product development. Chris had the opportunity to participate in two sessions, one in April and the other in May. Chris noted that Instructure engineers took some of the ideas gathered in April and, in a few short weeks, had functional prototypes to show in May. “It was great to see things happening so quickly!”

Exploring Quick Wins

Along the same lines, Instructure shared its efforts in prioritizing the development of ideas they considered as “quick wins.” SPOILERS. Some of these included the option of adding a signature in the Inbox and minor improvements to the “message students who” feature. Chris shared that it seemed there were some gratifying moments for the engineers and Product Managers as the customer group expressed how these improvements would positively impact teachers by reducing the time needed to complete tasks and students by having improved communications from their teachers.

Ranking Assignment Enhancements

The session included a highly interactive segment where we voted on a curated list of assignment development ideas, allocating a virtual $10 to the features we valued most. These priorities reflected an apparent demand for more flexible and robust assignment features to improve the overall user experience for instructors and students. Val noted that the discussions around new feature enhancements left her optimistic about Instructure's direction. Chris saw areas where functionality could be standardized among different Canvas features/tools.

Unfiltered Insights & Candid Critiques

Throughout the day, candid and open discussions unfolded, addressing the needs and concerns raised at participants’ home institutions and extending to user communities. For example, during the Quick Wins session, Lynn expressed frustration with the current theme-based prioritization process—a sentiment commonly echoed within the Carnegie R1 Peers Canvas User Group. She passionately advocated Instructure to reinstate the ability to vote on individual ideas and sort them by vote count. Later, during the AI-focused session, attendees underscored the importance of providing granular control over where AI features are enabled, especially those aimed at students.

Positive & Productive Vibes

Instructure’s Discovery Session was a valuable opportunity to connect with other Canvas users, share our needs, and gain insights into the exciting developments on the horizon. As we continue to navigate the evolving educational technology landscape, it's reassuring that Instructure is aware of our challenges and strategically working to address some of them. 

As fellow Canvas users, we encourage you to stay engaged with these developments when announced at InstructureCon, in the Product Blog, and throughout the Instructure Community. All our feedback and insights are crucial in shaping the tools and features supporting our educational efforts.