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!
Nancy began her career with DeVry 25 years ago as an English teacher with a Bachelor's degree in education and a master's degree in English from Arizona State University. In 1985, she became interested in the potential of the Internet for the practice of English teaching, became the webmaster for the DeVry University-Phoenix campus, and then moved rapidly into technology management, serving as Dean of Information Technology at the Phoenix campus. In 2001, Nancy was promoted to the role of Director of Academic Technology Services for the DeVry Education Group’s Information Technology department. As Director of Academic Technology Services, Nancy managed the development and delivery of student lab experiences, as well as various centralized eLearning resources. Notable projects were the development of a Citrix server farm for remote access to student lab applications, development and management of a student software program, system-wide adoption of a centrally managed eLearning platform (eCollege), and management of the Level 2 student technical support team. In this role, Nancy managed the initial research and development of content management processes, project that was awarded an IMS Learning Impact Gold award for research and development in 2010. In 2011, Nancy moved to the Online Services organization. She led a team of instructional technologists, course producers, and multimedia developers. During this time, Nancy oversaw her team’s development of a collaborative tool for faculty input into online coursework, the integration of a new, updated web conferencing system, universal implementation of a new e-book reader, and the development of HTML5-based tools for students to self-assess their knowledge. In July 2013, she returned to her focus on content management, becoming the technical lead of Project Independence, a project that extracted course assets from over 800 unique courses. Her team rebuilt them using web-accessible HTML-based course content templates, and published them to a searchable content management system. She now works with the Course Development Strategic Projects Team, currently focusing on the migration of 1500 Master Courses, about 4,000 faculty, and about 50,000 students to the Canvas LMS in July 2017.