Free for Teachers: Training made easy.

Instructure Alumni
Instructure Alumni
5 0 1,388

Back in early 2011, I had never heard of Canvas. Mind you, I was in good company then, because not very many people had. But the people at my school who were responsible for vetting learning management systems with the goal of selecting the one to which we would transition (away from the rapidly-attenuating and largely unsupported WebCT/CE6) had identified Canvas as one of the finalists in our LMS search.

One of the leaders of the transition team asked me if I would be willing to be one of the faculty members testing Canvas in the first stage of what would soon be a very small live pilot--and I live for this kind of stuff, so I immediately said "yes." He told me that the first training cohort would be starting in a few weeks, but that if I wanted to kick the tires in the meantime, I could sign up for something called a "Free-for-Teachers" account, in which I could create courses and play around with the various features.

What a concept, I thought. An education software company that lets people use their software for free? I couldn't wait.

I signed up for a Free for Teachers account, created a course, and started clicking around. The interface looked remarkably similar to what I was already accustomed to seeing in my daily travels across the web. I was quickly drawn to the feature that allowed users to import their courses from other learning management systems, and I was pleased to see that my ancient creaking LMS, the aforementioned WebCT/CE6, was one of them. So without thinking about it too much, I imported one of my courses into this new Canvas thing.

Much to my surprise, it looked rather good right out of the starting gate. I played around with some formatting, and realized how much prettier I could make my old course on this new platform. I also checked out Modules (something that wasn't available in the previous LMS). In no time I had put together the bare bones of a functioning course.

To make a long story short, by the time the first training course started (which was not conducted in Free For Teachers, but in a school Canvas instance), I had effectively trained myself in Canvas. Of course, I learned a great deal more during the training cohort, but even had I not known all the bells and whistles (and many more have been added since those early days), I saw that I could start teaching in Canvas just with what I had figured out for myself in the Free for Teachers course shell. And I realized that, if we ultimately did decide to adopt Canvas, the training and transition process would be relatively painless for faculty and probably even less so for students.

You know the rest of the story. Our school officially adopted Canvas in the fall of 2011, and the very existence of Free for Teachers made it easy.