I love the Free-for-Teachers side of Canvas, because it helps me become familiar with the new UI before my district rolls it out. Also, it allows for collaboration and sharing beyond my school district. Recently, another Canvas Community Member, Kelley Meeusen, added me as a student in the Canvahacks Demo Course. Through this course, I was able to explore a lot of really cool "hacks" for teachers. I have been looking at creating some PD for the teachers in my district who are looking to take the Canvas to the next level . This past year has been our first full year of implementation and some are ready to take off and keep growing. The flexibility with the Free-for-Teachers, helps keep me inspired and on fire! @kmeeusen
"What ways you use Canvas Free-for-Teacher? How does FFT inspire you to be creative in the ways you leverage Canvas?"
Allows Education Students to plan, create class materials and build an actual trial course as they themselves are being taught in their courses. Their teachers can also be added to the course to offer suggests and check on progress.
FFT is a good place to host non-academic courses that will involve non-university credentialed users.
We've recently thought about using it for our Educational Students who plan a career in TESOL as a place to invite native speakers to interact with those student/teachers.
When the community college that I work for first started looking at replacing its LMS last year, the faculty professional development team, of which I am a member, needed a way to begin looking into the possible choices to not only give our opinions on the features of the proposed candidates but also to begin learning those features adequately enough to later assist our faculty with their questions. In this regard, the Canvas Free-for-Teachers account provided the best means to learn Canvas and test its features (Canvas subsequently became the LMS of the college.).
The free account allowed each instructional designer to set-up mock courses and add the other designers so that we might experience not just the instructor viewpoint but also the student viewpoint. This greatly enhanced out future ability to advise faculty on not only what to expect on their end of the Canvas interface but also what questions they might find students approaching them with as the students also learned the new LMS. I still use my free account to test features in Canvas from time-to-time. Currently, I have been using the free account to test the Attendance/Roll Call tool as our college is implementing it this spring semester for the first time. I have learned a great deal about how this tool functions and how it appears in the gradebook for both the instructor and the student given the ability to add myself as a student to a test course. At the end of last year, I also used the free account to test and take screenshots of the new UI (which will be implemented at the end of Summer 2016 at our college), so I can give a presentation on it during the adjunct faculty in-service this spring.
In addition, I am also using the free account to look into the possibility of how an LMS might be useful for hosting online courses at my side job (SCUBA instructor).
Overall, the Free-for-Teachers account has proven incredibly useful over the past year.
One of the ways that we are using Canvas in our K-12 Quakertown Community School District's Online Academy is for online student orientation. Each year we revisit this student on-boarding component to our district's Online Academy program to update anything from content to policy revisions to checks for understanding. Our orientation contains content to meet the more holistic areas of a student working online with learning activities revolving around the Characteristics of a Successful Online Learner (ION). It also contains learning activities that share strategies for goal setting, time management and pacing in an online learning environment. Another section of the orientation course includes Canvas profile and notifications settings, UI navigation and tool usage. Last, of course, is the obligatory Get Your Geek On section where students are walked through computer update requirement check-ups.
This year we included a badging component using CanvaBadges as our microcredential system tied to checks or understanding in each section. Our online academic mentor guides students in need of help through the orientation course to earn their orientation course badge. As student concerns arise she addresses them with the student's school counselors or our program director. It's a true TeamEffort. After meeting page view requirements and scoring above the passing threshold on quiz tools purposed as checks for understanding, students earn a badge for completing our orientation. When the student is done with the orientation they email their receiving QCSD Online teacher to request enrollment in their online course. Since the orientation course enforces a linear navigation through its content this enrollment request script is reached only by completing the entire orientation course. Once pasted in a new email students customize the script as specified.
Hello. My name is <typenamehere>, and I'm enrolling in your <typecoursenamehere> and so on.
In this enrollment request the student also shares the CanvaBadge public share link with the online teacher. When the teacher clicks on the public share link for the badge to verify the name on the badge page the online teacher knows that the student has completed the orientation successfully and has the rudimentary skills needed to navigate through Canvas and their online courses.
In addition to student training, this orientation course in Canvas serves as our Online Academy student communication hub. Program-wide announcements are shared from this piece of Canvas real estate so our students and their observers stay up to date with everything from marking periods ending to reminders about looking ahead before upcoming vacation breaks and asking teachers for help in advance.
Thanks for reading, and please @mention in replies you share back.
Like many people FFT was my introduction to Canvas. I met the instructure team at, ahem, a certain LMS themed conference that was held in Las Vegas, went up to my room to create a FFT class and have been hooked ever since. At first I liked it for learning myself and showing to colleagues. Then I like it because it was a way for me to access Canvas that wasn't tied to any formal RFP processes or subject to any external rules. As we moved along and were using Canvas in a consortium when many institutions that had their own instances, authentication methods and policies, FFT because for me a kind of neutral country where I could continue to experiment, conduct training and do group projects, working with people from multiple institutions, without getting bogged down in turf or bureaucracy issues. Now, even though I have access to my own test instance, I still like FFT because I can have multiple student and teacher test identities totally separate from my official work site.
At the core I think the reason I like FFT is that it is, well, free and it is egalitarian - anyone can use it and I like to think I am using the same tool that is being used by people around the world, crossing many boundaries and socio-economic levels. Even if I could to the very same things in a different instance of Canvas, I guess I just think FFT is cool and like using it.
Faculty using the paid Canvas may find utility in using the Free-for-Teacher access. While faculty may have a sandbox/practice course in our Canvas system, this course falls under the settings of the institution as as such faculty may not have access to the full spectrum of optional tools and apps. For example, the system may be configured to disallow addition of apps to a course or certain settings may be disallowed. And so, by accessing a course via free for teacher an instructor has freedom to experiment.
A second wonderful reason to use free-for-teacher is for teachers in training. Such a course is a terrific place to bring together all the concepts and theories learned the years prior. In this use case lesson plans for a flipped classroom can be brought to life and modeled directly within an LMS. Such a course can be shared as part of a portfolio to demonstrate readiness to enter the scholastic workplace.
Rewind to 2011... I was part of a very small team trying to simplify the department I was teaching in. We were trying to offer online courses, streamline our grading, and organize our resources into a more paperless format == Canvas Free for Teacher. I am not sure what lucky stars crossed my path the day I jumped into the platform, but it transformed my classroom within a year. In the first six months I spent countless hours reading the Guides, experimenting with features, and making a thousand mistakes. I did come out of the experience feeling like I could successfully navigate in Canvas and start creating courses that I would be proud of. Our school officially adopted Canvas as part of a state-wide purchase later on that made it even better with the extra access to the Admin side. I was so impressed that Instructure was willing to offer this software for teachers freely as part of the larger goal being to improve education with a system that supports students and teachers, and that leads to a better educational experience.
Here we are four years later and I still use my Free for Teacher account regularly. Despite having several other official instances, I like to test things out in my FFT account. I can play with tools, integrations, features options, and change course layouts around. I have an alter ego account for myself in which I am enrolled as a student in many of my test courses so I can really try things out and see how user friendly they are for students. Many of the Web 2.0 tools and integrations have been tested out by my demo self before being integrated into a real course so I can be prepared to help my students walk through the necessary steps to be successful. I can look back at more than 150 courses and see how my design has changed over time - hopefully to become more student centered.... Free for Teacher, recommend it to a friend today!
In early 2014, my school began its mission to select an LMS. We created lists and lists of pros and cons of many LMS options. We explored product pages and scoured the internet for user reviews. However, the LMSs that allowed us to actually work in their environments were the ones that made our lives so much easier. The search committee was able to create our own opinions based on our experiences; this was priceless.
Meanwhile, I was actively working on my thesis project. For this, I developed a series of three professional development courses that could be blended with face-to-face sessions or attended completely online. When I reached the point of creating content and designing the courses, the search committee had our LMS options down three. Canvas was one of them, and I decided to dive in and really get to know its features. Free-For-Teachers made this endeavor possible, and, at the end of the semester, I was easily able to invite my university adviser and classmates to my courses for a “test-drive.” I am not sure if the outcome could have been as cohesive or successful if I relied on a different LMS.
While I chose Free-For-Teachers to simply create a better understanding of Canvas, I ended up loving it and being one of its biggest endorsers within the LMS search committee. I was able to take my knowledge of Canvas from building my thesis project and share it with colleagues, and later I was able to match my experiences within training sessions. That extra time of individual exploration was motivating, and I was then able to help others learn the platform when we officially adopted Canvas as our LMS in the Fall of 2014.
That is my experience with Free-For-Teachers, and I'm thankful I had that opportunity. However, I realize that not everyone who uses Free-For-Teachers eventually becomes part of an institution-wide LMS. I like the idea that teachers can have an individual Canvas account and put it into active use with their curriculum. Not all LMSs offer the same flexibility (trust me, I helped create the giant comparison chart from our LMS shopping...), and Free-For-Teachers encourages innovative teachers to independently get their content to their students in a way that works for them.
To those brave individuals blazing their own path through creative course design and who may be the only ones on their campus using Canvas, welcome. What encouraged you to incorporate Canvas into your classroom?
To those who used Free-For-Teachers as an introduction to Canvas, how did it shape your institution-wide adoption?
When we started looking around for a new LMS to replace Angel (our old LMS) one of our online faculty started a full campaign for Canvas. None of us had even heard of Canvas (this was in 2011), but this faculty member had a Free for Teachers (FFT) account and raved about how amazing it was. The members of the LMS Committee got Free for Teachers accounts and started playing around with Canvas (important course content over and building from scratch) and trying it out with their students.
We checked out other LMS's, but kept coming back to how easy it was to use Canvas and how much students seemed to really like Canvas. The Committee ended up unanimously voting for Canvas and the rest is history! Yet, we continued to rely on FFT accounts when faculty were interested in checking out Canvas (prior to the implementation) and I know some of our adjuncts still use it for classes not taught at our Institution!
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.
Imagine an island totally invisible from the normal world where strange things can happen. Horses appear and disappear, underground wheels cause you to travel back in time, and visitors looking for the island almost never find it. This island would make a great network television show... or it would make a fun plan to safely experiment with new features. If you want to try something in Canvas outside of the norm, FFT is a great place to do it. If you are a teacher in a school that uses Canvas, you might use your FFT account to play around with new features in a sandbox that won't be seen by your students. If you are a teacher in a school that keeps Canvas really locked down to just users at your institution but you really want to collaborate with a group of peers from neighboring schools, FFT will allow you to do that outside of your school's normal Canvas environment. Pretty much anything that you want to try in Canvas, but don't want to or are unable to do within a regular Canvas environment, you can do on the amazing Free-For-Teachers site.