Utilizing Canvas Analytics to Drive Professional Learning


As educational leaders, you probably already know the importance of offering meaningful professional learning for your faculty and staff. But how do you decide what professional learning to provide? Canvas Analytics can help with that! Through Canvas Analytics, you can identify pedagogical areas of focus for relevant professional learning opportunities for your instructors.

You may be wondering, “What are Canvas Analytics and where can we find them?” Canvas Analytics can be used at any level of the account (Root Account, Sub Account, even course level), as long as the user has the account-level permission to view the Analytics. Within Accounts and Sub Accounts, Analytics are connected to the terms with which the courses are associated. All of the courses within a given term will be grouped together by data. 

Analytics view

In the top Analytics view, you will see data for:

  • Courses (published)
  • Instructors (within published courses)
  • Students (within published courses)
  • Assignments (including Quizzes and New Quizzes)
  • Discussions
  • File Uploads
  • Media Recordings

These are crucial data points for determining what type of professional learning to plan for and provide. Not only can you look at this view and reflect on the numbers, but you can also dive a little deeper. Let’s take a look at the example below and some questions to consider when analyzing the data.

Example of Account AnalyticsExample of Account Analytics


How do the numbers reflect our institution (demographics, goals, etc.)?  

The answer to this question can help determine the appropriate professional learning for your faculty and staff. 

If you have 29 teachers at your institution, 56 published courses may be an accurate depiction. But you may want to address the 560,690 file uploads that may be overwhelming the learnings in 56 courses. (Just for fun: that averages out to over 10,000 file uploads per class!).

However, if you have 100 teachers and only 29 teachers using Canvas, this may not be an accurate representation of your institution, and you may want to consider the following: 

  • Do we need to reevaluate our plan to implement Canvas?
  • Do we need to adjust our vision and goals? Or perhaps make them clearer? 
  • Did we set clear expectations around the usage of Canvas for our users? 
  • And maybe even go a bit further - have we prepared our faculty and staff to feel comfortable using Canvas to encourage ownership of content?

You may want to reconsider or develop a training plan that will not only show your instructors how to use Canvas but also explain why they should use Canvas. 

Each institution is unique. Visions, goals, demographics, and expectations are all different. Taking a look at the numbers and how they fit in with your institution demographics and goals can heavily and positively impact your professional learning offerings.


Are there enough opportunities to provide feedback to students? 

Jon Hattie’s research in visible learning indicates that meaningful feedback falls within the zone of desirable learning for students. Through a simple math equation using Analytics, you can determine whether your learners have enough opportunities for feedback. In Canvas, feedback is everywhere, and it can be given through Speedgrader, discussion posts, and rubrics -  just to name a few. 

If you’re curious about how your institution measures up, let’s do a little math. If you add the number of discussions to the number of assignments then divide by the number of students, you will get the average number of opportunities students have to receive feedback. Check out the equation using the data from above: 

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In this example, there are 6,300 assignments and 1,412 discussions, which, when added, equals 7,712. Divide that number by the number of students, 1,633, and you can see that there are less than five opportunities for feedback per student. Of course, this number isn’t going to be perfect. It can differ from course to course but it gives you a general idea of how frequently instructors may be providing feedback to their students. You can then compare that number to your institution’s goals and consider if professional learning is needed. 


Do we have enough student-student learning opportunities? 

For this we can look at the number of discussions within a term. Ideally, the number of discussions would be more than half of the number of assignments. Discussions are only one metric to gauge student-student learning, but they are a powerful way for students to engage with one another. In the example above, there are over 6,000 assignments but only about 1,400 discussions. It might be helpful to provide professional learning on Canvas discussions and other ways for teachers to encourage and create opportunities for student-student learning.


Should media uploads be considered when analyzing data? 

The answer is yes! Using media is not only one of the most engaging forms of content, but it is also extremely important when it comes to course accessibility and Universal Design for Learning (UDL). Instructors can record and/or upload media files in any Rich Content Editor to add them directly to Modules or store them in the Files tab. If you are noticing that the media tab is significantly lower than the files upload, like in the data above, this is where you can consider if your instructors need professional development for implementing UDL practices within Canvas. 

UDL is a set of principles that help educators ensure their courses (and classroom) are accessible and equipped for all learners, no matter their background, learning preferences, or learning differences. Videos are a crucial part of the UDL as some students prefer to learn from videos, make videos themselves as proof of learning, or need videos to help them understand what they are learning. UDL within Canvas would be a highly beneficial professional learning for your institution if the Media Uploads are low. 

Note: Depending on your institution's settings and the video tools you may already have connected (like Studio), those numbers may not reflect what is actually being utilized. Some institutions use third party tools (like Studio or Panopto) to house and record videos, and these tools are not reflected in the data.

I’ve analyzed the data, now what? 

Using Canvas Analytics, you can analyze how your institution is using Canvas to reach learners. Analytics numbers can then be compared to your institution’s visions and goals on usage and utilization to determine if additional professional learning may be beneficial to your faculty and staff. They can also be a great way to congratulate your faculty and staff on all of the things they are doing right, too! 

If you are interested in learning more about these topics or others and you would like strategic consulting hours to help you plan for your professional development series, please reach out to your Sales or CSM team.

We’d love to hear from you in the comments below: What are some ways you use Analytics within Canvas to help determine professional learning needs?