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InstructureCon 2015 Public Postmortem

tl;dr: This is an open discussion where you all can publicly share your qualitative thoughts and feedback about InstructureCon 2015! Please post before reading the comments from others. Then feel free to reply to others!

So InstructureCon 2015 came, took our breath away (thanks Olivia), and now it's over. Fortunately the great sessions, ideas, and connections we made, can live on within our Canvas Community and the InstructureCon 2015 community space!

Please be sure to take that survey that our marketing team sends out, so we can make instcon even better next year. That quantitative feedback is invaluable.

In addition we wanted to have an open discussion where you all can publicly share your qualitative thoughts and feedback about InstructureCon 2015!

Here's some things you might want to talk about: the sessions, the keynotes, the general sessions, the activities, the online schedule, the printed schedule, opportunities to connect, ideas for the community team to improve community interaction and engagement.

Thanks for your help Canvas Community...  We ❤️ you!

Onward and upward!

Please @mention other community friends or use the "Share" tool to encourage others to offer their feedback as well!

talk about a #ff FYI:

 @scottdennis ​,  @Renee_Carney ​,  @biray ​,  @shauna_vorkink ​,  @kona ​,  @clong ​, awilliams​,  @mjennings ​,  @travis_thurston ​,  @ewander ​,  @seanmichaelmorr ​,  @jared ​,  @scottdennis ​,  @G_Petruzella ​, Deactivated user​,  @canvas_admin ​,  @mfgu ​,  @tdelillo ​,  @hvaughn ​,  @ted_coopman ​, 229780​,  @sbastian ​,  @kschneider25 ​,  @jmunoz1 ​,  @anthonem ​, st2840​,  @rseilham ​, Deactivated user​,  @jward ​,  @dlyons ​, Deactivated user​, Deactivated user​, JGarton​, 504417​,  @bacherts ​,  @SethBattis ​,  @mlattke ​, Deactivated user​, erinhallmark​,  @sabsmith ​,  @adam_b_nemeroff ​

126 Replies

Thanks Deactivated user​, it was great meeting you in person! I have posted a blog post, The Canvas Podcast Wants Your #instcon Experiences​, for anyone who would be interested in recording and sharing their experiences with me for inclusion in the podcast. I can't wait to see the discussion here as well!

New Member

Okay, I promised Jordan I would try and spend time in community spaces, so even though I am a bit wiped out, here goes:

First, lots of comparisons with past instructurecons. Things change, Canvas grows, so you have to let each Instructurecon be it's own Instructurecon.

Second, don't mean to get semi-mental here, but really believe Canvas is the best thing that has happened to education in the US in decades. Instructure had cracked open the edu tech market in a serious way and has done so much to bring some needed light into what had become a dark space. Thanks for caring enough to try.


Big wins:


  • The reduced volume of schwag was balanced out by quality. Loved the hats and those jackets are nice!
  • Instructure staff, simply the best people around and I would extend that to the Canyons people, super helpful and nice.
  • I had some great takeaways from sessions and met a lot of great folks from all over. Big shout out to Shannon Hight - and the Tacoma Community College crew, always awesome!
  • Portable charger for presenters was the best and most useful schwag ever! I already used it!

And many thanks to those who came to my last day, last session, presentation Always On: Transmediating the University Course. What a great crowd!


  • Many venues were overly packed and often SRO.
  • Glossy schedule looked great (graphics amazing overall) but people like to make notes in the schedule and the black background was not helpful here. Yes, Jordan and his crew had the awesome app, but sometimes analog is best...
  • Session descriptions need work. Heard from many people that they wound up in sessions that turned out to be out of their league or simply not what they expected. Brevity is great, but missed the notations on what tracks sessions were in. I think the submission process needs some work, perhaps a form where would-be presenters can add in some information such as the target audience, intended takeaways, and complexity level. This would make the selection process more satisfying.
  • Missed the lightening rounds.

Still a bit blown-out (in a good way) - will post more if I think of anything.

Community Champion

Ditto the comments on the black background schedule. I did not use that at all because i forgot my silver or bronze Sharpies. Smiley Happy

Community Champion

This was #instcon number four for me and I loved it! Here are a few of the things I loved the most:

  1. Unconference- Basically we had an EdCamp at instcon 2015 but didn't call it that.   @seanmichaelmorr ​ and Chris Friend did a great job getting this together and making it happen. This was the most authentic, student-centered​ learning experience of the whole conference. In fact, if I only got to go to the unconference, I'd leave the conference more than satisfied. The best part about the uncon was it was active and connected learning at its best. I've always said the best part of any conference is the people who come to the conference, and in these sessions we got to take our learning back. This was truly learning of the people, by the people and for the people! No slides, no pre-canned content, no spectating. Truly everyone played a part and were authentically engaged. awilliams​ facilitated a great session on Active Listening and Rapid Integration​ and it was great to hear some many people share their experiences, ideas and different perspectives and that was just session #1. I could probably write an entire blog post on this, but I stop here. Hats of to Instructure for taking a risk and trying something new, hopefully this will grow and become a staple at future Instructure conferences.
  2. Sessions- Most people come to a conference to learn something in the sessions they attend and I think every session I went to was well prepared, organized and right on the mark! Not only that, I thought the tips, tricks, content and pedagogy was deeper than any of the other instructure cons. Yes, I got to stand outside of the doorways some of them were so packed, but I've seen this at other big conferences like CUE and I actually liked standing for a couple of sessions. (too much sitting, makes me disengage and uncomfortable)
  3. Keynotes- I loved all of them! I always like hearing from Josh and he was such a good sport to indulge us with a #JoshCoates Keynote Bingo win, but more than that his point of being empathetic and using that to be a better person and designer was heartfelt and smart. I have caught myself more than a couple of times already (not being empathetic) and it's something I will be working on. I also loved the MIMI ITO (instcon15)​ keynote! She had lots of relevant data to show us and her challenge to connect students to learning mentors is spot on. Lastly KEYNOTE: DEREK MULLER (instcon15)​ was awesome! Being a high school physics teacher for 18 years, his message resonated with me and of course he is one of my learning heroes! I could write a whole blog post on that keynote as well and I think his point may be the toughest one of all. It is really harder to unlearn than to learn and in most cases we don't address that with students or teachers (professional development). Watch The Backwards Brain Bicycle​ for further food for thought here.
  4. Product- I am liking what I've seen from the product group. The new UX looks pretty good, I'm not a fan of the colored squares and wish it looked more like what  @GideonWilliams ​ posted in his comments here. I think Speedgrader 2.0​ and the new Gradebook Features are shaping up nicely and will be well received! Overall, I think things are headed in the right direction and I like the vision on enhancing core quality!
  5. People- Saving the best for last! The best thing about instcon was connecting with and getting to know some of the amazing people at the conference! This includes the employees and attendees. This could be another post Smiley Wink.  Another kudos to Instructure for organizing a game night​! When you have an employee like Canvas Guides specialist Deactivated user​ drive an hour just to come to game night​ and stay to the very end (well past midnight) that redefines the adage of going the extra mile! I'm afraid I'm going to leave someone out but I'll give it a shot. Here's a special shout-out to some of the people I was able to connect with at instcon15​  @kona ​  @James_Kocher_UF ​  @kenneth_larsen ​  @travis_thurston ​  @scottdennis ​  @Renee_Carney ​ awilliams​  @seanmichaelmorr ​  @G_Petruzella ​  @mjennings ​  @racquelnedden ​  @mloble ​ Deactivated user​ Deactivated user​ Deactivated user​  @shauna_vorkink ​ Deactivated user​ Deactivated user​ Deactivated user​ Deactivated user​  @James ​  @mlattke ​ sara.chai​  @canvas_admin ​ Deactivated user​ Deactivated user​ Deactivated user​  @KristinL ​

Recommendations for Next TIme:

  1. Use something like to run the scheduling part of the event. I realize we want people in the new community but I just don't think Jive is optimal for this task. is super easy both on admin and users and has more than enoguh features to make a big impact. You could also try to address the room problem by having people pick their sessions early (maybe a badge for that) then reallocate rooms based on this.
  2. Make a Q&A convo with the keynote speakers a session that starts in the first session breakout right after the keynote.
  3. Give a little more love to the unconference : )
Community Coach
Community Coach

This was my third instcon​ and while things have changed (a little more corporate than grassroots), I had a great time and have to echo  @ted_coopman ​ that I think Canvas is one of the best things to happen to ed tech.


  • Venue - I really love the Canyons Resort and even after hiking back and forth between the Hyatt and Silverado more times than I can count, I'm still a major fan.
  • Sundial tent - As much as I liked the Forum, I felt like I could focus more on the content of the keynote because I wasn't fighting the weather or people moving around.
  • uncon​ - Yes, yes, yes! I wish more of the regular conference was like the unconference, led by  @seanmichaelmorr . In all honesty the biggest takeaways that are going to change how I teach and use Canvas, as well as what I think about teaching and learning in general, came from the uncon. My suggestion and what I would love to see is having an unconference track running throughout the conference. I picture having different themes, picked by conference attendees prior to the conference, and then people could get together in a room and just talk & collaborate about that topic. Kind of similar to hacknight​
  • ​hack night - This was my second hacknight/course hack and I love the open atmosphere that allows people to get together and talk/collaborate/help each other/etc.
  • game night​ - I didn't get a chance to participate in any games (I had to pack), but I spent some time hanging out in Kokopelli and it looked like it was an amazing time and if they hold it again next year I'm packing early and will definitely be there!!
  • Entertainment - As usual the entertainment was amazing and I really appreciate the effort Instructure makes to find interesting and fun things for the evening.
  • Keynotes - Overall high quality, but the highlight was definitely Derek Muller! His presentation showed student centered learning at its finest!
  • swag​ - Yes, loved the swag and I agree about the quality over quantity.
  • Speaker gift - Wow, just wow! The portable charger was not only awesome looking, but the best speaker gift I've gotten from any conference. I charged it the day I got it and used it throughout the conference! Love that it was actually useful/helpful for the conference and something I'll continue to use (and show off!)
  • The People - I saved the best for last because by far the best part of the conference are the people, both attendees and Instructure employees. I can't count the meaningful/interesting/fun/educational conversations I had with all types of people. From the golf cart drivers (who are awesome), to conference attendees, conference presenters, CSM's, the product development team, the (amazing) Community Team, everyone is always so friendly and willing to talk and share.


  • Conference Program - it was cool and slick looking... and ineffective for its primary use - to help you keep track of which sessions you want to attend, are interested in, want to make sure and watch the video afterwards, etc.
  • Very similar sessions at the exact same time - there were a couple of cases where it seemed like very very similar courses were at the same time, which was unfortunate for the presenters (who got fewer attendees) and audience (who had to pick between the two sessions). It would have been nice if these sessions had been spread out a  bit.
  • Yellow text on white background for the official PowerPoint slides. Even when the screen was huge, it was almost impossible to read what the yellow text said.
  • Not enough time between sessions - Given the way the conference is spread out (which I don't really mind) and the often small rooms (which is troublesome) it's often very difficult to get to all the sessions you want to see and get a seat or even in the room!
  • Not enough time to do everything! Not sure if Instructure can figure out a way to stop or slow time during InstructureCon, but I seriously didn't have enough time to do and see everything I wanted to or talk to everyone I wanted to talk with! I was going to bed after midnight and up before 6am (thanks time change) and still couldn't fit everything in!

Overall this was a great conference and I left feeling enthusiastic and excited about changes and the direction Canvas is heading (new UI!!) and changes I'm going to make to my fall hybrid/flipped class. Keep up the good work and huge kudos to all the Instructure employees who work hard to make it magic for all the attendees!

Thanks for the mention Chris.

The unconference format is one that I see a lot more of in conferences/events. Teach meets are one such thing. An informal gathering of people where you can do 2minute or 5minute talks/show and tells on an area that is randomly drawn out of a hat. Works really well and often you see examples of outstanding practice. Search for teachmeet on Google to get further ideas....


Sent from my iPad

I'm so bummed I didn't get to meet you this year!  I was watching for you!

Big yes on the the Q&A convo right after the keynotes, would have really liked to have a chance for a conversation with a smaller group of people who were into it. Great Idea Chris!



Wow, I really think this needs a "must post before seeing other posts" flag. How do I follow  @ted_coopman ​,  @clong ​ &  @kona ​? They have pretty much converted everything I would have said. But I quess I will try.

This was my 2nd InstructureCon, but the first where I came by myself. This made for a different experience because I did not have the comfort of a well known co-worker to hangout with. Knowing this, I intentionally reached out to others in the community. This was a true blessing, because the community is truely one of the best I have ever been a part of.

Keynote: All three were fantastic and I really liked having it in the Sundial Tent. The #JoshCoates Keynote Bingo​ was amazing as well as helped keep me engage. Although I do still feel a bit cheated that it was given to us. On the serious side KEYNOTE: JOSH COATES (instcon15)​ was great and on point.  We can not have SCL​ without more empathy.  Learning happens with human connection. KEYNOTE: MIMI ITO (instcon15)​ hit that home as well. We all got to where we are because of how other people poured into us. We all have learning heroes to thank. We also need to go and become those heroes to others. KEYNOTE: DEREK MULLER (instcon15)​ wrapped it up with a truly engaging & active presentation that demonstrated what student centered learning​ is like. Very strong keynotes.

Sessions: The sessions were great as always. I'm am in agreement that there needs to be more time between because I missed or walked in late to several sessions because I could not get there from where I was. Sometimes the rooms were overflowing and there was just no way to get in.  Not sure how to do it, but may getting so polling prior to the conference on the sessions to better utilize the space. I also like the Q&A with the keynote speaker idea as a session immediately after the keynote. There were sessions that were very similar running a at the same time, ever right next door to each other such as Strategies for Teaching Very Large Course in Canvas​ and my session, Canvas and the Mega Course Factory​. Large enrollment course is an area I am interested in and I would have loved to have gone to johnpj​'s session to how they may handle it different for us.

Events: Fabulous. While it ran late, I think maybe having something like GAME NIGHT (instcon15)​ on Tuesday night would be nice. I met a lot of great people only to leave the next day. It would be a great "ice breaker" event. HACK NIGHT (instcon15)​ & COURSE HACK NIGHT (instcon15)​ were also great, but still a bit intimidating to know exactly how to jump in.

Other thoughts: swag is great as always, vendors night time the first night was a great way to give them exposure, food trucks are awesome, sunscreen stations saved my bald head all week, graphics and program were wonderfully designed, but I do like to write in my book so black pages made that tough.

I don't want to end on a negative, so know that this conference is one of the highlight of my year and has the best people in the world. Until next year...