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Preparing Your Canvas: Coda

Learner II
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This is the tenth entry in my Preparing Your Canvas series, documenting NKU's transition from Blackboard to Canvas. If you want to start from the beginning, here's the rest in chronological order:


My last post ended on a lower note than usual, looking back at the obstacles and learning moments we experienced in our migration. However, I believe we also struck upon several strategies that worked/are working really well. I think overall our migration has been a success, so I'm not going to try and cover every single thing that worked. This time I want to look at the things that felt like discoveries, that I'd gladly do again if I found myself charged with migrating an LMS.

Adapt to the needs of the many.

When we started thinking through how to prepare faculty and staff for a new system, we initially started with sequencing the content to follow an instructor moving for the first time from Blackboard to Canvas. We compiled this into an all-encompassing resource, a kind of "How do I Canvas?" bible. However, we quickly ran up against the limitations of this strategy. We had created this beautiful masterpiece that, despite our intentions, ended up being almost as intimidating as the LMS itself for some. Bear in mind, not everyone was intimidated; many instructors were technically literate enough and had the time to go through it. But many instructors weren't helped by it. So we adapted. 


Part of that adaptation we've discussed in other posts: we went synchronous and asynchronous, online and in-person. By offering multiple methods of engagement we lowered the barrier to learning for instructors that were remote or scheduled out of normal training workshops. Another adaptation was changing the content itself. One major group that colleges identified was their pool of adjuncts. Generally, our adjuncts don't build courses. They run them. The conceptual distinction between a Module, a Page, and a File is irrelevant to them because generally they don't need to worry about that. They need to unlock a quiz, not structure the quiz to minimize cheating. So we built a lean version of our larger Canvas 101 to better address that group.

If I were a wizard (I'd also accept warlock), and I could magic myself back in time, I think I would bake this adaptive approach into our process from the beginning. What would our Canvas 101 look like if, instead of treating an instructor building and running a course as the primary use-case, we identified several major use-cases, and found a way to sequence them so people could hop off the training train once they got what they needed?

 Advertise. Aggressively.

Coming out the other side of this, I firmly believe you can't advertise a change like this enough. Part of your migration strategy must account for shaping the narrative of that migration. We had rumors seeping through campus about why we were migrating, or how the migration was related to other events at the university. Through our emails, our digital advertising, and ambassadorship to colleges and programs we were able to communicate the truth: that faculty who piloted Canvas overwhelmingly preferred it to our old LMS. That the old LMS had a shaky, unclear path forward to continue supporting their product we were using. That Canvas could help create a better learning experience that was less about figuring out the idiosyncrasies of an instructor's organizational preferences and more about the actual learning.

Had we not put effort into shaping our institution's perception of the migration, it would not have been as successful in my opinion. Putting on my wizard hat from earlier, I would have done even more advertising. Its about more than just letting faculty, students, and staff know that a change is happening. Its about getting their buy-in on how that change is beneficial, because ultimately it is their perception of change that will have the greatest influence on the success of that change. Even if something is quantifiably faster or more efficient, it won't matter if it doesn't feel that way.

When I stack what we excelled at versus what we could improve on, the scales tip in our favor. 

Last week we ended with questions about how we learn from our failures, especially in an environment where memory is tied to a constantly changing group of people. This week, I'm thinking about how we maintain forward momentum as we gain those new people. Currently, almost every instructor on campus is experiencing Canvas via comparison to the old LMS. Canvas is the new and shiny, but it won't always be. How do we create the same level of enthusiasm when we don't have the crutch of an old LMS to point to? How can we measure our effectiveness when so much of our experience is filtered through the past? 

Next: Preparing Your Canvas: Tying it all up

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