A Canvas Canticle

Community Contributor
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As 2018 came to a close and 2019 began, my work world stilled --  “not a creature was stirring” as most  of my faculty and students and other constituents broke away for their well-deserved holidays.  For once, my inbox was not brimming and my chat line was eerily quiet.  This welcome respite gave me a chance to slow down a bit and actually start working on some of those tasks I had on the back burner.  One of these items was organizing a myriad of reusable documentation files and job aids that I wrote in support of our institutional migration to Canvas.


What immediately struck me was that January 2019 marks 18 months since we began delivering courses in Canvas.  Our centralized course services team migrated approximately 1,500 courses from eCollege into Canvas for eight academic institutions, and trained approximately 125,000 students and 5,000 faculty to thrive in Canvas.  We completed this complex migration in September 2018, slowed momentarily by the impact of of two major hurricanes on our Caribbean campuses.  


Looking back in the quiet time between Christmas and New Year's gave me a chance to count my many blessings, and to look forward with excitement to what 2019 will bring now that we are settled and running smoothly in Canvas.


The first blessing that came to mind is the amazing and generous Canvas Community.  I was the designated the “Canvas Guru” for all of our many institutions as we dove into Canvas.  The Community empowered me to answer almost every question I was asked, steered me to solutions for some of the strange problems we experienced, continuously offered excellent advice, and allowed me to be much smarter than I could have ever been on my own.   I lived by @dallas Hulsey’s Turnitin materials. I devoured @kona Jones and @James Jones contributions. James Jones actually saved me with his amazing scripts (and all of the Canvancements)  on more occasions than I can count – and still does.  I  thrived on@ Stephanie Sanders’ feedback and community management.  I found amazing support during our Blueprint rollout from @ken Black and @linda J. Lee. And there were so many others – I can’t even begin to name them all.  The Canvas Community has been, and will continue to be, the lifeline for all of us Canvas supporters.


The second blessing is the Canvas APIs.  Having a vibrant set of APIs allowed us to successfully migrate content into a middle-ware tool (our course authoring system) and then push it into Canvas with efficiency and ease.  The Canvas APIs have continuously allowed us to build capabilities that have met a huge number of needs – including the creation of a much-needed grade audit tool that solved a plethora of issues with grade syncs to our SIS, Banner.  Our Wizard of Oz programmer accomplished quantum leaps in efficiency and flexibility compared to the old (gone but not quite forgotten) days of working in eCollege – and having to wait on their pace of change. Canvas APIs are just magic.


Finally, I had to count the blessing of frequent releases and updates. This has definitely caused some heartburn (with so many cooks in our kitchen that have very different opinions and needs). But at the same time, we now have non-scoring rubrics (WooHoo!) and the new gradebook that enables late policies and so much more. We may groan a bit about the Idea Cycle and the time it takes to get pet ideas pushed forward, but the community process actually does respond to true priorities – and not just those of a few institutions.  It is also a delight to be able to preview, experiment with, and test new releases before they go live (even though we sometimes miss unanticipated impacts).  And attending pre-release chats has been remarkably helpful – again, a function of the community.


There are many other blessings -- InstructureCon (and all those taped InstructureCon sessions for the years I could not attend), the Canvas Help Desk, LTI integrations, and all of the amazing Canvas partners, and I look forward to more and better opportunities and breakthroughs.  However, as I close out my Canvas Canticle, having Canvas alive and well and universally adopted for the degree-granting institutions I support is wonderful, and getting more wonderful all the time as I learn how to navigate and stretch Canvas capabilities and become more engaged in the community.  


I wish you all an amazing New Year as we work together – supporting, building, laughing, and learning – to bring all of the capabilities of Canvas to the users we serve – our students,  professors, instructional designers, and administrators. May the New Year bring greater delights to us all!


(Image Source: Photo by Courtney Hedger on Unsplash)