Canvas (by Instructure)

Friday we visited the offices of Instructure – the development team behind the Canvas VLE.

I’d read the methodology and feature set advertised on their website and we’d had a little play around on the trial version we have been set up with, but tbh honest I wasn’t prepared for how inspiring the afternoon turned out to be.

Canvas is I suppose a 2nd (or 3rd) gen VLE. That is to say it is built after your Moodle, Blackboard, study wiz’s etc. Its also built after the mobile device ‘revolution’. And it built from the perspective not of features, features, features (although it is pretty feature rich) but instead with a focus on the question : will it get used?

These three factors it’s creators say make it the best VLE solution on the market.

A big claim.

But after Friday my interest is definitely peaked.

First the interface is very clean and minimal. Furthermore many nav aspects are customisable / streamlinable to make this even more so the case.

There is an integrated calendar system… timetabling, assignments, attendance. All dealt with within the VLE.

There are a bunch of productivity / efficiency tools like the option to see and mail students who haven’t submitted  yet with minimum fuss. Plus grouping seems very easy.

Canvas also integrates with platforms like Twitter so students can interact with their course mail / announcements through platforms they already use – they can own their experience much better than dedicated Uni mail accounts.

We also very much liked the Speed Grade tool – the first time I’ve seen the possibility of marking student work without 3 screens. You can have the work on screen, make comments inline (similar to the word annotations feature) and have rubrics on the right hand side to refer and mark all in one place. (THIS FEATURE IS SOOO EDU BLING!!!)

There is very well designed LTI tool integration and a huge list to get started on. (including Mozilla badges and canvas badges)

Also very well designed and iintegrated video feed back and video conferencing tools (using a Webex lite)

Oh and its hosted on Amazon web servers (AWS) so they have 99.9% up time…

Plus we had a very nice lunch courtesy of Instructure 🙂

We’re going to develop a version of the online orientation in canvas for international students who don’t have UAL credentials to access the orientation information prior to arrival at the university so that should offer a good proof of concept + there are a couple of other possible pipe line projects.

I’ll update on this again soon hopefully.


2 thoughts on “Canvas (by Instructure)

  1. Hi Adam, I have just come across your blog post when looking for other Canvas users. I was responsible for some implementation of Canvas at Birmingham Uni a couple of years ago, so was interested in your first impressions of the system. One thing I couldn’t ascertain from your post though was whether UAL are considering Canvas, or are already using it.


    1. Hi John,

      the Learning Technology team are trialling the LMS at the moment as a way to provide content to prospective students, pre-enrolment students and potentially as a tool for Alumni. The trial may inform future VLE developments at the university.

      I’ve not been in the driving seat for the project (and indeed have moved on from the LT department at UAL so this is a somewhat retrospective review) but from what I saw it was functional enough but we had some issues with the CSS styling (I’m sure they could have been ironed out) but what we liked less was the multi clickery involved in the mobile experience.

      Thanks for you interest in the blog 🙂


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