Monday, June 18, 2012

Chris and Ben attended the 2nd annual InstructureCon so I guess it's time for the annual post on the Canvas Guys Blog. This year it moved to beautiful Park City where the weather cooperated pretty much the entire time!

This year the theme was AWESOME things. So I get to talk about the 10 most awesome things about the conference.

10. Awesome talk by Choffman: How to Keep a Faculty Journal: A Guide for Educators. Instructure gave me another chance to present (Fool me once shame on you...) to a great group of people. The audience was fun, interactive and had great questions. I felt like we had a great conversation. I think that Instructure will be getting a few phone calls on how to setup the faculty journal in the near future.

9. Awesome food and drinks: Everywhere. Although my personal favorite was the chocolate covered churros.

8. Awesome API presentation: Zach "With the Pants" Pendleton. Zach gave an entertaining and informative presentation about the Canvas API and how it can be used. It gave me a few good ideas and made me feel like even I, someone who gave up on a CS degree years ago, could try it out.

7. Awesome OER presentation: People filling in for David Wiley. OER Glue is now Open Tapestry. the presentation was a slow burn. They setup the problem of finding and capturing OER objects well enough. Then they actually showed the tool (which didn't always work.) And just when I thought to myself "What's the difference between this and Evernote?" the presenter brought up a webpage and started deleting the parts of it that he didn't want to save. WOW! Jaws dropped and I asked how much it costs. They're really onto something here, can't wait to see where it goes.

6. Awesome D&D references: Level Up - Canvas as an Educational Gaming Platform by Gerol Petruzella. he combines Canvas, D&D and Philosophy to create a fun learning experience. Check it out here:

5. Awesome Powerpoint alternative: Canvas as envisioned by Rebekah Grow of the University of Utah. Rebekah has a unique way to use Canvas as a presentation tool that you can see here at modules:

4. Awesome community relations: Matt Mcghie's How to Win Friends and Influence Canvas Users. Matt always does a great job presenting. He showed off some great features of the Canvas community that I'm going to start making sure I use more. Plus he had this funny outtakes video:

3. Awesome movie watching experience: Watching Raiders of the Lost Ark with Jason Gilbert. Wow, this guy is crazy funny and really smart. MST3K has got nothing on him.

2. Awesome look into the future: Canvas Network. This tool will be a game changer. No one in the LMS world is thinking this way except Instructure Canvas. In a nutshell, Canvas Network will allow an unprecedented amount of sharing and collaboration across users, courses, institutions and continents. Good stuff.

1. Sergio "Mr Sexy Sax Man" Flores crashing the Keynote!

It's hard to beat meeting someone from the internet.

Thanks again to everyone who made IstructureCon such a big hit. See you again next year.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Powerpoint Presentation from InstructureCon 2011

I figured I better post something from InstructureCon 2011 before people stopped believing I'm still on this site.

So I present, for your viewing pleasure, the powerpoint intro to our presentation. If I get any feed back I'll do a narrated version.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

InstructureCon 2011

We (Chris and Ben) attended the very first InstrcutureCon on Aug. 1st and 2nd. It was a very well run conference. I tip my hat to Cade and Sunny for putting together a great conference. Those in attendance might not have realized it was their first attempt at organizing a conference. Well done! (Even though Sunny was always on my back about being in sessions at the wrong time.)

Here is my top 10 things I liked about the conference.

10. The opportunity to present. Chris and I ran a session about learning outcomes. I’m not saying this to toot my own horn (maybe a little), but it was great to share with the Canvas community. The questions that were asked and some of the contacts we made were fantastic!

9. It is nice to know we aren’t alone. When we started using Canvas in the Summer of 2010 we were fairly isolated. I never would have thought that we would be at a conference 1 year later with over 200 people in attendance.

8. Demonstration of the new Canvas app for iOS 5. This is an app specifically for students using Canvas. It is very impressive and will be rolled out shortly after Apple releases iOS 5 this fall.

7.OER Glue- I met a guy from OER Glue who probably has just the solution for our challenge at Westminster for searching for open education reseources

6.Canvas support. I’ll be honest Canvas support has needed a boost. They have grown so fast that their support team has been overworked and understaffed. I attended a session by David Szoke who joined the support team a month ago and I was very impressed!

5. Cory Stokes and Kevin Reeves- What can I say? These guys are amazing and it is cool for a small school guy like me to be able to get information from them. It is cool to see their enthusiasm for Canvas. I love to see others as excited about LMS features as I am!

4. If it aint Bracken, don’t fix it. Bracken is the migration expert at Instructure. He had a session about migrating content and it convinced me that a campus-wide migration is possible and not that intimidating. I also liked him because he quoted me and the Canvas Guys blog!

3. Product development cycle. There were a couple sessions about the Canvas development cycle. Zach Wily presented how they handle bugs and Brian Whitmer discussed the process for adding new features. What is really cool to me is their new product testing tool that they use. They are able to create new features and patches every other week rather than monthly because of it. I don't know any other LMS that can develop and release as rapidly as these guys.

2. Awesome bag. Seriously, who gives out an Ogio bag as part of attending a conference?! Overall this conference is a tremendous value. Canvas only charged $175 (early bird) for attending the conference and that provides lots of food, an amazing bag and comfortable conference rooms. I'm not sure how they did this with only two event sponsors. BBworld cost over $500, had probably 50 sponsors and their bag sucked.

1. Lunch with CEO Josh Coates. I was lucky enough to sit at the table where Josh was sitting. I got to ask him some questions I’ve wanted to ask him for a long time. For example, I asked him about his WWII collection including his tank. He has a tank that is fully functional. He talked about how he will take it out with Boy Scouts and shoot it. He also has a very cool collection of guns including ones manufactured by IBM and Oldsmobile. I also asked him a question that I already knew the answer to, but I had to ask it. “What if somebody wants to buy Instructure?” His answer was pretty solid. I could tell he meant it, he doesn’t want to sell, especially not to Blackboard. He was very adamant about that. He knows that Blackboard would kill what they have. He also said that they have a goal is to get to half a billion dollars in value and then hopefully be able to go public. He was also very surprised and excited by all the growth during the last year. He was very kind to visit with us and very down-to-Earth. I can see why he has been successful. I can see why his employees enjoy working with him.

The quote of the conference has to come from somebody else sitting at my table for lunch. I'm not sure his name, but he was from New Mexico and he said something like this: “We are on a state contract with Blackboard which has been awful, but there has been one good thing to come from it. It has helped us to bond with all the other schools in New Mexico because we have had to band together to deal with all the problems with Blackboard”. So, I guess Blackboard isn't all that bad.

Friday, July 29, 2011

How to migrate to a new LMS:

Migrating to an LMS is a challenge. I've been through two transitions, but both at small schools. I can imagine the difficulty a larger school would have. 

I was speaking with an Instructure representative this week and it was brought up how long the process is for selecting and migrating to a new LMS. Selecting an LMS isn't like typical software purchases. Taking on a project like this (or selling it for that matter) is not easy.
While I was at BBWorld I was asked about our process for changing so I thought that this would be a good way to share it. I warn you that this is a long list, but it illustrates all the hurdles along the way. 
This list is probably missing some stuff, so feel free to comment and I'll add changes and fixes. Also, if you are going through a transition at your school feel free to leave a comment on how your process is working out and which product your are switching to.
  1. Have a clear leader/champion who will follow the process all the way through.
  2. Meet with appropriate groups to get buy in on the process and determine available resources for the project (faculty stipends, LMS budget, IT staff and available hardware).
  3. Announce the process to all faculty. Solicit participants for the search committee and pilot group.
  4. Select the group of faculty, staff, students and administration that will be part of the search/pilot committee. Keep in mind that you don’t want the group to be entirely made up of high-end users and early adopters.
  5. Create a list of features and catagorize them as essential, important, and good to have. Create a rubric for evaluating tools. Write list of questions for each LMS company to answer (RFP). It might be appropriate to use a survey get feedback from students and faculty as to which features are most important.
  6. Have the leader and 2-3 people (Instructional Designer, IT admin, Faculty representative) meet with as many vendors as possible to get demonstrations. I would guess that the following LMS products should be evaluated: Blackboard, Desire2Learn, Instructure Canvas, Moodle, Sakai, and a publisher system such as Pearson or Epsilon). It might also be appropriate to at least discuss the benefits and costs of open-source products. Consider out-of-the box systems such as Brainhoney or SharePoint LMS. This process might take several months and involve in-depth research and vigorous debate.
  7. The leader should narrow down the options to the top 2-3 systems (based on feedback) and create a proposal for the search committee including the evaluation rubric, LMS choices and proposed timeline and milestones.
  8. Meet with the search committee and get feedback on the proposal and create the pilot group.
  9. Request and setup a sandbox for the 2-3 LMS’s being evaluated.
  10. Make revisions to the proposal and send back to search committee.
  11. Meet with pilot group.
    1. set expectations including time commitments and compensation (if any).
    2. determine who is piloting each LMS. Have at least 3 faculty evaluating each LMS and be sure that there is a good mix of courses created from scratch and migrated from the prior LMS.
    3. set minimum criteria for all pilot courses such as syllabus, discussion board, submission, rubrics, gradebook, etc.
  12. Begin working with pilot faculty to create courses and begin teaching with the tool.
  13. Have an Instructional Designer create the exact same course in each LMS being evaluated. Provide opportunities for faculty and students to see demonstrations of each system.
  14. Meet with pilot group at the beginning of the semester and have them evaluate course migration and course creation process.
  15. Set up formal demonstrations for the each LMS being evaluated. Invite entire search committee to attend each demonstration and have them fill out the rubric for each tool.
  16. Hold LMS open-houses in computer labs, library and/or faculty technology center and get feedback from students and faculty.
  17. Meet with pilot students and faculty as needed during the semester to provide proper support.
  18. Contact other schools who use the LMS products being evaluated and get feedback about important issues.
  19. Meet at the end of the semester to collect feedback (qualitative and quantitative) from student and faculty experiences.
  20. Compile all data and feedback. Create a summary.
  21. Present findings to the search committee. Allow for: feedback on process, product debates, additional presentations from LMS companies, and/or student testimonials.
  22. Have committee make a recommendation.
  23. Create a recommendation/proposal for administration to give final approval.

Transition phase:

  1. Announce the change to faculty and students. Describe the migration process and timeline.
  2. Create a new team(s) of people who will be involved with the implementation. Should include faculty early adopters, faculty technology-neophytes, training staff, IT/SIS staff, registrars office and other necessary individuals.
  3. Meet with groups to discuss:
    1. Benchmark/milestone reporting
    2. Promotion/marketing plan
    3. Training plan
    4. SIS integration
  4. Have IT staff begin technical implementation. This can be much shorter if you are using a hosted solution, but there will still need to be some key questions that need to be answered.
  5. Have LMS system administrators and IT staff collect list of questions to be answered by the group(s). These types of questions might be:
    1. What is the heirachy structure for the school?
    2. Will there be separate domains of implementation (for separate campuses or programs)?
    3. How should courses be created (automatically via SIS, manually, faculty request)?
    4. How will courses be migrated (by faculty, by staff at faculty request, all courses moved)?
    5. What should the default new course contain?
    6. Are there specific features that should be turned off (such as student photos or bios)?
    7. What is the timeline for course creation and student enrollment?
    8. What policies and procedures should be created?
    9. When should system upgrades be completed?
  6. Collect answer to all of the implementation questions from appropriate groups and implement.
  7. Create promotional materials to prepare students and faculty for the change.
  8. Develop training plan and begin creating documentation, workshops, webinars, and online courses. Remember to create materials for faculty AND students.
  9. Hold training sessions at a variety of times. Be sure that faculty have plenty of time to get trained before the following semester.
  10. For at least one semester have both LMS platforms available for use, but set a drop-dead date and clearly communicate dates.
Advice and random thoughts:
  • Remember all stake holders throughout the process including students.
  • Get top-down process approval before beginning the process.
  • Set up an incentive plan. It could be stipends for faculty who are early-adopters. It could also be non-financial items such as equipment for teaching (small video/still camera, headset/microphone, iPod/iPad, or presentation remote). It could also be special services such as having an IT/training staff member attend class and introduce their students to the new LMS or a personal transition/migration hour with technical staff.
  • Be sure to have a plan to promote the new LMS and communicate clearly with all involved. For example, it might be appropriate to have a few minutes in each department faculty meeting.
  • Have success stories and positive reasons for the change (focus on the good new features, not the crummy old system).
  • Make a decision based on what is the best fit for the future. It is easy to get caught up on trying to match exactly what your current system does.
  • The expense should not be a deciding factor in the choice, although an increase in cost might be the reason to begin the evaluation.
  • When considering cost, remember that the LMS is very similar to any building on campus- students will probably end up spending more time in the LMS than they do a typical building on campus. The cost is justifiable.
  • The LMS has become the most important technology at most universities. Yes, people use their email all the time, but try having your LMS down for an evening during the last week of a semester.
  • Collect as much data as you can throughout the process. Prepare to share your experience with others going through the process.

Monday, July 18, 2011

BBWorld 2011

It has been a long time since I have written an entry for CanvasGuy. This is because my primary roll at Westminster has changed. I am no longer working with our project based programs, instead I am working with the campus as a whole which means I’ve spent more time working with ANGEL (Blackboard).

Don’t get me wrong, I am still a huge fan of Canvas, but I am not in a position to use it regularly so I don’t have much to offer as far as new experiences and news. That is, until last week.

Last week was BBworld 2011 (Blackboard annual users conferences). At the last minute I was given permission to attend so that we can learn more about our transition from ANGEL. While we were there Instructure made an un-sponsored appearance. They rented out a bar and caused quite the stir. They had Darth Vader and Chewbacha with lightsabers, so of course they attracted a big crowd (the free drinks probably helped as well).

I enjoyed mingling with many of my friends at Instructure (shout out to: Brian, Sunny, Heather, and Matt). The atmosphere was fun and lively. There was a lot of excitement in the air. I was very impressed with the bold move to do what they did. My colleague from Westminster, Nichole, was with me and ended up winning the drawing for one of the lightsabers.

The best part of the evening came when we went back to the Blackboard party with lightsaber and free tee-shirts (that say “OMG, I cheated on Blackboard in Vegas”). Nichole was instantly inundated with people asking where she got the lightsaber. Another lightsaber showed up from the other  winner at the Instructure party and she is actually an employee of Blackboard.

During the fake sword fights and picture taking one of the Blackboard VP’s came up to us and talked to us about Instructure. He asked something to the effect of “do you think that this is a classless thing to do? If we showed up at competitor’s conference and did what they did we would be vilified.” My response to that was “The big boys can’t get away with it, but a small upstart can”. Perhaps that isn’t fair, but some companies become so big that they can’t use tactics like that. Big companies like Blackboard, Microsoft or Google become part of the “evil empire” just because they are perceived to be too big. Who wouldn’t cheer for the small band of rebels who fight the big empire? Everybody that I talked to had an opinion about Canvas and was very interested to see how they evolve over the next year and wished them a lot of success.

I tip my hat to Instructure for being gutsy enough to do what they did. Only time will tell if it was worth it. Till then, I’ll chalk this one up as a small victory for the rebellion.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Common Questions about Canvas

As more and more schools begin to investigate Instructure, we seem to get called frequently to answer questions that most schools want answers to before they commit to Canvas. I enjoy these conversations that I've had with people all over the country. It is nice in particular to get more people involved in the Canvas community. 

So, I have considered posting answers to all of the common questions we get here, each one as a different post. However, I'm a busy guy and have decided to share the Google Doc that I created that has the list of questions and answers to 13 (and counting) common questions I get about Canvas.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Faculty Training Ideas

I recently got a request from Trivi Nallamshetty at Edison State College about how to train faculty. So, I thought this is a good opportunity to explain how we have done our faculty training.

Keep in mind, we have trained about 20 faculty most of them in small groups of 5 or less. So, doing this on a large scale might require an entirely different approach.

We have two different approaches, one for faculty who will be developing curriculum and another for those who are using pre-created courses focusing on how to grade using learning outcomes. The second session is as much about policy as it is about Canvas.

"How to be a Studnet" Session (usually less than an hour):

Despite Instructure's insistence that they designed Canvas to look identical for students and faculty, there are substantial differences when it comes to grading. So, I find it incredibly valuable to go through the exact same training that students go through. Here are the highlights:
  1. Login
  2. Go to Profile and add email/change preferences.
  3. Point out navigation areas including the feedback button and the calendar.
  4. Navigate to a "practice course" we have already set up with a fake assignment in it.
  5. Navigate around the course- usually done as a 5 minute self guided experience.
  6. Submit an assignment (again, usually this is done without instruction)
  7. We then do two things at once, one person will grade the assignments behind the scenes and another instructor will cover messaging and will go through the process of sending messages to each other.
  8. Students read/watch received feedback on their assignment (we use a rubric so they know how it works). They then see how to resubmit if necessary.
  9. We do not do anything with testing/quizzing, but that is where I would talk about it if we were.
"Creating a Course" Session (usually less than an hour):
Note; I've only done this once, and it was for a group of graduate students who were going to be creating an online course. I spent about 1 hour doing this training, but they picked it up quickly. I did about 15 minutes of demonstration and then they were off and running.
  1. Depending on the way your Campus is set up either the faculty have to do the "add a course" or they need a course created for them.
  2. Talk about course design, and what is going to go into the course. Discuss items such as:
    1. Home Page
    2. Assignments
    3. Testing
    4. Instruction/content pages
    5. Syllabus
    6. Files/pictures
  3. Step by step we go through the creation wizard. I prefer if the faculty are actually creating content that they will really use, so it can slow things down if they don't know what they are wanting to make.
  4. Demonstrate how to create parts of a course. My preferred instructional method is to have them watch me do it all once (no notes, and no following along, just watch). Obviously there are a lot of items that can be demonstrated, but try to keep it to just a few tasks. The tasks I cover are how to:
    1. Change the home page.
    2. Add a syllabus
    3. Add pages that contain embedded pictures and YouTube videos.
    4. Add assignments (don't get into rubrics yet)
    5. Use modules
    6. Upload files/pictures
    7. Create announcement
  5. Let faculty create these parts of their course. This can take 15-45 minutes. Usually thereare plenty of one-on-one question/answers as they try to do everything. If they don't finish in this time, tell them to work on it later.
  6. Review what they have learned to do.
"How to Teach using Canvas" session (time depends on school needs)
This is where it becomes unique for Westminster. We require that our faculty who are using this for our project-based programs grade in a specific way. There are probably a few universal items that are good to talk about. We have found it best to have a pre-populated practice course for each faculty in training. They are already enrolled in the course and the Canvas instructor is enrolled as a student who has submitted an assignment.
  1. Faculty login to Canvas and notice the various locations where they are notified about assignments that need to be graded.
  2. Grade an assignment- we use pre-populated rubrics that we require them to use.
  3. Send video feedback- this depends on the computer lab training is happening in.
  4. Two things then happen at the same time- the instructor goes into each course and responds to the grade they were given and resubmits an assignment. Meanwhile the faculty are then taken to the gradebook and shown how it works.
  5. Faculty are given the chance to re-grade the students submission and most importantly be able to distinguish in the gradebook the difference between a submitted assignment and a resubmitted assignment.
  6. Optional items that we usually don't cover are creating announcements and discussion forums.
  7. Lastly we go to the settings area and show them how to add students and look up data about each student. We also discuss how to change the navigation and pull up reports.
That is about it. I'm guessing this is a pretty ho-hum post for most people. Well, training isn't always the most glamorous, but it makes a big difference in the overall experience that faculty have. Lastly, here are some overall generic thoughts I have on the issue with training:

  • Attitude is everything. Instructors need to create a positive environment and make this as fun as possible.
  • Do not get hung up in comparing the old LMS with Canvas. It doesn't compare very well. Encourage faculty during the training to create a course from scratch and not just re-create the course that they made in the previous LMS.
  • There is never enough time for training. We usually try to keep training sessions to less than 2 hours. Faculty will not remember very much from the training session, it is important to give them an assignment to complete within the next two days and follow up with each faculty individually to see how they are doing.
  • Keep training groups small if possible. If you have to teach 30 people at a time, split them up into small groups and have them collaborate with each other. I prefer to keep groups around 5-10 faculty so that they get the individual attention they all need.
  • I don't like to give faculty manuals to use during training sessions. They end up using that instead of following along and their retention of information goes down. If you have to give them documentation do it after the session.
  • There is more information to cover than what I've listed out. We have chosen to let faculty discover them on their own, or offer advanced courses in the future. If you try to do too much at one time it becomes overwhelming (as if it isn't already).
That is it, good luck with this. I have heard that Instructure is working on getting a wiki up. I'll be sure to try to get this information posted there when it is available.