Thursday, January 27, 2011

UEN Training- Best Practices

I've been asked to share about 15 minutes worth of Canvas "Best Practices" at a UEN Canvas Training session today at the University of Utah. I created a short presentation in Prezi to share some of my ideas. I doubt I'll get through the entire presentation, so I thought I'd share it here. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Instructure and Development

I was asked if I could speak with a potential client of Instructure today about the topic of their ability to deliver on development items and to meet deadlines.

So, I thought I'd go ahead and write up my comments here on the subject so that future Instructure investigators can hear about my experience.

The story starts about a year ago when we realized that ANGEL wasn't providing us the data that we needed. We began investigating various LMS options and concluded that Instructure would be the best based off of the development customizations that they agreed to do. In particular we wanted the ability to track student competency across multiple courses and to be able collect documentation about faculty contact sessions so that we could prove satisfactory academic progress reports for financial aid.

We had a meeting with several of the developers and their Director of Business Development (Heather Kane). Because of our unique requests for specific reports we went through and listed all the modifications that we needed. Then they went through the list and determined which are features they should add to Canvas for all their clients and then the ones that were specific for us. They came back with this list and a price quote which I thought was very fair. We agreed on specifics and delivery dates.

During the development process we didn't hear a lot from them other than the occasional "we just finished this part, could you test it out". However, before final delivery they had completed all the required tasks and we were allowed some time to try it out and give feedback on what they did so they could get it correct within the deadline.

Overall the development process went about as well as I could have hoped for. Like all new projects there have been a few minor tweaks to what they did for us as we began implementing it, but they have been very good to work with.

I don't want to embarrass anybody (or leave anybody out), but some of their developers were particularly good to work with. I really enjoyed working with Bracken Mosbacker and Zach Wiley. They were quick to deliver what we needed and wanted to get us exactly what we asked for.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Reaction to D2L vs UEN lawsuit article

So, I just read this article from the SL Trib: UEN Sued Over Contract Award.

For those to lazy to read the article, it basically says that Desire2Learn (D2L) thinks that Instructure couldn't possibly get the award because they are too small and there are alegations that an Instructure employee who use to work for UEN might have had influence over the decision.

This is a load of crap. Sorry for being crude, but seriously, I HATE it when companies are bad losers.

When Westminster College agreed to use Canvas as our LMS for the Project-Based programs, the competing company could not believe that they lost to Instructure. They went straight to the President of the College and complained (seriously!?!). This company brought up Instructure being too young, or not experienced enough were brought up, but fortunately the decision was made with plenty of input and the issue was quickly put to rest.

When new companies start, they have to get their first big contract somewhere, perhaps D2L needs to remember when they landed their first big contract. Everybody has to start somewhere. To me, this sounds like Desire2Learn is just cranky because they are still upset about the legal issues they had with Blackboard. Perhaps the attourney is on retainer, so they were thinking "Hey, since we are paying for this anyway, lets sue UEN! Money! Money! Money!"

I do not represent Westminster or any other group (including Instructure) when I say this, but I think Instructure is on the right path! After talking with them and seeing what their product can do it is hard to say no to them. They have the vision right, and are doing things right. Sure, they have some room to grow, but they are way ahead of everybody else because they aren't using crappy tech from the 90's and they aren't stuck with huge institutions who wont allow them to change anything.

Ok, one more conspiracy theory then I'll try to get off my soap box. D2L prides themselves as the anti-Blackboard. They have probably gotten a lot of business because schools right now don't like Blackboard (for too many reasons to bring up now). I call this the "anything is better than Blackboard" erra of the LMS. So, with D2L enjoying the success of being #2 (pun-intended) they don't want anybody else moving in on their territory. Small start-ups like Instructure are a direct threat to them. So, they are going to do the same basic strategy that Blackboard did to them for years; tie them up in expensive legal battles hoping that the cost of the legal fees alone will be enough to crush the competition.

Sorry D2L, you are barking up the wrong tree. Your lawsuit is going to just bring more attention to Instructure. This might be the best thing to happen to Instructure! The one thing Instructure needs is more publicity- and this just might be the biggest opportunity they get.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Another Round of Canvas Orientation for New Students

Today we had another round of residencies. This weekend was our Project-Based MBA student one. During our residency weekends we have an hour and a half session about how to use our campus technology. These sessions have evolved during the last couple years, but I am happy with where they are now.

Today our newest member of the Division of New Learning Technology Team did the presentation. Her name is Emily and perhaps some day she might become a "Canvas Guy". Anyway, the presentation she did went great. The first few times we did our Canvas training for students there have been a few bumps, but today there weren't any. Ok, we did have one student who had a name change that we weren't aware of which made us need to update her name in her account- but no big deal right?!

So, I thought I'd share the tasks that we go over with our students the first time we run them through Canvas:
  1. Brief Prezi with overview of tools and a funny video about drinking from a fire-hose. Then they login to the computer and we talk about all the campus stuff like file storage, passwords, and email.
  2. Log in to Canvas
  3. Set up profile
  4. Enter a fake course we created (which has an assignment and some tutorials about using Canvas).
  5. Go to the modules and navigate to an assignment. Click on a link that takes them to our campus wiki and follow some directions to submit a document.
  6. Submit the document they created
  7. The presenter then goes on to have students go to the campus email and set up forwarding. While this is happening the teaching assistant feverishly grades the students using the speed grader and the rubric tool. We fail the students so they have to re-submit.
  8. Students come back to Canvas and see that they have been graded. They look at the feedback they got and resubmit.
  9. Lastly we review how to send a message.
That is it, you might think that is a lot of stuff, but we have found it useful. We don't get very many questions from students during the semester about how to submit like we did with ANGEL.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Lunch with Instructure

One of the best parts about working at Westminster is the proximity that we have to Instructure head quarters. My colleague Chris Hoffman and I went to lunch with Heather Kane and our new representative Matt McGhie. Chris and I both really like our reps. They are great to work with and are very concerned that we have a good experience.

Mostly we talked about some of the concerns we have had- most of which revolve around enrolling students and the communication tools. It was great how eager they were to listen and help out.

By the way, we learned a valuable lesson today. When we started enrolling students we enrolled them by using a CSV. We were given instructions on how to use it and we have gotten pretty good at it. However, we have been having some weird no-name problems. Turns out that we just didn't know that they added a new first name and last name column. Solves everything! Whoo hoo! Good to know.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Looking for the inside scoop on Instructure Canvas?

You have come to the right place.

I've been using Canvas since the Summer of 2010. You might think that is not enough to make me an expert. You might be right. However, I am not aware of anybody besides the developers who have spent more time in Canvas then I have. I will also give kudos to my colleague Chris Hoffman who has spent almost as much time as me.

I've used Canvas in several capacities. First, I did it to teach a course during the Summer. I've also helped set up Westminster College's project based BBA and MBA programs. The reason why we chose Canvas for this is because of their learning outcome tools.

If you are interested in learning more about our experience please stay tuned to this blog, or feel free to contact me at