Monday, February 7, 2011

7 Cheers and 7 Critiques

I just read an interesting blog post by Joshua Kim at Inside Higher Ed: Instructure's Canvas LMS: 7 Cheers & 7 Critiques.

Mr Kim has some interesting points, although I think there were several instances where his "cheers" and "critiques" were backward or just said without enough experience to be able to make some of the statements that were made.

An example of this is his cheer #2 (User Interface) and critique #2 (Feature Set). I have found the user interface to be useful and sufficient, but this is an area where I can see Instructure still improving upon. I've worked with faculty who say there are still too many clicks to get to where they need to grade. The home screen needs to have more direct links to parts of their course. It also needs to be more user-customizable. I have had more than one learner come up to me and ask if they can change the "style" of the site. I'm sure in time these features will become a part of Canvas, but for now I'd put it in the critique side.

Critique #2 mentions the feature set which seems unfounded to me. True, Canvas doesn't have as many features as the LMS giants (thank goodness!), which is by design. This is actually a good thing. This is part of their plan to be disruptive in this market. As an instructional designer, and an instructor I welcome the lack of certain features and the appearance of new ones. This provides me with an opportunity to re-think my course and design it with new features. Of course all the basic features are there, which is what 95% (I admit that is a guess) of faculty use anyway. 

Critique 3- Disruption: Mr. Kim worries "that the approach is insufficiently disruptive".  I'm not too sure, how much he has worked in higher education and facilitated a change from one LMS to another. In my employment I would say that any transition to a new LMS is very disruptive and the uniqueness of Canvas certainly puts it at the top of the list. Keep in mind that my school (Westminster) is still an ANGEL campus and it will take years to finalize a change to a different LMS. By looking at the available LMS's out there I don't think there is another product as "disruptive" as Canvas.

Critique 7- Leadership. Mr. Kim writes "I wonder if Coates has enough people around him who will disagree with his ideas and plans?" I'm not sure that Kim should have broached this subject this unless he has spent sufficient time with the leadership team at Instructure. I don't know that I can claim to be the most knowledgeable about there team, but I've spent a lot of time talking business with them and also engaging in convivial conversation. I can say without a doubt in my mind that he has some fantastic people around him. The two co-founders in particular care deeply about the product and will certainly stand up for what is best for the LMS. The business development team (Heather Kane specifically) likewise is strong and is not afraid to give a no when a no is required.

There are certainly more issues I could agree and disagree with, and I applaud Kim for taking a critical look at this tool, but those who read it should read it with a bit of caution because those critiques and cheers look much different after using it for a year.

1 comment:

  1. Ben, I am very curious what the experience has been at your school with faculty choosing to make course pages public (either some of the pages in their course, or all of them). That is what I am looking for in a course management system and since Desire2Learn (which we use at my school) does not allow that, I keep no content at all in D2L and keep all the content outside. What persuaded me to try Instructure was the way it let me create course pages that are 100% public on the open Internet for anyone to use, not just my students. Is that an option the faculty at your school are taking advantage of...?