Three of us from Vanguard were fortunate to be able to attend this year’s InstructureCon (a conference put on by the company that makes our learning management system, Canvas).
My husband and two kids traveled with me and we sandwiched a couple of vacation days before and after the conference.
Naomi Kasa, Liz Powell and I are presenting at the faculty gathering about the inspiration we took away from the conference.
In this post, I’m going to share a few ways in which I observed Instructure really being the right LMS provider for Vanguard to be partnered with, from my perspective.
The way in which Instructure develops their software is through what is known as agile programming, or agile development.
Instead of having one big release a year with new features, the way Apple is known for doing with their iPhone and iPad operating system, the agile methodology emphasizes continuous improvement.
Every week, I receive an email with what improvements to Canvas are coming in the near future, which ones are available for us to try out on our test site, and what has just released. Sometimes the changes are insignificant, but make a difference over time. They even take big leaps in pushing what’s possible with new technologies, though I don’t think I’ll be asking our Amazon Echo about my grading anytime soon… I can confidently say that I’ve seen Instructure continually make their LMS better, since we started with them last year.
Improvements that warranted bringing to your attention as faculty in the past year included:
- The ability to show a number of your recent course announcements on your class home page
- Consolidated information visible on the new student context cards
- Add a photo card (picture) to your course
From the moment we started interacting with people at the conference, Instructure’s emphasis on community was apparent. You don’t even have to attend the conference to be a part of the conversations that are happening about Canvas. You can find answers, share ideas, and join groups in the Canvas community.
Naomi and I got to meet the Head of TEL and Digital Literacies at the University of Winchester, UK: Natalie Norton. She shared helpful distinctions between when to use groups and when to use sections in Canvas, but I’m especially glad to be connected with her in the Canvas community, so I can keep on learning from her down the road.
I experienced my first unconference, where the agenda / topics are set as people arrive and determine where they most want to focus their time. The format they used was to talk about a given topic for 30-40 minutes and then rotate to a different group of your choice. One participant wound up being in two of our topic groups and I loved his style.
He suggested that we start each round with a hand signal that would indicate our level of knowledge about the topic we were discussing. We could hold out no-fingers, to indicate we had no knowledge about the topic, or between one and five fingers (with five meaning we really knew our stuff). This was such a useful way to start an un-conference session and one I’ll recommend we use, if we ever do something similar at Vanguard.
I’m looking forward to sharing more about what we learned at the faculty gathering and in the coming months. We’re all excited about the new Canvas teacher app, as well as changes that are coming down the road in the grade book. There’s a Canvas Live event (you attend via your computer) coming up on the Teacher app, if you want to learn more. Videos from the conference will be posted in the coming weeks, if you want to learn more of the details on the coming changes, especially with quizzes.next, their new quizzing system.
In the meantime, consult our main Canvas resources page to find out more ways to learn about Canvas and get individual support.