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New LMS on the Block

​                                                                              canvas logo

                                                     by Scott James

Instructure, the makers of the Canvas Learning Management System (LMS), was founded in 2008 "with one thing in mind: the user (1)." Instructure appears to be a company who values innovation, ease of use, and open education. In 2012, Instructure launched Canvas Network, which is a Massive Open Online Class content management system. Being such a young company, Canvas has made a huge splash into education, with more than 1,200 institution members (2). What's more impressive is that Canvas has won the approval of the Online Education Initiative and will now be offered to the entire California Community College system for free or, more likely, at low cost.  

The Online Education Initiative (OEI) is a grant-funded initiative that seeks to increase the number of associate degree graduates and transfers to four-year colleges, improve retention and success of students enrolled in online course exchange courses, increase California Community Colleges' education for the underserved and underrepresented (including individuals with disabilities and those with basic skills needs), increase ease of use and convenience of the online experience, decrease the cost of student education and significantly increase the demand for online course delivery (3). The goal of decreasing the cost of a student's education is being approached by procuring system-wide licensing agreements from which all of California's Community Colleges can benefit.  The initiative is primarily run by the Foothill-De Anza Community College District and is projected to serve 2,500 students in the 2015 Fall semester. In selecting Canvas, the OEI mentioned that it was by far-and-away the student's choice and, being a cloud-based platform, it would save our system, if adopted collectively, millions of dollars annually.

There are several advantages that I see in Canvas. For a great overview, check out this Getting to Know Canvas video embedded below.


What is compelling is that Canvas is one product that contains mobile integration, drag-and-drop capability, document sharing, cloud documents (which make sharing and collaborating easier),  a robust data center that will not experience usage lag, updates are automatically installed without the need to restart or install new software versions, and an intuitive user interface. The system gives you and your students the ability to quickly and easily add pictures from the web, documents from your cloud document folder, drag-and-drop links to assignments, create or insert videos, tag and assess learning outcomes, and access advanced statistical data to help you monitor your students' activity. Canvas also uses third-party applications to help integrate textbook publisher content, plagiarism detection, and learning tools, such as The Khan Academy. For a brief overview of what canvas can do, check out this short video below.

If you would like to learn more about canvas, check out their instructional videos. Or, sign up for a free course and give it a whirl. The trial course has a pre-loaded class for you to play with or you can import your Blackboard class directly into Canvas.

Image credit:  Florida Gulf Coast University,

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