Thoughts about the Canvas Outage

I wanted to write a post to express my admiration for the way Canvas handled the AWS-related outage that took the Canvas system down for a chunk of the day on Tuesday, February 28. If you look at their Status page, you will see how diligent they were in updating us at regular intervals, acknowledging our need to know: there were 18 detailed, helpful updates over the course of the outage. There’s even an RSS feed for the page, which of course makes me happy (I am the Empress of RSS).

So, THANK YOU to all the people at Canvas who managed that event yesterday: it looks like you did a great job of coping with the problem behind the scenes, and I really appreciated the clear, steady communication throughout!

Below are two observations that came to mind:

1. Twitter is powerful. The communications from our own IT were not so good, but I really benefited from my Twitter network. I only found out about the incredibly useful Canvas Status page because friends at Twitter shared that URL when I tweeted about the outage. Instead of the generic “OU IT technicians are working with the vendor” message, it would have been great if our IT had shared the Canvas Status page with us in the alert message; that’s clearly where we needed to go for information.

2. It’s risky┬áto put all your eggs in one basket. I sometimes get pushback from people who tell me I should be using the LMS for everything; my response is simply that I choose the right tools for my needs, and the LMS does not meet my needs, so my class operates as a series of blogs, wikis, and websites outside the LMS (my own blogs and wikis, and my students’ blogs and websites), plus our class Twitter. As a result of this distributed system, it’s usually pretty easy to ride out any outage that comes along. If one area of the class is unavailable, we can always get by with the other areas.

So, because I do not rely exclusively on Canvas messaging (I have all my students’ emails in a spreadsheet), I was able to contact the students about the outage, and because I do my class announcements in a blog, I was able to update the blog throughout the outage, and my students could get updates there too while they continued doing their regular work for the class.

And of course Growth Mindset Cat has some advice about variety: Play with many different toys. Variety is how you grow. ­čÖé

Crossposted at Canvas Community: Higher Ed.