Open: It’s the Canvas Difference

For the past two days I was participating in a WEC minicourse in Canvas, and yesterday I also got to participate in a fun remote session with the TLInnovations group at CSU Channel Islands. They have a Domains project and are also looking at a Canvas transition in the near future, so we had a lot to talk about. And yesterday was the debut of Keegan’s Canvas Camp: Learn and Build Courses in Community website, which is what I am eager to write about today. Other people have been busy with finals this week, but I have been having such a good time just connecting with people and sharing ideas. Definitely more fun than finals. 🙂

The Canvas Camp site is published at Keegan’s domain, as you can see, and it provides support for his four-day in-person Canvas workshop. I am really glad that there is now something like this site to go along with all the face-to-face training that has been happening all summer and fall. Having online resources like this benefits people who, for whatever reasons, do not attend the in-person training, and it also benefits people who attend the training and later want to refer back to what was covered. Everybody wins!

The Big Picture. Keegan also provides a helpful background page to give an overview of the thinking behind the materials he has assembled, and it’s a really attention-getting list of topics, very different from the click-here-click-there approach of so much LMS training:

Teaching the technical skills to use Canvas
Engaging faculty in course development
Producing Canvas courses
Reflecting on why the university switched to Canvas
Learning Canvas as part of a community

I’m most interested in course development and community along with institutional goals, and Keegan is providing a real service by including those areas in his work with the faculty. There’s already a super-abundance of materials online from Canvas and from other schools that address Canvas features and technical support, but these other areas are what will lead us to a truly successful Canvas adoption. Without a discussion of those broader topics, people are probably going to seek to use Canvas just as they used D2L, and D2L use was very limited (and also typical; see How Instructors (Don’t) Use the LMS). If we want Canvas to be something not just new but something better in terms of teaching and learning on campus, those broader topics are the key.

LMS… or the Internet. Of course, there’s an obvious irony here, one which Adam already pointed out in his share of Keegan’s site at Twitter: If we must teach the LMS, then we shall build on the domain. Indeed! Keegan has chosen not to build this site as a Canvas resource course, building it instead outside of Canvas at his keeganslw.com domain. My guess is that a statement about the reasons why he made that choice would be a great way to get faculty to ask themselves that question as well, reflecting on alternatives rather than just uploading their content into the LMS willy-nilly.

There are both advantages and disadvantages to putting content in an LMS, and it’s important for faculty to ponder that before they get started. That is exactly the kind of thing they need help with, in fact, since it is probably a question they have never asked themselves before. The assumption has always been “just put your course materials in the LMS.” That was true when we had Blackboard and when we had D2L, but I hope we can have a better informed conversation about that now with Canvas, especially because Canvas offers very different options than D2L or Blackboard when it comes to content.

OUCreate. In addition to Canvas being very different from D2L (more on that below), OU’s Domains project (OUCreate) provides faculty with strong support for web publishing that they did not have in the past, along with all the hosted options out there too (I’m still loyal to Blogger; here is Blogger-in-Canvas). My guess is that most faculty still do not really know what OUCreate is about, and we probably need to use every possible opportunity to educate people about it, yet it has not been the focus of any of the Canvas Taskforce emails I’ve received.

The Canvas Difference. In D2L, it was impossible to share courses on the open Internet. That has now changed with Canvas: you can choose to share your course publicly, or you can choose to share just the syllabus. Canvas also makes it possible for faculty to create resource courses on their own, without having to ask an administrator (as in D2L). So, in addition to deciding what content goes in the LMS, faculty also now have different options for what to do with their LMS content. The ability to create resource spaces in Canvas, not just official courses, allows Canvas to become a true content platform. Instead of having content associated with a course (so that you have to copy the content from one semester to the next to the next), you can now create a true content space in Canvas, linking to it (to the pages, to the modules, etc.), thus developing the content over time, using and re-using it from semester to semester. I’ve written a blog post about that already, and I hope that is an option faculty will explore: Open Content: Resources, not Courses.

My Canvas Resources. I choose to keep all my course content outside the LMS (“open by default” is my motto, so I never put content in D2L), but now I’m having fun developing some resources in Canvas: last summer I built a Growth Mindset resource that demonstrates the use of live content in Canvas (Twitter, RSS, etc.), and for winter break I’ve built a Widget Warehouse where I am sharing Canvas-friendly javascripts (feel free to use them in your courses if you want, or use them as models to inspire you to build your own). Since both of those projects are about Canvas, I am really glad that I can do the content development inside Canvas, while sharing that content on the open Internet. Good scholarship needs a community to grow, and so does good teaching. Canvas gives us that opportunity to share and learn from each other.

This openness is, in my opinion, the most important difference between Canvas and D2L, and about that I say: vive la différence!

Learn to look at things from different angles.

Crossposted at OU Canvas Community.

2 thoughts on “Open: It’s the Canvas Difference”

  1. I really love the work you do Laura. Your experimentation and engagement is always fascinating, especially when you turn your attention to something like Canvas.

    I can’t wait to explore your widget warehouse in the coming weeks!

    Thanks for the shout-out and feedback! I’m off to Canvas Camp now! 😀

  2. After 10 years trapped in D2L, the openness of Canvas seems like magic. Now if we can just get others excited about that feeling of openness and freedom! 🙂
    HAPPY CAMPING!

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