Open Content: Resources, not Courses

Yesterday I wrote about Open Syllabuses in Canvas, and I am a true believer: I would rate open syllabuses as my single biggest goal for Canvas at OU and, if anybody wants my opinion (ha ha), I would rate the number of open syllabuses in our Canvas system as a metric of success. For people who want metrics.

But content in the LMS: yikes, no. A thousand times no. I would never … let’s be clear: NEVER … recommend that anyone put any content in the LMS. There are so many better options! That is just my opinion, though, and I know that others feel differently. Canvas, unlike D2L, does allow for open content, and it even allows you to create persistent content on the Internet. That’s all very different from what D2L offered to us before.

For me, being able to get massive quantities of content online quickly and easily is the key, so I prefer to use blogs. That might seem weird, but it works great for me: blogs are very quick, they have good auto-navigation with labels, and they are linkable, searchable, scalable, and durable. The complete (and massive) UnTextbook for Myth-Folklore is a blog, the evolving (and also massive) Freebookapalooza library of free books online is a blog, and so on. That’s a solution I like, and there are so many other great solutions, especially now with OU’s project (see more about that below).

The traditional LMS, on the other hand, is a terrible solution for content. Totally aside from the specifics of each system, the overall purpose of the LMS defeats the content: the LMS is built to support courses which disappear at the end of a semester. At the end of each semester, what happens? Students — gone. Content — closed. And links — broken.

But, you say, I can extend the closing date of my course! Sure, you can do that. But what are you going to do when you offer the course again, with a new course space in the LMS filled with a new cohort of students? You are going to copy the content over — which is a disaster for sustainable, durable, shareable content. You don’t want multiple copies of content floating around. Instead, you want a stable location for evolving content where you can use, re-use, and improve course content over multiple classes and multiple semesters.

You need content as a lasting RESOURCE, not content that lives and dies with each expiring, self-destructing course iteration.

And Canvas, thank goodness, gives faculty one possible solution to this problem. Just like D2L, Canvas will automatically generate new course spaces for you every semester, but unlike D2L, with Canvas you can create your own spaces too. You don’t have to ask for an admin to do that; you can do it yourself. So, with just one click you can generate a Canvas space to use as an open, linkable, lasting resource that persists from semester to semester.

Here’s an example: this summer I created a Canvas course that I filled up with content, and you can see that here: It’s actually a two-fold experiment: it is a resource for Growth Mindset materials, and also a resource for live content strategies (embedding, javascripts, etc.). I’m personally not interested in any of the Canvas content management features like Modules, etc., but I could use those content management features if I wanted, just like when building a course.

So, when you see your Canvas course space automatically generated for you, don’t just leap into putting the content there. Step back and take a moment to ponder and plan: you have options!


You should definitely check out an amazing option that goes far beyond what Canvas could ever make possible: CREATE.OU.EDU. For serious content development, you need a domain of your own. And awaits you. 🙂

Find your own path!


Crossposted at OU Canvas Community.