Canvas seeks faculty advice as it develops ‘Teaching at Scale’; Dec. 8 forum planned


Instructure, which created Canvas, will make a key decision in 2018 on how best to develop software that’s intended to help faculty manage large or multiple courses.

Before deciding which way to go, the company would like to hear from instructors at UC Davis and other universities that use Canvas.

“Two paths diverge,” Instructure says in a post describing its “Priority: Teaching & Learning at Scale” project:

  • Instructure could continue to develop Canvas’ cross-listing capacity, which “[lets] you merge multiple courses or sections into a single course space.” This is standard practice at UC Davis, and in fact the campus just released a new tool to simplify cross-listing.

Or …

  • “We could do this differently. In the same way that Blueprint courses let you create and update course content and activities in many courses from a single, ‘master’ course, we could let you manage, communicate with, and grade students in many courses from a single, ‘master’ course dashboard.”

UC Davis will present a noontime faculty forum on Friday, Dec. 8, in 1310 The Grove (Surge III) for instructors who want to learn more about the proposed options and discuss the merits of each. Instructure’s post includes additional information about its efforts to address teaching large classes in Canvas, plus a link for providing feedback on the options. Comments are due by the end of December.

How Instructure works

To attract user feedback, Instructure routinely asks faculty, students and others who use Canvas for comments about the service and ideas for new features. Suggested changes that receive wide support have a better chance of being added to a future release of Canvas. Instructure also shares and invites comment on its development plan for Canvas.

“Many universities use Canvas as their learning management system, and although there’s no guarantee that any individual suggestion will change the way the software develops, they’re quite sincere in wanting feedback,” said Todd Van Zandt, program manager for UC Davis Canvas (the full name of the service here). “Many new features, and updates to existing features, are tied back to feature requests generated from the Canvas community.”

UC Davis started using Canvas in 2016-17. Instructional use of SmartSite, the old learning management system on campus, ended in June 2017.