Canvas Roadmap

Mitch BensonInstructureSince the last time the roadmap was discussed (last year): 

  • Minutes of downtime
  • 17 releases
  • Dozens of user group engagements
  • 160+ major features
  • Hundreds of days spent with users
  • 300+ accessibility issues resolved
  • Thousands of community submissions
  • 1500+ defects remedied

It’s great to see a slide that outlines the SDLC (Software Development Life Cycle) for Canvas. After the SDLC slide, there are a number of trends that Instructure takes into consideration, including

  • Learning is unbound by time and place
  • Individualized and differentiated
  • Social
  • More open & transparent
  • And more!

“Technology shouldn’t exacerbate learning.”

Achievement driven

  • Master courses 
  • Quizzes
  • Outcomes
  • Data and live events
  • Gradebook

Master courses is something that I’m most interested in and can’t wait until they’re released. I’m also hoping that the master courses are not stored in the Admin > Courses section. I’ve found that with tons of courses, that list gets long and cumbersome.

Individually relevant and engaging experiences

  • Mastery paths
  • Mobile app suite
  • Quizzes
  • Outcomes

So I think that the mastery paths is a great idea, but I’m curious as to how instructors are going to use them. I understand the purpose, but wonder if the paths will add additional work for the instructors to create remedial/extra assignments.

Connectedness everywhere

  • Office 365
  • Google Apps for Education
  • Integration and interoperability
  • LTI tools

I’ve given my thoughts on a lot of these different topics, so I’m going to skip my commentary here.To see where Instructure is with the topics discussed above, here is an image of the roadmap:


I think that, based on the content and audience turnout, this session should have been a keynote. There is so much great stuff here that Instructure is working on that it’s hard to prioritize from a consumer perspective. I’m glad that they’ve done the prioritization for us!

Minding the Gap: Investing in the Future

Mitch MacFarlaneInstructure


Do more stuff, better.


Mitch opened the session comparing the infrastructure of Canavs to the London Tube. Quite the analogy! Moving onto the first part, service-oriented architecture. What this means is that most of the components to Canvas are being separated from the larger product, so that updates and fixes are more lean with resources (manpower, cost).Additionally, Mitch includes consortium admin tools, database upgrades, and deploy infrastructure. The deploy infrastructure allows Instructure to do testing and code deployment so that QA testing of the code goes from hours down to minutes.Test build times is another great one. Strategizing testing based on what component is being updated/fixed is huge. Reducing the resources do to QA testing helps cut down on time needed to complete necessary testing.Notification service, rails/ruby, and React/WebPack are other upgrades that are great. All of that is under the hood.After going through the under-the-hood updates, there are other foundational principles that Mitch wants Canvas to be synonomous with:

  • Open
  • User-friendly (usability)
  • Accessible
  • Modern

With those foundational principles in mind, there are some things on the roadmap:

  • Quizzes 2
  • Offline content
  • Master courses
  • Outcomes everywhere


A good keynote to give a sneak peek at what is to come in the next year or so. Not much detail, but that’s ok since there is a roadmap session planned for later this afternoon. I don’t know if I had planned to attend, but if I didn’t, I probably should.

LTI Your Canvas for Great Good

Andrew ButterfieldInstructure

Session Abstract

In addition to being an awesome learning management system, Canvas is an extensible platform. Come and learn the state of the art so that you can customize Canvas to fit your needs.


I expected this session to be a beginner version of LTIs, which is good because I know what LTIs are but have never used them. We’re already 10 minutes into the session and we’re still going over definitions and technical specs of LTI tools. I’m really hoping we get into what LTIs are available and how they can be used in courses. I’m fairly technical in nature (I can speak tech), but it’s clear that this session is being led by an Engineer and people in the room are starting to zone out…I’m really confused about this session. I thought this was a session about using LTI tools, but right now we’ve been looking at XML code. I wonder if this session was pitched as “how to create your own LTI.”20 minutes into the session and we’re still looking at code… Note that the session is only 40 minutes long…


This session is not what I expected, and from the looks of how many people have left the session 25 minutes in, others are feeling the same way. I really can’t tell you what I learned from this session. Too bad, I was interested in using LTI.

Morning Keynote: Getting Technology RIGHT

Angela MaiersChoose2Matter

tl;dr started off by indicating that there is so much content in the next 40 minutes, that we shouldn’t try taking notes. Challenge accepted!The first noticable thing is that too often we start with the “cool tool,” spend 15 seconds to look at the purpose, and then challenged to “make it fit” into your curriculum. This has been an ongoing issue since the 1990’s.’s important to note that Angela indicates:

Technology doesn’t change the world; people do.

“The change comes from the inside out.”

Collectively, we need to focus on the fact that teachers know what’s right and we have to trust that. Now that we’ve covered the backstory, let’s jump into the framework.


We have to make sure that what we ask students to do (with or without technology) is what people do in REAL life. If, after a student reads a book at Barnes & Noble, they don’t turn to the person next to them to ask them for tape/glue/etc., then we should not waste their time to make a diorama. of the tools that Angela talks about, in addition to Reddit (if used correctly) is Nepris – A website that allows you to schedule live classrooms with professionals in a variety of fields. Get students involved with people in the field!

Imagination tool that Angela showed was a website that takes web & mobile apps (all free) and categorized them by how someone wants to show their own imagination.


Teaching & learning isn’t about learning what people around the world do, it’s a about interacting with people and influencing people from around the world.

“The smartest person in the room, is the room.” Angela says, we have access to billions of experts in thousands of fields. It’s not only our ability to tap into these minds, it’s out obligation. PREACH!As a way of getting better at a skill/talent, Angela talked briefly about, a way of taking a master class from someone who is an expert in the field, like Usher, James Patterson, etc.

Honor Passion

Passion Matters.

Passion is not a nicety or additive, it’s imperative that people have passion in what they do. Passion helps someone stand out in a crowd – an incredibly important idea for someone entering the workforce. = Passion QuotientCQ = Cognitive QuotientIQ = Self explanatory ;-)Thrively is another site that Angela talked about, which uses the same type of AI that Pandora uses to deliver music, to map the passion of an individual. After mapping these passions, it provides resources to them on how they can improve the items that they are passionate about (passion channels). The most “remarkable” item about this site is that it’s completely free.

Take Action

Everyone talks about the C’s (connection, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking), but rarely do people talk about the, arguably, most important C – the right to contribute.

You are what you share

This is a birth-right. Not something that they do when time allows. It is something that they should be doing – sharing with the world – and it’s something that they are fearless about doing. Here is a video example that she shows: a result of his contribution, the views have gone over 2 million and the feedback & contributions of people who watch the videos have created a huge community. has worked with Microsoft to create a YouTube-style website ( meets Facebook) to catalog and search for contributions of students from around the world. Looking for contributions on Global Justice? Just search for it! This website helps students understand that “you matter.” And what’s more, it helps teachers/instructors understand that “you matter.” Maybe not from a contribution standpoint, but by the influence, expertise, and passion that you share with your students. more information about Angela’s free book, LiberatingGenius, click here.


I’m not sure what to say. I’ve been a fan/follower of Angela Maiers for several years now but this presentation solidified why. She killed it – sharing with us the reasons that she gets out of bed every day. This was an inspirational keynote that makes me wish I was still working with students. I think this presentation was more focused on K-12 students, but regardless, many of the ideas/perspectives/tools that she shared can be implemented in higher education (less so for corporate training). you’re looking for another tl;dr for this keynote, here it is:

The Camp Sing-Along for the Distance Adult Learner

Joanna Do & Sarah LedouxHarvard University

Session Abstract

Adult learners are a separate tribe from K-12 students. Andragogical principles matter when designing for them. See how we create rich experiences for our population by combining available and homegrown LTIs, and an instructional design mindset to meet our tribe’s need for community and effective delivery of content.


Adults want learning that has immediate applicability to what they are experiencing in life.Andragogy

  • Wants to learn
  • Wants to be involved in planning and evaluation
  • Needs immediate relevance and application
  • Want guidance
  • Apply experience
  • Thrives with problem based learning

Sarah’s group at Harvard began with lecture capture and then evolved to live streaming, allowing students to interact with the instructor, if they are available at that moment.They continued and began talking about the difference in engagement between discussion forums (real-time) versus the old-school way of emailing information to instructor and having instructor aggregate and post document with all data. They indicated that 288 students responded to the discussion forum approach as opposed to the 20 who had to email the instructor. However, there was no indication as to the actual percentage for each class in order to normalize the data.  Of course, regardless of the percentages, this is no surprise. Referencing the bad weather in 2015, they were able to utilize alternate delivery methods when the University was closed for 3 Mondays in a row.When looking at course design for web-based course design, they implemented simplicity and design for students. They have a variety of templates to use for page creation and making it consistent for the student perspective. The latest version of their template is based on tables so that instructors can delete rows/columns if needed. The concern that I immediately think of (which they didn’t address) is the accessibility, or lack thereof, of using tables.Going into the Canvas course, they provided examples of engagement, such as discussion forums and assignments. One example they gave is to create multi-part assignments (separate assignments in Canvas). They also take advantage of Groups in Canavs to create custom parts to an assignment (court scenario having defendants, plaintiffs, judge, juries). 


There really wasn’t anything new or exciting in this presentation. I was hoping for some more innovative ideas, whereas this session was more about the usual “best practices” that Harvard is implementing. I was also hoping they’d talk about the LTIs they used (since, you know, that was mentioned in their abstract), but there was none of that. Given that they finished their presentation in 20 minutes (40 min was allotted), I guess there wasn’t much lost.

Troop ESCU: Professional Development Jamboree

Nicole DragisicTexas Region 18 Education Service Center

Session Abstract

Come celebrate the delivery of online professional development with troop ESCU. Learn the keys to getting adult buy-in, building a community around your offerings, and increasing your non-compulsory return enrollments. Discover how to leverage multimedia elements and LTI tools to increase retention and deep comprehension.


ESCU got into professional development during the 2nd generation of eLearning, one-way multimedia. After a period of time, they moved into the third generation (tele- & audio-conferencing). Fourth generation eLearning is asynchronous – they remained here for a period of time, but it removed the human interaction (ex: Articulate Storyline). Now we’re in the fifth generation.After the history lesson, Nicole provided some statistics on completion rates and, more importantly, return rates. Return rate is the percentage of users who complete a course and then return for another. Low rates indicate that students completed the course but didn’t like it, so they didn’t take another.Things they indicated don’t work:

  • Gamification – adult learners completing professional development won’t play games.
  • Single media presentation – must be mixed media.
  • Long video or audio presentations

The long video/audio presentations is not a surprise. We find this all the time. A large majority of their users accessed the online course either during conference time or right before bed. To take into consideration their users’ time spent on the course work is chunking. Making sure that each activity, reading, etc. can be completed within 30 minutes.Another thing that they do are digital souvenirs. This may be difficult for institutions to do (giving course content away), but it’s important with adult, non-traditional users to provide something that they can download and either 1) search within the document, or 2) print out to read. One of the issues that they run into is mixed media. To combat this, they implement UD to develop the best content delivery methods. They use text-pictorials (text next to photos) and short videos. They make a point not to use opening graphics in the videos and that the videos are 3 minutes or less. They find that including the opening graphics immediately disengages the user – get right to the point.

“When someone purchases professional development, they want something that is whole. You’re doing a disservice by offering something that doesn’t include human interaction.”

This is very true  – when someone needs help with a topic, they need the human interaction. Make sure to include question prompts similar to:

  • How would you use this in your class?
  • How would you alter this for your ELL students?


This was a good session. There was a LOT of information and she (admittedly) rushed through it, seeing as she normally does a similar training in 8 hours. This session makes me want to do more short-term professional development through Canvas. But as always, time is a factor. 

Gradebook Futures: Kill All the Clicks!

Christi WruckInstructure

Session Abstract

When it comes to time spent grading, fewer clicks, more bulk actions & more automation is what dreams are made of. Join us to review big projects that solve mountains of little problems.


I am already excited for this session. One of the issues that I have been facing in corporate training is that the instructors are not interested in the online grading. They think it’s too many clicks and hard to navigate. Not to mention that they are not professional instructors/teachers, so it’s not something they’re good at or want to do. I’m really hoping to take some things away from this session that we can implement to make grading easier for them.Right off the bat, there are computer issues, which means that it’s going to be a long session. I’m hoping they get it figured out quickly so that we don’t lose time. Okay, seems like they got everything figured out… moving on…Most of what Christi plans to show to us are designs and a *few* things that are already in beta. Through all of the feedback that she receives, the requests fall into one of 5 different categories

  1. Organization
  2. Saving time
  3. Flexibility
  4. Communication
  5. Automation


Some of the new things that she demoed include:

  • Crosshairs – the ability to see exactly what cell you are clicked on in the Gradebook.
  • Color coding – the ability to set colors for excused, late, missing, assignments.
  • Hide columns – hide columns that you don’t care about.

The one that I’m most excited about is hiding columns. During some of our training programs, we have lots of assignments that we don’t care to see during months 2-5 (like assignments due during month 1). 

Saving time

Some of these items include bulk grade adjustments, comment mode, Gradebook settings, and SpeedGrader facelift.

  • Bulk grade adjustments – the ability to automate all student grades (add or remove points for bad questions, for example).
  • Comment mode – See a streamlined list of comments for an assignment, without leaving the Gradebook.
  • SpeedGrader facelift – All of the navigation (changing between students, numerical grades, comments, are all in 1 general area, rather than having to move all over the screen.

Automating more things

  • Late/missing policies – You will have the ability to set a default grade when the assignment is missing. You can also set a default penalty for late work (per day, hour, etc.)
  • Post grades
  • Hide grades after date
  • Grading schemes in bulk late/missing policies is one that I might use. I frequently get emails from people asking if all of their assignments are turned in. Right now, I have them focus on any place in their grades where there is a “dash,” indicating missing assignments. What I could do with this is automatically set missing assignments as “0” if the assignment is missing. Time will tell…

Communicate Better

  • Totals – Different terminology for posted grades, unposted grades, etc.
  • New student grades page – Updated look, graphs, etc.
  • To do list in SpeedGrader – Ability to grade assignments from multiple courses in 1 place. No longer having to go out of the course and back into SpeedGrader.
  • Context cards – Provides a summary of the assignment and student from within the Gradebook (this student has “x” missing assignments and is now asking for an extension).

Increasing Flexibility

  • Total grade adjustment – Ability to adjust final grade
  • Uncalculated, graded assignments
  • SpeedGrader auto save comments

The only part of this section is the SpeedGrader auto save comments. We don’t rely on end of term grades in the Gradebook, so I don’t think the other 2 would be helpful. I need a use case for the uncalculated, graded assignments – I can’t think of where this would be helpful for me.


This session was really cool. There’s a lot going on and in development and I can’t wait to see these in production. I’m not sure how many of these I’d use, but I can certainly see the benefits for K-12 and Higher Education.

Afternoon Keynote

Jared SteinVP, Canvas Higher Education Strategy


Jared started with a phrase coined by Alec Couros, “Thinning the Walls.”

How can we make Canvas so flexible that it allows for different teaching/learning styles and be useful for K-12 and Higher Education. 

My concern is that their only focusing on K-12 and Higher Education — What about corporate users? As a corporate trainer, the LMS needs to be flexible enough for corporate training needs as well.In order for Canvas to continue to remain flexible and useful in a variety of environments, Jared has announced 3 new apps for Canvas:

  • Canvas Parent – including custom notifications for parents on their child’s status in the course.

Ability to try new apps for within Canvas – EduApps.

  • 20% of courses have at least 1 EduApp installed by instructors.
  • 96% of courses have at least 1 EduApp installed at the institution/account level.

One of the EduApps that was referenced is Yellowdig – an app that allows students to share articles on the web. This tool has me wondering, is this a viable alternative to Evernote shared notebooks,, etc.? I need to take a look at this site/tool and see what it does.In addition to the vendor-designed EduApps, there are over 170+ EduApps created by end users. One of the next integrations that Jared is displaying is an integration with Office 365. This looks like a great idea – the ability to share documents in a user’s OneDrive without having to worry about email addresses. Unfortunately we don’t use Office 365, so I’m not sure that’s useful. Going further into the Office 365 integration are Cloud Assignments. The ability to use the Office 365 files as a template which can be edited on the website and submitted as a student submission. This could be great for my corporate training needs, if and only if, students don’t need a 365 account. The ability to display a Word document or Excel sheet within the Canvas course (rather than downloading the file) would be much easier. Pushing this one step further, Instructure is working on a similar integration with Google Docs. Sweet! passing, Jared showed a quick snapshot of the new UI for SpeedGrader. Definitely looking forward to that one! is now talking about Canvas Commons, a tool that I just recently (1 hour ago) learned about. This can be a game changer for me. There are modules in courses we teach that I’d love to be able to reuse, like company history, navigating an online classroom, etc. I am dying to start using Canvas Commons! Not only can teachers/admins create content to share within your institution or among other Canvas users at other institutions, but now…!! Game changer.


I’m very happy with this session, as my CSM said I would be. New products, innovative ideas, etc. While this session did focus on K-12 and Higher Education perspective, there are quite a few things that I plan on exploring further for implementation in our corporate training environment.

It’s a Mobile World

Session Abstract

Let’s explore a day in the life with Canvas Mobile apps. This includes the daily, real-time experience of student and use by faculty while on-the-go. This session will help teachers and designers better understand student use, how to optimize course content, minimize confusion, and create an awesome learning experience, anywhere.


The session is being facilitated by the Admin of the Canvas Mobile User Group (CMUG), an Instructional Designer from the University of Central Florida. It’s good to know that this type of a session isn’t just a “plug” for more people to start using the app. An interesting stat early on into the session is that there have been over 6 million app downloads. survey students every year and get a surprising response rate. Within 1 week, over 1000 responses. With their number of students using Canvas, the percentage is probably pretty small, but in just looking at the raw numbers, that’s pretty impressive.As part of the survey, the #1 most important features of the app were Grades (not surprising) and #2 was Assignments (not surprising). question is How often do you access Can vas with a computer (not mobile device) – 98%35% access Canvas with phone as much or more than a computer.Moving onto the Day in the Life with Canvas Mobile… created a neat video on the Day in the Life with Canvas Mobile was a very cheesy video, but was very helpful in seeing all of the different tasks that can be completed within the mobile app. addition to all of the tasks that can be done, there are benefits to both the instructor and student. designing contents for the mobile app, there are design considerations that should be thought through. A list of the considerations is available on the Canvas Community: resource that can be used is UDOIT (University Design Online content Inspection Tool)

  1. Scan a course for accessibility
  2. Generate reports
  3. Provide resources on how to address common issues

Right now this tool is only for the Canvas website, but development is underway to include a mobile check. Fantastic!Here’s something to keep in mind:


This was the best session so far, IMO. There weren’t any new features or “aha” moments, but it was a session that provided information on what students and instructors can do with the mobile app. No mobile app is perfect, and even if you don’t like the Canvas mobile app (or mobile learning, in general), it doesn’t matter. Your students will use it whether or not you want them to. Here’s some contact information on the presenters, Ryan and Luke:

Design Thinking for Learning Design

Robin BartolettiUniversity of North Texas Health Science Center

Session Abstract

As a process to develop an online course, design thinking is about stating with people and applying the tools of creative design like storytelling, prototyping, away days, brain writing, and experiementation. Learn key methods to try as you build your own Canvas course.The room is incredibly full – I’m sitting on the floor. Usually no big deal, but it’s hot in here!!Robin started off talking about Design Learning, but I think she missed a step. I don’t know about others in the room, but I came to this session to find out what Design Thinking is – it seems that she skipped over that part. There were a large number of people in the room who had some knowledge about what Design Thinking is, but it certainly wasn’t unanimous.Almost 20 minutes into the session and this tweet is probably the most informative piece of information I received:

“Pick one that fits your needs/situation.”

Pick one what??Robin also referenced a website with resources, but she hasn’t provided the link so I have no clue what I’m looking for. She also had an exercise to try Design Thinking, but wanted to skip over it because there were more people in the room than she expected. I’m not sure how that’s possible – there’s 1800 people here and only a small number of sessions going on at 1 time. There’s got to be at least 200 people in this room.With about 15 minutes left, I decided to leave. I wasn’t getting anything out of the session and I want to get an actual seat for the next session.