Is Canvas The Next Dominant LMS?

canvas graphic

Is the Canvas open-source LMS becoming the next dominant platform in online education?

See edutechnica’s graphic above.

  • An increasing number of institutions are switching their LMS from Moodle and Sakai to Canvas LMS.
  • Canvas has overtaken Desire2Learn in terms of number of enrollments.
  • ⅕ of institutions that currently run Sakai seem to be willing to switch their LMS and have set up tests with either Canvas or Blackboard Learn.
  • The new Unizin consortium, a potential threat to edX, is creating a new learning ecosystem that will use Canvas LMS. Through Unizin, Canvas could add Colorado State University (Blackboard), Indiana University (Sakai), Oregon State University (Blackboard), Purdue University (Blackboard), University of Florida (Sakai, with some use of Canvas), University of Michigan (Sakai) and University of Wisconsin (Desire2Learn) to its list of customers.
  • Canvas Catalog, a recent white label storefront solution to create branded web portals, is expected to attract many more customers.

“Instructure Canvas is quietly building what could become one of the dominant platforms in online education, from academic to vocational and lifelong learning,” writes


MOOCs' Offer Grows Exponentially – The Top 5 MOOC Finders

MOOCs’ offer is growing exponentially, as shown in this graphic by Class Central. In addition, there are more providers –the main ones being Coursera, edX, Udacity, and CourseSites in the U.S.; FutureLearn in the UK; Iversity in Europe; Open2Study in Australia; MiriadaX in Latin America and Spain– and many more MOOC finders.

Here is a list of the top 5:

  • It tracks more than 50,000 courses. It has a great feature called “Mooc tracker”, which allows you to build your own catalog of courses and get notified.
  • It tracks free and paid video courses from the nine best course providers. It highlights the idea of collecting certificates and getting references.
  • It includes MOOC providers such as Academy, India’s NPTEL and the OpenCourseWare consortium, that aren’t well represented by other aggregators.
  • It covers an extensive offering of video-based courses, both free and paid. So far, RedHoop has collected over 21,400 courses, of which 3,600 are free. It features an interesting top 100 list.
  • It ranks courses in terms of popularity.


Canvas LMS Launches a Coursera and EdX-style Front-End Feature

Instructure, the maker of the Canvas LMS and operator of the MOOC platform, has launched a new service called Canvas Catalog, that allows to create edX and Coursera-style public course collections online.

Canvas Catalog (pictured above) also supports customized landing pages, payment for courses, discounts and promotion codes, credentials and certificates for completion.

In other words, by building a marketplace or storefront for their course offerings, students will have a one-stop shop where they can register, enroll, pay and take courses.

The goal is to help Canvas LMS’ customers produce, host and market their own branded distance courses.

The first two organizations that will use this service are Pasco County Schools in Florida and Academic Partnership.


How to choose the right LMS for your K-12 school


A great LMS (Learning Management System) can improve the teaching and learning of teachers and students.

But how to does one choose the right one?

The K12 Director of Instructure / Canvas LMS has come up with some tips. Let us summarize them while we add our view.

The perfect LMS platform should:

      • Open doors for teaching and learning in a way that is intuitive and easy.
      • Amplify schools’ strengths, accelerate progress toward goals and support future needs.
      • Integrate blended and online delivery models easier.
      • Suggest new ways of designing and teaching online courses.
      • Engage users by encouraging interaction and empowering to take ownership of their own learning.
      • Feature fresh navigation and custom toolset.
      • Reduce the impact on faculty of IT.
      • Be highly scalable and flexible to adapt and grow with your district.
      • Integrate with third-party tools through an open API, as well as an app center –such as– “with hundreds of technology tools that teachers can install and use without ever having to talk to IT.
      • Be extremely reliable, with 99.9% uptime possible. Having an LMS down for maintenance, an unexpected outage, causes great stress for students and teachers.
      • Have a partner and service provider that is responsive, supportive and collaborative.
      • Test it previously in a sandbox environment in order to have a first-hand look at the platform’s capabilities. – the largest LMS app ecosystem in the industry


The Canvas Platform team has launched the renewed and refreshed Which is a new public catalog of LTI (Learning Tools Interoperability) integrations and 135 of applications.

The improved popular apps include: Khan Academy, Twitter, Vimeo, YouTube, School Tube, Redirect Tool, Quizlet, etc.

LTI is a standard means of putting remotely hosted, third-party applications onto LMS platforms and educational portals. In other words, an open education technology ecosystem for education.

Canvas has the largest, most open LMS app ecosystem in the industry.

“An open education technology ecosystem creates more opportunities for innovation to thrive,” said Jared Stein, vice president of research and education at Instructure in a statement. “The new website encourages startups and innovators to create apps that work across LMS providers. This means less time integrating one-off technology and more time designing tools and curriculum for new ways of learning.”


A MOOC to make blended learning available to educators

Blended learning –the strategic combination of face-to-face and online learning experiences– is growing in popularity within higher education and K-12 settings.

Well, now there is a free MOOC intended to provide assistance when developing and designing blended learning courses. BlendKit2014 – Becoming a Blended Learning Designer is a five-week MOOC that starts in April 21. It is offered on by Educause and the University of Central Florida.

The creators will share the valuable tools, information, and methods that have been developed during the past two decades. The course involves:

  • Readings from scholarly works pertaining to blended learning
  • Document templates and practical step-by-step “how to” guides
  • Blogging/social networking interaction opportunities
  • Regular interactions with facilitators and students
  • Expert and peer assessment and critique on design work

Participants may choose to pursue a credential from the Universal Central Florida/EDUCAUSE as “Certified Blended Learning Designer”, as well as digital badge that can be linked to their EDUCAUSE profile and displayed on professional and social networks. For that, they will need to submit a portfolio review –available for $89.



Want to create a MOOC hit? Learn from this edX course!

open edx

Why people believe weird things, how they form and change opinions, and how we can make better decisions. These are the answers that this course explores: The Science of Everyday Thinking.

This course, on the platform, went live at the beginning of March. So far– it has attracted over 100,000 people.

From the course-design view, this is a sample of how to capture and hold the interest of thousands of people worldwide.

The approach has been to film unscripted, real conversations with several interesting people across a variety of topics, and to film ‘lecture’ content in different, everyday locations, following a documentary style.

Creators traveled the globe to film conversations with clever people such as Daniel Kahneman, who won the Nobel Prize in Economics, Elizabeth Loftus, who pioneered the study of false memories, Ian Frazer who developed a cervical cancer vaccine, and even the creators of MythBusters, about testing claims and distinguishing between fact and fiction.

“We met 22 leading thinkers from across the world and combined hundreds of hours of conversations, demonstrations, and assessment into short, highly polished episodes on how to evaluate claims, learn and remember information better, and ultimately make smarter decisions,” the creators explain.

This is the YouTube Channel where all of the videos are.

Five tips to film engaging MOOCs – Our experience


Videos are central to the learning experience, therefore the type of production we do affects student engagement.

We are now in a huge production for Francisco de Vitoria University, in Spain, and we want to share our experience. (The picture above shows Professor Ángel Sánchez-Palencia during a recording of a MOOC about Antropology).

Some findings:

  • Pre-production is key. We plan lesson content carefully before jumping to the ground.
  • Post-production is equally important. We add lots of images, b-roll and graphic resources. We don’t want to merely display a talking head.
  • We avoid studio recording. We like videos produced with a personal feel, filmed in informal settings.
  • We encourage and train instructors to speak in a quick and enthusiastic manner. We want them to bring out their enthusiasm as educators.
  • Shorter videos are much more engaging, since engagement drops after 5-6 minutes. (Regarding the engagement time, there is an interesting analysis from the University of Rochester).

The LTI standard becomes part of every major LMS

Is your LMS LTI-compliant?

With the growing acceptance of the Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) standard, and the 2.0 version on the horizon, LMS platforms are becoming more fluid, with content flowing in and out via many third-party tools.

LTI provides an open, standard way for third-party tools to connect to any LMS (Learning Management Systems); and a wide range of outside software can be implemented. Also, as an open standard, it avoids vendor lock-in. This means that if a school migrates to another LMS, existing third-party tools that are LTI-compliant will continue to work with the new system without needing to tinker any further.

Samples of third-party applications that are sitting out on the cloud include the video capture program Panopto; the digital storytelling and collaboration app VoiceThread, the anti-plagiarism software known as Turnitin, and an asynchronous learning tool called YouSeeU that can be used for online student presentations and discussions.

The Canvas LMS is leading the LTI charge. It maintains an LTI directory of compliant applications at, listing over 125 apps. Included are familiar names like YouTube, Khan Academy, Twitter, WordPress, McGraw Hill Campus, CourseSmart, Ted Ed, Wikipedia and DropBox. Some apps require an administrator to install them, but others are designed for a user to plug into the LMS themselves.

A list of both platforms and tools that are certified to be LTI-compliant is maintained at

Some large institutions, like the University of Michigan and Western Governors University, are already building according to LTI standards.

MOOCs go to high and middle schools

MOOCs can be a great way to supplement and enhance K12 students’ curriculum. These courses can work very well for blended and individualized learning –because they can be a solution for students who need extra time to succeed.

Some K12 educators are beginning to incorporate them into their classrooms.

MOOCs can help students accomplish their personal goals, such as learning new languages, or studying specific disciplines. In this type of learning environment, MOOCs would be similar to attending after-school activities, field trips, visiting museums or researching topics of interest.

Some revealing samples we have extracted from this article:

  • Andover (Mass.) Public Schools’ students get high school credit for the course but no grade upon completing the courses.
  • The University of Miami’s Global Academy, which is a virtual high school, developed its first MOOC specifically for high school students last year. The three-week course focused on preparing students –mostly juniors– to take the SAT II test in biology. Also, the high school has provided a MOOC to prepare students to take the Advanced Placement calculus exam.
  • The math, biology, and physical sciences’ teachers from Brown University Continuing Education from both middle and high schools are using the MOOC as a mini-unit in their classes, or as an after-school project.
  • Enterasys launched a MOOC initiative to provide students who are interested in learning more about IT. The free technical education classes provide technical skills achievement in fundamental areas around IP data networking, wireless technologies and security concepts—all key areas of recognized growth within the IT space. Unlike traditional MOOCs, the Enterasys MOOC is self-paced and students can attend the weekly scheduled module when it is best for them.
  • Reynoldsburg (Ohio) City Schools’ eSTEM Academy combines MOOCs with live classroom instruction for grades 9 through 12. Teachers use the online content along with the problem-based learning work that is part of the academy’s goal.

Additional readings: