First Look at Instructure

Instructure logoOn August 4, 2010, I spent 70 minutes with Cory and Devlin from Instructure Canvas getting a personal tour of their fairly new entrant into the LMS space. This is one of the recent additions to the field that is trying to differentiate itself from the Blackboards of the world by being more open, more flexible, less complicated, and more student-centered (and less evil, I suppose).

In the video below (7:42 running time), I narrate a series of screenshots that I captured as I started to create my first course and my user profile in Canvas. For my money, the important part starts at about 3:15 as I look at making a connection between Canvas and several web-based tools (G Docs, Skype, Facebook, Twitter, Delicious, Diigo, and LinkedIn) and right after that where I set some notification preferences that allow me to customize how I receive class information updates (email addresses that I control and text messaging if I choose), and how often I receive these updates. (Try using the full-screen mode in the lower right corner of Vimeo screen.)

I will continue to play in the sandbox for a while longer as I start to build out more of a course and will report out again as I make progress on that front. Here are just a few more tidbits to tide you over:

  • Their philosophy is to wait and only build and implement a new feature when there is an identified need for it – rather than the build it and they will come approach.
  • Both students and faculty have the same view and user interface.
  • They have a simple, yet powerful rich text editor that is used whenever there is a tool that allows for editing. Same editor, all the time – even for students.
  • They have embedded a Creative Commons search tool for Flickr photos as one option when adding an image to a course.
  • RSS feeds (I know, what a concept!!) allow most course info to be pushed out of Canvas and to the students.
  • There are many ways of communicating with students. No longer is the only option to “email the class.”

I’ll add many more features in the next post. Don’t get me wrong, though. I haven’t totally fallen in love with Instructure Canvas just yet. I have lots of questions about it and I’ll work on clarifying what those questions are and getting them answered in the near future. So far I’m mainly ignorant about the back end functions and possible scaling issues with the service. More coming, stay tuned.

Also check out Michael Feldstein’s post at e-Literate.