Sunday, January 20, 2013

Review of Canvas CMS

The fields of instructional design and distance learning are in turbo-growth mode, with new technology (and improvements to "old" technology) barreling out from every direction. I've just recently begun exploring CMS (Content Management Systems), also called LMS (Learning Management Systems), and I've decided to share my very informal reviews here. First up, Canvas (http://www.instructure.com).

I liked Canvas right away. The site is attractive, and the intuitive navigation enabled me to feel comfortable and competent almost immediately. Canvas cleanly blends Web 2.0 tools and other technologies into features that distance learners want and need, like:
  • Mobility – “Users can receive Canvas notifications via Facebook, SMS text messaging, email and other communication channels” (http://www.instructure.com).
  • Outcomes to Objective – “With Canvas, you can connect each learning action to a specific goal—which means results are demonstrated in clearly measurable ways” (http://www.instructure.com).
  • Managed Hosting – “Canvas eliminates the time and expense of setting up, configuring and maintaining your own servers” (http://www.instructure.com)
  • Analytics – Built-in tools help designers and instructors evaluate the effectiveness of their instruction and specific content, which I could use to demonstrate ROI and justify my design decisions to clients, and more importantly, make changes as necessary to achieve desired outcomes.
  • Open Source – Software can be tweaked and freely shared with others.
One of the most attractive features to me is Integrated Multimedia, which makes it easy to “Insert audio, video, text, images and more at every learning contact point” (http://www.instructure.com). I should say it seems easy. I can’t really tell without signing up for an account, which brings me to the major limitation I find. Canvas only offers a free two-week trial, which is not long enough for me to complete either a client project or my own exploration, which is a shame. I would be more likely to segue from a free trial to a paid membership if I were given more time to explore the system.

Sally Bacchetta

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