Friday, 10 May 2013

A review of Canvas Network

Canvas Network is a MOOC platform launched by the American educational software company Instructure on top of their open source learning management system (LMS).

The specificities of Canvas Network

According to a press release: “Canvas Network allows institutions to define the structure of their courses and the approach to teaching that makes the most sense to them. Some institutions have chosen to pursue a massive open online course format (MOOC), and some have chosen to pursue a smaller online course format with more interaction. Often the courses are taught on the same platform the institution uses to teach tuition-based courses, which means students have a seamless experience as they progress through their academic journey.”

The MOOC platform is therefore mainly a tool for building out Instructure’s sales pipeline for the LMS by exposing new students and institution to the software.

Canvas Network’s strong points

  • Wide course offering

Thanks to the openness of the platform, Canvas Network has attracted very diverse courses both in terms of format and topic.
From March 2013 a project management course from the French school Centrale Lille was offered on the platform in French (the instructor for the course stated in a conference that he initially approached Coursera but, as Centrale Lille was not considered prestigious enough, settled on Canvas Network instead).

  • Varied partners

Lumen Learning, a private company aiming to be the Red Hat of open education, is offering an English Composition course on Canvas Network so unlike Coursera or edX, it is not just colleges using the platform.

Canvas Network’s not so strong points

Canvas Network’s not so strong points are similar to Coursera’s but it also suffers from its relatively small size.

  • Size

Canvas Network has far fewer users and far fewer courses than Coursera and most of the courses enforce a limit on student enrolment which restrict opportunities for the courses and the platform to be more widely known and used.

  • No content curation

Coursera relies on prestigious university partners for its courses. Canvas Network is less regarding as to who it partners with but yet does not seem to be exercising quality control on the courses either.

  • No curriculum

Canvas Network is offering diverse and interesting courses but so far has done nothing to organise those courses into coherent curriculums.

  • No corporate backers

Even though some of its courses are almost vocational in nature, Canvas Network hasn’t made seeking corporate backing for its courses a priority.

Canvas Network’s low profile hides a few short but valuable courses, typically requiring a lower weekly time commitment than on other platforms. It certainly deserves to be better know.

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