Yet Another LMS: Canvas, From Instructure

The Learning Management System (LMS) market is a crowded one, but that isn’t deterring entry. Michael Arrington considers the launch of Canvas to be post-worthy. Its worthiness seems to stem from two aspects of Canvas: the founder, Josh Coates; and the video, which features a flamethrower.

Canvas is in some ways similar to Totara, which I covered about a month ago. The code is free/open source, and the intention is make profit from services, including hosting and support. In the case of Canvas, the for-profit organization is Instructure.

Canvas differs from Totara in that it’s for the academy, while Totara is for the enterprise. As you’ll know if you watched the video, Canvas has a very specific target. That would be (as Mike puts it) “the entrenched player in the University LMS space, Blackboard, and… its $377 million or so in revenue.”

As an entrant to the academic segment of the LMS market, Canvas resembles Schoology. So I’ll examine Canvas in terms of the challenges I identified in an earlier post about Schoology.

One set of challenges arises from the difficulty of being an entrant into a segment that includes a large gorilla, as well as other incumbents. Canvas/Instructure has certainly made a bold, aggressive, and well-funded entry.

Another set of challenges relates to that fact of student life, social media. A quick look at Canvas suggests that it provides integration with Facebook (to name a social gorilla) rather than building social networking into the Canvas LMS itself. If so, I think that’s the way to go.

I tried to start using the Canvas in the early hours of this (Tuesday) morning. I submitted a support request shortly after signing up. I’ll post again, or update this post, when I’ve received a response to my support ticket and/or signup.

5 thoughts on “Yet Another LMS: Canvas, From Instructure”

  1. I installed the open source version on AWS last night. Sadly, some of the most useful features in Canvas aren’t available, particularly those related to video and web conferencing, but also integration with Facebook, and I think, Google Apps.

    I also wonder about the future of Canvas’s Conferencing tool as DimDim was recently bought out by Salesforce.

    Still, the open source version could compete with Moodle or Sakai in some instances.

    1. Thanks very much for your comment on the downloadable version of Canvas, David.

      I’ll be trying the hosted version over the next week or two, and will write more when I’ve done so.

    2. Just by way of clarification, it’s not that those features *aren’t* available in the open source version, it’s just that they need to be configured. If you check out you can see how to go about setting up these integrations.

      These types of integrations normally require a shared secret between the service and your server, which is something we can’t give out with the open source code base. People who want to use these integrations will have to sign up for their own shared secrets, but we’ve tried to document the process on that wiki page pretty clearly.

  2. Hi Andrew,

    What did you think? Have you had a chance to post and play with Canvas? I am trying to start a learning community (academic) and I am very interested in your comments and your opinion. Thanks!


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