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Instructure Creates Free 'Canvas Network' for Online Courses

Instructure has launched a new platform to let users of the learning management system Canvas create online courses--both open and private. The service, Canvas Network, is being made available free to Canvas users.

According to Instructure, Canvas Network is designed to break out of the "one-size-fits-all" approach to online courses that other providers take, allowing institutions to structure courses as they see fit using the tools provided in the Canvas learning management system. (Canvas is a learning management system available in both proprietary and open source editions. The proprietary version is a cloud-based LMS hosted by Instructure in partnership with Amazon Web Services.)

Josh Coates, CEO of Instructure, explained that the approach is based on the idea that "MOOCs are a part of education," rather than the be-all and end-all of education. And he characterized the service as an "alternative platform that isn't only for the elite schools. We're opening up a platform for everyone else" and, he said, providing support for "dozen to tens of thousands of students."

Some of the highlights of the system include:

  • An option for public open enrollment;
  • Support for e-portfolios;
  • Mobile access;
  • Analytics;
  • Grading;
  • Multimedia tools;
  • Learning outcomes management;
  • Various collaboration tools; and
  • A public course index.

As part of the launch, 11 institutions have created courses on the network. These include Ball State University, Brown University, Colorado State University-Global Campus, Peninsula College, Santa Clara University, Scottsdale Community College, Seattle Central Community College, University of Central Florida, University of Utah, University of Washington, Utah State University, and WestEd.

The courses that will be offered range from preparatory courses aimed at high school students, such as an introduction to engineering course from Brown U, to a course on the role of gender in comic books being taught by comic icon Stan Lee through Ball State U. (Ball State is a Blackboard customer but is experimenting with the service by offering two courses.)

A sampling of courses from Canvas Network
A sampling of courses from Canvas Network

All of the launch-time courses are being offered on an open basis. However, future courses on the Canvas Network can be free and open or paid and can be offered as not-for-credit, courses leading to certificates, or courses that are part of a degree program.

Canvas Network is designed for users of the hosted edition of Canvas, currently in use by about 260 institutions. Coates said that users of the open source edition can contact Instructure if they're interested in creating courses for the Canvas Network.

The first courses offered through the Canvas Network will open in 2013. According to Instructure, courses are now being accepted for an April 2013 launch. Complete details can be found on Institutions can also contact [email protected].

About the Author

David Nagel is the former editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal, STEAM Universe, and Spaces4Learning. A 30-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art, marketing, media, and business publications.

He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at .

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