Wednesday, 4 November 2015

CanvasCon at the British Museum.

By Rebecca Sellers

On the 20th October I caught a very early train to London to attend the Canvas conference at the British Museum. As an institution we are currently using Blackboard to provide our VLE and there are no short term plans to change this. The reason to travel to the conference was to keep up to date with other options on the market and see some of the features that we might want to consider. Also it always useful to see how other institutions use and manage their VLE's and interact with them.

The conference was held in the British Museum which was an imposing place to walk into. The actual venue was a lecture theatre under the main building.

The sessions started with information about how the product had been developed and the company had grown. The company is still relatively small in the number of staff it employs but continues to grow. The next speaker was from Hult Business School and talked abut the huge amount of data they had gathered and how they were using this better develop their system and support students. The analytics package they had developed to help identify students that were struggling or who had not engaged with a number of activities was beginning to shape how they developed their support mechanisms and reviewed programmes.
The next speakers were from Wolsey Hall School and spoke about how the system supported their online and distance learners. They had a lot of experience of working with this group of students and spoke highly of the platforms ability to be flexible for their needs .

Next it was lunch time, and instead of a buffet we got a lunch box prepacked with food. The contents was a sandwich, popcorn, macaroons and a can of fizzy pop. Although the contents was nothing special the branded metal lunch box was a very nice touch as everyone went home with a branded object that they probably had to carry on show due to the size of it.

The afternoon was made up of parallel sessions. The sessions that i attended were for people new to Canvas. The one that stood out was from University of Birmingham and detailed how they had changed from one VLE to Canvas. Due to the similarities between the system the staff found it easy to move to the new system. One thing that I took away from the session was that they rushed the change of system and would recommend a better planned move so that everyone could be trained and used to the new system when the old one was switched off. This is a lesson to learn and remember if we change any system or bring in a new institutional piece of software. 

Overall the conference was interesting and stimulating, it is always good to see what other products are on the market and how other institutions use their VLE's to support learning. The issues faced about uptake and knowledge of staff, the consistency  of provision and the engagement of students are sector wide and not limited by institution, discipline or the platforms used. I think this is important to remember when looking at new or replacement tech.