June 8, 2011

Instructure’s Canvas – A Tool for Teachers

Most people agree that the U.S. education system is in trouble. With crowded classrooms, overworked teachers, and a lack of funding in nearly every state, repairing a broken education system can seem like a challenge that’s too big to tackle – or at least it used to be. Instructure is a technology company that has taken this challenge head on and developed powerful tools that educators and administrators can use to improve the way students learn.

Instructure has created a number of application and software systems, however the most intriguing seems to be Canvas. Canvas is an online application that instructors can use to manage lesson plans, schedule courses, and improve student-teacher communication. What’s even better is that Canvas is adaptable, so individual educators can use the system in whichever ways they see fit. When you register for a Canvas account as a teacher, you’re automatically taken to a central dashboard page that shows all your recent activity and to-do list items. What you do next is up to you. Create online tests using Canvas’ bank of questions, embed videos on an online course website that students in your classes can visit from home, and create online groups that your students can join for virtual study sessions. When you use Canvas, you can communicate with students online via email, Facebook, or text message, accept digital assignments, and organize live video chats at any time.

Not only can Canvas improve the way students learn, but it can improve the way educators work, as well. Instructors who use the SpeedGrader tool can grade exams quickly, while those using the rubrics tool can make sure their grading is fair. Canvas might not be an application that is going to revolutionize the U.S. education system over night, but teachers, administrators, and students will certainly look at it as a step in the right direction.

Practical Uses:

  • Give students a way to learn when they’re not in the classroom
  • Use the online tools to spend less time grading student exams
  • Keep better track of learning outcomes, to make accreditation easier
  • Communicate with students through email, Facebook, or text messages

Insider Tips:

  • Canvas calendars integrate with Google Calendar, iCal and Outlook
  • Instructors can use the Canvas Cloud or Canvas CV, which is the open-source version
  • Teachers can make class announcements on Facebook without “friending” their students
  • Administrators can create a custom Canvas system for their entire school to use

What we liked:

  • Individual instructors can use Canvas without forcing their entire school to sign up
  • Teachers can see the average student grade for each course they’re teaching
  • Canvas offers a better way for students to learn from home
  • Teachers can grade assignments from home without having to worry about carrying a grade book to and from school each day

What we didn’t like:

  • The Canvas Cloud system froze up a number of times while we tried signing up for an account


Company Info:

  • Launched: January 2011
  • Privately Held
  • Headquarters: Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Founded by: Brian Whitmer and Devlin Daley
  • Web site:< /li>


  • Canvas is free for instructors



  1. Instructure sounds like just the software I need to keep my private class of students properly managed. Thanks for sharing! I wonder if the students will be issued an id and whether the software can connect directly to our printers.

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