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Case Study

Superior usability and scalability tipped the decision in favour of Canvas


London, New York, and Los Angeles

Started Using Canvas


Sotheby's Institute of Art

The Challenge

Administrators and faculty members at Sotheby’s Institute are focussed on the delivery of art business education and object-based learning through their world-renowned graduate programmes. With campuses in the cultural capitals of London, New York and Los Angeles, the institution prepares students for careers in the international art market.

Having initially developed its own VLE in 2010, Sotheby’s Institute was increasingly concerned that their current technologies were not keeping up with the demands of digitally-minded learners. In order to sustain its appeal to a generation of millennials, Sotheby’s Institute wanted to move away from their existing content delivery systems, and find a more technologically-advanced platform better suited to their digital education strategy. The challenge was selecting one system that users trusted to meet their long-term needs.


Having seen a number of Ivy League Universities, including Brown and Harvard Universities already using Canvas, we got a great picture of how the Canvas platform could scale,” said Joanna Berritt, Director of Online and Continuing Education, Sotheby’s Institute. “That, coupled with Canvas’ emphasis on feedback at the heart of the educational model, made it an easy decision to switch to Canvas to meet our teaching and learning requirements.

David McClintock
Sotheby’s Institute of Art


The Factors

The main criteria for Sotheby’s Institute selection process were:

Usability: a clean interface and ease of use that would appeal to students, faculty and staff

Functional and technical fit with Sotheby’s Institute’s student-centred focus

Interoperability and integration with mobile and tablet devices, both to facilitate access to educational content, and enable communication between student and lecturer beyond the lecture hall

The Sotheby’s Institute has carved a reputation at the forefront of education in the international art market. With an understanding of, and appreciation for, the highest quality imagery, it was essential that the institution found a platform which could cater to its design expectations.

The team evaluating Canvas was made up of both students and lecturers, reflecting Sotheby’s Institute’s emphasis on student input alongside their ambitions to encourage the faculty to incorporate technology into teaching and learning.


The Decision

Sotheby’s Institute began moving all of its courses to Canvas in January 2013. With an international presence , Canvas’ scalable, next generation, technology is intended to play a key role in enabling Sotheby’s Institute to continue the very best learning experience across the world.

“The overall look and feel of the Canvas platform was what separated the company from other competitors,” Berritt said. “When our students are used to advanced digital experiences across devices, we needed to ensure that their virtual learning environment sized up against the sophisticated digital tools they are used to engaging with.”

One appealing feature, which makes Canvas a particularly great fit for Sotheby’s Institute, Berritt noted, is a design that truly integrates teaching and learning. While lecturers and students have different roles as they use the platform, they still interact within the same digital space.

“Individual attention and peer connections are very much a part of Canvas,” Berritt said, “and it echoes a philosophy at the Sotheby’s Institute. The integration in the design is in line with the way we think at the Institute – we value a user interface which reflects the luxury and heritage associated with the Sotheby’s brand.”

“Understanding the significance and impact of art objects is at the heart of what we do and Canvas enables us to optimise a wide library of high quality visuals on the screen. It will be cutting-edge innovations like this that help us maintain our position as the foremost leader in International art business education.”


Sotheby’s Institute Of Art Fun Facts

2000 students attend our MA programmes, continuing education and online courses each year

Sotheby’s Institute is exceptional in its teaching programme in preparing students for careers in the international art market; very few people are educating in this field

The Institute runs an MA programme in London which has been validated by the
University of Manchester

Sotheby’s was recently awarded highest status award from the QAA, meeting the highest
academic standard.

Key Findings

  1. Concern that its internal Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) was not keeping up with the demands of digitally-minded learners drove Sotheby’s Institute to review its strategy
  2. The eLearning team drove the VLE selection process with input from faculty and students
  3. Superior usability and scalability tipped the decision in favour of Canvas
  4. Sotheby’s Institute of Art also liked Canvas for its mobile device support.

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