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The Study Hall

Standards Keep Canvas In Step

As the VP of Platform & Partnerships at Instructure, I’m now leading the platform strategy for Canvas (in addition to my role in building partnerships). What does that mean? It means I’ll be even more focused on maximizing the capabilities of Canvas as an open, ecosystem-oriented learning environment. It also means my passion for standards will be put to good use.

I’m not just talking about high standards (although those matter, too). I’m referring to common standards—as in, interoperability. If you’ve read my previous posts, you’ll know that I’m incredibly passionate about making sure Canvas works well with all the tools, services, and content that schools, teachers, and students want to use. (You’ll also know that as a ballroom dancer, I’ve had a lot of practice following a different set of standards to make sure I work well with my dance partner.)

To put the importance of standards on the development of Canvas (and ultimately the user experience) into perspective, here’s a flashback to where we started and a flashforward to where we’re going.

Flashback: Canvas as the standard-bearer

Since Canvas began supporting LTI on May 13, 2011 (yes, we remember the exact date), we’ve worked to educate and encourage the use of the LTI standard by as many solution providers as possible. And it all came about because our founders had a vision. They wanted to encourage innovators in the educational technology space—even the little guys—to create great tools for learning that worked well in Canvas. And that meant going beyond a robust API by embracing LTI.

In 2013, we launched Eduapps and offered an app bounty to incentivize educators and technologists. Together, the results of these early efforts would quickly evolve into the Eduappcenter as we know it today—where you’ll now find more than 200 learning apps built using the LTI standard.

Canvas continues to promote the use of LTI in all its variations. We’ve extended the standard to make resource selection even easier, with the Content-item Message now incorporated in the final IMS spec. Canvas has also adopted other standards, most of which have come from IMS and are well-supported by companies and institutions around the world. In other words, we’ve believed in standards since our inception—and still do.

Flashforward: Canvas as the standard-catalyst-collaborator-creator

So, where do we go from here? While the Canvas team has been doing amazing things behind the scenes, it’s time for us to share our work more broadly. It’s also time for us to actively work with other like-minded solution providers to help draft the next generation of standards under the guidance of IMS and other standards organizations. And the most important part is that we want to do this with you. I repeat: WITH YOU. As partners. (It’ll be like dancing, only without the music, the hand to hand, or the reverse turns.)

Expect to hear a lot more from me, my brilliant team, and my fellow product strategists over the coming months about our Canvas platform strategy. We’ll also have updates about the re-certification of the standards we’ve supported for years, the certification of new standards, the evolution of our open architecture, and more.

In the meantime, if you have suggestions or you want to tango (you know, work together, let me know.) I love feedback as much as I love standards.

Keep learning,
Melissa Loble
VP of Platform & Partnerships