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The Study Hall

Canvas & SURFnet on Customized Education

We joined SURFnet recently in the colonial city of Boston where they compared the technology infrastructure for customized education to a medieval city.

If you haven’t yet heard of SURFnet, they’re a consortium of nearly 70 Dutch education and research institutions dedicated to enhancing internet and ICT facilities throughout The Netherlands. Some have already implemented Canvas. They came to Boston to tour educational institutions and to put their ideas to the test. 

We joined them to discuss how their strategy for customized education connects with our vision for Canvas to simplify teaching and learning. We agreed that:

- Anyone can innovate. And until we figure out the One True Method of student-centered education, we need to keep experimenting.

Openness fosters innovation. The true value of any innovation is only fully realized through openness.

- Analytics are only as good as the actions they prompt people to take. This means we have to focus on making data actionable.

- No technology should try to be everything to everyone. Instead, we should encourage the development of a broad ecosystem of plug-and-play tools and services that interoperate (like the NGDLE).

Seeing this, we couldn’t help but wonder: Where does Canvas fit? (Because we’re certainly not trying to be the entire city.) Although an LMS is logically the "fortress" at the center, that's too closed off for our open approach. Looking at the transcendent space between the countryside and the city—the space where you’d expect to find open air markets with diverse goods and services, as well as a free exchange of information—that’s our sweet spot. But we’re also ready to act as the reliable stronghold of the fortress when needed.

Maybe it’s more fitting to think of Canvas as the main road: well-paved, reliable, fast and designed to ensure that everyone can easily get wherever they need to go so they can do whatever they need to do. This means providing access to the right spaces, encouraging participation in the central commons area and offering protection from harm.

Whether you think Canvas is the marketplace, the fortress, the main road or a combination of the three, visit SURFnet on the web to learn more about their vision, strategic plans and early program results. And we'll stay tuned for a report from them about any new city- or history-inspired analogies that may have sprung from their recent tour.

Keep Learning,

Jared Stein
Vice President of Higher Ed Strategy, Instructure