Canvas LMS

Australian Christian College 

This group of 13 schools will make you rethink how to use your next LMS

Australian Christian College


6,500+ students

Panda Pros Connect

13 schools from K-12 across Australia



ACC is a network of 13 Christian schools in five states that has offered in-person and online learning since its founding in 2007.

The group felt strongly that an LMS partner designed for schools was a better fit and would continue innovating, rather than using communication tools adapted for education.

Using pre-built course templates provides a consistent student experience across campuses and online, but also provides teachers with the freedom to adapt content as required.

Institution Overview

Australian Christian College (ACC) is a not-for-profit, non- denominational Christian education group. Since starting as a network of three schools in 2007, ACC has offered in-person and online learning. The group now spans 13 schools across New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania, Victoria, and Western Australia, educating more than 6,500 students in K-12.

ACC’s mission is to develop each and every student to be equipped spiritually, academically, socially, and physically to flourish into their full potential, and be a positive influence on the world around them.

“Some students just want the highest academic result they can get, which is completely fine, ” said Director of Technology Jeremy Kwok. “Other students come to us because they need extra support such as for anxiety, dealing with bullying issues or other physical or mental health challenges. We aim to meet them where they’re at to offer them an education either on campus or online. ”

Even in their early days, ACC saw the value in finding a commercial partner for its learning management system (LMS). “Historically, other schools were looking at open-source LMS options to develop and control in-house. But our conviction was— and still is—that we’re an educational institution, not a technology company, ” said Kwok.

The Challenge

ACC had used two other LMS platforms “for about five years a piece” before acknowledging it was time to move on.

“We could see the learning management space was changing. Google and Microsoft Teams were offering half solutions—they’re communications tools adapted for schools, ” said Kwok.

“That was never going to work for us because we needed a whole- of-school experience platform for students and staff. ”

That’s when he noticed a market shift as ed-tech companies were “consolidating” , which clarified ACC’s decision-making process.

The Solution

Convincing his C-Suite to move on from its previous LMS was easy for Kwok as the company has always had a strong tech focus.

ACC wanted an LMS that continues to invest in active development and refinement, and Canvas fit the bill. What really swayed Kwok was its popularity with universities across the globe.

“It made sense if Canvas has paying customers, then there’s a genuine incentive for Instructure to continue to develop the platform, ” he said.

However, simply adopting a new LMS wasn’t enough. Kwok emphasised the cultural shift necessary for successful implementation. Switching to a new LMS “shouldn’t involve replicating” how an institution had used its previous platform.

“You should try and genuinely work within the new ecosystem. That’s what we did, ” he said. “The longer you hang on to the old system, the less likely the new one will be fully integrated.

It can be tempting to say yes to all the features when switching to a new LMS, but “you end up having the car built for Homer in The Simpsons [TV show]” .

“We’re not overly picky, so didn’t look at the Canvas features list and say, ‘We need all of these. ’ Once you break through the psychological barrier of wanting all the features, then your institution adds features as needed, ” Kwok said.

Another assumption he encountered was staff seeing Canvas simply as a file repository, but that feature is only a fraction of its capabilities. Reframing how to harness the LMS was a balance. “I had to encourage staff to really stretch into Canvas with the provocation: How could you mirror your learning and your actual lesson environment in Canvas?” Kwok said ACC uses a ‘”train-the-trainer” model with about 15 staff participants fast-tracking their understanding and application of the Canvas LMS at Instructure’s Sydney premises.

Since then, Kwok says the policy is to ensure only people who are “genuinely passionate and enthusiastic about technology” run the internal training. There’s also no sandbox available to “play” with Canvas.

“Basically, we say, here are the pre-built adaptable course templates—we pretty much gave them a whole year’s worth of lessons. ”

There are up to eight different lesson activities for teachers to use across the four different levels of Bloom’s taxonomy, but Kwok said there’s still “a lot of teacher agency in our Canvas courses. ”

The Results

Those templates help ACC prioritise consistency for a better student experience aligned to their pedagogical approach, ensuring predictability regardless of the subject.

“It can get a bit contentious, but templates reduce frustration for students and teachers, ” Kwok said. “Largely, teachers were comfortable with the change. ”

Additionally, third-party apps for learning are integrated into Canvas, so students don’t need to leave the learning platform.

“It’s quite remarkable when you think about our thousands of students, that Canvas is their sole experience of the ACC brand, ” he said.

Asynchronous learning is also facilitated, making materials readily available for students and substitute teachers. “We aim for every student to have equal opportunities to learn, regardless of attendance model, ” said Kwok.

“Our aspiration is to make the lesson plan transparent and visible on the LMS, so we can close any learning gaps. It’s a more egalitarian experience for students. ”

Exit quizzes serve as data points and personalised message tools streamline teacher-student communication, “reducing a lot of admin. ”

Kwok sees Canvas as a third space for an objective learning evaluation and a “sophisticated psychological tool” for teachers. He acknowledged the appeal of gamification, but sees Canvas’ practical, data-driven approach as a drawcard. Even though he’s a school leader, Kwok makes sure he also uses Canvas daily.

“Canvas hands you the data, the evidence, to back up your approaches to problems. It’s how you align key stakeholders, from teachers, parents, and students, with change. You need good internal service and feedback loops, so if there’s a problem with the LMS, we’re on the clock to fix it, ” he said.

ACC conducts user surveys with a tertiary-level “bolt on” to Canvas called Explorance Blue. That LTI has proved to be valuable for ACC’s tranche of videos for learning—each week they produce more than 300 videos in-house.

Explorance Blue allows teachers to drill into metrics such as the length of time student spent watching a video, engagement through comments, and more.

Videos aren’t just for instruction—students also use them to upload presentations and other assessments.

“Video is such a natural expression of how young people learn today. We benchmark our videos against the best on YouTube, it’s the de facto learning platform in the world. Our lesson content has to be better than most of that, ” Kwok said.

As ACC continues growing, it’s also in the process of building all its own textbooks in Canvas. Opting into Canvas Credentials, a form of microcredentialling, may also be on the cards, as ACC considers moving from term-based instruction to shorter learning modules.

Curious how your institution can benefit from Canvas? Get in touch today.