Canvas LMS

Exercise Research Australia

Empowering Students Through Technology-Backed Training and Compliance


Melbourne, Australia

300 Users

Started 2015


The Challenge

Exercise Research Australia is a boutique registered training organisation (RTO) based in Melbourne. It oers education and training programs in the allied health, fitness, rehabilitation and sports science industries. For nearly a decade, Exercise Research Australia has provided training in accordance with the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority (VRQA), the state regulator for vocational education and training in Victoria. This ensures that the organisation meets quality standards and prepares graduates with industry-relevant training for their careers.

Students who go through the programs range in age (18-50 years) and prior industry experience (none vs. upskilling). The objective for Exercise Research Australia is to increase student engagement and quality of the learning experience to in-turn increase the number of students who complete programs industry ready. Administrators say engagement rates had lagged because students wanted more flexibility from traditional face-to-face learning. To make the material more engaging and allow students to learn at their own pace, the organisation wanted to offer a true blended model of learning using a flipped classroom model. The challenge was finding technology that could:

  • Engage students to embrace online learning and prepare them for their hands-on face-to-face workshops
  • Attract staff to embrace the e-learning environment
  • Fulfil requirements for reporting assessments to government agencies
  • Streamline processes and increase efficiency
  • Futureproof and adapt to meet changing needs of an RTO

Key Findings

Instructure Canvas facilitates assessments reporting to enable Exercise Research Australia to meet government requirements

Favourite aspects of Canvas: Usability, Canvas Mobile App, tying Gradebook to Outcomes, and a 99.9% service uptime

Organisation uses Canvas for sta induction process and other aspects of professional development

Exercise Research Australia has access to best practices through the Canvas Community user group

The Decision

Finding and embracing that innovation took time. Exercise Research Australia evaluated several learning management systems and found them all to be cumbersome. The time they required for small tasks, such as assessments and feedback, was excessive. The team set out to build its own solution, but soon discovered the time and eort it would require of them to maintain and update the system turned out to be prohibitive. In 2014, they shortlisted several options, including the Canvas learning management platform.

“I was seeking something that was ‘RTO proof’, some platforms appeared this way but upon further investigation they were clunky and unlikely to meet the needs of the changing landscape. I called on friends in the IT space for an objective opinion on the platforms shortlisted and they highlighted the benefits to the open source aspect of Canvas and the commitment to continuous updates and improvements to the platform,” said Dr Mellissa Arkinstall, Managing Director for Exercise Research Australia, “It was clear to me that this was an organisation that was invested in the end user with extensive support and help through online communities.” Administrators chose Canvas and implemented the platform in 2015.

Exercise Research Australia was building its digital strategy and technology toolkit from the ground up. It has a mission to make engaging vocational education accessible to all. Canvas offered much more than just a repository for files. With the Canvas platform, instructors were able to create interactive courses and more exciting content. Students could navigate a user interface that had intuitive workflows and integrations, and could stay connected through the Canvas mobile app.

The Results

Proof of engagement in learning is one of Exercise Research Australia’s end goals. Another is effective feedback. Arkinstall explains: “Canvas allows instructors to give immediate feedback after practical assessments. For us, this also meant that our backend assessments reporting could be done more efficiently and enable us to meet government requirements. Together, all these benefits would mean that instructors could spend more time interacting with students and making learning fun—and less time worrying about paperwork and marking.” Arkinstall estimates that the institution has “saved hours through authentic feedback” for each training course.

Quality indicator reports, conducted by the Department of Education, have seen an upwards trend in student experience since adopting Canvas at Exercise Research Australia. Current student experience stats of “perception of teaching” and “perception of the assessment process” have risen to 83.7% and 86.4%, well above the VIC state average of 68.3% and 69.5%, respectively.

Exercise Research Australia’s own student engagement surveys (via Canvas), as students progress through the programs, have shown that since employing Canvas students have found it easier to navigate their own learning on the platform. Perception of the learning process and flexible access to materials has risen to 86% of students being satisfied with the access to and navigation of materials for learning on Canvas.

Students at Exercise Research Australia are part of a “blended model” of learning that includes a flipped classroom, with face-to-face learning during instruction and tests and quizzes outside of it. Staff has also administered exams and quizzes differently through Canvas with different assessments, rubrics, and methods - including multiple attempts at mastering units of competency.

Canvas has allowed for greater innovation and accessibility because students are more confident about the platform and spending more time working on it. That results in continued high-quality training, paths to greater employability, more people in the workforce, and growth with the needs of the business.

Arkinstall said, “The fact that everyone can use Canvas has been a major win for us. In the long run, we see Canvas as an important factor in our ability to offer learning experiences that help engage and retain our students.”

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