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Stories from CanvasCon: Belfast Metropolitan College

Belfast Metropolitan College has some significant challenges when it comes to meeting student demand. Its cohort of 26 Curriculum Area Managers (CAMs), dispersed across four campuses, are tasked with supporting more than 1,000 staff and a diverse group of over 12,000 students clocking up over 22,000 enrollments per year.

It is perhaps no surprise, then, that the college firmly believes in digital technology as the key to delivering consistent teaching across such a large group - and that its CAMs are using Canvas to help tutors deliver an engaging compelling, homogenous learning experience.

But of course, it’s not enough to simply buy a learning management platform and get on with using it to deliver course material. It’s just as important to continually assess how a platform is being used, to what extent it’s delivering on strategic goals, and how it’s flexing and adapting with an institutions' changing needs. And it’s this message which Stephen Kennedy (Technology Enhanced Learning Manager at Belfast Met), brought to his session at CanvasCon last month.

The benefits of Canvas are compelling and varied, Kennedy told assembled educators, technologists, influencers and policy makers. For Belfast Met, perhaps the most valuable feature is its powerful data analytics capabilities. Using Canvas Data Portal, together with Microsoft Power Business Intelligence (BI), the institution is able to understand the usage of its learning platform, see what’s working and what’s not, and make informed decisions to drive student retention and achievement.

Knowledge is power when it comes to assessing the effectiveness of the platform. For example, a key tenet of staff appraisals is to assess which staff use Canvas’s core functionality and / or LTI apps – and to what degree. And, in order to prepare for curriculum planning and performance reviews, CAMs are committed to the day-to-day use of ‘Canvas Insights’ – a single course card that is designed to help them analyse and act on data around student retention, engagement and achievement.

And, addressing perhaps one of the most pressing issues for CanvasCon attendees, is the ability to harness data to adequately prepare for awarding body visits or inspections and to meet key stakeholder reporting expectations. This is something, Kennedy told the group, that its legacy system Blackboard was unable to adequately address - and a key benefit of using Canvas.

The consistency and uniformity delivered through Canvas has powered up to £50,000 of cost savings on staff policy compliance training so far, and has been equally beneficial for wider college staff who report that they are now able to have targeted, meaningful conversations with CAMs. In addition, for non-technical staff members, Canvas’s openness makes it easy to build visualisations of data and make sense of vast range of database sets.

So, it’s clear that Canvas is delivering in spades for Belfast Met. Find out what it could do for your institution [here].